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35 Responses to Inequality

  1. len says:

    People ignore that which they believe they are powerless to change.

    I sat at a praise band practice last night trying to explain that no, I wasn’t being furloughed for 1 day out of five as people believe, but five out of five, that I am essentially now unemployed. Here is the kicker: the day after we were furloughed, they got a purchase order to let them bring back four out of the 18 and immediately put them on overtime.

    Thus, they can use the sequester to thin their ranks, profit, and blame it on Obama (the only person being blamed by the MICkles right now).

    The question is, what did I do wrong? When I said that it is a bit unchristian of me to blame a man for stopping a way even if that puts me out of a job, the faithful stared back in stark amazement that I could even suggest that.

    We are doing this to ourselves because we cannot and will not imagine it can be any other way. We let this happen because we cannot conceive of a means to change it.

  2. Alex Bowles says:

    “We let this happen because we cannot conceive of a means to change it.”

    This, exactly.

  3. Rick Turner says:

    When it became “normal” for companies like WalFart to hire lots of part time workers so they wouldn’t have to consider them full time and therefore entitled (that word again…) to any benefits, that right there was a sure indicator.

    If we had nationalized health care, there’s a lot more than just physical health that would be healthier in this country. I’d bet that we’d see employment go up and more entrepreneurs starting small, nimble, smart businesses. And we’d see a natural leveling of the tilted Bell curve of income distribution. Australia is a good example of how I’d like to see things here. No, it’s not perfect there, but the middle class is a hell of a lot healthier than it is here.

    And, btw, they don’t get tax deductions for mortgage interest…and there’s a lot less bubble effect in their real estate market. A lot more middle class and self employed folks own their own homes there than here in the US from my observation of having been there half a dozen times. Hmmm, how does that work? And here we have bankers and investors only (well, almost) being able to take advantage of depressed prices and low interest rates. Amazing how many of these formerly under-water home are now owned not by those who live in them, but by investment groups. Ordinary folks can’t get mortgages, even if they qualify, but the insiders can and do. This according to a couple of real estate brokers I’ve talked to.

  4. Walwyn says:

    “People ignore that which they believe they are powerless to change.”

    Back in the 1980s a Russian Dissident playwright was incarcerated for a short play. The stage was dark and the spot came up on one figure who said “What can I do about it, I’m just one person?” Another figure was picked out who said “What can I do about it, I’m just one person?”, then a third, then the lights came up to reveal a group of people who said “What can I do about it, I’m just one person?” the stage emptied and the lights went down.

  5. JTMcPhee says:

    Henry Potter finally tired poor old George Bailey out. George took that job offer from Potter’s bank, and now that roof-leaking ramshackle dump he moved into has gold toilet seat hinges and an Olympic pool and a wine cellar with 8,000 select bottles in it. Clarence (not that f___ker in the black robe — the one with the shaky new wings) is asking God “Why?”

    There are no crickets in Heaven, and they would be drowned out by all that perpetual praise music…

    As to means of change, I wonder if the Innovation Labs have anything to offer, other than more innovations that dilute whatever energies people might have to seek Better.

  6. len says:


    “Kodachrome gives us those nice bright colors, gives us the greens of summers, makes ya think all the world’s a sunny day.”

    Nice pictures, M. Keep doing that. Like songs, we see what we believe we feel in them.

    We believed that if they could all communicate, they would build cathedrals. Instead, they share photos of cats and ignore the singular works of art given to them for free while they spend their days feeding the servers that give them the pocket change to buy tickets to see the personality fakes and the dramatic readings of Shakespeare by B-list TV actors.

    It isn’t just that they feel powerless; they are afraid to believe what they see, or know what they know because a prison is safer than a wilderness. Welcome to the Dollhouse.

  7. Andres says:


    How to we repeal Citizens United? How do we encourage smart people to run for government irrespective of party affiliation? How do we alert people that this is going on? How do we keep elections from becoming an offshoot of American Idol? and how do we fight back against the PR machines that keep an honest debate from ever even starting?

