Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is Democracy Good for the Poor?

Many scholars claim that democracy improves the welfare of the poor. This article uses data on infant and child mortality to challenge this claim. Cross-national studies tend to exclude from their samples nondemocratic states that have performed well; this leads to the mistaken inference that nondemocracies have worse records than democracies. Once these and other flaws are corrected, democracy has little or no effect on infant and child mortality rates. Democracies spend more money on education and health than nondemocracies, but these benefits seem to accrue to middle- and upper income groups.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The spread of central bank political unaccountability


"We predict that countries boost the independence of their central bank from the political power as their exposure to foreign trade, investment, and multilateral lending increases. We also model the cross-national dynamic process of diffusion of central bank independence by examining the impact of cohesive and role-equivalent trade relationships between countries. We test our hypotheses with information on 71 countries between 1990 and 2000, using both event-history modeling and fixed-effects panel-corrected regression. Controlling for domestic variables of a macroeconomic and political nature, we find empirical support for each our predictions. We conclude that globalization pressures have the effect of strengthening certain parts of the state at the expense of others, and raise concerns about the degree of democratic oversight of technocratic institutions."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

3 views on the Crisis

David Harvey, The Crisis Today: Marxism 2009 July 15, 2009:

The Roots of the World Ecological Crisis
by John Bellamy Foster, October 29. 2009 (starts at ~17'):

Tom Reifer, July 8 2009
Histories of the Present: Giovanni Arrighi, the Longue Duree of Geohistorical Capitalism, and the Current Crisis

Monday, November 2, 2009

Déjà vu

/ history / repeating itself /

1. The military and political situation in the country is characterized by an exceptional tension, and the increasing aggravation and instability. A deep political crisis of the Afghan society is obvious... [Democracy has] entered the phase of "rollback". The coalition of social forces continues to change in favor of the [insurgency]. The state regime is not capable of stopping the insurgency on its own without principally new cardinal changes.

2. We should honestly admit that our efforts over the last 8 years have not led to the expected results. Huge material resources and considerable casualties did not produce a positive end result -- stabilization of military-political situation in the country. The protracted character of the military struggle and the absence of any serious success, which could lead to a breakthrough in the entire strategic situation, led to the formation in the minds of the majority of the population of the mistrust in the abilities of the regime. That objectively led to demoralization of the masses, and to the erosion of the social base of the revolution. The experience of the past years clearly shows that the Afghan problem cannot be solved by military means only. Within the framework of the old thinking, old approaches we are doomed to the negative end result in... Afghanistan. We should decisively reject our social illusions and undertake principally new steps, taking into account the lessons of the past, and the real situation in the country. . . .

3. The national reconciliation, announced by the Afghan leadership, has not led to a breakthrough in the military-political situation in the country and will not lead to one.

Letter to USSR Minister of Defense on the Situation in Afghanistan, 13 August 1987
by Colonel K. Tsagolov

See also:
Regarding the Further Measures in Afghanistan
Politburo Session, 13 November 1986
About the Results of Eduard Shevardnadze and Anatoly Dobrynin's Visit to Afghanistan
Politburo Session, 21 January 1987

Same old mistakes in new Afghan war
Soviet military archives show latest international intervention in Afghanistan has learnt nothing from the war two decades ago

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A healthy recession

Life and death during the Great Depression — PNAS:
Correlation and regression analyses confirmed a significant negative effect of economic expansions on health gains. The evolution of population health during the years 1920–1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions.

This is not new: "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?" The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2000:
Total mortality and eight of the ten sources of fatalities examined are shown to exhibit a procyclical fluctuation, with suicides representing an important exception. The variations are largest for those causes and age groups where behavioral responses are most plausible, and there is some evidence that the unfavorable health effects of temporary upturns are partially or fully offset if the economic growth is long-lasting

Although the effect is apparently real, the health benefits during recessions are unequally distributed and widen the income induced health gap:
Self-rated health improved in absolute terms for all occupational groups even after the economic recession. However, the relative disparity increased between the top and middle occupational groups in men.

The health debacles that occur during periods of rapid growth are equally obvious:
Cancer casts a shadow over the villages in this region of China in southern Guangdong province, nestled among farmland contaminated by heavy metals used to make batteries, computer parts and other electronics devices.
Every year, an estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study.

...Thus adding a few more exhibits to the question of relevance of GDP as any sort of measure of human happiness, or the obviousness of the need for its incessant growth...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Labor History / US

In Memoriam: Crystal Lee Sutton ('Norma Rae'). Working Class Hero.

