Category: Politics

Raising the Floor by Andy Stern

book jacketRaising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern (2016)

This is a good book. I am buying this book. I do not agree with everything he says in the book, but the writing is clear and broad in scope. I was reminded of something I knew, that Alaska changed their state constitution to provide a basic income to all resident citizens from the money oil leases and such brought into the state by putting all that money into a dedicated fund to share the wealth. And a Republican governor did it.

I have some doubts about the purported takeover of technology for jobs, but that is probably a prejudice or failure of imagination on my part due to my lack of education and experience (pre-females being allowed to take shop in public schools). It is like watching magic to see a video of the automation that puts car parts together, or the mind blowing details of how the new Bay Bridge was built. Or when I saw the giant machine used to drill out the tunnel under the English channel. For that matter, every day I took the New York subway, especially though the tunnel under the water from Queens or when I drove through the Holland Tunnel and did not drown, well, it just doesn’t seem possible that mere mortals could figure out how to make tools and how to use them to accomplish such feats.

We have people who cannot make change correctly so cash register machines had to be modified to contain a function that simply told workers what the correct change should be. Icons are used instead of words, although I have to say, from a user interface point of view, this actually is a good thing on many levels: multilingual, faster, and more accurate. Translating the abstract concept of FRIES by having a little graphic of french fries in the container eliminates a lot of cross-brain work translating the letter symbols into a word and then punching a value of numbers in the register.

Trust is the number one criteria for people to accept a lot of the mechanization and technology. As a grocery shopped, you select a product based on a posted sign for a particular price. When the item is scanned at the register, can you remember the price of all the items selected to ascertain if the automated system actually priced it as the sale take listed or maybe it added a penny or a dime. Who actually watches the $$ values that are being rung up and are confident enough in their recollection to contest a price? Peer pressure of people standing in line waiting for you, the inability of the register clerk to know anything beyond what the computer tells her is right, having to call a manager over to assess the situation and go back to the shelves to check the sign, all to save 2 cents on a $2.00 purchase. Not a scenario to encourage questioning the accuracy of the technology. Even self-serve registers have this problem, or worse, because you have to do the scanning yourself while watching accuracy and then do the bagging too, again with people standing there impatiently waiting while you try to figure out why your credit card swipe is demanding a pin number you don’t have and it just seems wrong to push the red cancel button to continue.

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Thieves in High Places by Jim Hightower

book jacket author with sandwich board sign in red long johnsThieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen our Country and it’s Time to Take it Back by Jim Hightower (2003)

Another funny book by the author of:
 If the gods had wanted us to vote they would have given us candidates (2000).

Funny but it makes you want to cry way, book of commentary and actual facts from Jim Hightower. He starts the introduction with a very appropriate word for the W days: Kleptocrat Nation. I have since learned another word that better suits the 2017 administration: kakistocracy.

For those of you who don’t want to click the link, Wikipedia defines it to mean:

“a state or country run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens”

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Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth

book jacket showing an empty walletAusterity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth (2013)

I could start and end my commentary with this simple imperative: BUY THIS BOOK.

Economics was one subject about which I had little interest and a lot of hostility when forced to take it in college. The teacher tried his best, but trying to explain economic theory to a bunch of kids who have possibly never had any knowledge of how much money their parents make, spend, or what things cost is a rather hopeless proposition. At least for me, combined with minimal exposure to life long enough to seen the actual consequences of economic theory in policymaking and being able to see the short-term and long-term impact of such policies, made the content just too much of a word salad to be useful.

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clever book jacket with his face in cowboy hat and blue and red stripes with stars on either side with the photo of heads of politiciansIF THE GODS HAD MEANT US TO VOTE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN US CANDIDATES: More political subversion from Jim Hightower (2000)

Note, there is an updated and revised 2010 edition. This cover image is from the 2000 edition I got from the library. They may have the newer version too, and I definitely want to check it out (pun intended!).

I had heard the name of Jim Hightower and recognized him as a politician. I had no idea he was so FUNNY! Since he was from Texas I just assumed he was one of the humorless, hostile, conservative types. Turns out he will SKEWER ANYONE with equal delight!

Jim Hightower, America’s most popular populist, is a bestselling author, radio commentator, public speaker, and all-around political sparkplug whose credo is “You can fight the gods and still have fun.” Twice elected to statewide office in Texas, he has long battled the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought to Be: the working families, consumers, the environment, small businesses, and just plain folks.

Though the jacket copy above used the cringe-worthy “folks” that has forever been made vomit-inducing from the W use of it (and followed by Obama continuation of same while speaking in an elegant fully literate way otherwise), I was delighted to read this description, itself amusing.

