Recent Articles

Time to Amend the Constitution to deal properly with Campaign Finance Reform

| April 7, 2014 | Reply

What can we do about Citizens United and its progeny (including McCutcheon)? Many are now thinking that there is no well-intentioned law that the United States Supreme Court won’t destroy given the majority’s allegiance to the Chamber of Commerce.   Constitutional scholar Larry Tribe has proposed this constitutional amendment:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to forbid Congress or the states from imposing content-neutral limitations on private campaign contributions or independent political campaign expenditures. Nor shall this Constitution prevent Congress or the states from enacting systems of public campaign financing, including those designed to restrict the influence of private wealth by offsetting campaign spending or independent expenditures with increased public funding.

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The myth of working one’s way through college

| April 6, 2014 | Reply

What does it take to earn one’s way through college? From the Atlantic, some stunning numbers:

[Olsen] added a linear regression analysis to extrapolate the stats for 1979-2013, and found that the average student in 1979 could work 182 hours (a part-time summer job) to pay for a year’s tuition. In 2013, it took 991 hours (a full-time job for half the year) to accomplish the same.

And this is only considering the cost of tuition, which is hardly an accurate representation of what students actually spend for college. According to the College Board, average room and board fees at public universities today exceed tuition costs by a little more than 100 percent. (For the current academic year, average tuition at 4-year public schools is $8,893, but with room and board, the total average cost comes to $18,391.)

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We create technology and technology changes us.

| April 6, 2014 | Reply

I played guitar at a local coffee house last night ( Hartford Coffee ) In my haste to pack up to go, I forgot my electronic guitar tuner. Last night, then, I realized how dependent I have become on the tuner. I’ve played for many decades and, until 5 years ago, tuned by ear. I’ve fallen out of habit since then because these cheap tuners are incredibly accurate. All you need to do is watch the read-out–you don’t even need to hear the guitar while tuning (one of my tuners attaches to the head of the guitar and picks up vibrations). I made it through the night, of course, but I found myself having to focus on what exactly the tuning problem was (which string or strings was out of tune, and which direction). People who don’t play stringed instruments don’t realize that even when you get the guitar tuned, it might not last for long. Even two songs later, it could require another adjustment.

My point is that I had offloaded a skill to an electronic device. This is a common phenomenon these days. A lot of us don’t know the phone numbers of our friends–no need to, with smart phones. Many of us are terrible spellers, but no problem, because the word processor will signal problems. My Google calendar and smart phone seem to organize me, rather than me organizing them. I find myself shooting out short texts and emails to get right to it, rather than calling, which requires some social graces–younger folks avoid calls like the plague, it seems. This makes me wonder whether they are thus losing some conversational skills. Robin Dunbar has researched the number of friends we have in our social group (it tends to be close to 150), but people who watch a lot of TV have fewer friends, and they might be losing the skills necessary to maintain a robust social group.

This is not a criticism of technology. It can be immensely useful. For instance, I’ve used Meetup.com to connect with folks with keen interests in photography and urban exploring, people I would never have encountered without technology. My misplaced tuner last night reminded me that we create technology but that technology also changes us, for good and bad.

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A reminder: Corals are animals. Watch them move

| April 5, 2014 | Reply

Would you like to see corals on the move? They are animals and they do move. Check out this extraordinary photography.

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Real news

| April 5, 2014 | Reply

This article is spot on.   If we had a progressive media, we’d hear real news, news like the 15 topics discussed in this article.  

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Sam Harris intends to reclaim the use of the word “spiritual”

| April 5, 2014 | Reply

Sam Harris will soon be writing a book to argue for a legitimate secular use of the word “spiritual.” In this article, he points out that many atheists have used the term, pointing out some distinctions along the way.

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America’s Dead Malls

| April 5, 2014 | Reply

Check out this collection of many of America’s dead malls.  

I’m not making the assumption that “healthy” malls automatically equate to a high quality of American life.  That would be a mistake.     Yet there is a surreal sadness to these photos.

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Commenting without reading: An April Fools experiment by NPR

Commenting without reading: An April Fools experiment by NPR

| April 5, 2014 | Reply

NPR played a clever April Fools trick this year. It posted a link on FB with the following headline: “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?.”

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How to deal with corruption

| April 4, 2014 | 1 Reply

Represent.us has a lot of energy and ideas. Here’s the reaction to McCutcheon:

It is time to move from defense to offense, and pass a wave of local anti-corruption laws across the nation over the next few years — while simultaneously organizing a 21st century anti-corruption movement made of grassroots conservatives, moderatesand progressives. The nation is ripe for such a movement, with voters abandoning the major parties in droves. A recent Pew study shows that a full half of millennials identify as political independents, up from 38% in 2004. It is the combination of passing bold reforms in cities and states, while creating a loud and visible, right-left anti-corruption movement that will provide the political power necessary to forcechange.

We stand at a crossroads. Political corruption has grown so severe that reality is much closer to the dark TV drama “House of Cards” than what we learned about in grammar school. A recent New Yorker story about corruption in North Carolina describes state Senate Majority Leader John Unger:

“Unger recalled the first time that a lobbyist for a chemical company asked him to vote on a bill. “I said, ‘I don’t sign on to anything until I read it.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s not the way it works around here.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how it works down here, but that’s the way I work.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t learn to get along, when it comes to your reelection, we’ll stick a fork in you.”
McCutcheon turned that lobbyist’s salad fork into a pitchfork. But with the right strategy, we the people can, and will, stick a fork in the beast that our system has become.

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