Archive for September 23rd, 2010
Ozone depletion has stopped. According to AFP:
The protective ozone layer in the earth’s upper atmosphere has stopped thinning and should largely be restored by mid century thanks to a ban on harmful chemicals, UN scientists said on Thursday.”
“The “Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2010″ report said a 1987 international treaty that phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) — substances used in refrigerators, aerosol sprays and some packing foams — had been successful.
In 1987 we came together, regulated the use of CFCs, solving this problem — and it worked. Now we can do the same thing with CO2 and twenty years from now look back on the climate crisis as a thing of the past.
Cross-posted from Al’s Journal.
My initial plan was to blog each evening after the show and keynotes were over. But I had booth duty and by the end of that each day I was exhausted. Being “on” all day long in the booth, answering attendee’s questions, showing them our software, etc. is exhausting. So I’d head back to the hotel, collapse for an hour, get up and go have dinner, then go back and fall asleep. Oh the exciting life of working a booth.
I was able to hit a couple of the talks and I think the quality of the presentations was as good as ever. I also talked to a lot of Sun Oracle employees and they all were talking about what they are working on now and what comes next. So Oracle does appear to be very committed to Java. And a lot of talk on the floor was bringing Java up to match C# – which I think is a very healthy look at where Java is and what it has to do to stay competitive. There were even a substantial number of people discussing having breaking changes in Java 9 – which I find unlikely but is a useful discussion.
One funny note – I talked to a couple of Oracle developers who work in the St. Petersburg, Russia office. I listen to Russian Pop music and so along with some Java questions we also discussed the various Russian Pop groups and which ones we each like. When I mentioned that to my marketing VP she replied that I was truly “among my people.”
The exhibit hall, where I spent most of my time, was 1/8 the size of last year’s JavaOne. This was on balance a positive thing I think. A lot of the floor reduction was all the really big vendors from Oracle (in terms of their selling booth), to IBM, to everyone else who is not a Java vendor was over in the two Oracle World exhibit halls. Those were gigantic – I don’t think anyone actually looked at every booth there. Over in the Java exhibit area it was just the primarily Java vendors. And everyone attending JavaOne could easily walk through the entire floor in under 5 minutes. I think most JavaOne attendees did go through and stop at the booths that were of interest to them.
So how’d I do as a booth babe? Well on the good news side there were quite a few people I talked to who would have otherwise skipped past us – but it turned out they do need a solution like our reporting software. In some cases need it very badly. What’s really interesting about this is about 90% of the people looking at us are looking for a better system. I think a lot of companies are focusing on making their existing systems a lot more efficient. This is a really good sign for our industry because companies have to increase efficiency to free up money to go solve the other problems they face.
On the bad news side, the booth next to us had two very pretty models and they did a lot better than I did. It’s amazing how a smile from a pretty girl will cause almost any guy to stop and talk to her. I asked the marketing manager from that company how it worked and he says the models talk to them for a minute and just swipe their card. Then they bring them to the booth and for about 3 minutes the guy is basically not thinking and they can ask them a bunch of questions to qualify them. We’ve never done this because we aren’t wild on this approach – but it was really interesting to watch how well it worked from a couple of feet away. Anyways, I couldn’t compete with that and it is a little discouraging to see lots of people blast by me, but stop to talk to the models. (Do I need to unbutton my shirt more?)
Best news of the show? My youngest daughter goes to Harvey Mudd College and when I called her up to ask if she wanted the show backpack & t-shirt, she told me that would be really cool. It’s neat to be able to find something like this in common with one of your kids. Especially as I’m normally “the most embarrassing dad in the world” (something I think all fathers of kids in high school share).
Yesterday President Obama stood before the United Nations and outlined his vision for the United States to continue the fight against global poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
“We will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people,” Obama said, declaring that “the days when your development was dictated in foreign capitals must come to an end.”
We won’t have to wait long to see if the President is serious about translating his words into action. In two weeks the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will hold its donor conference and ask for commitments from countries, including the U.S. As the premier global health organization on the cutting edge of bottom-up, accountable, results-focused development aid, the Global Fund is the perfect fit for the President’s new strategy. The U.S.’s commitment to the Fund will be our first indication of whether the President’s new development policy is worth the paper it’s printed on.
Much of what the President outlined in his speech are well-established principles of effective foreign aid. As a unique public-private partnership, the Global Fund has led the world in putting these principles into practice since it started disbursing resources for health programs in 2003.
Rather than dictating the use of aid, the Global Fund turns the traditional donor-recipient relationship on its head. Countries develop their own proposals for building their health systems to fight killer diseases. Critically, the Global Fund insists that the proposals are not just created by governments, but that the planning include community organizations, faith-based groups, health care workers, the private sector, and people who are directly affected by AIDS, TB, and malaria. This inclusive, bottom-up approach to planning is so ingrained in the Global Fund’s business model that it will reject an otherwise quality proposal on principle if the communities affected by the aid haven’t had their say on how it will be spent.
If the proposals are judged technically sound by an independent panel of experts, then funding is disbursed and results are tracked. Programs that perform well and meet their targets see continued funding. Those that fail do not.
Throughout this process of developing, funding, and evaluating health programs, the Global Fund remains radically transparent. Every rejected proposal, every organization funded, every grant evaluation – the good, the bad, and the ugly – are all available to the public on the Global Fund’s web site.
All this sounds a lot like how the U.S. should be – to borrow a phrase from the President – “changing the way we do business.” But so far the President’s budget doesn’t seem to match his priorities. As a Senator and presidential candidate Obama was a strong supporter of the Global Fund, and just last month Secretary Clinton hailed the Global Fund as a “new model” for foreign aid that has had a “transformative impact on the world.” In spite of this promising rhetoric, President Obama shocked global health advocates by proposing a cut to the Global Fund in his budget.
President Obama called on his fellow UN delegates to “move beyond the old, narrow debate over how much money we’re spending” and focus instead on “whether we’re actually making improvements in people’s lives.” The Global Fund has certainly produced tangible results, helping save 5.7 million lives since 2003. But let’s face it: money matters. Right now the Global Fund needs donors to step up and invest in accelerating its life-saving work. Drugs to treat AIDS, TB and malaria are highly cost effective, but they are not free. Tens of thousands of health workers are ready to tackle the biggest killer diseases in their communities, but they need salaries, training, and supplies.
Over 100 members of Congress signed a letter to President Obama urging him to pledge $6 billion over the next three years to the Global Fund. Since every $1 the U.S. contributes has historically been matched with $2 from other donors, that’s a smart investment. With the right funding commitments in place, the Global Fund can help ensure that no child is born with HIV by 2015, that we end the public health threat of malaria as we know it, and emerging drug resistant strains of TB are brought under control.
At the conclusion of his speech outlining a new approach to fighting global poverty, President Obama said: “together, we can realize the future that none of us can achieve alone.” For the Global Fund the future is now. Soon we’ll know whether the U.S. is serious about catching up.
“International law is not an empty promise” – except for Palestinians
President Obama’s General Assembly speech called on the international community to mobilize behind the U.S.-led “peace process.” He called on the Palestinians to “reconcile with a secure Israel” and waxed eloquent on the illegality of killing Israeli civilians. He called on the Palestinians’ friends to implement the Arab Peace Plan’s proposed normalization with Israel without ever mentioning the plan’s clear understanding that ending Israel’s 1967 occupation must come first. And he called on Israel to – talk nicely.
Obama did say that Israel’s partial settlement moratorium “should” be extended, but carefully went on to urge that the talks “press on until completed” with no linkage between the two goals. Not to mention that what he calls a “moratorium” has consistently allowed continued building throughout Arab East Jerusalem, continued construction on homes already approved or begun, and work on huge infrastructure projects throughout the settlements.
Obama pretty much ignored any substantive role for the United Nations in the “peace process,” but he lectured the General Assembly, noting that “many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians.” (He didn’t, apparently, include himself in that category.) From those friends, he demanded “tangible steps towards normalization” with Israel, ignoring the fundamental basis of the Arab Peace Initiative that makes clear normalization comes after, not before, an end to Israel’s occupation.
And he condemned the “slaughter of innocent Israelis,” but said not one word about Israel’s 2008-09 assault, which used U.S. arms to kill 1,400 Gazans–more than 900 of them civilians and more than 300 of them children. Let alone any mention of the nine killed (including a U.S. citizen) and 50+ injured in the Israeli assault on the Turkish ship in the international humanitarian flotilla a few months ago.
The speech made clear that support for the moment, the endless “peace process” is, for Washington, a perfectly appropriate alternative to holding Israel accountable for any violations of human rights or international law. The Goldstone Report, UN and other efforts to hold Israel accountable for the illegalities inherent in its occupation and apartheid policies, or even the extreme violations like the Gaza war or the flotilla assault, must be sidelined or squashed entirely – because they could undermine the peace talks, whether or not those peace talks have any hope of succeeding. It is the exact opposite position as that taken by Obama’s UN Ambassador Susan Rice regarding Darfur. Rice was one of the strongest voices insisting on full implementation of the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir regardless of the dangers it posed to the fragile Sudanese ceasefire because accountability must come first, insisting that justice comes before peace.
But not, apparently, when it comes to Israel-Palestine.
Obama made a vitally important point when he said that “international law is not an empty promise.” Unfortunately he said that only in regard to imposing sanctions on Iran. After that, when he began to speak of Palestine and Israel, the phrase “international law” was never seen again.
In all his discussions of the peace talks and their importance, and even in his description of the arguments of “the cynics,” Obama never acknowledged the most important reason why this round of talks will almost certainly fail to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace: because they are not based on international law and the UN Charter and resolutions. The president said that the cynics’ view is that Israelis and Palestinians don’t trust each other, that both parties are divided internally, that “the gaps between the parties are too great.” But he never acknowledged that “the parties” do not come to the table as equals, that this is not a border dispute between Peru and Ecuador. These are talks between an Occupying Power, which happens to be the 23rd wealthiest country in the world and by far the strongest military and nuclear weapons power in the region, backed by the strongest and most powerful country on the globe, facing an impoverished and dispossessed occupied population. When talks are based on accepting that inequality as a given, when the arbiter of the talks is the main backer of the stronger party, and when international law is ignored, the talks cannot succeed.
So far, the Obama administration seems to be saying that “no change” is the only change we can believe in when it comes to U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine.
On August 29, 2008, just prior to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, presidential candidate John McCain announced he had chosen Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. The surprising choice of the then little-known Palin captured the nation’s attention; her status as just the second woman ever to run on a major party ticket was but one among many reasons. Interest in America’s already long and hotly contested electoral campaign soon began to reach a fevered pitch. In the days that followed, ‘viral’ emails with information about Palin’s politics and past rocketed around the Internet.
