I started my newfound state of semi-freedom by reading, something I haven’t done in while (outside of papers on malaria). Mo Ibrahim, cel phone magnate and philanthropist was interviewed by the World Policy Journal in the most recent issue.
Mo is responsible for bringing cell phone technology to Sub-Saharan Africa, expanding telecommunications on the continent from a few thousand land lines (outside of North Africa and the country of South Africa) to more than 500 million mobile subscribers today.
The total number of phones in Africa was maybe two or three million fixed-line phones. And this was mainly in South Africa in the south or in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco in the north, and nothing in between. Right now, Africa has more than 550 million mobile subscribers. This is more than the number of mobile phones in Europe, by the way. This brought farmers to the market place. It brought new services. Banking now in Africa is done more with mobiles than in actual physical branches of banks. All kinds of services are available cheap like mobile banking services, which are more used there than in Europe or the United States. It improved elections and democracies. The democratic process improved a lot because of the transparency. It encouraged entrepreneurship and economic growth. So a lot of things happened, especially in a place like Africa, which badly needed that kind of service which bridged so many years of underdevelopment, and that is wonderful. With information at their fingertips, people are able to communicate, able to talk to each other. This should bring a better sense of understanding and less conflict.
It was the last sentence that intrigued me. Could the expansion of cell phone coverage in SSA be associated with a decline in conflict? Armed with my statistical tools, I was ready to check test this hypothesis.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find much data on cel phone coverage. It appears that providers are either reluctant to publicize it, or are too fractured to merit a single source of data.
Data on conflict events, however, are reliably stored at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Database (ACLED). I have written on the database before, but hadn’t looked at it since late 2010.
What I found was disturbing. Conflict events have not decreased in SSA. In fact, there are more than ever. in 2012, there were more than 10,000 events recorded, almost double the number of events in 2011. Many of these events were protests (3,292) but there was a disturbing number of events involving state violence against civilians (2,706).
These events are spread throughout the continent, but far too many are occurring in developed hot spots like South Africa and Kenya (as the map shows).
Now, this could be a result of increased recording of events in the database. it could also be a result of the expansion of cell phone technology and the free exchange of information on the continent.
It is clear, though, that wider access to mobile technologies is not leading to peace on the continent, but rather more violence. However, protest is a hallmark of democracy and development. Let’s hope that these protests, as bloody as they may be, lead to wider access to public liberties and stable governance.
Perhaps this is a sign of good things to come? It’s certainly up to debate.
I’ve written at length on the issue of the issue of financialization of food and price volatilities. Yet, when I bark about the subject, few around me seem convinced (and that’s ok, I’m never very convincing).
I found a cool video that sort of lays the issue out and explains the mechanics behind the world food trade system, and why the increased role of speculators is wreaking havoc on the world’s food prices. The common narrative is that issues of supply (droughts) and demand (bio-fuels, China) are the culprits.
Intuition might confirm this, and it is logical to assume that pressures on a limited supply of goods would lead to increases in price, but intuition is only as good as the amount of information possessed. The trouble with narratives that involved financial markets is that some knowledge of finance is required. Finance usually bores people to tears. Videos like this are a great step.
Supply and demand factors can explain gradual increases but can’t explain volatility in food prices. Rich people like us have no problem absorbing even a 200% increase in food prices. People living on a dollar a day have to make some pretty dire choices, and children end up malnourished.
The video gets a few things wrong. Namely, it states that speculators began seeking new investment areas and sources of growth after the bursting of the property bubble in the late 00′s. This is untrue. Speculators began trading in food commodities after a relaxing of rules during Clinton and the bursting of the tech equity bubble of 2000.
To me, this and the commoditization of water is the most important issue of our time and will have grave implications for the world’s future security.
Anyway, check out the video:
Dubious reports have surfaced that an allegedly HIV positive infant born prematurely in rural Mississippi to an HIV infected mother has been cleared of the virus due to a non-standard administration of HIV drugs. Naturally, I am extremely skeptical.
I wonder if the child ever truly had HIV in the first place. Given that the child was born prematurely, I also wonder how generalizable the strategy would be, assuming that the child did, in fact, have HIV.
The world, however, seems to believe that this is a “cure” for HIV. Optimistically, I would call this a case of prophylaxis.
Most frustrating for me, is the surge of pride from Mississippians. Having grown up there, I don’t think that this is anything to be proud of. The profile of HIV in Mississippi (see my paper draft) is overwhelmingly rural, poor and, most salient, black (See my lit review on HIV in Mississippi).
