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Showing posts from December 18, 2005

winter's tales

It is an interesting and somewhat terrible time to be poor in the developed countries. Poverty is not just deprivation, of course – it is a form of life. I know all about it, in one way. I’ve been poor for the last six or seven years, and I’ll probably get poorer as time goes on. So I have a day to day acquaintance with the how-to-get-by that makes up poverty in America. But I have no acquaintance with the culture of poverty for the simple reason that the culture of poverty has been so penetrated by cultural forms generated by the middle and upper classes that the older forms have disappeared. My only knowledge of them is from the vast literature that either touched on the poor or sprang directly from them between around 1600 to around 1930. In the U.S., the last bit of this culture fed into the flowering of the American novel in the 50s and 60s. Read Augie March or Native Son, and then pick up your average American literary novel today – on the recommendation of someone I met, I’ve b

a grim gray cloud in the form of a post

RBA – as I am going to call the collective authorship of How to Help Poor Countries – begin their article with a comparison between Nicaragua and Vietnam. This is a clever comparison. Both countries were majorly fucked with by the U.S., both were Cold War hotspots, and each went a separate path – the Vietnamese went supposedly left, with the victory of the communists, and the Nicaraguans went supposedly right, with the victory of the anti-Sandinista forces. So what has happened to these two countries? The small summary goes like this: “Vietnam faced a U.S. embargo until 1994, and it is still not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Despite these obstacles, it has found markets for its growing exports of coffee and other agricultural products and has successfully begun diversifying into manufacturing as well, especially of textiles. Nicaragua, on the other hand, benefits from preferential access to the lucrative U.S. market and had several billion dollars of its official debt

prolegomena to a snoozer

LI has noticed a holiday decline in readership, which is just as well, since we have a yen to write extensively about the problem of primary product exporters finding their niche in the world economy. This topic will definitely put the kids to sleep. Still, Brian’s comments on our Bolivian post express a certain understandable weariness in the developed countries (which used to be called the industrialized countries – but industrialization is no longer the sine qua non of wealth, right?) about the resiliency of poverty, and the cycle of ideological policies that have been put in place to “cure” it in underdeveloped countries. Countries like Bolivia. I am not nearly so pessimistic. Which brings me to the article in August’s Foreign Affairs, How to Help Poor Countries, written by three heavyweights in the development economics field: Nancy Birdsall, Dani Rodrik, and Arvind Subramanian. Actually, Subramanian is not a name I am as familiar with as Birdsall and Rodrik, but what the hay. In

the Vacation

"We but teach / Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return / To plague th' inventor. This even-handed justice / Commends th' ingredience of our poison'd chalice / To our own lips" -- Macbeth, I, vii, 8-12 One of the more fascinating aspects of Macbeth is how Macbeth’s deed becomes embodied in various ways – as a ghost, as Macbeth’s wife’s madness, and as a prophecy about Burnam wood. The return of the repressed, here, cannot only not be repressed, but can’t even be predicted. This multiple embodiment of a crime, an event that won’t act like an event and go away, has a lot of psychological plausibility. We can see a certain MacBeth like pattern in the way Bush operates. Whenever Bush truly fails, does something colossally bad, he will always return to it as an excuse for further action. I’ve never seen a president so use his failures to legitimate his demands. It is scary. And it has happened again. The LA Times is reporting that Bush is trying to justify hi

Sympathy for the militias

Reading the blog conversation about the President’s illegal wiretaps, I don’t know what is more frightening: the President’s action, or the liberal critics who are crying out that, after all, a rubber stamp court will pretty much allow the executive branch to do what it wants to ride roughshod over our rights. The liberal criticism seems nuts to me -- the point should be that are rights have been shamefully eroded by this secret court anyway. Again and again, we have to bring ourselves back to the lodestone of reality. In reality, the threat posed by the terrorists has produced this: nineteen guys, for less than a million dollars, were able to take flying lessons, make some homemade bombs, get some box cutters, and take four planes. Now, in terms of war, the threat for forty seven years after 1945 was that planes or missiles would appear in the sky – expensive planes and missiles, costing billions of dollars – and wipe out city and town, to the tune of 40 million to 100 million deaths.

five points about iraq

To understand what is happening in Iraq through the medium of the American press is much like estimating the height of a distant mountain through a heavy fog. But sometimes the fog lifts. This election, for instance, has thrown a startling, and no doubt ephemeral, contrast between the agencies of projection – the media, the D.C. clique, and the Snopes cocoon - and reality. The NYT today, which had based its delusional reporting on John Burns’ paen to the latent Americophilia in the Baghdad streets on election day and an account, echoing an account in the WP, of an obscure secularist candidate in Basra to which reporters had been herded, no doubt, by U.S. army spokesman, now gives us this hilarious phrase: “What was also apparent was the staunchly religious nature of the electorate, in a country that many experts had proclaimed before the American-led invasion to have a large secular middle class.” Ah, the passivity of experts, and the coyness of reporters. The machine has written, and

between the devil's capitalism and God's own country

The election to watch this week is … the one in Bolivia. Those looking for some good Bolivian blogs should check out the Evo Morales leaning Blog from Bolivia . The guy who runs that blog, Jim Schultz, is one of those astonishing, tireless lefties willing to work in obscurity and discomfort for years to see the People, united, will not always be defeated. Mapp is another Bolivian blog with useful, worms-eye view of the election, to the right of Schultz . One of the more interesting aspects of the Bolivian election, to my mind, is the growth of a indigenous reaction, long in coming, to forty years of narco-repression in Latin America. Bush’s favorite government, Uribe’s in Colombia, just made a deal with narco-growers that the U.S. is winking at. The deal is: Colombia will not allow judicial extradition. In return, these growers – most of them on the paramilitary right – have “agreed” to stop producing the one thing that makes them money. Agreements like that are very useful, if you ha