Monday, November 30, 2009

The Recession vs. The Great Depression: Comparing Unemployment Numbers

The unemployment numbers in the United States aren't pretty.

As of September 2009, 31 million American citizens among a total population around 308 million were reportedly unemployed.

Using the 1930 Census baseline of around 122,775,046 registered Americans, multiplied by the peak Great Depression unemployment rate of 24.9% in 1933, we get a number equal to about 30,570,986 officially unemployed people in the United States during the worst year of the Great Depression - which is slightly less than the total number of unemployed Americans today.

In comparison, dividing our present total population of 308 million by the 31 million unemployed Americans would equal a 9.935% unemployment rate for September 2009. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment increased by 0.4% this month, making their official October 2009 unemployment rate 10.2%, and my rough calculations not too far from the actual government statistics.

Obviously, the various data collection methodologies need to be factored in, so none of these statistics are 100% accurate. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics website itself admits this point:

"...
since it is impractical to actually count every unemployed person each month, the Government conducts a monthly sample survey called the Current Population Survey (CPS) to measure the extent of unemployment in the country. The CPS has been conducted in the United States every month since 1940, when it began as a Work Projects Administration project. It has been expanded and modified several times since then."

Proportionately speaking, the United States unemployment rate hasn't reached the worst levels of the Great Depression. However, assuming the population and unemployment rate statistics I've used are all relatively accurate, the actual number of unemployed people in the United States right now is larger than it ever was during the Depression.*

Better brush up on that resume.



*If anyone reading this has more precise data related to this subject that would refute my claims, I would love to see it. Then again, I would also love it if 31 million people in my country weren't unemployed to begin with.
Barcelona, then and now:



Personally, I'd take "then" over "now" - people on the streets together in a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment with few cars and centralized public transportation looks a lot more enjoyable than the car-dominant design of modern urban planning where almost nobody hangs out in the streets.
Will high-rise urban farms become the future of food production?

The Trans-American Vigilantes

With the widespread proliferation of firearms within a globalized economy with increasing wealth disparities, non-state responses to organized crime have emerged in Mexican towns and Brazilian favelas to fill the security gaps the government police and military forces can't.

Meanwhile, fears provoked by the Obama administration and the current economic decline in the United States has led plenty of 2nd Amendment enthusiasts to form militias in anticipation of lawlessness and/or a federally-imposed attempt at martial law.

While many of these vigilante organizations exist to defend against armed, criminal groups involved with narco-trafficking, Colombia's own United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (AUC), in contrast, are actually funded by the cocaine trade to fight anti-government guerrillas.
Man gives up money and modern conveniences, is made happier for it:

“People often ask me if I miss my old world... stress, traffic jams, bank statements, utility bills... why would I miss any of that? Now I’ve tasted life without money I never want to go back to the way I lived before.”

This isn't the first time this realization has occurred in history.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Digital Love

Modern cellphone technology - complete with built-in cameras and Bluetooth technology, has allowed young people in countries with strong, traditional cultural restraints on gender interaction and sexual behavior to circumvent the imposed social order.

Along with people in these countries, it has also allowed people in less restrained cultures to date anonymously through cell phone dating companies. However, it has also allowed people - even celebrities - to expose themselves in potentially embarrassing manners.
Christian Creationist views are influencing Islamic conceptions of the Theory of Evolution:

Addressing the conference in Alexandria, organised for the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, he said that concerns among Muslims about evolution were being fuelled by Christian creationists. People in Muslim countries would find creationist theses on the internet and, not realising that these were on the fringes of scientific debate, assume that creationism had scientific credibility in the West.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hip-Hop Chic: A Brief Look Into Unintended Consequences of a Globalized Economy and American Pop Cultural Ubiquity

American hip-hop producer, Pharrell, has launched a "Pacifist" bulletproof jacket with the help of Italian fashion boutique, Moncler, made of recycled plastic bottles. Pharrell has previously ventured into fashion design with his Billionaire Boys Club line, co-run by the high-end Japanese hip-hop/"streetwear" brand, A Bathing Ape.

Although concepts like "hip-hop fashion design" and "high-brow streetwear" sound like oxymorons, given the low-brow cultural origins and associations of streetwear staples, hip-hop fashion remains a popular international clothing style and aesthetic of choice - perhaps, in part, to it's individualistic, anti-authoritarian connotations. In any case, Pharrell's new jacket manages to combine the grim, gangsta aesthetic traditionally associated with hip-hop culture (itself a product of urban-based, low-income African-American culture), with the avant-garde design impulses of modern fashion (a predominantly Caucasian affair with some exceptions).