The simple reason that this so-called “cure” was “found” in Mississippi, as opposed to say, Vermont, is Mississippi’s crushing level of endemic poverty, entrenched racism, and institutionalized marginalization and exclusion. Mississippi’s backward politics and racist history are what caused this epidemic in the first place. Nothing to be proud of.
Equally frustrating are the absurd comments to the effect that “God has come and given us this cure” likely stemming from the heart wrenching involvement of an infant. Assuming that such a deity exists, we should probably fault God with creating the disease in the first place, and allowing babies to be infected through no fault of their own. It seems silly to me to praise a despot for delivering services after he’s made a mess of the place.
Mississippi is sixth in the nation for new cases of HIV. The social dynamics which determine transmission are different in rural and urban areas. Dividing states into clases of rural HIV and urban HIV, Mississippi would come in number 3 just behind Georgia and Louisiana. In fact, though, I would argue that Mississippi’s rate of new HIV cases (25 per 100,000) is actually an underestimate. Health delivery in Mississippi’s HIV hotspots is so inadequate and health care utilization so low, that many new cases are undetected.
I will wait and see if the optimistic reports are true. My feeling is that this is a case of hopeful overstatement. Until then, I will remain skeptical.
Without getting in the specifics, in the concealed carry world, there are four major classifications of states:
1) Unrestricted – where anybody can carry a gun in any way they see fit
2) Shall Issue states - where those wishing to carry a gun must apply for a permit, and follow specific rules
3) May Issue states - which have more strict rules and regulations than shall issue states.
4) No Issue states - No concealed carry allowed
As of 2012, there are 39 “shall issue” states and 10 “may issue” states. As there aren’t many unrestricted and no issue states, I will compare shall and may issue states only.
I assembled a dataset of CCW classifications, along with population adjusted firearm deaths, rapes and robberies. Crime is certainly about more than just gun laws. Thus, for controlling variables, I also included the percentage of people living in urban areas, percent African-American and the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality.
Again, crime is about more than just gun laws. It is also about urban and rural divides, income inequality and entrenched marginalization and poverty. Thus, in ran some regression models using the controlling variables for percent urban, percent African American, and income inequality as measured by the Gini. I also included an interaction term for percent African American and the Gini, as the two could synergistically alter the state crime profile.
I found that May Issue states still had fewer deaths and rapes than Shall Issue states. Stricter gun laws were actually the only significant variable in the model. For robbery, however, the difference between shall issue and may issue states went away when including the other variables.
What I concluded: I found that states with stricter gun laws have lower rates of violent crime. I also found that there is no association of gun laws with robberies, which are better explained by demographic variables associated with urbanicity and the social problems of a pluralistic, yet unequal, society.
We might conclude, then, that the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is NO: loose gun laws do not necessarily lead to lower rates of crime, contrary to what appears to be popularly believed.
I could run with this and state publicly that strict guns rules work. Believe me, I want to. I won’t for fear of being guilty of the same crime that gun proponents commit when throwing around “evidence.”
This simple analysis suffers from a problem endemic to discussions of policy. Namely, that the factors on the causal pathway between policy and human behavior are elusive and difficult to measure. It is difficult for me to state definitively that gun laws have anything to do with crime at all. I am not able to effectively connect the dots between implementation and change in crime patterns, while accounting for all of the other factors that may be simultaneously at play (social problems, economics, incarceration, etc.). The results certainly can lead one to certain conclusions, but my goal here is not to prove that gun laws work, but rather to show that the data don’t support the assertion that they don’t work.
Regardless, popular discussions act as if finding the links between gun policy and crime is a trivial affair, despite weak evidence and measurement. Others have noted the complexity of drawing conclusions on the subject. It is ironic to me, that some of the same people who may accept weak studies of the effect of gun policy on crime as hard fact and cherry pick results, are the same people who deny human induced climate change, for which there is ample, well documented, and solid support. This is a sad, sad state of affairs.
The Times reported this morning that the Ungandan lawmaker who originally introduced the now famous bill recommending the death penalty for homosexuals, has drop that particular portion. Instead, he favors imprisonment for homosexuals and people who advocate of behalf of them.
There’s no doubt that Sub-Saharan African countries have become a battleground for the debates of the United States, much as the DRC and Angola were de facto theaters of war for the US and the Soviet Union. However, as complicit as we are, the elephant in the room is that Uganda should spend more of its time figuring out how to lift its numerous poor out of poverty and how to protect the health of its children.
