What happens in a subway or in a movie theater

The Commons is a very hard notion for people to grasp, sometimes.  But think about the way people have an innate desire to share experiences, like watching a movie flicker on the screen in a dark theater.  DVD, VOD and the Internet have not spelled the demise of that experience, precisely because people go to the movies to be part of a common experience at least as much as they go to see a particular movie.

People want to connect and gather and be in commons.

But there is a lot of noise that distracts us.  Sometimes that noise distracts us from beauty so magnificient that it compels people to shell out lots of cash to go to a concert hall.  That's what happened when Josh Bell, world-class violinist, played a free concert in the L'enfant Plaza Metro station in DC a few weeks ago.  The "stunt" was organized by Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten.  Josh played, but roughly 1100 people passed by him without so much as a nod.  He collected about $32, and maybe 7 people stopped to listen.

The Metro has a rule barring buskers.  I lived in both DC and New York, and it was hard not to notice the antiseptic character of the Metro.  Now, I think I understand.  The NY Subway is a lively commons where buskers, hucksters, activists mix with everyone else on a daily basis.  I have found myself in conversation with strangers so often I cannot even count because a music performance or activist's speech got us talking.  Even more often I acknowledge my fellow commuters and they acknowledge me with a glance or a nod.  I would venture a guess that we all feel gratified by this connection in public.  In public space.

The Josh Bell story shows how much we can stray from our innate desire to buy in to the idea that we should prioritize privacy and our jobs over our human desire to experience each other and what we create, like the art of Bell's performance.  It's not that work and money and schedules aren't important.  But should then anesthetize us from our basic human instincts to connect, and wonder and imagine and enjoy?

You can find Gene Weingarten's article about Josh Bell's concert in the Metro at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721. html

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2008 united states president sdm usa us presidential election

I might be the first in history to be elected that i was a actual witness in the 911 attack and the democrats in the state ignored me,and in the barnstable complex in massachusetts they could be connected to fund cash for political purposes,on 911 i was hired a day prior by a afganistan owner disaters specalists near otis air force base i worked there two days at exit two in sandwich massachusetts he was on a massive hiring spree,later i was orderd to clean a dead mans house in chatham on 911,later i i contacted legal services of capecod 460 west main st hyannis massachusetts 02601 about rapes of my daughter www.presidentcandidate.zoomshare.com dss report,later that very agency convinced my wife to get a divorce in wich one of the people i reconized in the office at disasters spealists as they denied me legal help but repesented her for free and i mean free,later as the rape trial was comming up the stepson who was accused away in the miltary army only because the wife at the time said it was him and my daughter was told to be quit about it by the wife was let off because it sounded like a woman at trial and she had before we met as the second wife here and my daughter a stepwife to her was involved prior in brewster massachusets in a case 1993 same thing happened we met 1994 as i lived on roosevelt ln plymouth at the time and then moved to exit two sandwich and the judge kicked me out just before the rape trial paid off i think and a day after the stepson committed two 209a orders i was making flyers at the time to be governor of massachusetts on printer the wife was upset,later i met a girl being thrown out of the house she said she worked at the kennedy compound and reported to a mr wilson there and later she said she saw jfk jr the day before he died as she was ordered to get bags out of his car isabel her son was in volved with barnstable complex charges it was a acident what happened but later 560 crimes was committed on me by the complex the rapest chrged me 4 times the democrat attorney generals office would not help even in the gubernatorial race in which i was a candidate the police that worked for the democrats office the judges made rediculas moves in the case like the wife stated she knew what was happening molest and later stated yes the stepson innocent well that means it was her dur,and acted like they where on the right side like right sure thing buddy,and ignored the facts garmet bag and sword in wich matched my miltary records sword,and later never even had a licence to get to the campaign events by the actual rapest and later charged by being sick by the way they kicked me out and went back to cure my mental health to my house with 300,000 in equity and was charged by the da and sent to 460 west main st hyannis cape human services where the phsycologist told me there to shut up about me daughters rapes and stated she had the power to put any one away in the gubernatorial race and i was forced to pay out all this cash to courts and the office 460 west main st hyannis and intervined in my job to make money too,the democrat  attorney generals office and police did nothing but ran when the rapest cryed wolf in which was a lie and lies well when im president these facts will be proved and you can see them know www.presidentcandidate.zoomshare.com im the only one that would ever figure this out remember by being in diffrent places and events and she maintains custody of my son with no visitations thats a hole another crime all together 7 days before the election but what im trying to say if any one comes close to figure out what there doing on the take they kill them my friend william galvin the secretary of states nephew charged numerouse times and me by a rapest for politcal purposes becaus e i helped microcom where they invented the module that linked computer to telephone in the 80s norwood massachusetts rt 1 the inevntion of the internet and where afraid i could win because im smart and have good looks and great credentials but they needed to nail me so i could be eaten up by the media and took the rapest lies and ran with it,and they could also be funding bin laden as the dont forget there family is in boston,there alot of cash that goes thru there and funding the democrat party also why else does the attorney general dont help rape judges crimes and da crimes because a little later they cut a deal with a drug enforcement officer in sandwich same town and sent him to 460 west main st hyannis the same class i went too so we all agree the cash goes there back to the judges and the democrats office one ashburton place boston and police that are controlled by the democrats office are told not to help me help submit this case to washsington dc 1600 pennsylvania ave nw its my only means of comminications at this point by computer i was open before but they used some kind of weird phsycology with hypnosis to make me less open and social it happened when i went there in the gubernatorial race when i was a candidate,and think my friend was nailed too all of them the more the nail too the less candidates too thats why we lost half the people in the state and the case is i had a rape trial a divorce a crime related exspenses and a district case and a gubernatorial race all at the same time and the da had the very same rape case in his hands the one that charged me but was freinds with mrs white and the other members in the state house and attorney generals office and two lawyers miss repesented me big time one said look for the sword in the proceeding how would she know it was there,the second stole 5000 from me and signed a restraining order as i fought with the lawyer i did not want too in wich is right near the state house that was referred by the bar ascoc there is some thing severly wrong in this entire matter and the scary thing about this its all true