  8. Fentex says:

    How to we repeal Citizens United?

    I think that’s a distraction. This imbalance did not arise because of such a recent ruling.

    This imbalance is a return to a past norm where oligarchies always took the major part of production for themselves.

    There was only a brief time in the mid-twentieth century where it was slightly corrected by the redistributive policies of highly progressive taxation and establishment of social programs.

    But in recent decades the highly progressive taxation has fallen out of favour in the face of consistent propaganda that investors should be free to grow the economy by reinvesting and they should be left as much as their wealth as possible for them to reinvest.

    Not a entirely bad idea, except it wasn’t accompanied by liberalisation of laws that left investors to compete. Instead the investing class is protected and shielded at every turn at costs borne by the working classes.

    If progressive taxes on income and capital are going to be foregone on the logic of leaving people to actively work on growing wealth their investments should not be protected to allow the competition that grows wealth to occur. The oligarchs must not be protected.

    If they are going to be protected then they need to pay for the priviledge through substantially progressive taxes on income and capital.

    Either can work, neither is policy in the U.S.

  9. Alex Bowles says:

    It isn’t just that they feel powerless; they are afraid to believe what they see, or know what they know because a prison is safer than a wilderness.

    In other words, half awake in a fake empire.

    I think (Citizens United) is a distraction. This imbalance did not arise because of such a recent ruling.

    A thousand times yes. Beyond that, you put your finger on another point that gets overlooked in the dissections of income split between the 99% and the 1% (or, more glaringly, the 99.9% and the 0.1%), and that’s the relationship between income flowing to individuals of any stripe and income flowing to business. The NYT illustrates that ebb and flow here.

    I know a handful of exceptionally well-off people, and their view of the political situation is remarkably similar to my own. The large delta between us in terms of personal wealth doesn’t translate to a dramatically different take on the corrosive effect money in politics. Indeed, to the extent that their money is in equities, they are acutely aware of the detachment that corporate managers enjoy. Ostensibly servants, these executives are more like the Tokugawa Shoguns who paid lip service to an Emperor while keeping him firmly sequestered.

    Putting a handful of post-Citizens United donors aside for the reason you note, the issue here isn’t simply the amount of money, but of the kind of money. As an extension of corporate planning, it represents interests categorically different from human interests. While I agree that the effect of Citizens United is wildly overstated (to the detriment of more insidious forms of electoral corruption), I can see why people have responded to it in such a visceral fashion. The extension of First Amendment protections to artificial entities crosses a bright and shining line, in that human rights are God given, with the State simply recognizing them as such, whereas incorporated entities are purely human inventions, and have no inalienable rights for that reason alone.

    One begins to feel as though life is being lived under an occupying power. Though it’s firmly embedded, and only superficially resisted, the sense remains that it doesn’t really belong. My concern is that it’s assuming, by virtue of its concentrated power, a level of social responsibility that it’s conspicuously unequipped to handle. This weakness becomes apparent when you see huge cash reserves and stagnant payrolls because of “uncertainty” stemming from a consumer sector that remains highly circumspect because of…stagnant payrolls.

    Of course, it makes no sense for one business to unilaterally start hiring and improving people’s prospects. Even the largest companies can’t kickstart the broader economy independently. At the same time, they lack the ability to work sufficiently cooperatively. The result is this sense of endless stagnation. Half awake in a fake empire, while managers are better off simply paying dividends.

    As a republic, we lack a figure with the cultural stature of the Japanese emperor, so an event like the Meiji Restoration isn’t quite in the cards. And yet, a transition with that level of focus, clarity, and consequence is precisely what we need. We’re approaching a period of monumental change in the world. The corporatocracy is as unfit to deal with it on its own as Japan’s medieval shoguns were suited to coping with the Industrial Age.

    Even if the 2008 election fell short of expectations, it remains a high water mark in terms of the electorate signaling to each other that they’re ready for Change with a big C, even if the elected are still too detached to understand that properly. The 2012 election confirmed this sentiment. But as we’ve seen, general sentiment isn’t enough. What’s needed is an idea that’s time has come. The fascinating thing is that (apparently) a mere 10% of the population needs to develop this kind of unshakable belief before it rapidly and inevitably reaches majority status.

