June 15, 2017

Your #USOpen winner for 2017 is?

First, I have confidence that Erin Hills will be much better than Chambers Bay of two years ago, if for no other reason than having real greens. Its particular blind spots may challenge many golfers, but unless the rain there is heavy, it should play "short," despite its stated length, and the wider cuts on some fescue will allow for aggressiveness.

In short, perhaps a bit like nearby Whistling Straits, yet not exactly the same. Even more links-like, perhaps, in some ways.

That said, it DOES have some blind shots, which are very links-like. And, it's going to have a lot of uneven lies.

And, of course, it's a first-time track.

So, how does that factor into picking a winner?

Two stories are a guide.

The first? This, suggesting a top-10 player is the likely winner at a first-time U.S. Open or PGA track. 

The second? This one, suggesting that the blind shots, the sideways lies, etc., will all likely favor a European golfer.

So, European. Top 10.

In order, that's Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, the hot Alex Noren and the hot earlier this year Jon Rahm. Justin Rose is just outside that list at 11, and gets bonus points for being a previous major winner and his second at this year's Masters.

So, that's six against the field. I'll take that as a prop bet right there.

But, which of the six? Rory's still rebounding from the rib injury. Scratch him. Stenson's been not so hot this year, with five missed cuts. Scratch him.

Sergio may be on a post-Masters high, or he may be locked in, per this piece. Let me think.

The final three?

Rose isn't thought of as a bomber, but he has a slight driving length edge over Rahm and a bigger one over Noren. The three play the same on putting average, too.

So, with that in mind, my money is on Justin Rose.

With Sergio locked in enough for second.

And my money, along with that of the Weather Channel, is NOT on Phil Mickelson playing. Sorry, Philly Mick fans, but weather delays only likely Friday and Saturday.

That said, per Golf.com, maybe rain will be bad enough on Saturday to force a Monday finish if Sunday's start is a problem.

June 14, 2017

#BasicIncome: ONE tool in a working-class arsenal, no more

Basic income. Can it really be “the thing” to address what ails the American working class, as well as the gray- and white-collar middle class?

I offered up my initial thoughts a couple of weeks ago, and since then, have had further time to reflect, and further stimulation to do so.

A number of further thoughts on basic income have been provoked by this excellent piece from the Boston Review and the nearly dozen responses to it.

Basically, it has sharpened and deepened my thoughts about what types of basic or guaranteed income are good, and what are not. It’s also, skeptically, sharpened my thoughts on its likelihood, especially that of a non-libertarian version.

It’s also sharpened other thoughts.

I’m afraid that some touters of basic, or guaranteed, income, view it as “the tool” in the arsenal to fix all the problems of late Western capitalism. It’s not.

And, if you’re at the point where every employment-related problem, let alone larger workforce and income problem, seems like a nail and GI seems like your hammer, you’re probably going to have problems.

Scott Santens, while he seems nice and earnest, also may be an "everything's a nail" person on this issue.

And, the hunger for people to read about and hear about basic income? That still doesn't justify an "everything's a nail" approach.

On the other hand, with this primer about how basic income will not be inflationary, he at least seems to give a hat tip to problems not readily addressable by BI.

That said, enough about Scott for now. While he’s a visible evangelist for basic income, this blog post is about Brishen Rogers’ thoughtson basic income in Boston Review, to repost the link, approximately a dozen responses to him, and my thoughts on the whole schmeer. Let’s dive in.

Rogers notes that in both the original piece and his response to the critiques. BI or GI has to be one tool that’s part of a broader arsenal. And, for the rights of labor, especially here in the US where both Republican and neoliberal Democrats have seen fit for its powers to continue to be gutted, GI is not going to address that. 

I largely agree. Basic income will not be big enough to provide major leverage to workers on a variety of issues, whether minimum wage, their own personal working conditions, job safety or other things. For smart, conscientious employees, it may be a moderate catalyst to a fulcrum they've already developed through other means, but that's about it.

With those notes on Rogers' essay (without by any means claiming that's a detailed summary), let's look at some of the responses to him, and my takes on tyem.

The first response is by Patrick Diamond. A sample at the core of his ideas:
Neoliberal advocates of basic income celebrate the idea because, in the words of Charles Murray, it would be a “replacement for the welfare state.” Market liberals argue individuals could use their basic income to purchase services currently provided through the state: education, pensions, healthcare, unemployment insurance, childcare, and so on. Thus perversely (and contrary to the intentions of many of its advocates on the left), basic income might end up encouraging the marketization of the public sector, while limiting the funding available for social investment.
That's an interesting concern right there. It's not one that I had thought about before this, but now that it's been broached, I can certainly see it. I'm sure the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world would present this as a "public benefit," and that Zuck himself would make this a keystone of his non-running (sure) for president.

