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Member since: Tue Mar 8, 2005, 07:39 PM
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Free higher education for all - What a concept! In Chile, not in this country


Michelle Bachelet, who won Chile’s presidency in a landslide on Sunday, has vowed to overhaul her country’s economic model to deal with endemic inequality. And she plans to start by providing free higher education for all.

It’s a radical departure from the current system, in which the government accounts for just 15 percent of the sector’s total funding. That share is among the lowest in the world and is less than half that of the United States, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

The policy would also challenge the country’s image as the free-market poster child of Latin America. Chile was the first country in the region to adopt liberalizing economic reforms, in the 1970s. It now boasts the highest GDP per capita and the highest levels of human development in Latin America, says the World Bank. It also has the third highest university-enrollment rate, after Cuba and Argentina.

“The biggest challenge Chilean society faces is education,” she said in her 200-page campaign manifesto. “Inequality and segregation still persist in alarming levels.”

If carried out, the reforms would bring Chile closer in line with the rest of Latin America, where most countries offer some form of free, public higher education. Currently, most of Chile’s one million college students rely on government-subsidized loans to pay tuition, often incurring huge debt. They include the more than 100,000 people who defaulted on their loans in 2012 and who owed an average of $5,400—more than a fourth of the average annual income, according to government figures.

Sound familiar? Chile’s attempts at overhauling its higher-education financing system could provide key lessons for the current debate in the United States over college affordability. But it won’t be easy.

Homeless Couple Gets A Home On Christmas Eve, Thanks To Innovative ‘Occupy’ Group

Thanks for concrete actions that help people. More than we can hope from most people,


For many couples, the thought of living together in a 96-square-foot house sounds awful. But for Chris Derrick and Betty Ybarra, it’s a Christmas miracle.
That’s because Derrick and Ybarra have spent the better part of a year braving Madison, Wisconsin’s often-harsh climate without a roof over their head.
They’ll spend this Christmas in their own home, thanks to more than 50 volunteers with Occupy Madison, a local Wisconsin version of the original Occupy Wall Street group in New York. The group, including Derrick and Ybarra, spent the past year on an innovative and audacious plan to fight inequality in the state’s capital: build tiny homes for the homeless.
In a city where an average home for sale costs nearly $300,000, many low-income individuals simply can’t afford somewhere to live.
Indeed, in January of this year, a citywide count found 831 homeless people living in Madison, a 47 percent increase in the past 3 years. And it’s not just adults; 110 families with children were identified as well.
The “Tiny House Project” began the same month. The plan was for volunteers to build micro-homes that still include living necessities like a bed, insulation, and a toilet. The homes are heated via propane and include a pole-mounted solar panel to power the house’s light. The total cost: $3,000, paid for by private donations.

Democrats Demand Clarity On Trade Representative's Position On Tar Sands Oil - Thanks to them all.


WASHINGTON –- A group of Democratic Senators and House members expressed concern Friday that trade negotiators are trying to undermine fuel standards in the European Union so that the U.S. can export tar sands oil from the Keystone XL pipeline.

The EU has a policy known as the Fuel Quality Directive, which calls for a 6 percent reduction in emissions from transportation fuels like gasoline and diesel by 2020. As part of that, the EU wants to assign values to different types of fuel based on the emissions they generate. Tar sands oil, which has much higher emissions than conventional crude, would be assigned a higher value under the system. A letter from 21 Senators and House members cites "troubling" reports that the U.S. might be working to undermine those rules as part of the negations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

As The Huffington Post reported back in September, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has expressed concern about EU rules that would discourage the import of oil from the Canadian tar sands. This is an issue for the U.S. right now, particularly as the Obama administration considers whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta down to refineries in Texas, from where it could be exported abroad.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the co-chairs of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change created earlier this year, led the letter-writing effort.

Rick Santorum: Government-Provided Health Care Is A Plot To Kill People Who Don’t Vote The Right Way


Speaking at a Young Americans for Freedom event on Friday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) offered an unusual assessment of what happens when “the government is going to be the principal provider of health care for the country.” “It’s actually a pretty clever system,” the former presidential candidate explained, “Take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”


This guy has run for president twice and has come close to getting the nomination???