    Per a 2011 study

    “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

    I suspect this is an over-simplification of sorts, and that not all beliefs work the same way – particularly those that are closely tied to deliberately exclusive tribal identities (e.g. creationism among white evangelicals). But as recently noted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the Alarmed (one category of six) have grown from 10 percent of the American adult population in 2010 to 16 percent in 2012. At the same time, the Dismissive have decreased in size, from 16 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2012.

    Assuming this idea is hitting a tipping point now, the thing it’s going to throw into sharp relief is the fundamental operation of the purely profit-driven corporation, which seeks to turn as many costs as possible into economic externalaties. Dealing with climate change goes in the opposite direction. The only true externality is thermal energy that’s left the atmosphere. Everything else is a factor in an otherwise closed system. Faced with a crisis in this biosystem, an obsessive focus on externalaties is the last thing you can tolerate in a ruling class. If there’s one an idea that would force the political system to become proportionally representative of the people within that system, this could be it.

    After all, dealing with climate change requires a lot of personal adaptation, but that’s hardly sufficient. You don’t have to think about changing much before you realize how many decisions your environment makes for you, and how many of those are actually quite bad (e.g. a 45 mile commute, or the contents of your shopping cart). Systemic change is critical. This is synonymous with government policy and action. And that’s not going to take place under this Congress, or any other elected in the same way as this one.

    So what are the mechanics of change? To me, it seems like a three part process. The first is slow lead to the tipping point for an idea that cuts across every segment of society. The second is the rapid shift to majority opinion. The third is a showdown for control of a political system that pays lip service to majority rule while blocking it in practice.

    Occupy Wall Street tried to force this into the open, but the effort dissolved before it could have an effect. Though based on something “everybody knew”, it didn’t host anyone who could say so in a sustained and compelling way. In that regard, the climate camp is very different. It really can frame a well-articulated message as a very concrete demand. To date, it hasn’t had enough political support to go further, but again, that’s suddenly changing. Given critical mass, it’s got the gravitas to corner those in control of political system by demanding they surrender power. When this is flatly rejected, it will triggering the crisis of legitimacy that’s been building for years.

    Happily, California, in banning closed primaries and partisan redistricting, then promptly balancing its budget after eons of chaos, has already provided a template. No chaotic search for something better needed. Unfixing the vote will provide a resolution to the crisis, and from there, the log jam will clear. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. But I’m confident that it will be as different from the last 500 years as the era from 1500 – 2000 was from 1000 – 1500.

  10. Brian says:

    Dan Ariely, who conducted the study this video is based upon, noticed that for both Democrats or Republicans “the moment we ask the question of ideal wealth distribution in a general and less self-interested way, we seem to be a country that cares a lot about each other.” Interesting.

  11. Alex Bowles says:

    (From the Atlantic)

    “Are Americans as conservative as their elected officials think? According to a <a href="According to a new working paper, the answer is no — not by a long shot.”

  12. len says:

    One begins to feel as though life is being lived under an occupying power.

    We are. The elites are quite real.

    To change the opinion it isn’t enough to be informed: the effect has to be felt AND the opinions have to be expressed by people of note. There is no getting around the cult of personality; so if you want to control opinion movements, you create or recruit personalities and build their presence/amplitude in advance. Some planning is required.

    In the other perennial thread (the ripoff of art by the web criminal cabals), songwriter threads are beginning to breakout on Facebook as the songwriter/performers are getting their Spotify statements, comparing them to their BMI statements and muttering “WTF!”

    The chart above shows a known phenomenon: whenever a growth curve goes vertical and off the chart, it is near avalanche because growth is unsustainabe. Considerable money will be spent to prop it up and you are seeing that in investments in lobbyists, means of surveillance and targeted enforcement/assasination. However, no matter how well the Sheriff of Nottingham is propped up, Robin Hood was a royal and when members of their own class turn against them, royals have to negotiate. As the numbers show, it takes about ten percent but it has to be members of the walled gardens.

