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Sunday Reading

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, September 9th, 2012 - 11 comments
Categories: interweb, uk politics, us politics - Tags: , ,

My regular Sunday piece of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring).  This week: cars, the UK’s ‘Big Willy’ politics and Fear of a Black President.  Oh, and laughter.

This week started with a warning from Tim Foresman, former NASA scientist, UN Environment Programme dude, and Google Earth creator that Kiwis are addicted to their cars.  To be fair to us, a Scientific American columnist also wrote for BBC Future that he couldn’t see the end of the internal-combustion car this century the whole world is so addicted…

This week the UK had probably their only major cabinet reshuffle of their 5 year parliament.  A major talking point was that they are now down to just 4 women out of 27 in cabinet.  It is a return to Big Willy politics apparently.  As more boardrooms push for a diversity of views and all the improvements that brings, Cameron is going the other way.  Conservative support among women was already dire after benefit cuts and high female unemployment from the reduced civil service, and that can now only expect to continue.

Even more so as straight after that reshuffle the next Question Time in parliament Cameron’s bizarre main attack was against the Labour leader for getting his shadow finance minister coffee, asking if he was ‘butch’ enough – in the world of the Eton-schooled white male upper-class cabinet, only their ‘fags’ get drinks, and service isn’t what leaders do.  Christ and numerous other examples thrown out and with the ‘real man’ stereotype we can prove that we can uselessly strait-jacket both genders…

The UK’s austerity politics isn’t going down well generally, and there are open questions on where and what alternatives can replace them.

The action-doll Wealth Creator Man is mocked, and the fixation on growth and debt is challenged.  Are we happier if we stop caring for our kids or cooking and outsource all family life so that GDP grows with us paying for childcare and restaurants?  If we refuse to (or more likely cannot) spend more and grow, does recession mean mass unemployment, or more leisure time for all?  How can we create a better steady-state economy, without debt & growth?

There is a hunger for change from the inequality we are currently producing.

Across the Atlantic in the US the tale of how they created a fabulous middle class society and then destroyed it for inequality and recession is told in one graph.

But it’s pre-election conference time there, so all focus is on that.  (Should it be?  One article questions if the massive media resources are well-focused there on politicians and their groupies (us?), and maybe if politicians were ignored they might produce a politician who relates better to wider society…)

But a bigger question is whether the US is coping with a Black President.

A fabulous in-depth article in The Atlantic suggests that Obama can only succeed by being ‘twice as good’ and ‘half as black’.  That he cannot mention race or lose ratings.  That indeed such is the Fear of a Black President that:

“The thing is, a black man can’t be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there,” Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama, told the journalist Gwen Ifill after the 2008 election. “However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president.”

The huge racist response to Obama saying about the shot innocent black teenager Travyon Martin, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” seems a particular case in point.  The birthers desperate disbelief is such so that they indeed still don’t have a ‘true’ black president.  Indeed the racism is so alive in the US that at the Republican conference a black camerawoman had peanuts thrown at her, and told that that was what they feed monkeys…

A black president hasn’t solved racism, and even fabulous images of a young black boy touching the president’s hair to see that it was like his own can be challenging for some.

Despite this First Lady Michelle seems to have modified and projected her image to be massively popular with a very large section of US society – but without the power she isn’t as challenging.

On that heavy note maybe we should break and look at why we laugh.

My current comedy favourite at the moment is Tim Minchin, so to combine the serious and humourous, here’s his attempt at a Palestinian Peace Anthem:

11 comments on “Sunday Reading”

  1. Colonial Viper 2

    *Shakes head* The Black President thing is a complete misdirection. The basics are that he’s continued GW’s direction lock stock and barrel.

    Obama has kept Guantanamo Bay open. Has expanded the use of drone assassinations. Has signed into law provisions allowing the targetting of US citizens for killing, indefinite detention without trial, and approved warrantless interception of every US citizens communications. Prosecutions of whistle blowers are numerous. Banks continue to be given huge sums of money at massively favourable terms while the US unemployment rating nears 12% real.

