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healthcare.gov opens at midnight on the day of the government shutdown and lambert finds a bug

[And if you have your own experiences to share, and especially screen dumps, please add them in comments or contact me. Either Federal Exchanges, or state exchanges. I'm especially interested in Covered California! Thank you! --lambert]

Nice timing.

john.smith@gmail.com from Maine had a registration #FAIL at step 3. Here's the screen dump:

Read more about healthcare.gov opens at midnight on the day of the government shutdown and lambert finds a bug

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Marijuana arrests. Take that, Loretta Lynch!

When in the 12-Point Platform we say:

#10: End the Wars

we mean all the wars, including the so-called War on Terror, and the so-called War on Drugs; all the self-licking ice cream cones. (Ending the War on Drugs, besides sparing many thousands of citizens from having an arrest on their permanent record, would also strike major blows at the streams of rental extraction controlled by the prison-industrial complex and the surveillance state.) Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Marijuana arrests. Take that, Loretta Lynch!

More noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

[UPDATE I realized I left the legend off Figure 2, so the colors in the Venn Diagram must have seemed random. They're pretty random anyhow, since in order to get the color to blend properly, I had to use beige to mean white, which is another instance of the fact that developing a sense of visualization and a visual vocabulary isn't all that easy. Anyway, if (a) anybody read this, and (b) reading it, found Figure 2 to be the source of bafflement, Figure 2 is improved. --lambert]

Some may think this series (part one) is dry.... To which I would respond so is the edge of a sword, until it's used....

If we think of the 80/20/1 as sets of people (classes), how do we figure out how to put one person in one set, and another in another?

Informally we might say with a litmus test: In the case before us, one litmus test is whether they purchase labor power (the 1%) or sell it (the 99%, with other litmus tests to classify the "pillars of the regime" into the 20% from the 80%)[1]. More formally, we might say, for "litmus test," "set membership function," as we see in Figure 1. And as you can see, I'm still learning to sketch (and might even have to give up, or learn both to draw, and especially to print and/or write, better): Read more about More noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: College students sleeping in their cars to avoid debt

This story from 2014 made my blood boil. Here it is again:

Josiah Corbin spent a lot of weeknights over the past four years sleeping in his car in a Walmart parking lot.

Thanks in part to his routine, the 23-year-old will graduate from the University of Maine with a biology degree, and without debt, on Saturday.

Corbin, a fifth-year student who took his last exam Thursday, got a work-study job in his second year of school that kept him on campus late — sometimes past midnight. His family’s Dover-Foxcroft home is about an hour drive from the UMaine campus. Once he decided on a science major, he found many of his required classes were only available at 8 a.m., which meant very little sleep, especially when he had to factor in drive time and studying.

Corbin didn’t get as much financial aid as he hoped and didn’t want to incur student debt over his next four years of school. So he made an unusual decision — hunker down in the car.

He started out sleeping in a parking lot near Alfond Arena on campus, curling up in his car, a rusted-out 1987 Toyota Corolla. By pulling out his front passenger’s seat, he was able to lay down a small “mattress,” which isn’t much more than a body pillow. By wrapping up in a couple of sleeping bags, he was able to make himself “relatively cozy.”

After a few weeks in a UMaine parking lot, police found Corbin in his car late one night and told him he couldn’t sleep in his vehicle there. So Corbin relocated to Walmart in Bangor, which has a relatively steady population of overnight sleepers, according to Corbin. Some come in recreational vehicles, others in their cars. A surprising number of them, especially in warmer months, are from Canada, he said.

Walmart policy allows recreational vehicles to park in its lots as space allows, but the policy doesn’t say anything about people sleeping in cars. Walmart says on its website that sleepover policies and regulations largely are up to individual stores and local laws. Corbin said no one from Walmart ever bothered him about sleeping there overnight in his car.

Corbin estimates he probably saved about $8,000 per year avoiding room-and-board costs, avoiding a meal plan and cutting down his commute. That works out to $32,000 through the course of his college career, most of which he would have needed loans to cover.