Ampersand: Labor History: A Brief History of Corporate Whining

By B. Deutsch

Some notes:

1. Commonwealth v. Hunt 1842
2. The Thibodaux Massacre of 1887
3. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (I think this is what the 1912 cartoon refers to)
4. Yellow Dog contracts legal, 1915
5. Child Labor Amendment, 1924
6. Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938
7. Equal Pay Act, 1963
8. Occupational Safety and Health Act, 1970
9. Today

... All this to make a point: it was never easy and they always whined. Not to mention the fact that it always bears reminding that the US was the stage of a hard, bloody and bitter class struggle. And, hey! What do you know, the tide is turning. I did not believe that I'd see the day when an overtly anti-capitalist documentary would be poised to become a major box-office hit in the US, but things sure change fast:

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Marxist History of the 20th century

A Marxist History of the 20th Century. Narrated by Alan Woods, with Lal Khan, Ted Grant and Noam Chomsky. Produced by Heiko Khoo.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The aftereffects

As is generally known, at Semipalatinsk Nuclear Tests Site (SNTS) in the republic of Kazakhstan, 456 nuclear tests were carried out from 1949 to 1989, including 111 atmospheric explosions between 1949 and 1963...
Because of those tests, according to the Kazakh government, approximately 1.6 million people suffered from the tests, and about 1.2 million people are still now troubled with the aftereffects...

Human Suffering Effects of Nuclear Tests at Semipalatinsk,Kazakhstan: Established On the Basis of Questionnaire Surveys Kawano et al. J. Radiat. Res., 47, Suppl., A209–A217 (2006)

Back to Kawano et al:

…I believe that my parents, sister - they all died as a result of the nuclear tests. My grandson was born in 1990 having infantile cerebral palsy; we treated his disease for 10 years. In 2000 he died. I also believe that he became sick as a result of the nuclear tests and all people in the area are the victims of the nuclear tests. (Karauyl, M, 1946)

…My daughter was born in 1970, she was also sick from the moment of birth, had dystrophy in feet and lower legs and she was a mentally defective child. She died in 1997. In 1976, my son was born also mentally defective; he is the 2nd category invalid. I think they all suffered [because we live close to] the nuclear test site. (Dolon, F, 1938)

...When talking about the consequences of the nuclear explosions, there standing before my eyes is the image of my innocent daughter born in 1976, who became a victim of nuclear tests. She graduated from teachers’ training college and became a teacher. Her life had just begun, yet at the age of 20 she committed suicide. This is a result of nuclear tests. I curse the Soviet Union, which put the testing ground on Semipalatinsk soil. (Saryzhal, M, 1946)

…People who used to swim in Irtysh River before had some skin disease. Later on it became clear that, especially in the testing ground area (epicenter), an increase in the number of invalid kids and people who committed suicide, and an increase in kinds of illnesses that people were not aware of, were due to the explosions. … (Karauyl, M, 1936)

…I remembered every nuclear test, because we waited for them in fear. It seemed the earth would tumble down at any moment. Such fears have certainly affected our nerves. There are many mentally ill and mentally handicapped people in the village. … (Saryzhal, F, 1945)

Background radiation levels in the Atomkul district now reach more than 5,000 microroentgens per hour*. Nonetheless, the local people continue to pasture their livestock and grow crops there. A local shepherd told us that the military had warned him that he was grazing his flock on contaminated land, but since he had no dosimeter, he was unable to determine where it would be safe to pasture his animals. Supplying the population with dosimeters, however would not really solve the problem because they are being exposed to the strongest carcinogens, plutonium and americium, particulates of which are carried in the air and breathed by people and animals.

* "Prolonged exposure to 150 microroentgens per hour is the borderline figure for serious health risk hazards. A reading of 1,000 microroentgens is more than 80 times the level of normal "background" radiation. "

The whole Semipalatinsk project brought to you my that shining colossus of socialist compassion Lavrenty Beria!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Neo-Liberal Democracy: A Contradiction in Terms its current form, economic liberalism is perpetuating an inherently undemocratic hegemonic structure through an institutional and coercive manner that not even an authoritarian government could duplicate...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Interview: Hungary—“Where we went wrong”, GM Tamás

ISJ: GM Tamás, a prominent Hungarian dissident and now professor of philosophy in Budapest, spoke to Chris Harman about developments in Eastern Europe since the fall of Stalinism.

What was important in hindsight was that in the first two years I spent in the highest chamber of my country as a lawmaker two million jobs were lost—and I don’t think I noticed. That is one of the greatest shames of my life. I don’t think it figured in political debates at that time. There were important debates concerning constitutional rights and republican versus monarchist symbols, fights over control of state radio and television. I won’t say political conflicts were not important but compared to the economic disaster they were of less importance, and we did not see the interdependence between the two. Why did the ruling class need the centralisation of media power? Because it was losing majority support from the population that were getting impoverished. We were totally naive and our discourse at the time was that of classic liberalism and pretty ineffective. This liberal party will probably now, and quite deservedly, disappear from parliament.


From the 1920s the Stalinist system—however monstrous, tyrannical and state capitalist it was—had through urbanisation and industrialisation created the livelihoods and life forms of hundreds of millions of people. They may have been disappointed and dissatisfied with the way of life but nevertheless it was theirs. And nobody had prepared them for what was to replace it. It was not something better, not something we might call “change”, but instead the end to economy as such.