Hey, Media: White People Are Poor, Too

As the article notes, a disproportionate quantity of minorities are poor and this is a problem, but it is still a minority of poor people and representing poor people as overwhelmingly minorities just gets into the stereotypes.


According to Census figures in 2013, 18.9 million whites are poor. That’s 8 million more poor white people than poor black people, and more than 5 million more than those who identify as Latino. A majority of those benefiting from programs like food stamps and Medicaid are white, too.

But somehow our picture of poverty is different, and the media tends to tell us a different story. A recent New York Times story, “Cut in Food Stamps Forces Hard Choices on Poor,” included only pictures of African Americans and Latinos from the Bronx, N.Y., and a number of Southern states. In October, the Times published another story about the impact of states’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion that’s part of the Affordable Care Act.

The images accompanying that story were also all of black or Latino families. Was that because only blacks and Latinos receive Medicaid? No.
This stereotype, like most stereotypes, harms black people in myriad ways, especially because the political right has linked poverty with moral failure as a trope to undermine public support for government programs—remember Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen? These tactics didn’t end in the 1980s. Last week, for example, Fox News’ Brad Blakeman said the government was "like a drug dealer" peddling "dependency" to food-stamp recipients.

Social scientists and others have long made the observation that the media over-emphasizes people of color in coverage of poverty and government benefits. But if the message hasn’t yet reached even the New York Times, it clearly needs to be said again.

Why You Shouldn’t Read ‘Double Down,’ The New Campaign Book Everyone Is Talking About

Probably a loss of time posting this here given the number of people who loves posting these Halperin stories, but here it is.

The authors of “Double Down” — Mark Halperin and John Heilemann — have found a way to exploit this phenomena for fun and profit. They seek out disaffected campaign staffers and consultants and provide an anonymous conduit for them to spin their preferred version of what transpired. This creates a prisoner’s dilemma for those who might not ordinarily be inclined to speak to Halperin and Heilemann. If they don’t cooperate, their critics might be the only people who shape the narrative of the campaign. By playing different factions within campaigns against it each other, Heilemann and Halperin get a lot of folks to talk. Interviews are conducted on “deep background” and the books contain “no source notes.”
This has been an extremely lucrative exercise for the authors. Their first book on the 2008 campaign, “Game Change,” was a bestseller and optioned into an HBO movie. Halperin and Heilemann received an advance for “Double Down” that exceeded $5 million.


Nevertheless, each salacious nugget is breathlessly reported by large media outlets who, it seems, can’t resist. A Google News search for the book already returns 848 results, before this piece added one more. This creates buzz, more sales and more buzz. Full of tidbits of dubious import, “Double Down” seems destined for the bestseller list as well. But if you are interested in an accurate understanding of the 2012 campaign, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

And if you insist thinking that they report things that matter, here is a guide of anonymous sources that is worth reading before reading what is little more than gossip from the Beltway.

Ten Years Later, 85 Percent Of Massachusetts Voters Say No Harm From Marriage Equality

Which begs the question, can the 15% remaining tell us what harm was done to them.


When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that same-sex couples had a right to marriage equality under the state’s constitution, critics claimed the ruling would have chilling effects on society. But ten years later, a new poll shows that 85 percent of Bay State voters say the ruling has had either a positive or neutral effect on their lives.
One Massachusetts resident told the Boston Globe after the 2003 ruling, that it was “four judges basically turning society inside out with no input from anybody else.” Catholic League president William Donohue warned that the decision opened the door to incestuous marriage and polygamy.
But marriage equality has not turned society inside out, nor has the promised parade of horribles has not come to pass. Massachusetts now has the lowest divorce rate in the nation, same-sex families now enjoy full legal protections, and the Boston Red Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball.
And even 66 percent of Massachusetts Republicans concede marriage equality has had no negative effect on them. According to the PPP poll, Massachusetts voters now support same-sex marriage by an overwhelming 60 to 29 percent margin.

