Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recent books I've added to my reading pile... #mustRead

Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System

 Capital in the Twenty-First Century

  Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism

  The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God

  Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away

  Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

Austerity and Its Alternatives--- James Galbraith, Yanis Varoufakis, and Jeffrey Sommers

House District 111 in the State of Georgia is flipping blue this November.

I want to take a moment to do a little political horse race blogging as the campaign disclosure report is coming up on the 31st.  As most of my readers know I've thrown my name on the ballot again.  This time I'm running for State House district 111.

My opponent still lacks a website as far as I can tell.  Here is mine.

My opponent's State Rep Fan Page has 273 "Likes";  my Politician Fan Page has 270 "Likes" (go "Like" it now).

On twitter its a landslide in my favor.  My opponent has 103 Followers and hasn't used the account since he got elected. I'm currently sitting at 2672 for my personal account and a lowly 20 so far for my candidate twitter account.  

On my rally campaign page I currently have 2295 who are joining me to rally "in" support.

I've been working hard to attend events in the community, hold meet ups, and one on one sit downs with voters.  I've already organized more meet-ups and events in the district than my opponent has in his two year term. 

9 out of 10 campaigns are won by the candidate with the most money.  So if you'd like to help embed a blogger, under the Gold Dome contribute right now

There are 222 days 5 hours and 32 mins till the polls close.  This is going to be a fun year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

IRV would bring about the best candidate AND Save money; State school superintendent edition

So Georgia's State school superintendent race draws 15 candidates.  A few of those, like, if my hunch is correct, the US Senate Democratic primary, are likely to be candidates sent in by the "big name" to drain the populist candidate of energy and support.

If this isn't a perfect example of why we need preference voting, I'm not sure what is.  Here is more on IRV

An instant run-off, although unpopular with people whose job is to get people elected (since they get more work and make more money when you have a primary-run off) would save money for the state and create incentives for more positive campaigning and alliance building by politicians.

It would also force more real politic thinking by voters.  By forcing voters to rank order their preference they have to acknowledge trade offs in their own thinking; trade offs are how we make decisions and find compromises to get things done.

Plus any good economist will tell you much of the best and most fruitful moral and public policy thought has been done on Preferences, Value, Choice, and Welfare.
So getting our policy selection mechanism to better reflect where all the action is at in terms of decision making and policy compromise might be a useful change.

Our feudal masters seek religious Liberty;PBS Newshour, Scott Lemieux, and Jeffrey Toobin on Hobby Lobby oral arguments

I have to outsource some blogging work to Scott Lemieux: Terrible Arguments Against the Contraception Non-Mandate: Ladies Against Women Edition
I’m still making my way through the Hobby Lobby oral arguments. In the meantime, let’s look at the Independent [sic] Women’s Forum’s inadvertently instructive arguments against the contraception non-mandate. Let’s throw out the first non-sequitur:
“These cases do not represent a conflict between religious employers and female employees. Women have been and will continue to be free to seek out and purchase the contraceptives of their choice,” IWF Health Policy Director Hadley Heath said.
It is true that granting an exemption would not result in the literal banning of health care. It does not follow, however, that the IWF position does not represent a conflict “religious employers and female employees.” Female employees will be denied a statutory right if the Court accepts the arguments made by the IWF. (A burden that does not just affect the interests of women, either, unless men no longer have any legal or moral responsibility for raising children.) The denial that’s there’s any conflict is particularly rich given that Hobby Lobby et al. are asserting that a “substantial burden” has been created by provision that doesn’t require them to do anything.
Instead, these cases illustrate the inevitable conflicts that result from too much government involvement in health care. The contraception mandate works contrary to women’s interests.
Ah, and once again, we have the show given away. These legal arguments aren’t really about religious freedom; there’s just the latest in a series of ad hoc assaults on the ACA by conservatives who simply oppose the non-affluent having access to health care in principle. The dash of Orewellian nonsense on top is a nice touch, though.
So how does the employer non-mandate work contrary to the interests of women?
Personal health care decisions should be in the hands of free patients and doctors, not prescribed by one-size-fits-all mandates.
Well, fortunately, the requirement that insurance plan cover contraception leaves health care decisions in the hands of patients or doctors. This is one of the many things that makes it preferable to the IWF’s position, which would involve interposing the religious beliefs of employers between patients and doctors.
As for the silliness about “one-size-fits-all” mandates, once again it proves too much. If taken seriously, it would apply equally to any requirements that insurance cover specific things. According to the IWF, employers should get tax benefits for paying employees in health care instead of wages, but requiring that this insurance actually cover things is bad because FREEDOM! They’re welcome to this nutty argument, but neither RFRA nor the First Amendment enacted a free-floating consevertarian opposition to the concept of regulating health insurers.
“This case is about much more than contraception. It is about the principles of liberty that animate our Constitution.” Indeed! Which is why the IWF’s arguments should be rejected.

