Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mexican Presidential Election

Today, in a few hours Mexicans will be voting to elect a president for the next six years, there is no reelection, whoever wins, gets to stay six years as president. I have a candidate, but I am confused about what will happen to Mexico.

A group of clandestine armed groups, announced that the two parties that have governed the country for over seventy years, PRI and PAN, already agreed to share power this time, with Enrique Peña Nieto, running in the PRI ticket. The NYT already published that this man is the likely winner. Nevertheless all the people I know will be voting for the candidate nobody wants to talk about much in the Mainstream Media: Andrés Manuel López Obrador.


What gives?

I was born in Mexico City, I believe the opposition will win there, with the candidate I like: AMLO for short. Nevertheless the rest of the country seems to be leaning towards the more conservative Mr. Peña Nieto.

It saddens me, that if this comes to pass, the country will not undertake the steps necessary to stop being a FAILED NATION.

Oh, well.

#YoSoy132

La Jornada

Immigrants and Small Business - NYTimes.com

Immigrants and Small Business - NYTimes.com:

 "Immigrants are known as entrepreneurial people, for obvious reasons: those with the ambition and energy to uproot themselves and build new lives in a distant land are well equipped to build businesses and the economy, too. That is the common wisdom, anyway, which a new study from the Fiscal Policy Institute strikingly confirms. The study, based on census data, looks at owners of small businesses across the country and paints a broad and detailed picture of immigrant entrepreneurship."

'via Blog this'

Supreme Court’s Recent Term, a New Phase

WASHINGTON — The last week of the Supreme Court’s term told one kind of story, of a deeply divided court delivering historic victories to the Obama administration in immigration and health care cases. Those decisions, however, obscured a different story about the work of the court, one that unfolded over the last nine months.

A look back at the term just concluded reveals that the court, which has had a reputation for predictable ideological splits, has entered a new phase. This term, it sometimes worked with striking unanimity and assertiveness to review the actions of the other branches of government. Partly for this reason, its relationship to the Obama administration has often been a distinctly adversarial one.

When the court was divided, as it was in the immigration and health care cases, its voting often did not track the usual patterns. There is good evidence that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has worked hard to insulate his institution from the charge that it has political motivations, an accusation that it is especially vulnerable to because the court’s five more conservative members were appointed by Republican presidents and its four more liberal ones by Democrats.

It was not until Justice Elena Kagan joined the court in 2010 that the justices’ ideological positions largely tracked those of the presidents who appointed them. Under Chief Justice Roberts, the court has had substantial turnover. In the earlier versions of the Roberts court, Justices David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens, both appointed by Republican presidents, generally voted with the court’s liberal wing.

In the wake of the blockbuster Citizens United decision, which by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines opened the door for corporations and unions to spend as much as they like to support or oppose political candidates, the court was accused of naked partisanship for seeming to favor Republican interests.

But in the last term, the Roberts court proved itself resistant to caricature. In the decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law, which sustained the most significant piece of social legislation since the New Deal, Chief Justice Roberts recast the legacy of his court and improved the political fortunes of a Democratic president.

The court was united during the term 44 percent of the time, which is not unusual. But it worked as one in major cases, which is.

“Cases that might have been closely divided and very contentious ended up being unanimous,” said Gregory G. Garre, a United States solicitor general in the Bush administration. “It’s a tribute to the chief justice, and to the whole court.”

The justices all agreed, for instance, that the administration had wholly disregarded the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty in a case concerning how employment discrimination laws apply in churches and religious schools.

That case featured a concurrence from Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was appointed by the second President Bush, that was joined by Justice Kagan, appointed by Mr. Obama. Such surprising alliances dotted the docket.

Justice Kagan, the newest member of the court, rose in influence. In closely divided cases, she voted with the court’s swing member, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, more than any other member of the court. Justice Kennedy himself had an unusually balanced term, voting as often with the court’s liberal wing as with its conservative one in 5-to-4 votes along ideological lines.

The court’s unanimous cases were sometimes minimalist. The court found common ground, for instance, in a modest, unsigned decision in a combustible Texas redistricting dispute, one that seemed largely to satisfy both the state and civil rights advocates.

Other unanimous rulings, like the one in the religious liberty case, were more muscular.

In that one, the court for the first time recognized a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws, saying churches and other religious groups must be free to choose and dismiss their leaders without government interference.

In an important property rights case, the court ruled unanimously for an Idaho couple who objected to actions of the Environmental Protection Agency designating their property as wetlands and forbidding them to build a home there.

In a major patent case, the court unanimously said that natural laws like the relationship between a drug’s dosage and a patient’s reaction to it may not be patented.

And in a case about GPS devices, the court was unanimous in ruling that the police may not place them on cars without taking some account of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Here, though, the court’s decision relied on varying rationales and featured a cautious and confusing majority opinion.

A theme ran through many of these cases, one that is likely to be lost in the aftermath of the victories the court handed to the Obama administration in the last week of the term. At least five times, sometimes in harsh terms, the court unanimously rejected the administration’s position.

In the environmental case, Justice Antonin Scalia said the government had sought to strong-arm the couple. In the ministerial-exception case, Chief Justice Roberts said the administration had sought to read religious liberty out of the First Amendment.

“We cannot accept the remarkable view,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote of the government’s position, “that the religion clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers.”

Studies show that the solicitor general’s office usually wins 60 percent to 70 percent of the time when it represents the government in the court. According to Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, the office won 11 of 24 cases last term, or 45 percent.

Such statistics involve subjective choices about what counts as a win, and they are influenced by how often the government was seeking or resisting reversal. This term more than ever, they are also vulnerable to the criticism that they treat trivial cases as having the same weight as monumental ones.

Still, Professor Winkler said, the numbers suggest that “if Obama is re-elected, he can count on four more years of conflict with the court.”

The justices decided 65 cases after hearing arguments and 10 others in summary fashion, according to Scotusblog, which prepares comprehensive statistics about the court. Over all, Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority 92 percent of the time, just a percentage point behind Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is generally thought to be the court’s swing member, and far ahead of his other colleagues.

Not every case is easy to categorize. When the justices could not find common ground, they sometimes avoided giving a meaningful answer at all. In Fox v. Federal Communications Commission, which was strictly speaking an 8-to-0 ruling, the court for the second time in three years refused to address whether the federal government should be able to regulate vulgarity on broadcast television under the First Amendment in light of changes in the media landscape.

The court did decide an important First Amendment case on the last day of the term, striking down the Stolen Valor Act, which had made it a crime to lie about having received certain military decorations. The vote was 6 to 3, but there was no clear majority rationale.

The court decided 15 cases by 5-to-4 votes, roughly in line with earlier terms. It was also not unusual that two-thirds of those decisions divided along ideological lines, with Justice Kennedy joining either the court’s four more liberal members (Justices Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor) or its four more conservative ones (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia and Clarence Thomas).

What was striking this year was that Justice Kennedy, a moderate conservative, swung right and left an equal number of times. Since 2000, there have been only two terms in which Justice Kennedy did not vote with the conservatives at least 60 percent of the time in such ideologically divided cases.

