Journalism


Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

A terrible formula has taken hold:
warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

Can Elites Convince Victims of Top-Down Policies to Blame Themselves?

Randy ShawBy Randy Shaw

In The Unwinding, New Yorker political writer George Packer argues that elite-driven economic policies have negatively "unwound" the lives of millions of Americans. This view is hardly uncommon, yet the June 9, 2013 Sunday New York Times Book Review found a reviewer - Republican and Times columnist David Brooks - to deny that the nation's elite have "failed." Brooks claims the elite "comes from the finest universities" and is the most "diverse" and "equal opportunity" elite in history - a defense of elite rule and polices that could come from a Jon Stewart parody.

Debating Obamacare: How About Them Apples?

By Anthony Wright

The white hot spotlight on health reform in California continues. For the New York Times Room For Debate, we at Health Access were pleased to contribute an essay, "Obamacare is Working in California" as part of a package answering the question, "Is Obamacare Too Complicated to Succeed?" Here's part of our answer:

In fact, the law is a huge step toward a simpler and more straightforward system. One of the new insurance exchanges under the ACA, Covered California, will offer standardized plans to finally allow consumers and small businesses to make apples-to-apples comparisons among health plans.

The law will also provide subsidies so low- and moderate-income families can pay only a percentage of their income, on a sliding scale. It's a revolutionary change; premiums now can be based on what you can afford, rather than how sick you are.

Using its purchasing power, Covered California has just announced negotiated rates with a broad selection of plans - and there's good news: the rates are lower than expected. This is partially because California explicitly gave its insurance marketplace the power to bargain for the best price and value.

Creating Community, One Vote at a Time

By Steve Hochstadt

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. My involvement in my local elections has led to hundreds of conversations with people about our community - what the problems are, how to improve them, how the city should be run. But more important than the way we vote or even whom we vote for is the role the whole community plays in our local affairs.

Every once in a while, we all get to vote. Voting is one of the most important foundations of our democracy. Our ability to select our political managers, at the local, state, and national levels, and to vote them out of office the next time, puts ultimate power in the hands of the people.

How Economists Routinely Get It Wrong on High Speed Rail

By Robert Cruickshank

The main purpose of any transportation project is to help people get to where they want to go. Cost should be a subsidiary factor in the planning of any transportation project. Unfortunately, in the 30 years since right-wing ideology became politically ascendant, keeping costs down so that rich people didn't have to pay higher taxes started taking precedence over building effective transportation projects. This may have been tenable as long as oil prices remained low. But once prices began rising again, it was clear that building electric passenger trains was a top priority for modern societies.

Whom Do You Trust?

By Steve Hochstadt

Whom do you trust? Many Americans might say, "Nobody." What they mean is that they don't trust any "official" sources of information. They listen attentively, however, to the crackpots of alarm. The ironic result, in an age of overwhelming access to information, is that many Americans are not only ignorant, but they believe in fairy tales.

Last week I wrote about how the belief of some Americans that their biggest enemy is their own government has increased gun sales. Many other writers have picked up this theme recently, as more and more right-wingers compare the US government to Nazis and Communists, claiming they need assault weapons for protection from tyranny at home.

New "Marine Reserve" Network Doesn't Protect the Ocean

By Dan Bacher

A new network of controversial "marine protected areas" went into effect on the North Coast from Point Arena to the Oregon border on December 19, completing the statewide network from the Oregon to the Mexican border created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

The completion of the network was accompanied by a flurry of press releases from the Department of Fish and Game (now Department of Fish and Wildlife), Natural Resources Agency and corporate environmental NGOs and "puff pieces" by the mainstream media regurgitating the agency news releases.

Sacramento Bee Slams Valley Republican HSR Opposition

By Robert Cruickshank

Central Valley Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham have been leading a renewed attack in Congress on the California high speed rail project in recent weeks. McCarthy's hometown paper, the Bakersfield Californian, has already editorialized that electeds should support HSR. Now they're joined by the Sacramento Bee:

No place in California stands to reap the rewards of high-speed rail more than the San Joaquin Valley.

That is why the opposition of U.S. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, is so puzzling.

Red State, Blue State

By Steve Hochstadt

I just spent a weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, giving a talk about my research on Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who spent the war in Shanghai. I was barely a mile from Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

South Carolina is one of the reddest states, giving 55 percent of its votes to Romney. Now I'm back at home in Illinois, one of the bluer states, so safe for Democrats that Obama did not even campaign in his home state. Red state, blue state - what's the difference?

Will Politicians Suffer for Opposing High Speed Rail?

By Robert Cruickshank

In California media outlets often like to ask whether Governor Jerry Brown or state legislators will suffer for supporting high speed rail. Their assumption is that the risky move when it comes to HSR is to back it, and that opposing it comes at little political cost.