Progressive Reading List


For this weekend’s progressive reading list we have articles on the largely successful rollout of ObamaCare in the states that created exchanges, how economic inequality fuels itself, President Obama’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, how hospitals rake in obscene amounts of profits, and declining food stamp benefits.


The Truth About the ObamaCare Rollout - while the media has focused on a number of serious flaws in the computerized registration system for the federal health care exchange, the state exchanges are doing much better and there is still plenty of time for the process to work.

Poverty Breeds More Poverty - an essay about how how economic inequality fuels even further economic inequality in the absence of government policies to counteract such inequality.

Jeh Johnson: Why Obama’s Left-Field DHS Pick Could be an Agent of Change – President Obama’s new pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, who previously helped end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and who last fall cautioned against an unending militarized war against terrorism, could help reform an agency that needs significant reforms.

Prognosis: Profits – a multi-part investigative series in the Charlotte Observer about how hospitals in the area are making increasingly obscene amounts of profits at the expense of patients

SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut For All Participants in November 2013 – As a result of the accelerated sunsetting of the increase in food stamp benefits included in the 2009 stimulus act, SNAP recipients and our economy will be hit with a combined reduction of approximately $5 billion per year in benefits starting in November 2013.




The Reactionary Mind, Part I: Lord of the Manor

The reactionary mind

(By NCrissie B)

This week Morning Feature considers Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Today we begin with Robin’s argument that conservatism appeals to personal experiences of power and privilege. Tomorrow we’ll see how conservatism romanticizes hardship and struggle. Then we’ll conclude with Robin’s core thesis that conservatism exists only in reaction to progressive change.

Corey Robin teaches political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition to The Reactionary Mind, Dr. Robin is the author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, the London Review of Books, and elsewhere. He studied at Oxford University and Princeton before earning his Ph.D at Yale, and blogs at Crooked Timber and Jacobin.

“A meditation on … the felt experience of having power”

In his introduction, Dr. Robin emphasizes that conservatism is rooted in personal experiences of power and privilege:

This book is about the second half of that story, the demarche, and the political ideas – variously called conservative, reactionary, revanchist, counterrevolutionary – that grow out of and give rise to it. [...] They have always been, at least since they first emerged as formal ideologies during the French Revolution, battles between social groups rather than nations; roughly speaking, between those with more power and those with less. To understand these ideas, we have to understand that story. For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on – and theoretical rendition of – the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.

To emphasize the personal nature of conservatism, Dr. Robin offers marital rape as his first concrete example. He cites a 1736 treatise by British jurist Matthew Hale that argued a woman implicitly agrees to sex on demand with her husband in the marriage contract, “a tacit, if unknown consent ‘which she cannot retract’ for the duration of their union.” A 1957 U.S. legal definition held that “A man does not commit rape by having sexual intercourse with his lawful wife, even if he does so by force and against her will.”

That changed over the 1980s, and by 1993 marital rape was illegal in all 50 U.S. states. Not coincidentally, that covers the time period that conservative David Usher described in his screed against marriage equality:

Feminists made feminist marriage their top long-term goal twenty-five years ago and invested tremendous resources in it, because they intend to convert marriage into a feminist-controlled government enterprise and subordinate the rest of America to fund it.

“The day-to-day experience of ruling other men and women”

Slavery in the U.S. was also an intimate, personal experience. Slaves lived on their masters’ property, making it what Dr. Robin calls “an exceptionally personal mode of rule.” He details the masters’ detailed control over their slaves’ daily lives, adding:

The consequences of this proximity were felt not just by the slave but by the master as well. Living every day with his mastery, he became entirely identified with it. So complete was this identification that any sign of the slave’s disobedience – much less her emancipation – was seen as an intolerable assault upon his person. When [John] Calhoun declared that slavery “has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them, that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people,” he wasn’t just referring to society in the aggregate or abstract. He was thinking of individual men absorbed in the day-to-day experience of ruling other men and women. Take that experience away, and you destroyed not only the master but also the man – and the many men who sought to become, or thought they were already like, the master.

By the time of the Civil War, over 400,000 Southerners owned slaves and some states subsidized the purchase of slaves to ensure more whites were invested in the system, a motive that would be repeated in President George W. Bush’s “ownership society.”

“The state suffers oppression, if such as they … are permitted to rule”

From the time of Edmund Burke, conservatism also sought to exclude ordinary workers from government and from any role in workplace decisions:

The occupation of an hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person – to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule.

For conservatives, “freedom” means to be lord of your manor: your home and your business. To extend the “freedoms” of wives or workers is to limit the “freedoms” of those ruling over them, as Dr. Robin writes:

If women and workers are provided with the economic resources to make independent choices, they will be free not to obey their husbands and employers. [...] For the conservative, equality portends more than a redistribution of resources, opportunities, and outcomes – though he certainly dislikes these too. What equality ultimately means is a rotation in the seat of power.