    The Buddha had to see the suffering. At a bluegrass gig I was at the other night after the gig a small group sat around playing The Weight. The fellow leading them made the statement “Yeah, Robbie likes to take all the credit but Levon was the man.” So even where the truth is obvious, some prefer the myth. Because they can be opinion leaders, the myths have to be shattered in front of them like a glass wall. So one strategy is to pursue a non-violent form of myth destruction. For this, Facebook and most social media are impotent.

  13. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Alex, California’s Judicial Council, so long as it remains a mainly Anglo and elitist, but forever a Democratic Party, junta, never will “ban”, meaningfully, “partisan redistricting”. Such a “ban” is not even constitutionally feasible, as you know. In any case perhaps the reasons why the “Empire” is fake is that corporatizations and markets are different from imperial expansionism. They may be quite as bad–in fact, I’d have volunteered as an extra in Ryan’s film to wear a torn Google gag–but they’re not the same beast.

    Obviously if one wants to equate morally the present Mercantilism with the old colonial powers then one looks to the prolonged enslavement of undergraduate talent by the 4-F Faculty. “half awake”. There it is: our half-sleep. Why our we half awake, half asleep?

    How can each of us feed a grove of stunted American trees half asleep, half below tree level?

  14. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Len, I feel really old in that the filmed chart, and also “filmed awake in a a fake empire”, not only are older in their ideas than their filmmakers but older even than you and me. I refuse to give either of them points for style. That would be precisely the sort of current justification for housing an undergraduate or graduate thesis in “communications”, and I disapprove of reeducation on our shores, regulating a constitutionalized industry and operating as a formal market restriction on the ideas of its candidates for future leadership in Jefferson’s “marketplace of ideas”. I’ve watched this ass-kissing sameness since Berkeley in the late-90s. You don’t find some “creative” way to hit Big Biz, you simply do not graduate. Today you can see the yield of the Feelgood in the sameness of HBO documentaries, big and small. If it doesn’t pull the beard it never was real. That’s the ’60s taken to sickening sole self-righteousness. Hundreds of thousands of stories untold. Dozens more by the day, because the schools think muckraking is truth and the committees determine whose muck gets raked.

    Like most everybody else here, the initial notion of the public’s “Ideal” of a fair distribution of wealth looks roughly desirable. I’d like to inform Fentex, who’s in the position of a knowing and caring remove, that yeah, only a fool here wouldn’t want to set that “Ideal” curve as an interim move toward fairness. There’s a whole other, inverse curve under way right now and for several presidential administrations, and that’s the push toward take-back taxation.

    Gawd it makes me wonder whether the most arch, the most painful, curve is net. Net. It’s not. The entire presentation, as brief as it is, is a conflation and deliberarate confusion of net/loss over times of changing confiscascation/expenditure. A pristine product of pseudojournalistic propaganda 2013. Still I hold that its brilliantly graphic representation of the fixed point–where most Yanks want us to be fairly, 2013–is right and solid, and that’s why I regret our distance from that, from even approaching and bypassing that.

  15. Alex Bowles says:

    @Hugo St. Victor Point well taken. So let’s just consider it a conspicuous and consequential step in the right direction.

    I’m reminded that when the initiative first came up (2008), the erstwhile Willie Brown told a group of leading Dems that their absolute, top, #1 priority was getting Barack Obama elected. And that aside, nothing was – or could ever be – more important that putting the kibbosh on this drive to wrest redistricting power from the hands of legislators.

    That’s the moment when my obsession with gerrymandering gelled. “Bingo,” I thought, “it really is the lynchpin.”

  16. Alex Bowles says:

    Whoops, missed “Speaker”, the erstwhile Speaker Willie Brown. “And that’s only due to term limits” he’d probably add.