Of course, he's not the only popular black producer/performing artist with unabashed design impulses. Nor is he the only one to profit from cultivating and mass-marketing hip-hop fashion. Nor is he the first one (or last) to sell a lifestyle aesthetic associated with youth, rejection of surrounding cultural norms through co-option of negative imagery as a source of personal power and esteem, independent thought processes, and affirmations of one's own uniqueness, non-conformity and creativity all through one's selections in upper- and lower-body wear.

...of course, it's also important to remember that jeans, t-shirts, athletic shoes, and form-fitting women's clothing as the default fashion norm of billions of people worldwide is a historically recent development.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

9 vs. 9

Compare and contrast the Nine Nations of North America, with their Chinese counterparts.

Could economic, social, and environmental challenges eventually fragment these two large nation-states into their hypothetical cultural parts?* History hasn't treated it's complex, multicultural empires very kindly...



*yes, the United States and Canada are separate nation-states, but are also arguably politically and socially integrated enough to be treated as a collective "North American" political unit.

The Growing Iraqi Diaspora

Millions of displaced Iraqis have found different havens while their country still struggles for stability. Many have fled to nearby countries, while thousands more have resettled in Europe. More and more numbers are resettling in the United States - specifically to Detroit, where the nearby suburb of Dearborn holds a large, established, and growing Middle Eastern population - despite state and regional economic woes.

How well the members of this Iraqi diaspora assimilate to the cultures of their new homes in the coming years and decades remains to be seen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MC Putin's Bad Rap

While today's popular American rap styles sound quite a bit different from it's 70's New York roots, Russia's prime minister seems to have finally entered the 20th century and caught on to this new-fangled, breakdancing craze.

Wonder what could have motivated this powerful Russian figure into something like this?

"Putin's approval ratings last month had the sharpest fall since he stepped down as Kremlin chief in May 2008. His rating fell 6 percentage points to 66 percent on Oct. 24-25, according to leading pollster FOM.

Putin's aides responded with plans for a flurry of prime ministerial appearances, including a televised question-and-answer session with the Russian people this month."



...so how does Russian Hip-Hop key into Putin's future political success?

""He communicates to all social groups. Hip-hop culture is very popular and youths from all corners of our country are fans of this culture," Peskov said."


However silly and kitsch this political stunt may look to Anglo-American eyes, Putin's message about drugs and alcohol is timely given the eye-opening death and addiction rates in post-Soviet Russia these days.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Public Service Annoucement Brought To You By Our Barbaric Neighbors to the North

Canada, a nation-state with Anglo-Franco roots and a recent influx of East and South Asian immigrants, has explicitly banned "barbaric" practices such as honor-killings and genital mutilation in a newly-distributed citizenship guide.

While this serves as good reminder and reinforcement of Canadian cultural values and mores, it's but one of many steps needed to foster cultural assimilation: "...it's not enough to make statements about what people should or shouldn't do, because that approach doesn't register with people who are influenced by this very irrational religious zeal."

Exit in Indonesiaville

This large, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, archipelago nation has ejected all sorts of non-Indonesians this week - everyone from international Greenpeace deforestation activists "violating their tourist visas", to Sri Lankans of dubious refugee status, to Australian-bound, Afghan migrants using the country as a halfway point. As the Taiwan News also points out, "Indonesia has become a major transit point for people fleeing countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka."

And as economic, social, and environmental problems worsen worldwide, we can expect to see more frequent migrations of impoverished peoples to perceived lands of opportunity.

Mr. Obama Goes To Shanghai

US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to China has raised questions about perceptions of race (specifically, those of African descent, who have migrated to China over the last few years in increasing numbers), along with questions about the nation's own identity and national borders - to the point of Chinese officials comparing the Tibetan independence issue to the American Civil War. This is not the first time this comparison has been made.

The Washington Times article also makes a good point
:

"Along with India and Indonesia, China is one of a handful of vast, multiethnic nations that follow the contours of fallen empires. Because of their size and history, all three nations grapple with the same issues: border disputes, ethno-nationalism, occasionally violent movements by disaffected ethnic or religious minorities."

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Drug Hubs

Afghanistan isn't the only place where an economic void filled by drug money has led to violence. Compare these two American locales:

1. a sleepy, logger town quickly becoming a cannabis production center due to a perfect storm of climate and law - and drawing more and more seedy elements, along with its first shooting.

2. a former industrial giant with one of the highest rates of violence (and worst reputations) in the country deals with the murder of a murder witness to a crime linked to a major crack cocaine supplier.

While Hayfork is only in the beginning stages of it's illicit drug-fueled economy, Detroit represents the end result on a grander scale - a society shaped, influenced, and ultimately controlled by violence driven contraband profiteering.

Whether one is in favor of an all-out ban of psychoactive substances or legalization of everything, it's becoming increasingly clear that the worse-case scenario may, in fact, be the hazy middle ground.

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