project blog

Rethinking AmericanDelusions

Baby shouting to her friend
January 15, 2019
Recent conversations about AmericanDelusions (AD) has brought me around to new thinking about the organizing principles of AD and how to make the content more useful and accessible. What are the underlying ideas of American life? So, exactly what do I mean by referring to “delusions”? As noted in the introductory essay “American Delusions“: Every society creates delusions, myths and stories to explain where it came from and how it works. These are so engrained —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. Harari, Yuval N. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, 2018.
political system, politics, video-movies-podcasts

Political Inequality – the other inequality

Boss Tweed on controlling nominating process
January 15, 2019
There has been focus on wealth and income inequality for years. It is a pressing problem for more than 80% of the US population. But there is an other inequality, political inequality, that is at the heart of the more talked about inequality. In 2013 Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig provided us with a delightful introduction to how political inequality works – We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim (length 18’14”) in which he —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I Page. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspect. Polit. Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 03 (2014): 564–81.
education, free-market ideology

Recently Noted – PhDs on Food Stamps – Labor in US Higher Ed

December 24, 2018
Adjunct teachers are paid so poorly that many qualify for food stamps. Meanwhile students across the country are underwriting ever higher tuition through debt.
economy, women

Women Continue To Face A Big Pay Gap – and on into the future

lower pay on the dollar
December 18, 2018
“Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2017, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.”
empire

American Wars – The Secrets of Vietnam and Afghanistan

December 6, 2018
The recent movie The Post (about the Washington Post newspaper and its involvement with the Pentagon Papers – see below) poses interesting reminders of the power of the US government to rain death on countries that fall under our imperial domain and simultaneously keep the American people in the dark or asleep. Iconic image of “pacification” campaign during Vietnam War In the case of the Vietnam War (1950 – 1975)1 it took Daniel Ellsberg’s theft —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. American "advisors" joined the French in 1950. The US government paid for most of the French military effort until their ignominious defeat at Dien Bin Phu in 1953 led to their withdrawal and the Geneva Accords of 1954
healthcare

Medicare for All – Cheaper and Better

Medicare For All
December 3, 2018
“We therefore estimate that Medicare for All could reduce U.S. Health Consumption Expenditures by about 9.6 percent while also providing decent health care coverage for all U.S. residents” The Medicare for All movement gained some new support from a study released last week. The research report, “Economic Analysis of Medicare for All”,1 provides an analysis of the lower costs and improved healthcare outcomes to be expected from the implementation of Medicare for All. Here is —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Peter Arno, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Michael Ash “PERI - Economic Analysis of Medicare for All.” 11/30/2018 page 1 -  Accessed December 3, 2018. https://www.peri.umass.edu/component/k2/item/1127-economic-analysis-of-medicare-for-all.
economy, free-market ideology

The Monopolization of America

November 26, 2018
Adam Smith discussed the harms caused by monopolies1 in the frequently, ritualistically cited book, The Wealth of Nations2. The progressive politics of the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th was marked by a deep reaction to the monopolistic practices of large companies then. This led to the ant-trust legislation that remains the cornerstone of the Federal government’s efforts to protect competition in the marketplace: Sherman Act of 1890, the —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. A note about the term “monopoly”: Economists have long acknowledged that the literal meaning of monopoly, a company having exclusive control over a commodity or service, is not a useful representation of how capitalist economies actually work. In practice when a small number of firms, say 3 or 4, control roughly 50% or more of a market, they can and do act to control prices, restrain trade, and force weaker competitors out of the market. As John Oliver notes we can experience this by simply booking an airline flight. Southwest, Delta, United, and American control 69% of the domestic market. This concentration is amplified by the hub and spoke system that assures that in many localities there is no choice but a single provider of air services. This is precisely why we need to reinvigorate the existing anti-trust laws and protect consumers from the gouging and abuse we now experience every time we fly.
  2. Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
  3. chart borrowed from: Leonhardt, David. “Opinion | The Monopolization of America.” The New York Times, November 26, 2018, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/opinion/monopolies-in-the-us.html.
justice/jails, recently noted, video-movies-podcasts

Recently Noted – Serial the Podcast – More Evidence of the Delusion of Justice –

logo for the podcast Serial
November 4, 2018
We have written earlier about the fact that effective legal representation and trial by jury is a rarity making one of our cultural icons a complete sham. As Jed Rakoff has noted: In actuality, our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone. In 2013, while 8 percent of all federal criminal charges —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. Why Innocent People Plead Guilty" by Jed Rakoff in New York Review of Books 11/20/2014 accessed 6/24/2017
justice/jails, recently noted

Recently Noted – Hudson NY and Its SWAT Team

photo by Lance Wheeler for Columbia-Greene Media. State St Hudson NY 6/12/2018
September 1, 2018
Hudson NY and Its SWAT Team State St Hudson NY 6/12/2018 – photo by Lance Wheeler for Columbia-Greene Media. Even here in our little city of Hudson NY (population ~ 7,000) we have a police SWAT team, benignly referred to officially as the Columbia County Shared Services Team. There has been plenty of concern over its use here in the last couple of years, most recently in June of this year. The website CityLab has published —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1.  https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/08/militarization-of-local-police-isnt-making-anyone-safer/568900/ accessed 09012018
  2. http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/early/2018/08/14/1805161115.full.pdf accessed 09012018
inequality, political system, politics

