Elizabeth Warren Proposes Bill to Ban Credit Scores in Hiring Process

It’s not the big bill to fix the economy we need, but that wouldn’t have any chance of passage any old way. I hope this bill does. There’s a lot of unfairness in the job hunt process and it’s just getting worse and worse, but the use of someone’s credit score against a person looking for a job seems so egregiously unfair it should be addressed. Senator Elizabeth Warren (aka the Sexiest Woman Alive) gets it and is proposing legislation to keep credit scores out of the process.  

Sen. Warren, is doing the people’s business in a way that is getting under the skin of certain corporate a-hole types

Obviously, a whopping great infrastructure package is off the table. And that’s not Elizabeth Warren’s fault, of course. But that’s the point, isn’t it: Elizabeth Warren, the de facto leader of the new economic justice movement, is so stifled by our broken system (the vetocracy, to use Francis Fukuyama’s apt phrase) that this counts as a reform worth of a major media outreach.

We need 50 more of her ilk. Huzzah! Huzzah! Sadly, the rest of the bad lot (read: Republicans) have allowed our entire economic situation to go unremediated in any real way.

When the history books of the Great Recession are written, there will be chapters and chapters about how a sclerotic and dysfunctional system of governance allowed a short-term aggregate demand shock to rot into a serious structural problem. The question now is whether Congress will let the wounded country keep staggering forward, or keep making things worse until the system completely breaks down.

Interesting New Fronts in Union Success

The struggles to get fair wages and benefits to low wage workers at WalMart and fast food franchises have gotten most of the publicity lately. However, there are several interesting new avenues of union organizational success to point to that are quite encouraging because they involve younger workers that are very removed from the traditional idea of “union workers.”

This story from the Nation is about the dancers on Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour and their success in getting a union contract from the tour producers that protects the dancers while on tour.

There are some basic challenges to organizing dancers. They are a motley crew—some are classically trained, others learn on the street—and convincing professional dancers that they are all in the same field has been a challenge for the Dancer’s Alliance. They’re also young and driven, and not necessarily thinking about retirement, or even life after 30. “The average age of a dancer has to be early 20s, at that age you really feel invincible,” Wilson said. “It’s a passion so we don’t care if our knees hurt or our feet are bleeding.”

“We’re trying to get young people taking responsibility for being business professionals,” said Himes. “Helping artists step up and get respect for what they do.”

And then there’s the long struggle for graduate student teachers at NYU to get recognized as a union and their seemingly unlikely alliance with the United Auto Workers. 

The graduate assistants voted 620 to 10 to affiliate with the United Automobile Workers, a move that will make their group the only graduate assistants’ union recognized by a private university in the United States. Contract negotiations are expected to begin within weeks between the university and the new U.A.W. affiliate, which the union says will include 1,247 graduate assistants at New York University and the university’s Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn.

Both of these stories represent innovative approaches to getting young workers the protection of collective bargaining. These are success stories that you don’t often hear about in the media that spends so much time and space on “business” but hardly any on “labor”.

Peter O’Toole – The Greatest Film Actor of a Generation


O’Toole died this weekend at 81 and it was too soon. 81 is not long enough, not today. And especially not long enough for a particularly gifted actor who received his 8th Academy Award nomination at the age of 73 (Venus). Sadly, the Academy took O’Toole for granted because they continued to nominate him for his electric performances but never gave him a statuette until he finally accepted an honorary Oscar. 

It would be a crying shame if more people did not remember Peter O’Toole because he was one of a kind. A presence on screen that was absolutely unique for his ability to light up the screen like the great movie stars, but deliver powerful nuanced performances that had you hang on every word like only the finest stage actors can. 

A snippet of his eclectic filmography is illustrative.

He was a virtual unknown when David Lean cast him as T.E. Lawrence in the classic “Lawrence of Arabia”. It was a gamble, but O’Toole delivered a performance up to the film’s epic power.

In 1965 he shared the screen with a demented Peter Sellers in “What’s New Pussycat” playing a comically obsessed lothario as written by Woody Allen in Allen’s first screenplay.

In 1972 he played an insane English royal who believes himself to be Jesus Christ in “The Ruling Class”

in 1968 at the age of 36 he played a 52 year old Henry II opposite Katherine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter”

In 1982 he played an aging, alcoholic swashbuckling movie star scared to death to do a live TV performance in “My Favorite Year”

O’Toole did high drama, low comedy, romantic leads and character turns. And through it all his personality and intensity came through.He could go toe to toe in intensity with Katherine Hepburn or Richard Burton or trade bon mots in light comedy with the likes of Audrey Hepburn. Great films or bad films you watched O’Toole, whatever he did because he made it interesting, personal, vital and impossible to look away.

As Kenneth Turan wrote in his remembrance: 

In thinking back over O’Toole’s career, I kept coming back to a line from “My Favorite Year,” when the desperate Swann insists, “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star.” Peter O’Toole was magnificently both, and he proved it time and time again.

