Political Economy

At the Weave we believe that politics and economics have always gone hand in hand. Political economy is about structures of power and how these structures shape the conditions within which all of us live our lives. This section of the Weave is devoted to analysis and discussion of current issues that reveal the dynamics of power, from the local to the global and everywhere in between.

Italy and Iran: Democracy and Protest In the "I" of the beholder

Last summer the world looked on as millions of people took to the streets of Tehran (and other cities) to protest against the blatant abuse of an election, a crucial democratic instrument. What grabbed the headlines was the scale of the protest, and the way in which the resistance forced the political leadership of the opposition to, well, oppose the result,and in particular the way people power could combine with new technologies. The media focused on the use of mobile phones, of Facebook and Twitter to organize‘from below’, hackers joining in with the US DoS' actions. The crucial element was the sheer size of protests, particularly early on: hundreds of thousands if not millions of people taking to the streets to protest all across the country. The regime attempted to counter as best it could: shutting down mobile phone networks, slowing down the internet as well as the ‘usual’ methods of bussing in supporters and using batons and even bullets against the massive outpouring of disgust with a regime left with no credibility in their eyes. The struggle was a momentous one, and the casual observer should not make the mistake it was fruitless simply because Ahmadinejad was eventually allowed to remain President. 

History as an Underreported Story (Part II)

I admit, I love history.To my mind journalists too often eschew the past in their reports. In so doing the current issues and events that they write about enter the public domain as if they had no antecedents, no context within which they developed—no historical contingency. 

I feel the problem acutely when I write about urban poverty. I often try to raise awareness of the struggles of the poor in America’s cities. So I comment on food, clothing, and shelter, as well as employment and the cultural representations of the poor in the news. Rarely, however, do I bring up the history of poverty in America; not one of my posts has been about how the poor have gotten to where they are today. I’m not even sure that I’d even know where to begin…

Unemployment, spelled XXX

Here’s a sad indictment of what Italy has been reduced to after two decades of joint rule by the current majority and the equally parasitic current opposition. Two days ago a flurry of articles hit the Italian press about a forty-year-old teacher who gave up on her profession after two decades of short-term contracts, and what was her best employment option after teaching? Porn.  No word of a lie.

Michelle Liò, her stage name, comes from Venice’s Lido, and lives and worked with her family in the rich north-east of the country, in prosperous provincial towns like Treviso and Conegliano. And yet, even here the combination of nearly three decades of economic mis-management and the current recession has driven people to make drastic choices such as this.

History as an Underreported Story (Part I)

Philip GrahamIn more than a few history seminars I’ve heard the claim that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” This is in fact a much distilled version of the idea from which it came. Speaking to Newsweek magazine’s overseas correspondents in 1963, Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, delivered the now clichéd remark. His exact words were: “So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”

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What bedeviled journalists, Graham thought, were their attempts to explain a world in motion; that is, to write about present phenomena without the benefits of hindsight. In the race to publish a story journalists could *only* write a “first rough draft of history” and then move on. The rest was for the historian, for whom the journalist left traces of the past. Indeed newspaper and magazine accounts offer historians at least two insights, a view of the phenomenon under investigation, and the perspective of at least one witness.

Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.One of my intellectual and spiritual inspirations has been, and will continue to be, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To my mind the best way to commemorate him is to revisit and reflect upon his words, some of which speak directly to issues this blog attempts to address. Below is an excerpt from Dr. King’s sermon, “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,”

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which he delivered before the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1968, less than a week before his life was taken:

 

".…I remember some years ago Mrs. King and I journeyed to that great country known as India. And I never will forget the experience. It was a marvelous experience to meet and talk with the great leaders of India, to meet and talk with and to speak to thousands and thousands of people all over that vast country. These experiences will remain dear to me as long as the cords of memory shall lengthen.

The Sunny Acres Controversy

Mr. Dan de Vaul Let me propose a scenario:

You’re a juror in a county court. In the case that you’re deliberating the county is prosecuting a local resident who willingly provides shelter to the county’s rapidly growing homeless population. According to the sheriff’s department several residents have complained about the crowds on the defendant’s property, reporting public intoxication, theft, battery, and disturbing the peace, among other problems. Additionally county officials have cited several housing code violations like missing fire detectors, faulty wiring, and flammable sheds used as bedrooms for the poor. Would you convict this man of a crime?

Murder on the Upper West Side

Chalk outlines -- the longstanding sign of a murderEarly in the afternoon last Thursday (12/17) New York City's 20th Precinct responded to a triple homicide on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets. The details were grizzly: A gunman armed with a .380 caliber pistol shot and killed three family-related men in a third floor apartment. The gunman himself died, adding a fourth body to the crime scene. He apparently tried to escape out of an apartment window but fell three stories to his death in a backyard alleyway. The New York Times headline read, "Four Men Dead in West Side Shootings."

Every Good Idea Has Its Problems

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist hosts a contest.Sometimes well-meaning Americans do great things that have bad results. One example is Nicholas D. Kristof, who yearly conducts his Win-a-Trip contest in which he rewards an American university student with "a reporting trip to Africa to cover global poverty." While the lucky winner gains an unforgettable experience, what the contest says about Africa and America go unquestioned. In turn Americans continue to view Africa as a forsaken land and America as the land of opportunity-two stereotypes that mute the experiences of the people who live there. 

Jobs: An American Dilemma

As people lose their jobs many lose their homes.

Last Thursday (12/3) President Barack Obama hosted a job summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He convened business and labor leaders to brainstorm recession-ending, job-creating strategies to recover the ailing American economy. Of the many ideas discussed few if any addressed the needs of the poor. Without a comprehensive plan to get the burgeoning underclass back on payroll no strategies will reverse the current downward spiral. The problem is simple: Men and women across America are losing their jobs. The unemployment rate in America reached a twenty-six year high in October, peaking at 10.2% of the American population. In November the rate dropped to 10%-a sign of hope, says the President. Many, quite frankly, do not share in his audacity. Americans have been losing jobs throughout the Great Recession, and there have been no sustained efforts to reverse the trend.

President Obama's Street Credentials

Graffiti images of Obama can be found all over the country.
 
Last week stories about President Obama’s race again made headlines. I read one article discussing threats to Obama’s safety, which have persisted since his election. I read another about how little President Obama has done to help out African Americans since he’s been in office. Let me tell you, the man can’t win…