The second response is from Annette Bernhardt. A snippet: 
A truly progressive agenda …  needs to expand beyond the current fixation on automation.
While mitigation and bargaining over impacts are important, ultimately the progressive goal should be governance: a seat at the table when decisions are made over which technologies are developed in the first place and in pursuit of which goals.
Agreed that, while there are legitimate concerns about automation, they still seem somewhat overblown. In any case, whether overblown or not, without a labor seat at the table, labor can't weigh in. German-type workers' participation on boards, etc. would be a much bigger tool here.

The third response is by Tommie Shelby. A few of his thoughts, which focus on racial issues and income and employment, and what BI might or might not do there:
One of the basic problems with the current work-welfare regime is this: many of the ghetto poor who have submitted to its requirements nevertheless remain poor. They simply become part of the working poor, often serving the private needs of the well-off—performing the roles of maids, nannies, dishwashers, maintenance workers, and so on. Others fall back into poverty because of recessions and economic restructuring. And because many of the schools available to the ghetto poor are so substandard, they do not allow for opportunities to develop marketable skills, limiting upward mobility.  … 
Therefore one of the strengths of basic income is that it would empower marginalized black workers by enabling them to refuse demeaning, insecure, exploitative, and low-paying jobs. They could do so without having to live in degrading forms of poverty and without having to bear the risks of the underground economy. Basic income would deal a real blow to ghettoization and mass incarceration. It would not solve all problems of racial or economic injustice. But any civil rights–labor alliance should seriously consider fighting for it.
To the degree this is true, I say Amen. But, many libertarians and neo-racialists like Charles Murray want to replace the entire safety net with a base-level guaranteed income. Watch it, and them, Tommie, more than you did in this pied.

The fourth response comes from Peter Barnes. His focus is on just what level of "income" basic income will actually provide and this is an important issue indeed, especially per what I said about Shelby's response.
What is the difference between the two levels of universal income, and why does it matter? A base income of, say, a few hundred dollars a month does not have the same economic, political, and moral ramifications as a basic income of, say, $1,000 a month. The latter, at least in some places, offers enough to survive on; the former decidedly does not. And while the latter is a dream of many, it is far too expensive—and threatening to our work ethic—to be enacted in the United States any time soon.
Rogers said the same, about the VERY heavy political slog needed for a true basic income. That said, as far as geography, I'm with Santens on this. Basic income should not be adjusted for cost of living, certainly not cost of housing. Liberals — and beyond — need to confront directly that blue states are more economically unequal, overall, than red states. Besides, this is a way of empowering rural and small town America.

My other main personal thought is the same as in my original piece.

If we’re talking about just a “base” income, then we absolutely cannot use it to lessen or further weaken the current “safety net.”

The fifth response is from Juliana Bidadanure. She goes even further down the road of worry about specific acolytes of Murray or worse. 
(B)asic income could be “designed to serve white nationalist ends,” Rogers worries. The policy could be sold as part of a package including harsher anti-immigration policies. Prisoners and ex-cons could also be denied basic income, which would further entrench basic income as a right that privileges white Americans. This concern is not specific to basic income though. Far-right populist parties often embrace the welfare state in an exclusionary and xenophobic manner.
She goes on to talk about international basic income, in part, but by no means mainly, to reduce the immigrant pull that “basic income in one country,” to riff on Stalin, might have.

If REALLY done right, this would involve flipping the IMF and World Bank on their heads and REQUIRING that part of their assistance packages in the developing world include an insistence on basic income.

That would be ideal, but, that's got even less chance of happening than does getting basic income adopted here in the US.

The sixth response is by Dorian T. Warren. Going beyond Shelby on racial issues, he tries to get reparations in the back door, it seems:
There is, in fact, a model of basic income which is not only acceptable but preferable to common proposals: the Universal PLUS Basic Income. It is identical to most basic income proposals but includes a pro-rated additional amount for black Americans over a specified period of time. The Universal PLUS Basic Income draws on the concept of “targeted universalism” in designing social policies.
That would NEVER fly. Or if basic income itself would never fly, this would never-squared fly. And, per what some class-based leftists like Doug Henwood have said, that undercuts the rationale for affirmative action and other things that have been deemed payment in lieu of reparations.

And, thus, it wouldn't fly with me personally.

The seventh response is from Diane Coyle.

Hers, briefly? Don’t be a Luddite or an overdone alarmist about robots stealing jobs. She notes the differences between US and elsewhere on some economic issues.