No surprise there. Even our Republican candidates are for the most part enlightened on this issue, as the next few Republican candidates for statewide office show (Scottie excepted, of course).

Jared Bernstein - What is needed in the new Fed Chair

Bubble watcher: Neither Mr. Bernanke nor his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, believed that the Federal Reserve could identify asset price bubbles or do much about them, especially with interest rates (“a blunt tool” for that purpose, as Mr. Bernanke said). Yet in both of their cases, we know that they were warned of the housing bubble by (a precious few) colleagues. The economist Dean Baker was showing me graphs of home prices diverging from rental prices in a novel and scary pattern back in 2002!

Bank regulator: Here’s something I learned during my stint at the White House during the financial crisis. To bail out banks invokes deep moral hazard, which makes such moves both deservedly unpopular and bad economics (“moral hazard” exists when an economic actor or institution doesn’t face the cost of its actions, like when you bail out a bank that screwed up). But given the global interconnectedness of financial institutions — and connectedness, not size, is the relevant and threatening factor here — the Fed (and Congress) could easily be back in the bailout business unless proactive steps are taken.

In other words, avoiding moral hazard is a luxury you often don’t have once the implosion has begun. So your best move is to avoid it.
Consumer ally: The next Fed chief must learn to love and work closely with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I’d recommend a standing lunch date with Richard Cordray, the agency’s first director and someone with sharp antennae for credit irregularities that can serve as early warnings for bubbles.

Macro-manager: This is huge, of course, and the challenges here are well known. Mr. Bernanke, aided by Ms. Yellen, has been consistently strong in using both traditional interest rate policy and creative asset purchasing and forward guidance methods in the pursuit of closing persistent output gaps.

Better forecaster:

Meanwhile, in the Refugee Crisis (Not posting this as a call for intervention)

It is just that, in fiery discussions about policies, too often the humans who are the subjects of these discussions are summarily dismissed if they do not help the arguments.



Two million refugees from Syria. The figure was announced last week and easily missed amid headlines about the Tomahawks that would or would not be fired at targets dear to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Refugees are less dramatic than cruise missiles, less dramatic even than wrangling about a Security Council resolution on Syria's poison-gas arsenal.

Yet the exodus from the civil war-torn country represents a humanitarian crisis no less stark, a moral demand no less pressing, than the use of chemical weapons. It is a crisis which has policy responses that do not involve bombs, that do not require a debate about America and Europe re-entering the Middle East's wars. They do, however, demand spending money and a willingness to take in refugees on a new and much larger scale. In the end, these costs pale in comparison to the costs of war.

Two million refugees, in truth, is a careful understatement. It's the number of Syrians who have registered as refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), or whom the UNHCR has counted as "awaiting registration." The agency only uses the term refugee for people who left their country. It acknowledges its tally may be low. For instance, UNHCR lists 730,00 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The Lebanese government's estimate is 1 million. And then, to the refugee figures, add 4.25 million Syrians described by the United Nations as "displaced"—people who have fled their homes but are still inside Syria. Let's make this simpler: Think of a country, your own country perhaps, and then think about more than a quarter of its people uprooted by civil war to another town or another country.


None of this will make much difference to those Americans who see America's interests and moral obligations as stopping at the shore. Those with a more progressive view of the world could pause in the debate about military invention in Syria. If you oppose the use of arms, surely providing aid and refugee visas on a new scale are a necessary alternative. If you support the use of force, surely much larger humanitarian intervention must complement it.

Exceptionalism in display... (SARCASM)

Frankly, even with the lack of respect I have for Bachman, this was still below my expectations.


Here's your exceptionalism, on full display in living color, in a foreign country:
Tea party-backed Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) on Saturday held a press conference in Egypt to thank the country’s military for overthrowing the elected government, and at one point even seemed to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood had been behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
My God. That is so bad that if I were in Egypt I'd be compelled to apologize to every Egyptian I saw on the street for the stunning, over-the-top condescension of these morons.

Jon Stewart handled this the only way possible:
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