Rusty is voting his own interests

In asking why not-wealthy Republicans “vote against their own interests” – as Thomas Frank famously explored in What’s the Matter with Kansas? – progressives usually conclude that working class white Republicans have been “duped” by appeals to religion, race, and “family values.” But that misses the key appeal of conservatism: Rusty Redvoter’s personal experiences of power and privilege.

Conservatism reminds Rusty that he was once, and promises him that he can be again, the lord of his own manor. No, Rusty’s manor was not and likely never will be as big as the Koch or Walton families. But for Rusty to compare himself to them is, in the conservative moral universe, to violate one (or two, depending on the numbering) of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not covet.”

Rusty’s moral duty, as Irving Kristol wrote, is to wield his own power over his own manor:

Power breeds responsibilities, in international affairs as in domestic – or even private. To dodge or disclaim these responsibilities is one form of the abuse of power.

This is why Republicans – emboldened by Rusty and his Tea Party friends in 2010 – promptly attacked women’s reproductive freedom, including calls for laws requiring the husband’s consent for abortion. In 1976 the Supreme Court said Rusty’s wife could have an abortion without his consent and, in 1992, without even telling him she was pregnant. Conservatism tells Rusty that abortion and marriage equality are part of a feminist plot to undermine his manhood and promises him a return to “family values” where his wife must obey him under fear of physical punishment.

Rusty doesn’t vote Republican to protect the Koch or Walton families’ wealth. He votes Republican because they promise to make him lord of the manor once again, to return Rusty’s personal experience of knowing he rightfully stood ahead of women and people of color … in his own home and at his own job.

That is a powerful emotional appeal, and progressives dismiss it at our peril.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (

What Exactly is the Point of Public Polling?

public polling(By The Pragmatic Pundit)

It is a frightening prospect to think that politicians and the media are relying on public opinion polling at the expense of traditional governance and good old fashioned reporting, but it seems to be the case.  Why can’t politicians just do their jobs and why can’t the media simply report truth and facts?  I don’t give a rat’s patoot what some hillbilly in the backwoods thinks or the guy on Wall Street either, to be honest.

I know this comes off sounding elitist, but it’s simply a recognition of the inescapable fact that the average American is too uninformed, misinformed and disinterested in the political landscape of the country to be used to gauge how we should be governed. Three years after the passage of The Affordable Care Act, a man confessed it might be a good idea, but wondered “why the heck Obama had to name it after himself”.

Americans know shockingly little about politics and the government and even less about the Constitution.  Most have no idea what the White House has accomplished and if polling has any validity, a large percentage of Americans don’t even know who Joe Biden is.  He’s only been in Washington for 40 years, as a Senator, a Presidential candidate and now Vice President of the United States. So why in God’s name do pollsters insist on asking the public questions like whether or not  the Iraqi government should be decentralized and Iraq separated into three distinct regions?  Foreign policy?  Most Americans couldn’t spot Iraq on a map with a GPS.

In all fairness, one simply cannot be an expert on every subject. That’s why we elect representatives. Politicians have advisors. Expert advisors who possess the experience and the specialized knowledge of everything from economics to the environment.  And all too often, even they don’t agree and sometimes they even get it wrong.  So when the issue is one for which genuine understanding requires specialized knowledge or experience, then we are not best served by taking polls of random people and proceeding according to what they think.

Clearly, polls can influence political messages and responses to events, but I would like to believe they do not impact decisions to the extent that observers often claim.  It doesn’t matter what people think is the best way to solve an issue, because they don’t really know what it would take to solve the problems facing the country.  Many believe the debts of the country are comparable to the their own personal indebtedness.  They don’t know the difference between the debt and the deficit and can’t even spell quantitative easing.  I’m not saying Americans are dumb…but…well…anyway, I just believe elected representatives should seek to solve problems and govern in the way that seems best to them; guided by humane morals and proven government principles…not by polling “voters” in their district, high-dollar donors or industry lobbyists.

Progressive Reading List


For this weekend’s progressive reading list we have a profile of a a highly successful organization dedicated to helping low-wage workers in Los Angeles, what the tea party really represents, a Nobel prize winner explains the benefits of affordable and high quality education, sexual victimization in our nation’s prisons, and the rift between Bush and Cheney.


L.A. Story – a profile of LAANE – the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a think tank, policy shop, and political organizing group that over the past 20 years “has become the nation’s most innovative and effective force for raising the incomes of low-wage private-sector workers.”