Anne Kilkenny, a resident of the small Alaskan city of Wasilla where Palin had been mayor, wrote one of them. A homemaker and regular attendee at Wasilla City Council meetings, Kilkenny had witnessed much of Palin’s meteoric political rise at first-hand. She provided considerable detail about Palin’s record during her six years as Wasilla’s mayor, and included a reasonably balanced ‘CLAIM VS FACT’ assessment (“gutsy: absolutely!”) of Palin’s personality and politics. Kilkenny’s sharp, informative 2400 word missive was meant just for her friends. But as the Los Angeles Times reported a month later, “More than 13,700 e-mail responses and half a million Google hits changed all that.”
Kilkenny had told her friends to feel free to pass her e-mail along — and they did, sending it to their friends, who in turn redistributed it in a variety of ways, including blogs, Web sites, and social networks such as Facebook. Moving at the speed of light, the now ‘viral’ email soon landed on my computer desktop – and millions of others all over the globe. “Who is Sarah Palin?” the world wanted to know, and thus, “Who is Anne Kilkenny? Was she — and the information in her email — at all credible?”
Before I could check, however, another email about Sarah Palin landed in my inbox. Forwarded by a different friend, this email supplied a supposed “list of books Palin tried to have banned” from the local library during her tenure as mayor. The information, if true, had the potential to harm Palin’s candidacy almost before it began. But was it?
Flash forward two years: Palin is no longer a governor but still a major figure on the national political scene and a leading contender to be the Republican nominee for President in another two years. Credible, trustworthy information about her personality, politics and policies is more important than ever.
That’s why it is so frightening that, as former president Bill Clinton observed on Good Morning America recently, “we may be entering a sort of period in politics that’s sort of fact free…”
Former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. made a similar point about the media recently in a speech about journalism, wherein he noted, “The future of accountability journalism is now at stake — along with much else — as a tsunami of economic, technological and social change washes over the news media.”
Part of the “much else” Downie alluded to includes the fate of our imperiled democracy itself, which depends on citizens making informed — and not ‘fact-free’ — decisions. As Downie concluded, “Credible, verifiable journalism about what is important in life is needed more than ever…” Downie also said American journalism is at a “transformational moment” now, “in which a long era of dominant newspapers and influential network television news programmes is rapidly giving way to a new journalistic era in which both the gathering and distribution of news is more widely dispersed.”
With more ways to get the news than ever before, Americans are now spending more time “with the news” than they did a decade ago. While that sounds positive, if the “news” they “consume” is, to employ President’s Clinton’s phrase, “fact-free,” this same tendency can swiftly become destructive to our most cherished principles and institutions. Our collective challenge, as Downie said, “is to turn this tumultuous moment of transformation into a beneficial reconstruction of journalism, enabling credible, verifiable, independent news reporting to emerge, enlivened and enlarged, from the current decline of long-dominant news media.”
I was immediately suspicious of the claims made in the second Sarah Palin email, which detailed her supposed penchant for book banning. Why? I trusted neither the story nor the sender. The friend who had passed it on was well known in our social circle not only as a shoot-from-the-lip liberal but also one rather prone to exaggeration — and the information in it seemed somehow suspect, so I decided to vet it myself before passing it on. Sure enough, it turned out to be false; Palin hadn’t really banned any books. In fact, several books on the list hadn’t even been published at the time of their supposed banning, something my untrustworthy friend typically hadn’t bothered to check. Soon Internet researchers revealed the entire list simply to be a readily available online compilation of all the “Books Banned at One Time or Another in the United States.”
On the other hand, the Anne Kilkenny email proved to be credible — and indeed quite valuable. It provided useful information not available elsewhere — and certainly not from the many reports created by the thousands of journalists gathered in St. Paul to cover Palin’s impending nomination at the Republican Convention. Ironically, Kilkenny even delivered the truth about Palin and the library books:
“While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed,” Kilkenny had written. “City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter.”
Like the rest of the news in Anne Kilkenny’s email, her information about Wasilla’s library books turned out to be factual and reliable. Will the news we see and hear in the run up to the 2012 national election also be worthy of our trust — or have we just entered a dangerous media-and-political twilight zone, “a sort of period in politics that’s sort of fact free?”
Follow Rory O’Connor on Twitter:
If you tuned into the Rachel Maddow Show last night, you know that major health care provisions in the Patient’s Bill of Rights take effect today. You also know Gail, the woman in this video. She’s an amazing person whose life was immensely improved because President Obama and the Democratic Majority in this Congress fought tooth and nail for health care reform that puts patients first.
Gail was told by her doctor, “Either you dip into your retirement fund, or you’re going to die.” Because of health care reform, she can now choose to live and keep her retirement. Gail, previously denied coverage because she has a pre-existing condition, was able to enroll in a temporary high-risk pool to receive the cancer treatment she needs and deserves because of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. By 2014, no insurance company in the nation will be allowed to deny her care.
Gail is one of millions of Americans who know firsthand that the need for health care reform was and continues to be a life and death priority.
I recently met Violet, a gregarious two-year old girl born at Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center near my district. She was born with a rare – and costly – form of epilepsy. Under the old system, she was at risk of reaching her plan’s lifetime and annual coverage limits by the age of four, and there was little stopping her insurance company from finding trivial excuses to kick her off her coverage. As of today, the Patient’s Bill of Rights guarantees that lifetime coverage limits and rescissions are banned in all new plans, and annual limits are being stretched over a three-year flexible period until they are completely eliminated by 2014.
At an assisted living home in Livermore, a city in my district, I met many residents at risk of entering the Medicare Part D prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap. They will receive a $250 rebate check this year as we transition to the complete closure of the prescription drug coverage gap by 2020.
At that same home, I met seniors who immediately were able to access free preventative care in Medicare. As of today, key preventive health care is available without co-pays or deductibles for every American entering a new plan. If your insurance company tries to deny you coverage recommended by your doctor – and we know sharks at the insurance companies will certainly try – you now have the right to seek an independent appeal from an outside watchdog.
(I hope it gives you some comfort to know that the new Director of the Division of Enforcement in the Office of Oversight at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight is Gary Cohen, my former Chief Legal Counsel at the California Department of Insurance. He worked with me to build the toughest consumer protection agency in America, and I look forward to watching Elizabeth Warren and him compete for the honor of that claim in the years ahead.)
I met a courageous young girl and her parents at my El Cerrito town hall. They had insurance through her father’s job, but they were terrified that if he was ever laid off, her pre-existing condition would prevent her from getting coverage. As of today, she can stay on his plan up to the age of 26.
That girl, intelligent and full of life, is also eligible for the high-risk pool, and we designed the law to guarantee her access to an individual plan. I end on this note, because it provides a constructive lesson in what still needs to happen. We learned yesterday that major insurance companies, including Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, and Cigna, plan to stop offering children’s-only health plans instead of obeying the new Patient’s Bill of Rights that requires companies to offer health insurance to children. That is unacceptable.
We created the most pro-consumer, pro-patient framework for health care delivery ever in the history of our great nation. With some of the reforms, the insurance companies backed down and accepted that their insatiable greed would be restricted. With other changes, like children’s coverage, some of the greediest insurance companies continue to try and skirt around the rules. Our work is never done, but as we address the abuses of the insurance companies, the Patient’s Bill of Rights really continues helping real people.
Congressional Republicans have pledged to repeal and defund the Patient’s Bill of Rights. They have pledged to take away vital patient protections and put insurance companies back in charge. We can’t let the Republicans tear down all that’s been accomplished for Gail and the millions of Americans like her.
Congressman John Garamendi served eight years as California’s Insurance Commissioner, where he was widely credited for creating the best consumer protection agency in America. He authored a near-universal health care bill that was a key inspiration to President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals in the early 1990s.
Follow Rep. John Garamendi on Twitter:
I spent last week in Washington, D.C. Whenever I travel, I seek out one of the local cigar establishments.
As I’ve written before, there is something about tobacconists that creates an atmosphere for honest and respectful dialogue, in which longevity of the relationship is not a prerequisite.
My travels took me to Draper Tobacconist, where I happened upon a wonderful couple who embrace most of what I oppose politically. They found it difficult to believe that the U.S. federal budget deficit in the first half of fiscal 2010 was down 8 percent from the same period a year ago. Moreover, it mattered little that my sources for this data included the U.S. Treasury Department, Reuters and the Washington Post.
But where our philosophical differences were most glaring was on the issue of tax cuts. They held steadfast in the belief that tax cuts instituted by President George W. Bush should remain for everyone, and not the just 97 percent, supported by President Barack Obama and most of the Democrats on Capitol Hill.
I suspect they were not part of the 3 percent of the wealthiest Americans who would be left out of the president’s tax cut extension.
They were most likely engaging in what I define as middle-class economic forecasting — the belief that one will someday be part of the 3 percent and do not wish to support policies that could hurt their future economic self-interest, regardless of their present condition.
They were also quick to cite the conservative talking point of basic fairness. According to a 2009 report by the bipartisan Tax Policy Center, 47 percent of Americans have no federal income tax liability.
But to focus solely on income tax is misleading because it ignores that most Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in federal income tax.
Only a very small percentage of Americans pay no federal taxes — and most of those folks are paying at least some state taxes.
Therefore, the issue of tax fairness should be based on the percentage of total taxes that each income group pays, and the percentage of total income that group receives.
By this standard, despite what angry, frothing talk show hosts may claim to the contrary, there is relative fairness across the board.
But this is not the conversation that we’re collectively having. The popular right-wing discourse is to suggest the rich should not be taxed because they are responsible for job creation, and the middle class (however broadly defined) should not pay because they are the workers; how about the 47 percent who pay no federal income tax?
This vaunted 47 percent of tax dodgers are a cabal of single mothers working minimum-wage jobs, seniors on fixed income, along with those working in the fast-food industry and the like. They pay no federal income tax because their incomes are so low or they have credits and deductions that eliminate their liability.
They are the standard by which those who valiantly stand up for tax fairness for the wealthiest Americans base the legitimacy of their claim.
Without the benefit of K Street lobbyists, the 47 percent who pay no federal income tax is so effective that others, formerly part of the middle class, are involuntarily racing to join them.
According the Census Bureau, the number of the working-age poor increased to the highest level since the 1960s. The bureau’s finding state that one in seven Americans now live in poverty. The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people.
In addition, the percentage of Americans without health coverage rose from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent — or 50.7 million people — mostly because of the loss of employer-provided health insurance during the recession.
With lightning speed, America has gone from what former President George W. Bush coined as the “ownership society” to an increasingly impoverished one.
The impact poverty has on every aspect of life, from education to health to mortality, is staggering. Under the current recession, more Americans are headed toward the impoverished side of the economic meter than those stumbling to become part of the illustrious 3 percent.