Tell me its not a great country! Read more about With The 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: College students sleeping in their cars to avoid debt

Noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

Still trying to learn to sketch. However, my handwriting, bad with pen and paper, is horrific with an iPad and a stylus, so herewith a digital version of the initial assumption:

Class, in other words, is "vertical"; the others are "horizontal." This is a restatement of the 80/20/1 framework discussed here. I'll try a sketch that has fewer words: Read more about Noodling on intersectionality (more on the 1%, the 20%, and the 80%)

A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part II)

This is the second part of a two-part post that explores the rationale for a Post Office Bank, #8 of the 12 Point Platform:

8. Post Office Bank

which I started working on because I thought it would be easy, instead of doing more work on #1: A Living Wage, which entails a definition of wage labor as a social relation. Anyhow, Part I of this post was a potted history of the Post Office, and it's good I just set the bar low there with "explores," because when I wrote Part I, I didn't yet know about Save the Post Office, and so along with a lot of other excellent material I missed these two excellent long-form backgrounders:

I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone here that the Post Office privatizers are full of shit; what came as a surprise to me is just how full of shit they really are. Read those two pieces; you'll see too.

Part I took us all the way to 2012, where there was an interesting but all-too-temporary Post Office Bank boomlet (link, link, and link for example) touched off by this report (PDF) from the Post Office Inspector General[1] (and not, mind you, the neo-liberal infested USPS management). For our purposes, we can reduce the report to four points. From the 2014 version: Read more about A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part II)

With the 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Payday loan ripoffs

[I've sworn off reacting to the news on a daily basis, because it keeps me reactive, and that's a distraction from the 12 Point Platform, which is what I really want to work on, am working on, and is a book-length effort. However, the "theory of everything" posts to back up each point take a lot of work, as chapters in books do, and the consequent absence of posting doesn't keep the hot air balloon at the altitude I prefer, i.e., not crashing into the ground. So, I'll try to react to the news at least once daily, but framing the post so that it advances the 12 Points. New editorial formula! --lambert]

Payday loans are grossly usorious. MLive:

Using names like Check 'n Go, Cash Advance and Payday Loans, there are companies throughout Detroit and beyond that specialize in immediate, high-cost, shot-term loans with interest rates often reaching 30 percent or more.*

"Michigan is one of 35 states across the country that authorizes payday lending in some form," Michigan United said in a statement Monday. "While some states and cities have worked to put a stop to predatory lending, federal laws still largely allow payday lenders to prey on vulnerable communities and benefit from borrowers' financial hardship - with annual interest rates that routinely reach 400 percent or more."

Michigan United says the industry thrives on the poor, entraps them in a "cycle of debt."....

A Google search for of payday loan centers yields nearly 70 such businesses located in Detroit, some operating 24 hours a day. Their loans are accessible online with automatic bank deposits. In-person cash loans are available at on-site locations.

Most require proof of a steady income and establishment of a bank account before loan approval

So you can imagine the problems the precariat has, let alone the System D people, or the millions without a bank account in the first place. And lest it be though the "new economy" and "big data" haven't notices, check this out from the New York Times: Read more about With the 12-Point Platform, this won't happen: Payday loan ripoffs

Obama's SOTU: What do Democrats mean by "middle class," anyhow?

I'm being triply non-linear now, because "Tax the Rich" is #3 in the Twelve Point Platform:

3. Tax the Rich

and so not only am I not beginning at the beginning with #1: A Living Wage, I'm not writing part two of my first attempt on #8: Post Office Bank, either (here is part one). Soon! Moreover, I'm reacting, albeit way too slowly, to the news, seeking to use it as a hook to raise larger issues. (These posts might be better thought of as first drafts for a book, rather than as blog posting.)

