TODAY’S LINKS—MAY 21, 2012

It is still early in the morning but I’ve found some pieces on line very worthy of being shared.

I have been emphasizing income and wealth disparity for most of the last two years and how this is a reflection of policies that enable the haves to have more while most of the rest of us are running in place, if that.

But there is another divergence, the disparity between communities and their viability that has also been growing the past thirty years just as income disparity has.

Salon presents an excerpt from The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

http://salon.com/a/sAAAAAA

Moretti recounts the tale of David Breedlove, an engineer, who in 1969 was living in Menlo Park in what is now known as Silicon Valley. Breedlove quit his job and moved his family to Visalia, about three hours away, in the farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley. He believed the quality of life there would be better or at least certainly on a par with Menlo Park. He was wrong.

Today, Menlo Park demographically is one of the richest and best-educated communities in America, and Visalia is among the worst in both categories.

For someone like David Breedlove, a highly educated professional with solid career options, choosing Visalia over Menlo Park was a perfectly reasonable decision in 1969. Today it would be almost unthinkable. Although only 200 miles separate these two cities, they might as well be on two different planets.

The divergence of Menlo Park and Visalia is not an isolated case. It reflects a broader national trend. America’s new economic map shows growing differences, not just between people but between communities. A handful of cities with the “right” industries and a solid base of human capital keep attracting good employers and offering high wages, while those at the other extreme, cities with the “wrong” industries and a limited human capital base, are stuck with dead-end jobs and low average wages. This divide—I will call it the Great Divergence—has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents’ levels of education. Cities with many college-educated workers started attracting even more, and cities with a less educated workforce started losing ground. While in 1969 Visalia did have a small professional middle class, today its residents, especially those who moved there recently, are overwhelmingly unskilled. Menlo Park had many low-income families in 1969, but today most of its new residents have a college degree or a master’s degree and a middle- to upper-class income. Geographically, American workers are increasingly sorting along educational lines. At the same time that American communities are desegregating racially, they are becoming more segregated in terms of schooling and earnings.

This makes perfect sense to me and simply correlates to the other long term effects of the Great Divergence regarding income equality alone.

This next tale deals with breast cancer but is no “Run For the Cure” moment. Women breast cancer victims outnumber men who suffer 100 to 1. But the discovery of a cluster of such male victims may have repercussions for all who are so afflicted.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/05/camp-lejeune-marines-breast-cancer-florence-williams?page=1

It seems that this cluster has occurred in men who either were in the Marines and stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C. or they were in Marine families who resided there.

Apparently the water at Lejeune was rotten to the Corps. (Pardon the pun.) It contained any number of toxic chemicals. Now, epidemologists believe that studying these men may make a stronger case for environmental causes of breast cancer.

Epidemiology is considered a blunt instrument of science. Most suspected cancer clusters are not what they appear to be—or if they are, it’s tough to prove. They get dismissed as statistical anomalies or phantoms dreamed up by victims desperate to explain what caused their illnesses. Usually the numbers are too small to work with, the exposures too hard to nail down. “You know you have a catastrophe when even epidemiology can detect it,” says Clapp.

Even when local cancer rates do pop out as statistically significant, it’s rarely possible to draw a straight line between environmental exposure and disease the way you can in the lab. (Our proof that radiation causes breast cancer came courtesy of that large-scale public health experiment known as the atomic bomb.) Some 200 different chemicals have been linked to mammary tumors in animals and people, but you can hardly lock human subjects in a lab and feed them TCE or benzene to see what happens.

Yet in a sense, Lejeune is that lab. As Clapp notes, the numbers are huge: hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children exposed to contaminated water. What’s more, the military has precise records of who lived where and for how long. In some cases, it may even be possible to pinpoint, down to the trimester, when fetuses were exposed—knowledge useful for tracking developmental defects. Indeed, it was a survey indicating low birth weights that first caught the attention of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is now conducting massive health studies at Lejeune

The individual tales of the men affected are alarming, just as those of women are. There are some graphic post-mastectomy pictures It is excellent reading on a topic than can touch anyone’s family.

You’ve probably heard by now about the arrests of demonstrators in Chicago who allegedly were plotting to blow up things. I view these news items with skepticism because in pretty much all such cases that have come to light, government undercover agents, usually FBI, were instrumental in propelling these plots forward.