The eighth response is by Philippe van Parijs.

He talks about empowerment effects.
Of course, the actual monetary value of the basic income matters. But even a basic income that amounts to less than the current level of means-tested social assistance for people living alone would make a significant difference. At that level, the right to conditional benefits over and above the basic income would need to be kept, so as to prevent poor households from becoming worse off. But the secure access to a modest income that can be relied upon even if one gives up a job voluntarily and that can be combined with other income would broaden the options of the worst off and thus increase their power. Such a modest basic income could not eradicate poverty on its own. But it would be more than the “baby step” discussed by Rogers, namely a basic income for parents or a universal child benefit of a sort that already exists in a number of countries.
Again, it's all about how big basic income is.

The ninth response is from Connie Razza.

Briefly, she says “the question of the redistribution of power is vital.”

The tenth response is from Roy Bahat

He talks about the emotional insecurity that accompanies job insecurity.
The biggest ill a basic income might heal is fear. 
With a basic income, a spouse can leave a domestic abuse situation. With a basic income, a writer might write, an actor might act, and our culture might reflect the breadth of our peoples’ lived experiences. With a basic income, an entrepreneur might put a few dollars into opening a family business.
However, unless the payment level of basic income is set pretty high, and see the caveats above, no, it can NOT help that much with this, and it can NOT help nearly as much as national health care can. Period. End of story. Per average co-pays on health insurance today, national health care with no co-pay on getting the insurance would itself be worth as much as $200-$250 a month of basic income and offer at least as much actual security.

And, I'll be doing another blog post in a couple of weeks about the "top tool" in the arsenal, if one can only get one tool passed.

The eleventh response is from David Rolf and Corrie Watterson
Companies could earn a label or certification by registering with a worker-led nonprofit organization, adhering to certain labor and employment standards, and agreeing to audits by the certifying organization.
It sounds good, but I'm not sure how much power it would have in the US unless a lot of other change happens. Plus, such issues can become "gamed." Even if not gamed, we've seen unions willing to become management pets in the past.

Rogers responds back to the critiques, to end the piece. 

He starts by getting back to his first main concern.
I have not seen a single quote from a tech leader or thinker to the effect that “basic income is a great idea, but we also need a high minimum wage and much stronger unions.” In fact, while I was drafting this response, Harvard Business Review published a piece tracing how information technologies have exacerbated income inequality by encouraging outsourcing and the growth of new mega-firms. But its proposal to help low-wage workers is through a negative income tax; it never once mentions minimum wages or collective bargaining.
We all know Silicon Valley is highly neoliberal to put it politely, or often tech-libertarian.

Indeed, I see Mark Zuckerberg’s enthusiasm for “exploring” basic income (no, Scott Santens, not FOR basic income, but for “exploring” it) and I wonder what’s up his sleeve. I also wonder despite current disclaimers, if a presidential campaign isn’t part of what’s up that sleeve.

Rogers then continues in this vein while also addressing the issue of tech-related job loss.
Silicon Valley’s enthusiasm for basic income is having some detrimental effects on the ground. When foundations and think tanks flood the zone with research into the “Future of Work” (now a genre of its own), research into the realities of work today can go unfunded. That has happened to some of my colleagues. Similarly, as it becomes common sense that workers’ largest challenge is automation, basic labor standards and worker organizing seem futile since higher wages will just hasten the robots’ arrival. This is a false choice. I agree strongly with Coyle and Bernhardt that those concerned about inequality should embrace technological development and steer its path.
He says he appreciates Warren, but believes his own ideas are NOT race neutral, and in a good way.

And, his nut grafs
To be clear, I agree fully with Bidadanure—and Warren, van Parijs, and many others—that “everyone should have an unconditional right to be free from basic economic insecurity.” I just disagree that organizing around basic income is obviously the best strategy to advance that goal in the United States. 
Why? First, because a basic income cannot substitute for social insurance, and social insurance remains meager in the United States.  … Second, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we cannot hope to pass an egalitarian basic income in the United States without changing the power structure.
And, with that, he is OK with “alienating libertarians.” And alienating their refusal to challenge power structures, or, in many cases, their willingness to reinforce them while using basic income to fob off challenges.

That said, Rogers says that we should still push the ball forward.
None of this means we should abandon basic income research or organizing, or that we should give up on steps toward it. These include universal child credits, elder credits, and even state-level efforts in places such as California, where labor and the left are already strong. But it does mean we should, as I wrote, “be clear-eyed about the policy’s justifications, merits, and limits.” That, in my view, is the path to economic security for all.
This all said, BI is part of the solution, I believe. Just not the only tool, and probably not the primary tool.

