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Economic Update: Noam Chomsky looks ahead at 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 2:39am in

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A weekly show focusing on the economic dimensions of everyday life and alternative ways to organize our economy and politics, with Prof. Richard D. Wolff.

Watch "Fight to Repair," demand the right to repair

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 10:05am in

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"Fight to Repair" is an animated video from the Free Software
Foundation (FSF) about two free software engineers rushing to fix a life-threatening problem in a vehicle's autopilot code.

Economic Update: Externalities & Capitalism’s Inefficiencies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 4:08am in

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A weekly show focusing on the economic dimensions of everyday life and alternative ways to organize our economy and politics, with Prof. Richard D. Wolff.

Economic Update: Growing Independent Progressive Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 12:20am in

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A weekly show focusing on the economic dimensions of everyday life and alternative ways to organize our economy and politics, with Prof. Richard D. Wolff.

End-of-year positive note #3: movies, series, video

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/12/2020 - 2:12am in

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On this third day of kick-2020-to-the-curb-on-a-positive-note post series, I’d like to discuss video entertainment. Whether movies, TV shows, Web series, one-off YouTube clips, etc, I’m curious to hear what you enjoyed this year. It can be new or old, whatever you recommend. As we head into some quiet days, I suspect many of us can use some recommendations. To facilitate access, please note where something is available as these days that is no longer self-explanatory.

One of my favorite TV series is The Good Fight on CBS All Access (requires a paid subscription and I think is sadly only available in the US or through US VPN). Covid halted their production in the Spring so it was a short season this year, its 4th season. It’s a spin-off of CBS’s excellent The Good Wife from years ago. It’s very political (all-out anti-Trump) and very not-fit-for-network-TV. It centers around a majority African American law firm in Chicago filled with very smart and passionate lawyers.

A series new to me this year was Borgen on Netflix, recommended by a friend after I told him I was thinking of rewatching The West Wing. It’s a Danish political drama about a woman prime minister. The first episode didn’t grab me, but I tried another and after that I was hooked.

For films, I very much appreciated After Class, a Chinese short film I saw through the deadCenter Film Festival in the Spring. I’m not sure where you can access it, but it’s worth hunting down. (There are other films with that title, this one is directed by Charles Xiuzhi Dong.) I won’t say anything about it, it’s just 15 minutes and I don’t want to give anything away.

I rewatched the excellent 1945 (from 2017), a Hungarian film that takes place at the end of WWII in rural Hungary. I first saw it in a theater in Budapest in 2017 and it was gripping. Having just watched the trailer to post it here, I’m inspired to watch it a 3rd time. So yes, I recommend it highly! If your library has a Kanopy subscription, you may have free access there. If not, Amazon has it for sale (or included as part of Prime Video, it looks like – I don’t have Amazon Prime so I can’t double check that).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Stephen Colbert’s The (A) Late Show for delivering the news this year in a palatable way. (I’m not saying the news itself was palatable.)

What have you enjoyed this year?

What Election Day Revealed About Progressive PoliciesVoters have...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/12/2020 - 6:14am in

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What Election Day Revealed About Progressive Policies

Voters have given Joe Biden and Congress a progressive mandate to enact real change.

Americans are hungry for change, as evidenced by what happened on Election Day.

Voters handily supported progressive ballot initiatives across the country. 

In Florida, an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour passed with 61 percent support, even though the state went for Trump. 

And that wasn’t the only successful progressive ballot initiative to succeed in a redder state: Both Montana and South Dakota voted to legalize recreational marijuana, along with the bluer states of New Jersey and Arizona. Arizona continued its progressive streak by approving a tax increase on the wealthy to fund its education system, as did Colorado. Colorado also voted to fund a public paid family leave program.

And measures tackling our brutal systems of mass incarceration and policing prevailed in multiple states: California restored the voting rights of 50,000 people with felony convictions on parole, while Michigan overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment limiting police powers. 

On the local level, 18 ballot initiatives addressing police violence and accountability passed in major cities across the country. And in Los Angeles, voters passed a measure to invest in communities that have been impacted by our racist police and prison systems – prioritizing jobs, housing, and alternatives to incarceration.