Several of the cases in which Justice Kennedy joined the liberal bloc involved the rights of people accused and convicted of crimes. This year, the court turned its attention away from criminal trials, which are vanishingly rare, and toward the real world of criminal justice, in which plea bargains are the norm and harsh sentences commonplace.

“What the court really was doing this term was bringing the Constitution to previous blind spots in the criminal justice system,” said Jeffrey L. Fisher, a Stanford law professor who argues frequently before the Supreme Court.

In a 5-to-4 decision concerning sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders, Justice Kennedy entrusted the majority opinion to Justice Kagan, highlighting a notable alliance. Over all, the two voted together 83 percent of the time. But that alliance did not begin to approach the cohesion on the conservative side.

Only two pairs of justices agreed more than 90 percent of the time. One was Justices Scalia and Thomas, the two members of the court most committed to attempting to apply what they understand to be the original meaning of the Constitution. The other was Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, the two members of the court appointed by the second President Bush.

Those four justices were on the prevailing side in two cases that presented unusual procedural wrinkles. On Monday, for instance, the court quietly reaffirmed the Citizens United decision in a brief, unsigned decision and over four dissents. Critics of Citizens United had hoped the court would at least ask for briefs and oral argument.

A decision in June revising the rules for political spending by unions brought complaints from liberal justices that “the majority’s choice to reach an issue not presented by the parties, briefed, or argued, disregards our rules.”

At the final session of the term on Thursday, several of the justices looked drained, weary and ready for their summer break.

“This term has been more than usually taxing,” Justice Ginsburg admitted in remarks two weeks ago to the American Constitution Society, a liberal group.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 1, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Supreme Court Moving Beyond Its Old Divides.
NYT

What’s a Socialist?

Supporters of François Hollande, the first Socialist candidate elected president of France since 1988.

PARIS

FRANCE has elected its first Socialist president since 1988 and then given the Socialist Party and its closest allies a whopping majority in Parliament. But how Socialist is François Hollande? And what does it mean to be a Socialist these days, anyway?

Not very much. Certainly nothing radical. In a sense, socialism was an ideology of the industrialized 19th century, a democratic Marxism, and it succeeded, even in (shh!) the United States. Socialism meant the emancipation of the working class and its transformation into the middle class; it championed social justice and a progressive tax system, and in that sense has largely done its job. As the industrialized working class gets smaller and smaller, socialism seems to have less and less to say.

Center-right parties have embraced or absorbed many of the ideas of socialism: trade unions, generous welfare benefits, some form of nationalized health care, even restrictions on carbon emissions. The right argues that it can manage all these programs more efficiently than the left, and some want to shrink them, but only on the fringes is there talk of actually dismantling the welfare state.

“As an ideologically based movement, socialism is no longer vital,” says Joschka Fischer, who began his career on the far left and remains a prominent spokesman for the Green Party. “Today it’s a combination of democracy, rule of law and the welfare state, and I’d say a vast majority of Europeans defend this — the British Tories can’t touch the National Health Service without being beheaded.”

Even in the United States, Mr. Fischer says, “you have a sort of welfare state, even if you don’t want to admit it — you don’t allow people to die on the street.”

So why the prospect of “European socialism” is so frightening to some Americans puzzles Europeans, a mystery as deep as the American obsession with abortion or affection for the death penalty.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a leader of the student revolt of May 1968, known then as “Dany the Red,” is now “Dany the Green,” co-leader of the ecologist group in the European Parliament. “The fight between private property and state property is over,” he says, and traditional class distinctions are blurred. “There was never a purely socialist working class,” he suggested. “Socialism and social democracy today are about a society with more solidarity, more protection of people, more egalitarianism.” In a way, he said, socialism is defined today mostly by its contrast to neo-liberalism — by more reliance on the state and higher taxes on the wealthy.

Bernard-Henri Lévy was criticized three years ago for saying that the French Socialist Party was not merely dying, but “already dead,” a political alternative for those unhappy with Nicolas Sarkozy, then the president, but little more than a differently situated elite. France’s “gauche caviar” — wealthy socialists like Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Jack Lang — were hardly revolutionary, but merely took their neckties off at lunch.

TODAY Mr. Lévy has not changed his views. “There are no more socialists — if they were honest they would change the name of the party,” he told me. Socialism “evokes the nightmare of the Soviet Union, whose leaders named themselves socialists.” Today, he maintains, European socialists are essentially like American Democrats — there has been no ideological left in France that matters since the effective demise of the Communist Party, which was “the true ‘exception française.’ ”

In his book “Barbarism with a Human Face,” translated into English as “Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism,” Mr. Lévy wrote: “I would dream of writing in a dictionary for the year 2000: ‘Socialism, masculine noun, a cultural genre born in Paris in 1848, died in Paris in 1968.’ ”

But democratic socialism of the nonbarbaric kind has a long history in Europe, especially in France. Even today, delegates at the Socialist Party’s summer meetings address one another as “Comrade,” a gesture to the past for a party largely made up of academics and bureaucrats — in other words, state functionaries, of whom there are many in France. The French state represents 56.6 percent of gross domestic product, one of the highest figures in the Western world.

“Socialism here is very statist,” says Marc-Olivier Padis, editor of the quarterly journal Esprit. The leading figures in the Socialist government are more creatures of the French establishment — elite schools and careers — than those under Mr. Sarkozy, he explained, “a combination reproducing the profile of Hollande himself.” Mr. Sarkozy was more of an outlier than Mr. Hollande, and much closer to business.

Belief in the centrality of the state to run, regulate and innovate remains a core belief of French socialism, and the size of the state is hardly going to be reduced under Mr. Hollande, whose few concrete promises include hiring 60,000 more teachers over five years, raising the minimum wage (the highest in the European Union) and creating a state bank for innovation.

Alain-Gérard Slama, noting that Mr. Hollande won the presidency thanks to half of centrist voters and a third of far-right voters, all of whom detested Mr. Sarkozy, wrote in the newspaper Le Figaro that “the French don’t do anything like anyone else — they’ll give themselves a Socialist president, a Socialist Assembly, a Socialist Senate, Socialist regions, while, by a clear majority, they are not Socialist.”

To be honest, who is anymore? “Is socialism really more than pragmatism?” Mr. Padis wonders. Mr. Lévy pointed out that the excitement around the far-left French presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, got hearts racing for a while. But the rabble-rousing Mr. Mélenchon did not do as well as many hoped (or feared). This month he was trounced for an Assembly seat by Marine Le Pen. “Some believed the French exception was undergoing a revival with Mélenchon,” Mr. Lévy said. He then aptly quoted Marx’s famous line about Louis Bonaparte, that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.”

Steven Erlanger is the Paris bureau chief of The New York Times.

A version of this news analysis appeared in print on July 1, 2012, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: What’s a Socialist?.
NYT

The Radical Supreme Court - NYTimes.com

The Radical Supreme Court - NYTimes.com:

 "The Supreme Court’s landmark decision upholding the Affordable Care Act was a deft turn by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who voted with the court’s four moderate liberals for the first time in a 5-to-4 ruling. Yet, while they upheld the law’s mandate for individuals to buy insurance under Congress’s taxing power, the chief justice joined the four other conservatives to reject that provision under the Constitution’s commerce clause."