Traffic-Gate (forgive me) Gets Deeper and More Interesting

Not sure who’s been covering this on TV besides Rachel Maddow, but the local NY papers are, thankfully, all over this very odd story that occurred in September but is blowing up now.

To catch up you can watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En_43F4ycLc

To recap the details: the George Washington Bridge is the busiest bridge in America. On the opening day of the school year somebody decided to close two of the three lanes that lead to the bridge from the NJ town of Fort Lee. This caused a traffic nightmare in Fort Lee, for several days. The Port Authority of NY/NJ runs the bridge does not know why the two lanes were closed. At first spokesmen said it was for a “traffic study” which turned out to be a lie. The person who apparently ordered the road workers to block the lanes was a Christie appointee and high school pal of the Governor who, as of this week, resigned his post at the Port Authority. He had ordered the lane closures and told the workers not to tell anybody. Normally this is the kind of thing that would have weeks or months of advance notice. They did it and didn’t warn anybody.

The nearest anyone can figure a rational (but unethical) reason for the lane closures is the mayor of Fort Lee is a democrat who refused to endorse Christie. The manufactured traffic nightmare was retribution for not endorsing Christie’s runaway reelection. NJ Democrats are subpoenaing witnesses to find out what happened here.

So yesterday we found out that Christie called NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ask him to stop NY Port Authority people from looking into this matter.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person. The lane closures occurred without notice to local authorities, officials have said, and snarled traffic for a week in the small borough on the Hudson River bluffs.

And today we find out that Christie’s top Port Authority appointee has resigned. That’s two resignations already over this. This is getting very interesting.

JFK’s Prophetic Final Speech


Missed this on the 50th anniversary but the speech JFK was supposed to deliver that horrible day in Dallas was a speech you could imagine Obama delivering today keeping Ted Cruz and Fox News in mind.

In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason — or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land — voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.

The Answers to a Sustainable Economy are Simple and Only Progressives Have Them.

These are extreme times. Polls back up our empirical observations and show we’ve never been more polarized, at least in the mass media age. I keep harping on how a lot of the mainstream media doesn’t seem to want to recognize this except when they do a segment on how divided we are and then have two polar opposite talking heads scream at each other to prove it… and we’ll have to leave it there. Next up, is your sink killing you?  

Even I feel uncomfortable in conversation with the apolitical or uninformed trying to express to them why I think the last 35 years of politics in this country has been a counterrevolutionary coup by one side of the political spectrum to do nothing less than overturn the progress of the 20th century. It seems one sided. But fuck! It is, really! I have charts and graphs to prove it, wait come back!

On Twitter Polislice self-identifies this way:

The right are ideologues. Libertarians are ridiculous. Only the left is trying to MAKE THINGS WORK.

I believe that. So does the Century Foundation. What it comes down to for them, and I think it’s a good boiling down point, is Only Progressives Care About Public Investment. Republicans, conservatives, centrists of all stripes all say they believe in infrastructure and some public investment (with the exception of libertarians, natch), but as Kevin Drum writes in Mother Jones The War Over Austerity is Over. Republicans Won. Budgets are being crunched, and used as an excuse to not make the crucial investments most people will at least pay lip service to believing necessary. With the Budget Control Act, the Sequester, all the media noise about the budget deficit and the debt that even we on the left crow about when the numbers go down under a Democratic POTUS, spending is down and the debate is overweighted towards continuing that trend.

As detailed in a recent report by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute, the Obama administration, House Republican, and Senate Democrat budget proposals for fiscal 2014 all predicted federal non-defense public investment falling, within a decade, to the lowest relative levels since 1947.

Which is why the recovery and the jobs picture has been so anemic. Besides being the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Great Recession was accompanied by the unprecedented shedding of public jobs (police, teachers, fire fighters, municipal workers, etc.) which if reversed – if all those public jobs hadn’t been shed at the federal and state level – we’d be seeing under 6% unemployment and healthier local economies. So much of how we approached this crisis was counterproductive because of the influence of the Tea Party Republicans in state capitols and D.C. and their misunderstanding of economics.

Their rejection of Keynesian economics has been a millstone around the neck of the recovery. The simple answer is what economists like Paul Krugman have been saying all along – that debt and deficits are important, but not a priority until you get people employed and steady the economy. The Tea Party fails to see the forest of tax payers for the trees of government spending, ignoring that such expenditures create a virtuous cycle that floats a successful economy.

Govt. employee has a job, spends money, pays taxes to government.

Business and government profit from the employee’s spending. 

Govt. coffers are full from business and income taxes.

Govt. can afford to pay employee for services.

It’s really not rocket science, but their anti-tax, small government ideology forbids them from seeing it. They would reject the virtuous cycle and demand that the worker get a private job (even in a recession), that the govt. privatize whatever service the govt. was providing that paid the worker, and the govt. should cut taxes on the businesses patronized by the worker in order to further starve the govt. It doesn’t make a lick of economic sense, would not improve any part of the cycle or the lives of anyone in the cycle – not the worker, not the govt., not the public the govt. serves or even the business (their taxes are lower, but so is their income since the worker can’t shop there anymore)! But the Tea Party ideology demands all this happen and they will not bend to the empirical evidence that they are completely misguided and their assumptions counterfactual.