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Unions in Early States

Union membership nationally is 15,359,100 strong.  Membership in the public sector (AFSCME, teacher's unions, police and fire unions, etc.) comprises 48% of nationwide union membership.  In fact, while over 36% of public employees are unionized, only 7.2% of private workers are unionized.

Figures for Iowa are a little lower but similar to national statistics but Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are all markedly different from national norms.  Statistics used in this diary are from unionstats (www.trinity.edu/bhirsch/unionstats/).

State-by-state totals are discussed below the fold.

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"A Vote for Lieberman is a vote for more war...."

The Fix has an interesting catch from a Gallup survey.

So, a new poll from Gallup is sure to cause considerable agitation in the world of elected officials. The survey, testing 1,009 voters from Dec. 8-10, asks people to rate the "honesty and ethical standards" of a variety of professions. The results are somewhat dismal (even for the most cynical observers).

...

Governors are the most respected of public officials with 22 percent rating their ethics and honesty as high or very high and 26 percent scoring it low or very low. Journalists nudged out governors with 26 percent rating their ethics as high or very high and 25 scoring them low or very low (We'll take it.)

Not surprisingly, the most trusted professions remain those related to healthcare. Eighty-four percent of the sample rated nurses as possessing high standards for honesty and ethics. Druggists/pharmacists (73 percent), doctors (69 percent), dentists (62 percent) and engineers (61 percent) rounded out the top five.

I find this fascinating.  Unlike car salesman or nurses, what journalists 'sell' to the public is trust.  And yet the public doesn't rate journalists as having particularly high integrity, which is puzzling because they still in some ways dominate public discourse.  If I were a journalist seeking to serve the public, I might find this incredibly alarming and a reason to fret and examine why the public is skeptical.  For Cillizza, who I'm picking on only because his attitude is hardly unusual among journalists, it's cause for snark and nothing more.  'I'll take it' is his mantra, since it doesn't really matter if you trust him or not, he's secure in his post at the Post.

This could explain why paid media is so dominant in the narratives of campaigns.  I've seen two campaigns up close where journalism essentially made zero difference - Jon Corzine for Governor in 2005 and Ned Lamont in 2006.  Voters are using different sources of information to make political decisions at this point, and the press doesn't really help matters by allowing paid media and statements from campaigns back and forth to dominate the discourse.  Whether paid media is dominant because voters have somehow 'changed' to a more apathetic and less information-rich stance or whether journalism has become less trustworthy isn't clear.