The title alone perfectly sums up the 2016 election without needing any updating. In fact, it might be even more applicable to 2016. The 17 losers (and I include 45 in particular despite the Electoral concept biting US all in the ass), was astonishing in the shallowness of the candidates, the YUUUUUGENESS of their egos (45!! Unbelievable. Trust me. Believe me. Sad.)

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America’s Unwritten Constitution by Akhil Reed Amar

book jacket

America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By. (c 2012) Akhil Reed Amar,

the author of America’s book jacket title and image of quill penConstitution: A Biography (c 2005)

Okay read. Could be better.



I am completely mystified about this blank page. I am sure I wrote something on the first title of these books, but I see I tagged it “must re-checkout from library.

As I recall, this first one was a good book. I remember have a few criticisms like the ill-designed index and somewhat inadequate index (not the author’s fault, professional indexers are usually used to create).

I learned a bunch of stuff from this book and it really peeves me that I read and did not, apparently, write a post at the same time. I guess that means it had pretty gripping material.

I do recommend it for a read.


book jacketI also checked out his other book, The Constitution Today Read parts and skimmed most, but did not find it particularly good. To explain what I mean by good, it has to tell me stuff I didn’t already know, be organized in a coherent and useful pattern, and have some kind of consistent point-of-view. It seemed to me that this was just a thrown together collection of somewhat outdated essays. Not recommended reading; a disappointment.





The Americans with Disabilities Act plus a History book

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 2nd edition, revised and updated by Margaret C. Jasper. Oceana’s Law for the Layperson Legal Almanac Series (2008)

It has only been since 1990 that the ADA was signed into law “to give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those prohibiting discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion.”

This Almanac examines the ADA, and entitled to under the Act. The areas governed by the ADA are explored, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. This Almanac also gives a brief overview of legislation designed to protect the disabled in areas not covered by the ADA.

The Appendix provides selected provisions of the ADA, sample forms, and other pertinent information and data. The Glossary contains definitions of many of the terms used throughout the Almanac.

The book includes information on some other legislation and programs on related to disability. At 8 years past date, it serves only to describe what was written then. I don’t know what all possible additional laws or programs have been implemented, but one of the most critical has to be the 2014 passage of the ABLE Act now coming online for a number of states. There are three amendments in Congress that would amend the passed legislation to “fix” some issues, like the modification from the proposed original bill that had NO AGE LIMITATION to one that requires severe disability before the age of 26; this is just wrong on so many levels. Wrong because it means that if you get in a car crash two days before yours birthday and become paralyzed, you MAY OPEN an ABLE account. If you get in a car crash on your 26th birthday, though equally disabled, you may NOT open an Able account. The ABLE account allows disabled individuals, their family, and anyone else that would care to, to give up to $14,000 a year tax free into a disabled person’s ABLE account to be used for necessary expenses (quite broadly defined). For example, new tires, dental work, even vacations. But the real purpose is to exempt the ABLE money from counting against the mean-spirited conservative policy of requiring MEANS TESTING to prove substantial impoverishment in order to access any government services, including Medicaid. So if I as a disabled person could use  weekly help to manage vacuuming and other household actives, I have to pay out of pocket until I have only $2,000 (varies by state) in assets leaving no funds for ANYTHING that would be common expenses like copays, deductibles, possibly insurance for the 20% portion not covered by Medicare, and a host of other costs necessary to stay in my home and keep my car payments up and the car running so that I can still live a life beyond mandatory reduction of all assets so that I would be completely dependent for housing, transportation, food and count myself lucky to get any assistance at all given the new regime in the federal government. I did make a concerted effort to try to get the amendments passed (they remain stalled in committees) before the new Congress but to no avail. There seems very little likelihood that anything for a social safety net will be passed under the new administration.

To save myself from having to detail how the book is organized, here are some little images for you to get a sense of the content. There is no index so the only way to guess where a topic might be covered is from the Table of Contents.

The book is very legalese and thus hard to understand anything it says. It tried to group topics together, like employment or public transportation, but in the end reading this book has not been helpful for me to understand what my rights are and seems to rely on litigation to define the rights.  Phrases like “undue burden” are too subjective and if it depends on the authority of a business to decide what are undue burdens, then pretty hard to argue with that.

book jacketThe New Disability History: American Perspectives, ed. Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky (2001)

p. 375

On January 22, 1907, the Committee on Pensions of the US House of Representatives held a hearing on the subject of pensions for disabled veterans of the Civil and Mexican-American Wars. The hearing began…

lawyer lobbyists spoke for veterans as being worthy and moral and having done their duty thus deserved pension.