In large parts of Eastern Europe and the Eurasian landmass there was the loss of what we knew of as civilisation, which was very much dependent on the state. The state has barely started to function again in Putin’s Russia—in a very unpleasant way—but it is starting to work regularly, making records, collecting revenue, paying civil servants, answering letters, receiving citizens with complaints. But in the early 1990s even that was not available: it was a total disaster. Meanwhile we, the froth at the top of it, were celebrating the triumph of freedom and openness and plurality and fantasy and pleasure and all that. That was frivolous, and I am deeply ashamed.


Soviet-type state capitalism was a commodity-producing, wage labour based, unequal, hierarchic, repressive money economy and a class society to outclass all class societies which was extremely efficient in suppressing proletarian resistance. Revolts against that regime have always been socialist revolutions, in 1956 the workers’ councils in Hungary, in 1968 the humanistic socialism in Czechoslovakia. Solidarność was in fact no trade union but a network of territorially organised workers’ councils which initially wanted a self-management proletarian republic of a self-governing people, before repression made it into a bitterly conservative, pessimistic and Catholic movement to disintegrate at the moment of political “victory”. The Central European style of “enlightened absolutism”, of top-down reforms devised by scientifically and philosophically trained elite planners has not changed since the 18th century. “Communist” economic planners were painlessly transmogrified into neoconservative monetarist planners. For them, in a characteristically positivist manner, “socialism” was but an error in economic calculus. Marginal utility seemed more “modern” than the labour theory of value—and bureaucrats go more willingly with the prevailing fashion than couturiers.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It has fire in it already: a vietnamese war diary

July 25, 1968: Oh, my God. How hateful the war is. And the more hate, the more the devils are eager to fight. Why do they enjoy shooting and killing good people like us? How can they have the heart to kill all those youngsters who love life, who are struggling and living for so many hopes?

In December 1969, Frederick Whitehurst was stationed in Quang Ngai province, in what was then South Vietnam. Assigned to the 635th Military Intelligence Detachment near Duc Pho, he was burning captured enemy documents that seemed to have no military value.
"I'm throwing things in there and they're burning, and over my left shoulder, and I remember this, Nguyen Trung Hieu was looking at the diary and said, 'Fred, don't burn this. It has fire in it already,'" Whitehurst says.

The diary was that of 27-year-old Dang Thuy Tram.

Friday, June 26, 2009

various cool music videos

Le Tigre - Deceptacon

Le Tigre - All That Glitters

Bikini Kill - Rebel Girl (αφιερωμένο στην ΚΟΕ)

Ladytron - Seventeen

Clinic - If you could read your mind

The Horrors - "Sheena Is a Parasite"

Peaches and Iggy - Kick it

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Massacre (and victory) in Bagua, Peru

A native mother who is in pain for the lost of her people talks in her language and she has the right to be listened and understood around the world: " Listen please president Alan Garcia, you are responsible because you have exterminated us, you are killing us, you are selling us. You are the terrorist. We defend our territory from armament Our only weapon of defense is just arrows and sticks, that aren't long range and they aren´t meant to kill like you did with us. You exterminated us using armament, bullets, helicopters and killed our brothers, sisters, students, teachers, sons... Alan we ask you to come over here to our territory to pay the debts you have to us. Alan, you sell our country, you sell our people, you sell our natural resources, gold, oil, water, air You pollute our environment and so you will leave us even poorer as you can see us now.. this is how we are and how we are left. We, the awajón-wampis people haven´t elected you to exterminate us, but to help us, to provide us with education for the kids you killed now. We aren´t taking your private property, we haven´t killed your kids or family, you already exterminated us and now we have NOTHING!".

The background: Trade Agreement Kills Amazon Indians
The jungle massacre: Peru's tribal chief flees country
A first hand account: Massacre in Peru: A trip into the Amazon brings answers and more questions
Families of Dead Native Protesters Tell Their Stories

But all of this was not in vain: Victory in the Amazon

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rosa, dead yet pleased. Or is she?

During an interview (not quite friendly at that) with Oscar Lafontaine, leader of Die Linke (the party of the German left), which is polling near double digits, words were heard from a German parliamentary leader's lips that hadn't been heard much in the area since... ooh I don't know... the late 1910s?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your Left Party colleague Sahra Wagenknecht does not want to fix capitalism; she wants to overthrow it. What do you think?

Lafontaine: The entire Left Party sees it that way. We want to overthrow capitalism.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How would that be possible?

Lafontaine: We will change the economic order. That begins with regulating international financial markets. When we first put this subject on the agenda, our critics were still in the process of rolling out the red carpet for financial capitalism. Financial capitalism has failed. We need to democratize the economy. The workforce needs to have a far greater say in their companies than has been the case so far.

Not too far away, a few days after the interview, a mystically minded radical, were such a beast to exist, might believe that Rosa Luxemburg transcended her spaciotemporal confines, to guide the rediscovery of her mutilated and tortured corpse (a testament by itself of the stark reality of the "socialism or barbarism" dilemma she posed). She was happy to hear from the living again.