Worse yet, the sill hypocrisy is evident. Anti-Gay proponents claim that homosexuality in Africa will undermine African family values. As near as I can tell, poverty, HIV and massive gender inequality have done more than their fair share of damage to African family values. Like the US, conservative voices are remarkably silent on these issues.
Politicians love to pick on the defenseless, particularly when they are in small numbers and especially when they can’t vote. David Bahati, the bigot (and member of the fundamentalist US Christian group The Family) who introduced the bill, no doubt receives political concessions and maybe even financial contributions from abroad.
Even if the bill does pass, enforcement will be laughable. Police in any Sub-Saharan country are noticeably absent, particularly in the rural areas. The trouble is that, where police are not present, mob violence is. In Kenya, a petty thief at a rural market can expect to be horribly beaten and publicly burned to death without trial. The Ugandan Parliament merely fans the flames of this type of sickening violence by codifying hatred into law.
WalMart is one of the world’s most profitable companies. It sells household goods at competitively low prices, while at the same time doling out 20% of its massive earnings to stockholders. It is able to do this by 1) offering bottom of the barrel wages for workers 2) outsourcing manufacturing to China, for basement level prices and 3) lobbying to manipulate government programs and the tax code to enable its business model.
As discussions of walkouts and strikes by WalMart workers rages, WalMart’s stock is doing better than ever.
WalMart’s low wages are, of course, part of it’s business model. Customers go to WalMart to buy goods at low prices. WalMart employees are poorly paid and recieve 10% off of purchases at WalMart, meaning that their wages are simply fed back into the company, creating an awful vicious cycle that cripples local economies.
With an average of 50 Wal-Mart stores per state, the average wages for retail workers were 10 percent lower, and their job-based health coverage rate was 5 percentage points less than they would have been without Wal-Mart’s presence.
Wages in 2012 are even lower. If we repeated the study, we might find that the situation now is even worse.
One oft repeated right wing mantra is that WalMart workers choose to work there. What happens to them is their own fault. As the entry of WalMart devastates the local business community in rural areas, there really aren’t many jobs to “choose” from anymore. I’ve been through plenty of rural towns where the only employer is WalMart.
The opening of a WalMart has also been shown to increase poverty. Increases in poverty are, in the end, merely shifts of capital, which could go to education or small business ventures, from the group of the bottom to the top.
WalMart bleeds communities dry through schemes that minimize its property tax burden:
This first-ever investigation of Wal-Mart’s local property tax records finds that the retail giant systematically seeks to minimize its payment of taxes that support public schools and other vital local government services. Online appendices with lists of stores and distribution centers examined.
The moral of the story is that local businesses can’t compete, potential entrepreneurs lack capital to start businesses and localities are bled dry of resources to support community investment.
After reading this post, I found that I didn’t develop the idea of WalMart as blood sucking parasite very well, but it’s there anyway.
Uganda is now famous for the introduction of a bill which sought to criminalize homosexuality. Some offenders would be punished with death. Though the Amendment never got passed, American Evangelistic Christians were implicated in inspiring the bill, presumably feeling that the damage they do domestically isn’t enough.
Now, David Cecil, a UK born theater producer living in Kampala faces a two year prison sentence for the awful crime of putting on a play dealing with homosexual themes.
On 13 September, he was arrested in Kampala and held in detention for three days. Eventually released on bail, he now faces two years in jail or deportation on a charge of “disobeying lawful orders” after refusing to let the authorities suspend and review his play the River and the Mountain.
The play, which tells the story of a successful gay businessman who is murdered by his employees when he comes out, was always likely to cause controversy in Uganda.
Issues of homosexuality in Sub-Saharan Africa are as fascinating as they are repulsive. From the story of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, the two men who attempted to marry in Malawi and were sentenced to 14 years in prison (they were later freed) to the horrible death of David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist who was publicly outed and bludgeoned to death in his home, the debate over gay rights in Africa as as contentious as it is dangerous.
Nearly all SSA countries have some law criminalizing homosexuality. Many of these laws are left over from the old colonial governments. The Brits have moved on, but have left their an awful, awful legacy. Now, ironically, the debate centers around what some people see as a heavy handed attempt by western countries to impose a dangerous morality.