As Corey Robin would point out; every business owner a feudal master demanding power and control over their employee's if you buy the "religious liberty" argument.

Another reporters take worth a look is Jeffrey Toobin The Supreme Court's Women Justices Take On Hobby Lobby : The New Yorker :
There were two lessons from Tuesday’s argument in the Hobby Lobby case in the Supreme Court. First, it’s very important that there are now three women Justices. Second, it’s even more important that it takes five votes to win.
The issue in the case is straightforward. The Affordable Care Act requires employers who provide health insurance to their employees to include coverage for contraception. The owners of Hobby Lobby, a large (thirteen-thousand-employee), privately held chain of stores, regard certain kinds of birth control (like the I.U.D. and morning-after pills) as forms of abortion, which is against their religious principles. Does the employees’ right to choose and obtain birth control trump the employer’s right to religious freedom?
There was little doubt where the Court’s three female Justices stood. After Paul Clement, the lawyer for Hobby Lobby, began his argument, twenty-eight of the first thirty-two questions to him came from Ruth Bader Ginsburg (four questions), Sonia Sotomayor (eleven), and Elena Kagan (thirteen). The queries varied, of course, but they were all variations on a theme. The trio saw the case from the perspective of the women employees. They regarded the employer as the party in the case with the money and the power. Sotomayor asked, “Is your claim limited to sensitive materials like contraceptives, or does it include items like blood transfusion, vaccines? For some religions, products made of pork? Is any claim under your theory that has a religious basis, could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?” Clement hedged in response. When Clement asserted that Hobby Lobby’s owners, because of their Christian values, did care about making sure that their employees had health insurance, Kagan shot back:
I’m sure they want to be good employers. But again, that’s a different thing than saying that their religious beliefs mandate them to provide health insurance, because here Congress has said that the health insurance that they’re providing is not adequate, it’s not the full package.
Indeed, Kagan recognized that Clement’s argument took on much of the Affordable Care Act, not just the contraception provision. “Isn’t that just a way of saying that you think that this isn’t a good statute, because it asks one person to subsidize another person?” she asked. “But Congress has made a judgment and Congress has given a statutory entitlement and that entitlement is to women and includes contraceptive coverage. And when the employer says, ‘No, I don’t want to give that,’ that woman is quite directly, quite tangibly harmed.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why the Koch Brothers love the Keystone XL pipeline...

Well it turns out that the Koch Brothers Are Largest Lease Holders in Alberta Tar Sands
The largest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the conglomerate that is the source of the fortune owned by the controversial conservative political donors, Charles and David Koch.
The Koch’s holdings in the tar sands were disclosed by Koch Cash, an activist group that analyzed mineral records of the Alberta government. The Koch subsidiary holds leases on at least 1.1 million acres in the northern Alberta oil sands, which span roughly 35 million acres; other industry experts estimate the total Koch holdings could be closer to 2 million acres.
That puts Koch Industries ahead of energy heavyweights Royal Dutch Shell and Conoco Phillips, both of which lease significant acreage in the oil sands.
 Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits if the Keystone XL pipeline is built.

Crony Capitalism and Politics; Welcome to the neoliberal paradise.