All these ballot victories show that bold, progressive policies are enormously popular regardless of ideology. They’re proof that embracing humanity and dignity is both a sound moral choice and a winning electoral strategy.

Every incumbent House Democrat who co-sponsored Medicare for All kept their seat in the general election – including several of them in Republican-leaning districts, like Pennsylvania Representative Matt Cartwright, whose district went for Trump. And 92 out of the 93 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal legislation in the House won reelection, including four representatives in battleground districts.

The success of these candidates shouldn’t be surprising, given the broad support for both of these policies. A pre-election report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 53 percent of Americans favor a national health-care option, including 58 percent of independents. 

Exit polling this year found that 66 percent of voters believe climate change is a serious problem. 

Support for systemic action doesn’t end there: early exit polls indicated that 57 percent of all voters across the country support the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement’s historic summer protests appear to have secured Democratic victories. A recent study found that registration of Democratic and unaffiliated voters surged in June, at the peak of the protests. That voter registration effort, combined with tireless grassroots organizing by communities of color, helped carry Biden to victory.

The writing is on the wall. Voters passed progressive ballot initiatives, even in red states; they reelected progressive candidates who embraced bold policies; and they expressed support for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and an end to systemic racism.

The people have given Biden and Congress a mandate for bold, progressive change. Now they must deliver.

Economic Update: Lessons From A Crisis Year

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 4:34am in

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A weekly show focusing on the economic dimensions of everyday life and alternative ways to organize our economy and politics, with Prof. Richard D. Wolff.

The Contact Tracies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 8:18am in

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With COVID spiralling out of control the Health Department has recruited the best contact tracers money can buy – two teenage girls.

This sketch is part of the War On 2020 series, a collaboration between Chaser Digital, The Shovel and a whole heap of other talented writers and performers. This sketch was written by Nina Oyama and Rebecca Shaw and directed by Victoria Zerbst and Jenna Owen. It features Victoria Zerbst, Jenna Owen, Charles Firth and James Schloeffel.

Joe Biden’s Biggest Challenge“Life is going to return to...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 6:57am in

Joe Biden’s Biggest Challenge

“Life is going to return to normal,” Joe Biden promised in a recent address to the nation. He was talking about life after Covid, but he might as well have been making a promise about life after Trump.

But a return to “normal” would be disastrous. We can’t give in to the allure of “normal” – because normal is what got us here. Normal led to Trump. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the last four years have been traumatic for the nation. After Trump’s abuses of power, human rights violations, blatant racism, and maliciously incompetent response to the pandemic, people are understandably exhaling a sigh of relief. 

But we can’t return to “normal” because “normal” was four decades of stagnant wages and widening inequality when almost all economic gains went to the top. 

The Republican Party’s core response has been stoking division and hate while suppressing the votes of communities of color. And the Democratic Party abandoned the working class. 

Another reason we can’t go back to normal is that “normal” led to our staggering Covid death toll and devastating economic fallout that have most brutally harmed lower-income Americans, especially communities of color. 

That’s because normal in this case has been decades of systemic racism as well as shredded safety nets for everyone in need, the most expensive but least adequate healthcare system in the modern world, and a growing climate catastrophe that’s steadily undermining public health.

Unless these trends change, the pandemic and economic crisis America is experiencing will be nothing compared to what’s to come. And after Biden, we could have Trumps as far as the eye can see

The only way to avoid this is to fundamentally change course.

It’s a mistake to see this task as placating the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Fighting these systemic problems is not a matter of ideology. It’s a matter of morality and common sense. 

If we don’t address them now, they will be even more destructive in the years to come.

In other words – back-to-normal complacency would be deadly. Joe Biden’s great challenge is to restore America to sanity after four years of Trumpian chaos while at the same time offering bold solutions to the crises of our time.

Our task must be to ensure he finds the energy and political will to do so.

The Biden Administration: Who Will Hold the Power?Joe Biden is...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 3:51am in

The Biden Administration: Who Will Hold the Power?