Cheezed-off neoliberals like Neera Tanden and the rest of Center for American Progress don’t want to admit even that, though.

The Center for American Progress, true to its neoliberal roots and worried about "the dole," proposes a "guaranteed job" idea instead.

But, this itself has a number of actual or apparent problems. (The author's list is not entirely accurate, and his approach to such concerns seems to be more from the right than the left.) 

And, if we are rightly going to see BI as one tool in our arsenal, this is important.

Santens approaches being simplistic about this in other ways.

He notes the problems with food stamps (TANF) and Medicaid being made into state block grants by "the politicians." Well, first, they didn't start that way, and second, who's to say that, without strict "lockboxing," that basic income couldn't end up that way?

This is another reason basic income is just one tool.  Fix the various parts of the safety net, too.

I do agree very much with Santens here, that BI should NOT be adjusted to housing costs. And I agree with why.

We don't need to subsidize pricey areas. And, all they'll do is get pricier yet.

New York City, indeed, offers more opportunity than Des Moines, Iowa, let alone Elko, Nevada.

Based on 1 and 2, it's also not politically smart to subsidize highly blue areas at the expense of red areas.



First, the fact that Zuckerberg is touting basic income is another reason to be wary of many versions of it, especially his own. (Interesting that Mark Cuban loathes it.)

Second, Santens still leaves me uncertain about his ultimate stance when he presents BI to a bitcoin conference (video).

And Dylan Matthews, in a wide-ranging, mostly good sometimes iffy piece, notes other problems.

There's the Charles Murrays of the world, who want to gut the existing safety net even more than liberatarians, for example. Surely, other economic-thinking paleoconservatives agree. And, even allegedly liberal union leader Andy Stern wants to use BI to cut at least parts of that net, and cut Social Security. That said, this is far from the only reason I put "alleged" in front of liberal with him.

Stern has other issues. He, along with Murray (with Murray the reasons are obvious) doesn't want a BI that includes kids.

Overall, Matthews brings a good deal of largely well-placed pessimism. And, part of his solution is well-based on that. That's both for a targeted version of BI within the US safety net perhaps being a better starting point, and a more comprehensive BI in the developing world helping both it and the whole world.

That said, Matthews has his own neoliberal interpretation problems with our current economy and labor system. Does automation raise wages? For computer and robot programmers, sure. For the employees who work with the robots? Maybe. For those replaced by robots? Not at all.

We should have his pessimism about elements of BI, yes. But, they shouldn't be run through his own version of a neolib filter.

Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders aren't CLOSE to alike (Update: Neither are Sanders and Ted Cruz)

On Friday, the Green Party tweeted a report saluting Jill Stein's recount.

I immediately replied that:
A. It was NOT unbiased, given the recount was done in states that flopped to Trump only, and that I (and other concerned Greens) had blogged about this, including noting that blue-state Minnesota and New Hampshire were as close as any of the red states recounted. Beyond that, the election was not rigged in that sense.
B. That I didn't really trust Contrails Bob Fitrakis (author of the piece) for much of anything. That includes him, David Cobb, and other Stein legal beagles raking decent money for their recount services. Given that Fitrakis has raised such election conspiracy theories before, I believe he has a legal, fiduciary and ethical conflict of interest in serving as a lawyer in such cases. More about Contrails Bob's background here.

I later added that I was far from alone in concern A, and included the point that the Green Party executive committee did NOT unanimously approve the recount, which was Stein's, not the party's. But, don't let me say that. Let Dr. Margaret Flowers say that.

As a sidebar, I find it troubling that the Green Party is retweeting this when we're 3.5 years away from the next presidential election and said election, it must be highly hoped, will have a better candidate than Stein, and will NOT have ANY AccommoGreen candidate willing to play footsies with Dems. As it is, this is very close to Dems electing Tom Perez as new party chairman and pretending that Bernie Sanders, and the backing for his stances, didn't exist.

As part of this, I first ran into a Tweeter called "JillOrBernie." After giving him/her/it smackdown as a #Berniecrat, complete with hashtag, in a couple of comments, I then muted him/her/it. Muted, not blocked.

Said smackdown included pointing out I was not alone in such issues, and that's NOT limited to the lack of party executive unanimity for the recount. I pointed out the likes of Mark Lause in Fitzrakis' own Ohio and his extensive concerns for the Green Party.

Next, I ran into another Tweeter called GrLibertarian, who is the subject of this title. He/she/it (presumably male, given Libertarian trends) provoked this mini-Tweetstorm.
I then realized I would need four, not three Tweets:
And the third:
Then, finally, and forgetting to number it:
And then muted GrLibertarian.

