Krugman and Clinton

I’ve been getting frustrated reading Krugman lately. I don’t completely disagree with anything he’s said, but I don’t like it. He’s a supporter for single-payer healthcare, as am I, but he thinks it is completely politically unfeasible at the present time and not worth pursuing with the ACA. He doesn’t think Sanders is un-electable, but thinks Clinton is the stronger candidate, because she’s more pragmatic and gradual in her progressive policy, and has survived decades of attempted character assassination from the right.

I’m not really prepared to say he’s  wrong, but I don’t agree. I’m definitely a Sanders supporter at this point. I definitely will vote Clinton if she gets the nomination, of course. I know he’s more of a radical, and I know the Presidency is a tricky position, more one of influence than power.

I’d love to see single-payer healthcare, but I’m honestly not super optimistic Sanders will achieve it, and I recognize he may spend a lot of political capital trying to make it happen without a lot to show for it if he’s elected.

My worry is long trends and dealing with them now before the hole we have to dig ourselves out of as a society is even deeper. We have returned to historical norms for wealth inequality (and didn’t history mostly suck, for the man in the street? Or at least, hasn’t it gotten a lot better over the last 80 years or so?). We also have Citizens United and massively increased access to political power for those with large amounts of wealth at their disposal. The middle class is shrinking, and we’re becoming a working class nation. Women’s rights are under assault, the Supreme Court is under siege by conservatives, and several justices are well above average retirement age.

Clinton is a vote for gradual progress and a general maintenance of the status quo. Unfortunately, not all challenges we face are static, or gradual in nature. Things are getting worse and with the potential to rapidly accelerate. Accumulation of power isn’t linear, it’s multiplicative. The more ground we lose, the faster we lose the ground we have.

Krugman seems more comfortable with the predictable, and the certain. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but my conscience dictates supporting a needful dose of radicalism, and that means Sanders.

-VoG

Concussion review

Saw Concussion with Wee Fierce Beastie at the dollar movies this afternoon. Another date night. We’ve been wanting to see it for ages but by the time we had the ability to do so, it was barely showing anywhere, in that weird spot between normal movies and dollar movies.

Spoiler: Really enjoyed it.

Wee Fierce Beastie already reviewed it so I’m largely going to be echoing her sentiments. Will Smith was amazing, and so very un-Will Smith. He looks like Will Smith, but you’ll forget it’s him after about ten minutes because it doesn’t sound like Will Smith, and it doesn’t act like Will Smith. I don’t know if that’s an accurate Nigerian accent but it sounded convincing to my uninformed ear, and his mannerisms were so soft spoken, and graceful, and just…a strange elegance that I’m not used to seeing from Will Smith characters.

It isn’t bombastic, melodramatic, but it does hit hard on a real thing that hurts a lot of people.

I realize again I’ve failed to talk about what the movie is about. So, this is another docudrama dealing with the discovery of what happens when you hit people on the head, over, and over, and over. I’m talking, of course, about american football.

Pathologist performing an autopsy on a famous retired NFL player realizes his brain has been destroyed by concussions in a way not detectable without autopsy, which sets him on a collision course with the economic juggernaut that is the National Football League.

I am decidedly anti-football now. It’s violent. It is violent enough that on a routine basis at any level of play, players will be subjected to repeated impacts (in every game, in every practice, over and over) sufficient to cause cumulative neurological damage. This is routine. It isn’t something you can fix and have football be recognizable.

The movie is pretty clear on the NFL’s complicity in disguising this fact, they acted much like the tobacco industry and cancer, becoming the driving force into research into it to be able to spin and control the results of that research.

I realize the problem, too. The NFL doesn’t have a motive to make the game less violent because violence is what sells the game. Look at highlight reels. If it wasn’t supposed to be violent the NFL would play flag-football. It disturbs me the degree to which it is a sort of proxy for gladiatorial blood sports. Oh, safer, surely, but the motive is to keep it as violent as possible without crossing the line where it is too overt and draws public outrage from elements of society that otherwise just ignore it altogether.

The problem is that children play it. I played it as a small child, full on tackle football. It’s fundamental to so many local communities across the country.

So basically, I don’t watch football, and I won’t be watching it at all going forward. I won’t be in any way consuming it to the best of my ability. I won’t be watching Superbowl ads on youtube. My child won’t play it.

Go see the movie.

-VoG

The Disability Gulag

The Disability Gulag

This one tugged on my heartstrings a bit.

It’s a piece written by a woman with neuromuscular disease discussing the way the American healthcare system strips disabled people of autonomy and the right to make decisions over their lives and their bodies. A woman’s struggle throughout her life to avoid ‘disability gulag’, ended up in a state-funded nursing home, where her nurses are chosen by others, treat her according to a nursing plan written by others, and basically render you trapped with no control over your daily life or your body (Eg, your hair will be cut short for their convenience. You’ll be seen naked by people you didn’t choose every time you have to use the bathroom. And on, and on.) It’s a never ending battle, trying to get the assistance you need out of private funds because Medicaid finds it easiest just to put people like her in those same nursing homes, but if her health deteriorates, or she can’t manage the resources necessary to pay for the help she has to have to live, that’s where she’ll end up. Every day of her life, from childhood onward.