'via Blog this'

Taking One for the Country - NYTimes.com

Taking One for the Country - NYTimes.com:

 "IN my mind, there are two lessons from the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision to support President Obama’s health care plan: 1) how starved the country is for leadership that puts the nation’s interest before partisan politics, which is exactly what Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. did; and 2) the virtue of audacity in politics and thinking big. Let’s look at both."

"Our newfound natural gas bounty can give us long-term access to cheap, cleaner energy and, combined with advances in robotics and software, is already bringing blue-collar manufacturing back to America. Web-enabled cellphones and tablets are creating vast new possibilities to bring high-quality, low-cost education to every community college and public school so people can afford to acquire the skills to learn 21st-century jobs. Cloud computing is giving anyone with a creative spark cheap, powerful tools to start a company with very little money. And dramatically low interest rates mean we can borrow to build new infrastructure — and make money."

'via Blog this'

How Do I Know If It Was a Conspiracy or Not?

I feel small as I read Tom Friedman today. He is taking Roberts action at face value, and making us feel good at having such a leader.

My point with this note, is that there must be a way to guess better.

If Obama is not viciously attacked from now to November, and he wins, then I was wrong in doubting Roberts integrity. Otherwise, I will think this was a dirty political move by Obama's enemies.

Game Over for the Climate - NYTimes.com

Game Over for the Climate - NYTimes.com:

 "GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

'via Blog this'

Conspiracy?

What if Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roberts, wants Obama to lose for INCREASING TAXES!

Obamacare is a TAX!

If this is so, SHAME on YOU Mr. Roberts!


Storms Leave 2 Million Without Power - NYTimes.com

Storms Leave 2 Million Without Power - NYTimes.com:

"“It’s one of those storms, it just plows through,” he said. “It’s able to maintain itself and it’s associated with very strong wind gusts. So we have widespread 60- , 70-, 80-, even isolated 90-mile-an-hour, wind gusts associated with it.”"

'via Blog this'

90-mile-an-hour on land?

Weird!

Macroeconomics and the Centrist Dodge

By Paul Krugman

Simon Wren-Lewis says something quite similar to my own view about the trouble with macroeconomics: it’s mostly political. And although Wren-Lewis bends over backwards to avoid saying it too bluntly, most – not all, but most – of the problem comes from the right.

If this sounds familiar, if it reminds you of the problem of partisanship in U.S. politics, it should. There are close parallels, as well there might be, since the trouble in macro is in effect a symptom of this wider political war. And there’s another parallel: many of those decrying the conflict within macro without facing up to the real sources of that conflict are playing the same unhelpful role being played by fanatical centrists within the punditocracy. (And no, “fanatical centrist” is not an oxymoron).

By now, the centrist dodge ought to be familiar. A Very Serious, chin-stroking pundit argues that what we really need is a political leader willing to concede that while the economy needs short-run stimulus, we also need to address long-term deficits, and that addressing those long-term deficits will require both spending cuts and revenue increases. And then the pundit asserts that both parties are to blame for the absence of such leaders. What he absolutely won’t do is endanger his centrist credentials by admitting that the position he’s just outlined is exactly, exactly, the position of Barack Obama.

The macroeconomics equivalent looks like this: a concerned writer or speaker on economics bemoans the state of the field and argues that what we really need are macroeconomists who are willing to approach the subject with an open mind and change their views if the evidence doesn’t support their model. He or she concludes by scolding the macroeconomics profession in general, which is a nice safe thing to do – but requires deliberately ignoring the real nature of the problem.

For the fact is that it’s not hard to find open-minded macroeconomists willing to respond to the evidence. These days, they’re called Keynesians and/or saltwater macroeconomists. (Some devotees of Keynes claim that people like me aren’t really Keynesians – and while there are some serious grounds for the charge, part of the reason is precisely that we’ve treated Keynes as an inspiration to be modified in the face of evidence rather than as holy writ).

What’s the evidence that Keynesians respond to evidence? Just think of how the view we call Keynesian has evolved since the 1950s. Time was when Keynesians were highly skeptical about the effectiveness of monetary policy under any circumstances; evidence, including but not only Friedman and Schwartz, persuaded the school otherwise. The idea of the natural rate, that there was no long-run tradeoff between inflation and unemployment, was very much disliked by people like Jim Tobin, but accepted by nearly everyone after the experience of the 1970s.

More recently the revisions have tended to go in the other direction, with a revival of the concept of the liquidity trap in the light of Japan’s experience, and a renewed acceptance, again based on evidence, that wages are downwardly rigid – and hence that the natural rate hypothesis breaks down at low inflation. And there’s a widespread acceptance that we were paying too little attention to debt and the financial sector.

Would Keynesians have been willing to change their views drastically if the experience of the global financial crisis had warranted such a change? I’d like to think so – but we’ll never know for sure, because the basic Keynesian view has in fact worked very well in the crisis.

But then there’s the other side – freshwater, equilibrium, more or less classical macro.

Recent events have been one empirical debacle after another for that view of the world – on interest rates, on inflation, on the effects of fiscal contraction. But the truth is that freshwater macro has been failing empirical tests for decades. Everywhere you turn there are anomalies that should have had that side of the profession questioning its premises, from the absence of the technology shocks that were supposed to drive business cycles, to the evident effectiveness of monetary policy, to the near-perfect correlation of nominal and real exchange rates.

But rather than questioning its premises, that side of the field essentially turned its back on evidence, calibrating its models rather than testing them, and refusing even to teach alternative views.

So there’s the trouble with macro: it’s basically political, and it’s mainly – not entirely, but mainly – coming from one side. Yet this truth is precisely what the critics won’t acknowledge, because that would endanger their comfortable position of scolding everyone equally. It is, in short, the centrist dodge carried over to conflict within economics.

Do we need better macroeconomics? Indeed we do. But we also need better critics, who are prepared to take the risk of actually taking sides for good economics and against dogmatism.

NYT

Are These Hardships Necessary? - NYTimes.com

Are These Hardships Necessary? - NYTimes.com:

 "Harrod argues — on Keynesian principles! — that the problem with postwar Britain is excess demand, which must be reduced. But not by raising interest rates: financial repression must be maintained given the level of public debt. Instead, he calls for a cutback in government spending and curbs on private investment."

'via Blog this'

X-Events

Amazon

The Mathematician John L. Casti just wrote a book on  Black Swans. The author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, wrote an important book, "The Black Swan", about very unlikely events, which could be very important once they occur. Now Casti, expands on the idea. I do not want catastrophes to occur, nobody wants them, but you know what? Shit Happens!

I have studied complexity theory, as a Theoretical Physicist, I have the training to know when the mathematics are sound. What surprises me is that most professionals are so ignorant about such life threatening events, or X-Events, for eXtreme Events, as named in this book linked above through Amazon.com.

