Class Mobility in the United States

George Carlin has a fine line about how it’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. Yet it’s one of the most pervasive myths that America is the place that will reward hard work and application. One of the ironies of the spread of free market fundamentalism is that with the spread of free markets, it has become increasingly difficult to move up (or down) a class. A fine study a few years ago by David Leonhardt and the New York Times looked at class in America over the past three decades. Do click on the link for more, but see below for two graphs that distill the arguments pretty clearly.

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Last night’s State of the Union speech was toe-curling – a patchwork of campaign speech, stand-up, homily and waffle. The highlight was a concrete commitment to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the homophobic legislation that enforces heterosexuality in the US military. Actually, I lie – the highlight was John McCain’s comic reaction to the news that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was about to end: Continue reading “USA, USA, USA”

Menlo Park, CA

Monday, March 08, 2010
7:30 PM, Reading and Signing of THE VALUE OF NOTHING
Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park CA 94025

Eggplant, Aubergine, Melanzane

In India, it’s called Brinjal and thousands are taking to the streets to defend it. The Indian media has generally good coverage, here, here, and here. At issue is whether a genetically modified version ought to be allowed. Government scientists have declared it safe and productive, but many have their doubts, especially when 1500 native varieties are at risk from contamination.  Unlike Europe, where consumers led the charge against GM crops, India’s farmers are out front and centre. A press release from one of the many Indian farmers’ movements below the fold.

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Call Me Brian


Growing up the first born son in a South Asian family, I got used to being quite the little prince. I wanted the privileges of primogeniture to carry on forever. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded with the full spectrum of acceptable answers: Doctor! Lawyer! Accountant! Dentist! Quantity Surveyor! Secretly, though, I wanted to be a prince. From what I saw of the British royal family, it seemed a job that involved a great deal of adulation, cash, and cars, and not terribly much work.

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Citation Alert!

In Stuffed and Starved I had a wee play on words around the speed at which we eat today, and the rise of Slow Food. The chapter title I came up with was “Your Pace or Mine”. I was quite pleased with myself for the pun, and was crestfallen to find out, a few days before publication, that it was a joke that someone else had already made. I cited the title in the footnotes.

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Haiti: A Sweatshop Manifesto from the 1980s

I’ll be penning some thoughts on the situation in Haiti soon, but I wanted first to post something written by a friend, Nancy Alexander, that helps us remember exactly how the International Monetary Fund helped destroy the country’s agriculture. Back in 2008, she did the hard work of digging through the IMF’s public documents to find out exactly what they got up to in the 1980s. The evidence below comes from an IMF staff report and policy paper. It’s a skeleton that the IMF would rather keep hidden – but this is a manifesto for turning Haiti into a sweatshop.
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