Monday Reads

Good Morning!

A friend of mine of 30 years visited me the last few days so we did some things that I rarely do.  This included seeing a Broadway play.  We saw 220px-AnniePlaybillFlashdance the Musical, let me say, in terms of entertainment and music, those are three hours I will never get back, I’m afraid.  I even went to the bar during the intermission and got a very large gin and tonic to see me through the second act.  It really didn’t help as much as I’d hoped.  Some things are better left as chintzy 80s movies.  The supplemental songs were completely forgettable!  I was trying to forget them as they were being sung.  I actually think the last composer worth anything on Broadway was Steven Sondheim and whoever wrote these songs proved me right again.

All the musicals these days have everything but singable songs, I swear! Maybe it’s because I had just seen Bernadette Peters sing Rogers and Hammerstein,  Sondheim, and Irvin Berlin songs that still make my heart strings go zing!!!  But not even all these splashy dance numbers and a few old 80s hits could juice this show.  I’d have gone out to play Angry Birds in the Lobby if I wasn’t sitting in the middle of the row and would’ve rudely awakened my seat prisoners. “Gloria” was included.  It’s not an ice skating scene, however, it’s now a tawdry stripper club dance number.  The song had to be the worst arranged version I’d ever heard of anything  Plus, the  Michael Nouri character got morphed into some goody two shoes white male trust fund baby that rescued all the womminz, the blax, and the real working men.  Not funny. Skip it if it flashdances into a town near you.

So, I’m getting caught up with things that do intrigue me.  That means this post is going to be weird, so sit tight. First up–and you know it was coming–is about the remains of Richard the Lionheart. A group of forensic scientist had at them.

When the English monarch, nicknamed Richard the Lionheart, died in 1199 his heart was embalmed and buried separately from the rest of his body.

Its condition was too poor to reveal the cause of death, but the team was able to rule out a theory that he had been killed by a poisoned arrow. The researchers were also able to find out more about the methods used to preserve his organ. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The medieval king became known as Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a courageous military leader.
He was central to the Third Crusade, fighting against the Muslim leader Saladin. Although he ruled England, he spent much of his time in France, and was killed there after being hit by a crossbow bolt during a siege on a castle.

Tomb of Richard I Richard I’s remains were divided after he died – his heart was buried in a tomb in Rouen. After his death, his body was divided up – a common practice for aristocracy during the Middle Ages. His entrails were buried in Chalus, which is close to Limoges in central France. The rest of his body was entombed further north, in Fontevraud Abbey, but his heart was embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen.
The remains of his heart – now a grey-brown powder – were locked away in a small lead box, and discovered in the 19th Century during an excavation. But until now, they had not been studied in detail. To find out more, a team of forensic specialists and historians performed a biological analysis

Economist William K Black asks a great question here: “Sequester Insanity: Why Are We Flushing Economic Recovery Down the Toilet?” Yes, Mourning Joe, another economist disagrees with you and agrees with Krugman, imagine that!!

We have been strangling the economic recovery through economic incompetence — and worse is in store because President Obama continues to embrace (1) the self-inflicted wound of austerity, (2) austerity primarily through cuts in vital social programs that are already under-funded, and (3) attacking the safety net by reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits. The latest insanity is the sequester — the fourth act of austerity in the last 20 months. The August 2011 budget deal caused large cuts to social spending. The January 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal increased taxes on the wealthy and ended the moratorium on collecting the full payroll tax. The sequester will be the fourth assault on our already weak economic recovery. We have a jobs crisis in America — not a government spending crisis and the cumulative effect of these four acts of austerity has caused a certainty of weak growth and a serious risk that we will throw our economy back into recession. The Eurozone’s recession — caused by austerity — greatly adds to the risk to our economy because Europe remains our leading trading partner.

President Obama and a host of administration spokespersons have condemned the sequestration, explaining how it will cause catastrophic damage to hundreds of vital government services. Those of us who teach economics, however, always stress “revealed preferences” — it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do that matters. Obama has revealed his preference by refusing to sponsor, or even support, a clean bill that would kill the sequestration threat to our nation. Instead, he has nominated Jacob Lew, the author of the sequestration provision, as his principal economic advisor. Lew is one of the strongest proponents of austerity and what he and Obama call the “Grand Bargain” — which would inflict large cuts in social programs and the safety net and some increases in revenues. Obama has made clear that he hopes this Grand Betrayal (my phrase) will be his legacy. Obama and Lew do not want to remove the sequester because they view it as creating the leverage — over progressives — essential to induce them to vote for the Grand Betrayal.