Over at The Big Picture Bill Black gives a rundown on the LIBOR scandal-- LIBOR: The World’s Most Dishonest Number:
There are two possibilities:  the Obama administration knew for six years that the world’s largest banks were endemically led by frauds or the administration learned of that fact recently when it learned of the results of the FDIC investigation.  The LIBOR scandal became public knowledge with the Wall Street Journal’s April 16, 2008 expose, so the Bush administration also knew it was dealing with elite frauds.  If the Obama administration has long known that fraud was endemic among the leaders of the world’s largest banks, then its policies toward those CEO and the banks they control have been reprehensible and harmful. 
If the administration has just learned from the FDIC investigation about the true nature of the CEOs that it has refused to hold accountable and allowed to retain and even massively increase their wealth through leading control frauds then we can doubtless expect a series of emergency actions transforming the administration’s finance industry policies.  The FDIC lawsuit provides a “natural experiment” that allows us to test which of the possibilities was correct 
Let’s review the bidding.  The U.S. government, through the FDIC, has found after a lengthy investigation that the leaders of 16 of the world’s largest banks conspired together to form a cartel to manipulate the LIBOR “numbers” and to defraud the public about the scam.  This should have led the criminal justice authorities to prosecute large numbers of senior officers of these banks – but none of them have been prosecuted.  It obviously poses a grave threat to the “safety and soundness” of the entire financial system.  The endemic frauds led by elite CEOs demonstrate such a pervasive failure of integrity and ethics by the leaders of the finance industry that there is a moral crisis of tragic proportions.  So here are some questions (along with the usual who, when, where details) I request that the media formally ask the administration:
  1. Did the FDIC brief the administration before it brought its LIBOR suit?
  2. Why didn’t Attorney General Holder and the FDIC leadership conduct a news conference announcing the suit and emphasizing its implications?
  3. Why didn’t the FDIC’s “home page” or press release site even note the suit?
  4. Did the suit cause the administration to transform its finance industry policies?
  5. When will the President address the Nation about fixing the twin emergencies?
Criminals are on the loose and Politicians are fearful of prosecuting them because they are major campaign donors.

I was on the campaign trail for State House this weekend at the 6th Annual Yellow Pollen Street Festival in Hampton, GA.  Had a number of great conversations with voters.  But one thing that struck me--across the political spectrum there is real anger at the Banks the endemic corruption in Washington DC that puts Wall Street and the big banks before the interests of every day citizens.  People are fed up.

Its sad that the people who crashed the economy and destroyed millions of lives are still running amuck with no fear of criminal prosecution.  This all reminds me of some comments by Cornel West on how intellectuals have betrayed the poor during the neoliberal era:

The reality is that the "Get Government out of the way" narrative has turned out to be an utter failure.  Yet too many Democrats aid Republicans in continuing to push this narrative that has proven to be a failure.