There’s only one answer to end the treading of economic water and that is greater government spending (except for defense which is already way bloated). Since there’s no stomach for bigger deficits anywhere, then the only way to accomplish that is by increasing revenues. The Tea Party, the Republican Party, the Libertarians will not do it. Progressives are the only ones who will raise revenues and cut defense and the public agrees with them in principal. 

The major outlier is the fiscal year 2014 budget alternative of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)—the most comprehensive progressive budget blueprint on the Hill.

The CPC budget proposed repealing all non-defense discretionary spending cuts from the 2011 debt ceiling deal (roughly $670 billion over a decade) as well as increasing non-defense discretionary spending by more than $1.5 trillion dollars and infrastructure investment by $1.1 trillion.

The Progressive Back to Work Budget does cut defense expenditures and restores non-defense spending. They will increase marginal tax rates on billionaires and equalize the treatment of income from capital and labor, no more loop holes allowing hedge fund billionaires to pay 15% taxes. Eliminate the cap on social security taxes. Restore social insurance programs and expand social security. Create an infrastructure bank and fund infrastructure improvement projects.

It’s the only budget that is trying to bring us back to full employment, steady the economy, build for the future, alleviate suffering, promote equality and deal with deficits in the medium and long run by promoting real economic growth. 

Another Reason to Stay Home

The FCC is taking it under consideration to end the ban on phone calls on planes. I don’t take a lot of planes, mostly by choice. As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed some claustrophobia which has made the anticipation of flying more problematic than it used to be. But my experiences with flying had already taken all of the glamour it might have had when I was younger out of the process. They’ve already turned airlines into flying buses, the way they pack people in and the casually obnoxious way people behave on planes.  Phone calls will only make it even more intolerable.

I travel on trains everyday and the trains I travel on have “quiet cars” where you can’t talk on the phone or engage in loud conversation with your neighbor. This developed because that’s what people wanted – quiet. You can’t do quiet sections on a plane any more than you could realistically do smoking sections (but they did so for decades).  

A survey of 1,600 U.S. adults cited by the FAA showed a split on the issue, with 51% of respondents expressing negative reactions to in-flight phone calls and 47% responding positively.

Dear God don’t do this thing.

No GOP Civil War, Just Their War on Modernity

Ed Kilgore at TPM has an on the money piece about the real 411 on the conservative take over of the Republican Party and what it means for our politics today.

It its most explicit form, that of the “constitutional conservatives” who really dominate discussion within the GOP and who are likely to produce their next presidential nominee, the only genuinely “American” policies, designed by the Founders according to both natural and divine law, involve a free-market economy with extremely limited government and a traditionalist, largely patriarchal culture. These policies, buttressed by an increasingly chiliastic view of the status quo (e.g., the “Holocaust” of legalized abortion, and the social policy “tipping point” at which an elite-underclass alliance will destroy private property and liberty entirely), simply are not negotiable.

“Today’s GOP” is in itself an oxymoron. The conservative movement is not at all the traditional concept of conservatism – slowing the push of progress and conserving the power structures of the status quo. They represent a counterrevolutionary push back to a pre-New Deal, pre-progressive age America where their concept of “liberty” is restored by removing the safeguards society has put in place to regulate the legal limits of business activity for the sake of fairness and safety.

Progressive taxation, child labor laws, direct election of senators, collective bargaining, food and medicine safety, the social safety net, are but a few of the improvements to civil society of the last 200 years that have been questioned by conservatives. Not just the nuts at the fringes, the leaders of the movement in politics and the judiciary!  

The audacity of this agenda, which requires uprooting decades worth of laws, programs and constitutional precedents, many of them supported or even created by Republicans, requires a set of assumptions about electoral victories and defeats that many mainstream media folk or Democrats do not seem to understand.

The mainstream media pretends that this isn’t happening and the Republican Party is indeed your grandfather’s Republican Party of Eisenhauer and Nixon. This is when their inside baseball, who is winning/losing the horse race coverage is simply not adequate and a disservice to the public.

The question is how much of the Fox News public and Republican base would actually support the agenda they vote for if they truly understood its full depth and goals. The desires of the Koch Brothers and constitutional vision of Ted Cruz and Antonin Scalia would not be very amenable to the average 60 year old, middle class Republican from the South or anywhere. The America of 1895, but with smart phones and indoor plumbing might seem romantic to some, but the reality was much less equitable or hospitable to the working class. 

But even if the third of the nation who claim to be the hard core of the Republican Party said, “we’re good with all of that – take us back to 1895, maybe even 1825.” I feel confident that the 33% of the country that is apolitical and unaware would be as horrified as the 33% of active engaged progressives, if only they were as informed and aware of the real debate. The more these constitutional conservatives are exposed the faster they go back to the marginalization they so richly deserve.