This isn’t class warfare; just a sobering analysis of where the country is headed. If we continue to believe America can sustain its greatness while increasing the number of impoverished families, then we’re smoking something a lot stronger than anything sold at Draper.
Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site byronspeaks.com
Follow Byron Williams on Twitter:
The census is an endangered species. Around the world, it is systematically being hunted down — and it is now at the edge of extinction.
You might think that the census is an inoffensive creature, fretted over only by the wonkiest of bean-counters.
However, it’s a very powerful animal. It has the ability to shape political fortunes. For this reason, it’s deliberately being exterminated by politicians for the most cynical of reasons.
It’s a sinister scheme because, in a very real sense, performing a census is the most fundamental act of any democracy.
Democracies are governments that are based upon the act of counting: counting citizens and counting votes to determine who is granted political power. Our founding fathers recognized this; barely four paragraphs after “We the people,” there’s an instruction to enumerate the citizenry every ten years. Yet in the US, after more than twenty decennial counts, politicians are trying to dismantle the census. The same is happening elsewhere, too — in Canada, in the UK, and elsewhere around the globe.
In early August, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution decrying the Census Bureau’s work as a “dangerous invasion”: “… the Census Bureau acts exactly as a scam artist would, asking very personal questions and using fear of penalties to manipulate the respondent to answer.” Earlier in the summer, Canada’s Tories used similar language to justify meddling with their own census. (The head of Statistics Canada — the organization in charge of the survey — resigned in protest.) And in Britain, the Tory party declared that 2011 would see the very last census ever conducted in Albion, ending a two-century-old tradition.
Nevertheless, a democracy needs information about its population to function. Though British plans are still murky, it appears that they will be attempting to mine government databases rather than making a door-to-door survey. This will be much less accurate than the traditional census (after all, there are plenty of people who are doing their damnedest to stay off government lists) unless the state is willing to spend an enormous amount of time and money building an Orwell-quality system to track citizens as they move about. Canada’s change to the census — making the long version of the survey voluntary rather than mandatory — has already been shown to increase costs and reduce reliability. (In 2003, the US experimented with a voluntary census-related survey; not only did the accuracy drop dramatically, the estimated price of the survey swelled by nearly 40 percent.)
It’s not a wise policy to reduce the quality of a government function while, simultaneously, making the costs bloat out of control, but that’s precisely what anti-census politicians are advocating. To understand why, it’s best to look at where the attacks on the census are most nakedly partisan: right here in the United States, where the issues of counting the population are inextricably tied to battles about race and politics.
Censuses never manage to count everybody. No matter how hard they try, census workers miss hundreds of thousands or millions of people. Citizens who move about, citizens who rent homes rather than own them, citizens who don’t speak English, citizens who are mistrustful of the government — poor citizens, itinerant citizens, minority citizens — these are the ones who are most likely to be missed. Over the years, the census bureau has been trying to improve their ability to count the undercounted. The problem arises because these people, when they vote, tend to lean to the left and vote Democratic. As a result, Republicans have been fighting to undermine the Bureau’s every effort to improve the count.
They’ve been winning. In the late 1990s, the Republican members of the House of Representatives sued to stop the Bureau’s plans to correct the undercount with statistical sampling. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that sampling was unconstitutional — that any attempt to use statistical techniques to improve the accuracy of the count went against the founding fathers’ ideals. (In a later opinion, Clarence Thomas even insisted that Thomas Jefferson had a sophisticated knowledge of statistical sampling, even though the techniques date from the 20th century.) As a result, the Census Bureau is forced to report two numbers every ten years: their best estimate of the population of the United States, and a much less accurate one that determines who is represented in Congress.
This, then, is what these battles seem to be about.
Politicians are trying to kill the census in hopes of gaining an electoral advantage — by wiping millions of opposition voters off the official rolls. There’s nothing ideological going on; it’s not a matter of economy or privacy or morality. (Indeed, if the roles were reversed and the undercounted leaned to the right, it’s a very good bet that Labour and the Democrats would be the ones trying to kill the census.) It’s merely a political dirty trick, a sleazy campaign to use phony numbers to rewrite reality. But it strikes at the heart of how our democracy — and democracies around the world — function.
And once these censuses are dismantled, there will be no going back.
Any protests will be too late to count.
Charles Seife is the author of “Sun in a Bottle” and “Zero,” which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for first nonfiction book, and was named a New York Times Notable Book.
His new book, Proofiness, can be ordered here.
Follow Charles Seife on Twitter:
Here is a short, and very relevant, history lesson.
The Roman Senate governed Ancient Rome for five centuries. It looked much like the Congress today. The purpose of the Roman Senate was to rule in accordance with the wishes of the Roman People. The building in which the Roman Senate met, the “Curia Julia,” still stands in Rome today.
In 27 B.C., Augustus Caesar formally took control of Rome, and established the Roman Empire. But the Roman Emperors didn’t abolish the Senate. Instead, the Roman Senate continued to meet, for five more centuries, doing pretty much nothing.
During the Roman Empire, the Emperor held all the power. The Senate was simply a debating society, chosen by the Emperor, and serving at his pleasure. To prove this point, in 39 A.D., Emperor Caligula appointed his horse, Incitatus, to the Roman Senate.
What we are heading for, here in America, is something very much like that. The way things are going, Big Money will choose our “leaders” in Congress, and they will serve at Big Money’s pleasure.
Big Money doesn’t put horses in Congress. Just the hind-quarters of horses.
For the past few weeks, we have sent e-mails to our supporters showing how Big Money is trying to select — not elect, select — the Congressman from my district. Big Money has now spent three times as much in lying TV attack ads as all of the money that my Republican opponent has raised. Big Money is going all out to replace me in Congress, because I can’t be bought.
Big Money doesn’t care who replaces me, as long as he’s pliant. It might as well be Caligula’s horse.
We are at a turning point in our own history. What will we be? A government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Or a dictatorship, ruled by the Empire of Money?
Help us make sure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, does not perish from this earth.
Follow Rep. Alan Grayson on Twitter:
Hearings held last week by the House Ways and Means and Senate Banking Committees marked a turning point in Congressional debate on China’s currency manipulation policies. There was widespread support for getting tough with China from members of both houses, and only token opposition from a few business witnesses. Fred Bergsten, head of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, came out in favor of a limited form of the Ryan-Murphy currency bill (HR 2378), which would allow the Commerce Department to treat currency manipulation as a subsidy in some countervailing duty investigations. He also called on the Treasury to name China a currency manipulator, and for the United States to mobilize allies in the G-20 to file a complaint against China at the WTO, requesting authority to impose restrictions on Chinese imports unless its currency rises significantly.
Yesterday, Ways and Means Committee Chair Sandy Levin announced that the committee will meet on Friday, September 23 to mark up a version of the Ryan-Murphy currency legislation. Levin noted that he had received a letter signed by 101 House members, including 30 Republicans, urging the Committee to consider and pass the Ryan-Murphy bill.
Meanwhile, opponents of getting tough with China have been reduced to recycling widely discredited claims. In a recent posting on his blog, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (who also helped found EPI and is currently a board member), claimed China might retaliate by selling off some of their $843 billion in Treasury bill holdings. We should be so lucky: the dollar would fall, making U.S. exports more competitive. And it would have no impact on U.S. interest rates (contrary to Reich’s assertions). As Paul Krugman has pointed out, “this fear is completely misplaced: in a world awash in excess savings, we don’t need China’s money – especially because the Federal Reserve could and should buy up any bonds the Chinese sell.”
Some U.S. businesses could suffer in the unlikely event that the U.S. and China do enter into a trade war. Companies like Boeing that sell lots of aircraft to China and foreign investors in that country could be penalized. However, China’s imports from the United States exceed U.S. exports to China by more than four-to-one. Exports make up approximately one third of China’s GDP, while U.S. exports to China are less than 0.7% of U.S. GDP. Countries like China with large trade surpluses always have more to lose in a trade conflict. This also illustrates why it’s important to persuade other major governments such as the European Union (E.U.), Brazil and India to join us in threatening China with sanctions for its illegal currency manipulation. If the U.S. and E.U. both impose tariffs on Chinese imports, China would be unable to play Boeing off against Airbus.
Reich also claims (as do many others) that revaluation would not create jobs in the U.S. because other lower wage countries would just take their place, and because other countries would rush in to compete in China and other markets. But this claim ignores many studies showing that if the dollar falls, relative to the yuan and other currencies, the U.S. trade balance will ultimately improve. The most recent study, by Bill Cline of the Peterson Institute, showed that for every 1 percentage point rise in China’s real effective exchange rate, its global current account surplus (the broadest measure of its trade balance) will fall by $17 to $25 billion. The corresponding improvement in the U.S. current account would be $2.2 to $6.3 billion. Thus, a 25% appreciation in the yuan would reduce China’s current account surplus by $425 to $580 billion, and reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $55 to $157.5 billion. Cline’s conservative estimates imply that only one-eighth to one-quarter of any reduction in China’s current account would be reflected as an improvement in the U.S. trade balance. Nonetheless his study shows the U.S. trade balance would improve significantly if Chinese currency manipulation were reduced or eliminated.
Reich’s claim about substitutes from other low wage countries primarily relates to the effect of currency manipulation on U.S. imports. But currency manipulation also acts like a tax on U.S. exports. This reduces U.S. export to China and every country around the world where we compete with Chinese exports. According to data from the Federal Reserve China is our most important competitor in world export markets, more important even than the EU or Japan. Eliminating currency manipulation will stimulate U.S. exports to China and the rest of the world, creating new jobs in the United States, especially in manufacturing, which produces most traded goods.
It is also important to remember that China is not the only country that manipulates its currency–other countries also need to revalue. Cline and Williamson (2010) have also identified Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia as currency manipulators, and other countries such as Japan, Sweden and Switzerland need to revalue as well. A global currency realignment along these lines would result in further improvements in the U.S. trade balance.
Reich also argues that China’s export policy doubles as a social policy that is needed to absorb the millions of workers flooding into the cities from the countryside, and that China risks riots and other upheaval if they don’t continue to manipulate their currency. This claim ignores the fact that revaluation would be good for China’s workers in several ways. It would raise real wages, allowing them to purchase more imports and enjoy the fruits of their labors. It would put downward pressure on Chinese inflation. It would also force China to invest more in infrastructure and the social safety net. This would create the domestically-oriented growth needed to sustain China’s development while providing its citizens with the public and social services (e.g., housing, transportation, safe water and waste disposal) that they need and deserve. It will also reduce pollution and China’s growing demand for energy and other materials needed to fuel its export engines.