Yves Smith expands on whats wrong with current strain of neolibearl American Capitalism;:
For the last 30 years, neoliberals have fixated on a simple program: “Get government out of the way,” which meant reduce taxes and regulations. Business will invest more, which will produce a higher growth rate and greater prosperity for all. The belief was that unfettered capitalism could solve all ills.
Policymakers have dutifully followed this script. Corporations have gotten more and more tax breaks, with the result that the GAO found that their effective Federal tax rate in 2010 was 13% of worldwide income for companies with profits. Corporate income taxes represent a mere 11% of total Federal tax receipts, down from 30% in the mid-1950s. And we’ve also seen substantial deregulation in many sectors of the economy, particularly financial services, transportation, and telecommunications.
So have companies lived up to their half of the neoliberal bargain? Take a look at this chart from Andrew Smithers, which was published at the Financial Times. He prepared it to demonstrate how stock market prices have been driven almost entirely by corporate buying. But it serves to make an additional point: that the stock market for a very long time has not served mainly (or lately, much at all) as a vehicle for companies to raise funds to expand their business. Instead, it serves as a machine for manipulating stock prices.
Notice that US corporations have been buyers in aggregate since 1985. Now admittedly, that does not mean they stopped investing, since the primary source of investment capital is retained earnings, and companies also typically prefer to borrow rather than issue stock. But as of the 1980s, they were already preferring buying stocks (then mainly of other companies rather than their own, as in acquisitions) to the harder work of expanding their business de novo. Deals are much sexier than building factories or sweating new product launches.
But by the mid 2000, companies had indeed shifted to being net savers rather than net borrowers, which was an unheard of behavior in an expansion. That is tantamount to disinvesting. As Rob Parenteau and I wrote in 2010:
Unbeknownst to most commentators, corporations in the US and many advanced economies have been underinvesting for some time.
The normal state of affairs is for households to save for large purchases, retirement and emergencies, and for businesses to tap those savings via borrowings or equity investments to help fund the expansion of their businesses.
But many economies have abandoned that pattern. For instance, IMF and World Bank studies found a reduced reinvestment rate of profits in many Asian nations following the 1998 crisis. Similarly, a 2005 JPMorgan report noted with concern that since 2002, US corporations on average ran a net financial surplus of 1.7 percent of GDP, which contrasted with an average deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP for the preceding forty years. Companies as a whole historically ran fiscal surpluses, meaning in aggregate they saved rather than expanded, in economic downturns, not expansion phases.
The big culprit in America is that public companies are obsessed with quarterly earnings. Investing in future growth often reduces profits short term. The enterprise has to spend money, say on additional staff or extra marketing, before any new revenues come in the door. And for bolder initiatives like developing new products, the up front costs can be considerable (marketing research, product design, prototype development, legal expenses associated with patents, lining up contractors). Thus a fall in business investment short circuits a major driver of growth in capitalist economies..... 
 .....So with large corporations finding it more attractive to game their stock than duke it out in the marketplace, and small companies generally gun-shy in a tepid economy, we have the foundations for the corporate elite to continue looting. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens contend with a hostile job market and have little reason to hope that their financial condition will improve. Welcome to the neoliberal paradise.

Yeah paradise indeed.

Fact is we are 30 years late; but if you'd like to help fight back, chip in a few dollars to my State House campaign. Together we can begin to build a movement willing to fight back.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

12 days left until the March 31 deadline to enroll in health insurance or pay a fine.

Yesterday, Georgia Republican legislators gave Nathan Deal an easy way out on Medicaid expansion by sending HB 990 to the governor's desk for his signature.

Better Georgia had the scoop:
  1. Cut even more services to rural hospitals
  2. Make someone else responsible
  3. Form a committee
Four rural hospitals have closed under Gov. Nathan Deal’s watch and today he finallyannounced this three-part plan:We’re not kidding.This is his real plan.

Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor of MLK's Ebenezer Baptist Church, was one of at least 40 people arrested at The Capitol yesterday for standing up for Medicaid expansion

Deal and company think access to affordable care is a luxury of district 1. According to state Republicans, rural voters can move to metro Atlanta if they want a good health care system.

It was more Washington-Style politics: running away from real problems, failing to face facts, and refusing to do the hard work citizens elected them to do and reminded me why I decided to run for State House here in Georgia.

Making the ACA work and helping all citizens in Georgia access affordable health care is the job of politicians in Atlanta--its how "small Government" Federalism works, and like it or not, how the ACA was set up to be handled. 

In states all across the country Legislatures are working to make the ACA work. Sadly Republicans in Georgia want to blame the Federal Government rather than do their job. The ACA was fundamentally concieved by conservative policymakers ("RomneyCare") as insurance reform, a patchwork of complex fixes coordinated by each state with assistance from the Federal Government to pay the costs and regulate the process. 

Sadly here in Georgia, State lawmakers have been negligent in doing their jobs of setting up the exchange and empowering citizens and small business owners with the tools they need to transition as smoothly as possible. 

 My opponent has done nothing to assist in sign up and has hindered the ability of citizens to get important information about health care.  Before its too late I'd like to send out a reminder robocall into the district so that voters know the sign up deadline is about to arrive.

But I can't get that message out across the district without your help.  Please contribute today! 

$10 will help us reach 400 voters in the district

$25 will help us reach 1000 voters in district 111.

A single contribution of $802.77 would provide a call to every single voter in the district reminding them about the sign up deadline.  

No matter what you are able to contribute today providing voters in the district the opportunity to access affordable health care is the job of a State Legislator.  