... Or was it despair, that in a country far away, the political heirs of those complicit in her murder, are abusing her words, squeezing them into a PR campaign that turns the sharpness of her dilemma into a blunt pre-electoral trick? Was that what made her turn so violently in her grave that Dr. Tsokos, noticed the sound coming from the cellar and ran downstairs to check?

Who knows...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birth rate myths

...three deeply misleading assumptions about demographic trends have become lodged in the public mind. The first is that mass migration into Europe, legal and illegal, combined with an eroding native population base, is transforming the ethnic, cultural, and religious identity of the continent. The second assumption, which is related to the first, is that Europe’s native population is in steady and serious decline from a falling birthrate, and that the aging population will place intolerable demands on governments to maintain public pension and health systems. The third is that population growth in the developing world will continue at a high rate. Allowing for the uncertainty of all population projections, the most recent data indicate that all of these assumptions are highly questionable and that they are not a reliable basis for serious policy ­decisions...

From The World's New Numbers by Martin Walker. See also this [in Greek, first part] for pretty much the same points.
Also in the news: France, UK, NZ, US, UAE, Ukraine...

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Propaganda Model, exhibit 15432

/ good victims rule, boring victims suck /

From Julie Hollar's Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, [via] in FAIR, this chart is impressive:

As the article mentions:
To put the death rate in perspective, at the peak of the Darfur crisis, the conflict-related death rate there was less than a third of the Congo’s, and by 2005 it had dropped to less than 4,000 per month (CRED, 5/26/05). The United Nations has estimated some 300,000 may have died in total as a result of the years of conflict in Darfur (CRED, 4/24/08,, 3/25/09); the same number die from the Congo conflict every six and a half months.

And yet, in the New York Times, which covers the Congo more than most U.S. outlets, Darfur has consistently received more coverage since it emerged as a media story in 2004 (Extra!, 1–2/08). The Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.

Let me make this clear: undoubtedly there are crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Yet the incredible relative indifference of the US press (but not just the US press of course) to the astonishingly bloody Congo conflict speaks about something different: about the media propaganda model. This is right off the book:

Using a propaganda model, we would not only anticipate definitions of worth based on utility, and dichotomous attention based on the same criterion, we would also expect the news stories about worthy and unworthy victims (or enemy and friendly states) to differ in quality. That is, we would expect official sources of the United States and its client regimes to be used heavily-and uncritically-in connection with one's own abuses and those of friendly governments, while refugees and other dissident sources will be used in dealing with enemies. We would anticipate the uncritical acceptance of certain premises in dealing with self and friends-such as that one's own state and leaders seek peace and democracy, oppose terrorism, and tell the truth-premises which will not be applied in treating enemy states. We would expect different criteria of evaluation to be employed, so that what is villainy in enemy states will be presented as an incidental background fact in the case of oneself and friends. What is on the agenda in treating one case will be off the agenda in discussing the other. We would also expect great investigatory zeal in the search for enemy villainy and the responsibility of high officials for abuses in enemy states, but diminished enterprise in examining such matters in connection with one's own and friendly states.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Running out of everything: minerals

Minerals scarcity: A call for managed austerity and the elements of hope, by André Diederen:

If we keep following the ruling paradigm of sustained global economic growth, we will soon run out of cheap and plentiful metal minerals of most types. Their extraction rates will no longer follow demand. The looming metal minerals crisis is being caused primarily by the unfolding energy crisis. Conventional mitigation strategies including recycling and substitution are necessary but insufficient without a different way of managing our world’s resources. The stakes are too high to gamble on timely and adequate future technological breakthroughs to solve our problems. The precautionary principle urges us to take immediate action to prevent or at least postpone future shortages. As soon as possible we should impose a co-ordinated policy of managed austerity, not only to address metal minerals shortages but other interrelated resource constraints (energy, water, food) as well. The framework of managed austerity enables a transition towards application (wherever possible) of the ‘elements of hope’: the most abundant metal (and non-metal) elements. In this way we can save the many critical metal elements for essential applications where complete substitution with the elements of hope is not viable. We call for a transition from growth in tangible possessions and instant, short-lived luxuries towards growth in consciousness, meaning and sense of purpose, connection with nature and reality and good stewardship for the sake of next generations.

You jail them and they multiply!

A metric of the historical development of the hard, incessant and fucking pointless war against a plant and the criminalization of peace-loving yet fiendish pot-smokers:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cassini's continued mission - The Big Picture -

Incredible images from Saturn:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is now a nearly a year into its extended mission, called Cassini Equinox (after its initial 4-year mission ended in June, 2008). The spacecraft continues to operate in good health, returning amazing images of Saturn, its ring system and moons, and providing new information and science on a regular basis. The mission's name, "Equinox" comes from the upcoming Saturnian equinox in August, 2009, when its equator (and rings) will point directly toward the Sun. The Equinox mission runs through September of 2010, with the possibility of further extensions beyond that. Collected here are 24 more intriguing images from our ringed neighbor.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Max Ernst, 02.04.1891 - 01.04.1976

Max Ernst "Europe After the Rain II", perhaps waiting for III...