In 2008 the world financial system almost took the whole economy down with it, it was only because of President Obama's Team of clear thinkers, that this catastrophe was avoided. But will we be as lucky next time around? That depends on becoming knowledgeable about Complexity Theory, and its implications.

You would think that I would be a very valuable commodity under the circumstances; right? I have news for you, I am unemployed.

Amazon.com: X-Events: The Collapse of Everything (9780062088284): John L. Casti: Books

Amazon.com: X-Events: The Collapse of Everything (9780062088284): John L. Casti: Books:

'via Blog this'

Complexity Theory applied to Real Life Catastrophes.

Car bomb explodes next to Nuevo Laredo mayor's parking spot : News : ValleyCentral.com

Car bomb explodes next to Nuevo Laredo mayor's parking spot : News : ValleyCentral.com:

"Authorities are investigating a car bomb that exploded outside Nuevo Laredo's city hall and that left four people wounded."

'via Blog this'

Low Intensity War in Mexico


La Jornada

EU Deal for Spain, Italy Buoys Markets but Details Sketchy - NYTimes.com

EU Deal for Spain, Italy Buoys Markets but Details Sketchy - NYTimes.com:

 "BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Under pressure to prevent a catastrophic breakup of their single currency, euro zone leaders agreed on Friday to let their rescue fund inject aid directly into stricken banks from next year and intervene on bond markets to support troubled member states."

'via Blog this'

Platini Floats Idea of Multi-Country Euro 2020 - NYTimes.com

Platini Floats Idea of Multi-Country Euro 2020 - NYTimes.com:

 "KIEV (Reuters) - The 2020 European Championship could be spread across 12 or 13 cities around Europe, rather than being staged in just one or two countries, UEFA president Michel Platini said on Saturday."

'via Blog this'

Some States Reluctant Over Medicaid Expansion - NYTimes.com

Some States Reluctant Over Medicaid Expansion - NYTimes.com:

 "WASHINGTON — Millions of poor people could still be left without medical insurance under the national health care law if states take an option granted by the Supreme Court and decide not to expand their Medicaid programs, state officials and health policy experts said Friday."

'via Blog this'

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crime, Drugs, and Politics in Guadalajara, Mexico : The New Yorker

Crime, Drugs, and Politics in Guadalajara, Mexico : The New Yorker:

"A Fair, Enrique Peña Nieto, who is forty-five, boyishly handsome, and generally expected to be the next President of Mexico, was asked to name three books that had influenced him. He mentioned the Bible, or, at least, “some parts” (unspecified), and “The Eagle’s Throne,” a Carlos Fuentes novel (though he named the historian Enrique Krauze as the author). And, for a few excruciating minutes, that was all he could come up with. The crowd laughed wickedly. Peña Nieto’s wife, a former soap-opera star, squirmed in the front row. His teen-age daughter didn’t help matters when, in a tweet, she scorned “all of the idiots who form part of the proletariat and only criticize those they envy.”"

'via Blog this'

I Support AMLO

On Sunday Mexicans will elect a new president. The article below, basically endorses the "perfect dictatorship" of yore.

I expected the NYT to look at Mexico in a different light. A party a little to the left, is not well liked by the Mainstream Media in the US. I do not like these corporations anyway, read my opinion on them here.

On Monday I will write about the candidate that wins the election.


You lose some, you win some. In Egypt, Morsi, is already meddling in US internal affairs.

Oh well.

Mexico Poised to Embrace Party It Ousted, PRI

Former President Vicente Fox, who ended the PRI's 71-year rule in 2000, is now urging Mexicans to support the PRI candidate for president.

MONTERREY, Mexico — Vicente Fox exulted in victory 12 years ago over the autocratic, often corrupt party that ruled Mexico for 71 years, sipping Champagne from a balcony overlooking supporters euphoric over the arrival, finally, of true democracy.

“The citizens have made a decision that we all should respect,” declared Mr. Fox, the president-elect, not long after the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, went down in a stunning defeat.

Now, as the PRI appears on the verge of returning to power in Sunday’s presidential election, Mr. Fox, whose presidency ended in 2006 without many major reforms, is urging Mexicans to “close ranks” behind the PRI nominee, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has a comfortable lead in the polls, and to put aside fears they might have about a party that was known for its authoritarian ways.

The return of the PRI would be a stunning development in a country that issued such a firm good riddance to the party in 2000 when it elected Mr. Fox. One explanation for the possible about-face is that Mexicans have learned after enduring more than a decade under the National Action Party governments of Mr. Fox and the current president, Felipe Calderón, that the PRI was not the source of all their woes.

With Mexicans frustrated with violence and an underachieving economy and generally feeling that the country should be further along than it is, analysts say a nostalgia has developed for the perceived protection and stability of yore. Mexicans are grasping for change, even if it means choosing a party, an amalgam of left, right and centrist positions, with a questionable past.

If the ouster of the PRI was heralded as a milestone step in the country’s move toward democracy, some now contend that a return to the PRI may one day be looked back on as a critical sign of the country’s democratic maturation. Mexico’s institutions are no longer rigged to ensure that one party stays around forever, experts say. Candidates rise and fall now on issues and voters’ perceptions of their lives.

“The PRI always looked after the people even if their ways were not always right,” said Eduardo Martínez, 36, a factory worker who caught a Peña Nieto T-shirt and cap thrown at the candidate’s last rally here on Wednesday. Mr. Martínez said he was still not sure who would get his vote, but like the many Mexicans who have given Mr. Peña Nieto a comfortable lead in the polls, he seemed willing to look past the party’s darker elements.

“You have to understand this is Mexico,” he added. “They all rob; they all steal. But if Peña can bring more jobs and more security, he will win.”

So deep is the anti-incumbency mood and the sense that the two past presidents squandered their opportunity to break up monopolies and overhaul other vestiges of the PRI era that voters like Marilyn Salazar, 26, who voted for Mr. Calderón in 2006, are opting for the PRI this time. She was 14 when Mr. Fox ousted the PRI and has none of the visceral hatred that many in older generations may still harbor for the PRI.

“Peña Nieto is young like me, and I just think he can bring more jobs and better pay,” said Ms. Salazar, who sells homemade potato chips from a cart here and conceded her views came from the gut, not from a close study of the candidates.

The PRI is embedded in the Mexican psyche like no other party. It sprang from the Mexican Revolution and spawned oligarchies that effectively controlled banks, the national oil company, the media, governors and mayors, the state job mill and, to a large degree, crime bosses. Its despots, some iron-fisted, some benevolent, suppressed democracy and dissent while enabling the country to grow and modernize.

When their grip began to crumble is disputed. A succession of economic crises beginning in the 1970s, the mishandling of the response to the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and the flowering of democracies around the world all set the stage for the PRI’s downfall in 2000.

But like a fading tropical storm that rebuilds into a raging hurricane, it steadily regained strength at the local level and now controls 20 of 31 states. It controls half of the country’s 2,400 counties, employing some of its time-honored tactics to lure supporters.

In Nezahualcóyotl, a working-class suburb outside Mexico City that the PRI won in 2009, a party functionary recently boasted of giving away toasters and stoves on Mother’s Day, arguing in an interview, “That’s what we do — we help people.”