Tea Party Radicalism is Misunderstood – an argument that the tea party isn’t just a bunch of unhinged and uninformed populists, but instead is the latest incarnation of a mostly Southern and white conservative elite adopting new tactics to try to hold onto power in a nation that is becoming more diverse and more tolerant.

Could This 2013 Nobel Laureate Afford College Today? – Randy Scheckman, one of this year’s Nobel prize winners in medicine, is passionate about the opportunities that he had thanks to the availability of high quality, low cost public universities in California in the late-1960s, and about the importance of our creating such opportunities again today.

The Shame of Our Prisons – a review of the latest data on the inexcusably high levels of sexual victimization of adult and juvenile inmates in our nation’s jails and prisons

The Final Insult in the Bush-Cheney Marriage - an inside account of the rift between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney due to Bush’s refusal to pardon convicted felon and Cheney adviser I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby


The GOP is Stuck on Stupid

tea party

(By The Political Pragmatic)

On MSNBC some Tea Party idiot was railing about ObamaCare…

“The President lied!”, she shrieked.  “He said you could keep your insurance and the doctor of your choice…he lied!” 

It’s been three and a half years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act and I am at a loss to understand what it is that these retarded revolutionaries fail to grasp.  ObamaCare, as it is called, is not insurance; it is not medical care…it is an Act, a law, legislation, bill, statute, decree, measure, enactment, ordinance…that regulates the acquisition and issuance of health insurance.

The only change to health insurance; Blue Cross Blue Shield,  Humana, Aetna, Kaiser, etc. is that they are regulated by the Affordable Care Act.  There is no such thing as ObamaCare Health Insurance.  If one’s doctor drops them from the roles, that is purely a choice made by the doctor.  If an employer changes insurance carriers, that is between the employer and the employee.  Neither is a requirement of ObamaCare.

This group of Republican anarchists who claim to be so fiscally responsible, have squandered more than 60 million taxpayer dollars attempting to repeal a law that was passed by Congress.  This group of Republican radicals who took an oath to honor the Constitution, have spent all their time trying to repeal a law that has been found Constitutional by the Supreme Court.  This group of Republican deficit dimwits, who claim they are concerned about spending,  are seeking to repeal a law even though it’s elimination would increase the deficit.The Tea Party idiot continued,  

”It was passed with a legislative trick…with only Democrat votes.”

This shrill has to be the dumbest of all.  The attempts at repealing ObamaCare are registered with all Republican votes…is that a legislative trick?  The government shutdown is a result of all Republican votes…is that a legislative trick?  They’re not just rebellious, destructive anarchists, they’re stupid!  To her pea-brain, such an idea is an abomination when advanced by Democrats, while if the Republicans shutdown the government and threaten to default based solely on Republican backing, that is a measure of governmental godliness.

More importantly, when the balanced budget passed under Clinton, it passed with all Democratic votes…was that a trick?  Bush’s unfunded Medicare prescription drug bill passed at 3 in the morning with all Republican votes…was that a trick?  Now we have a Republican Speaker who refuses to call for a vote to reopen the government because he can’t get all Republican votes to do so.  Is the shutdown a trick?

“No one has ever even read the bill…it’s 2000 pages long!”

Wonder if she has ever read the bill that establishes Social Security, it’s only 1,000 pages.  Or what about the Medicare bill?  It’s my understanding, the core legislation is less than 100 pages.  Think she’s read it?

The Tea Party, Republicans, Boehner, the whole lot of that right-leaning caucus are stuck on stupid.

Progressive Reading List

wendy davis for governor texas

For this weekend’s progressive reading list we have articles on Wendy Davis – the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Texas, iPads vs. eyeglasses for public school students, genetically modified foods, and the public education vs. privatization debate.

The Wendy Davis Scouting Report – the pros, cons, and challenges facing Wendy Davis, the exciting Democratic candidate for Governor in Texas.

No Child Left Untableted - the story behind the latest effort of education “reformers,” and Rupert Murdoch, to profit off of our children is getting school districts to provide an iPad or other tablet computer to every student even though there is no evidence that doing so would improve educational outcomes. In Los Angeles public schools alone, the effort would cost $1 billion, while an actual problem – providing eyeglasses to the 250,000 students who need them – goes unaddressed.

The Truth About GMOs - a series of essays debating issues of whether genetically modified foods are safe, how they should be regulated, and what an appropriate type of labeling is for such foods.

The Two Faces of American Education - a review of two competing and diametrically opposed books on education in American – Diane Ravtich’s Reign of Error, which challenges the privatization efforts being peddled by education “reformers” who ignore the fact that our public school system performs far better than conventional wisdom claims, and Michele Rhee’s Radical, which targets public school teachers as the primary culprits of an allegedly under-performing public school system.