Max Ernst
100' documentary on the artist


/ historical clairvoyance /

An early 20th century Hari Seldon: applied psychohistory, only in a real memorandum written in 1914 predicting pretty much the coming course of WWI. Via Doug Muir at FFOE.
- Pyotr Nikolayevich Durnovo (Пётр Николáевич Дурновó)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jump You Fuckers!

Dan Hind on the obvious (pdf)

"...we should try to establish exactly what caused the crisis, who is responsible, and how. And that does require a certain amount of finger‐pointing. Not because it is fun, although it is, but because we can’t afford to be magnanimous to the policy‐makers and opinion‐formers who steered us into this. If we do we’ll leave them in place to manage the crisis as confidently and ineptly as its prelude. They will seek to reconstruct a system on the same disastrous lines, they will fail, and they will, with every appearance of regret, resort to ever more desperate measures. You probably found this article online, so I shall say no more."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What was once not so radical a notion

"The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves... is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous--and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed."

John Maynard Keynes, "National Self-Sufficiency," The Yale Review, Vol. 22, no. 4 (June 1933), pp. 755-769..

Via "Keynes, Capitalism, and the Crisis", John Bellamy Foster Interviewed by Brian Ashley, Co-Managing Editor of Amandla...

Monday, March 16, 2009

From the Crisis of Distribution to the Distribution of the Costs of the Crisis

From the Crisis of Distribution to the Distribution of the Costs of the Crisis:
What Can We Learn from Previous Crises about the Effects of the Financial Crisis on Labor Share?

by Özlem Onaran

"The paper analyzes the possible distributional consequences of the global crisis based on the lessons of the past crises experiences. The decline in the labor share across the globe has been a major factor that led to the current global crisis. What we are going through is a crisis of distribution, and similarly the policy reactions to the crisis are part of a distributional struggle. The paper presents the effects of the former crises in the developing countries and in Japan on income distribution, wages, and unemployment. This comparison is important not only because it compares developing vs. developed country cases, but also because it highlights the differences of the currency crises vs. domestic financial crises regarding the distributional consequences. However, despite differences, the cumulative effect is in both cases a dramatic pro-capital redistribution. Building on these lessons, the paper discusses the possible different effects of the current global crisis in the developed countries, Eastern Europe, and developing countries, and concludes with policy alternatives to avoid the socialization of the costs of the crisis."

Selected excerpt from policy alternatives:
In order to fundamentally solve the problems of this crisis, economic policy must most of all solve the distributional crisis. A new socio-economic and political paradigm is required focusing on full-employment, productivity led wage growth, and a shortening of work-time. This process should also decide on critical sectors for the society, in which the ownership rights cannot be left to the private sector and private profit motive. The crisis has indicated that the finance and the housing sectors are clear candidates for public ownership enhanced with democratic and transparent control mechanisms of all the stakeholders. The energy crisis is indicating that the energy sector and alternative energy investments also require public ownership. The problems with the private pension funds as well as private supplies of education, health, and infrastructure are showing that social services are also too critical to be ruled by private profit motives. A creative and participatory public discussion should question, in which other sectors public ownership would produce more egalitarian as well as more efficient outcomes. This does not mean to praise the public sector as such, but calls for the participation and control of the stakeholders (the workers, consumers, regional representatives etc.) in the decision making mechanisms within a public and transparent economic model. Such a shift in decision making also facilitates economy wide coordination of important decisions for a sustainable and planned development based on solidarity.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Violence? I'll show you violence

/ rage to beat the machine /

Getting angry at work may not be a bad thing, and may in fact help you move up the career ladder, researchers believe.

The Harvard Medical School study found those who repressed frustration were three times more likely to say they had reached a glass ceiling.

Thankfully it is noted that "Outright fury was destructive". One can thus assume that the rather intense outbursts of slave worker outrage, all around the world are not helping the upward mobility of those involved...

Also note the conflicting advice laid-off workers are presented with:
Experts warn against real displays of [email] anger [at being fired] over concerns that it could hurt a future job search. Many caution against even a hint negativity.

"Don't show any bitterness. Don't complain. Just be positive," says Donna Flagg, a workplace expert and the President of The Krysalis Group, a business and management consulting firm in New York.

... or prehaps venting your anger is ok only when employed. When you're fired it's a liability one should watch out for.

Reposted from The Ames Prophecy, which I'm trying to resurrect, by plugging here

Do Communists Have Better Sex?

Link: Liebte der Osten anders?

This film ["Do Communists Have Better Sex"], a mixture of scholarly research and light-hearted presentations of stereotypes about the role of sex in divided Germany (from the end of the Second World War to the fall of the Berlin Wall), is a welcome addition to recent discussions of sexuality in East and West Germany...
...But where the director might have offered in-depth analyses of the private and public topic of sexuality and sexual mores, the insertion of numerous "humorous animation sequences"... throughout the film take the place of critical discussion, offering the viewer instead facile stereotypes that all too often leave one cringing in embarrassment. It will be difficult for some scholars or students to get beyond one of the first animated scenes, in which a doctor measures the penises of a West German man (16.9 cm) and an East German man (17.5 cm). No evidence in the film backs up such an absurd cartoonish claim...