The question Mexicans are now asking is whether a victory by the party that had earned the nickname “the perfect dictatorship” would be a step back or a step forward in a 12-year-old democracy with ample growing pains.

Enrique Krauze, the Mexican historian who called the PRI era the “imperial democracy,” said he doubted that the party had changed; he, like other analysts, believe that the old guard is hiding behind young upstarts like Mr. Peña Nieto. But he said Mexico had evolved, enough to keep the party’s abuses and excesses in check, or at least more likely to be exposed.

“If the PRI wins on Sunday, they will find themselves in a new country,” with a more questioning press, watchful civic organizations, social media scrutiny and real political opposition, he said in an interview.

That has played out in the campaign, which has provided ample reminders of the PRI’s unsavory past. A former governor in Tamaulipas State, on the Texas border, is suspected of ties to drug traffickers, while a national party chairman gave up his post in December after revelations of a sudden, questionably large debt that swelled in Coahuila, the northern state he served as governor.

Mr. Peña Nieto has vowed not to make deals with crime groups, as the PRI was accused of doing in the past to keep the peace. He has promised to focus on cracking down on murder, kidnapping, extortion and other violent crimes, rather than singling out kingpins, as Mr. Calderón has.

Still, Mr. Peña Nieto, whose political network in the party goes back generations, has governed and campaigned in a way reflective of the party’s style.

As governor of Mexico State, the most populous, and a mix of poor, middle-class and prosperous suburbs ringing Mexico City, he emphasized public works projects and ribbon-cuttings, faithfully covered by Televisa, the largest national broadcaster, and often in the company of its stars. He married one in November 2010.

He and party leaders said the PRI had learned from its mistakes. Privately, as much as they wince at the scandals, they point out that those episodes have been widely covered in the Mexican press, something the old PRI would have stanched by paying off or intimidating publishers.

Mr. Peña Nieto said he would appoint an anticorruption commission and take other steps to ensure a clean government, but he has also vociferously defended the party, dismissing criticisms as the work of desperate political opponents. In a true democracy, he said in an interview, the PRI had to come back.

“How would it seem to you that if the Republicans ever came back it would be seen as a regression of democracy?” he asked. “Parties participate in democracies, compete in democracies, and so they alternate.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 30, 2012, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Mexico Seems Poised to Embrace Party It Ousted in 2000.
NYT

The Truth Will Set You Free!

Read Jack Reed piece of work in the Wikipedia article below, and compare it with the errors of CNN. Of course CNN corrected itself, but for seven minutes they went along with a lie!

John Reed (journalist) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Reed (journalist) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

""The real War, of which this sudden outburst of death and destruction is only an incident, began long ago. It has been raging for tens of years, but its battles have been so little advertised that they have been hardly noted. It is a clash of Traders...

"What has democracy to do in alliance with Nicholas, the Tsar? Is it Liberalism which is marching from the Petersburg of Father Gapon, from the Odessa of the pogroms?...

"No. There is a falling out among commercial rivals....

"We, who are Socialists, must hope — we may even expect — that out of this horror of bloodshed and dire destruction will come far-reaching social changes — and a long step forward towards our goal of Peace among Men.

"But we must not be duped by this editorial buncombe about Liberalism going forth to Holy War against Tyranny.

"This is not Our War."[21]"

'via Blog this'

Why Was CNN Wrong?

I do not follow Fox or CNN; this morning I found out through Democracy Now!, that CNN GOT IT WRONG!

Of course I'm talking about the Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Law Submitted by the only Constitutional Law Professor, the US has ever had as President.

How could things  get this wrong?

Does  CNN have enough money to get a Constitutional Law Professor from Harvard? Are the salaries of these professors too high? Are the profits of CNN too low? Do they need more commercials to pay for truthful reporting?

I do not follow the money making enterprise known as the Mainstream Media of the United States of America.

SAD.

A related question is: Why Amy Goodman, and Juan Gonzales got it right?

They are supported by listeners' contributions only, for goodness sake!

I can see material in these questions for a few Master and PhD theses on Public Communications.

BTW: Professor Krugman also got it right.

No Ivory Tower Here

Professor Krugman does not hide from view, on the clouds of high thinking. He is on our level, and patiently and clearly, explains to us how the economy works.

Truth will make us free.

This is the opposite of what GOP "thinkers", like Representative Ryan ,do. He tries to trick us, so his friends in the 1% crowd take our money, like taking candy from a little girl.

Thanks Paul, not Ryan, but Krugman. When the representative from Wisconsin gets a Nobel Prize in Economics, maybe I will read his great discoveries.

The Real Winners

By PAUL KRUGMAN


So the Supreme Court — defying many expectations — upheld the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare. There will, no doubt, be many headlines declaring this a big victory for President Obama, which it is. But the real winners are ordinary Americans — people like you.


How many people are we talking about? You might say 30 million, the number of additional people the Congressional Budget Office says will have health insurance thanks to Obamacare. But that vastly understates the true number of winners because millions of other Americans — including many who oppose the act — would have been at risk of being one of those 30 million.


So add in every American who currently works for a company that offers good health insurance but is at risk of losing that job (and who isn’t in this world of outsourcing and private equity buyouts?); every American who would have found health insurance unaffordable but will now receive crucial financial help; every American with a pre-existing condition who would have been flatly denied coverage in many states.


In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.


But what about the cost? Put it this way: the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s “coverage provisions” — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere.


So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot — it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternative of extendingMedicare to cover everyone. As a result, it’s an awkward hybrid of public and private insurance that isn’t the way anyone would have designed a system from scratch. And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for Social Security. (Bring back the public option!) But it’s still a big step toward a better — and by that I mean morally better — society.


Which brings us to the nature of the people who tried to kill health reform — and who will, of course, continue their efforts despite this unexpected defeat.


At one level, the most striking thing about the campaign against reform was its dishonesty. Remember “death panels”? Remember how reform’s opponents would, in the same breath, accuse Mr. Obama of promoting big government and denounce him for cutting Medicare? Politics ain’t beanbag, but, even in these partisan times, the unscrupulous nature of the campaign against reform was exceptional. And, rest assured, all the old lies and probably a bunch of new ones will be rolled out again in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. Let’s hope the Democrats are ready.


But what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty. It would be one thing if, at any point, they had offered any hint of an alternative proposal to help Americans with pre-existing conditions, Americans who simply can’t afford expensive individual insurance, Americans who lose coverage along with their jobs. But it has long been obvious that the opposition’s goal is simply to kill reform, never mind the human consequences. We should all be thankful that, for the moment at least, that effort has failed.


Let me add a final word on the Supreme Court.


Before the arguments began, the overwhelming consensus among legal experts who aren’t hard-core conservatives — and even among some who are — was that Obamacare was clearly constitutional. And, in the end, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., the court upheld that view. But four justices dissented, and did so in extreme terms, proclaiming not just the much-disputed individual mandate but the whole act unconstitutional. Given prevailing legal opinion, it’s hard to see that position as anything but naked partisanship.