  17. Hugo St. Victor says:

    It’s one thing that we figured we we right. It was another when we tought that everybody else not only was–but thank you, pompous faculty, has been–wrong, and not worth covering if contrary to your covering ass. Everybody and everything is worth covering fairly. Depends upon the courage of the ass to stand up against propagandists at home equally as abroad. My Americican age cohort of journalists lost far more reporting to domestic conditions than to foreign influences, and the reporting we lost was more a function of the “training” in compulsory “Sixties Shit”, as we kennedyesque liberals used to call it, than anything else. Obviously I still resent that.

    I still resent it a lot. It’s horrible that a discredited ideology, that once tried to kill my best friend on me on the Tarmac from whence Anastasio Samosa was evacuated to the President of the United States, claimed that Manuel and I, by getting the story, were perforce milititant Marxists, whereas the Sandinistas interrogated and expelled us for god-knows-what except the same reasons in the hours surrounding the fall of Managua.

    We were kids then. We have got to stop doing a couple things with journalistic ethics. First, stop acid-bathing it with something called “media ethics”, because syntacticaly and even morally there’s no such thing. It was a higher charge then. The dreaded, “Was It Moral?”

  18. len says:

    I think that would be the sad case of Aaron Swarz. If one really must be a martyr without a cause, it isn’t hard to do that. Everyone wants to help make that possible.

    What’s hard is to keep making the case for justified change until that magical ten per cent congeals, change happens and then you have to go on living as a normal. I am so very glad that I was in my thirties when the changes I was working began to happen so I would have a real life, kids and a wife to get me past that awful night of the soul when I knew all the bad side effects really were also happening as well. It is a gift of maturity to know a one sided coin is a fantasy and that we should be setting a goal instead of simply changing a blown tire.

    “I have seen the men like wooden ships, backs broken on the reefs of contentment.”

  19. len says:

    Oopsie. Bad blockquote.

  20. Hugo St. Victor says:

    In those days on the fringes the Americans couldn’t distinguish Yank vs. Soviet tactics nor even marks, so how do we now distinguish the present American regimime’s ideology from a a fulfillment of the Latin American revolutionary one that explicitly declined to kill me, and my award-winning photographer friend, in 1979? We weren’t reprieved by Americans in the end, but by Soviets or their friendlies.. In Marx’s quintessentessential question, goddam, “Who/Whom?”

  21. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Let me make a distinct robotic chalk mark upon the World’s playground. This is a most bold chalk mark inscribed by our President. It is the most bold because we elected him, and because he is most powerful of leaders, and because you more feebly decide your leaders. You lose. Try again.

  22. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Jesus, Len, we years before warned that deafense was you and me or else hell to pay. But they wouldnd’t listen because they can’t see the elegance in your systems analalysis nor frankly in mine. In yours, we buy security at the increasing cost of insecurity, and at mind education at the cost of increasing stupefaction. Which one of us goes mad first? It wouldn’t be a plausible contest were we not equalually patriots. And this bullshit is supposed to pitch me against You?

  23. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Alex, of course you’re right about redistricting. If you want to get a handle on how to redress it then there are are only–I’m journalistically straight here–either six or else seven of us remaining, but the the best move would be to ask Mr. Brown directly. And half the reason I recommend this maneuver is that by far the greatest number of the maneuver are its beneficiaries seated comfortably in Congress as a result of California’s newly adopted legislative term limits–TEE HEE!

    See. You thought I was kidding.

  24. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Alex, I really don’t think y’all understand how it was a wound self-inflicted on us Californios and an unwelcome blessing for Willie Brown. His influence greatly grew as as a result, and is now and will remain long after his death far greater than had the brain-dead anti-civics auto-amendment not been made so that Californians need never again attend to troublesome polo-tix-sex-wax every few years when surf’s up, Dr. Zogg

    I think you may be mis-aiming, is all. But where to aim is up to you and your generation. It’s so much more complicated now, and in my generation Jon is one of the frighteningly few leaders who still speaks to us in the way that we can ride him hard and haggle betwixt. It really hurts to have a good man like len in the tussle now. He and I get contracts killed; his artificially as hell, mine as yet for real. Yet len and I still serve the same state, under (presumably) similar conditions of security clearance.