Distantly though clearly related in a very essential, if conceptual way, see Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' masterpiece, titled Cunnilingus in North Korea, if you haven't already...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Would you bank on them?

/ who hired these guys again? /
If you follow a disastrous path and not only fail miserably at your job but drag the whole Earth along with you, shouldn't you get another chance to implement the exact same philosophy that caused the disaster? Well yes, if the persons hiring you are the European Commission and you are among the elite economists that were proven so spectacularly wrong on anything they said prior to the crash. I paste from the executive summary of the Corporate Europe Observatory report "Would you bank on them?":

The financial crisis has unleashed a huge debate on the state of the global financial system.
As politicians examine fiscal solutions and regulatory reforms, the big question is how supervision and regulation should be changed to avoid a repetition of the present meltdown. In the EU, the Commission and the Council has set up a High Level Group of eight experts to advise them on how to reform the financial system in terms of supervision and regulation. Given the now obvious failings of the current system and individual financial sector
institutions, it would seem prudent to seek advice from a diversity of sources, including from independent experts who had expressed concern about the flaws in the current financial architecture.
However, the group - named the de Larosière Group after its chairman - is comprised of people closely linked to the financial industry, or to institutions that, to a greater or lesser extent, have been implicated in the crisis. Four members of the group are closely linked to giant financial corporations that have all played a major role in the current financial crisis, a fifth was the head of the UK Financial Services Authority that completely failed in its supervision of bust bank Northern Rock, a sixth is a fierce enemy of regulation and a seventh works for a company whose clients include major banks.
Beyond this, some members of the Group failed to warn of the impending financial crisis and lately they have even played down its extent and severity. The majority have expressed strong support for a deregulated financial sector and can be deemed to have supported hard-line, neo-liberal policies that arguably created the financial crisis. They are the very kind of people who got us in to the mess. The eight members are:

Jacques de Larosière: Co-chair of the financial sector lobby organization, Eurofi and until recently, adviser to the French bank BNP Paribas for a decade
Rainer Masera: Former Managing Director of a European branch of Lehman Brothers, which went bankrupt after heavy losses on subprime loans
Onno Ruding: An adviser to Citigroup, owners of Citibank that received billions of US dollars in a bail-out
Otmar Issing: Adviser to the financial giant Goldman Sachs
Callum McCarthy: Former head of the UK Financial Services Authority, accused of systematically failing in its duty over bust British bank, Northern Rock
Leszek Balcerowicz: A strident advocate of deregulation
José Pérez Fernández: Works for a financial market intelligence company, which counts big banks as clients
Lars Nyberg: A career banker, now vice chair of the Swedish National Bank.

That such a group has been selected to play a key role in the EU debate on the response to the crisis is deeply worrying. It is unlikely to open up any debate on real alternatives to the present financial architecture.
Policy capture by vested interests results in flawed policies and regulations. Europe’s leaders must end the privileged access to decision makers enjoyed by the powerful finance sector lobby. At the same time, they must also curb the power that the private sector holds over the political process in the EU and make decision-making democratically accountable.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research

So yes, it turns out that, as rational people expected all along, biotech companies aren't keen on safety an other assessments of their products:
"Biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry’s genetically modified crops, according to an unusual complaint issued by a group of those scientists.

“No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,” the scientists wrote in a statement submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. The E.P.A. is seeking public comments for scientific meetings it will hold next week on biotech crops.

The statement will probably give support to critics of biotech crops, like environmental groups, who have long complained that the crops have not been studied thoroughly enough and could have unintended health and environmental consequences."

In related news, research on transgenic maise contamination of wild corn, attacked and discredited eight years ago as methodologically deficient, is vindicated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Could Living in a Mentally Enriching Environment Change Your Genes?

Could Living in a Mentally Enriching Environment Change Your Genes?: Scientific American:
"Lamarckian theories about the influence of the environment were largely abandoned after scientists discovered that heritable traits are carried on the genes encoded by our DNA. A recent study, however, published by neuroscientists Junko A. Arai, Shaomin Li and colleagues at Tufts University, shows that not only does the environment an animal is reared in have marked effects on its ability to learn and remember, but also that these effects are inherited. The study suggests that we are not the mere sum of our genes: what we do can make a difference."

