Monthly Archives: May 2012

Internal Migrations

While I’m in France, I’ll be studying the Algerian War and its impact on the far right of French politics, so in the meantime I’m doing my best to read up on the topics as much as I can.  I recently ran across this article from the French TV station TV5 that traces the stories of three young women, representative of a larger wave, who have moved from cities on the Mediterranean coast to the Saharan part of the country.  They experience some difficulty adjusting–it’s tough living in the desert, the Sahara’s demographic profile is much different than that of the coast, and the social environment is generally much more conservative–but what’s really striking is how liberated these women feel after moving there.  They’ve found engineering jobs and teachings positions, and even if it might be harder to rent an apartment when landlords are reluctant to rent to single or unveiled women, these women experience new feelings of independence and autonomy living on their own in a new part of the country.  Here’s a brief translation of the summary at the top of the article:

For the Algerians of the North, the Sahara is distance, infinity, heat, and almost certainly a cultural rut.  But today, it’s also an El Dorado of employment, and the desert no longer scares young women who want to find work there.  As engineers, professors, and doctors, they leave their homes and exile themselves to the heart of their own country to live in complete independence.

Apparently you don’t always have to leave your home country to feel like you’ve moved to a new country.  Stories like this really underscore that the cultural unity and identity of a country is often much more imagined than real, and it’s a reminder of how unevenly distributed social and economic opportunities are even within the same polity.

Algerian Flag

And it’s interesting to compare these stories to migrations more familiar to Americans.  Americans have historically thought of freedom and prosperity as hinging on a westward expansion into new territories, but ideas of Manifest Destiny have always been premised on the subjugation or extermination of native peoples, practices that the Algerian story doesn’t seem to reflect (though I wonder how north-to-south economic and demographic migrations have affected the local Tuareg people and others).  Perhaps a better comparison is with the Great Migration, which brought millions of African Americans from the American South to Northern and Western cities.  These migrants often found more racism and hardship than they expected, but in many cases they moved into worlds in which they could cultivate better lives for themselves or their children.  Again, it’s not a perfect match; these African American migrants moved from one scene of discrimination to another, while the Algerian women are highly educated and generally more privileged and thus better equipped to adapt to their new circumstances and find fulfillment in the long term.  But these stories do show that all migrations, internal international, stem from the desire to flee poverty and oppression and seek freedom and prosperity, political, economic, or otherwise.

Image via Wikipedia

Go home Jamie!

Economist Simon Johnson wants Jamie Dimon out as head of Chase Bank. [Economix]:

Since I wrote about this issue here last week, a great deal of support has been expressed for the recommendation that Jamie Dimon should step down from the board of the New York Fed — including by over 32,000 people who signed the petition I drafted. (The petition is addressed to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, as only it has the power to remove a director of a Federal Reserve Bank. I have requested an appointment with a governor on Monday, in order to deliver this petition and discuss the substantive issues; a relevant Fed staff member is currently checking availability. I hope to write about that meeting here next week.)

The pressure on Mr. Dimon is increasing with a steady flow of news articles concerning the care with which risk has been managed at his bank — including the suggestion that the risk committee of the JPMorgan Chase board lacks sufficient experience to understand or monitor the complexity of the bank’s operations. (See also the coverage from Forbes and CBS MoneyWatch.)

We need an independent inquiry into exactly how JPMorgan lost so much money so quickly on its London trading operations — which supposedly were just “hedging.” It would also be helpful to know how Jamie Dimon, widely regarded as a good risk manager, did not know what was happening in London until Bloomberg News brought it to his attention — and why even then he denied there was a serious issue. Is this a systematic breakdown in management and risk control systems? What exactly went wrong with the relevant models? What can we learn that would help improve the safety of the financial system? Have the largest banks grown too big and too complex to be managed safely?

Read up on Johnson here. [American Prospect]

Footnotes

This is Blue Rondo à la Turk‘s linkroundup for when there’s just not enough energy here to opine on stuff. Enjoy:

  • Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China, decided he wanted some dumplings so he got a famous chef to cook for him. You know, like the regular people do. [Shanghaist]
  • A painting of Jacob Zuma was taken down. The Times describes it as “a Leninesque pose with his genitals exposed.” [NYT]
  • Slacking college students, beware fake Adderall. [Huffington Post]
  • The Illinois state Legislature passed a bill that would require hospitals to give poor people free inpatient care. Clearly that means President Obama is a Socialist from a Socialist state. [Crain’s Chicago]
  • Here’s a farewell college essay by a Yale student who spoke out against Wall Street. She died in a car crash recently. [Yale Daily News]
  • Nate Silver says Obama is no Jimmy Carter, even on the economy. [538]
  • Aaron Sorkin wrote a play about intellectual property law. Soon we’ll all be saying “What’s the West Wing?” [Atlantic]

No more big sodas for you

In Mayor Bloomberg’s city, there will be no big sodas! Period. [NYT]:

New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.

“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Introduction

I’d like to come out and introduce myself as a new member of this blog.  My name is Aaron, and I’ll be joining my buddy Hotch here at Blue Rondo.  We’ll use this space to talk about politics, culture, and any other interesting tidbits we pick up on our radar.

A little about myself: I’m a twenty-something Michigan native and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where I studied History and English and minored in Philosophy.  I was recently selected for a Fulbright grant, so, provided the last few pieces of that process continue to fall into place, I’ll be studying in France for ten months come September or October.

In the event that I end up discussing France-related things down the road, here’s a little disclaimer: this is not an official State Department website.  Whatever I say on here represents my own thoughts and feelings and is not representative of the Fulbright Program or the State Department.

I like to keep these things short, so there you have it!  I’m excited to be here, and I hope you’ll enjoy what we have to say in the months to come.