I had a moment of visceral fear, when reading about her going to consult with administrators at a state-run institution, and then having lunch with some friends she knew as a child in school who ended up there at the facility…where a staff member mistakes her for a new patient, and she flatly panics, a panic reaction urge to scream, but knowing if she throws a fit things will get so much worse, and so she just freezes, until one of her friends, a gentleman with cerebral palsy, comes to her aid, and convinces the nurse that she can’t be a patient, look, she has long hair, she’s wearing jewelry.

Harriet McBryde Johnson was an American author, attorney, and disability rights activist.

Johnson died at home on June 4, 2008.

 

So what is the Glass-Steagall Act?

What Is Glass-Steagall? The 82-Year-Old Banking Law That Stirred the Debate

Plenty of mention of this in the recent Dem debates. A pretty good breakdown of what it is. Basically, in the depths of the Great Depression, Congress passed a law saying that banks that people put their life savings in, should not be allowed to try to make money by gambling on the stock market. That’s the really simplified version and the article does a lot better at explaining it.

‘The Big Short,’ and Krugman

‘The Big Short,’ Housing Bubbles and Retold Lies

I saw The Big Short with Wee Fierce Beastie the other day, and yes, that’s our idea of a date night. A pretty good one.

Spoiler: I emphatically recommend this movie.

For those of you who have no idea what this movie is: It’s a story of the housing bubble bursting back in ’07-’08. It’s a movie about few groups of outsiders on the fringes of the Wall Street world realizing before anyone else that the housing market is turning into a giant bubble, and maneuvering to make a killing off of it when it finally bursts, in the face of much of the rest of the world thinking they’re flatly insane.

It’s educational, and despite that, it isn’t boring, and it is a lot of fun.

It was good. While I’m an econ nerd, I think most people would find it pretty entertaining. Don’t expect action, but it’s funny, it’s accessible, and who doesn’t enjoy foul-mouthed biting sarcasm, and plots to become fabulously, fantastically wealthy? In a way, it almost comes across as a heist movie, but a skewed one. There isn’t anything illegal in what the protagonists are doing, if anything, they’re profiting from the loss of those who are breaking the law, or at least behaving very unethically.

I’m in the age bracket to remember the housing bubble and the market crash, but not old enough to have really been able to relate to it, I lacked life experiences with mortgages, debt, etc, and it didn’t really directly affect me, nor did I at any sort of deep level understand what was happening.

So I really got a lot out of this. I think anyone who’s heard of the crash and had any experience with it’s consequences (Eg, been an adult in the last eight years or so) will too, especially if you DON’T know a lot about the events of the movie or how it all worked. They do a great job of explaining any time they start getting technical or confusing, interrupting the movie on an irregular basis for an interlude with Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, drinking champagne, explaining the term ‘sub-prime’ before telling you to ‘fuck off’ so she can finish her bath, or Selena Gomez doing an excellent job of illustrating what a ‘synthetic collateralized debt obligation’ is.

Oh, and Krugman, one of my favorite writers, did a piece talking about the movie. He liked it. He contends that it’s substantially accurate in the significant details (Context: Paul Krugman is a Nobel-winning economist with a PhD in economics from MIT who writes for the New York Times).

So yeah, go see The Big Short. It’s still in theaters.

-VoG

Homan Square

Homan Square (The Guardian)

Homan Square (Mother Jones)

It’s a facility run by the Chicago Police Department, out of a bland looking warehouse in Chicago’s west side. Out of it operates the headquarters of Chicago SWAT, organized crime units dealing with drugs and gangs. It also contains ‘several standard interview rooms’, though the facility ‘lacks a lockup facility, where mug shots and fingerprints of arrestees are normally taken. As such, arrestees are not fingerprinted at Homan Square’.

In reality, whatever other uses it has, it serves as a off-book holding facility to detain and interrogate individuals the Chicago Police Department wishes to keep off record, out of the system. Detainees are held without being mirandized, without being booked, denied their phone call, denied access to their legal representation. It has a reputation among lawyers in Chicago, if you can’t find your client, they’re probably being held there. Lawyers attempting to find their clients evidently are routinely turned away from the facility, because it is a ‘secure facility’.

Things like this are supposed to be an absolute no-go, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to the end of your career, for police.

This is the first I’ve heard of this, and the original story from The Guardian has been floating around since February of last year. I think the militarization of police in recent years has been pretty obvious. The lack of accountability for deaths caused by police is pretty well recognized at this point, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a stark example in recent memory of such systematic and flagrant violation of fundamental principles of law enforcement in this country. Even when people are killed by police, you’ll always find police and district attorneys explaining how it was absolutely justified, or at least an unavoidable, utterly explainable mistake. Even Guantanamo Bay is defended on the basis of necessity. If there’s truth to this story, then this is completely indefensible.

 

-VoG

And so it begins.

First post of the new blog. Welcome! So the about page says it all, but I’m a liberal living in the conservative heartland of America, working for, by and large, conservatives, working among, in significant numbers, conservatives. I read voraciously, news, blogs of various people I respect, everything I can get my hands on that strikes my fancy, and I want to talk about it. This is my outlet for doing so, at a comfortable remove from my personal and professional life.

For those who know me reading, please exercise thoughtfulness in respecting my privacy.

For those who know me and are wondering about the name of the blog, well, I’ve been wanting to move away from online handles I picked when I was a child, and this is a play on one of my newer handles.

-VoG