Monday, July 23, 2012

America's Kinda, Sorta, Maybe Decline (Link Round-Up 7/24/12)

[via BoingBoing]

The U.S. is in decline
"And this idea of America in decline, it was interesting [Carr] said that; he led the talk of American being in decline," Romney said at the fundraiser, according to The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. "And if they're thinking about investing in America, entrepreneurs putting their future in America -- if they think America's in decline they're not gonna do it."
The U.S. is in decline (just like all the other times we were)
The wave of nostalgia for Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and for the vanished halcyon America it supposedly enshrined says more about the frazzled state of America in 2012 and our congenital historical amnesia than it does about the reality of America in 1960. The eulogists’ sentimental juxtapositions of then and now were foreordained. If there’s one battle cry that unites our divided populace, it’s that the country has gone to hell and that almost any modern era, with the possible exception of the Great Depression, is superior in civic grace, selfless patriotism, and can-do capitalistic spunk to our present nadir. For nearly four years now—since the crash of ’08 and the accompanying ascent of Barack Obama—America has been in full decline panic. Books by public intellectuals, pundits, and politicians heralding our imminent collapse have been one of the few reliable growth industries in hard times.
Do foodies care about food workers? Probably not.
But if it disturbs you that an estimated 79 percent of food-service workers don’t have paid sick days, 52 percent don’t receive health and safety training from their employers, 35 percent experience wage theft on a weekly basis, and 75 percent have never had an opportunity to apply for a better position, maybe it’s time to put down your fork and open your mouth. After all, these food-service workers are disproportionately black and Latino. Many are undocumented immigrants. It’s optimistic at best to think the traditionally elite, environmentally driven food movement will inevitably embrace the concerns of these workers and be the driving force for change.
When a news executive sits on a (scandalized) bank’s board
Rona Fairhead, who heads the Financial Times Group, the unit of British publishing and education giant Pearson PLC that owns the Financial Times newspaper, sits on the board of HSBC, the banking behemoth now engulfed in a money-laundering and corporate-governance scandal. 
Long story short, a Senate report this week found that HSBC let Mexican drug lords launder billions in blood money, intentionally helped rogue states, especially Iran, get around U.S. sanctions, and did business with an Al Qaeda-connected Saudi bank. That’s quite a list, and it’s just a partial one for the sake of brevity.
Giuliani uses reputation to get consulting gigs with terrorist groups and war criminals
Giuliani’s paid speaking gigs are no less controversial. In March, he traveled to Paris for the latest of several appearances on behalf of Mujahedin-e Khalq (commonly known as MEK), an Iranian-exile group appearing on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list. The group served as a militia for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war and assisted in Hussein’s slaughter of the Kurds in 1991. But MEK claims to have reformed itself and actively opposes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime. Giuliani joined a crowd of high-profile Democrats and Republicans who have been paid lavishly to argue that MEK’s members, branded as fanatical, violent, and cultish by the United States, are actually heroic freedom fighters. Giuliani has not revealed his fees, but others have been paid more than $150,000 to speak on MEK’s behalf and call for its removal from the terrorist list. Now the Treasury Department is investigating whether the speakers broke a law prohibiting Americans from doing business with designated terrorist groups. It’s ironic that Giuliani would appear before such an organization, but his image as an anti-terrorism warrior is precisely what MEK would prize.
The mythical benefits of a "vibrant arts community"
Indeed, art production is supposed to be linked, through the black box of “vibrancy,” to prosperity itself. This is something so simple that one proponent has illustrated it with a flowchart; it is something so obvious that just about everyone concerned agrees on it. “Corporations see a vibrant cultural landscape as a magnet for talent,” goes the thinking behind Kansas City’s vibrancy, according to one report; it’s “almost as vital for drawing good workers as more-traditional benefits like retirement plans and health insurance.” (Did you catch that, reader? Art is literally a substitute for compensating people properly. “Let them eat art,” indeed.)
 Alberta dinosaur fossil sites vandalized
While there's a lucrative global black market for fossils, Currie said the specimens usually aren't from Alberta. Taking fossils out of the province has been illegal since the 1970s and the fines are steep, which deters smuggling. Much of the world's black market fossils are coming from Mongolia where, despite similar laws prohibiting exports, many have made their way out of the country hidden in mining trucks, Currie said.

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