Last summer, Tilbury, Essex became Grimsby, North Lincolnshire. Detritus was strewn across the streets to affect the temporal change. Caricatures of slags and obese scroungers marauded up and down the road. Across one of the pulled-down shop shutters was scrawled "HULL R WANKERS", a rivalry that might have made sense a four-hour drive north.Tim Burrows asks, When Are We Going to Stop Laughing at 'Shit Britain'?
Brazil has spared no expense for the upcoming World Cup. The month-long competition will feature 64 matches in 12 cities across the country. Refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones has cost Brazil $3.6bn. Several of the new stadiums will seldom be used after the World Cup, and Brasilia's World Cup stadium is estimated to have cost taxpayers $900m. [more inside]
At first, the new Jerry Seinfeld show seemed reassuringly like the old one. Spontaneous coffees with friends. Mindless chatter that occasionally verged on the hilariously brilliant. But look closer and you see that this show isn’t that show, and that new realities are upon us in America. Anand Giridharadas editorializes about Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Seinfeld, His Show, and Inequality. (SLNYT)
Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” Average citizens have “little or no independent influence” on the policy-making process? This must be an overstatement of Gilens’s and Page’s findings, no? Alas, no... (pdf)
State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax. The policy goals are contained in a set of funding proposals obtained by the Guardian. The proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level.
"On August 25, 1921, the largest labor insurgency in American history and the largest civil uprising since the Civil War began in Logan County, West Virginia when 10,000 miners and their supporters went to war with 3000 coal mine executives and their hired thugs. The Battle of Blair Mountain is one of the least known major events in American history." -- America's long labour history, even such spectacular events like the Battle of Blair Mountain, is largely unknown, but historian Erik Loomis is trying to change that with his This Day in Labor History series for Lawyers, Guns and Money.
One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it.[more inside]
In a sense what we have is the Americanisation of Britain, or at least of England. A society where everybody has then sense that they can be anything they want to be, and where hardly anybody can. Crooked Timber's Chris Bertram on the evolution of British society since the seventies.
A third of the UK's leading people went to Oxford or Cambridge universities and four out of every 10 of them attended private schools, a report suggests. [BBC] [more inside]
A presentation by Dr. Heiner Flassbeck, a former deputy secretary in the German Ministry of Finance and currently chief economist the UN agency for World Trade and Development in Geneva. He talks about EMU and interest rates, and then links it all to class war and America.
Maine governor Paul LePage has ordered the state's Labor Department to remove a mural he says is too pro-labor. He has also declared several of the building's conference room names to have "one-sided decor." This was reportedly at the behest of anonymous businesses who complained of a pro-labor bias. [more inside]
Abortion has always been a hotspot in the culture wars. But of late, the anti-abortion movement has had some huge wins, often sliding in under the radar of pro-choice supporters. Idaho bans abortions after the 20th week, claiming that mother's shouldn't have the right to make a fetus uncomfortable. Nebraska also banned abortion after the 20th week, so did Oklahoma. Oregon, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio are also considering joining the 31 states that currently have such a ban. Virginia passed a law that will shut the doors of almost every abortion clinic in the state. And various areas are now enacting laws that suggest a fetus is significantly more important than the carrier of said fetus. One judge ruled that a girl couldn't have an abortion because she had bad grammar. It is quite possible that women who are in their 40s right now may be the only generation of American women that possessed full reproductive rights for their entire child bearing years.
Debt collectors call him a credit terrorist. “Cunningham beats the debt collectors at their own game. He turns their money-making practice into a financial liability. He is a regular guy who has become a radical enemy of the banking system.” [more inside]
"They [the bipartisan elite] have imposed a public morality that affords maximum sexual opportunity for themselves and guarantees maximum domestic chaos for those lower down." While a lot of people (okay, maybe just me) have criticized David Brooks' column as an only-infrequently-successful attempt to channel Malcom Gladwell for the McCain-Specter set, I think he may have stumbled onto a provocative insight here.
Class Mobility within America - The mythology surrounding Horatio Alger is a powerful force within American culture: the idea that anyone can pull oneself up by the bootstraps to become financially successful. Surprising research by statistician Miles Corak shows that Americans have no more income mobility than Europeans — contradicting cultural presumptions of egalitarianism — and even less than Scandinavian countries, despite their heavy taxation. Marketing slowly meets reality in the American Dream...