Together we can provide vitally important information to citizens in the district about the upcoming ACA deadline.  My opponent doesn't want to do his job and because of that many will miss the important deadline and pay consequences for the failure of political leaders in Georgia.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Five things to know about the latest ACA enrollment report.

Think Progress has a good run down of the latest ACA numbers.  They've got a list of four things-- I have a fifth thing to add.

  • These numbers could have been better if we had more Democrats in State House's to fight the GOP efforts to stop the ACA.

four things you need to know about the latest enrollment report:
1. Per-day enrollment increased from January to February. The Washington Post headline after the enrollment numbers came out yesterday read “Obamacare enrollment drops off in February.” But while January enrollment was 170,000 above February’s, it’s not that simple. When you take into account the fact that February has fewer days than January, and that January actually included a few days in December in its reporting period, the per-day sign-up rate actually increased. As the March 31 deadline approaches, more and more people are learning about the benefits of the law and are signing up for coverage.
2. The rate of young adult enrollment is steady. Young adults comprised 27 percent of the marketplace sign-ups in February, holding steady from January and up from 24 percent from October to December. (This is not surprising given young people are expected to wait until closer to the deadline to enroll.) Some have worried that too few younger, healthy people in the exchange would result in “adverse selection” — an exchange disproportionately filled with older, sicker individuals. But studies have shown that even in a worst-case scenario, which has already been overcome, premiums would likely increase by just a couple percentage points.
3. People are taking advantage of financial help to lower their costs. Of those who have selected a plan, 83 percent have qualified for financial assistance to reduce the cost. In fact, most uninsured people don’t know how likely they are to qualify for financial help to help lower the cost of enrolling. There is even an insurance subsidy calculator to help figure it out.
4. Things are ramping up for a big March surge. The expectation all along has been that there will be a spike in enrollment as the deadline approaches. And we are already starting to see that take place. In a creative and hilarious appeal to get young people to enroll, President Obama appeared on an episode of Zach Galifianakis’s showBetween Two Ferns, a popular spoof of public access TV by the comedy website Funny or Die. By the afternoon, administration officials reported the comedy site was the number one driver of traffic to, and today they said traffic jumped 40 percent from the previous day. In addition to creative marketing, advocacy groups around the country have put together over 4,000 events related to enrollment before the end of March (helpfully arranged if you or someone you know needs to enroll!).
BOTTOM LINE: Millions of Americans are signing up for affordable coverage using the individual marketplace, and the latest enrollment numbers demonstrate that momentum is building for a big March.

In the end these numbers could and would have been much better if the GOP wasn't trying every dirty trick in the book to hurt the roll out and success of the ACA.  Which is sad because the reality is the ACA was the conservative health care plan till a black man proposed it and the right wing went in to freak out mode to try and stop it.

Making sure the ACA works as best as it can was one of the reasons I ran for State Senate in 2010 and its one of the reasons I'm running for State House this year.

Please chip in a few dollars today if you'd like to see someone who is going to champion and fight for access to affordable health care for all citizens.  Please "Like" me on Facebook and follow my campaign on Twitter.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stand up and speak out against HB 990. We can no longer afford to play politics with our lives

HB 990, here in Georgia, creates an additional barrier for over 600,000 Georgians from accessing health care in our state through Medicaid.  

We must join together and speak out against the GOP agenda. Currently 3,600 people who would be eligible for Medicaid are dying each year in our state.

Please sign and share this Atlanta Jobs with Justice petition with your social network.

If you are able please join members of the Cover Georgia coalition Tuesday March 11 from 10:00am to 11:00am for a rally on the steps of the Capitol (Washington Street) to advocate for expanding Medicaid.

The Governor’s own Office of Planning and Budget shows that Medicaid expansion will generates $750 million over a decade in new tax revenue from insurer premiums.

New tax revenue, a healthyier workforce--only reactionaries within the GOP would use the power of Government to keep working people sick and desperate (side note this is really about keeping a downward pressure on wages and protecting  a Government agenda of upward redistribution of wealth to the 1%).