Joe Biden is in the process of appointing several hundred people who are critical to what the administration gets done over the next four years. But not all these people will wield the same amount of power – as I discovered during my own time as a cabinet secretary. Here’s what you need to know about where the power really lies.

Appointments can generally be separated into three categories: cabinet members, presidential advisors, and heads of task forces.

 1. CABINET APPOINTMENTS
Cabinet appointments usually get the most media attention, so we’ll start there. But just because you’re in the cabinet doesn’t mean you’re in the loop. In fact, as I discovered as Labor Secretary, it’s possible to be in the cabinet and not in the loop – and sometimes not even know the loop exists. 

Despite the media coverage – and the hoopla over Senate confirmations – most cabinet members don’t actually play a large role in a president’s major decisions. Presidents almost never meet with their full cabinets, and most cabinet members rarely see a president. Cabinet members run departments which implement or enforce laws enacted by Congress. A capable and conscientious cabinet member keeps everything on track and rarely makes headlines.

Now, there are a few cabinet positions that have a significant influence on public policy, and you should pay attention to who fills them. A cabinet member’s role in policymaking varies depending on a president, but generally, the big four are the Secretary of the Treasury, who plays a major role in economic policy; the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, on foreign policy; and the Attorney General, in the administration of justice. 

Health and Human Services is important because of the coronavirus as well as the Affordable Care Act and any move toward Medicare for All. Homeland Security is important because of all the abuses that can occur under it. 

But Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Interior, Veterans Affairs, even, dare I say it? Labor – well, they’re not at the same level.

2. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORS

The most important influencers on day-to-day policy-making, who are very much in the loop, are presidential advisors, who don’t need Senate confirmation. The most influential of them work inside the West Wing of the White House – and the closer their office is to the Oval Office, the more influence they have. 

From the view of the White House staff, cabinet officials are provincial governors presiding over independent domains. Anything of any importance occurs in the center – the West Wing – a rabbit warren of offices squeezed into three floors clustered around the Oval. It’s such a maze that I used to get lost in it more times than I’d care to admit. 

The advisor with the most influence on day-to-day economic policy is the chairman of the National Economic Council. The advisor with the most influence on foreign policy is the National Security Advisor.

Then there are the assistants to the president, such as on international trade; a director of the Office of Management and Budget; a Council of Economic Advisors, and a variety of people with titles like Counselor to the President. 

A good rule of thumb for understanding who really wields power is the location of their office. If it’s in the West Wing, they’re in the loop and you need to know who they are. If it’s in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which lies west of the White House, they’re more likely to be staff who don’t directly advise the president – and aren’t in the loop.

The president’s most important and powerful advisor is the Chief of Staff, whose office is just down the hall from the president. They control the flow of paperwork and people into the Oval Office and manage the President’s schedule, setting the President’s agenda. In other words, the Chief of Staff controls and manages the loop.

Even with a competent, experienced chief of staff, day-to-day life in the West Wing of the White House in any administration is one of controlled chaos. Don’t be misled by the TV series the West Wing, where everyone’s witty and loves each other. Realistically, the West Wing is intense, sometimes even backbiting and competitive, but this is where crucial policies are made.

3. TASK FORCES

The last category of presidential appointments to pay attention to are the heads of task forces the president sets up – composed of cabinet and sub-cabinet members from different departments and agencies, usually assistant secretaries and the heads of various bureaus. Particularly important are task force heads who meet often with a president – such as John Kerry and his upcoming climate group. 

Finally, keep in mind that every president has a different way of making policy decisions and using advisors and cabinet members. George W. Bush, in his response to 9/11, deferred almost entirely to his chief of staff and Secretary of Defense. Barack Obama responded to the financial crisis by drawing on several economic advisors simultaneously. Donald Trump rejected all expertise and focused only on issues that fed his ego. 

My guess is Joe Biden, in tackling the pandemic and reviving the economy, will rely heavily on experts in Health and Human Services, the Treasury Department, and his National Economic Council. 

All of these people – cabinet members, White House advisers, and special appointees who run task forces – formally answer to the president, but they work for the people, for you. This is where your power lies. Let’s make sure Biden’s appointees never forget who they work for.

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