Finally, Reich argues that the U.S. needs twenty million jobs and ending currency manipulation by China and other countries alone will not solve that problem. Most analysts agree that eliminating Chinese currency manipulation alone will generate between 300,000 and 1 million U.S. jobs. However, there’s no reason to leave those jobs on the table while we search for bigger answers to the unemployment problem.
In fact, eliminating the overall U.S. trade deficit could provide the foundation for rebuilding manufacturing and the U.S. economy and to generating massive employment growth. Eliminating the overall U.S. trade deficit, including most or all of our oil imports, could support three to six million new jobs, or more. But it won’t be cheap, and it will not happen overnight. We need massive new investments in clean energy technologies, infrastructure and R&D, to develop new clean energy industries and to rebuild U.S. infrastructure and manufacturing industries. We also need new tools for fighting unfair trade policies such as China’s illegal subsidies to its steel, glass, paper and clean energy industries. Taken as a whole, these strategies could eliminate U.S. trade deficits and generate most of the jobs needed to get unemployment down to five percent. But it won’t be cheap, or easy.
Attacks from the right
Proposals to punish China for currency manipulation have also been attacked from the right, most recently by Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute. Perry recently summarized a blog posting by Scott Grannis, former chief economist for a private investment management firm in California, and an acolyte of Arthur Laffer and other supply siders.
Grannis begins by claiming that the yuan is not too weak because it has appreciated 23 percent since 1994, and because inflation has been low in China for some time. Neither of these statements says anything about the appropriate level of the yuan or renminbi (RMB–the official name of China’s currency). China maintains closed capital markets and does not allow its citizens to invest abroad. It maintains complete control of the domestic money supply, which is the primary determinate of domestic inflation.
Regardless of what has happened to the value of the nominal value of the RMB since 1994, the fact is that China is egregiously violating every accepted standard of currency manipulation (Scott and Bivens, 2006). It has maintained a large, bilateral trade surplus with the United States for more than a decade, both in dollar terms and as a share of its GDP. China has maintained large global current account surpluses (the broadest measure of all trade in goods, service and income flows). And it has massively intervened in currency markets.
China has purchased $1 billion or more per day in foreign exchange reserves for many years. This is prima facie evidence of currency manipulation. They have acquired $2.5 trillion dollars in reserves, equal to 22 months of import purchases, and far in excess of ratios held by other countries named by the United States as currency manipulators in the past (Taiwan, South Korea, and China itself on two occasions in the early 1990s).
Next, Grannis asks “if the yuan were chronically ‘too weak,’ what’s the problem anyway? …some manufacturers might go out of business but all consumers would benefit.” Perry goes on to claim that if China is forced to appreciate the yuan only a small group of American producers will benefit, but it will harm “all consumers and many businesses.” This is sadly confused logic. Unfair trade with China (and other countries) affects the United States in at least three ways–all must be considered to determine whether currency policy will help or hurt most or all Americans.
First, it is critical to remember that consumers are workers, too, for the most part. If imports are cheaper but workers have less to spend because imports and offshoring have depressed their wages, then the ultimate impact of imports on consumers can be negative. And trade with low wage countries like China does affect wages. This is a well known result in trade theory, but one that rarely makes its way into introductory economics textbooks.
Josh Bivens has shown that the rise of import competition from low-wage countries has depressed the wages of manufacturing production workers, and all other workers with similar skills by approximately $1,400 per year for the typical median wage earner. Most manufacturing production workers do not have college degrees, and the group of comparable workers in the economy is composed of all non-college educated production and non-supervisory workers. There are about 100 million such workers and they make up about 70% of the labor force.
As shown in the Figure below, the real wages of production workers fell significantly between 1973 and 2009. The trend line in the figure shows the tendency of real wages to decline in this period.
(Note: The uptick in production worker wages in 2009 was an anomaly due to the sharp fall in energy prices during the recession. Real Wages are falling in 2010 on a monthly basis, and will likely fall more in the future as long as unemployment remains well in excess of five percent. )
If import prices were falling fast enough to provide a net benefit to production workers, then their real wages would have increased in the past three decades. In fact, they have fallen, as shown in the figure. The bottom line is that globalization and especially unfair trade with China have eliminated millions of U.S. jobs, especially in the past decade, and have contributed to the prolonged decline in the real wages of working Americans. Ending currency manipulation will reduce the downward pressure of globalization on U.S. wages.
The real beneficiaries of cheap goods from China are workers with college degrees, and especially professionals, managers, executives and stockholders. Those in the top 1 percent of all wage earners, who derive most of their incomes from profits, have benefited most of all from globalization. Between 1979 and 2007, before the start of the recession, this group captured 38.7 % of all the income growth in this period (Mishel 2010). Nearly two-thirds (63.7%) of all income gains went to the top 10%, and an additional 11.5% went to the next 10% of all households. Thus, the bottom 80% of the labor force captured only 26.3% of all the gains in income over this three-decade period. The most important effect of globalization, and especially unfair competition with China, has been to redistribute income from working families to those at the very top of the income distribution. It was a battle between Main Street and Wall Street, and multinational corporations captured the lion’s share of the spoils in this fight.
The most direct effect of unfair trade is that it causes trade deficits to rise. A new EPI report shows that rising trade deficits with China will cost one-half million U.S. jobs in 2010 alone. Since China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, the United States has lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs and more than 26,000 (net) manufacturing plants. China is responsible for at least 2.4 million of those lost jobs. These are concentrated loses, but the costs of unfair trade do not end there.
The Ryan-Murphy currency legislation being considered by Congress is a first step in the fight against currency manipulation. If passed, it would send an important message to China and the administration that Congress will no longer tolerate illegal currency manipulation. However, the legislation would apply to only a small share of total U.S.-China trade–only products subject to countervailing duties might be penalized (fewer than 60 products from China are now subject to antidumping or countervailing duties). It would not necessarily impose duties in particular specific cases–it would merely authorize the Commerce Department to treat currency manipulation as an illegal export subsidy in countervailing duty Investigations. There is growing support for much more aggressive action against Chinese currency manipulation, such as a 25% across the board tariff. If the Ryan-Murphy bill is passed and China does not get the message, then it will soon be time to consider much broader restrictions on Chinese imports.
EPI is a non-profit think tank that receives the majority of its funding from foundation grants but also receives support from U.S. labor unions and industrial associations.
He said those longing for an independent Palestine must not try to tear down Israel, and called on Israel to extend a moratorium on building new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Mr Obama accepted that many remained pessimistic about the peace process, with cynics saying the two sides were too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace.
“Some say that the gaps between the parties are too big; the potential for talks to break down is too great; and that after decades of failure, peace is simply not possible.”
But the US president called on his fellow leaders to consider the alternative.
“If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbours who are committed to co-existence.
“The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.”
In his opening address, Mr Ban urged the nations to stand together in a time of growing challenges and uncertainty.
He said the UN provided a moral compass for a world in which social inequalities were growing, with women and children bearing the brunt.
He called for a “stronger UN for a better world”.
Mr Ban said the UN had embraced an ambitious agenda for a more prosperous world free of poverty, and for a greener, safer world free of nuclear weapons. What is your reaction to Ahmadinejad's comments and the delegate walk-outs? You can send us your views using the form below. The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.
Sign of the Times, Part One:
No sooner did word leak out that Mark Zuckerberg will appear on Oprah tomorrow to announce a donation of $100 million to the Newark public school system than the media long knives were unsheathed.
According to the naysayers, the Facebook CEO was making the donation to counteract the negative depiction of him in The Social Network as, in the words of the New York Post, “a conniving backstabber who may have stolen the idea for his social networking site.”
Or he was making it “as a way to ward off any negative stigma” arising from his new standing on the Forbes 400 as America’s 35th wealthiest person. New York magazine called it “the PR move of the month.”
Even the Wall Street Journal, which called the donation “generous, courageous, and inspiring” said: “Mr. Zuckerberg may be young. But he already has learned a lot about the offsetting PR value of philanthropy.”
So the $100 million donation to Newark’s crumbling public schools is not in and of itself the story? The story is figuring out the motivation behind it? Is this what we have come to? Can you think of anything more ridiculous?
I really don’t care why Mark Zuckerberg is donating $100 million of his own money that will make a profound difference to the lives of Newark’s children. I care very much that it’s being done — that one of America’s worst school systems will be getting a massive infusion of funds.
The stats couldn’t be more troubling: despite spending $22,000 a year per student, the graduation rate in Newark hovers around 50 percent; only 1 out of 5 Newark students who do graduate go on to a four-year college; over 85 percent of Newark students who go on to community college need remedial help in English and math.
So let’s skip the dime store Freud and celebrate Zuckerberg’s game-changing gift.
Sign of the Times, Part Two:
Zuckerberg’s donation is an example of the kind of big, bold steps that are needed in these troubled times — as is Newark mayor Cory Booker’s attempt to tackle the chronic failure of his city’s schools head on by demanding greater local control of the state-run schools and working on raising a matching $100 million from others concerned about the crisis in education.
Zuckerberg and Booker — who will appear together on Oprah — are demonstrating that we all need to bring a sense of urgency to the problems we are facing and make ourselves part of the solution.
Zuckerberg could have given $10 million and still gotten a load of good PR. Instead he’s giving $100 million.
I spent the morning at the Clinton Global Initiative, announcing the commitments being made in the Science, Technology, Education, and math (STEM) category and then moderating a panel on Technology and Democracy (one of the panelists, Pierre Omidyar, had made commitments totaling $55 million to promote government transparency globally and mobile technology in developing countries). Before the first session, I talked with President Clinton and Robert S. Harrison about the need to hold a domestic CGI to address all the growing needs here at home.
Among the roughly 300 commitments expected to be made at this year’s event (as reported by Reporters Uncensored’s Maura Kelly on HuffPost), were $60 million to replace the stoves that produce the smoke that takes the life of a woman or child somewhere in the world every 16 seconds, and a commitment from Procter & Gamble to provide 2 billion gallons of drinkable water a year — a move that will save a life every hour of every day.
The problems we face are enormous. But so is the amount of available money, energy, creativity, caring and dedication to making things better.
So let’s keep the long knives in their scabbards.
P.S. On Monday, Oprah did a show about Waiting for Superman, the powerful new documentary about the failure of America’s education system. The show included the film’s director Davis Guggenheim, Bill Gates, Chancellor of Public Schools for Washington D.C. Michelle Rhee, and John Legend. On tomorrow’s show, along with the announcement from Zuckerberg and Booker, Oprah is going to feature her viewers’ reaction to the film. Hello, America’s schools? The zeitgeist is calling!
Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter:
As my two year anniversary with my girlfriend drew near, my frustrations began to mount. I have always been a sucker for big time gifts, and I wanted to do something that would truly knock her socks off. Cleaning her apartment while she was at work and making her a candlelit lasagna dinner (and by “make” I mean my mom helped. And by “my mom helped” I mean she made it) to come home to was great for our first year, but I wanted something that she would remember for the rest of her life. Something that would make her lovingly coo, “I don’t care if you were originally a Plan B — you’re my Plan B.” Almost as if sensing that future great compliment, inspiration struck.
Though my girlfriend and I both live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, she originally hails from Springfield, Missouri (Nixa, Missouri, to be exact). She loves the Great Lakes and the statutes adorned for our hometown hero of Derek Jeter, but naturally she misses home. And nothing takes her back and eases her homesick feelings like her favorite band who also originates from Springfield: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (SSLYBY). They’re one of the hottest indie groups in the country according to Rolling Stone. Their work has been featured on the television show The O.C., in Macy’s commercials, and they sport a cult following. My idea was to get my girlfriend tickets to their Detroit show and then surprise her by having the band dedicate a song to her, followed by a meet and greet for autographs after the show. Considering they have 200,000 online followers alone, asking for such a request was going to be simple, right?
I sent the band my Hail Mary dream request with the full assumption I should immediately begin planning for something else. Less than twenty-four hours later, however, I not only received a response from the band but also had garnered their full support with much enthusiasm. One member of the band was on board with the idea so much that he emailed me his phone number and we began texting ideas as to which song my girlfriend would like to hear most. Though the success of the request was exhilarating, it was also painful. I had two whole months before the concert, an awfully long time to keep such an exciting secret from her. I cannot recall how many countless times we listened to SSLYBY’s songs on her iPod as she told stories about what a great reputation they had and how much they were loved in Missouri. With every tale I squeezed my cell phone and gritted my teeth, resisting the urge to show her I had a member of the band’s number on my call list!
After two months of agonizing silence regarding the secret, the day finally came and my girlfriend and I trekked the two-and-a-half hours to Detroit. The venue was a 1950s style diner with an upper floor warehouse arena near the heart of Detroit’s downtown. We arrived nearly two hours early and passed the time by grabbing a seat in the diner and chatting. My girlfriend recognized the faces of the band and pointed out the members to me, and I watched as they took in their surroundings. The member I had communicated with was letting the diner’s glorious history sink in — examining countless black and white photographs of all the great musical acts Detroit has produced, while the mood was matched with continuous playing of Motown classics. The diner was full of people who were obviously waiting to see SSLYBY, something they no doubt understood, though their demeanor never changed. The band ate a small dinner together, blending in as if they were waiting to see a band themselves.
The concert itself began with two opening acts, and I watched as the members of SSLYBY stood nearby to witness the other bands perform. They didn’t keep a buffer from the crowd to separate themselves — they blended in as if they were merely fans that had come to see a show as well. They took pictures of the opening acts and complimented little nuances of their performances between sips of beer and laughter much like anyone else in attendance. Had my girlfriend not recognized the band from her days in Missouri they would have gone completely under the radar. I hadn’t seen such humility from a band since witnessing the Foo Fighter’s legendary front man, Dave Grohl, perform in Michigan.
Their set began and the venue came to life in a way that had been lacking for the previous performers, as if all in attendance had been in a deep slumber. The music was pure and crisp, and it was greeted by overwhelmingly supportive and energetic fans. They sang with SSLYBY, matching their lyrics at every beat, and the place was so alive that the floorboards of the historic, aging venue in Detroit literally began to shake underfoot. I watched as a father tapped his feet to the amazing sounds with an appreciative smile on his face, making it very evident he was actually glad to be at a concert with his teenage daughter who was enjoying the show as much as he was. It was music the way it should be. And then the moment came. The band member I communicated with took hold of the microphone and dedicated the next song to my girlfriend, a fellow Springfield native living in Kalamazoo, which caused her to shout out with glee.
As the song began, I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and looked into her Caribbean blue eyes, so perfectly silhouetted by the blue light casting shadows on the band as they played, and I told her the entire story. And as the tear rolled down her cheek she managed to choke out the best anniversary gift I could ever receive.
“I love you.”
As Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin rocked the soul of downtown Detroit, Eminem and Jay-Z co-headlined a concert down the road at Comerica Park, a concert where both artists agreed they would try to put aside their rivalry for one night. Though SSLYBY couldn’t match the feuding rapping duo in tickets, if talent, humility and All-American kindness is the standard, I attended the venue that made Motown the most proud that night.
My girlfriend and I both count ourselves lucky that we can officially say “We knew them when.”
Scott Janssen can be reached at email@example.com or follow his blog at www.pantslessponderings.com.
Follow Scott Janssen on Twitter:
Women in the workplace from Baby Boomers to Generation Y,
a think tank of respected opinions, a five-state search for truth
When we hear the wage gap — 77 cents to the dollar — we all gasp, suck in the air, and respond with some quick opinions. We all have a unique take on the salary issue from “Men just want to keep women down,” to the common response, “It’s just the way it is.”
Many of us don’t know how this figure was derived. This 77.9 cent/dollar figure was calculated by the U.S. Census using the American Community Survey Report from 2008. This data considers all employees working 36 hours per week or more year-round. It is raw data. It’s not adjusted for working parents who take time off for school breaks, family obligations, etc. It doesn’t include statistics about how many hours a week in overtime the person works or what type of profession, hard or soft sciences. It leaves a lot to individual interpretation.
Twenty years ago, I thought being in the human resources field meant I could explain the gap. In 1990, it was 71.6 cents/dollar, not much different from where we are today. Of course, I evaluated salaries based upon a sum of education and experience related to the job. Because many women did not possess the breadth of experience of their male counterparts at that time, the wage disparity made sense. Yes, I thought, it will take many years to remedy the gap but it will correct itself. But now I know there is much more to this issue than the raw data at hand. Being on the quest for the answer, I looked to my smart, experienced family, colleagues, and friends to get answers. My informal “think tank” included women of all generations and a couple of wise men.
My question to them was simply, “Why does this salary gap exist?”
One incredibly talented young professional, Kelly, had an intuitive response that spans the generations. Our current economic strife creates an additional hurdle for those of us trying to secure well-paying jobs. “It seems that women in the workforce are in a catch 22. We are not happy with the salaries we receive, however we are not in a position to turn them down.”
This may fuel the ”settling” and ”accepting” epidemic plaguing women’s careers; we can’t shop for the highest bidder. Are women hired at lesser salaries because employers can get away with it in this economy?
Some in my think tank thought that if a woman stops her career to raise children, attend to an aging parent, and other such events, her return to the active workforce has a negative effect on her salary. It’s always been that way, right? Men are the providers, and women are the nurturers. When a need arises, you can count on the women of the family to “do the right thing” and take care of the problem. In fact, women experience absences covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act at the rate of 16 percent higher than men. And of course, since the women make less money in many cases, they will be the ones to take the time off so the family doesn’t take as much of a “hit” in wages.
Do women want to work the demanding and long working hours to get ahead? Many women tend to gravitate to the “softer” professions, social work, nursing, teaching, human resources where earning potential is not as substantial as litigators or surgeons. I recall one talented administrative assistant who would be next in line for a promotion. When I suggested that she take a couple of accounting classes to get ready for the next level, she said, “I don’t want to. I am where I want to be and don’t pressure me about that promotion.” She did not possess the drive to get ahead in the workplace; her priorities were different.
“I can’t give you the promotion because you’re too good at what you do.”
What about appearance? Oh yes, beauty matters for women at work. A polished and attractive woman who is not overweight yields a job offer with a better salary. One study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in 2007 revealed that attractive people earn five percent more and obese women earn 17 percent less than their slimmer colleagues.
Women of the workplace, I conclude that we become resolved to our own opinions and choices. Of course, there is a dose of traditional values, some discriminatory practices, some personal preferences, our natural preponderance to care giving and nurturing. They all exist in the business world. They just don’t apply to all of us, at the same time, and in the same way.
I see young girls wearing glittery shirts that say, “Girl Power” and, “I’m a princess, just get used to it,” and I’m hopeful that the next generation of young women will speak their piece.
What do you do if you have a discrimination claim concerning your salary? Visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sex.cfm. You will find a process to file a claim and possible remedies including mediation.
Keep your eye on the Bureau of Labor Statistics for salary trends. The Department of Labor publishes the median usual weekly earnings by occupation and sex.
Dr. Gail Ali, Floridam; Kelly Jansen, Illinois; Rachel Kapur, New York; Bridget O’Connor, Florida; Marsha Grimm, Florida; Judie Steele, Michigan; Suzanne Mueller, Michigan; Lynne LeFebvre, Michigan; Suzanne Kaplan, Michigan; Sherry Pedigo, Florida; Lora Bruder, Michigan; Tammy Grimm, Florida; Diane Savko, Pennsylvania; Terry Powell, Florida; Ryan Powell, Florida; Barry Grimm, Florida; George Savko, Pennsylvania
This Friday, New York will host a ministerial gathering of Friends of Yemen, an international group formed to address political and economic conditions that have provided fertile ground for al Qaeda in the troubled Arab country. To be effective, it is critical that Friends not ignore Yemen’s serious human rights abuses in their understandable eagerness to confront the terrorist threat within its borders.
The work of Friends–which include key western and Gulf states such as the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia–acquires greater urgency as the Obama administration contemplates a $1.2 billion increase in counterterrorism aid to Yemen and possible CIA drone strikes against suspected militants. Unless the US and Friends condition military and economic assistance on human rights improvements, they risk alienating Yemenis who might view such support as condoning abuses.
Friends of Yemen was formed in response to the attempted Christmas Day attack on a US airliner by a Nigerian student who was allegedly trained by Yemen’s al Qaeda branch. Since that bombing attempt, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has increased efforts to rout al Qaeda. The president in February also reached a ceasefire with northern Huthi rebels following years of conflict that greatly harmed the civilian population. He also has offered to conduct peace talks with a southern separatist movement.
Although the northern ceasefire generally holds, confrontations between government forces and southern separatists have grown increasingly violent. Meanwhile, credible reports persist of the arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention, and ill-treatment of alleged rebels, separatists and terrorists. In addition, the Saleh government has continued an intimidation campaign it launched last year against journalists and political dissidents. The tone of this campaign was set in January, when, within days of President Barack Obama’s expressions of support for President Saleh, Yemeni security forces opened fire on hundreds of protestors peacefully demanding the reopening of the country’s largest independent newspaper, Al-Ayyam.
Yemen’s intelligence and security forces appear to have rounded up many critics under the guise of counterterrorism operations. In August for example, government counterterrorism forces arrested a journalist who reports on security issues and a cartoonist friend and held them incommunicado for 20 days. The journalist, Abd al-Ilah al-Shayi’ of the official Saba news agency, appeared bruised at his first court hearing a month after his arrest and said government forces had beaten him.
