Friday, February 29, 2008

1 in 100, 1 in 30, 1 in 9

From Pew:
For the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison—a fact that significantly impacts state budgets without delivering a clear return on public safety. According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008, 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails, or one in every 99.1 men and women, according to the study. During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates. . . .

As prison populations expand, costs to states are on the rise. Last year alone, states spent more than $49 billion on corrections, up from $11 billion 20 years before. However, the national recidivism rate remains virtually unchanged, with about half of released inmates returning to jail or prison within three years. And while violent criminals and other serious offenders account for some of the growth, many inmates are low-level offenders or people who have violated the terms of their probation or parole.

“For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn’t been a clear and convincing return for public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project. “More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on taxpayers.”

. . . .

A close examination of the most recent U.S. Department of Justice data (2006) found that while one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, the figure is one in nine for black males in that age group. Men are still roughly 13 times more likely to be incarcerated, but the female population is expanding at a far brisker pace. For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the one-in-100 mark. In addition, one in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars; the rate for those over 55 is one in 837.

The report points out the necessity of locking up violent and repeat offenders, but notes that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the nation’s population at large. Instead, more people are behind bars principally because of a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, imposing longer prison stays on inmates.

As a result, states’ corrections costs have risen substantially. Twenty years ago, the states collectively spent $10.6 billion of their general funds—their primary discretionary dollars—on corrections. Last year, they spent more than $44 billion in general funds, a 315 percent jump, and more than $49 billion in total funds from all sources. Coupled with tightening state budgets, the greater prison expenditures may force states to make tough choices about where to spend their money. For example, Pew found that over the same 20-year period, inflation-adjusted general fund spending on corrections rose 127 percent while higher education expenditures rose just 21 percent.

Read the full report.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weber, Goethe, and Nader

What is responsibility?

The Cluelessness of Power

via Atrios, from your tee vee today:
GEORGE WILL: It seems to me Obama’s problem is that you can only be a novelty once, and for a while. And he needs – he’s worked one pedal on the organ quite enough now; this stuff, I’d call it banal eloquence, where he says, ‘In the face of despair, we can still hope.’ I have news for him: Americans aren’t in despair. Look around you. Who’s despairing? We have mild problems.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tax Policy

I agree with Ezra -- THIS is pretty cool. Seriously.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happiness Is. . . . .

From Crooks & Liars:

I admit to being completely biased to the appeal of Denmark, as my family is Danish and I travel to Denmark as frequently as I am able to see them. But a recent study has borne out what I’ve experienced myself for years: the people of Denmark are the happiest people on Earth. (study here-U.S. is #26)

But Danish happiness is one that most Americans don’t seem to grasp, because most Americans confuse well being with being well off. Danish happiness is derived from lower expectations, rather than having to be #1. The need to be superlative is supplanted with a contentment of where you are and not needing to keep up with the Joneses. It is also a contentment of not worrying about some basic necessities: healthcare, childcare, education, retirement and long term care. Republicans are quick to demonize the socialism as something akin to the scary Red notion of communism, and it’s true that in a socialist democracy like Denmark, the average person is taxed at about 50%, which is uncomfortably high to our American ears, but ask yourself how much of your paycheck goes to health insurance, childcare, college savings plans and retirement accounts. Few people in the US can say that less than 50% of their paychecks don’t go towards those needs already.
There's more. . . . . .

Once More Unto the Breach

Dr. Fast on the latest school rampage shooting.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Neo-Marxist Sock Puppets Explain

Is there anything the internet can't provide?

via many places, h/t Crooked Timber

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


New York Times edition -- Hackonomics!

More of Interest?

From The New Social Worker:
THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER has teamed up with the National Association of Social Workers and former AOL Social Work Forum host Susan Mankita to bring you! This site features an ongoing series of online live chats among social workers, students, and educators. Don’t miss the chat TONIGHT, February 12, on the topic of private practice, at 9 p.m. EST, at . Read more about this service below, under “Features”!