    He serves us in evaluating, in the best forms possible, the advanced efficacy of our defenses, and I, in civilian life, try to rise to his measure. That’s the truth. Unless he or I affiliates with some partisan “think tank” or another (as each of us has done) we are each bound to hold out for commitment to a kind of Hawai’ian Gamble: That you all are very serious now about this democracy thing

  25. Hugo St. Victor says:

    …incidentally my freak-out about the sophomororiric overlay that Jon tells us to review is that it can’t go into the 3-D of African American and Mexican American realitities, and then into Asian immigration, emigration, dreadful miscegenation, etc. Probably I’m a total sick, journalistic fuck telling any of you this, but as a disparaged Surfer Boy from my perspective it’s wonderful just to be alive seeing such absurd persistent horrid collisions….Clemson…Auburn…fuckin’ Gators!!!

  26. Alex Bowles says:

    @Hugo St. Victor

    I really don’t think y’all understand how it was a wound self-inflicted on us Californios and an unwelcome blessing for Willie Brown.

    Term limits, you mean? If so, I agree that was never the problem and (as we soon found out) nothing remotely close to a solution.

  27. Fentex says:

    When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

    What a logically incoherent thing to say – as a new idea surely arises within less than 10% of a population by this reasoning no new idea can ever spread to a majority of people for it will take the age of the universe to reach 10% before progressing to a majority.

    Pointless thing to say.

    Are Americans as conservative as their elected officials think?

    The neccessity to gerrymander and suppress voters demonstrates that the political parties know this and realise the need to game the system.

    I often suggest the U.S would be well served by Proportional Representation but better, more immediate and neccessary for any substantial reform is the discarding of gerrymandered districting. Simple compact geographically cohesive districts of people that need to live together ought encourage legislatures that more closely represent a cross section of the wider community.

  28. Fentex says:

    I messed up some blockquoting as well, again. That was suppossed to be…

    Are Americans as conservative as their elected officials think?

    The neccessity to gerrymander and suppress voters demonstrates that the political parties know they are not and realise a need to game the system to avoid having to represent wider society accurately.

  29. Alex Bowles says:

    @Fentex Cocktail napkin math indicates that yes, the age of the universe is a bad point of comparison. And you are correct to note that pushing ideas that are beneath the 10% threshold can seem like a Sisyphean task – especially if you make the mistake of estimating the time needed to reach majority status by extrapolating from the maddeningly limited rate of progress leading to your current sub-10% point.

    The key is that 10% – not 50% – ought to be the real goal of advocates on the assumption that, having reached that threshold, the normal dynamics of human social interaction will deliver it from there to the point where, in a majoritarian system, it can be readily translated into policy.

    For those who see this natural dynamic as an threatening thing, the obvious response is to frustrate the mechanics of majoritarian politics. To some degree, a constitutionally limited, representative democracy does this by design, most notably in the way in places individual human rights beyond of the reach of popular voting. As a practical matter, it was also necessary to weight the vote of small and sparsely populated states by giving them the same number of Senators as heavily populated ones.

    At the same time, the Senate was still expected to operate on a straight majority basis. The additional self-imposed requirement of supermajority agreement has moved that part of the system into dangerously unrepresentative territory. And of course, the House was designed to be populist from the outset. The current split, wherein a wide majority of seats represent a clear minority of votes, is an even more glaring departure from the premise of government of, by, and for the people.

    This Google Trends search indicates a sharp uptick in focus on electoral mechanics starting with Citizens United. Even if the effects were overstated (see Adelson, Sheldon) it remains a signal moment in terms of electoral awareness. It also appears that the largely pejorative “Citizens United” becomes shorthand for the more anodyne terms “campaign finance”. And while a spike in searches for “redistricting” indicates another burst of awareness, use of this terms seems to resolve into a greater (and growing) use of gerrymandering’s meaning, marking another linguistic shift into the realm of the grimly suspicious.

