Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Fall is definitely in the air! This has to be the nicest September in New Orleans that I’ve ever experienced.  I’m told that a lot of this has to do with with the absence of both La Nina and El Nino.  I just know I’m seeing weather I usually can expect in October and I like it!

I’m going to start the morning reads off with Paul Krugman and his NYT blog thread  “Hysteresis Begins”.  I continue to see signs of recession and it worries me greatly.  Our economy is certainly not on the mend in any sense of the word. Krugman continues to put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling.

The slump in the United States and other advanced economies is the result of a failure of demand — period, end of story. All attempts to claim that it is somehow structural, or maybe the result of reduced incentives to produce, have collapsed at first contact with the evidence.

But there is a real concern that if the slump goes on long enough, it can turn into a supply-side problem, because investment will be depressed, reducing future capacity, and because workers who have been unemployed for a long time become unemployable. This is the issue of hysteria “hysteresis”.

And if you look at manufacturing capacity, in particular, you can already see that starting to happen.

I have no idea why this meme has taken hold that it’s lack of confidence because of Obama, lottsa obscure regulations, or high taxes that are causing the current slump.  It is definitely none of the above.  Businesses do not have customers. Customers do not have incomes or jobs or job security.  It’s a demand thing!  What on earth do economists have to do to get policy maker’s attention these days?  I suppose I could answer that.  We’d all have to become corporations, hire lobbyists, and donate to some one’s political campaign.

Rep Emmanuel Cleaver gets it.  The black caucus sees the incredible unemployment in the community and understands.  Yet, they feel hamstrung to try to do anything about it.  That’s a damned shame in my book.

Unhappy members of the Congressional Black Caucus “probably would be marching on the White House” if Obama were not president, according to CBC Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

“If [former President] Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver told “The Miami Herald” in comments published Sunday. “There is a less-volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”

CBC members have expressed concern in recent months as the unemployment rate has continued to rise amongst African-Americans, pushing for Obama to do more to address the needs of vulnerable communities.

“We’re supportive of the president, but we getting tired, y’all,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said in August. “We want to give [Obama] every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is.”

The biggest problem is that no one but a few advisers seem to be able to get these points across to the White House.  They seem intent on pandering to independents who–as yet–appear unmoved.  They’re losing the base and the center.  Why can’t they just do the right thing?  Just to reinforce the it’s a demand problem idea, here’s the same thought from the chairman of Google who is pushing for more stimulus.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called on Washington to think big about solutions for the nation’s struggling economy calling the current emphasis on cutting spending instead of new stimulus “ludicrous.”

The economy would need “not just something like the jobs bill, but also significant government stimulation in terms of buying power and investment,” said Schmidt on ABC”s “This Week” on Sunday.

“Otherwise, we are set up for years of extraordinarily low growth in the economy and no real solution to the jobless problem,” he warned.

“The current strategy is ludicrous. You have a situation where the private sector sees essentially no growth in demand. The classic solution is to have the government step in and, with short-term initiatives, help stimulate that demand. If they do it right, they’ll invest in income and growth producing things like highways and bridges and schools, new opportunities for the private sector to go then build businesses,” proposed Schmidt.

So, I’m getting really disgusted at state of US policy these days; especially the continued attack on women’s rights.   I’m going to focus on some good news about women around the world.  Have you ever heard of breast ironing?  This is a practice in Cameroon and here are some ‘aunties’ that are educating some mothers in the country.  The practice is actually done when mothers are concerned their daughters are maturing sexually too early which could subject them to becoming child brides.

Aside from causing burns and permanent deformity this practice also leaves deep psychological scars.

“After (I) have it done, apart from the pain, I felt very, very ashamed. I was ashamed of myself,” said Forghab. “I thought, if my parents are ironing my breasts at that age it means that I am not supposed to have them.”

Despite a daughters’ tears and pleas to stop, mothers continue to perform this practice on their daughters assuring. “It is for their own good,” many mothers say.

But what good? What could possibly be worth justifying such a harmful intervention? Breast ironing is a traditional practice that currently affects about 25 percent of all girls in Cameroon.

More commonly performed in the rural areas than in cities, “breast ironing has existed as long as Cameroon,” says Dr. Sinou Tchana, a Cameroon gynecologist and vice-president of the Cameroonian Association of Female Doctors.

It can seem shocking that mothers, the same mothers who are supposed to love and care for their children, are also the ones hurting them the most by burning their body. But many mothers who still practice breast ironing are hoping to prevent their daughters from getting pregnant at a ‘too-early’ age. What starts as an attempt to protect often leaves girls injured and confused.

“While the minimum legal age for a woman to marry is 15, many families facilitated the marriage of young girls by the age of 12. Early marriage was prevalent in the northern regions of Adamaoua, North, and particularly the remote
Far North, where many girls as young as nine faced severe health risks from pregnancies,” says the U.S. Department of State in a new report on Cameroon.

