Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump Nominates 'True Enemy' of Public Schools for Education Secretary

Suddenly, folks on the left are realizing that killing the US Dept. Of Ed IS a great idea, even though it's been a constant hope on the far right for decades. 

What America needs is not a cabinet position with Education in the title. What we actually need is a solid research program into what works when and where, like the National Institutes of Health, or maybe under the National Research Council.

We would be so much better off if we got rid of US Dept. Of Ed and used the money to fund research into new models of education and how to make existing educational institutions work better.

So much of what is considered to be "education" problems is actually poverty problems, and now we are going to find out that, while having a corporatist like Arne Duncan is bad enough, having an out-and-out enemy of public education like DeVos in the job is enough to ruin your whole decade.

Standard GOP playbook -- appoint union-busters to head the Department of Labor, appoint people who hate taxes, unions, and public education to head Department of Education, appoint morons who think climate science is "politicized" to head agencies like EPA and NASA.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

WORD (Cong. John Lewis)

"I would say to the young people, the young protesters, and those not so young: Accept a way of peace, believe in the way of love, believe in the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence," Lewis told The Associated Press. 

"Never become bitter. Never become angry. And do whatever you can to speak truth to power, and be hopeful, be optimistic.

"The struggle is not a struggle that lasts one day or a few weeks or a few years. It is a struggle of a lifetime."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Rule #1Believe the autocrat

He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler's anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: "The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly" rather than those protesters' "liver should have been spread all over the pavement." Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one. For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different; if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted "Lock her up!" They, and he, meant every word. If Trump does not go after Hillary Clinton on his first day in office, if he instead focuses, as his acceptance speech indicated he might, on the unifying project of investing in infrastructure (which, not coincidentally, would provide an instant opportunity to reward his cronies and himself), it will be foolish to breathe a sigh of relief. Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.

To begin jailing his political opponents, or just one opponent, Trump will begin by trying to capture of the judicial system. Observers and even activists functioning in the normal-election mode are fixated on the Supreme Court as the site of the highest-risk impending Trump appointment. There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court. And since Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas, his pick for attorney general will be no less important. Imagine former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie going after Hillary Clinton on orders from President Trump; quite aside from their approach to issues such as the Geneva Conventions, the use of police powers, criminal justice reforms, and other urgent concerns.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Best plan ever to end the electoral college

I've just signed this crucial petition to stop the election of unpopular Presidents who don't win the popular vote.

Join me here:

What would you prefer, election reform or collapse?

I took a lot of political science classes as my electives of choice and what I really remember concluding most from that period was that democracy works best in an expanding economy -- when there's more pie for all every year, the division of the pie is less likely to promote warfare.

But for 8 years now, the US has been mainlining what would, historically, have been jet fuel in economic terms, and it has only served to bring us off the mat and get us shambling slowly towards a "recovery" that basically means servicing the machines that could take over even more of what used to be called "work."

That evidence -- that even with the historical constraints on economic growth obliterated, there is no real growth to be had -- makes it undeniable that growth is over, because the natural world is no longer a bountiful storehouse of easily accessed natural capital.

We have consumed and polluted and wasted to the point that now all our economic voodoo tricks don't reanimate the lifeless economy, they simply heat it up in that one spot but only for as long as the stimulus is applied directly. It's really hard to stimulate a corpse.

And so, instead of an expanding pie, giving each group a bit more each year, even if not as much as others -- making it possible to avoid warfare over the relative sizes of the slices -- we are now in the era of the permanently contracting pie (economy), and it's not clear that democracies survive this state very well.

One thing that is now even more clear, we must have election reform or we are likely to have an even rougher go of it, as in conflicts that will make the post-Yugoslavia Balkan states seem tranquil.

Our archaic 18th C. "vote for one only" system ("first past the post," winner take all) is as zero-sum as it gets, and even in the best of times it encourages the group conflict we must learn to avoid. If we don't adopt better voting systems (instant runoff voting for single-winner races, full representation systems for legislative bodies) rapidly, the risks of metaphorical conflict becoming actual conflict and social collapse increase dramatically. In an expanding economy, "wait till next year" is much more possible because there is a fundamental optimism that the years ahead will be better, so why fight?

But in a relentlessly contracting economy, the dominant groups can lock out the others -- instead of all sharing in the pain, the winners can get more while the losers get lots less, AND those divisions can result in permanent lockout, as the so-called "meritocracy" converts the privileged dominant groups to an aristocracy of health and access to education and resources that creates the hard caste structure recognizable in feudal societies throughout history.

Dealing with economic contraction is hard and requires compromise and good will --- but winner-take-all election systems apply belt sanders to tender places instead of soothing ointments.

Full representation election methods preserve majority rule but also do more -- they make sure that minorities have a real rather than figurative seat at the table, so that every citizen can say that they are represented (that they helped elect someone) and have someone who cares about their concerns in power.

Because of winner-take-all methods, the US is about to shift wildly in its national policies. This is purely as an artifact of using zero-sum winner-take-all election rules that take a tiny overall shift in voting and magnify it to a wildly inflated result that has the effect of giving more than half of American voters no voice whatsoever in national policy. That is a recipe for revolution.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Who is James Comey?

Spread the word:

James Comey is Gavrilo Princip -- a zealot-nobody who with a single rash and illegal act forcibly altered the course of history and sparked the calamity that caused the deaths of tens of millions and destruction on a scale the world had not before then known.

If Comey's assassination attempt on HRC works, instead of "The Guns of August," then, -- if there are future historians -- they can write about "The Nukes of November" when the world was slowly drawn into a catastrophic maelstrom by adherence to pre-assassination alliances and understandings.