My guess is that journalists are no longer communicating in a way that makes sense to voters.  For instance, if you look at most Connecticut papers, you would find almost no coverage of the fact that Lieberman misled voters on his main campaign promise to bring the troops home as soon as possible, or that Lamont's claim that a vote for Lieberman is a "vote for more war" happens to be true.  The campaign is over, so it's apparently not relevant that Senator Lieberman just called for more troops, which simply cannot be taken as anything but a call for more war.   This isn't just sour grapes; it would have been incredibly tough for Lamont to win regardless, but the fact that Lieberman was able to utter statements in the post-primary which are now revealed as lies, and have basically no coverage in local papers, is remarkable.  It's shallow.  It disempowers Connecticut voters, who are not told the truth about what they voted for.

I don't really have an answer for irresponsible lack of follow-on coverage, or the boring scandal-driven untrustworthy nonsense that passes as news.  At this point we still need the press, I suppose, and we need them to dig up credible information so that we can consider public discourse reasonably and responsibly.  Still, it would be nice if journalists considered a lack of trust from the public as an identity crisis rather than an opportunity for snark.  In the meantime, the press will continue to lose relevance and other more unpredictable social structures will take its place.

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Weekly Audit: We Welcome Our New Plutocratic Overlords

Meet the new global elite. They’re pretty much the same as the old global elite, only richer and more smug.

Laura Flanders of GritTV interviews business reporter Chrystia Freeland about her cover story in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly on the new ruling class. She says that today’s ultra-rich are more likely to have earned their fortunes in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street than previous generations of plutocrats, who were more likely to have inherited money or established companies.

As a result, she argues, today’s global aristocracy believes itself to be the product of a meritocracy. The old sense of noblesse oblige among the ultra-rich is giving way to the attitude that if the ultra-rich could do it, everyone else should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Ironically, Freeland points out that many of the new elite got rich from government bailouts of their failed banks. It’s unclear why this counts as earning one’s fortune, or what kind of meritocracy reserves its most lavish rewards for its most spectacular failures.

Class warfare on public sector pensions

In The Nation, Eric Alterman assails the Republican-controlled Congress’s decision to scrap the popular and effective Build America Bonds program as an act of little-noticed class warfare:

These bonds, which make up roughly 20 percent of all new debt sold by states and local governments because of a federal subsidy equivalent to some 35 percent of interest costs, ended on December 31, as Republicans proved unwilling even to consider renewing them. The death of the program could prove devastating to states’ future borrowing.

Alterman notes that the states could face up to $130 billion shortfall next year. States can’t deficit spend like the federal government, which made the Build America Bonds program a lifeline to the states.

According to Alterman, Republicans want the states to run out of money so that they will be unable to pay the pensions of public sector workers. He notes that Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) are also co-sponsoring a bill to force state and local governments to “recalculate” their pension obligations to public sector workers.

Divide and conquer

Kari Lydersen of Working In These Times explains how conservatives use misleading statistics to pit private sector workers against their brothers and sisters in the public sector. If the public believes that teachers, firefighters, meter readers and snowplow drivers are parasites, they’ll feel more comfortable yanking their pensions out from under them.

Hence the misleading statistic that public sector workers earn $11.90 more per hour than “comparable” private sector workers. However, when you take education and work experience into account, employees of state and local governments typically earn 11% to 12% less than private sector workers with comparable qualifications.

Public sector workers have better benefits plans, but only for as long as governments can afford to keep their contractual obligations.

Who’s screwing whom?

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is calling for a sense of perspective on public sector wages and benefits. In AlterNet he argues that the people who are really making a killing in this economy are the ultra-rich, not school teachers and garbage collectors:

Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they’d like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.

Signs of hope?

The economic future looks pretty bleak these days. Yes, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% from 9.8% in December, but the economy added only 103,000, a far cry from the 300,000 jobs economists say the economy really needs to add to pull the country out its economic doldrums.

Andy Kroll points out in Mother Jones that it will take 20 years to replace the jobs lost in this recession, if current trends continue.

Worse yet, what looks like job growth could actually be chronic unemployment in disguise. The unemployment rate is calculated based on the number of people who are actively looking for work. Kroll worries that the apparent drop in the unemployment rate could simply reflect more people giving up their job searches.

For an counterweight to the doom and gloom, check out Tim Fernholtz’s new piece in The American Prospect. He argues that the new unemployment numbers are among several hopeful signs for economic recovery in 2011. However, he stresses that his self-proclaimed rosy forecast is contingent upon avoiding several huge pitfalls, including drastic cuts in public spending.

With the GOP in Congress seemingly determined to starve the states for cash, the future might not be so rosy after all.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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