Prosecutors cited evidence that al-Shayi’ had interviewed al Qaeda members and sympathizers in accusing him of being a media propagandist for the group. Among those al-Shayi’ had interviewed was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric whom the US has reportedly targeted for killing. By that standard, the well-known American journalist Peter Bergen, who interviewed Osama bin Laden for CNN in 1997, would also be behind bars. Prosecutors have offered no evidence against the cartoonist, Kamal Sharaf.
Some of President Saleh’s counterterrorism efforts have caused civilian casualties and displaced tens of thousands of people in the south. This has angered local populations including southern separatists, even though many of them have a history of opposition to Islamic terrorism and are struggling against the Yemeni government, not the US. That in turn has generated sympathy between Islamist militants and some separatists that al Qaeda is exploiting.
For example, after a US-assisted missile strike last December against suspected al Qaeda camps in southern Abyan province killed at least 41 civilians, many of them women and children, some separatists denounced the strike as an attack on their movement.
Another US-assisted attack in central Marib province in May 2010 killed a deputy governor rather than the al Qaeda member who was targeted, prompting retaliation by the victim’s tribe that included attacks on strategic pipelines.
Then, in August, the government launched a three-week shelling campaign against al Qaeda in Lawdar, a town in Abyan province that is also home to separatists. Media reports said most of the attack’s three dozen victims were al Qaeda or security forces but it also damaged hundreds of homes and temporarily displaced tens of thousands of people. Then, earlier this week, the government attacked suspected al Qaeda members in the town of Hawta in southern Shabwa province, resulting in the displacement of thousands of families.
Southern movement leaders have issued statements equating the attacks in Lawdar and Hawta with attacks on all southerners. At a protest in the southern capital of Aden on Thursday, some southerners accused the government of targeting them under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The US and its allies have called on President Saleh to respect human rights. But by participating in Yemeni counterterrorism measures while failing to take more concrete steps to end Saheh’s repressive tactics, these countries fuel al Qaeda’s narrative that they condone the Saleh government’s abuses.
Already, many Yemenis fear their government more than they fear al Qaeda. And many say they are far more concerned about grinding poverty, massive unemployment and the country’s depleting reserves of oil and water than they are about routing America’s Most Wanted.
On Friday, the Friends of Yemen will discuss ways to help the country improve its economy and security, as well as foster good governance, justice and the rule of law. They should make this assistance contingent on President Saleh improving human rights. Friends also should press for accountability for violations by all sides in Yemen and push for the United Nations to establish a human rights monitoring and reporting mission in Yemen to help constrain abuses.
If they fail to take such steps, Friends risk galvanizing support in Yemen for the very forces they are trying to weaken.
“There needs to be a new vision for Haiti, and that vision needs to come from the people,” says Marc-Arthur Fils-Aim, director of the Karl Leveque Cultural Institute (commonly known by its Creole acronym ICKL), a grassroots center which supports peasant and other popular organizations to help them develop their analysis and capacity as a movement.
Post-earthquake Haiti is often portrayed in the international media, by some international humanitarian organizations, and by the U.S. government as a nation of victims whose future depends on the largess of the international community.
A more accurate portrayal is that a large and diverse social movement is highly mobilized to participate in rebuilding a country that won’t resemble Haiti as it was. The movement is continuing in the tradition of awareness-raising, organizing, and mobilizing that it commenced during slavery times, and which it has never ceased, even during the most brutal dictatorships. The core agenda has remained constant. With new post-earthquake particulars, it includes:
1.) Opening the space for participatory democracy. Citizens – all citizens – have to be allowed voice, decision-making, and power to develop future policies and programs which will, after all, impact them more than anyone. Haiti being a democracy in name, the government must serve the people and be accountable to them. Yvette Michaud, an organizer with the National Committee of Peasant Women, said, “If Haitians want to have a better future, we are the ones who must decide what that future is and construct it.”
2.) An essential corollary to the first point, restoring power to the Haitian government. Today Haiti is a literal protectorate, its parliament having voted in mid-April to turn its power over to the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, a wholly illegitimate body. The commission’s 18-month mandate is to determine Haiti’s reconstruction model, e.g. to create the country’s future. The membership of the ever-expanding group is 50% foreigners, who literally buy their seat at the table: either their government or institution donated $100 million or more since the earthquake, or it cancelled $200 million or more in debt. The only power left the Haitian government is veto by the executive, which power everyone knows that President Preval won’t use. Should the next president choose to use this power, there are other vehicles of control, such as the World Bank being the fiscal sponsor of the process, which means it has oversight over all the international aid of governments, financial institutions, and major agencies.
The members are elected by no one and are accountable to no one. They don’t have to publish any reports or make any statements. There’s no number a Haitian citizen can call to find out what they’re doing, no office to whom they can lobby. U.S. Special Envoy Bill Clinton co-chairs the commission along with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. This naked colonialism must be replaced by the power of the elected government.
3.) Ensuring women’s and children’s rights, security, and well-being. This must be front and center in the fragile and dangerous post-catastrophe environment.
4.) Providing permanent housing for the homeless and displaced, who the U.N. estimates at almost one in five.
5.) Putting central focus on providing for social needs. Besides housing, people need food, potable water, health care, education, and work with a living wage.
6.) Rebuilding under a new paradigm of economic justice, one which breaks free of the old path in which more than 50% of the people live on less than $1 a day.
7.) Privileging peasant agriculture. Rural farmers comprise 65% to 80% of the population who can barely survive, and who produce only 45% of the food needs of the population. It’s critical to invest substantial resources in restoring the agricultural sector. Just trade policies which protect domestic production are an essential component.
Below, Fils-Aim tells how Haiti got in the shape it’s in and what is necessary for an alternative reconstruction.
“Haiti’s problems didn’t begin with this earthquake. Haiti began [as in independent nation] in 1804 with a system of exclusion in which a minority was in league with the French colonists. The people of this minority were already big property owners and slave owners when Haiti was a colony – people like Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe, who played a key role in the Independence and in driving Haiti after the Independence. That is to say, class divisions were already existent, so when they took power they developed the system to benefit the minority.
“So from 1804 until today, we’ve had a class system in which a small minority controls all the wealth of the country, while the majority suffers every kind of misery imaginable. And, unlike in many countries in which the wealthy ruling minority develops a national policy for the country’s advancement, in Haiti in general, every government that’s come to power has taken sides with the dominant class and doesn’t make the slightest effort to develop the country. That’s allowed misery to compound upon misery. That’s led to a small group of wealthy today investing its money in foreign countries, in the Dominican Republic, in Jamaica, in the United States. They leave the country in this condition.
“The earthquake of January 12 gave us a lesson. It let us know the limits of this rotten system, a system that can’t be fixed anymore, and it made us see once again the weakness of this government. The government is protecting its own economic interests and its own power, and submitting to the international community which gives the government that power and its blessing.
“The government hasn’t used this event as an opportunity to move the country forward. On the contrary, it’s let everything fall into the hands of the international community, especially the American government. But the American government isn’t here to defend the interests of the Haitian people; it’s defending its own interests. Capitalists do what they do to make more money. They have political and strategic interests. The American governments and Western powers are profiting from the weakness and absence of the vision of the Haitian state.
“Political change is necessary for Haiti to make any progress. But the traditional political class doesn’t agree with this kind of change. On the contrary, members of that class are all restavk, indentured child servants, of the international community.
“The reconstruction plan is their [the traditional economic class and Western powers'] plan. It isn’t the people’s plan. For us, it’s a false plan, first because the money that was pledged isn’t arriving; second because all the decisions are being made by foreign countries; and third because the plans are to build houses and buildings and roads, but not to build a new system. What we need is real agrarian reform, reform of the health care and educational systems, and another civic system in which there can be real participation by the grassroots majority.
“Real development has to do with the path the nation wants to take, how a country thinks, the participation of the majority. Development doesn’t mean a lot of huge buildings. We don’t need that or billions and billions of dollars. Today, for example, you see schools that were made of cement that were destroyed, so they’ve recreated the same schools under nice big tents, and they’re working.
“People have to have power in their own hands and they have to be organized. With the country’s preexisting resources and solidarity of people in other countries, we’ll have the power to reconstruct.
“The thing to do is to help the people think, understand, analyze. This seems a little abstract but it’s really not, because when people finally take power, they’ll have the will power and the real capacity to change things. We’re helping groups strengthen themselves so they can know we don’t have to wait to get our reward in Heaven. We’re teaching that it’s human beings that created the system that makes them poor, and it’s human beings who can destroy that system. They’re the ones who carry the burden, and they’re the ones who can bring about the solution.
“A few drops of water makes a brook, a brook makes a stream, and a stream make a river. The work we’re doing now, little by little, will grow to encompass the majority of the people in the country. Working together, that majority will create change so they can control the politics and the economic and political affairs of the country.
“I have so much hope for the Haitian people, who are a rebellious people. They’ve been used by others ever since the first battle, by those who took control after 1804. They’ve continued to fight, and they’ve continued to be used a lot. I have hope that one day people won’t let themselves be used anymore. My hope is that, as long as there are people who are being exploited, there will be struggle, and as long as there is struggle, there will be victory.”
Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds, www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
As Israelis, Palestinians and Americans stumble into the initial stages of negotiations, here are a couple of lessons culled from game theory and behavioral economics they would be wise to keep in mind.
Lesson 1: Fairness Trumps Rationality.
Two people, strangers, are paired and given the following instruction: Person A, randomly selected, gets $100 and is told that she must split it with person B. She can choose whichever configuration she desires: $99/1, $80/20, $50/50, etc. However, the catch is that person B has to accept person A’s offer. If he doesn’t then both players lose the money.
Now if people were rational actors, as economist often assume, then any split offered by person A that leaves person B with some money would be welcomed. After all, its money Person B did not have coming into the experiment. However, research shows, that if people believe they have been treated unfairly (i.e. given less than 30 percent of total) they would rather reject the offer and punish person A than return home a little richer.
How does this experiment, known as the Ultimatum Game, relate to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations? Israel, as a powerful and occupying force, gets to decide how much land it’s willing to cede. The Palestinians, on the other hand, should they find the offer unfair, can reject and bring down the negotiations. Of course, unlike the Ultimatum Game, the parties come into the negotiation with a shared history, partake in a decision-making process that is iterated and reciprocal, and have a sense of entitlement to the prize.
The interesting question is whether the Palestinians, who are viewed as the far weaker party, can punish the Israelis the way player B punishes player A in the Ultimatum Game. The answer: You bet. And the reason for this is the fates of both people are positively interdependent — Israelis and Palestinians are going to swim or sink together.
