Author Archive

Jul
06

Not there yet on education

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Photo by Josconklin [CC BY 3.0], via Creative Commons.

Democrats’ platform draft contains a plank on education that leaves Diane Ravitch with doubts. It reads in part:

Democrats are also committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools and we will help them to disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. At the same time, we oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources. Democrats also support increased transparency and accountability for all charter schools.

Days ago, Ravitch wrote at her blog:
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Jul
05

Fear and loathing in Trumpmerica

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George Saunders has a lengthy piece in the New Yorker based on months of up-close observation of the Trump phenomenon. Rally after rally of interviewing Trump supporters and Trump protesters. It’s a fascinating series of vignettes telling a tale of the simmering anger gripping much of America:

Where is all this anger coming from? It’s viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems. You and I approach a castle. One of us has watched only “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the other only “Game of Thrones.” What is the meaning, to the collective “we,” of yon castle? We have no common basis from which to discuss it. You, the other knight, strike me as bafflingly ignorant, a little unmoored. In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a “dove” and a “hawk,” say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional. (As a proud knight of LeftLand, I was interested to find that, in RightLand, Vince Foster has still been murdered, Dick Morris is a reliable source, kids are brainwashed “way to the left” by going to college, and Obama may yet be Muslim. I expect that my interviewees found some of my core beliefs equally jaw-dropping.)

Saunders documents the rallies he attended so we didn’t have to. Out of this, a fuller picture emerges of Trump supporters:
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Jul
03

Sunday Morning Music

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This is too cool. (h/t Nancy A.)

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Jul
02

Warren broadens her attack

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Last Saturday’s post addressed ways to disrupt commercial the forces undermining our democracy. Ways to restore balance to the Force, if you will. Today, please look at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s speech to New America’s Open Markets meeting. Warren attacks consolidation itself, not just in finance but across industries including the tech sector, as an anti-competitive trend that must be stopped by more hard-headed regulation.

Earlier this week I mentioned Warren’s roll as principled antagonist for all the right corporate lapdogs in Congress. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism echoes those thoughts in response to Warren’s Open Markets speech:

Warren is continuing to be a thorn in the side of powerful interests. And even though bona fide progressives are disappointed on her support of our misadventures in the Middle East, and her general fealty to feckless Team Dem positions outside her particularly interests, the concentration of economic power and the resulting high corporate profit share of GDP is a big part of why capitalists are partying while workers struggle. Warren is taking on a central topic that is starting to mainstream traction. Even if Warren falls well short of being the Great Progressive Hope, it’s a mistake to disregard how she uses her bully pulpit to undermine a key justification for the rise of inequality in our society: that the operation of markets is always and ever virtuous and therefore outsized pay and profits are justly earned. The more monopolist wannabes are seen as parasites, the better off we will be.

Paul Glastris writes at Washington Monthly:
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Categories : Democrats, Strategy
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Jul
01

Can you hear us now?

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“Out of touch” is a perennial criticism of candidates from both major parties. The Brexit vote in the UK was an exercise in politicians misreading their voters. This year, however, the presence of Donald Trump and His Amazing War Chest leaves Democrats at risk of developing a false sense of security. It doesn’t help that FiveThirtyEight predictions favoring Democrats just get rosier. But as I said last September, so long as the T-party controls state legislatures and the Congress, who Democrats elect as president won’t much matter.

From where many of us sit, the presidential race is a distraction unless the Democratic candidate sends sends us lawyers, guns and money, and provides coattails for our state-level candidates. Talk of landslides just worries me that Democrats will stay home and our local candidates will suffer. If voters are going to come out in November for a contest between two candidates with high disapproval ratings, they will need a reason, something to vote for.

That’s why op-eds like Sarah Eberspacher’s in the Guardian give me pause. She cautions against the tendency on the left to write off white, male, blue collar voters like those from her rural Illinois hometown (or here on the edge of Appalachia) as racist, sexist, and uneducated:

The Democratic party – and by that, I mean the party gatekeepers with power to wield media influence, which worked out great for the Brexit vote – are writing off those hardcore racists as an overblown minority that is making more noise than they can translate into votes. But overlooking “regular Joe” moderate voters like the ones who filled my childhood could be our undoing.