See also: Epigenetics

Monday, February 23, 2009

The disease of privatization

Shawn Hattingh on Cholera in South Africa:
Cholera outbreaks in South Africa are due to the ANC-led state's failure to address the inequalities of apartheid. In fact, both national and local governments in South Africa have promoted the idea that water should be sold as a commodity. Consequently, millions of people, even where the infrastructure exists, don't have access to clean water because they can't afford the high prices charged for it. Over 40% of South Africans are unemployed and simply don't have the money to pay for clean water. Unfortunately, there is little hope that free water for all will be rolled out across the country. All of the parties involved in the upcoming election, including the ANC,26 COPE,27 and the DA,28 remain committed to neo-liberalism and the commercialization of services -- in other words, committed to selling water as a commodity and cutting off people's water if they don't pay for it. This, in turn, is going to force people to reuse the water they do manage to get or access water from other sources such as streams. Therefore, cholera is set to break out again and again in South Africa. Only by organizing themselves and winning free water for all through their own actions can people put an end to this disease of privatization. Water is essential for life -- it mustn't be turned into a commodity to be sold and bought.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The marriage of reason and nightmare...

From JG Ballard's introduction to the French edition of Crash (1974?):

The marriage of reason and nightmare that has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century–sex and paranoia. [...] Options multiply around us, and we live in an almost infantile world where any demand, any possibility, whether for life-styles, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied instantly.

[...] Given these transformations, what is the main task facing the writer? Can he, any longer, make use of the techniques and perspectives of the traditional 19th-century novel, with its linear narrative, its measured chronology, its consular characters grandly inhabiting their domains within an ample time and space? Is his subject matter the sources of character and personality sunk deep in the past, the unhurried inspection of roots, the examination of the most subtle nuances of social behaviour and personal relationships? Has the writer still the moral authority to invent a self-sufficient and self-enclosed world, to preside over his characters like an examiner, knowing all the questions in advance? Can he leave out anything he prefers not to understand, including his own motives, prejudices and psychopathology?

[...] I feel that the balance between fiction and reality has changed significantly in the past decades. Increasingly their roles are reversed. We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind—mass-merchandizing, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the pre-empting of any original response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get to their homes

Mortgage Madness: Protest targets 'predator':
Stamford and Greenwich became the stomping grounds of a grassroots campaign against corporate greed Sunday as part of a three day homeowners' workshop sponsored by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. Between 350 and 400 people, most of them members, staff or volunteers for the Boston-based nonprofit organization, converged outside the Greenwich home of William Frey, manager of Greenwich Financial Services, at around 1 p.m.

Wearing bright yellow hats and t-shirts with pictures of sharks and the words "Stop Loan Sharks," protesters had already targeted the home of John Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley, at 6 Club Road, Rye, N.Y. earlier in the day.

At Frey's house, 10 Glenville Road, Greenwich, they chanted slogans such as "Fix our loans, save our homes." They placed furniture on the lawn to symbolize the dislocation felt by people who have had their homes foreclosed upon and been evicted, their belongings tossed outside by state marshals.

"We did it to make them feel what it must be like for someone to have their home foreclosed upon," NACA mortgage counselor Carmen Orta said.

Called the "Predators Tour" these actions were the start of NACA's "accountability campaign," an aggressive, confrontational protest aimed at several top executives of companies that refuse to allow NACA to renegotiate the terms of loans on behalf of members, according to NACA CEO Bruce Marks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mass privatisation and the post-communist mortality crisis: a cross-national analysis : The Lancet

The privatisation plague in Eastern Europe, during the last decade of the 20th century:

During the early-1990s, adult mortality rates rose in most post-communist European countries. Substantial differences across countries and over time remain unexplained. Although previous studies have suggested that the pace of economic transition was a key driver of increased mortality rates, to our knowledge no study has empirically assessed the role of specific components of transition policies. We investigated whether mass privatisation can account for differences in adult mortality rates in such countries.
Mass privatisation programmes were associated with an increase in short-term adult male mortality rates of 12·8% (95% CI 7·9—17·7; p<0·0001), with similar results for the alternative privatisation indices from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (7·8% [95% CI 2·8—13·0]). One mediating factor could be male unemployment rates, which were increased substantially by mass privatisation (56·3% [28·3—84·3]; p<0·0001). Each 1% increase in the percentage of population who were members of at least one social organisation decreased the association of privatisation with mortality by 0·27%; when more than 45% of a population was a member of at least one social organisation, privatisation was no longer significantly associated with increased mortality rates (3·4% [95% CI −5·4 to 12·3]; p=0·44).

Monday, February 2, 2009

considered as a race

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy considered as a downhill motor race - By JG Ballard, 1969

vs. its father, who arts in heaven:

The Crucifixion Considered as an uphill bicycle race
- by Alfred Jarry, 1911

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bad Science » The Medicalisation of Everyday Life

Bad Science » The Medicalisation of Everyday Life:
"People die at different rates because of a complex nexus of interlocking social and political issues including work life, employment status, social stability, family support, housing, smoking, drugs, and possibly diet, although the evidence on that, frankly, is pretty thin, and you certainly wouldn’t start there.