I'm running for State House here in Georgia because its time to stand up to the GOP efforts to blame the Federal Government rather than do the hard work of building an efficient, effective, health care system in our state.  Contribute $36.00 right now on behalf of the 3,600 people who will die this year because of GOP footdragging.  Your contribution will help get an ally of working people under the Gold Dome. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Senate Republicans Block Veterans Bill

I got involved in politics because of the failure of the political class in the run up to the Iraq War 2.

The GOP blocking the Veterans bill recently reminds me of this failure of leadership and their vote against Veterans is causing quite a stir on social media from people across the political spectrum. 

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has more:
The legislation was backed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and virtually every other veterans’ and military service organization in the country.  
“The cost of war does not end once the last shots are fired and the last battles are fought,” Sanders said.  “When members of the military lose arms, legs and eyesight fighting in wars that Congress authorized, we have a moral obligation to make sure that those Americans receive all of the benefits that they have earned and deserve.  When American soldiers die in combat, we have a moral obligation to make sure that the spouses and children they leave behind are taken care of and do not live in abject poverty.”   
The measure would have improved health and dental care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also would have allowed the VA to open 27 new clinics and medical facilities. Educational opportunities would have been expanded for post-9/11 veterans. Another provision would have improved access to care and benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military. Also full cost-of-living adjustments would be restored for future military retirees. 
This Chris Hayes segment is worth a watch

Also see: Jon Stewart Is Shocked (But Not Surprised) By GOP Killing Veterans Bill

 Republicans block Senate bill to boost veterans' benefits - 

Six In Ten Small Business Owners Want A $10.10 Minimum Wage... Its the reactionaries who oppose it.

In some positive polling news it appears that small business owners support creating a middle out economy [Side note: Read 'Middle-Out' Economics: Why the Right's Supply-Side Dogma Is Wrong - Eric Liu & Nick Hanauer - The Atlantic]. My hunch is that small business owners understand that when workers have more money in their pocket they spend it. 

Think Progress has more
Nearly six in 10 small business owners support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, according to a new poll on behalf of Small Business Majority (SBM), with most respondents citing the prospect of increased consumer demand and improved competitiveness with large chain retailers as reasons for their endorsement of the wage hike. 
The poll found 57 percent of small business owners support a $10.10 federal minimum wage, with 27 percent strongly in favor of the idea. The entrepreneurs polled were predominantly Republican, with 47 percent identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning as compared to just 35 percent who identified more with the Democratic party. Two thirds of the businesses polled had less than half a million dollars in revenue in 2013, and 59 percent of the business owners were older than 50 years of age.
As  T. William Lester, David Madland, and Jackie Odum noted back in December over at the Center for American Progress raising the minimum wage will help the economy
 Raising the minimum wage would be good for our economy. A higher minimum wage not only increases workers’ incomes—which is sorely needed to boost demand and get the economy going—but it also reduces turnover, cuts the costs that low-road employers impose on taxpayers, and pushes businesses toward a high-road, high-human-capital model.
Despite these positive benefits, and the sad fact that the minimum wage is worth far less today than it was in the late 1960s, with the Senate set to vote to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, opponents will likely trot out the same unfounded argument that the minimum wage reduces employment. And with today’s unemployment rate stuck above 7 percent, we anticipate these types of arguments to reach a fevered pitch.
The reality is that those opposed to increasing the minimum wage don't oppose it for economic reasons.  They oppose it for ideological and anti-democratic reasons.  They seek to shift power away from the state creating a wage floor that protects everyone and into the hands of owners who are then able to drive down wages and make people more desperate and dependent on their employer.  

Corey Robin has a good breakdown of that in a post Why the Left Gets Neoliberalism Wrong: It’s the Feudalism, Stupid!
 the real, or at least a main, thrust of neoliberalism, according to some of its most interesting and important theoreticians (and its actual practice): not to liberate the individual or to deregulate the marketplace, but to shift power from government (or at least those sectors of government like the legislature that make some claim to or pretense of democratic legitimacy

If you've never read Robin's book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palinyou should check it out.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stuff to read...