First, Brown justifies assistance to disabled veterans not MERELY in terms of their NEED but also as repayment for past military service. He bases their claims before the government not on their impairments alone but also on the MORAL WORTH and SOCIAL WORTHINESS of these men. A survey of modern US disability policy reveals that Brown is far from alone in this view. Many public disability programs were, and ARE, based on PAST CONTRIBUTIONS. For example, the largest federal program that provides case payment to people who have a disability, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is a social INSURANCE program available only to those who have PARTICIPATED in the PAID WORKFORCE and have PAID PAYROLL TAXES into the Disability Insurance trust fund. While Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal income maintenance program, provides cash benefits for those who have never worked, SSI benefits are significantly lower than payments made to most SSDI beneficiaries. In every type of disability policy and program, from veterans pensions to vocational rehabilitation, from social insurance to civil rights, notions of MORAL WORTH and SOCIAL WORTHINESS have played a central role in determining what individuals have qualified for benefits or protections.

Brown also distinguishes among people who are “maimed” and blind, whom he says have been well provided for, and those with rheumatic difficulties, who have not. This kind of distinction has appeared frequently in disability policy in the US. Because of the often piecemeal and ad hoc maker in which public policy has been mae, different levels of benefits ma have been available to people with different types of impairments, even if those differences have not reflected the severity of condition or the economic and social need with which it was associated. For example, blind people have long enjoyed special status in public policy, including vending opportunities in federal facilities and unique tax advantages. This disparity in part reflects the political mobilization of blind people, in which organizations such as the NFB have played a pivotal role. It may also relate to some special cultural meaning of blindness, because of which policymakers and the public have been more willing to extend assistance to blind people than to individuals with other disabilities.

p. 378 –

These veterans disability pensions constituted a “precocious” American welfare state that anticipated Social Security. They reflected what Theda Skocpol refers to as “institutional” cultural oppositions between the MORALLY  ‘UNDESERVING’ and the less deserving that run like fault lines through the entire history of American social provision. (fn 8) By contrast, the first European social insurance and pension programs were offered as categorical entitlements to broad categories of workers and the indigent. Skocpol  notes the distinctive MORAL COMPONENT of the American disability pension programs: they were restricted NOT TO THOSE OF THE MOST NEED but to those who “b their own choices and efforts as young men had EARNED AID.” She concludes that in American public policy, “no matter how MATERIALLY NEEDY, the morally UNDESERVING or less less deserving were not the nation’s responsibility.

Subsequent to the pension program for disabled Civil War veterans, workers’ compensation, originally referred to as workman’s compensation, became the first public policy initiative of the early twentieth century. Workers’ compensation rested on the precept that an injured worker was entitled to redress by his or her employer. While this concept was not new in the twentieth entry, the rise of idustrial capitalism and the ideology of laissez had led to an erosion in workers’ common-law rights to compensation. With the increasing mechanization of industry and accompanying loss of workers’ control over their working conditions, workplace injuries increased substantially. Yet, early in the twentieth century, many workers injured in industrial accidents typically could not obtain either medical assistance or financial compensation from their employers.

In response to this situation, Progressive Era reformers argued for the passage of workers’ compensation laws. These laws required both medical and financial assistance to workers injured on the job. The statutes were modeled on the compensation already being provided to disabled military veterans. But, unlike disabled veterans’ compensation programs, workers compensation initiatives focused on the states rather than the federal government. This state-centered policymaking followed the pattern of pre-New Deal American social policy. It had appeared earlier in the asylum movement. The first state laws were passed in 1909. By 1921, forty-five states and territories had enacted workers’ compensation laws. Later in the century, after extended debate between advocates for worker and the business and insurance industries, industrial diseases were added to the list of conditions eligible for coverage. (p. 379)

In the post-World War II prosperity of of 1956, Congress amended the Social Security Disability Insurance, for workers who acquired long-term disabilities. Though SSDI is a federal ENTITLEMENT, the states have had the responsibility for determining eligibility for the program. Payments are provided to an individual whose impairment, in the language of the 1967 amendments, is of “such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannon, considering his age, education, and work experience engage in any kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the immediate area in which he lives or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him or whiter he would be hired if he applied for work.