    Even as the American middle class collapses, the following chart of Smith and Wesson’s financial performance says it all.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/chart-day-smith-wesson-sales?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zerohedge%2Ffeed+%28zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline%2C+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero%29

      • mike e 2.1.1

        Dow jones is showing how the global corporations are benefiting while the US stagnates, Most of the stagnation is caused by they layoff of govt jobs to pay for wars and wall st bailout.
        The private sector is cruising along nicely but outsourcing any real growth.

    • mike e 2.2

      Obama is just a figurehead the republicans and the right wing democrat fundamentalists have control of the house and senate so all Obama has is the veto which he has to play very carefully.
      The lack of voter turn out suits the right wing to no end so they play every dirty trick in the book when it comes to disenfranchising the poor.

      • rosy 2.2.1

        Despite the election being a fight between a Republican party and psuedo-Republican party I thought this paragraph shows promise if this really is what the Democrats are aiming for (my bold)

        …a party once derided for playing interest-group politics showed no hesitancy about going down that road in Charlotte. The convention was full of obvious appeals to women, gays, blacks, Hispanics, young people and, in the constant references to the successful bailout of the US car industry, organised labour. These are the groups that form the backbone of the Democratic coalition and are essential to the party’s long-term success.

        A coalition of disparate interest groups, because in the end, if they are of the left, their interests coincide.

    • Dr Terry 2.3

      CV you cite unpleasant, but true, facts concerning the Obama reign. His main attribute is an amazing gift for oratory (or rhetoric, if you prefer). I was thrilled to see a black man elected, but being black does not put one beyond all criticism. The US has little choice, really, between Obama and Romney. All I can think is that a Romney administration might be somewhat worse, if that is possible (reverting to days of dear old George Bush?) There is only a choice between one man of the right, and another in an American election. (Remember the militaristic manner in which Obama hastened to sent many more troops to Afghanistan?) Whichever becomes President, Key will hurry to do obeisance, doubtless with a preference for Romney.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1

        All I can think is that a Romney administration might be somewhat worse, if that is possible (reverting to days of dear old George Bush?)

        IMO, a Romney administration will be a hell of a lot worse.

        Whichever becomes President, Key will hurry to do obeisance, doubtless with a preference for Romney.

        QFT

  2. Dr Terry 3

    “Dr Tim Foresman has some harsh words for Kiwis and their car obsession”. How right this is, Kiwis are practically married to their cars (yet fuss about same sex marriage!!) To lose one’s car would be tantamount to losing a limb (which some might prefer). Not only that, but for the most part cars carry a single occupant, the driver. People would do well to avoid taking for-granted their private means of transport. I see that they do (as I once did), for now I am unable to drive and own no car. Most probably has no idea what a handicap this is.

    I reside in a community unit for retired folk. Nearly every person in my street possesses a car (how they afford this, I do not know!) Still clinging to their vehicles are the very old, sick, nearly blind, lame and crippled. Obviously, virtually anybody can renew a driver’s license without a problem. Seldom is a ride offered to one unlucky enough not to have his/her own means of transport.

    Addictions take many forms!

  3. Draco T Bastard 4

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1209/S00031/transport-its-the-economy-stupid.htm

    It is ironic therefore that the majority of transport funding in this country is so tightly controlled at the central government level. Local cities and districts can talk all they like about what they and their residents would like to see for transport in their area, but they are ultimately beholden to the whims of the government of the day.

    And so it is that the latest National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) just released (The Press, 30 Aug) continues to propose a distribution of funding that appears to be at odds with the wishes of the general population, and also best-practice international evidence.

  4. Draco T Bastard 5

    https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10151038239926709

    Successive governments have argued that competition between retailers is keeping prices down more effectively than would regulation. But in fact, retail electricity rates have risen 4% a year faster than inflation.

    This is because the five generator/retailers (three SOEs and two private sector companies) have built expensive retailing structures and the companies “move in convoy” on prices, Dr Bertram says.

    As a result, household electricity prices are double what they would have been under old-fashioned regulation, a system that could have delivered lower prices without any loss of supply security or quality of supply.

    So much for competition keeping prices down. Of course, it can’t actually do that as it produces unnecessary duplication which inevitably increases costs and thus prices.

    Apparently it’s in the SST as well but I can’t find it online there.

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