NSA surveillance hurting tech firms' business

 Feds Refuse to Release Public Comments on NSA Reform — Citing Privacy |  

Birthers, (Stimulus) Deniers, and Economic Myths | Econbrowser 

Republicans joining populists in ending corporate welfare for banks

Did Inflation Phobia Cause the Great Recession? -

 Putin Goes to War in Crimea : The New Yorker 

The Conflict in Ukraine: More Complex Than You Might Think - Glenn Kates - The Atlantic

Why Russia No Longer Fears the West - Ben Judah - POLITICO Magazine 

 Assad Regime's Drought Response Triggered Syrian War | Environment News Service 

Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful by Immanuel Wallerstein

European centre-left launches election drive, attacks austerity | Reuters 

Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State | Blog, Perspectives | 

Reactions to Mike Lofgren's Essay on the Deep State | Blog, Perspectives |

Henry Giroux on Resisting the Neoliberal Revolution | Blog, Perspectives | 

Cecily McMillan's Occupy trial is a huge test of US civil liberties. Will they survive? | 

The Political Underbelly of the Pensions Crisis: What Broke the System, and How Do We Fix It? | Next New Deal 

Math: Your Secret Weapon Against Wall Street and the NSA | Mother Jones 

Organizers Worth Their Salt | Labor Notes 

epistemic consciousness » 3:AM Magazine 

on william james and john la farge » 3:AM Magazine 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stephanie Kelton podcast with Randy Wray on MMT

Check it out.

Diane Ravitch on education reform and poverty

If you look at most of the political talk in Georgia, especially around the issue of education, it stays far far away from the topic of poverty.  Lots of self help platitudes and Government is bad non sequitors but not much talk of poverty.

Diane Ravitch nails it:
It is all the rage among the pseudo-reformers to dismiss the importance of poverty. Although most of the pseudo-reformers grew up in affluence, attended elite private school, and send their own children to equally splendid private schools, they feel certain in their hearts that poverty is a state of mind that can be easily overcome. All it takes is one great teacher. Or three effective teachers in a row. Or lots of grit. Or a no-excuses school where children dress for success, follow rules without questioning, and act like little test-taking machines. One by one, the pseudo-reformers insist, they will end poverty.
No one needs a higher minimum wage. No one needs a change in the tax structure. Nothing need be done except fire teachers who can’t raise test scores and hire lots of TFA, whose enthusiasm is sure to overcome their lack of training and experience.
The fact that social scientists have demonstrated the significance of poverty on one’s life chances never penetrates the discussion. In one State of the Union Address, the President lauded a peculiar study which claimed that the influence of a third or fourth grade teacher affected one’s lifetime earnings, even presented pregnancies years later. Enough such teachers, one surmises, and poverty will be vanquished. The Secretary of Education used to point to schools where 100% of the students, impoverished as could be, went to college, until the news media realized that such schools usually had a trick, like high attrition rates.
The fact is that poverty does matter. No matter what standardized test you look at, the results portray the influence of socioeconomic status on test scores . Despite outliers, the kids with the most advantages are at the top, the kids with the fewest advantages are at the bottom. This is true of international tests, state tests, federal tests, the ACT, the SAT.
Standardized tests are the means by which privilege is distributed. The outcomes are predictable.
Here is yet another demonstration that poverty matters. So does advantage. But no matter what research or evidence shows, the charade goes on.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Apathy or action?

If you read the cultural tea leaves of the moment--We are either at the apex of crisis and decline or the moment of blossoming and rejuvenation, a radical upsurge of hope.  

If you'll pardon my feuerbachian leanings--the choice fundamentally is in the hands of those who role up their sleeves and act; or chose instead to be overwhelmed by fear and apathy and not act.
Those who see themselves as historical actors will change the world.  Those who see themselves as victims of the winds of time, powerful governments, corporate overlords et al will be just that victims.

Today's action by students in front of the White House was a step in the right direction.  The future is ours for the taking. 

Mike Lofgren on The Deep State

 Mike Lofgren Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State
Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

Deficit Is Falling Because Of Government Austerity, Not Economic Recovery

You can find the economist Stephanie Kelton on twitter here.

Noam Chomsky (2013) "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"