In any case: In Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) speech we have a seemingly populist tax proposal. Here is the headline summary from AP:

Obama in State of the Union: Tax wealthy, help middle class

And that's a fair summary. But there are some problems with this formulation, among them:

  1. Obama's proposals are fundamentally unserious
  2. The concept of "middle class" is hazy
  3. The unstated premise is that Federal taxes raise revenue (they don't)
  4. There are good reasons to tax the rich, even if raising revenue is not one of them
  5. We don't know how much Obama will really tax the rich
  6. Obama's proposals are unlikely to help "the middle class," however defined
  7. Concrete material benefits should be our focus, not a "tax fight"

Let's take each of these points in turn. Read more about Obama's SOTU: What do Democrats mean by "middle class," anyhow?

Possible early morning site outage

UPDATE The upgrade is done! This should make your experience much more reliable.

In the continuing effort to figure out why the blankety-blank crashes all the time, my ISP is going to do some server upgrades. (One thing that happens is that we get hit with crawlers, and newer versions of the database will let us handle that better.) Read more about Possible early morning site outage

A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part I)

A Post Office Bank is actually #8 of the 12 Point Platform, and not #1 ("A Living Wage"):

8. Post Office Bank

but who said I had to be linear? This is not, let me say at once, the definitive, "final" supporting document for the Post Office Bank, but the result of my current research, such as it is. In fact, I picked this topic because I thought it would be easy, low hanging fruit. In this part, I'll put the Post Office in political context (comments from readers very welcome; this is complicated). In the next part, I'll describe the policy, and what happened when the Post Office proposed it.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution enumerates the power of the United States Congress to:

To establish post offices and post roads;

Although there was considerable debate in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries over what "establish"[1] meant, by the time that Rural Free Delivery was initiated in the 1886, and then Parcel Post in 1913, the current paradigm that we think of when we think of "the Post Office" was set: Universal service, physical plant in the form of retail branches, sorting centers, trucks, etc., and a uniformed civil service staff, unionized. Note that the Post Office was transformed by Nixon, at the dawn of neo-liberal political dominance, although this paradigm still applies: Read more about A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part I)

The New Year and a Change of Direction

First, let me apologize for the weird Call to undefined function tribune_menu_load() some of you were getting yesterday; I spent a few hours last night upgrading all the site modules to their most recent versions (the site itself comes next) and the tribune module was on the list of those that could not be upgraded. Unfortunately, when I uninstalled that module, it left little bits of itself lying about in caches and the database, and even though I killed it off in the database, it somehow rose from the grave. All should now be well.

More centrally, I apologize for going walkabout. I think I complained about the food poisoning, and then about the poison ivy and (I am convinced) subsequent cellulitis on my right (typing) hand and arm, but as it turns out I boasted prematurely about dodging the hacking cough, because of my clever purchase of a bellows. In fact, I got the worst hacking cough ever -- the kind where, typing, one feels that little chunks of lung are spattering the screen -- and had to go back to the Helen Hunt clinic again, for more pills of a different kind and an inhaler. I can't remember having been to the doctor twice in one month! I couldn't talk for days. My lack of comfort with this sighting shot from mortality aside, I wonder if I was telling myself something with all those photographs of rot and decay I had been taking, beautiful though they are; specifically, I wonder if all the insulation I installed had the unintended side effect of forcing me to breath fine dust and micro-organisms that would otherwise have been blown around and away by drafts! Read more about The New Year and a Change of Direction

Wet Christmas

Sorry for the long absence. Er, I'll explain later. I took these pictures on Christmas Day, when it was 50°F -- not like now! (And how foolish I was to think we would escape the cold...) So, this is the last series of garden pictures I'll take, until it comes time to start working the soil again, probably in April. I learned a lot this year!

What I saw when I walked out the door:

Snow melt everywhere! Read more about Wet Christmas

Common Household Remedies Request

It's a relief to have a diagnosis, but it would be even more relief to have a cure! So, while I don't have cellulitis, or the antibiotics are killing it, and the aches and pains have mostly gone away, I do have what looks like a bad case of poison ivy on my right, or typing hand. So I'm asking for poison Ivy cures! Read more about Common Household Remedies Request

Go shopping

For example, at the Mall of America:

Arthur needs to take his cat to the vet

Here. If you've got a little extra to spread XMas cheer, you could do worse than throw it Arthur's way. Read more about Arthur needs to take his cat to the vet

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