Wolfowitz, World Bank President

Last fall in a development theory seminar one of my classmates commented on Robert McNamara’s tenure as the President of the World Bank. “So what,” they said, “first you fuck up a war, and then you get to be president of the World Bank?”

And alas there seems to be a trend developing.

If approved by the bank’s board, Wolfowitz will assume control of the World Bank and its $20 billion a year loan programs. The World Bank often plays an influential role in shaping the policies of developing nations as the result of conditions it attaches to loan money under its control.

Joseph Stiglitz, American Nobel laureate, former chief economist to the World Bank and influential economic thinker, is fighting back.

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Bush’s Budget and Rural America

The irony abounds. Residents in rural areas voted overwhelmingly for George Bush. Their reward—across the board cuts of money previously allocated for rural development and agriculture programs.

The Center for Rural Affairs reports that rural America may loose more than one-third of the federal dollars currently allocated to rural economic and rural community development. This is in addition to significant cuts to direct farmer aid including a 50% slashing of the Conservation Security Program and an across-the-board reduction of five percent for all farm program payments.

Read the Action Brief (pdf here) from the Center for Rural Affairs or catch the highlights below the fold.

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Rural Sourcing

In an effort to counter the rural brain drain some rural communities are fighting back against overseas outsourcing.

NPR recently reported on a joint project of Southern Arkansas University and Rural Sourcing Inc.

Project proponents hope that the current backlash against overseas outsourcing will make rural sourcing an attractive alternative for companies looking to cut operating costs. Rural Sourcing Inc., who helps high-tech firms find rural partners, touts cost savings of 30-50% over domestic competitors. These savings are less than those possible with overseas outsourcing. Nonetheless some companies are choosing rural sourcing for both political and practical reasons.

This sounds promising as long as cost savings are the result of the lower costs of living in rural areas. As soon as the savings become the result of the exploitation of rural communities the practice will be only marginally better than overseas outsourcing.

Global Warming Comes Home to the Ranch

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that rising CO2 levels may threaten grassland, thus cutting into the bottom line of ranchers.

Rising carbon dioxide levels could mean higher feed costs for ranchers and fewer wild ruminants such as antelope and deer, suggest studies by a U.S. Department of Agriculture research team in Fort Collins.

“This has huge implications for grasslands all around the world,” said Jack Morgan, a research leader and plant physiologist with the Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins.

For ranchers, diluted nitrogen would mean lower-quality forage for livestock and more reliance on feed supplements like hay and alfalfa. But the issue, which could take decades to develop, isn’t on the radar of most ranchers.

Poor forage quality could lead to impacts similar to those that ranchers faced during the drought, when some sold off their herds or turned to hay as pastures deteriorated.

Left leaning blogs in the west have been making the point for some time now that growing environmental concerns in the red-state west should give Democrats a handhold in coming years.