Yes.  Grand Betrayal.  But, it is what he was planning all along, yes?  It’s not like he hasn’t written or talked about it.   So, we may not lose what we paid for but it certainly is going to be much watered down by the time the Beltway is done.

I’ve been meaning to read this much discussed article by Ruth Rosen.  I’m doing it now and making sure that you didn’t miss it. It was published in Slate last week and is titled: Women’s rights is the longest revolution .  It highlights many things in the women’s movement but focuses on one thing that we should never put at the end of our lists of demands; the end to violence against women.

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.

Nor did we see how any laws could end it.  As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world.  There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject.  In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights.  After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.

Still, little enough has changed.  Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight.  That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s.  They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.

The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India in early January 2013 prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.

So, any of you that know me closely know that I’ve been screaming about ‘new’ neighbors and wondering what’s up with my neighborhood. Here’s a great article on my New Orleans Bywater Neighborhood:  Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans. The house prices in my neighborhood have skyrocketed.  We are now have multiple eateries where arrugala, kale, and things that totally confused my Omaha friend are on the menus.  The article really explains what’s been going on around me as we’ve been taken over from by Class 4 hipsters.  Here’s the bit about how a neighborhood ‘gentrifies’.  You can read more about my neighborhood in particular at the link.

The frontiers of gentrification are “pioneered” by certain social cohorts who settle sequentially, usually over a period of five to bywater-art-tn1twenty years. The four-phase cycle often begins with—forgive my tongue-in-cheek use of vernacular stereotypes: (1) “gutter punks” (their term), young transients with troubled backgrounds who bitterly reject societal norms and settle, squatter-like, in the roughest neighborhoods bordering bohemian or tourist districts, where they busk or beg in tattered attire.

On their unshod heels come (2) hipsters, who, also fixated upon dissing the mainstream but better educated and obsessively self-aware, see these punk-infused neighborhoods as bastions of coolness.

Their presence generates a certain funky vibe that appeals to the third phase of the gentrification sequence: (3) “bourgeois bohemians,” to use David Brooks’ term. Free-spirited but well-educated and willing to strike a bargain with middle-class normalcy, this group is skillfully employed, buys old houses and lovingly restores them, engages tirelessly in civic affairs, and can reliably be found at the Saturday morning farmers’ market. Usually childless, they often convert doubles to singles, which removes rentable housing stock from the neighborhood even as property values rise and lower-class renters find themselves priced out their own neighborhoods. (Gentrification in New Orleans tends to be more house-based than in northeastern cities, where renovated industrial or commercial buildings dominate the transformation).

After the area attains full-blown “revived” status, the final cohort arrives: (4) bona fide gentry, including lawyers, doctors, moneyed retirees, and alpha-professionals from places like Manhattan or San Francisco. Real estate agents and developers are involved at every phase transition, sometimes leading, sometimes following, always profiting.

Native tenants fare the worst in the process, often finding themselves unable to afford the rising rent and facing eviction. Those who own, however, might experience a windfall, their abodes now worth ten to fifty times more than their grandparents paid. Of the four-phase process, a neighborhood like St. Roch is currently between phases 1 and 2; the Irish Channel is 3-to-4 in the blocks closer to Magazine and 2-to-3 closer to Tchoupitoulas; Bywater is swiftly moving from 2 to 3 to 4; Marigny is nearing 4; and the French Quarter is post-4.

I just refer to them as the barbarian hordes of yupsters, but I guess that’s not the academic term for it.  On a bright note, I could never afford my house now and can sell it for a huge amount of money.  Actually, I’m not so sure that’s a bright note because now my new neighbors do not like the charm of my slightly run down green house or the fact I prefer low up keep weeds to grass in the alley.  Oh, well … I still miss the old coterie of merchant seamen that were drag queens when they got back home, hippies thrown out of the quarter, old people left over from the old days, and section 8 rental denizens.  After all, what’s a few seedy people among friends if they’ve got character and a good story to tell over a beer?

So, there’s a little this and that to get you started on a Monday Morning.  I didn’t want to depress you with the Sunday Presskateers so, you will just have to hit the Charles Pierce link for that.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?