Take the West Bank: Without a negotiated solution, the occupation will likely continue and Israel will not be able to remain a Jewish and democratic state: Enfranchise the subjects under your control and you will, by virtue of demographics, no longer be a Jewish state. Continue to deprive them of civil and political rights and you are an apartheid entity. As for the Palestinians, without Israeli withdrawal, they will not be able to have an independent country of their own.
Of course Israel can unilaterally disengage, but doing so without an agreement is likely to decrease its security and (as outstanding issues like Jerusalem and the refugees will not be solved) leave the conflict intact. Likewise, the Palestinians can unilaterally declare statehood, but doing so while Israel remains an occupying force is likely to be a meaningless gesture.
If Israel can’t offer the Palestinians a fair solution that takes their basic interests and needs into account, then the Palestinians are likely to end negotiations and punish Israel by compelling it to choose between three unattractive and risky options: Enfranchise Palestinians (the non-Jewish, one-state solution), maintain the status quo (the non-democratic, one-state solution), or disengage unilaterally (the insecure, two-state solution).
This insight needs to be especially borne in mind by the US (see lesson below) as it attempts to midwife a viable solution to this conflict. The Palestinians must get a sense that both the process and outcome of the negotiation is fair and just (also true for the Israelis). Rationally, a simulacrum of a state is better than no state at all. However, to a people who are primed for statehood, whose anchor for a fair solution is already a compromise (West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza make up 22 percent of Mandate Palestine) and who have an alternative to the negotiated solution, this will not do.
Lesson 2: Incurable Subjectivity Calls For Outside Assistance.
A large group of college students was offered a free sample of two different beers: one Budweiser and the other (also Budweiser) laced with two drops of balsamic vinegar, called “MIT Brew.” After the taste test, the students were asked to choose which would they like to drink a large glass of — on the house. Unaware of its true ingredients, a majority of the students preferred the MIT Brew. However, when another large group of students was told, prior to tasting, that the MIT Brew was spiked with balsamic vinegar they displayed a high preference for the regular Budweiser (other studies used Sam Adams).
This led Dan Ariely, Duke University behavioral economist and one of the designers of this experiment, to conclude that our preconceptions change how we experience and understand the world — even to the point of altering our physiology.
And it was Ariely himself, an Israeli, who made the link between his imbibing students and political negotiations. In a 2008 interview with Big Think, he said that his experiment made him highly skeptical that Israelis and Palestinians will ever be able to understand one another:
One does not have to agree with Ariely’s conclusion that no understanding is possible to recognize that the way Israelis and Palestinians “see” the conflict differs considerably. Just consider how hard it is for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or how difficult it is for Israelis to recognize that settlements devour the land and future of the Palestinian people.
So what’s to be done? Ariely explains that it’s not necessary for the parties to understand one another, if a (less biased) third party can be aware of both people’s true interest and integrate them into a fair solution.:
The Obama administration has made it clear that it will not force a solution on the parties. Indeed, a solution that is not owned by the parties themselves will be very difficult to implement. But as a mediator with a vested interest, dealing with a conflict that may soon turn incorrigible, the US ought to provide its own vision of what the solution would look like and press all the parties — including the Arab states — to bring it to fruition.
Of course some of the issues are going to be very difficult to resolve (e.g. refugees, Jerusalem), but with the right mixture of imagination, creativity and tenacity, the U.S. may just be able to come up with proposals that satisfy the basic needs of all involved.
For thirty years, we have lived under the Reagan philosophy of “trickle down” economics. Bill Clinton made only marginal, around the edges changes – he too was a corporatist. So, after thirty years, we have a huge economic disparity – the richest 20% of America controls almost 84% of the wealth. What’s worse, it’s the MINDSET that has permeated America – we are told that we should all think our interests are in line with the rich. We need to challenge this frontally. President Obama promised fundamental change. It did not happen.
For reasons we can debate, blame the President or not, America seems to be headed back into the arms of the Republicans. The corporations are giddy at the prospect of “Speaker Boehner” and thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case, unlimited money is now pouring into this election cycle, without even disclosure as to who is paying the bills for the propaganda.
What’s more, the Republicans have just published their wrongly named manifesto. It is not “A Pledge To America” it SHOULD be named “A Pledge To Finish Off America” as that is where we are now. Jobs – gone. Middle class – gone. Hope – gone. Change – filibustered into goneness. Democrats too craven to fight.
Sad. Very sad. And a Democratic electorate demoralized and dispirited from keeping the dirty talons of Republicans from the throats of America. It looks like the end of the Empire. I try to get people motivated to vote and it is not happening. After thirty years, they are close to returning us to the days of Upton Sinclair and “The Jungle”. This election cycle, they just might finish us off.
Follow Norman Goldman on Twitter:
Rob Walker’s newest project for New Orleans proves him to be no less than a bonafide optimist.
The New York Times Magazine’s “Consumed” columnist wants us to look around at some of the Crescent City’s down-at-the-heels architecture and view it in a new way.
He wants to deliver a jolt and a double-take to pedestrians strolling the mundane, the ho-hum and the indeterminate environs of Treme, Ninth Ward, Downtown, the Quarter, Central City and Magazine Street. Even before Katrina hit in 2005, many of the buildings there already lay in various states of degradation. They’re largely ignored now, not only by their owners, but also by those who pass them by on a daily basis.
“They have no foreseeable future, but I want people to experience them with an upbeat ending,” he said. “I want them to see things in their environment in a new way — and give them a little smile.”
Though he lives now in Savannah, the 41 year old spent a lot of time letting the good times roll in the Big Easy back in the late ’90s and early 2000s. In fact, he wrote a book on the subject in 2005, calling it Letters from New Orleans. A collection of his own emails about life down there, its topics include debutantes, mortality, fine dining, drunkenness, celebratory gunfire, the riddle of race relations in our time and urban decay.
So he clearly knows the city well.
He knows his audience too. For this project, he figures, it’s an adventurous, art-loving and city-centric lot. “They’re flaneurs,” he said, using Baudelaire’s derivative of the French word meaning “to stroll.” “They’re the curious people who get about the city.”
Sadly, they’re strolling around town in a time with a serious sense of entropy these days — not only for New Orleans but for the nation and the economy in general. And the ten buildings he’s selected for his new project are pure and unadulterated symbols of this most unfortunate era in the life of the Republic.
“I see it as a comment on the times we live in,” he said.
He got the idea for the project as he walked through Savannah and noticed an abandoned building for sale, adorned by an aging sign with an old rendering depicting a total reconfiguration for a new and improved use.
“It was a hypothetical future,” he said. “So I told my wife Ellen about it and wrote to my partner G.K. in New Orleans.”
Shortly after, the Hypothetical Development Organization (H.D.O.) was born. It is, the organization’s web site says, a new form of urban storytelling. Members scour the New Orleans streets for buildings that have fallen into disrepair — structures condemned to tell stories only about their past, but not their future.
That’s where Rob and his band of artists, architects and photographers come in. As a public service, their site says, H.D.O. invents a hypothetical future for each selected structure.
“If they’re not going to be developed, then let’s have fun with them,” he said. “It’s a pleasure-giving response to this crummy situation with the economy, where development isn’t happening. But this is not mean or depressing — it’s joyous.”
H.D.O. intends to create persuasive renderings of imagined futures for its selected ten New Orleans buildings. The renderings of each structure will be printed onto two large signs and then shared with the public — first on the buildings, and then in a gallery exhibit in April 2011.
One case in point is what appears to be a 19th-century brick box of a building, its wrought iron second floor railing collapsing, its doors and windows boarded up. But Rob and cohort Dave Pinter, a writer/artist/photographer from New York, envision a very different kind of future. Their rendering reveals the “Museum of the Self,” with a completely renovated faade that employs the very modern symbol of an upbeat, can-do attitude — the “thumb’s up” sign — atop its second floor.
“We’re spreading a little happiness,” he said. “There’s no payoff for us, other than that it would be cool.”
The group estimates its costs for the signage at $3,900 and has embarked on a fundraising quest that includes a web site and a video. With a deadline of Oct. 28, they’d already raised $461 from 13 backers by Sept. 22. Naming rights to projects are available for contributions of $1,000 or more, though the H.D.O. will settle also for a minimum $10 donation.
Some restrictions do apply, however. “We reserve the right to refuse BP,” Rob said. “We’re not doing any BP project — it’s just not going to happen.”
Unveiling for the first five projects will take place in December, with more going up every couple of weeks afterwards. Renderings in the gallery exhibit will be sold, along with a photo of the sign on its building, to compensate artists for time and materials.
Hypothetical Development Organization (Kickstarter Trailer) from
R Walker on Vimeo.
For the flaneurs planning to take the tour, Gowalla, the travel-oriented app for smartphones, will help create a custom “Hypothetical Development Trip” for the project.
And it is for other audiences too. “There will be people who’ll experience it only online,” Rob said. “We hope there will be an accidental audience too, of people just wandering by.”
Though he’s skeptical that any of the hypothetical developments will actually come to life, he hasn’t ruled that out. The group considered offering the opportunity to actually develop all the projects for a donation of $10 million. Realistically, though, he doesn’t believe it will happen.
But perhaps that’s not important here. These are not Pritzker-Prize-winning designs, after all. These are thought provokers.
What’s significant here is that a writer — not an architect — is proposing that we use art and design to alter our perceptions of a downtrodden environment. He’s suggesting that if we merely think about it, our world does not have to be the way it is — architecturally, economically or any other way. He’s implying that we all might take a look around at wherever we live and come to grips with what an optimistic Robert F. Kennedy, quoting George Bernard Shaw, used to say:
“Some men see things as they are and ask why… I dream things that never happened and ask why not?”
Thinking like that can lead to a great many good things, architecture included.
For more from J. Michael Welton, go to http://www.architectsandartisans.com
For more on H.D.O., go to http://hypotheticaldevelopment.com/
For the H.D.O. video, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1962879971/signage-depicting-imaginary-building-uses-in-new-o
Follow J. Michael Welton on Twitter:
Millions travel to our national forests, parks and wilderness areas each year, with visitation in July 2010 to Yellowstone National Park marking an all-time high. What some may not realize is that each of us — every citizen of the United States — owns a stake in approximately 650 million acres of the nation’s lands. In effect, the property deed for almost one-third of our country lists the American people as owners. We’d better take care of it.
On Sept. 25, the congressionally chartered National Environmental Education Foundation will oversee National Public Lands Day, to commemorate our mutually owned acreage and to inspire us to visit and appreciate these places. But the event is not only a celebration, it’s an opportunity to take care of what we own, just as we mow our yards, rake leaves or tend our gardens.
