Tag Archives: Politics, Power, Activism

Political Typology Quizzes Annoy Me

I put this on Facebook.  Then, 40 minutes later, I had this stab at an explanation…

According to this: http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz I’m a a “liberal.” And in this one I am “solid liberal” or “post-modern” depending on how I answer. http://people-press.org/typology/quiz/. Why do I find myself arguing with lots of liberals then?

I find myself able to take either side in almost all of these forced choice pars in these things.  They are designed to squeeze people into set categories.  Neither one of them even has “progressive” as a political ideology.  I am not sure it is one, but it is worth thinking about. Off the top of my head, an embrace of pragmatism as an approach to knowledge and action is part of being progressive.  Let’s talk about what can work for this problem and not look to “ideology” to decide how we should approach an issue.

Three examples come to mind.

One, schools and religion.  I don’t think banning any whisper of religion from public schools is the best reading of the establishment clause.  As  I get it, even the supreme court recognizes religious expression as a form of culture.  The bright line is coercion or proselytizing.  However, for many schools or other public entities, it is simpler to ban than to handle the nuance of deciding if a menorah, cross, or whatever is clearly cultural as opposed to endorsement of a religion.  To pull it off, you need to trust officials to use judgement.  So, a pragmatic response is to figure out how to balance trusting judgement with means to redress clear violations of religious freedom and the establishment clause.

Second, educational funding.  I had an interesting discussion the other day with a friend and I mentioned that I would rather have MORE diversity among schools, and if a school choice- voucher system accomplishes that, fine.  Basically, focus public education policy on some broad outcomes and free up schools to differentiate and yes, compete, for families and their students.  Among his concerns was what happens if school officials are given too much autonomy and they enact discrimination or other harms.  He is invoking racial segregation under Jim Crow.  I get it; we don’t want to re-create that, but a system where each family and each school can be distinctive is not the same as forcing some to go to inferior schools.  Smaller schools that can create a sense of difference and cohesion will work better and hence a liberal approach of equalizing inputs through enforced sameness is a mistake.

Third, the tax code.  I believe in progressive taxes.  There are two reasons.  One, the wealthiest should pay more proportionally because their wealth is created and supported by more of government spending- courts, police, military, transportation, disaster relief, education (yes, we pay to educate the workers who create value in firms the wealthiest own).  Two, apart from economic fairness, we believe in social fairness.  Capitalism always exacerbates inequality and therefore it is good to tax progressively to create avenues to reduce inequality.  The periods of the greatest amount of activity to reduce inequality in the US, roughly the 1930s to the 1980s, saw the lowest rates of inequality.  Since the onset of neo-liberal economics in the a980s, roughly, economic growth increased along with gross measures of inequality.   Anyway, this is my case for progressive taxation.

However, that does not mean defending the current status quo tax code (at the federal level).  I’ve not done the math or seen anyone else do it, but I can imagine getting behind a simplified, progressive, LOWER set of tax rates.  The complexity of the tax code sucks up a lot of human capital.  Is it necessary?  Well, yes, for me.  I can’t stand doing income taxes.  What would happen if we had federal marginal rates at 0% (for people at living wage or less), 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25%  No other exemptions or deductions.  This would decouple a dynamic national economy, as well as personal financial decisions like getting a mortgage, from the tax code.

It would also obsolesce a chunk of the accounting profession.  But maybe their human capital could be redirected to tasks that they may like more and may create other economic or social value…

But, as to typology and ideology, I’ve never seen a “liberal” politician discuss anything like this.

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Filed under Political theory, Politics, Power, Activism

Torture still not cool.

Short thought:

Even IF the attack on Osama BL had been 100% due to torturing prisoners, it would not mean a vindication of the torture cheerleaders. Why? 1) It is only a colossal failure of the imagination to think that any action is the result of one and only one course of action. There are always other ways. 2) What price can we put on our national integrity? As John McCain said once: it is not about them, it is about us.

Source for McCain (WaPo article 2005):

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Filed under activism, Terrorism, Torture

The False Ideology of a Neutral Center

I took the plunge and posted this on facebook:

I am irked by “centrists” like Matt miller on KCRW’s Left Right and Center who think center ALWAYS means that left and right are equivalent in their commitment to ideology over good ideas and therefore the only possible solutions to economy, politics, and government is some sort of “third way.” And they think non-choice is non-ideological.

On a side note, I never know how much politics or “political economy” (the broader interrelated questions of fairness, governance, philosophy, and values) to put on FB. I have often said, and should write more about the double-edged sword of FB- it is based on network growth and inter-connectivity, but the broader a network becomes, the more limited it’s uses. At the extreme, FB will become an on-line version of Lake Wobegone nomrs: to avoid unsettling anyone, only discuss the weather in polite company.