I also want to remind you to visit our Facebook page at – once you get there, log in to your Facebook account (or create one), and you will be able to register as a fan of our page. You will then be able to receive special notices and take part in discussions on the page.

Perhaps of Interest?

From Picture the Homeless:
REPORTBACK from Poverty Initiative Immersion 2008

Current poverty in rural and urban America: one size does not fit all. The only common denominator is that people of color are disproportionately represented. In January, Union Theological Seminary's Poverty Initiative organized a tour of the South, meeting and learning from local poverty activists in rural and urban settings. Come to Bluestockings Books to dialogue with participants about their experiences, and what lessons they brought back.

An event organized by Jean Rice from Picture the Homeless and Arthur Trotman, member of Union Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees.

Sunday, February 17th, 7PM.
Bluestockings Books. 172 Allen Street
Between Stanton and Rivington. 1 block south of Houston and 1st Avenue. 1 block south of the F train's 2nd Avenue stop.

For more information, contact Jean Rice at 646-314-6423, or via email at

Friday, February 08, 2008

Get Your War On

From the utterly incomparable My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable. But please be warned: plenty of coarse language there. Not Rude Pundit coarse, but still. . . . .

Monday, February 04, 2008


This is NOT an endorsement (I'm a political scientist, so I don't care for ANY of the candidates, truth be told) but here's one version of an argument I've heard increasingly, in various forms, from some thoughtful, knowledgeable people:
. . . But the type of president who succeeds George W. Bush will not be determined solely, or possibly even mostly by the experience, character and ideological perspective of the person who wins. As I have written about in numerous essays(here, here, here, and here), I think we are on the verge of a possibly transforming election akin to the 1932 election. In 1930 Democrats posted big gains in the House and Senate, and eked out narrow majorities in both chambers for the first time in a generation. In 1932, largely because of disgust with Herbert Hoover and the Republican party, the Democrats again scored huge gains, creating powerful governing majorities in both chambers of Congress. And the presidency was won, of course, by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Many readers have missed one of the main points of my essays, namely that FDR didn't entirely create the 1932 landslide, and that the President FDR eventually became was not foreseen by many observers of the 1932 election. In fact, in important ways, the 1932 landslide helped FDR being a great President. It was in part because he had a huge Democratic majority, and they had a powerful mandate from the American people, that they could embark on their bold crusade of fundamental change to ameliorate the devastation caused by the great depression. But contrary to the beliefs of many today, Roosevelt did not campaign on or enter office with a detailed policy platform. In fact, about the only concrete policy he espoused was to balance the federal budget, a policy he quickly jettisoned in favor of massive public spending and the accompanying debts to stimulate economic growth. Public spending to stimulate an economy is now axiomatic, but Roosevelt's administration was possibly the first to adopt such a Keynesian economic policy, something that was not foreshadowed in Roosevelt's almost content-free campaign.

Roosevelt also didn't win that election by as much as most people believe. In 1920 Democrat James Cox (with running mate FDR) got only 34% of the vote. In 1924 John Davis received only 29% of the vote, and in 1928 Al Smith took less than 41%. So the 57.41% Roosevelt received was a huge jump from previous Democratic performances. But his percentage was roughly equal to Eisenhower's total in 1956, and less that what Johnson (1964), Nixon (1972) and Reagan (1984) garnered.

What mattered in 1932, however, was the mandate from the voters, the 13 Senate seats and the 97 House seats that came along with Roosevelt's landslide. Roosevelt was one of our two or three greatest presidents because he took advantage of the political opportunity of an electoral mandate, 60 seats in the Senate and 313 in the House.

There's no way Democrats will gain the 73 seats it would need to get us to 313 in the House. But it's not inconceivable that we could hit 60 seats in the Senate. And even if we only pick up 20 or 30 seats in the House, with the much more cohesive House (where individual "mavericks" have less ability to gum up the works than they do in the Senate), Democrats could push through much more progressive legislation than the sclerotic majorities sustained by residual Dixiecrat influences that the Republicans finally swept out in 1994.