    The speed with which the GOP’s plans to (further) rig the electoral college got shouted down may reflect this growing savvy, suggesting that people attempting further suppression of majority rule are moving onto thinner and thinner ice. And knowing that the population is, by and large, far more progressive than our politics represent, it’s safe for left-leaning people to think that increasing the power of majority will more-or-less coincide with the advancement of their own interests in a wide range of issues. If advocates in various bands across this spectrum recognize their common cause in prioritizing a return to straight majority rule, a system that still relies on the illusion of popular consent will find the ice cracking beneath it – especially when well-informed dissatisfaction is spreading.

    This cracking may start as early as the 2014 election cycle. I’m confident that pressure will mount at an exponential rate from there, with the 2016 cycle being even more contentious than the last. If obstinance prevails, the minority’s last stand moves to 2018. Given the levels of anger and agreement that would surely be reached by that point (four decades after Reagan and a full decade after the Bust), I can see the arrival of another census and redistricting cycle in 2020 as the point where the dead hand of neoliberalism is sloughed off for good.

    If this comes to pass, it’s likely that future historians may place the interregnum we’ve spent so much time discussing in the decade we’re living through now. What initially appeared to be the lacuna was simply a premonition of things to come. The Great Global Crash of 2008 and the attendant demands at its epicenter for Change-in-all-caps will be the opening bracket. The closing bracket will come ~ a decade later, when the majority that elected Obama gains proper control of the government that had just failed them with such spectacular devastation.

  30. len says:

    Gerrymandering isn’t sufficient to produce the current state of the system. Caucus voting where the most interested minority dominates the selection of candidates (choice of choices) is required. Remember, second order system.

    Cracking requires new zealots and here the problem is as before, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Until you get a truly transformative group of party hacks, you will continue to receive faux transformers (eg, Obama).

  31. len says:

    Also (and this is why Citizens United really is a bitch) unless there is some means of buffering the elections from massive energy needs (say money for campaigning), you can’t stop the system from being unduely influenced. You actually have to enable the Law of Requisite Variety to work then choice of choices is acceptable.

    But in control we generally mean to imply that one system is more powerful than the other one, capable of suppressing any attempt by the other system to impose its preferences. To achieve this, an asymmetry must be built into the control loop: the actions of the system (controller) must have more effect on the state of the environment (controlled) than the other way around. This can also be viewed as an amplification of the signal travelling through the control system: weak perceptual signals, carrying information but almost no energy, lead to powerful actions, carrying plenty of energy. This asymmetry can be achieved by weakening the influence of the environment, e.g. by buffering its actions, and by strengthening the actions of the system, e.g. by providing it with a powerful energy source. Both cases are illustrated by the thermostat: the walls provide the necessary insulation from outside perturbations, and the fuel supply provides the capacity to generate enough heat. No thermostatic control would be possible in a room without walls or without energy supply. The same requirements applied to the first living cells, which needed a protective membrane to buffer disturbances, and a food supply for energy.

  32. Alex Bowles says:

    You’re right, len, it’s not the only thing. Closed primaries, private election finance, the electoral college, and the supermajority requirement in the Senate all play key roles in degrading the power of the vote, to say nothing of the revolving door between regulators and the regulated. That’s why I’ve started thinking less about gerrymandering in isolation, and more about the collection of interlocking reforms that would constitute a restoration of the vote.

    Yes, elections still matter, but not nearly enough, and they suffer from a lack of exclusivity. It’s like hiring a part-time staffer who fills out his schedule working for your arch-rival. You really can’t expect much from a guy like that, which may be why Congressional approval in in the pits.

  33. Hugo St. Victor says:

    In answer, Alex, yes, that’s what meant but actually, indeed in the double-reverse you imply. The perceived problem, Brown, became the imperceived salvage effort for California. Term limits shot us in the foot just when growth pains forced us to dance faster. That’s the truth, Alex. It was one helluva fix, and ended up infantaling state government when California needed it most. The money-stakes were so high that sophisticates moved in to fatten and fleece the lambs in charge of Sacramento, the two legislative houses and the Governorship. Please look at this. A rump group of veteran scribes and scholars is looking at this at UC Berkeley. Surely you know.

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