Anyway, Matt Miller, the host and apparent “arbiter” on Left, Right and Center (a great show even if it is made by the communists socialists Nazis at NPR,was on a tear about the need for a new label for “radical centrists.” He made his version of a passionate plea for now being the time for a brave new “third way” politics (was he around during the 1990s when Blair and Giddens did this? and, um, that US president, named, um, Clinton?)

Matt Miller makes some good points, sometimes. But I find he often starts where much of the “mainstream”media seem to: that the excesses of left and right are always there, always misguided, always driven by ideology over facts and therefore the only hope for progress comes in some third way. Even as his OWN SHOW has left and right weaving in and out of agreement on issues like the Fed, China, and Afghanistan, he cannot let go of the animating narrative of his life.

Sometimes the “very” left is simply correct. For example, there is growing wealth and wage inequality in the US, and tax policies have much to do with it. Or, the distortions in health care of the US compared to other comparable societies is due to all the money that flows to the various sectors of the Health-industrial complex. No amount of compromise with the right can make those critiques go away.

Rarely, the “right” is correct. Ron Paul wants to audit the Fed. I am with Bob Scheer on this one. The Fed as it has become run is a distortion of democracy in our economy. I can agree with some critiques of changing or weakening values in US society, although I won’t agree with solutions or causes, probably.

So, I would rather Miller’s idea of a radical center be more of arbiter between right and left than always elevate its (false) sense of being above the messy fray by being aghast at the ideology around it. There is no non-ideological center…

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Filed under activism, Media, Political theory, Politics, Power, Activism

Who Are You Fighting For? Health Care and Public vs Private Tragedy

Organizing for America- the organizing branch of the Obama campiagn that stuck around afterwards, has a great example of using technology to rally people.

I wrote the following to Chris Carney and as I got into it I wanted to give it a broader audience.

Dear Rep. Carney,

I am here for Betsy and Lisa [Names changed]-

We must pass health insurance reform now.  Too many people and businesses face warped incentives or grim and miserable health due to the burdens of our perverse and broken system.

Betsyworks full tie in a private child care facility.  She is a single mom.  She often baby sits infants for many families and is always willing to help people with sick children or other events.  Her selflessness allows others to pursue their careers as professors, doctors, and business leaders.  Her employer, a day care center subsidized by a local employer, does not provide coverage.  She had such severe back problems she could not sleep.  Friends pooled $300 to help her see a chiropractor.  She limited coverage now, but is still an injury away from financial crisis.

Lisa has leukemia.  She works cleaning people’s homes.  She cleans and cooks for her husband every day, even when he has been furloughed or been between jobs.  She stays married to a disinterested, neglectful and nearly abusive husband because she could never afford individual coverage, or even get it with her leukemia.  Where is her freedom to live her life?  The combination of patriarchy and our health care system is deeply unfair and sexist.  I think only the strength of her personality and her adult son keeps her husband from raising his hand against her.

Millions are uninsured.  In 2009, one study found 45,000 Americans died due to lack of coverage. [1] They used a rigorous method used by researchers in 1993 who found around half that number then.  Among those 45,000 are more than 2,000 uninsured veterans.[2] On 9/11, 3,000 of our citizens were innocent victims and became iconic heroes.  We endure 15 9/11s every year through 45,000 private tragedies of martyrs to a broken healthcare system midwife by a corrupt political system.  We have marshaled billions of dollars and 100,000s of soldiers to avenge the fallen of 9/11.  Meanwhile, we engage in trivial “death panel” and “reconciliation” food fights at home while our fellow citizens are chewed up and spit out as corpses by the broken health care system.   Why should the public tragedy of 9/11 count for so much more all these years than the sum of 45,000 private tragedies year in and year out?

Where is the justice in that? How is that fair?


[1] Heavey, Susan.  Sept 2009.  “Study Links 45,000 Deaths to Lack of Health Insurance.”  Reuters.  http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE58G6W520090917

[2] Physicians for A National Health Program. Nov 10, 2009. “Over 2,200 veterans died in 2008 due to lack of health insurance.”  http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/november/over_2200_veterans_.php\

Note: Cross-posted at: Spilling Ink.

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Filed under activism, policy, Politics, Power, Activism, sociology, technology

Political IQ Quiz

This is fun. Take it and see how you do. If you are feeling brave, post your score below.

What’s Your Political News IQ?

Take the Quiz

Pew Science Knowledge Quiz

To test your knowledge of prominent people and major events in the news, we invite you to take our short 12-question quiz. Then see how you did in comparison with 1,003 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a January 14-17, 2010 national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

via Pew Political IQ – Pew Research Center.

I got an 11/12. As good as 8% of the population.

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Filed under Politics, Power, Activism

Local Health Care Forum

Helping to Publicize…

On behalf of the Central Susquehanna Citizen’s Coalition, I would like to
invite you to a forum entitled

“Re-Imagining Healthcare in Pennsylvania: The Next Five Years and Beyond”

to be held next Thursday, May 7, at 7:00pm, in the Union County Government
Center at 155 N 15th St, Lewisburg.

A panel of five healthcare professionals will discuss the current state of
healthcare in PA and proposed solutions for the future, to be followed by a
interactive discussion with the audience.  The panelists are

* Allison Clark, ACTION Health
* Jill Fecker, A Community Clinic, Inc.
* Chuck Pennacchio, Healthcare for All Pennsylvania
* Andrew Sandusky, Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians
* Amy Wolaver, Dept of Economics, Bucknell University

Healthcare reform is coming in 2009.  This is a crucial time for all to
become informed and engaged in the issue.  This event is hosted by CSCC, an
all-volunteer grassroots organization that reaches out to connect, inform,
and encourage the Central Susquehanna Valley to participate in the
democratic process.

Please share this information with anyone who may be interested.  For more
information, visit our website at http://www.csccnow.org.

–Ben Vollmayr-Lee

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Filed under activism, lewisburg, Politics, Power, Activism

Resources on Internet and Politics

Participating in orgtheory.net thread I whipped up these resources which I thought ought to be useful here also.

Question:

How has the Internet changed political organizations? Is it just one tool in the service of traditional politics? Or is there a new politics associated with online life?

I agree that this is going to be a really important area of study in the future. In talking about how protests get organized with activists, it’s pretty clear that Facebook has turned into the medium of choice given its flexibility and relational scope. If nothing else Facebook helps cut down the coordination costs of collective action, but I suspect there’s an identity element to the story as well.

So why don’t we have very many studies about the impact of the internet on other sorts of organizational decision-making and/or organizing? Most of the studies that look at organizational life and the internet that I’ve seen tend to look at the counterproductive aspects of the internet (e.g., lost hours of productivity due to blog reading). What about the efficiency-enhancing aspects of online coordination? Anyone?

I feel like there is a lot that is at least descriptive or celebratory of lowering the coordination costs for civil society or political organizations.  You mean more rigorous, empirical research?  And do you mean campaign organizations (as oppose to governing or politically engaged?)

A few things I pulled off my shelf-
Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons for Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics Techout, Zephyr and Streeter,Thomas. Has stories from campaign and some framing/theory chapters.

Society Online Edited by Howard, Philip and Jones, Steve. Has a chapter on voting and Internet in politics 1996-2000 (wow! Pre-history!).

Globalization from Below: Transnational Activists and Protest Networks della POrta, Donatella et al. Has a Chapter on Networks and Organizing.

Causewired By Watson, Tom. Whole book is rah-rah on wired activism. HAs chapter on politics (6, I think).

The Media in the Network Society: Browsing, NEws, Filters, and Citizenship Several chapters on politics, political systems, case studies of other countries (East Timor, Portugal e.g)

Is any of this on the mark?

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Filed under Books, Information and Communication Technology, Networks, organization theory, Politics, Power, Activism, Protest, Research, sociology

$819 Billion to show us that transparency is not enough — Authentic Organizations

$819 Billion to show us that transparency is not enough — Authentic Organizations
Rachel asserts that “accounting is really an exercise about setting our priorities and ensuring that we are acting on and accounting for those priorities. ” Thus, Rachel recommends that organizations be more transparent about their accounting (and distribution of resources), so that they can make their organizational values “crystal clear”.

Yes, I thought. The more data, the better we can see where an organization is focusing its resources. Then, we can draw conclusions about whether the organization is doing what it says it values.

Thanks CV.  Need to read this more carefully and x-post to Org theory blog for class.

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Filed under economics, Government

Terrorist Fist Bump Emoticon

Updated on Nov 20:

==@@==

or

==3E==

Are officially sanctioned emoticons.  Sanctioned by me.  :<p

–Original post–

As far as I know, invented this.  You read it hear first.

I proudly pronounce the 100% American terrorist fist bump.

–8 8–

Tips welcome.

UPDATED:

How about this:

–3 E–

See its two different fists.  And, it avoids the messiness of the ** thing.

Or,

–@ @–

That is Ok.  Looks like 2 roses also though.  Feel free to vote below.

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Filed under humor, Politics, Power, Activism

Brought tears to my eyes…

At the end of this long WaPo article on an 89 year old, Black member of the White House staff, and his wife who also worked there, came this absolute gut wrencher.

They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They’d go vote together. She’d lean on her cane with one hand, and on him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she’d get supper going afterward. They’d gone over their Election Day plans more than once.

“Imagine,” she said.

“That’s right,” he said.

On Monday Helene had a doctor’s appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.

“I woke up and my wife didn’t,” he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen.

The lady whom he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

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Filed under Politics, Power, Activism