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Cross-posted at Notes on a Theory

So first--the good news. There is dissension in the ranks of NYPD. It seems that PBA head Pat Lynch went too far, and a not insubstantial portion of the PBA membership has been pushing back. News of a contentious meeting, with much yelling and pushing and shoving, showed the cracks within the PBA. Perhaps because of this, Lynch backed off his call for the mayor to apologize, although I think some people are overinterpreting his changed position:

“Despite statements to the contrary, our demands have never been for a simple apology, but for clear and unequivocal expressions of support for our members and an equally strong condemnation of those who have stirred up hatred and violence towards police officers,” he wrote [in an internal memo].

“We have also demanded that these words be backed up by concrete actions to hold anti-police agitators accountable and to protect our members from further attacks.”

In the same memo, Lynch took credit for what he called a "shift in the mayor’s tone." Still, this is being framed as a defeat for Lynch, and despite the fact that he hasn't changed that much, it's not an unreasonable conclusion. The memo, as the New York Daily News noted, came a day after a poll of NYC voters showed Lynch with an 18% approval rating.

Given De Blasio's reputation as a progressive, and the fact that his campaign highlighted criticism of stop and frisk, it's easy to see this as a victory for Black Lives Matter movement, as a step towards less punitive and racially discriminatory policing. But that would be a mistake.

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[Cross posted at Notes on a Theory]

[If you read my piece entitled I’m so outraged at Kim Kardashian for maintaining the 5th Fleet in a human rights violating autocracy, some of this may be familiar.]

One of the strange things about our politics is the disconnect between what sorts of things lead us, collectively, to express outrage and what sorts of things we don’t notice.  I’m thinking specifically of how a statement can set off outrage while the background behaviors, activities or policies that the statement expresses or seeks to justify do not.  So Mitt Romney can, as the nominee of the Republican Party, run an entire campaign on policies that are designed to better distribute wealth to the wealthy while ignoring the concerns of large blocs of voters, but it takes him saying that he only cares about half of the voters to really get people outraged.

I think this dynamic is a product of two things.  First, a great deal of our politics concerns people’s motives and character, which are largely unknowable, as opposed to assessing their actions on their own terms.  So when someone says something, potentially revealing their intentions, it seems powerful.  Second, and I suspect more importantly, it’s hard to get upset about long-standing, entrenched conditions.  We do better trying to oppose some deviation from the norm, or at least, things that are understood that way.  Thus we see a great deal of arguments over precedents outside the courtroom, where they may well seem misplaced. Similarly, the nonstop efforts to paint people and positions are “extreme” without attending to the merits of the position. Politics is in many ways largely an effort to decide whose positions are considered speakable and whose are not, which is fairly antithetical to both the idea of progress and the ideal of democracy.

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Wed Dec 18, 2013 at 01:26 PM PST

Targeting the Right To Vote

by David Kaib

Originally posted at Notes on a Theory

I've written about voting rights before, a topic that has become all the more urgent in the wake of recent efforts to restrict voting rights and the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Keith Bentele and Erin O'Brien have a piece examining recent GOP efforts at adopting various voting barriers: Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies. (Full disclosure, Erin is a good friend from my doctoral program, and I provided feedback on the paper.) Their empirical findings are going to get the most attention, and they are certainly important. I'll review them below. But the larger implications are important too, and since I fear these may get lost I want to discuss them more fully.

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Cross-posted at Notes on a Theory

For reasons that are somewhat baffling, the coverage of Senator Rand Paul’s plagiarism in speeches and writings got wall-to-wall coverage for some time, although it has now died down. I’m not a fan of Paul, and I don’t think this sort of rampant taking of other people’s words and passing them off as his own is acceptable. Yet I find the whole episode strange. Now that it’s over, I wanted to step back to ruminate on the reaction to this and what it means for the left.

Two claims, largely implicit, have become quite common in Democratic-leaning circles, which are in tension.  First, is the idea that libertarians pose an existential threat to the country. Often, libertarian here is used interchangeably for ‘Tea Party,” and while that doesn’t always make sense, it might when it comes to Paul. And while some would make this same claim about the GOP as a whole, libertarians are singled out for particular scorn. Paul, then, is treated as far more threatening that the senior senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell.

Now, I’m not sure how I would rate the two senators from Kentucky.  I’m sure one could make a case here. But it strikes me that the case is generally presumed, and the differences in terms of whose worse are generally presumed to be really large. This is even more troublesome give that, as minority leader, McConnell likely has a great deal more power in the Senate, regardless of what the comparison might tell us in the abstract.

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[Originally posted at Notes on a Theory]

The president’s new budget proposal includes both Chained CPI, a cut in Social Security benefits, and cuts in Medicare benefits.  As Shawn Fremstad notes, the White House’s assurances that the ‘most vulnerable’ will be protected are not to be taken seriously.

It’s troubling for any number of reasons, including that the defenses offered are nonsense.  Chained CPI is arguably a more accurate measure for working people, but the existing measure clearly underestimates inflation for seniors, who spend far more of their income on health care, where costs are rising faster. Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit, which doesn’t matter(at least at the moment), and no one actually cares about it, and Medicare costs could be dealt with through costs controls rather than benefit cuts.

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Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 08:00 PM PST

No More Lame Ducks

by David Kaib

Originally posted at Notes on a Theory

Legislators at the state and federal levels are working hard at acting without democratic constraints at the moment.

