Links to what I’ve been reading.
Matt Pearce chronicles the Occupy movement in Des Moines on the eve of the Iowa caucuses:
Welcome to the latest and perhaps most unique iteration of Occupy Wall Street, where a splinter cell of Occupy Des Moines protestors, many of them former Obama supporters, are heading the movement’s first significant injection of street politics into electoral politics. And if what’s happening in Iowa augurs anything for the 2012 cycle, Democrats nationwide will be facing a vote of no confidence from former allies who now see the party as part of the system they’re trying to occupy. Earlier this week, when more than 100 progressive occupiers caucused to pick their candidates of greatest “dispreference,” the largest number, 30, picked Barack Obama.
Juan Cole lists the top ten myths behind the Arab Spring:
9. The Arab dictatorships now overthrown or tottering were better for women than their likely Islamist successors. The postcolonial Arab states often pursued what my friend Deniz Kandiyoti of the School of Oriental and African Studies has called “state feminist” projects of female uplift. But because these policies were pursued by unpopular dictatorships, they created a male backlash. The Muslim Brotherhood’s patriarchal pushback against the upper class feminism of Suzanne Mubarak was a feature not of 2011 but of 1981-2010. The massive trend to veiling among Egyptian women took place in the past 20 years, not all of a sudden today. That is, “state feminism” often backfired because it was felt as intrusive and heavy-handed. Women’s progress was tainted, moreover, by association with hated dictatorships. Nor was Hosni Mubarak exactly Germaine Greer. Two of my Ph.D. students had their projects initially rejected by the Egyptian authorities because they included a focus on feminist issues, which were increasingly controversial in Mubarak’s dictatorship. If Tunisia and Egypt can now move to democratic systems, women will have new freedoms to organize politically and to make demands on the state. Nor can outsiders pre-define women’s issues. Their actual desires may be for social services, notably lacking under Mubarak and Ben Ali, rather than for the kinds of programs favored by the old elites. In any case, while women’s causes may face challenges from conservative Muslim forces, it is healthier for them to mobilize and debate in public than for faceless male bureaucrats to make high-handed decisions for women.
Sarah Kliff on what Chief Justice Roberts’s memo augurs for the forthcoming ACA lawsuit:
His words are especially relevant with a legal challenge to Affordable Care Act on the docket for this spring. The law’s supporters and opponents have pressured two Supreme Court justices to sit out the case, due to potential conflicts of interest. Health reform supporters have focused on petitioning Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself because of the work that his wife Ginni Thomas has done with groups that oppose the law. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan faces similar pressures from many health reform opponents, who argue she may have become involved with the law’s defense as the nation’s solicitor general two years ago.
Jared Bernstein posts his worries for the new year:
Labor Force Participation: This one’s a sleeper and much less discussed. It’s a mixed bag, but here’s the concern.
One reason the unemployment rate has fallen as much as it has—and it hasn’t fallen enough—is because fewer people are in the job market looking for work (remember, you’re not counted as unemployed if you’re not actively looking). If the pace of job growth begins to improve, that’s likely to draw these sideliners back into the game, and that puts upward pressure of the unemployment rate.
Like I said, it’s mixed, because the scenario I’m describing includes faster job growth (good) but higher unemployment (bad).
I’ve crunched some numbers on this—I’ll post the analysis later, maybe—and I found that if the pace of recent job growth continues, around 130K per month over past six months, the rate of labor force participation might stop falling, but would probably remain flat. But if we start hittin’ it in the 230K range, it should start to grow, making it tougher, even with extra job growth, to bring down the unemployment rate.