The point is that this isn’t over — not on health care, not on the broader shape of American society. The cruelty and ruthlessness that made this court decision such a nail-biter aren’t going away.


But, for now, let’s celebrate. This was a big day, a victory for due process, decency and the American people.


NYT


A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 29, 2012, on page A25 of the New York editionwith the headline: The Real Winners.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

A MANIFESTO FOR ECONOMIC SENSE


  More than four years after the financial crisis began, the world’s major advanced
economies remain deeply depressed, in a scene all too reminiscent of the 1930s. And the reason
is simple: we are relying on the same ideas that governed policy in the 1930s. These ideas, long
since disproved, involve profound errors both about the causes of the crisis, its nature, and the
appropriate response.


  These errors have taken deep root in public consciousness and provide the public support
for the excessive austerity of current fiscal policies in many countries. So the time is ripe for a
Manifesto in which mainstream economists offer the public a more evidence-based analysis of
our problems.


  The causes. Many policy makers insist that the crisis was caused by irresponsible
public borrowing. With very few exceptions – other than Greece – this is false. Instead, the
conditions for crisis were created by excessive private sector borrowing and lending, including
by over-leveraged banks. The collapse of this bubble led to massive falls in output and thus in
tax revenue. So the large government deficits we see today are a consequence of the crisis, not its
cause.


  The nature of the crisis. When real estate bubbles on both sides of the Atlantic burst,
many parts of the private sector slashed spending in an attempt to pay down past debts. This was
a rational response on the part of individuals, but – just like the similar response of debtors in the
1930s – it has proved collectively self-defeating, because one person’s spending is another
person’s income. The result of the spending collapse has been an economic depression that has
worsened the public debt.


  The appropriate response. At a time when the private sector is engaged in a
collective effort to spend less, public policy should act as a stabilizing force, attempting to
sustain spending. At the very least we should not be making things worse by big cuts in
government spending or big increases in tax rates on ordinary people. Unfortunately, that’s
exactly what many governments are now doing.


  The big mistake. After responding well in the first, acute phase of the economic crisis,
conventional policy wisdom took a wrong turn – focusing on government deficits, which are
mainly the result of a crisis-induced plunge in revenue, and arguing that the public sector should
attempt to reduce its debts in tandem with the private sector. As a result, instead of playing a
stabilizing role, fiscal policy has ended up reinforcing the dampening effects of private-sector
spending cuts.


  In the face of a less severe shock, monetary policy could take up the slack. But with
interest rates close to zero, monetary policy – while it should do all it can – cannot do the whole
job. There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this
is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery. A key priority now is

to reduce unemployment, before it becomes endemic, making recovery and future deficit
reduction even more difficult.


  How do those who support present policies answer the argument we have just made?
They use two quite different arguments in support of their case.


  The confidence argument. Their first argument is that government deficits will raise
interest rates and thus prevent recovery. By contrast, they argue, austerity will increase
confidence and thus encourage recovery.


  But there is no evidence at all in favour of this argument. First, despite exceptionally
high deficits, interest rates today are unprecedentedly low in all major countries where there is a
normally functioning central bank. This is true even in Japan where the government debt now
exceeds 200% of annual GDP; and past downgrades by the rating agencies here have had no
effect on Japanese interest rates. Interest rates are only high in some Euro countries, because the
ECB is not allowed to act as lender of last resort to the government. Elsewhere the central bank
can always, if needed, fund the deficit, leaving the bond market unaffected.


  Moreover past experience includes no relevant case where budget cuts have actually
generated increased economic activity. The IMF has studied 173 cases of budget cuts in
individual countries and found that the consistent result is economic contraction. In the handful
of cases in which fiscal consolidation was followed by growth, the main channels were a
currency depreciation against a strong world market, not a current possibility. The lesson of the
IMF’s study is clear – budget cuts retard recovery. And that is what is happening now – the
countries with the biggest budget cuts have experienced the biggest falls in output.


  For the truth is, as we can now see, that budget cuts do not inspire business
confidence. Companies will only invest when they can foresee enough customers with enough
income to spend. Austerity discourages investment.


  So there is massive evidence against the confidence argument; all the alleged evidence
in favor of the doctrine has evaporated on closer examination.


  The structural argument. A second argument against expanding demand is that
output is in fact constrained on the supply side – by structural imbalances. If this theory were
right, however, at least some parts of our economies ought to be at full stretch, and so should
some occupations. But in most countries that is just not the case. Every major sector of our
economies is struggling, and every occupation has higher unemployment than usual. So the
problem must be a general lack of spending and demand.







  In the 1930s the same structural argument was used against proactive spending
policies in the U.S. But as spending rose between 1940 and 1942, output rose by 20%. So the
problem in the 1930s, as now, was a shortage of demand not of supply.

                             ___________________



  As a result of their mistaken ideas, many Western policy-makers are inflicting massive
suffering on their peoples. But the ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions were
rejected by nearly all economists after the disasters of the 1930s, and for the following forty
years or so the West enjoyed an unparalleled period of economic stability and low
unemployment. It is tragic that in recent years the old ideas have again taken root. But we can no
longer accept a situation where mistaken fears of higher interest rates weigh more highly with
policy-makers than the horrors of mass unemployment.


  Better policies will differ between countries and need detailed debate. But they must
be based on a correct analysis of the problem. We therefore urge all economists and others who
agree with the broad thrust of this Manifesto to register their agreement at
www.manifestoforeconomicsense.org, and to publically argue the case for a sounder approach.
The whole world suffers when men and women are silent about what they know is wrong












The Real Winners - NYTimes.com

The Real Winners - NYTimes.com:

 "So the Supreme Court — defying many expectations — upheld the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare. There will, no doubt, be many headlines declaring this a big victory for President Obama, which it is. But the real winners are ordinary Americans — people like you."

'via Blog this'

Eerie Feeling

Reading Katherine Eban piece in Fortune Magazine, I feel that Sinaloa gang's corrupt methods work in Arizona as well. Hand money to people with no criminal records. Hard to prosecute, and a windfall for the non-criminals, doing criminal business.

I hope the American Law Enforcement System (Holder) will win over the obstructionists (Issa).

"Issa’s claim that the ATF is using the Fast and Furious scandal to limit gun rights seems, to put it charitably, far-fetched. Meanwhile, Issa and other lawmakers say they want ATF to stanch the deadly tide of guns, widely implicated in the killing of 47,000 Mexicans in the drug-war violence of the past five years. But the public bludgeoning of the ATF has had the opposite effect. From 2010, when Congress began investigating, to 2011, gun seizures by Group VII and the ATF’s three other groups in Phoenix dropped by more than 90%."


From Eban's piece.

The NRA vs. a US Hero!

Reading Katherine Eban piece, I confirm something I suspected. The National Rifle Association does not want to help the President of the United States of America, with his war against crime. If sixty thousand deaths just across the US Mexico border, do not impress you. I don't know what will justify, in your mind, the heroic acts of the US President to stop that carnage.

If you are a US citizen, the next death may be of one close to you, and Shorty's Guzman gang will be responsible. This gang controls the border.

It almost looks as if Shorty Guzman pays dues in the NRA!