Inequality, Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Bernie Sanders

Jeff Bezos Amazon image
August 22, 2018
It is always useful to put a face to trends. The grotesque yawning extent of inequality is one of those trends that begs for the concrete. Knowing that a million seconds is 12 days while a billion seconds is 31 years gives some shape to the dimensions of inequality, it is still difficult to wrap one’s head around the scale of inequality that continues to surge.   Today this message from Bernie Sanders arrived in —>> read more –>>
environment, free-market ideology, political system

Plastics and Run Amuck Capitalism

August 20, 2018
The earth is burdened by the tsunami of plastic refuse that will never degrade. Government needs to protect us from capitalist enterprises delight in externalizing costs to our detriment and their short-term benefit.
empire, video-movies-podcasts

President Authorizes Coup in Iran

August 19, 2018
Intervention in Iran – 65th Anniversary Iranian Premier Mohammed Mossadegh ca. 1951 On August 19, 1953 President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to support British efforts to launch a coup against the popularly elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in favor of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. At immediate issue were plans by Mossadegh to nationalize the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and allegations that Mossadegh was in bed with the Soviet Union.   Here —>> read more –>>
political system, politics

Do Protests Work? – Time for Class Warfare

illustration by Adam Maida in 8/21/17 New Yorker
May 21, 2018
iIllustration by Adam Maida in 8/21/17 New Yorker In the August 21, 2017 edition of The New Yorker Nathan Heller writes about the efficacy of protest as a method for social and political change. “Out of Action – do protests work?” raises many interesting questions about protest movements as a means to achieving change. Protected by the First Amendment Americans are largely free to take to the streets and soap boxes to protest or support whatever —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. including among them: Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams. Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without WorkHardt and Negri, Assembly; Tufekci, Zeynep. Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest.
  2. Heller makes snide comments about "neoliberalism" - the term used everywhere but the US for free-market capitalist ideology: "(Neoliberalism can broadly refer to any program that involves market-liberal policies—privatization, deregulation, etc.—and so includes everything from Thatcher’s social-expenditure reductions to Obama’s global-trade policies. A moratorium on its use would help solidify a lot of gaseous debate.)" Heller might do well to spend some time understand free-market ideology and its history to know that in fact Thatcher and Obama do belong in the same sphere in this regard.
racism

White Affirmative Action – Martin Luther King in 1968

Who benefits from affirmative action?
May 13, 2018
White Affirmative Action – Martin Luther King in 1968 In recent years scholars and activists have begun to point out how white privilege is supported by many decades of government action that affirmatively transfers money and resources to whites while explicitly denying the same support to African-Americans.1 To my knowledge Martin Luther King never used the phrase “white affirmative action”, but in his March 31, 1968 speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, “Remaining —>> read more –>>

Footnotes

  1. We have written about this phenomenon here regularly - more here: https://americandelusions.com/racism-america-posts/
  2. King, Martin Luther. Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution | The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/publications/knock-midnight-inspiration-great-sermons-reverend-martin-luther-king-jr-10. Accessed 13 May 2018.
  3. Listen to the speech here: https://youtu.be/SLsXZXJAURk
justice/jails, politics

Gun Regulation, the 2nd Amendment, and Scalia’s Majority Opinion

Justice Antonin Scalia
May 9, 2018
Gun Regulation, the 2nd Amendment, and Scalia’s Majority Opinion Fire arms proponents make much of the  2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller in which the Supreme Court absolutely affirmed the right to bear arms as a constitutionally guaranteed right. Lost in this rhetoric is the fact that no rights are absolute. All are subject to constraints. For example, the First Amendment does not give a person the right to shout “Fire” in a movie —>> read more –>>
justice/jails, racism

Mass Incarceration – The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

New JIm Crow book cover
March 7, 2018
Mass incarceration, largely through the War on Drugs, combined with white racism has produced a catastrophe for African Americans. It is hard to imagine that if young whites, despite being no more likely to offend drug laws than blacks, were subjected to these laws that we would have seen a sharp reaction from the white majority. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow is important reading and a call to action.
free-market ideology, healthcare

Heart Stents, Tricycles, and an Argument for Consumer Protections (Regulations)

kid's tricycle
February 21, 2018
Since corporations have reason not to worry about safety and efficacy, we do need the government to represent us. Common sense and ethics suggest that a company establish the safety and efficacy of products and services BEFORE selling them. In a world better balanced to the needs and interests of the vast majority this would be a required step. Heart stents and tricycles are examples of the failings of our current system.
economy, free-market ideology, video-movies-podcasts

John Oliver and Monopoly Capitalism

F.C. Howe quote about business rules
February 21, 2018
Corporate concentration of income and wealth are core features of capitalism. From its earliest cheerleaders like Adam Smith, the drive for corporations to get ever larger and in the doing drive their competitors out of the market was noted and warned against. John Oliver provides a thorough and amusing introduction.
economy, free-market ideology

The New Digital Monopoly Capitalism

February 20, 2018
The new digital economy is displaying the same drive to concentration, monopolies and oligopolies, that capitalism has always displayed. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are just a new face of the predatory monopolists of the Rockefeller Standard Oil age.