The good news is that women are taking it on themselves to go around the country to teach women their are other ways to protect their young girls.  Please read the article it’s very interesting and I think you’ll love the Women’s News site where I found it!  Also,  here’s some information on the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India. SEWA has been registered as a trade union since 1972 and works for the right of poor, self-employed women. It’s doing wonderful things over there and I thought you may want to check it out.

Some of the most exciting recent  initiatives for SEWA have been the promotion of green livelihoods.  SEWA earned an award from the Sierra Club for its work.  Here’s some information on what they have done to promote women and environmental sustainability.

More than 60% of SEWA’s membership comes from the rural areas and are poorest of the poor from the most disaster prone areas. Thses women consume less oil and coal based energy, recycle many many items in their daily life, productively reuse solid waste when possible and are eager to use, produce, and manage green technology such on solar lamps.

The many benefits of combining new, green technologies with traditional farming techniques are evident in the success of SEWA’s campaign. Through green Energy and Green livelihood initiative 139,665 members earn average annual total income of Rs.1,175 million. Further SEWA’s effort in this area has not only lead towards green livelihoods but have also worked towards mitigating the effects of climate change. “While the rest of the world talks and negotiates, we the poor women of India cut down carbon emission,” said Reema. “We have learned this power of small concrete act by many from Gandhiji,” she added.

To this end, SEWA has trained 3685 barefoot technician women in water conservation, construction, repairs and deepening of water structure, nursery raising, solid waste recycle, fodder growing, vermicompost production, building eco-friendly rural infrastructures, solar lamp production, developing eco-friendly energy sources, garment production with eco-friendly fabrics and natural dyes, green livelihoods focusing on food security and other environmentally friendly and economically beneficial activities. Demand for such training is ten fold.

Biomass, which was earlier burnt, is now being used as a source of organic manure. More than 13 lakh farmer families have been benefited from these eco-friendly campaigns, 26 Lakh hectares of land are brought under organic cultivation and 2018924 trees have been successfully planted and maintained.

Through these Green Energy and Livelihood Initiatives, SEWA has been at the forefront in promoting green energy and generating green livelihoods in villages.

“If poor and women can take leaps towards green and clean economy the others have excuse to be inactive. May we invite all Indians, and also all Americans, today to catch up?” Reema requested.

Beverly Gage–a history professor at Yale University–wrote an interesting piece in the NYT this weekend called “The Unacknowledged Victories of the American Left” in a book review of Michael Kazin’s “American Dreamers. There’s really not much of a left wing left in the US today, but what is left does have a proud history.

“American Dreamers” is Kazin’s bid to reclaim the left’s utopian spirit for an age of diminished expectations. An editor at Dissent magazine and one of the left’s most eloquent spokesmen, Kazin presents his book as an unapologetic attempt to give the left a history it can celebrate. For more than two centuries, he writes, American radicals have sounded the alarm about crucial injustices — slavery, industrial exploitation, women’s oppression — that the rest of society refused to see. It is time for the left to stand up and take credit for these efforts.

Who is — or was — “the left”? Today, many Americans use the word interchangeably with “liberal.” As Kazin points out, this would have been anathema to earlier generations, when leftists and liberals often viewed each other as ideological foes. For most of the 20th century, liberalism meant tinkering, finding a kinder and gentler way to preserve the status quo. Leftists, by contrast, put their faith in structural change. Kazin’s left includes all those who fought for a “radically egalitarian transformation of society,” from abolitionists to Communists to the modern feminist and gay rights movements.

By far the most important of the early movements was abolition, and abolitionists linger throughout the book as Kazin’s archetypal leftists, prophets and dreamers who saw an injustice and fought to correct it despite the blindness and hostility of the larger society. The best among them practiced what they preached, forming interracial cooperatives and marrying across color lines. They also suffered for their ideals, enduring violence, social ostracism and, in some cases, death. In the end, they were vindicated by history, the ideals that they championed finally inscribed as the nation’s conventional wisdom.

There’s also a fascinating article up at Spiegel On line on the work German scientists are doing on computers studying differences between Neanderthals and modern humans that is worth a look.  Here’s more information on ongoing work to determine what was going on back during the time when Neanderthals still walked the earth.

Last year’s decoding of the Neanderthal’s genetic makeup provided strong evidence in support of this thesis. Researchers working under Svante Pääbo, the director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, found that modern Eurasians inherited a small portion of their DNA sequence from Neanderthals . This suggests that the two species of man must have had sexual intercourse.

What’s more, the genetic researchers were also able to narrow down the timeframe of this momentous genetic intermingling. According to their findings, the intercourse took place between 65,000 and 90,000 years after modern man set foot on the Eurasian landmass, presumably on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean.

Scientists are now trying to determine the exact relationship the inhabitants of these Israeli caves had with the forefathers of modern-day Eurasians. In particular, they are examining the fossil remains to see if there are traces of the interaction between the two species.

Okay, so I tried to throw in a little interesting news along with the general economic and political malaise items. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?