I Get By With a Little Help

Because of the gross incompetence of basically the entire GOP field, the Virginia AG is stepping in to save them from themselves (careful, link to Faux News):

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is intervening in the Virginia presidential primary dispute and plans to file emergency legislation to address the inability of most Republican presidential candidates to get their name on the ballot, Fox News has learned.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified for the Virginia primary, a contest with 49 delegates up for grabs.

The failure of other candidates to qualify — notably Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry — led to complaints that the 10,000-signature requirement is too stringent.

Cuccinelli, who is a Republican, shared the concerns.

“Recent events have underscored that our system is deficient,” he said in a statement. “Virginia owes her citizens a better process. We can do it in time for the March primary if we resolve to do so quickly.”

A half a million people voted in the 2008 GOP primary there, but getting 10k signatures is too stringent? That’s pretty laughable, but, whatever. I’m in favor of more ballot access. Unfortunately, while Cuccinelli thinks millionaire Republicans need a hand, he and McDonnell still preside over one of the most onerous felon disenfranchisement regimes (.pdf), and in 2010 turned an objective process for reinstatement into a subjective mess.

I guess this really is the modern GOP at its core- one set of rules for the rich and the powerful, another set for everyone else.



But you never see the lies that you believe

Esquire (via):

There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here’s one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you’re gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.

Meanwhile, the Times reports:

Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.

Go figure.

A huge part of the conservative/establishment media project will be devoted to explaining the collapse of the middle-class is a good thing — it’s the Bell Curve-style IQ stratification that maximizes efficiency, all the awesome modern conveniences like Facebook an flatscreens make up for it, etc.



Regardless of ideology

Tyler Cowen is one of those libertarians that the Atlantic crowd is always heh-indeeding as some kind of a genius. Whenever one of these widely heh-indeeded types pops into my head, I google their name along with the words “Iraq War”. Sometimes not much of interest comes up, sometimes something comes up from 2007 or so where they criticize the war in retrospect, and I have to muck around to find what they wrote during the run-up. It’s an interesting exercise. I was quite surprised to learn that Mike Kinsley opposed the Iraq War, for example.

Anyway, I did this with Tyler Cowen and found this:

Like Randy Barnett (easiest to just scroll down), I have had libertarian leanings for a long time but support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…

Cowen goes onto castigate some obscure, rarely heh-indeeded libertarians for opposing the war, with an argument that consists mostly of the usual bed-wetting about suitcase nukes.

It made me wonder if we’re unfair to libertarians here. Yes, the Reasonoids are war-mongers and Koch whores, as is Cowen. And they’re among the most prominent self-described libertarians. But maybe they’re prominent precisely because they are war-mongers and Koch whores.

There’s no actual libertarian political base, so it’s completely at the discretion of the establishment who becomes a prominent libertarian. Nobody buys Reason magazine so it doesn’t matter how it sells, readers of the Atlantic are probably center to left-center by-and-large so they don’t care whether it’s McMegan or some other Randoid who provides glibertarian contrarianism for the magazine, etc.

Most of the so-called liberals you see on tv are indeed corporatists and Iraq War supporters, but not all of them are. Krugman is on sometimes, for example. If the liberal audience were as small as the libertarian audience, maybe tv and widely heh-indeeded liberals would be 100% corporatists and Iraq War supporters.



Backdoor man

Alex Altman of Time has an excellent article about Americans Elect:

[S]ince announcing his intention to seek the Americans Elect nomination in early December, Roemer has come to have reservations about the way the group does business. Formed in response to the depravity of U.S. politics, Americans Elect relies on what is widely seen as one of its worst aspects: secret money. Though it will be listed alongside other political parties on state ballots next fall, the group is organized as a social-welfare organization — devoted to promoting no particular candidate, ideology or issue — which allows it to preserve the anonymity of its donors. Some of them, like Ackerman’s father, a New York financier who forked over $5.5 million, have been forthright about their contributions. But the majority remain shrouded in secrecy. For Roemer, who caps donations to his campaign at $100 and won’t accept money from political action committees, the group’s financing structure has sown doubts about its intentions. “I might not be able to participate if the source of funding depends on the very special interests I am trying to force out of the room,” Roemer says.

[….]

[T]rust is a commodity in short supply. And though Americans are weary with Washington and craving comity, a band of insiders backed by Wall Street money may not be the type of change voters have in mind.

This explain why the mustache wouldn’t name any of the big money types behind this group when he started yapping about it last year — they wanted their donations to remain secret.

Bobo recently indicated a willingness to back an Americans Elect candidate even if Romney gets the nomination. I think a lot of media elites will get behind whatever Bayh/Lieberman/Bloomberg monstrosity our Galtian overlords put up.

With that much Village backing, it may be hard to keep this clown, whoever it ends up being, out of the debates. He’ll be on Morning Joe every day, get fluffed by Matt Miller and Bobo and Friedman twice a week, and get 24 hour a day tongue baths from serious centrist C-listers like Young Conor.

We may well be headed towards a third-party candidate with no real on-the-ground constituency of any kind, who is propped up entirely by secret money and establishment media propaganda. At least George W. Bush had to win primaries and pretend to clear brush.