The Michigan legislature, still held by Republicans, although their House majority was reduced in the recent election, has been rushing through all manner of ALEC-sponsored legislation, including the No Rights At Work law, harsh abortion restrictions, and an emergency manager law that had just been overturned by initiative.  (They are being encouraged by billionaires who know their power is at a high point and voters' at a low one).

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Originally posted at Notes on a Theory

I just asked this question on Twitter, and realized I wasn't going to be able to explain it  in 140 characters.  So I thought I'd elaborate here. First, the question:

What do people think about reframing "the right to work" as just cause employment laws?

There has been a lot of talk about how we need to reframe the horribly inaptly named "right to work" laws, which essentially require unions to represent workers who refuse to join or otherwise support the union in any way.  Since no one is ever required to join a union, this whole framing in nonsense, a cover for a policy designed to weaken unions that can't be defended on the merits.

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Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 05:01 PM PDT

Citizens United and the Way Out

by David Kaib

An earlier version of this diary was posted at Notes on a Theory.

A common refrain is that until the problem of money in politics is dealt with, we can’t achieve anything.  Often, the focus is on Citizens United, and the necessity of a constitutional amendment to overturn it.  The difficulty here should be obvious – enacting a constitutional amendment is exceedingly difficult, it would require gaining support from plenty of red states in addition to the blue and purple ones, it would require a set of strategies different from those common in campaigns now (i.e. ad driven, because why would big money donors support it), etc.  How could this be achieved in a system that is broken?  Obviously, one needs a way to improve the situation that can operate within the existing system, or there is no way out. By focusing on a constitutional amendment (without offering a path to get there), we offer people two choices – fatalism, or magic thinking. Neither view is very useful.

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Cross posted at Notes on a Theory

Since we're getting closer to the presidential election (which will not come soon enough), we'll soon be in that brief moment when we will temporarily notice that presidents are not chosen by elections, but by the strange institution of the electoral college.  Personally, I find the substantive defenses of the electoral college to be so weak they're barely worth discussing.  It seems to me these are merely tossed in along with the real reason for most, which is an argument based in tradition.  But this too is flawed.  Must we maintain the present system for selecting a president if we wish to be faithful to the Constitution and those who framed it?  Only ignorance of the text and our history would lead us to answer yes.

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Cross posted at Notes on a Theory

One problem with our general ignorance of history is that you can end up thinking developments are different from the past when they aren’t. I was reminded of this while reading Andrew Cohen’s excellent piece on the disenfranchisement in South Carolina.

On Wednesday morning, [Judge] Beeney questioned Andino [a South Carolina election official] about the status of registered voters who come to vote on Election Day without the new form of photo identification required by the new law. Those registered voters may be permitted -- the emphasis is on the word "may" because local officials seem to have a great deal of discretion to make that call -- to cast a provisional ballot if they state they had a "reasonable impediment" to getting the new identification cards.

Those provisional ballots, in turn, may then be challenged (by anyone) on the basis that the provisional voter didn't have a "reasonable impediment" after all. The challenges are heard and resolved on the Friday following the election -- one day in advance of the "certification" of the election results that occurs on Saturday. Andino testified that South Carolina notifies provisional voters of this hearing by mail between Tuesday's election and Friday (which doesn't leave much time for the postman, does it?).

A provisional voter isn't told that his or her vote has been challenged. The provisional voter is simply told there will be a hearing. So if that voter wants to defend his or her "reasonable impediment" declaration, the voter has to go to the county seat on the Friday following the election to make sure that his or her vote will be counted. Of course, a lack of transportation, public or otherwise, is likely to have been one of the biggest reasons why that voter could not get his or her new identification in the first place.

It gets worse when he quotes the testimony.
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Cross posted at Notes on a Theory

At the GOP convention, Jeb Bush argued in favor of voucher and school choice using the frame of civil rights.  Bush, brother of failed president and education reformer George W. Bush, went further, offering an even more inapt metaphor.

“Everywhere in our lives, we get the chance to choose,” he said in a prepared version of his remarks sent to reporters. “Go down any supermarket aisle - you’ll find an incredible selection of milk. You can get whole milk, 2% milk, low-fat milk or skim milk. Organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D. There’s flavored milk— chocolate, strawberry or vanilla - and it doesn’t even taste like milk. They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.”

“Shouldn’t parents have that kind of choice in schools?” Bush said.

This perfectly encapsulates what's wrong with the corporate ed position.
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Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:56 AM PDT

My Hope for Independence Day

by David Kaib

Cross posted at Notes on a Theory

My hope for Independence Day is that we can start with the small step of calling this day Independence Day, not Fourth of July. It strikes me how odd it is to refer to the day by its date. I suspect it’s partly because of its political content - like so much political language, this seems to be an example of "blunt[ing] the too sharply pointed."

From there, I hope that we can reconnect with the meaning of today and other holidays - like Martin Luther King Day and Labor Day. Perhaps we might also use this day as a chance to think about the ways we have yet to root out royalism / aristocracy in our culture - whether that be the way we treat presidents, senators, celebrities, or the rich.  If we get past the fireworks and barbecue, we often just lionize the people at the top of the American Revolution (who did not make the Revolution, they were only a part of it.)  It’s also worth remembering that those who made the Revolution were putting principle over their loyalty to the country—those who chose the opposite path were not called patriots, they were called loyalists.

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