Daily Archive: 09/23/2013

Sep 23 2013

The Pursuit of Ivy

My college days were just horrible.  My professors were dopes.  I don’t think I was wrong to go for a liberal arts degree with a dual major in history and political science.  I studied Journalism at Boston University too.

Crazy White House Proposal: Rank Colleges Based On How Much Graduates Earn

By Les Leopold, Alternet

September 19, 2013

The Obama administration is transporting Wall Street logic into higher education by proposing to measure the value of a college by the earnings of its graduates. This conceptual coup may be the best news for Wall Street since the abolition of Glass-Steagall.

We need not repeat all that has been written about how this money-making metric misses the point of college; about how students should be studying to become good citizens and leaders, to find and know themselves, to discover which pursuits in life best suit them, to develop an inquiring mind and so on. But such musings, however admirable, miss the main point: Using future earnings as a measuring stick transforms the entire notion of higher education into yet another financial instrument. No doubt some Wall Street hustlers are already dreaming up how to create derivatives they can sell to insure students and their families against less than expected earning outcomes from the college investment. Wow, an entire new casino in the making, right up there with the ethanol market.



This making-money metric illustrates how far we’ve drifted into a new era of financial hegemony, which I’m calling the billionaire bailout society. A generation or two ago, Obama’s proposal would have met with derision, and not just from obstructionist Republicans. For the WWII and baby boomer generations it was honorable to serve-to help make your community and your country a better place. After so much war and destruction, and after so much poverty and discrimination, it was a badge of honor to join the Peace Corps or help build a cooperative or community organization to serve the disadvantaged. Even wealthy political elites like the Kennedys made it clear that they considered public service a much higher calling than just making money. You didn’t have to be a radical or even a liberal to believe that public service was a good in itself. Going to college gave you special access to develop a deeper humanistic view of the word, to find your calling, and to sharpen the skills needed to help make the world a better place instead of making seven figures. How quaint!



What we don’t need are more college graduates headed to the financial casinos eager to gamble away our nation’s wealth. You want to rank colleges based on what their graduates do? OK, why not see how many graduates actually contribute directly to the common good? If that were the case we’d be tracking the number who went into the helping professions: How many teach in disadvantaged areas? How many provide healthcare to underserved populations? How many build businesses and cooperatives for the unemployed?  How many serve low-wage workers in their struggles for decent wages and working conditions? How many are working to protect the environment or enhance human rights here and abroad?

Sep 23 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Free to Be Hungry

The word “freedom” looms large in modern conservative rhetoric. Lobbying groups are given names like FreedomWorks; health reform is denounced not just for its cost but as an assault on, yes, freedom. Oh, and remember when we were supposed to refer to pommes frites as “freedom fries”? [..]

The right’s definition of freedom, however, isn’t one that, say, F.D.R. would recognize. In particular, the third of his famous Four Freedoms – freedom from want – seems to have been turned on its head. Conservatives seem, in particular, to believe that freedom’s just another word for not enough to eat.

Hence the war on food stamps, which House Republicans have just voted to cut sharply even while voting to increase farm subsidies.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Social Security and Medicare Cuts May Be Coming — Here’s Why

It’s Autumn, when a politician’s fancy turns to thoughts of a Grand Bargain.

Right now it looks as if the two sides are at an impasse. But the president’s “no negotiations” posture only applies to the debt ceiling, and his budget still includes the “chained CPI” cut to Social Security. The Republicans who are attempting to force a showdown over Obamacare are still railing against the programs they call “entitlements.”

They’re all looking for a face-saving deal, and Social Security and Medicare could very well become its Ground Zero.

Robert Kuttner: The Government Shutdown Boomerang

Now it gets really interesting.

Republicans in the House are determined to shut down the government, by holding defunding of Obamacare hostage for continued funding of the rest of the budget. In past budget negotiations, Obama has often been too quick to fold a strong hand.

But this time, the Tea Party badly miscalculated. They targeted Obama’s personal crown jewel, the one piece of progressive social legislation that the president won’t throw under the bus. So a showdown is increasingly likely, and Democrats could well win it.

Yochai Benkler: In secret, Fisa court contradicted US supreme court on constitutional rights

Declassified Fisa rulings reveal a permissive approach to fourth amendment violations disturbingly at odds with supreme justices’

On Tuesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) declassified an opinion in which it explained why the government’s collection of records of all Americans’ phone calls is constitutional, and that if there is a problem with the program, it is a matter of political judgment, not constitutional law. So, should Americans just keep calm and carry on phoning? Not really.