I doubt that Bayhberg will get many votes, but if does it will be an absurd subversion of democracy as the term is commonly understood. And many of the people who insist we should invade other countries to made them democratic will be applauding the whole thing.



Regulatory disappearing act

DougJ linked to this NYTimes piece on for-profit colleges yesterday. Read the whole thing, or I’ll just give you my summary: the federal government attempted to regulate for-profit colleges, a huge army of lobbyists descended, and the federal government gutted the regulations.

Arne Duncan isn’t quoted in the piece, but I’ve been reading up on the deregulation and privatization of K-12 public schools since the Issue Two battle in Ohio began, and one of two things is true about Arne Duncan re: K-12 education. He is either unaware of the (unintended!) privatization now underway and made (partly) possible by his deregulatory education agenda in public school districts in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania, or he is aware it’s happening but has no problem with the deregulation and (then) privatization of public schools. In other words, I’m not confident the Department of Education fought these for-profit college lobbyists real hard, because Duncan is a knee-jerk cheerleader for deregulation and market-based reforms in K-12 public schools.

On the other hand, I do have respect for Cass Sunstein, and this is what Sunstein said about the lobbying effort:

“The haranguing had zero effect,” said Cass R. Sunstein, the White House official who oversees rule making.

Hmmm. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t know.

I wasn’t surprised that so many big-name Democrats are either working for or onboard with the for-profit college sector because Democrats are well represented in promotion and sales of the for-profit K-12 sector. This is an NBC News product, Education Nation, which was co-sponsored by the University of Phoenix, and is basically a long infomercial trashing traditional public schools and promoting corporate K-12 school reform. Both Arne Duncan and Bill Clinton were featured in several of the exciting episodes that I viewed.

Today, there is a piece in the NYtimes on for-profit, publicly funded K-12 online education:

Kids mean money. Agora is expecting income of $72 million this school year, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total anticipated revenues of K12, the biggest player in the online-school business. The second-largest, Connections Education, with revenues estimated at $190 million, was bought this year by the education and publishing giant Pearson for $400 million.
The business taps into a formidable coalition of private groups and officials promoting nontraditional forms of public education. The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.
The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed. Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

“Kids mean money”. Read it and weep. Market-based reform.

“What we’re talking about here is the financialization of public education,” said Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education who is affiliated with the education policy center. “These folks are fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”

This is why I’m madly in love with teachers’ unions although I’m fully aware of the many flaws of unions. Unions are the only thing standing in the way.

The huge lobbying push by school reformers to sell K-12 online for-profit schools is particularly cruel, because school reform was (supposedly) premised on how we needed great teachers, but had lousy teachers, which is why we had to deregulate in the first place. The problem was those lousy teachers, we were told. If we just had great teachers, and we could innovate and get around all these pesky regulations and democratically elected school boards, all our education problems would disappear.

That’s why it’s a tad disconcerting that reformers are now pushing a school model that replaces teachers and schools with an over-priced computer program. The level of deception there just makes my head spin. We were told we needed to deregulate because we needed excellent teachers and schools and now it turns out we don’t really need teachers and schools at all! Instead, we simply need to ship public funding for schools out of our states and districts, and to one of these national education corporations, where it goes to shareholders and executives and…excellence! That was easy. Must be that market-based reform again, working its voodoo market magic.

Finally, I bitch about pundits all the time here, but Gail Collins is the one and only top-tier pundit who’s writing about privatization and the conversion of public schools to for-profits. It’s not polite or fashionable to ask questions about for-profits and school reform (although it’s perfectly okay, and very fashionable, to delve into minute detail when talking about the salaries of unionized teachers) and Collins is asking anyway. I’m grateful to her, because I don’t believe the public were informed they were buying for-profit K-12 education when they were sold school reform. I think they should have been told. And you know what? They’re going to find out. Good. It’s about time. This is why I buy newspapers, for information like this.



I have massive potential for growth

So dumb (via).



Careless people

I’m not sure anyone has made this analogy before, but in any case, it’s spot on:

I think Republicans see themselves the way Wall Streeters see themselves — as people to whom nothing really bad could possibly happen, no matter how dire America’s problems are. If they get in, push more tax cuts that increase debt, and make spending cuts that worsen unemployment and leave more infrastructure to crumble, they’ll just find some scapegoat, sexting or illegal immigrants or Dodd-Frank, to blame everything bad in America on. If that doesn’t work, they’ll start a war, and make it just controversial enough that Democrats will hesitate to support it, then treason-bait those Democrats for their hesitancy.

I think this is true for America in any state of decay short of civil war. And perhaps even that qualification doesn’t apply.

This approach will work for years. It worked for George W. Bush for six years, didn’t it? (I think that’s what Cheney meant when he said his crew had proved that deficits don’t matter — if you can gull the voters with distractions like Saddam, you can get away with anything.)

That’s the central political reality of our time: the establishment will never, ever be held accountable for anything. Sometimes they deliberately fuck things up in order to advance their own interests or those of their patrons (“starve the beast”, “drown it in the bath-tub”). Sometimes they fuck things up because they’re stupid and careless. It doesn’t matter, either way they’re rewarded with corporate board positions, think tank sinecures, tv “news” gigs for their family.

I usually leave the pretentious art stuff to others, but I can’t get this passage from Great Gatsby out of my mind:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…