Archive for September, 2010

The New York Times may have buried the news on A6 but the European Day of Action yesterday did mobilize millions of workers, from Spain to Brussels, in opposition to the new austerity measures.

The Sacramento Bee [ht: rw] posted 36 images of the protests.

Percent of Housing Units That Are Mobile Homes or Trailers
Universe: Housing units
Data Set: 2009 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates
Survey: American Community Survey, Puerto Rico Community Survey
United States by State

Like the rest of the country, the people in Chicago, Cook County, and the surrounding municipalities are suffering in the current depression.

According to the Chicago Tribune,

Like the rest of the country, the Chicago area experienced heavy job losses, home foreclosures and lower median household incomes from 2006 to 2009, which forced some people out of their comfortable lifestyles into homeless shelters, food banks and unemployment lines.

The rates of poverty and unemployment increased, while the median income declined, in most Chicago-area counties. In Cook Country itself, the rate of unemployment rose to 12.2 percent in 2009 while percentage of children living in poverty rose to 22.8.

The Salvation Army in Chicago noted a change in its clientele in the latter part of 2008.

“Some of the new people who started coming in were people who often were donors,” spokeswoman Jordanka Lazarevic said. “They are asking for groceries, first and foremost, to feed their kids because the money they save, even if it’s only $30, they can use to pay the phone or electric bill.”

The City of Big Shoulders is now hunched over under the weight of the current depression.

Spanish workers delayed their general strike against austerity measures—including the new labor law—to coincide with the European Day of Action.

The new labor law includes cuts in severance pay, with the excuse that they will lead to lower unemployment. However, new research demonstrates exactly the opposite.

Countries with low levels of severance pay suffer on average twice the size of the drop in employment growth than countries with very high severance payments (Figure 2). It would seem that firms find it more profitable to adjust to a negative shock through lay-offs when severance pay is low. If severance pay is high, firms revert to other means of adjustment. These could include reductions in wages or working time.

Spanish workers know this, too—which is why, in the midst of 20 percent unemployment, millions of them have taken to the streets today.

“No to Austerity”

Posted: 29 September 2010 in Uncategorized
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Today is the previously announced European Day of Action against the imposition of austerity measures.

There’s a general strike in Spain, the first in 8 years, involving 10 million workers. Additional protests are being staged in Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Riga, Warsaw, Nicosia, Bucharest, Prague, Vilnius, Belgrade, and Athens.

Updates can be found here.

Protest of the day

Posted: 29 September 2010 in Uncategorized
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According to the Associated Press, police stand beside a cement truck which rammed the front gates of the Irish Parliament in Dublin today. A cement mixer rammed into the gates of the Irish parliament in an apparent protest at the country’s catastrophically expensive bank bailout. Written across the truck’s barrel in red letters were the words: “Toxic Bank Anglo.” It is an apparent reference to Anglo Irish Bank, which was nationalized last year to save it from collapse.

Public art of the day

Posted: 28 September 2010 in Uncategorized
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I am calling this series Legacy and it is a very basic attempt to reinscribe the figures who have shaped our landscape back onto the surface of their legacy, the infrastructure and policies that we have inherited and must navigate.

Class and higher education

Posted: 28 September 2010 in Uncategorized
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Class is still the defining feature of university education in the United Kingdom.

This is especially true at the “posh” universities. According to a new study reported in the Guardian,  eight of the 10 universities with the lowest proportions of working-class students were in the prestigious Russell Group of research-intensive universities.

With just 11.5% of its intake coming from working-class families, Oxford is bottom in this particular table. Cambridge is next, with 12.6%, and Bristol, another member of the Russell Group, comes in third at 14.2%. Just two of the universities in the bottom 10 – Durham and Bath – come from outside the Russell Group (both are members of the 1994 Group).

Of course, the defenders of the current system provide the usual excuses.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, defends her members’ record, insisting that the “underlying cause” of the problem was occurring long before university. Too few students, in short, have the support and encouragement offered by Lucas’s school. “Low aspirations, lack of quality guidance and, most important, under-achievement in school still remain significant barriers to participation and can only be tackled by government, among others,” she says. “We are also concerned by evidence that some teachers may not be encouraging their students to consider Russell Group universities.

“Research shows that pupils from top independent schools make twice as many applications to the most selective universities as their equally well qualified peers from the best comprehensive schools. We can’t offer students places if they don’t apply for them.”

On one hand, she’s right. The question is, are the administrators and scholars at the so-called posh universities doing anything to change the “underlying cause”?