From Eban's article:

"Voth’s mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation’s “weakest gun violence prevention laws.” Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibits gun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers. Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases."

Ask the Doctor!


Double Scotch Time



"Yes, I’m on vacation. And I’ve tried not to think about Scotus, even though I was campaigning for universal health care long before it was fashionable. But I did have a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach this morning, all the same.
And then the ruling came down; fortunately, I was reading Scotusblog, not watching CNN — and I was so hyper that I needed medication.
Health reform may yet be killed. But not today. And never mind the horserace politics: ordinary Americans have just won big.""

From Paul Krugman's Blog 

“The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal,” Fortune Magazine | Katherine Eban

“The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal,” Fortune Magazine | Katherine Eban:

 "In the annals of impossible assignments, Dave Voth’s ranked high. In 2009 the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives promoted Voth to lead Phoenix Group VII, one of seven new ATF groups along the Southwest border tasked with stopping guns from being trafficked into Mexico’s vicious drug war."

'via Blog this'

Mexico Votes

Kirsty Mitchell's Wonderland

Taken From Daily Mail

Obama's Video

Obama Calls Supreme Court Healthcare Decision a Victory - NYTimes.com

Obama Calls Supreme Court Healthcare Decision a Victory - NYTimes.com:

 "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday that the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his landmark healthcare reform law was a victory for the American people, and he promised to implement it and improve upon it going forward."

'via Blog this'

Obama for President!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Indications Housing Recovery Is Under Way - NYTimes.com

New Indications Housing Recovery Is Under Way - NYTimes.com:

"WASHINGTON — Announcements of a housing recovery have become a wrongheaded rite of summer, but after several years of false hopes, evidence is accumulating that the optimists may finally be right."

“There’s not a whole lot of other places to put your money,” Mr. Morgan said.


'via Blog this'

Bill McKibben in DN! Today

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Immigration Ruling Leaves Issues Unresolved - NYTimes.com

Immigration Ruling Leaves Issues Unresolved - NYTimes.com:

 "The Supreme Court’s mixed decision on Arizona’s tough immigration enforcement law has laid the ground for years of legal and political wrangling in many states over racial profiling and civil rights, making it likely that the court will be asked to revisit immigration."

'via Blog this'

The Guardian and Proceso

These media outlets have reported the truth about Televisa and the Mexican Presidential Candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.

I read Proceso frequently, but not The Guardian, it is interesting that both say the same thing, but the world only listens when The Guardian says it.

The truth is the truth, though. No matter who says it.

Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidate | World news | The Guardian

Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidate | World news | The Guardian:

"Broadcaster commissioned videos rubbishing rivals of candidate who is now favourite to win presidential race on Sunday, documents seen by the Guardian reveal"

'via Blog this'

Teresa A. Sullivan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Teresa A. Sullivan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"Dr. Teresa Ann Sullivan (born July 9, 1949[1]) is the president of the University of Virginia, a position to which she was elected in 2010.[2] Prior to her time at the University of Virginia, she was the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan, and held administrative positions at the University of Texas. In addition, Sullivan has authored or coauthored six books and over 80 scholarly articles in sociology.[3]"

'via Blog this'

University of Virginia Board Reinstates President - NYTimes.com

University of Virginia Board Reinstates President - NYTimes.com:

 "CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The University of Virginia reinstated its popular president Tuesday less than three weeks after ousting her in a secretive move that infuriated students and faculty, had the governor threatening to fire the entire governing board and sparked a debate about the best way to operate public universities in an era of tight finances."

'via Blog this'

Fixing College Through Lower Costs and Better Technology

NO matter what the University of Virginia’s governing board decides today, when it is scheduled to determine the fate of the university’s ousted president, Teresa A. Sullivan, the intense interest in the case shows how much anxiety surrounds the future of higher education — especially the question of whether university leaders are moving too slowly to position their schools for a rapidly changing world (as some of Ms. Sullivan’s critics have suggested of her).

There is good reason for the anxiety. Setting aside the specifics of the Virginia drama, university leaders desperately need to transform how colleges do business. Higher education must make up for the mistakes it made in what I call the industry’s “lost decade,” from 1999 to 2009. Those years saw a surge in students pursuing higher education, driven partly by the colleges, which advertised heavily and created enticing new academic programs, services and fancy facilities.

The almost insatiable demand for a college credential meant that schools could raise their prices and families would go to almost any end, including taking on huge amounts of debt, to pay the bill. In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, and room and board; by 2009, 224 were above that mark. The total amount of outstanding student loan debt is now more than $1 trillion.

Students were not the only ones to go deeper into debt. So did schools, building lavish residence halls, recreational facilities and other amenities that contributed little to actual learning. The debt taken on by colleges has risen 88 percent since 2001, to $307 billion.

This heady period of growth occurred precisely when colleges had the financial flexibility to prepare for what was to come: fewer government dollars, a wave of financially needy students, a drop-off in the number of well-prepared high-school graduates who could afford to pay, and, of course, technological advances in teaching and learning. Instead, colleges continued to focus on their unsustainable model, assuming little would change.

Other information industries, from journalism to music to book publishing, enjoyed similar periods of success right before epic change enveloped them, seemingly overnight. We now know how those industries have been transformed by technology, resulting in the decline of the middleman — newspapers, record stores, bookstores and publishers.

Colleges and universities could be next, unless they act to mitigate the poor choices and inaction from the lost decade by looking for ways to lower costs, embrace technology and improve education.

One urgent need is to make better use of technology in the classroom. Despite resistance to the idea from academics, evidence suggests that technology can reduce costs, improve student performance and even tailor learning to individual students. The nonprofit National Center for Academic Transformation has redesigned courses on more than 200 campuses, cutting costs by an average of 37 percent, by using instructional software to reduce burdens on professors, frequent low-stakes online quizzes to gauge student progress, and alternative staffing (like undergraduate peer mentors).

Schools should also offer more online education. In just the past few months, several elite universities, including Stanford and Harvard, have announced multimillion-dollar efforts to provide several of their courses free, online, for everyone. Individual colleges should take advantage of this trend, perhaps ultimately shedding their lowest-quality courses (and their costs) and replacing them with the best courses offered by other institutions through loose federations or formal networks. This is the idea behind the New Paradigm Initiative, a group of 16 liberal-arts colleges in the South that have joined together to offer online and hybrid courses to students on any campus in the group.

Another key reform would be to reclaim academics as a top priority. Administrative expenses have grown faster than instruction on many campuses. In 2009, the consulting firm Bain & Company identified $112 million in annual savings just within the business operations at the University of California, Berkeley.

Academia also needs to cut back on low-quality graduate programs. Too many universities tried to become research institutions during the lost decade, adding graduate programs and research faculty, often using tuition dollars to finance their expansions. Today, too many of these programs remain far short of their goals, and their ambitions have come at a great cost to their core mission of educating undergraduates (as well as producing many dropouts and unemployed Ph.D.’s).

