in other news

March 3, 2008

I got caught up with my news feeds this morning. Here’s the round-up:

The NYT has a story that opens up the black box of municipal bond rating – basically, states (led by California) are rebelling against the industry’s refusal to grant them better ratings, despite their excellent repayment histories. Best moment: when pressed as to why they don’t want to increase the ratings, “officials” at ratings and insurance agencies argue that the recent market turmoil demonstrates the need for insurance. My take: this story should take a much broader view and include information on international credit rating and bond agencies. These organizations are a primary means through which the financial sector imposes normative notions of good governance, fiscal responsibility, and value. This is what sociologists mean when they talk about “Moralizing Markets” and the performativity of economics.

Trouble’s brewing in the border region of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela following an incursion by the Colombian military into Ecuadorean territory to root-out the FARC (LAT coverage). The implications of this for regional security are huge and the situation looks pretty uncertain at the moment. Interestingly, the Folha de São Paulo blogger Josias reports that Lula is looking to mediate the situation.

The Guardian reports that the financial sector has convinced the US and the EU to bring a case for media liberalization against China into the WTO court. Will shareholders’ rights trump sovereignty? I’m confident the rest of the G22 (or any other country with a less-than-stellar relationship with the global markets) won’t like the sound of thi…

Anti-whaling activists tried a new sabotage tactic: throwing butter.

A fluffy piece in the Independent argues that Obama’s rise will help Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s latest project, er, take root…I’m not so sure. So far, it’s my impression that the site is longer on ambition and rhetorical bluster than it is on substance. That could certainly change, but it’s going to take more than a black presidential candidate to drive eyeballs and hits.

Most appalling factoid of the day: more than 1% of Americans are now incarcerated. Even more appalling? For black men between 20-34 years old, the incarceration rate is over 10%.

A BusinessWeek piece republished by Der Spiegel takes a closer look at some of the reasons why China’s not likely to make its Sudan problems disappear in time for the Olympics. Short version: rising oil prices, sinking financial markets, and struggles of homegrown energy firm PetroChina to increase production means the country will continue to buy additional oil from off-shore. By now, we all know where they get their oil from…

In another let’s-talk-about-China-before-the-olympics piece, James Fallows takes a look at their network filtering and firewall practices in The Atlantic.

The New York Review of Books ran an interesting piece on blogs a couple of weeks back – I said I was behind.

In The Nation this week, Jeremy Scahill takes a close look at the dem candidates Iraq policies and finds that both Hilary and Obama plan to expand the use of mercenaries in the event of a troop withdrawal. This has gotten minimal attention in the MSM. Watch for this one to fester and pop up in some unpleasant ways after the primaries.

Following the NYT’s lead a few weeks back, edge.com runs a short piece on Harvard Sociologist Nicholas Kristakis’ social network research. Basically, Kristakis’ work reinforces a suspicion of mine – that social networking (like collaborative production) is performative. Kieran Healy’s giving a talk entitled, “The Performativity of Networks” at the Harvard Economic Sociology seminar on Wednesday. I’ll probably have more to say about this idea afterwards.

Michael Dirda has a better-late-than-never review of Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas. I’m a big fan of Bolaño’s, but so far I haven’t really come across a review that captures the substance of his writing. I think he needs to be considered in relation to another great “Dirty Realist” of the 1990s, Pedro Juan Gutíerrez.

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