True, 650 million acres is a lot to look after. And one day simply isn’t enough, even with all of us pitching in and giving back to our sources of camping, fishing, hiking and hunting. That’s why we hire dedicated people in the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management to help us care for it. Year round, these stewards administer the vast and varied landscape in the public interest, based on guiding laws such as the Wilderness Act of 1964.
Over this past summer, while many of us vacationed in our parks and wilderness, officials from the Obama administration toured the country, visiting small towns and big cities, to hear firsthand what Americans want for the future of our public lands. In places from Albuquerque to Concord and Missoula to Orlando, people shared their ideas. This effort, termed “America’s Great Outdoors listening tour,” will culminate in November with a report and recommendations to President Obama, based on lessons learned about how best to be good stewards of our public land.
It’s a big job, and an important one. Not only are we, and our public stewards, taking care of places like the Grand Canyon or the Everglades today, we’re also trying hard to make sure we leave them in good shape for future Americans. President Teddy Roosevelt said, “The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value.”
According to historian Douglas Brinkley, Roosevelt believed that “saving natural wonders, wildlife species, timberlands and diverse habitats was a patriotic endeavor.”
Inspired by citizen involvement from the ground up, our elected representatives and senators in Congress can continue carrying out that duty. They are working on legislation which could be enacted this year to protect an additional 2 million acres, across more than a dozen states, as wilderness, national monuments, conservation areas and recreation areas. These legislative measures are backed by hunters and anglers, business owners, city councilors and county commissioners. They are championed by members of both parties.
We can bequeath to future generations spectacular wonders with evocative names such as the Pioneer Mountains in Montana, Gold Butte in Nevada, Horse Heaven in Oregon and the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. If we succeed, we fulfill an American tradition, providing special places to enjoy on this National Public Lands Day and those that will be celebrated by our children and grandchildren.
We couldn’t find one person in the small village we visited on Kenya’s Maasai Mara who had been inside an airplane. The idea of stuffing into a rickety bus, travelling six hours across bumpy roads to Nairobi and trying to even enter a terminal without money or a passport is absurd to most.
Except for Mama Jane who dreamed her daughter would be a pilot.
This when delegates at the Millennium Development Goal 10-year reunion met, they likely only thought of airplanes as the best way to get to the United Nations General Assembly. For most people, the MDGs are a set of indicators meant to challenge extreme poverty, child mortality, HIV/AIDS and more by the year 2015.
Not for Mama Jane. For her they mean airplanes.
We were struck by her interest when we met her outside her family’s dwelling, a small hut with a thatched roof that housed the entire family. There are no airports here. Rarely can a plane be spotted flying through the open sky over the grasslands. Growing up, the woman said she didn’t know what an airplane was. She married young and had children early. She never had the opportunity to go to school.
Now though, Kenya is on track to meet goal two: providing universal primary education to all children. Her six-year-old girl got the chance to go to school. And one day, she came home and excitedly told her mother how she’d just learned about airplanes.
The Mama realized if her daughter could learn about planes, maybe she could fly one.
At this week’s meeting, analysts called that an indicator. This Mama calls it a future.
We can’t help but envy the sense of hope that so visibly beamed from either side of the Mama’s toothy grin. We felt it ten years ago and we wish we could get that feeling back.
When we kicked off the millennium, we didn’t call the MDGs indicators. We called them a legacy when the largest-ever gathering of world leaders collectively put the most vulnerable members of our society first.
Now, as those leaders regroup to talk progress on the tenth anniversary of the targets, there is now a feeling of discouragement. That’s because the indicators show many countries are falling behind.
There are some successes. Brazil, for one, has already achieved four of its eight goals and is on track to meet the rest by 2015. Others — Haiti, Malawi, Swaziland — are dramatically off-track.
Some call it a failure. Like the Kenyan Mama, we still call the MDGs a future.
Look at Sierra Leone. Indicators for this country say it is on track to achieve universal primary education, but changes need to be made if it hopes to improve maternal health.
It sounds hard to achieve. But, Sahr Banga says different.
The 13-year-old girl says she used to go to a school with walls made of mud and dung. The mothers from the community would re-smear them every few months. But, that doesn’t stop torrential downpours in the rainy season from breaking through. When the weather warmed to scorching temperatures, they dried, cracked and crumbled.
Sahr saw kids pack about 70 to a class in the dilapidated structure. A former conflict zone, they tried to sharpen pencils with a machete.
At her new school though, she doesn’t feel that frustration that caused many to drop out. With her education, she doesn’t have to marry young and start having children before her body is fully developed.
We call the statistic of one in eight Sierra Leonean women dying in childbirth an indicator. Sahr calls her education beating a statistic.
Ten years ago, we used to call the MDGs our legacy. We still do. Despite setbacks, what some people call indicators, others still call futures.
Follow Craig and Marc Kielburger on Twitter:
Over the past two days, I’ve listed some of Mark Twain’s favorite foods, from Bluepoint oysters to a wealth of fresh garden produce to raccoon. The first day was cautionary, focusing on foods that have vanished, perhaps forever; the second was more hopeful, and included dishes that contemporary Americans can still enjoy.
But while writing Twain’s Feast, I came to understand more powerfully than before that restoring our classic foods is an active process. It takes focus, and imagination, and energy, all of which I saw in the people working to restore the plants and animals that were once at the heart of American cuisine. So today’s post is aspirational–a way of prompting thoughts about what can be done to bring back some of the diverse abundance that Twain took for granted.
Oysters in San Francisco Bay
1 of 7
Twain’s Feast: America’s Vanished Foods
Ten Winery Tasting Room Tips
15 Fall Vegetable Soups
6 Biggest Myths About Food Busted
America’s First MasterChef
PHOTOS: In-N-Out, Five Guys Tops, McDonald’s Dead Last In Consumer Reports’ Fast Food Burger Rankings
I included these in an earlier post as one of Twains vanished foods. Theyre repeated here because, though mercury and other pollutants mean that San Francisco oysters wont be restored as a source of food in our lifetimes, theyre worth bringing back for their own sakeand for the sake of the surrounding water.
Since an oyster can filter up to thirty gallons of water a day, even a relatively modest reef can help to clean up the water in small inlets. Meanwhile, the shells provide shelter for gobies and other small fish, which in turn, help to feed migrating salmon. Dungeness crabs and other species spawn in the cleaner waters around the reef. Once a food-end in themselves, San Francisco Olys are now a means to a healthier, more vibrant bay. And of course, like prairie-chickens and Tahoe trout, theyre also worth preserving as a good unto themselves, and as part of an excitingly diverse world.
(Photo from Flickr: Meg Zimbeck)
Total comments: 0 | Post a Comment
Rate This Slide
Rank #2 | Average: 8.6
Current Top 5 Slides
Choose your Top 5 Slides
| Become a fan
Picked These as the Top 5 Slides in the Slideshow
Top User Slides
| Become a fan
Picked These as the Top 5 Slides in the Slideshow
Users who voted on this slide
A Nicaraguan diplomat has been found dead with his neck slashed in his New York City apartment.
Consular official Cesar Mercado, 34, was found on Thursday morning by his driver, who had arrived to take him to the United Nations General Assembly.
Nicaraguan Vice-President Jaime Morales told news media a US official had pledged the FBI would thoroughly investigate.
A police spokesman said no motive had been identified nor suspects arrested.
New York Police Department Sgt Kevin Hayes told the BBC police were called to an apartment in the Bronx borough about 1035 local time, where they found a man dead with lacerations to the neck.
The driver had found Mercado's body lying just inside the unlocked door to the blood-spattered apartment, local media reported.
A knife was found near the body, police spokesman Paul Browne was quoted by the New York Times as saying. He said the apartment did not appear to have been ransacked.
In a 2007 list of foreign consular officials stationed in the US, the US state department listed Mercado as consul in Nicaragua's New York consulate, and said he had first been recognised as a diplomat in 2003.
When I think of horses, I think of my alma mater, Saint Timothy’s school in the suburbs of Baltimore Maryland. One of the most memorable sights from my high school days was that of my fellow classmates preparing for horse shows, braiding their beautiful horses and donning their riding outfits in hopes of a victory: win, place, or show. Horses, we learned there, are magnificent and sacred animals that we cared for and nourished.
Likewise, when we think of the West Coast of the United States, places like Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah, we immediately think of horses running free wild mustangs roaming and surveying, in their magnificent elegance, the vast open lands and stunning sunsets. It’s the legendary stuff of movie classics and television shows; bold survivors of harsh lands, these free horses mirror our own freedom and survival instincts.
But in Wyoming, there is a drive to slaughter horses that have outlived their usefulness or are considered to be over populated in that State. “There has been a tripling in the number of abandoned horses every year for the past three years,” said Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state representative and executive director of the UOH (The United Organizations of the Horse). To this end, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed HB 122 into law March 9, 2010, which allows horses to be sent to slaughter as livestock (akin to cattle and sheep). The law provides the Wyoming Board of Livestock with three options to deal with abandoned, stray, feral or abused animals which enter into their jurisdiction. The Board may take the animal to public sale, which was the only option prior to this legislation, or may now send the animal to slaughter or destroy the animal.
Representative Wallis wants to build a slaughterhouse; but it is suspected that Wallis stands to profit as UOH executive director from the proposed slaughterhouse. “This project will cost millions of dollars,” Wallis said, “but there is quite a lot of government financial help available from rural development funds, plus money from wealthy private investors in the horse industry.” And Wallis would like to see an additional six equine slaughterhouses within the United States. She suggests that the meat could be used within a state in publicly financed institutions like prisons, schools, nursing homes and “for the needy.”
But is Wallis’s plan to stun the horses in the head and then slaughter them humane? Many in the State believe that it is not. One Wyoming resident says, “It is my understanding that horses do wake up from this “stunning” and are conscious as they are gutted.” Scott Beckstead, an equine protection specialist for the Humane Society of the United States, believes that slaughtering horses can never be humane.
Successful efforts were made to prevent the slaughter of west coast horses in Nevada this summer, where U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), sought to round up the horses for slaughter. Thousands of horses were saved. Presently in Congress there are bi partisan bills for the prevention of the slaughter of horses. The Senate bill was introduced March 26, 2009 by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV). The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (S. 727). The bill is a companion to HR 503 the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009, re- introduced by Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) and others. The Senate bill was referred to committee as of June 2010, but no word on its passage on either bill. As this seems to be one of the few bi-partisan actions of this Congress seemingly the bill should gallop to passage.
Wallis anticipates approximately 6 months for her slaughterhouse plan to come to fruition. When I remember my high school days and the beautiful equestrian events, I never thought of their wilder free roaming cousins as kill box victims soon to be dinner. We encourage the Senate and House to urgently pass the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.