But we do, because it’s such a delicious fantasy, because it’s commodifiable and pushed by expert PR agencies, and in some respects this is one of the most destructive features of the whole nutritionist project... Food has become a distraction from the real causes of ill health, and also, in some respects, a manifesto of rightwing individualism. You are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. You hear it from people as they walk past the local council estate and point at a mother feeding her child crisps: “Well, when you look at what they feed them,” they say, “it’s got to be diet, hasn’t it?” They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy. You’re going to see 80. You deserve it. Not like them.

Genuine public-health interventions to address the social and lifestyle causes of disease are far less lucrative, and far less of a spectacle, than anything a lifestyle magazine editor or television commissioner would dare to touch. What prime-time TV show looks at food deserts created by giant supermarket chains, the very companies with which the stellar media nutritionists so often have their lucrative commercial contracts? What glossy magazine focuses on how social inequality drives health inequality? Where’s the human interest in prohibiting the promotion of bad foods, facilitating access to healthier foods by means of taxation, or maintaining a clear labelling system?

...We love this stuff. It isn’t done to us, we invite it, and we buy it, because we want to live in a simple universe of rules with justice, easy answers and predictable consequences. We want pills to solve complex social problems like school performance. We want berries to stop us from dying and to delineate the difference between us and the lumpen peasants around us. We want nice simple stories that make sense of the world.nd if you make us think about anything else more complicated, we will open our mouths, let out a bubble or two, and float off - bored and entirely unphased - to huddle at the other end of our shiny little fishbowl eating goji berries.

Excerpt from Ben Goldacre's book: Bad Science (which is based on his Guardian column).

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Skewed views of Science

Some obvious yet nicely put stuff, that deeserve to be bounced around the web:

Friday, January 30, 2009


The Numbers Racket

Harper's Magazine, May 2008: Numbers racket | Why the economy is worse than we know:

Transparency is the hallmark of democracy, but we now find ourselves with economic statistics every bit as opaque—and as vulnerable to double- dealing—as a subprime CDO. Of the “big three” statistics, let us start with unemployment. Most of the people tired of looking for work, as mentioned above, are no longer counted in the workforce, though they do still show up in one of the auxiliary unemployment numbers. The BLS has six different regular jobless measurements—U-1, U-2, U-3 (the one routinely cited), U-4, U-5, and U-6. In January 2008, the U-4 to U-6 series produced unemployment numbers ranging from 5.2 percent to 9.0 percent, all above the “official” number. The series nearest to real-world conditions is, not surprisingly, the highest: U-6, which includes part-timers looking for full-time employment as well as other members of the “marginally attached,” a new catchall meaning those not looking for a job but who say they want one. Yet this does not even include the Americans who (as Austan Goolsbee puts it) have been “bought off the unemployment rolls” by government programs such as Social Security disability, whose recipients are classified as outside the labor force.

Second is the Gross Domestic Product, which in itself represents something of a fudge: federal economists used the Gross National Product until 1991, when rising U.S. international debt costs made the narrower GDP assessment more palatable. The GDP has been subject to many further fiddles, the most manipulatable of which are the adjustments made for the presumed starting up and ending of businesses (the “birth/death of businesses” equation) and the amounts that the Bureau of Economic Analysis “imputes” to nationwide personal income data (known as phantom income boosters, or imputations; for example, the imputed income from living in one’s own home, or the benefit one receives from a free checking account, or the value of employer-paid health- and life-insurance premiums). During 2007, believe it or not, imputed income accounted for some 15 percent of GDP. John Williams, the economic statistician, is briskly contemptuous of GDP numbers over the past quarter century. “Upward growth biases built into GDP modeling since the early 1980s have rendered this important series nearly worthless,” he wrote in 2004. “[T]he recessions of 1990/1991 and 2001 were much longer and deeper than currently reported [and] lesser downturns in 1986 and 1995 were missed completely.”

Nothing, however, can match the tortured evolution of the third key number, the somewhat misnamed Consumer Price Index. Government economists themselves admit that the revisions during the Clinton years worked to reduce the current inflation figures by more than a percentage point, but the overall distortion has been considerably more severe. Just the 1983 manipulation, which substituted “owner equivalent rent” for home-ownership costs, served to understate or reduce inflation during the recent housing boom by 3 to 4 percentage points. Moreover, since the 1990s, the CPI has been subjected to three other adjustments, all downward and all dubious: product substitution (if flank steak gets too expensive, people are assumed to shift to hamburger, but nobody is assumed to move up to filet mignon), geometric weighting (goods and services in which costs are rising most rapidly get a lower weighting for a presumed reduction in consumption), and, most bizarrely, hedonic adjustment, an unusual computation by which additional quality is attributed to a product or service.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Researchers Evaluate Climate Cooling Potential of Different Geoengineering Schemes

Green Car Congress: Researchers Evaluate Climate Cooling Potential of Different Geoengineering Schemes: "Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have carried out the first comprehensive assessment of the relative merits of different geoengineering schemes in terms of the climate cooling potential. Their paper appears in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions."

The paper: The radiative forcing potential of different climate geoengineering options. From the conclusion:
Climate geoengineering is best considered as a potential complement to the mitigation of CO2 emissions, rather than as an alternative to it.