Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: Red Cosmos

This week's edition of Space Review has just gone live, and includes a review of the new book Red Cosmos, a biography of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, by Space Review regular contributor Taylor Dinerman.

Tsiolkovsky's name is of course well known, but his life and work are not so well known as they should be (one aspect of which is that Tsiolkovsky's own writings exceedingly hard to find in an English translation). Dinerman concludes that
Andrews’ work is a good, solid, but minimal look at the man whose name is widely recognized but whose story has been mostly left to Russian-speaking experts. This book, however, is no substitute for the comprehensive English language biography of Tsiolkovskii that is needed.
However, it may be hoped that this book will lead to more attention to his work, and indeed, the work of other important but neglected Russian thinkers (like his acquaintance Nikolai Fedorov, his fellow Cosmists or other nineteenth century Russian philosophers), far more important and influential than has been generally appreciated.

Not So New, But Definitely Noteworthy (Food Stamps, College Costs, California, Yemeni Water Wars)

In today's edition (my first in over a month):

* A surprising (if you go by the conventional wisdom) study regarding the reliance of the nation's children on food stamps. According to it, half the country's children have relied on it some time in their childhoods. (I am put in mind of Craig T. Nelson's remarks on the Glenn Beck show-deservedly mocked on The Daily Show and elsewhere-about how he wasn't being helped out when he was on food stamps and welfare.)

* This piece from CNN on college costs, which included some interesting statistics. It's about what you'd expect-higher tuition costs, diminished state support for public universities (where the prices rises have been higher) and students in general, more borrowing by cash-strapped families to pay for it all.

* Robust coverage by the Guardian's Paul Harris of the situation in California (with some attention to how that state's colleges are faring amid the broader collapse of its government's finances).

* And finally, a bit of international news with this analysis of the conflict in Yemen centering on the country's water shortages, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor.

The Real Unemployment Rate

As was widely reported in the press, we hit (and passed) the much talked-about milestone: 10 percent of the American work force "officially" unemployed.

The actual number is, of course, 10.2 percent.

The figure denoting long-term job losers (15+ weeks out of work) is likewise up, to 5.7 percent (compared with 2.7 percent of the work force exactly one year ago, when the panic was at its height).

And of course, the broader, U-6 category, now stands at 17.5 percent-more than one in six members of the work force presently lacking the full-time work they wish they had.

For a better than average assessment of the news, check out this post from Seeking Alpha.

Also worthwhile from the standpoint of perspective, this article from Tom Raum of the Associated Press confirms the increasingly mainstream character of the view that this unemployment is structural than cyclical. (Remember Richard Moody's comment from a few months back, or the story from the Christian Science Monitor asking if the U.S. is "the New France"?)

Raum specifically points to, among other things, the vicious cycle at the root of the situation, the weakness of the job market (along with the credit crunch) suppressing the consumption that would be key to the new investments that would drive job growth (in fact, it may be that Americans are already "settling into spending less"). The situation is all the worse for "the carnage among Detroit's automakers and the surplus of new and foreclosed homes and empty commercial properties," the auto- and construction industries, two keys to the renewal of employment expansion in the past, having been left in an especially poor position to play the role of economic locomotive anytime soon. (Indeed, both manufacturing and construction suffered 60,000+ net job losses each last month, a particularly dark spot in this 22nd straight month of job losses.)

So much for the ebullient talk of green shoots; the hope of anything more than a shallow, short-term fix leading to still more long term mess from the methods tried; and in the sweeping of harsher economic realities under the rug as the Dow Jones average rebounds, the hope that governments would move beyond "business as usual" after the cold shock of reality afforded by the Great Recession of 2007-2009 (as noted by Mike Whitney of the Centre for Research on Globalization in his sweeping overview of the economic policy of the Obama administration, one year in).

"Unemployment Problems Are Worse Than Meet the Eye"
The Real Unemployment Rate
Second Quarter Growth, 2009
The Real Unemployment Rate-And What It Means
Economic Update (OECD, Joshua Holland, Tim Hanson)
Global Finance Development 2009
More On The Economic Crisis (Eichengreen and O'Rourke on Industrial Output, Wolf on Eichengreen and O'Rourke, Austerity?)
Is the U.S. the New France?
The Human Cost of the Economic Crisis
The Real Unemployment Rate-And What It Means
On Consumer Spending
On the Global Economic Mess

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