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Jun
30

Enforcing norms of reciprocity

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Reducing human decision-making to a binary this or that choice turns humans into Flatlanders with no other dimensions to their thinking. So the rush to explain last week’s Brexit vote as simple xenophobia or stupidity is rankling. (Don’t get me started on the complaint that people voted against their best interests.) A flush of articles examines the human psychology that led to it.

Time magazine quotes Drew Westen (“The Political Brain”):

“There’s a very legitimate reason to be concerned about immigration,” says psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University. “Unfortunately ISIS has given would-be fence-sitters the permission to vote out of some combination of conscious or unconscious prejudice or bias.” That hardly means that pro-Brexit Britons acted out of racism; it does mean that people who do traffic in racism had more power to influence voters than they would have had in more peaceable times.

Writing for Scientific American, Julia Shaw cautions that the Leave camp mirrored Donald Trump’s appeals to fear undercut the brain’s ability for rational decision-making:
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Jun
29

Just a change of conservative

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Via Paulette Mitchell Lein at Readeatlive blog.

So there were runoffs yesterday in South Carolina. This stuck out:

COLUMBIA — Voters fired a backlash against Statehouse incumbents in runoff elections Tuesday as a string of veteran lawmakers were tossed out of office, including controversial Spartanburg County Republican Sen. Lee Bright, who made gender bathrooms and defense of gun rights a cornerstone of his last months in office.

[…]

Bright, who is also known for his failed bills to track refugees resettling in South Carolina and to limit which bathrooms transgender individuals can use, lost to former state Rep. Scott Talley, a favorite of both Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Both had been critical of Bright’s over-the-top stances.

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Jun
28

To Veep or not to Veep?

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The idea of Sen. Elizabeth Warren joining Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket leaves me uneasy, as much as I would enjoy the show. Warren brings real progressive chops to a presidential campaign that could use it with the electorate in an anti-establishment mood. Plus, she brings a lot of her own star power. Warren proved yesterday in Ohio she can sure wow a crowd as Clinton cannot. And brother, can she get under Donald Trump’s skin. From the Guardian:

Warren laid into the presumptive GOP nominee, characterizing him with a now familiar line as a “small, insecure money-grubber who fights for no one but himself”.

“I’m here today because I’m with her,” she said, as Clinton stood by her side. “She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t run to Twitter to call her opponents fat pigs or dummies.

“Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States because she knows what it takes to beat a thin-skinned bully who is driven by greed and hate.”

And the crowd goes wild.

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Jun
27

Brexit: Do-Over!!!

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On Friday, global markets had their biggest daily loss ever. Larger than the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the Black Monday Crash of 1987. There have since been lots of stories of regret among Brexit ‘Leave’ voters, many of whom seem not to have understood what they were voting for.

Having seen what has happened to the Pound and to the value of pensions, they’re calling for a do-over:
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Jun
26

Tired of feeling like roadkill?

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Matt Taibbi last week took on the “lesser evilism” of a Democratic Party that seems to believe “all people who fall within a certain broad range of liberal-ish beliefs owe their votes and their loyalty to the Democratic Party.” He sees lesser evilism (think of it as a variety of TINA – There Is No Alternative) resulting from a party structure dependent on large-money donors. Often, the banks Taibbi has dissected like a cadaver:

This is why the thinking within the Democratic Party has gotten so flabby over the years. It increasingly seems to rejoice in its voters’ lack of real choices, and relies on a political formula that requires little input from anyone outside the Beltway.

It’s heavily financed by corporate money, and the overwhelming majority of its voters would never cast a vote for the nut-bar God-and-guns version of Republicanism that’s been their sole opposition for decades.

So the party gets most of its funding without having to beg for it door to door, and it gets many of its votes by default. Except for campaign-trail photo ops, mainstream Democrats barely need to leave Washington to stay in business.

Still, the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Democrats have come to believe they’ve earned their status, by being the only plausible bulwark against the Republican menace.

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Categories : Democrats, Strategy
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