Instead, we should worry about a court that, lacking a real adversarial process to inform it, failed while taking its best shot at explaining its position to the public to address the most basic, widely-known counter-argument to its position. The opinion does not even mention last year’s unanimous US supreme court decision on the fourth amendment and GPS tracking, a decision in which all three opinions include strong language that may render the NSA’s phone records collection program unconstitutional. No court that had been briefed by both sides would have ignored the grave constitutional issues raised by the three opinions of Justices Scalia, Sotomayor, and Alito in United States v Jones. And no opinion that fails to consider these should calm anyone down.

Ralph Nader: Can the “New” Trumka Trump Trumka?

Sitting in the office of the AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, one sees books on labor history, economics, corporate crimes and proposals for change piled up everywhere. Perhaps that helps explain why Mr. Trumka, a former coal miner who became a lawyer, presented his besieged organization’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles last week with a fiery visionary “big tent” design to develop more alliances with citizen and worker organizations that are not trade unions.

Citing common ground on some public policies, Mr. Trumka wants to strengthen ties with the likes of the NAACP, Working America, the Sierra Club, the Economic Policy Institute, Women’s groups, and the Taxi Drivers, the Domestic Workers Alliance and worker centers. He would like some of these organizations to be brought into the governing bodies of labor unions and the AFL-CIO’s executive council.

Henry Porter: American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

The death toll from firearms in the US suggests that the country is gripped by civil war

Last week, Starbucks asked its American customers to please not bring their guns into the coffee shop. This is part of the company’s concern about customer safety and follows a ban in the summer on smoking within 25 feet of a coffee shop entrance and an earlier ruling about scalding hot coffee. After the celebrated Liebeck v McDonald’s case in 1994, involving a woman who suffered third-degree burns to her thighs, Starbucks complies with the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s recommendation that drinks should be served at a maximum temperature of 82C.

Although it was brave of Howard Schultz, the company’s chief executive, to go even this far in a country where people are better armed and only slightly less nervy than rebel fighters in Syria, we should note that dealing with the risks of scalding and secondary smoke came well before addressing the problem of people who go armed to buy a latte. There can be no weirder order of priorities on this planet.

Sep 23 2013

On This Day In History September 23

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 23 is the 266th day of the year (267th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 99 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1964, the Paris Opera, Palais Garnier, unveils a stunning new ceiling painted as a gift by Belorussian-born artist Marc Chagall, who spent much of his life in France. The ceiling was typical of Chagall’s masterpieces–childlike in its apparent simplicity yet luminous with color and evocative of the world of dreams and the subconscious. . . .

. . . . Andre Malraux, the French minister of culture, commissioned him to design a new ceiling for the Paris Opera after seeing Chagall’s work in Daphnis et Chloe. Working with a surface of 560 square meters, Chagall divided the ceiling into color zones that he filled with landscapes and figures representing the luminaries of opera and ballet. The ceiling was unveiled on September 23, 1964, during a performance of the same Daphnis et Chloe. As usual, a few detractors condemned Chagall’s work as overly primitive, but this criticism was drowned out in the general acclaim for the work. In 1966, as a gift to the city that had sheltered him during World War II, he painted two vast murals for New York’s Metropolitan Opera House (1966).

In 1977, France honored Chagall with a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. He continued to work vigorously until his death in 1985 at the age of 97.

The unveiling of the ceiling coincided with the publication of The Phantom of the Opera (“Le Fantôme de l’Opéra”) by Gaston Leroux.

It was first published as a serialization in “Le Gaulois” from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910. Initially, the story sold very poorly upon publication in book form and was even out of print several times during the twentieth century, despite the success of its various film and stage adaptations. The most notable of these were the 1925 film depiction and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical. The Phantom of the Opera musical is now the longest running Broadway show in history, and one of the most lucrative entertainment enterprises of all time.

Sep 23 2013

Sunday Movie Showcase

Sep 23 2013

Sunday Train: Rapid Rail and Pedal to the Metal Climate Change Policy (pt 2)

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

Last week, I considered the concept of Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policies: the kind of policies that we will now have to pursue if we become serious about Climate Change, because of the 16+ years we will have wasted since 2000 that would have given us the opportunity to pursue a more gradualist approach. At that time, there was a debate that could be characterized as an argument between “incrementalism” and “purism”. However, at present, and therefore by the time the current administration will be completed, we have passed the point of asking “how fast should we go”, and have passed into “how fast can we go” territory. Hence the Pedal to the Metal approach.

Last week, I did not rehash Micheal Hoexter’s overview of a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policy, but rather looked at the leading edge of that policy package, what I dubbed “front-runner” policies, and looked the Steel Interstate as one example of a front-runner policy for a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policy package. This week, I am going to turn from Rapid Freight Rail and consider what kind of Rapid Passenger Rail policy would qualify as a front-runner policy for a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change Policy.