Finally, colleges should work to reduce the number of wasted credits. Most students take far more than the 120 credits required for a bachelor’s degree, partly because of poor advising and partly because colleges often refuse to accept credits from other institutions or for “prior learning.” Yet one-third of students today transfer from one college to another before earning a degree. Colleges make transferring credits difficult, often in the name of protecting academic quality, when often they are simply protecting their bottom line.

Higher education is a conservative, risk-averse industry. Add to this the fact that a majority of its leaders are nearing the safety net of retirement, and we have a recipe for the status quo. We can’t afford another lost decade.

Jeff Selingo, editorial director at The Chronicle of Higher Education, is writing a book on the future of higher education.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 26, 2012, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Fixing College.
NYT

Fixing College Through Lower Costs and Better Technology - NYTimes.com

Fixing College Through Lower Costs and Better Technology - NYTimes.com:

 "NO matter what the University of Virginia’s governing board decides today, when it is scheduled to determine the fate of the university’s ousted president, Teresa A. Sullivan, the intense interest in the case shows how much anxiety surrounds the future of higher education — especially the question of whether university leaders are moving too slowly to position their schools for a rapidly changing world (as some of Ms. Sullivan’s critics have suggested of her)."

'via Blog this'

Special Interests

David Suzuki blames American companies for the lack of positive environmental action by the Obama administration.

I agree.

David Suzuki at Democracy Now!

David Suzuki - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Suzuki - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

 "David Suzuki, CC OBC (born March 24, 1936) is a Japanese-Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist. Suzuki earned a Ph.D in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961, and was a professor in the genetics department at the University of British Columbia from 1963 until his retirement in 2001. Since the mid-1970s, Suzuki has been known for his TV and radio series and books about nature and the environment. He is best known as host of the popular and long-running CBC Television science magazine, The Nature of Things, seen in over forty nations. He is also well known for criticizing governments for their lack of action to protect the environment."

'via Blog this'

Public Universities See Familiar Fight at Virginia

The tumult at the University of Virginia — with the sudden ouster of President Teresa Sullivan on June 10, and the widespread anticipation that she will be reinstated on Tuesday — reflects a low-grade panic now spreading through much of public higher education.

“Is it possible to be a successful president of a public university?” mused Mark G. Yudof, the president of the University of California. “I’m not willing to say these jobs are impossible, but these are very difficult times. You want to be more efficient, but you don’t want to make changes so fast that you endanger academic values and traditions and alienate the faculty. But you can’t go too slow, or you alienate the board and the legislature. It’s a volatile mix.”

Across the nation, it has been a rocky year for public university presidents: Richard W. Lariviere, the president of the University of Oregon, was fired in November, despite strong faculty support, after pushing aggressively for more independence from the state. Amid similar strains — but voluntarily — Carolyn Martin left the University of Wisconsin to become president of the far smaller Amherst College. At the University of Illinois, a faculty mutiny helped spur President Michael Hogan’s resignation after less than two years on the job. And at the University of Texas this spring, there were rumblings that President Bill Powers was in danger after a clash with the board and the governor over his request for a tuition increase.

“Each situation is a little different, but the trend is apparent,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “The staggering reduction in financial support from the state puts a lot of pressure on campus. There’s increasing politicization of governance. And there are rising expectations that universities will transform themselves very quickly, if not overnight. Somehow, they’re supposed to achieve dramatic improvement in learning productivity and at the same time reduce costs by using educational technology.”

M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and a past president of Michigan State University, says the job has gotten harder since his tenure there.

“Stressful times are hard times for C.E.O.’s and for boards,” he said. “And things are changing faster than they used to.”

Rapid change is a particularly jarring concept at the University of Virginia, an institution steeped in tradition, where the “Good Ole Song” is the de facto anthem, and campus is referred to as Grounds.

The litany around the University of Virginia is, “ ‘This is the way we always did it,’ ” said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, who attended law school at Virginia. “It’s still Mr. Jefferson’s university.”

The sudden decision by the Board of Visitors at the university to force out the president was especially surprising in that there was no charge of misbehavior, no long-simmering disagreement between the president and the board, and — even now — no clear explanation of why Helen E. Dragas, the rector, decided to move so fast.

On Friday, Ms. Dragas released a message purporting to offer “a fuller explanation” of the board’s move, a “more specific outline of the serious strategic challenges that alarmed us about the direction of the University.”

But the 10-point outline she offered — listing state and federal financing challenges, the changing role of technology, a rapidly changing health care environment, prioritization of scarce resources, faculty workload and the quality of the student experience, faculty compensation, research financing and the like — was almost generic, and would have applied to nearly every public university in the nation.

In the end, it seems, the fundamental disagreement at the University of Virginia concerned the approach to change that the president should take — either incremental, with buy-in from each of the constituencies, or more radical, imposed from the top.

Ms. Dragas has displayed a sense of urgency about pushing the university to find new revenue sources.

She has been especially concerned about pushing ahead in online learning, to keep up with Stanford, M.I.T. and other universities that have, just in the last year, begun to offer “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, free to anyone with an Internet connection, carving out new territory in an area that most universities are just beginning to explore.

Ms. Dragas sent her board a newspaper editorial on the issue, in an e-mail headed “why we can’t afford to wait.” And in a June 10 statement about Dr. Sullivan’s ouster, Ms. Dragas said that the world “is simply moving too fast” for the University of Virginia to maintain its position “under a model of incremental marginal change.”

While many of the new MOOCs are enrolling more than 100,000 students, most, so far, have been from overseas — so that, at least for the time being, the real competition is with foreign universities, not American ones.

Nonetheless, the sheer scale of the new online courses has jolted every leading university into thinking about how online learning may transform higher education: Will there be much demand for each university to develop its own courses, when a state-of-the-art version from a prestigious university is available online? Will employers accept a set of certificates from online courses as a traditional diploma? Will families pay ever-higher tuition if a free online alternative exists? Does it make sense for universities to invest in brick-and-mortar branch campuses, in the United States or abroad, when they can so easily take courses to students everywhere via the Internet?

Dr. Sullivan said that online education was no panacea — and indeed, was “surprisingly expensive, has limited revenue potential and unless carefully managed can undermine the quality of instruction.”

And while she agreed that she is, indeed, an incrementalist, she stressed that that did not mean she lacked a strategic plan.

“Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university,” she said. “Sustained change with buy-in does work.”

Many public university presidents, past and present, said that those on the boards of the leading universities — typically business executives without much experience in academia — do not always understand the complexities of leading a large research university, and the degree to which a president can succeed only by persuading.

“Everybody thinks university presidents are hierarchical and top-down,” said Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, and a former president of the University of Wisconsin and secretary of health and human services. “But we are not corporate chieftains, and we cannot rule from the sky. We are more like tugboat captains, trying to get our ships aligned and pulling them in the right direction.”

The great research universities, she said, have achieved their dominant position in the world through shared faculty governance, and leaving faculty both academic and research freedom.

“It was a lot easier to run a cabinet department than the University of Wisconsin,” Ms. Shalala said. “There are a lot of different constituencies at a university, and the president cannot be successful without buy-in from all of them.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 26, 2012, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: For Many Public Universities, Fight at Virginia Is All Too Familiar.
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