Rolling Stone explores this phenomenon and decries it as entrapment, pure and simple.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/how-fbi-entrapment-is-inventing-terrorists-and-letting-bad-guys-off-the-hook-20120515

In all these law enforcement schemes the alleged terrorists masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage. (“They teach you how to make all this stuff out of simple household items,” one of the kids says on a recording quoted in the FBI affidavit about a book he has just discovered, The Anarchist Cookbook. Someone asks him how much it says explosives cost. “I’m not sure,” he responds, “I just downloaded it last night.”) It’s a perfect example of how post-9/11 fear made law enforcement tactics seem acceptable that were previously beyond the pale. Previously, however, the targets have been Muslims; now they’re white kids from Ohio. And maybe you could argue that this is acceptable, if the feds were actually acting out of a good-faith assessment of what threats are imminent and which are not. But that’s not what they’re doing at all. Instead, they are arrogating to themselves a downright Orwellian power – the power to deploy the might of the State to shape a fundamental narrative about which ideas Americans must be most scared of, and which ones they should not fear much at all, independent of the relative objective dangerousness of the people who hold those ideas.
In a way this is nothing new as you can see from the examples given of cases back in the good old anti-war days. But this government miscreancy is particularly egregious since 9/11 and the media is complicit by not looking further into what lies behind these “terror busts.”
 
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Comments

  • little_minx  On May 25, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Did you catch Tony Norman’s latest column yet? “The Pentagon spin machine in overdrive?” (about a bill “to repeal the law against the use of propaganda [that the US can legally use abroad] here on the American mainland”):
    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/tony-norman/the-pentagon-spin-machine-in-overdrive-637465

    I love his lines, “Mr. Saul traces the term to its origin in the Vatican Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Propaganda married romanticism with facts, which seemed to replace any need for understanding” — which fit Rocky and Mugsy to a tee.

    • umoc193  On May 28, 2012 at 8:30 AM

      I read Tony…and commented on it. I had read about the proposed law.

      No matter the abuses of the Obama administration…and I have cited several…I’ll still vote for him. His domestic policy won’t rip the heart out of the safety net. And no Republican will back off the abuses in military and foreign policy.

  • little_minx  On June 3, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    Since you haven’t updated your “Today’s Links” feature for some time — ahem! — I’m reduced to listing the following thought-provoking item back here. Hope you’re OK, and just keeping busy.

    “One Man’s Case For Regulating Hate Speech”:
    http://www.npr.org/2012/06/03/154150229/one-mans-case-for-regulating-hate-speech

    In part:

    “In his new book, The Harm in Hate Speech, [New York University law professor Jeremy] Waldron calls attention to the fact that the U.S. is the only liberal democracy in the world without some version of hate speech regulation […]

    “[H]ate speech [is] “usually defined first of all in terms of its intention, that it’s speech which is intended to cause the stirring of hatred and hostility towards a particular group. That’s not enough on most definitions; they also insist that it must be likely to generate such hatred and hostility. Thirdly, the speech must be offered in a threatening, abusive and insulting way. And fourthly, these statutes tend to define safe havens or places where such speech can be engaged in without incurring liability, for example a conversation in one’s home. Many of these laws bend over backwards to try to narrow down a particular range of damaging speech to the most egregious cases.”

    • umoc193  On June 11, 2012 at 1:07 AM

      Sorry for being missing in action. A combination of burnout and ennui. I started several entries enthusiastically then began writing even more gibberish than usual. Gonna go back and see if there is anything salvageable. If not, I’ve got some new ideas.

      • little_minx  On June 11, 2012 at 1:03 PM

        Happens to even the best of us from time to time ;-)))

        • umoc193  On June 11, 2012 at 1:33 PM

          Is it okay if I send you an email? I have a couple of questions that I’d rather not share with the public, narrow as that may be.

      • little_minx  On June 11, 2012 at 9:41 PM

        Check you inbox, UMOC: I’m your newest subscriber. I trust you’ll honor my privacy, as I will yours.

        • umoc193  On June 11, 2012 at 11:34 PM

          Of course I honor privacy. Just have a couple of queries re: my writing.

  • little_minx  On June 9, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    One more — this is something I’ve thought from the beginning. How about you?

    “Did Republicans deliberately crash the US economy? / Be it ideology or stratagem, the GOP has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity – all while blaming Obama”:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

    In relevant part: “For Democrats, perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence of GOP premeditated malice is the 2010 quote from Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell: ‘The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.’ Such words lead some to the conclusion that Republicans will do anything, including short-circuiting the economy, in order to hurt Obama politically. Considering that presidents – and rarely opposition parties – are held electorally responsible for economic calamity, it’s not a bad political strategy.”

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