Disability insurance had been a goal of earlier social insurance reformers in the 1930s and 1940s, but its potential cost and the opposition of business and medical interests had prevented its passage. [fn 14] At first, Congress limited SSDI to disabled workers between the ages of fifty and sixty-four, but in 1960 it removed the lower age limit; nonetheless, to receive full SSDI benefits, individuals must have paid work experience of a least ten years. The attractiveness of the program increased as automatic eligibility for Medicare coverage was tied to SSDI enrollment. Despite its narrow definition of eligibility, participation in SSDI expanded rapidly from its creation on through the late 1970s. Attempts in the early 1980s to reduce the rate of increasing participation by making it more difficult to qualify for SSDI benefits proved controversial. Ultimately, those efforts failed, in part de to political pressures heightened by dramatic media accounts, and in part because the rate of program expansion leveled off in the 1980s. (p. 380)

Some analysts have viewed the SSDI program as a ticket out of the worked for displace workers with limited educational credentials or technologically obsolete skills. Many other have objected to the all-or-nothing work disincentive in the program’s eligibility requirement that force applicants to choose, on the one hand, between receiving income support and medical insurance and, on the other hand, accepting employment, often at low-paying jobs without medical benefits. (in 1999, some of these disincentives were reduced with the enactment of the Work Incentives Improvement Act, although the impact of this law remains unclear.


In 1972, an additional federal cash benefit program, Social Security Income, was created under the Social Security Act amendments. SSI replaced previous federal-state welfare programs for people with disabilities (and a separate set of programs for blind people) because Congress considered them too inconsistent and, in some states, inadequate. SSI provides cash benefits to eligible individuals with disabilities who have very low incomes, regardless of their work history (unlike SSDI). SSI’s determination of work disability in similar to SSDI’s, with many of the same ambiguities and problems. Because SSI beneficiaries have very low incomes and the cash benefits themselves are quite modest, individuals eligilble for SSI also automatically qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income and  individuals and families. Like SSDI, few SSI beneficiaries enter the paid workforce after they are enrolled in the program. In recent years, an increasing number of SSI applicants have had psychiatric and addiction disorders, complicating issues of building work incentives into the program.

Once again, didn’t get to finish the post but this is good information so I am going to post anyway.

When re-reading some of it just now, I was struck by the “required wage work” concept cited. Without returning to the text, it does make me wonder if this is an area of little research from back in the day when women were unpaid chauffeurs, caregivers, housemaids, cooks, and bottle washers.

You can buy reasonably priced long-term disability insurance (be sure to pay the whole premium yourself because it is NOT taxable as income when you do this) as an employee at larger businesses and corporations, but as a stay-at-home mom, I am not sure what happens if you become disabled or if you can even by the insurance for an affordable amount as an individual. I will have to look into it once I get caught up (ha ha).



Anti-intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstatder

book coverAnti-intellectualism in American Life (1964)

Maybe it is intrinsic to American core perception of egalitarianism that leads to this hatred of the smart people. On a Bell curve, anyone not in the middle is treated with contempt by those in the middle. People hare and fear “dummies” but their true venom is reserved for anyone smarter than themselves. So they actively work to bully, ridicule, and shame people who are smart and driven to get good grades, pursue extraordinary dreams.

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Affairs of Honor by Joanne Freeman

book cover of affairs of honor with cartoon of founding fathers fightingAffairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic by Joanne Freeman (2002), the author was an excellent speaker on the binge watching of C-SPAN3 covering American History. A good follow on with my initial reading on the development of political parties.

Again, I read a bunch but did not write at the time so will have to check out from library again to be able to share the best parts and write my commentary.

Down for the Count by Andrew Gumbel

book jacket obscured photo of 1920s menDown for the Count: dirty elections and the rotten history of democracy in America by Andrew Gumbel (2005, 2016)

This is a MUST READ BOOK. Our democracy has been chugging along despite dirty rotten scoundrels, but that is no longer the case. McCarthyism is when I think tipped us over the edge. No, wait, the internment of the Japanese Americans came first. Previously we had been stumbling at least towards some degree of a sense of social justice. But that was killed by Reagan, compounded by Bill Clinton, and destroyed world over by George W. Bush.

Another on the must check out from library again and do a proper review. Listening to a college course lecturer on McCarthyism now on cd so that will be very informative as a background to the future and potential civil liberty crack downs like the Alien and Sedition Act.


Wrong and Dangerous by Garrett Epps

book jacket with scrap of Constitution showingWrong and Dangerous: Ten Right-Wing Myths about Our Constitution by Garrett Epps (2012)

This slim volume is a fun read (the touches of sarcasm are a delight) about what the Constitution actually says and directly refutes right-wing claims to the contrary. Excellent notes and list of books for further reading by categories like “the Bill of Rights” and an appendix that provides the actual text of the Constitution plus the first version that failed to meet the needs of the nation due to lack of sufficient federal authority over states’ rights. Personally, I long for the day that the entire concept of “states’ rights” is abolished. My rights as a citizen should not depend on geography. States’ rights is a vestigial concept leftover from the fear of a central “kingdom” type of government.

I may write the author and suggest he dedicate another volume to the Fourteenth Amendment, and social justice issues related to it that have had Supreme Court (bad or good) rulings, especially in the area of racism and sexism.

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