Have you ever noticed that the only metaphor we have in our public discourse for solving problems is to declare war on it? We have the war on crime, the war on cancer, the war on drugs. But did you ever notice that we have no war on homelessness? You know why? Because there’s no money in that problem. No money to be made off of the homeless. If you can find a solution to homelessness where the corporations and politicians can make a few million dollars each, you will see the streets of America begin to clear up pretty damn quick!
- George Carlin (via thinksquad)
Imagine All Star People
You may say I’m a dreamer
but the media men beg to differ
The news: A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.
An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.
For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.
It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.
That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.
This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think…
Tom Hurndall was a peace activist and an aspiring photojournalist. His photographs, alongside his journals, bear witness to the often terrible, sometimes uplifting, events he saw and experienced while living among families in Iraq, in a refugee camp in Jordan, and in the Gaza Strip. It was there on 11 April 2003 that he was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier while attempting to rescue a child who had been pinned down by gunfire. He died nine months later in hospital in London.RIP
In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality.
About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails.
It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman, who replies: “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear … it’s remarkably generous.” (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar.)
Naturally, CUNY is taxpayer-funded. After all, who in their right mind would pay Paul Krugman so much of their own money, particularly to do so little?