In turn, this reminds me of how much some other Greens talk up Rand and/or Ron Paul. Even if Rand is sincere in his criminal justice reform, he may still be half the racist his dad is which is 10 times too much. Plus, libertarians small-l and capital-L alike and gutting our regulatory state, etc.

And, these aren't Greens who are Berniecrats in conversion, even. They've include those as active with the party as I am or more. And, I highly doubt libertarians, especially capital-L party members, say, "Cool, Jill Stein agrees with us on something."

Between the GP officially taking a stance/take it shouldn't have, conspiracy theorists abounding among members, and more, I will, I hope, at least for the 2020 presidential campaign, keep my eyes peeled on the Socialist Party USA as needed.

Update, June 14, 2017: Add to the world of cluelessness.

Yes, you read that correctly. Someone who backed both Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. That's from this Newsweek story about James T. Hodgkinson, the alleged shooter of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

LinkedIn has now pulled that profile offline, lending substance to Newsweek's tentative identification.

Via Mark Ames of Exiled Online, Hodgkinson also, like Reality Winner, apparently got delusionally sucked into the "Putin Did It" trap.

June 13, 2017

TX Progressives talk Trump, Comey, Texas Greens and more

The Texas Progressive Alliance would like to see some thinkpieces analyzing the economic motives of Lord Buckethead voters as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at Republican fear of a redistricting ruling and considers the best case scenarios.

Yuge news broke every day last week but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs only had time to blog a few paragraphs about all of it.

SocraticGadfly, channeling Greg Palast's smarter brother, Greg AtLast, talks about Trump v Comey, and how too much Putin Did It conspiracy thinking got Reality Winner arrested, as well as how the Comey testimony was kind of a nothingburger.

Neil at All People Have Value reported that the City of Houston offers hurricane preparedness guides in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic. It is good to care about all people.  APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Ted at Jobsanger talks about the one-year anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting and its relationship to gun control.

The Texas Freedom Network says “hasta la vista” to soon-departing SBOE member David Bradley.

The Texas Observer reports from Austin on how the countermarch to the “March against Sharia” far outnumbered the allegedly main event.

Lewisville Texan Journal discusses how to handle urban wildlife.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

David Bruce Collins previews Texas Greens’ state convention.

Sanford Levinson argues that nobody really knows what "sincerely held religious beliefs" are.

Lize Burr tries to make sense of the special session agenda.

Jay Leeson wonders why so many senators want to serve Dan Patrick's interests instead of their constituents'.

Andrew Edmonson thinks pride parades should return to their protest-march roots.

Paradise in Hell has a modest proposal for Greg Abbott.

Durrel Douglas provides a way to help the family of Johnny Hernandez.

June 12, 2017

Dirty secret: "Blue" states don't believe in equality (updated)

Oh, California or Massachusetts may believe in gay marriage equality or something like that.

But, they and most other "blue" states, driven in large part by the tech-neoliberals who drive their economy (or the banksters in New York State) really are NOT that supportive of income equality.

The Gini coefficient, while not perfect, still remains in many ways the go-to shorthand for income equality or inequality. And Wiki has a ranking of US states. (Link fixed.)

First, take a look at the top 12. Those are the most "equal" states, relatively speaking, on income. Hawaii is the only unabashedly blue state in that mix. You have blue-ish Wisconsin and purple Iowa and Maine, otherwise.

The bottom 12, starting with No. 39 Rhode Island? Five of the 12 are definitely blue, as is DC. Florida is purplish. The red states? All in the South. Hawaii being the exception to the note above, as a majority-minority state. (New Mexico and Texas are, too, but it's a recent deal with Texas and Texas Hispanics are abysmal on vote turnout.)

That said, that doesn't tell the whole story.

Housing is pricey as hell in most those bottom-tier blue states, whether for purchase or for rent. That's why people commute 60 miles one way to San Jose. Yes, there is rent control in places in New York and California. But, not everywhere or even close.

The Census Bureau, per this Sac Bee article, does take note of that with its "supplemental poverty measure," on poverty rates. Scroll to page 9 of the report. DC is worst, then California. Next comes purple Florida, followed by New York and Louisiana in a tie.

More importantly, just about all the states whose supplemental measure is higher than the official poverty rate are blue, with the exception of purplish Florida, Nevada and Virginia, as noted on page 11.

That said, worldwide, the US is almost as unequal as Mexico. That's why you may be seeing Guatemalan and Honduran immigrants in the US more and more, but fewer and fewer Mexican ones.