Of course, I am always shocked to hear people rage about the damage homosexuality causes in SSA, while the HIV epidemic, fueled by heterosexual sex devastates the continent. Politicians, of course, have little to lose by alienating a small and defenseless population. Screaming about condom use, concurrent sexual relationships and prostitution might cost votes.
This clip just never gets old. It is, of course, best watched together with friends and family.
A short op-ed in the NYT yesterday had this to say:
“Mitt Romney’s health care plan offers 15 guiding principles, but appropriately leaves to Congress the resolution of most details. Obamacare’s 2,400 pages were never understood even before passage, push all risk to taxpayers and promise economic disaster.”
This is, of course, either, at best, a demonstration of complete ignorance of the facts, or at worst, another example of conservative revisionism. When the Obama admin came into office, they also presented only some general guidelines. The crafting of the Affordable Care Act was left almost entirely to the Congress. In fact, the Obama admin was repeatedly criticized for not taking a more forceful role in the bill’s creation. This isn’t ancient history. It was in 2009.
On the surface, Romney’s claims of repealing the Affordable Care Act are patently fantastical. It took decades to get comprehensive health care reform in the country. When the political will finally surfaced, it was a fight to the death. Romney must recognize this, carefully choosing his words stating “I will act to repeal Obamacare on my first day.” “Acting to” is very different from “doing.” This nuance, I am afraid, is lost on the electorate. What he plans to do, is another mystery. The discussion is bordering on infantile.
More frustrating for me, is the constant call for “market solutions” to our problems of health care delivery. We have given the market a chance. The market has had free reign to do as it likes for decades. We have seen this market approach to health fail miserably. Why? Simply because health markets don’t work like hardware stores.
People who have insurance really have no clue what the lives of people without insurance are like. Similarly, the wealthy have little concept of the lives of the poor. Clearly, Romney is both.
Paul Ryan champions the poor. So much so, that he wants to cut services for them. If he could save a buck by cutting even school librarians for elementary kids, he would. Eliminating egregious tax subsidies on the rich, on oil companies and big agricultural firms, not so much.
Part of his justification lies in misinformation. Ryan said yesterday: “”When government’s own finances collapse, society’s most vulnerable are the first victims, as we are seeing right now in the troubled welfare states of Europe.”
What he gets wrong is that the most viable states in Europe actually have the heaviest systems of social welfare, namely the Scandinavian countries. Sweden and Denmark spend up to 40% of their GDP on social welfare (including education) compared to Spain, which spends less, only 25%. This figure is actually closer to that of the US, which spends an embarrassing 19% on social welfare INCLUDING education.
Ryan wants us to believe that Spain’s troubles are because of a runaway system of redistribution which inspires sloth in the poor, leaving them unable to feed themselves. What Ryan doesn’t bother to mention, is that Spain’s troubles are actually due to a real estate bubble, not dissimilar to the mess that predicated the crash of 2007/8 and the mess that lead to Japan’s nearly two decades of stagnant growth.
Greece arguably spends more on public welfare (28%). Greece’s problems, however, are as linked to the financial crisis of 2007/8, (the fault of the loosening of regulations by Americans) and the entry into the Euro, as they are to the problem of massive tax evasion, a cottage industry of Paul Ryan’s Republicans. Certainly, Greece (which was the fastest growing economy in the Eurozone from 2000 to 2007 despite social welfare expenditures), mismanaged their debts, but can we blame problems of tax evasion or currency exchanges on feeding poor people? Perhaps in Ryan’s world, we can.
But this might be too much for Ryan, who has plans of his own. As an Ayn Randian, he is, by definition, barred from searching for answers from without as he can most certainly fabricate his own from within. Honestly, I thought the only people that were into Ayn Rand were over caffeinated college students. I guess I’m wrong.
As an Ayn Randian, Ryan wants to eliminate the capital gains tax, presumably so that hard working folks can “enjoy the fruits of their labor.” Does anyone seriously believe that a person who has given a chunk of inherited capital to a firm to be gambled on the stock market actually does any labor at all? Productivity of American workers has gone up by 62% since 1989, but wages are only up 12%. Can anyone seriously claim that the average American worker is fairly enjoying “the fruits of his/her labor”?
But Ryan’s a “serious” guy. So serious, that he dispenses with worrying about facts and pushes his pro-rich agenda even further. No doubt this works well with Americans who have more to do than read about European financial crises (which is fine). As a public servant, however, he has a responsibility to accurately represent the facts. I recognize that statement in itself to be purely wishful thinking on my part.
Search this blog: