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Back to the Pipe and the Pole

Here is a letter I received a few days ago from the President of my University.

Last summer, I formed an advisory task force to assist the University in developing a plan to prepare for probable reductions in state funding for higher education and to assist the University in developing a new instructional resource model. The task force consists of faculty, academic deans, administrators, and staff.

On December 18, 2010, the task force held an open forum. At that forum, Provost Mearns, who is co-chair of the task force, discussed the status of the task force’s efforts to assist in developing a contingency plan for next year’s budget. I attended the forum.

Since then, the task force has continued to provide me with additional recommendations. Those recommendations are detailed in a written report that is now available on the task force’s webpage.

This report recommends overall budget target ranges for each of the University’s major sectors: academic colleges, academic support units, and university administrative units. I have accepted these sector recommendations. In December, I provided differentiated budget targets to each of the vice presidents who manage university administrative units, and I directed them to prepare a contingency plan to meet their unit’s respective target. They have submitted their plans to me, which I am currently reviewing.

The task force’s report also provided specific recommendations about differentiated targets for each of the academic colleges. After developing a list of strategic factors and applying those factors to readily available data, the task force assigned each academic college to one of three groups, or bands. As discussed in the report, a college or an administrative unit can meet its proposed budget target through both permanent expense reductions and reliable revenue enhancements.

After reviewing an initial draft of the report, I met at length with Provost Mearns, Vice President George Walker and Tim Long, the University’s Budget Director, to review the strategic factors and the data relied upon by the task force to develop its differentiated recommendations for each of the academic colleges. In making my decisions, I relied upon the same strategic factors developed by the task force, including: how a college’s programs aligned with the University’s primary strategic goals; a college’s financial performance relative to the other colleges at the University; the extent to which a college has programs, including doctoral programs, with relatively few students; an assessment of the productivity and impact of the college’s research faculty; the success of a college’s students as measured by undergraduate retention and graduation rates and post-graduate licensing exams; and the ability of a college to develop differential tuition plans or increase enrollment above existing limits.

After this review, I accepted all of the task force’s recommendations with respect to the colleges’ budget targets, with one exception. I have delegated to Provost Mearns the responsibility of establishing differentiated targets for the various academic support units that report to him.

Provost Mearns has communicated the college targets to the deans, and he has asked them to provide him with their college’s plan by February 22, 2011. He has also directed the deans to consult with their respective faculties and staff in developing their college’s plan.

By early March, I anticipate that our collective strategy for meeting this financial challenge will begin to become more clear. Governor Kasich will present his proposed budget to the legislature on or before March 15. I anticipate that, when his budget is released, we will know much more about two of the most important factors that are driving this process: the approximate amount of any reduction in the state subsidy for higher education, and the limit on any possible increase in undergraduate tuition. By that time, we will also have had an opportunity to evaluate the various college and administrative plans that have been submitted.

When we have more information from the Governor, I will hold an open forum in March to discuss our University plan.

I know that this process is difficult and that it is causing some anxiety and uncertainty. I believe, however, that we have established a collaborative and transparent process that will enable the University to overcome this challenge. Indeed, I am encouraged by the constructive contributions that so many of you have already made to our contingency planning process. Therefore, I am confident that we will emerge from this process as a stronger institution — which is our goal.

Thank you for your service to our students, our University, and our community.

Indeed. To those of you who still believe in the American Dream, let me explain how it really works for you. Say Jane wants to grow up and become a Doctor. But Jane and her family live piss poor, so she works hard in High School, gets good grades in accelerated courses and takes part in track and cheerleading or some such other extracurricular nonsense that will look good on college applications. She gets accepted into a good school and manages to keep from getting pregnant. What a stand up gal Jane is, don’t you think? She gets some scholarships. Good for her! She gets Pell Grants and subsidized and unsubsidized loans through FAFSA. That’s our girl.

Before you know it she is accepted into Harvard Medical School and graduates with honors. Bravo! The problem is, now Jane has upwards of $200,000 worth of student loans to pay back. She gets married and begins practice as a pediatrician, her lifelong dream. But it will be a while before she begins to really rake in the dough and there are medical malpractice lawsuits on the horizon. Nonetheless, she and her husband, a college professor, are living well, having babies and attending church on Sundays. Everything seems fine until disaster strikes. Her mother is still piss poor and has just suffered from a stroke. A neighbor finds her laying face down in her apartment surrounded by urine and her own feces. Jane’s mother is admitted to the hospital and is soon discharged. Incontinent, paralyzed from the waist down and unable to take care of herself, Jane’s mother is just above the income threshold for medicaid and there are limited funds. She has no Health Insurance and therefore cannot afford to live in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility, so Jane has to quit her job to take care of her mother, as her husband is unwilling to quit his. The financial problems caused by the fact that Jane can no longer supplement the family income as well as the demands of taking care of a sick elderly woman takes a toll on their marriage, and Jane’s husband starts banging his secretary. They get a divorce and the children are heartbroken. Jane is now a single mother with no job. She still has student loans and legal fees to pay back, no home because she can’t afford a mortgage, and three kids to put through college. Her oldest daughter Sarah is devastated by the break up of her family and commits suicide. Three months later, Jane’s mother dies due to inadequate medical care. Jane’s American Dream has turned into an American Nightmare.

Sounds extreme, right? Wrong. Things like this are happening everywhere. I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to pay for college, and I will explain why. Most people have an idea of the average college student’s financial situation. A freshman will have mom and dad foot most of the bill and private loans will take care of the rest, right?

Wrong.

Take me for example. I graduated from that Shithole High School a semester early with decent grades and community service. Go me, right? I figured I might as well try to go to college, so I briefly (and by briefly, I mean for about two seconds) thought about going into the military and even told the Hell Hole High School that those were my plans so they would let me graduate early. I took the ASVAB tests and got excellent scores, fielding calls from every military branch recruiter known to man telling me to join so I could become an officer. Of course, I am not going to go into the Military. I am a pacifist. So I changed my phone number to get rid of the recruiters and enrolled at the local junior college, with plans to save money on Gen Eds in mind. Problem was, my Dad makes too much money for me to get FAFSA and we are somewhat estranged. I had to work my tail off and go to School part time so I could get taken off of his tax returns, as a student has to be enrolled in school full time to be on their parents tax returns after they’re eighteen and to still be on their parents health insurance plan.

In any case, I no longer have Health Insurance but now that I’m off his taxes I go to School overtime, supplemented by a hefty financial aid award. But get this!

President Obama and his aides have spent a good bit of time over the last several weeks talking about the importance of education. Now they announce that they plan to cut spending on Pell grants, the big student-aid program that helps students in (roughly) the bottom half of the income distribution. As Jackie Calmes explains:

Pell grants for needy college students would be eliminated for summer classes, and graduate students would start accruing interest immediately on federal loans, though they would not have to pay until after they graduate; both changes are intended to help save $100 billion over 10 years to offset the costs of maintaining Pell grants for nine million students, according to administration officials.

Oh, fantastic! Keep in mind that my situation is not unique. Many students are like me, with families either too poor or too unwilling to help pay for school. I have a friend, for example, who had to run away from home when she was in Hell High School because her Step Father was beating her mother. She supported herself with two jobs and help from family and friends until she graduated, and now she has classes with me. I don’t know how she does it, because she is forced by FAFSA to file as a dependent even though she receives no help from her family and supports herself completely. She is awarded funds based on the assumption that her parents help her when in reality she has to pay for full time school as well as everything else.

And why is it that school is so expensive? Gods only know. The cost of living has increased exponentially since my parents were in college. It is easy for some stuck-in-the past 1950’s holdover to lecture one of us stupid delinquent teenagers about how THEY did it when they were our age so why can’t we? Well, I feel like saying to these idiots, you’re the ignorant fools who elected conservative Presidents and congresses for the past several decades and caused the inflation and budget cuts that led to all of these problems. Get over yourself.

Not only that, but tuition is obscenely expensive since now colleges are run more like businesses instead of academic institutions that shape young minds and prepare the leaders of tomorrow. I have to pay thousands of dollars for Professors to teach me the same bull shit I’ve been learning since the sixth grade (which is not to say I don’t learn a lot in College these days from certain professors, but I digress) and then once I and many students have paid several more thousands to complete an undergraduate degree two thirds of us STILL won’t be able to get a job. And people wonder why our education system is so behind.

Well, one might say, you may not be achieving all of your fancy starry eyed dreams but at least you are bettering yourself for the real world. Maybe you’ll be a hospital administrator instead of a chemical engineer but at least you have the right to a comfortable lifestyle and a reasonable retirement, right? Wrong.

So far, Obama has had the following “bright ideas” and has proposed them to Congress:

(1) Obama proposed (and Congress passed) a $112 Billion REDUCTION in revenues coming into the Social Security trust fund for this year; that is a cut of 30% in workers’ contributions to the Fund. I think we can be pretty sure this $112 Billion annual cut in Social Security taxes will be made permanent with the full agreement of Obama. It won’t take long, at that rate, for Social Security to drain its fund (and current surplus) and go out of business.

(2) Obama has proposed a 50% REDUCTION in federal aid to the program that helps poor people pay heating bills for their homes

(3) Obama is proposing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go out of business, which will make it harder — if not impossible — for lower-income and middle-income people to buy their homes instead of paying endless rents

(4) Obama is proposing that the interest homeowners pay for their mortgages NO longer be fully deductible on their income taxes. In the early years of any mortgage, the bulk of the monthly mortgage payment goes to pay the interest on the mortgage; having that great sum be deductible has made it possible for people to buy homes and not default on their mortgages when finances are tight (as they often are when new homeowners are just starting out).

The result of Obama’s “bright” ideas, numbers (3) and (4), will be to make it harder for current homeowners to SELL their homes, will DEFLATE the value of their homes, will cause more people to default on their mortgages, and will create a situation where communities will take in LESS in the way of property taxes because of the number of vacant, abandoned homes that will become liabilities.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
And Obama is doing all of this cutting less than two months after signing into law tax CUTS for the wealthiest Americans.

The Republicans have the EXACT right Democrat in the White House for their evil purposes. Obama is: (1) helping the Republicans realize their decades-long goal of destroying the Social Security program, (2) proposing policies that will create an even wider division between the “haves” and “have-nots” in America, and (3)proposing policies that will create a sub-class of Americans that the top one percent of Americans will be able to reduce to economic slavery.

That’s right. So long house in the ‘burbs. Bye bye white picket fence, 2.4 children and Labrador Retriever. S’later retirement fund, pensions, IRA. Hi poverty, what it do destitution? We’re the leaders of tomorrow. Nice to meetcha!

It just won’t do. Obama is a Republican Dream, not an American Dream. Why, just look at the cover of one of his famous “books.”

The Audacity of Nope

To Obama, this is the American Dream. Jane’s life would be everyone’s life with the policies he is currently championing. Can you believe this is happening? Well, I can. I’ve been saying who Obama is from the get-go. All it took was reading his idea of the American Dream in the pages of this book, where he talked about cutting Social Security and used Reagan as an example of a President to emulate. He’s stuck to his word, too. And has managed to unite this divided nation of ours- against him. On the 100the anniversary of Reagan’s whatever it was I was subjected to fawning book covers and pages about Obama’s hero for days. And now he is cutting Social Security with his bipartisan Republican pals, just like he promised.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t jive with the Obama the fauxgressives were selling us. This whole thing just isn’t going to work for me. I’m sure it won’t work for a lot of you, either, so run for office instead of electing more morons who will continue to pull this crap on us and expect to get reelected. My plan is to go to Law School and try to change these problems from within instead of sitting here and bitching about it.

But Isis, I can hear some people saying. Law School is expensive. You depend on those Pell Grants Obama and the Tea Party losers are cutting left and right and spending on unnecessary wars, a shitty Health Care Law and Michelle’s vacations in Spain to pay for your tuition, books and other fees. Won’t you be just like Jane, busting your hump for a dismal future? What are you going to do?

Well, shit. Whatever FAFSA doesn’t cover anymore I’ll supplement with scholarships. I just got a job that will pay for my Master’s Degree in Social Work so long as I get a good GPA. And certain agencies and non profits in my field of study will pay back all of my tuition if I end up working for them. As for the rest, it’s back to the pole and the pipe. And don’t think I’ll be the only one.

Lies, damned lies and statistics


Warning: This is another post is about those awful tea-bagging mad hatters and may induce headaches, nausea, flatulence and/or incontinence in some people. Reader discretion is advised

 



From MSNBC:

 

Just 32% of Tea Party candidates win

For all the talk of the Tea Party’s strength – and there will certainly be a significant number of their candidates in Congress – just 32% of all Tea Party candidates who ran for Congress won and 61.4% lost this election.


The first thing that jumped out at me was “MSNBC.”

 

I’m not calling anyone a liar but I wouldn’t trust that outfit to present the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on the topic of Tea Partiers any more than I would trust FOX News to be fair and balanced on the same subject.

Continue reading

My Voting Strategy: How many times do we have to have this conversation?

Yesterday my room mate and I met our new neighbor across the hall. She is an extremely kind woman whose cat had just died, and we baked her cookies to extend our condolences. She invited us in for hot chocolate and gave us some of her cats old toys, and we had a very pleasant visit. She was a solid white lady, probably in her seventies and recently widowed. We had a smoke together and she told me about her family back in Chicago. My grandma just died recently and hanging around with her lifted my spirits a great deal.

She also had a book by Bill O’Reilly on her coffee table. Fox news was blaring in plain site on her TV, there was a magnet on her refrigerator that said “God Loves You,” and she had a book about the rapture in her shelf. Yup, white older female, Christian and well within the Tea Party Demographic. I tried for a few seconds to give a shit, and found that I couldn’t.

See, I get people like Beverly-that is her name. I grew up around her. Salt of the Earth folk. Well in my case, salt of the earth stoners, alcoholics and nutcases but I am still proud god dammit. My father’s family came from a small train station town called Urichsville, Ohio. My grandpa beat pipes with hammers and went fishin’ out on Lake Tappan and my dad learned how to play the guitar on a rock overhang next to the lake. He had three brothers and to this day my uncles are still guitar strummin’ hillbilly white trash and don’t you forget it.  They even have a band to prove it. It’s  called “Bad Idea,” because when they formed it my dad said, “This is a bad idea.” They sing a variety of songs but this is their favorite tune to jam to:

 

My dad left Urichsville to be an accountant and went to Kent State. He wasn’t handsome or charming but at least he was good with numbers. He traded all that for a yuppy house in the suburbs, plastic surgery and a second wife with a boob job and his conservatism is based on economic rather than social policy, but it comes from a humble place.

My mom has had a hard life and she relies on her faith and friends for support, most of which I have known my whole life. They are good if not misguided people and I do not begrudge them their political and religious differences from me, because in their eyes I am accepted as well.

These people work hard and they are bombarded daily with media that is patriarchal, monotheistic and right wing. The MSM has probably been selling the “this country is center-right” lie since the age of movement conservatism and they do this while selling the issues from a left vs. right perspective that is framed from the “center right.”

To be frank, most people in this country are neither liberal nor conservative, and the number of registered independents proves my point. Every time I get into a discussion of politics with someone, they tell me, “I just want to support whatever works.” That is what we all want, regardless of ideology. Politics should be about making people’s lives better, but most of the time it is turned into a game and it’s purpose is to fill the pockets of the elites. The silliest of Americans understand that.

The Tea Party has it’s origins in populism and since then it has been astroturfed by crazy right wingers. They are running candidates that make me want to hide under my bed and cry. But Americans just want solutions to problems, and the Teabaggers may be telling some of them what they want to hear. They could care less about the kooky religahoon xion flag waving social conservatism even if it’s weird even for them. Loony conservatives in the Republican Party have been saying for years that they want to control women’s uterus’, teach creationism in public schools and put queers on death row but it has never happened (mostly). We have checks and balances in our political system that prevents extremism from being legislated.

Christine O’Donnell makes me whimper, but I want a witchhunt on her platform, not her panini. If I child shows up at my doorstep dressed as Sharon Angle on Halloween I am going to run away screaming but calling a woman a b*tch is unacceptable unless it is meant as a term of endearment. And Sarah Palin makes my left eye twitch sometimes when she says some of the things she says, but putting her on the cover of mother jones as a scantily clad she-monster is taking it a step or two too far. Come on, guys.

That being said, I will never vote for a Tea Party member or a Republican. I am a liberal and I vote for candidates who have earned my vote. The founding fathers did not write the constitution and form the first Democratic Republic in history so I could waste my vote and my free speech on Charlie Crist or Marco Rubio. Are you kidding me with this? And I did not file my tax returns last year so I could vote for Kendrick Meeks, who put a government patent on my uterus when he voted for “HCR” and Stupakistan. Hell no.

Alex Sink seems vote worthy and there are some amendments I have my eye on, but for now I say “none of the above.” America is at a crossroads. We have to decide, in times like this, whether we stick by our principles and only vote for candidates who have earned our vote or we reward those who do not have our best interests at heart and have demonstrated it repeatedly with our tax dollars and our trust.

I’ve made my decision. I might just be plain white trash but liberal is my game. What’s yours?

Dirty pool


From the Kansas City Star:

Three months ago in Kansas City, the NAACP first raised charges of racism within the tea party movement. Today a report is being released accusing tea party groups of providing platforms to anti-Semites and other bigots.

“These groups and individuals are out there, and we ignore them at our own peril,” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous in a statement announcing the report. “They are speaking at tea party events, recruiting at rallies, and in some cases remain in the tea party leadership itself.”

The 94-page report is being released by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in a teleconference today.

In July, NAACP delegates passed a resolution at their national convention in Kansas City condemning racism within the tea party movement, creating a national furor. The NAACP board of directors ratified the resolution last week.

Tea party leaders condemned the report on Tuesday.

This reeks. The NAACP came up with this report THREE MONTHS AGO but sat on it until less than two weeks before the election?

I haven’t had a chance to read the report (neither has the Tea Party) but I’m gonna go ahead an assume that some or all of the allegations made by the NAACP are true. What does that prove?

A couple years ago there was this totally new grassroots movement that appeared spontaneously in reaction to the DNC/RBC decision to take some of Hillary Clinton’s ‘s delegates and give them to Barack Obama.

There were some people who were outraged by the blatant cheating as well as all the other crappy things that had gone on during the previous six months. They declared they would not support Barack Obama and called themselves Party Unity My Ass, or P.U.M.A.

You may have heard of them.

I was here on Day One when PUMA started. It immediately went viral and was beyond the control of any one person. Unfortunately all the excitement and hoopla attracted some weirdos and nutballs like moths to a flame.

We wanted nothing to do with them of course. We banned them from TC when they started spouting racist ideas and right-wing nonsense. Riverdaughter physically ejected a guy from the Denver Headquartrers when he started raving about how it was all “the Joos” fault.

The problem is identifying the weirdos and nutballs before they start raving like lunatics. If you advertise a rally, do you check ID’s and do background checks before you allow anyone admission?

“Are you now or have you ever been a racist?”

If you’re a decentralized, grassroots organization, who is in charge of screening new members? Do you screen donors too? How do you screen them, and for what? Is there a racist database somewhere that anyone can log into and check names?

The real question is whether the Tea Party is a racist organization or whether it just has some unsavory members and associations that need to go.

But what the NAACP has done is a transparent attempt to gain partisan advantage for the Democrats by ambushing the entire Tea Party movement with charges of racism just before an election.

So much for “post-racial” America.



UPDATE:

From Crooks and Liars:

The heart of the report is the section titled “Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Militia Impulse, which includes some previously overlooked facets of the movement and revealing details:

– James von Brunn, the white supremacist who killed a Holocaust Museum guard last year, posted on Tea Partner Express partner websites.

– Mark Williams, former chairman of the Tea Party Express, not only wrote racist screeds, he made death threats against President Obama,

– Billy Joe Roper, a member of the ResistNet Tea Party who also happens to be the founder of the overtly racist White Revolution organization, indulging in “Nazi glamorization” with his eulogy for William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, the notorious race-war blueprint.

We also get “profiles of troubling Tea Partiers,” including Roan Garcia-Quintana, a South Carolina Tea Party member who the report says belongs to the largest white nationalist group in the country; Karen Pack, another Tea Party member the report says is linked to the Ku Klux Klan; and Clay Douglas, a Tea Party member from Arizona the report says has pushed “militia-style ‘New World Order’ conspiracies” and “hard core anti-Semitism.


The one guy who was in charge of anything (Mark Williams) has long-since been canned. The rest of the people named are listed as “members.”

I counted six names. How many people nationwide are listed as members of one of the Tea Party factions?

If somebody posted comments on Crook and Liars and then committed murder, would that make John Amato and Nicole Belle responsible?

If that is the best the NAACP has then they ain’t got shit.



Democracy ain’t pretty

Steve Kornacki at Salon:

This is just a preview of the GOP’s Tea Party hell

What’s most striking about the trauma the Tea Party inflicted on the Republican establishment in the Senate primary season that ended last week is how much worse it could have been.

Sure, the Tea Party base managed to dethrone two sitting senators, Utah’s Robert Bennett and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and to scare another senator, Arlen Specter, and a governor, Charlie Crist, out of the party. And it knocked off establishment favorites in a handful of key states, like Delaware and Colorado, while scaring the bejesus out of others, like New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte (who survived her primary by 1,600 votes).

[...]

As it is, though, the Tea Party is out of Republican targets for 2010. But 2012 is just around the corner, and the Tea Party may pick up right where it left off when the next round of Senate primaries convenes..

This, at least, is what history suggests. The last time there was this much upheaval within the GOP was in the late 1970s, in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s challenge to President Gerald Ford in the 1976 primaries. While Reagan fell just inches short in that race, the writing was on the wall: The GOP’s demographics were changing and the conservative wing that Reagan represented would soon dominate; Ford’s win would be the Rockefeller crowd’s last stand.

After ’76, New Right activists set out to purge the remaining liberal Republicans from the party — a task that only took on more urgency when liberal Republican senators provided critical votes for Jimmy Carter’s Panama Canal treaty in 1977. To the right, this represented a blatant sellout of American sovereignty. In the 1978 midterms, the right organized several high-profile primary challenges. In New Jersey, they united behind a Reagan aide named Jeffrey Bell and took out an icon of liberal Republicanism, four-term Sen. Clifford Case. In Massachusetts, they rallied around a radio talk-show host and anti-busing crusader named Avi Nelson and nearly knocked off Sen. Ed Brooke, the only black Republican ever elected to the Senate. There was no collective name for the movement that did this, but in spirit and style, it was very much the Tea Party’s precursor.

And the movement didn’t stop in ’78 — not with Reagan running again in 1980, and not with liberal Republicans still roaming the halls of Congress. Down went Sen. Jacob Javits, Herbert Lehman’s literal and ideological Senate heir, in New York’s ’80 GOP primary, felled by a then-obscure Al D’Amato. Only after Reagan’s election did the purge mentality cease.

Apparently, unlike the Democratic party, the GOP still adheres to that archaic idea that their voters should pick their general election candidates. They have these things called “primaries” where the Republican party rank and file get to choose from among various people. Whoever gets the most votes gets to be the GOP nominee.

Shocking concept, isn’t it?

I’m no fan of the Tea Party but they’re playing the rules – and winning. Boo-fucking-hoo.

If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em. The Tea Party is to the right what PUMA should have been on the left. The Republicans have angry grassroots, the Democrats have Axelrod’s astroturf.

So when do we start purging blue-dogs and corporate shills?


Manic Monday News Links

manicmonday

Good Morning Conflucians! Here is my frantically rushed summary of the latest news. I may add a few more odds and ends.

Politics and Politicians

Paterson Says He Will Run Despite White House Pressure

At a parade in Harlem, the governor refused to discuss his conversations with President Obama’s political team, which has made clear to Mr. Paterson in recent days that it has lost confidence in him and does not believe he can be elected next fall.

Asked how he would run as a Democrat without White House support, Mr. Paterson said, “I am running for governor right now. I have no idea — I am a candidate for governor.”

“I have had a number of different conversations with a number of different people,” he added. “They are confidential.”

Still, even as Mr. Paterson publicly vowed to continue, two prominent Democrats who had spoken to him over the weekend described him as mulling his options and open to the possibility of withdrawing from the race. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were intended to be confidential.

RNC chief thinks it’s “curious” that Obama would ask a black governor to step aside.

“I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for reelection,” Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), said on CBS’s Face The Nation.

Steele was commenting on a report in The New York Times that said an intermediary of President Barack Obama sent word to Paterson that he should not run, considering his low approval ratings. Asked by host Bob Schieffer if race played a role in the White House’s decision to ask Paterson to back off from campaigning, Steele said he didn’t think so.

“It raises a curious point for me. I think Gov. Paterson’s numbers are about the same as Gov. Corzine’s. The president is with Gov. Corzine,” Steele said. The RNC chairman was referring to Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democratic New Jersey governor who is facing a tough reelection bid this year.

Obama’s Sunday Media blitz

He made appearances on five different TV networks yesterday, and I missed every single one of them. Continue reading

Power in the USA: political string theory in US politics

Puppet_Master
How are power relations shaping the U.S. political sphere? From the primary campaign to the tea parties and the raucous healthcare forums, Americans are out in force. Regardless of their political stripe, are their actions in their own best interest or are they being played? What influences are determining how people perceive the issues, what aspects of the issues are open to debate, and what aspects are not open for consideration? Whom is mobilizing whom and for what?

Steven Lukes, in his classic “Power: A Radical View” offers a framework for analyzing the types of power relations that shape policy and society within democratically-oriented nations. The overly simplified summary that follows is intended as a tool to direct our discussion.

Power, oversimplified, is the capacity of individual or collective agents to achieve their intended outcomes by getting others to act for these outcomes, even when these outcomes are against their own best interests. In achieving these outcomes the three dimensions of power tend to function in a complimentary fashion.

The first dimension of power is the capacity to realize one’s aims in decision-making situations. This is the capacity to acquire a representative majority, whatever form that may take, be it a simple plurality or a Presidential veto. For example, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency because they acquired a representative majority in all of these areas in the last election.

The second dimension of power is the capacity to determine the agenda, that is, the scope of decision-making situations. This is the capacity to contain and direct deliberation within parameters wherein first dimension power can be exercised to achieve one’s aims while concurrently foreclosing considerations that could undermine one’s first dimension power. An example of the second dimension of power at work is that President Obama and many ranking Democrats, even with their filibuster-proof majority, have effectively excluded single-payer from the healthcare reform options.

The third dimension of power is the capacity to secure prior consent to these decisions by manipulating how people perceive their parameters of choice. In harnessing their choices, one either harnesses their actions, the choices and/or actions of others they have power over, or both. In this way, according to Amartya Sen, the ‘most blatant forms of inequalities and exploitations survive in the world through making allies out of the deprived and the exploited.’

Propaganda, i.e. political spin and sloganeering, for example, exists to seep, and/or be ground into, people’s consciousness to influence their decision making, as Goebbels noted. “Government should not interfere with business“, “Socialism (or capitalism) is evil”, “Free trade brings freedom”, and “Healthcare forum disrupters are all astroturfed Republicans” are examples of such sloganeering propagandizing and Rove and Axelrod practise propaganda architectonics.

Social signs of third dimension power relations include overtly inequitable distributions of natural and cultural social goods within a community; a relative acceptance of these social relations among those disadvantaged by these relationships; and evidence of mechanisms in play that have prevented the disadvantaged from perceiving their circumstances as potentially otherwise. From the perspective of a single payer advocate, for example, I perceive the clusters of people who are making statements about keeping the government out of Medicare as being in the same boat as those who are pushing for Obama’s bait-and-switch private insurance debacle while thinking they are getting a publicly-funded cost effective model. Both groups are actively working against their own interests.

Assuming that the three dimensions of power are alive, well, and very much involved in the continuing mass transference of wealth from the middle class to the elite, what can be done to reverse this trend? As bloggers, and blog participants, what can and should we do?

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I have problems with this story

The above video was posted on YouTube by Mike Ditto:

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), a first-term Congressman I like very much, held a townhall meeting on health care today outside a King Soopers grocery store in Brighton, CO, which is about 1/2 hour northeast of Denver.

Some of the signs these protesters carry are just nuts. Like, “Jesus is My Single Payer” and “Seniors, Get Your Death Pill here” (photos from Complete Colorado, whose coverage of the event is here.)

To his credit, Rep. Perlmutter actually sat down and listened to folks discuss health care.

Mike Ditto (Progress Now, former online communications director for Mark Udall and many others and former TalkLeft webmaster) had his car vandalized .

Here is a picture of the event from Complete Colorado:


perlmutter1

I wasn’t there and I don’t know Mike Ditto – I never even heard of him before today – but I have a problem with this story. First and foremost is the assumption that this vandalism was caused by “teabaggers.”

From the facts available we are told that Ditto attended this outdoor townhall in the parking lot of a supermarket near Denver.  The event was held in the day time and based on the photo was attended by approximately 200-300 people.  There were some people protesting but no indication that the event was rowdy.  At least one photo shows a police officer was present during the event.

The event ended and Ditto says he went inside the store to get a drink and when he came back outside he saw his car was vandalized.  He videotaped the damage which includes broken side mirrors as well as dents on the doors, side panels and hood.  He also points out that there was a flyer for a  health care reform event held four weeks earlier visible in the back seat.

Ditto does not mention any witnesses not does he say he witnessed the vandalism taking place.  There is also no mention of where his vehicle was parked in relation to the event.  There is no mention of whether a police report was made.

We are asked to believe that one or more “teabaggers” either spotted the flyer or recognized Ditto and committed the vandalism because he is a supporter of the current health care reform bill.  I don’t think the evidence supports that allegation by a preponderance of evidence let alone beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you were on a civil jury and were asked to find the tea partiers liable for the damages to Ditto’s car, you would have to agree that the evidence showed that it was more likely than not that the damage was caused by them.  At a criminal trial you would have to say it was caused by them beyond a reasonable doubt.

I can think of several other plausible scenarios:

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