This is maybe the most important difference between a ticket led by Barack Obama and one headed up by Hillary Clinton. As I said above, I think Hillary Clinton will win if she's our nominee. But I believe Barack Obama could win in a landslide.

. . . . The American public wants change. . . They will vote for Clinton. But I believe many of them will embrace Obama. And the difference between a Clinton win at 53% and an Obama win at 58% is probably 12-15 extra members of Congress, and maybe another 3-6 Democratic Senators.

Having a bigger congress means the difference between a crappy national health care plan and something decent, maybe even something more progressive than a President Obama himself would even request. It also means no more of the horrible "compromises" we've been forced to endure from the Senate. In a Senate with 58 or more Democrats, centrist Democrats wouldn't be able to hide in the shadows and fail to support a decisive policy to end the war in Iraq. We would pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which in tandem with a more progressive tax policy could reverse decades of growing wage and wealth inequality, which in turn has led to less democratic politics and policies by our government. And a historic repudiation of the current Republican party could finally curtail the rise of the radical rightwing movement, which starting in 1964 and with great acceleration during the 1980's, took over the Republican party and has turned a conservative party in to a radical threat to the New Deal and the essential ideals of American democracy as first put forth by the Founding Fathers and as expounded upon by Abraham Lincoln, FDR and the New Deal Coalition, the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement, and LBJ's Great Society. . . .

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Post-Edwards Post

from Sam Smith:
JOHN EDWARDS has departed the race. . . Now the righteous are safe to make what is in their mind a decent and diverse choice: between a black and a woman, one a graduate of Harvard Law School, the other of its Yale equivalent.

It's sort of like the beginning of the Clinton administration which was going to look like America. In fact, 77% of Clinton's initial cabinet were millionaires, beating out both Reagan and Bush in this category. In DC, the Clinton choices barely raised an eyebrow. Clinton's cabinet may not have looked like America, but it certainly looked like establishment Washington. It required no corruption or conspiracy for the city's journalists to ignore it; everything was just too normal.

One of the delusions of elite liberals is that that they lack prejudice. To be sure, they treat black, women and gays far better than once was the case. But if you are poor, uneducated, own a gun, weigh a lot, come from the South or mainly read the Bible it is another matter. Class and culture have replaced the genetic as acceptable targets.

The 28% of the American adult population with college degrees defines the country's values, its policies, its laws, what is stylish and how you get to the top, including the White House. And what it has defined has exacted no small price from the remaining 72%. For example, just in the past eight years, the following have gotten significantly worse:

Median income
Number of manufacturing jobs
Number of new private jobs
Percent of workers with company based health insurance
Consumer credit debt
Number of housing foreclosures
Cost of heating oil & gas
Number without health insurance
Wages in manufacturing
Income gap between rich and poor
Wealth of the bottom 40% of Americans
Number of older families with pensions
Number of workers covered by defined benefit pensions
Use of soup kitchens
Personal bankruptcies
Median rent

Yet when John Edwards tried to build a campaign around these issues he was subjected not only to the opposition of the establishment and its media but a notable tone of ridicule whose subtext was: why would anyone want to bother with such things? Especially a guy as rich as Edwards?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Political Ads Go to a Whole New Place

Pretty amazing, whatever you think of the candidate. . . . . .Watch HERE. Crank up the sound, too. . . .

UPDATE: As with so many things, YouTube provides:


Media Matters takes on Blitzer and Gibson. . . .

Does This Make You Feel Safer?

Not a rhetorical question -- I'm truly curious. From the Times:
In the first counterterrorism strategy of its kind in the nation, roving teams of New York City police officers armed with automatic rifles and accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol the city’s subway system daily, beginning next month, officials said on Friday.
Then again, maybe it's not supposed to make us feel safer, or even make us actually safer. For what I mean by that odd proposition, see Corey Robin, Fear; Susan Faludi, The Terror Dream; and Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine. Three thoughtful and provocative recent books.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Homeless Veterans

and O'Reilly, continued. . . . . .

Newman and Ehrenreich

Talk about poverty, the working poor, and the disappearing middle class. Watch them HERE.