Creationism in Indiana

As reported in the Columbus, Indiana, Republic yesterday, and noted all around the Internet, Indiana Republicans are busy on their Bridge to Nowh—to the 19th century again, with a bill to allow the teaching of Creationism in Indiana public schools.

Human origins tightrope: Public educators walk fine line in presenting creationism in classroom

This will be an interesting fight. The courts have clearly rejected Creationism taught as science, but it can be taught as comparative religion, as described in the article linked above.

But my advice to Creationists is to be careful what you wish for. Do you want your children to learn that Hindus believe in an infinite sequence of creations, each by a different god? Do you want them to learn Buddhism, which holds that there was an infinite sequence of worlds, none of them created by a god? Jewish Kabbalah, which holds that this is the ninth creation? Daoism–The One is the mother of the ten thousand things. The Dao is the mother of the One–Lao Zi, Dao De Jing? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Scientology? The Church of the Subgenius? “Liberal” Christianity? Voudou? Santeria? Obeah? Mayan religion? Neopaganism? Wicca?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Let me tell you about [REDACTED] and [CENSORED]

If you were out and about on the Internet today, you probably noticed that Google, Wikipedia, WordPress, and many other prominent Web Sites were observing the Internet Blackout in one way or another, whether by taking down their regular content for the day, by placing blackout censorship marks over their usual images, or by asking people to sign petitions and contact their elected representatives. I have just sent this to my Senators and Congressmen:

The SOPA and PIPA bills claim that they are meant to prevent piracy and protect intellectual property, but they will damage my IP and, as far as I can tell, increase piracy. Both bills will do this by interfering with legitimate sharing of copyrighted material under Creative Commons and other Free licenses.

My job as Project Manager for Replacing Textbooks is to create such materials for millions of children in the US and around the world. I don’t know whether you remember that in the Betamax case (Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.), Fred Rogers‘s testimony that he wanted videos of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood shared was a key element in the decision to make it legal to record TV programs for time-shifting. Our sharing of education, aimed at ending global poverty, is far more consequential than that, but it is fundamentally the same idea.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Louis Brandeis: The 1% in 1912

The 1% we have always with us, going back to before recorded history, at least to the beginnings of civilization, defined as starting to live in cities and use money routinely. It is worthwhile to examine what people of the time, any time for which we have records, had to said about their 1%ers. I can easily quote the Bible on usurers, money changers, Roman Imperial tax gatherers, and the rich in general. For example, 1 Timothy 6:10 “The love of money is the root of all evil.” I could, with only a bit more work, quote earlier laments and regulations on financial shenanigans. The history of the United States is as much a history of Hamiltonian government by and for financiers vs Jeffersonian Democracy as it is a history of slavery and Abolition down through Jim Crow and other continuing oppressions.

It is particularly interesting to see what ideas Louis Brandeis, later a distinguished Supreme Court Justice, provided to the highly progressive Woodrow Wilson campaign of 1912, about how big and obnoxious corporations were getting.

The title gives it away: Other People’s Money And How the Bankers Use It. Brandeis’s book is a collection of essays published in Harper’s Magazine after Wilson’s election, collected in book form in 1914 and now in the public domain. The titles of the essays/chapters are

  • Chapter I: Our Financial Oligarchy
  • Chapter II: How The Combiners Combine
  • Chapter III: Interlocking Directorates
  • Chapter IV: Serve One Master Only!
  • Chapter V: What Publicity Can Do
  • Chapter VI: Where The Banker Is Superfluous
  • Chapter VII: Big Men And Little Business
  • Chapter VIII: A Curse Of Bigness
  • Chapter IX: The Failure Of Banker-Management
  • Chapter X: The Inefficiency Of The Oligarchy

In essence, the problems have not changed in their nature at all since then. They have just gotten more so. Brandeis complained about the bankers’ hold on millions of dollars. Today the complaint is not even about their many billions, but about their trillions.

The election of 1912 came between the earlier Trust-Busting period of President Theodore Roosevelt, following on the financial bubble of the 1890’s Gilded Age, and the later World War I and the succeeding Roaring Twenties bubble market associated with President Herbert Hoover. (The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. ) Of course, prior US history is littered with financial bubbles and scandals, as is history since. See, for example, the corruption of the Grant Administration, 1869-1877, and the Panic of 1873, in comparison with the corruption of the Harding Administration, from 1921 until Harding’s death in 1923. (Neither Grant nor Harding was personally involved in the corruption, but neither exercised effective oversight over his Cabinet.)

I don’t think I need to explain the shenanigans of the 1% of Brandeis’s time, which are no different in kind from those that went before or came after. I would like to draw your attention to essay V: What Publicity Can Do. This is not about muck-raking journalism, as important as that is. It is about mandating financial disclosure on the part of every significant economic actor, and especially on those with excessive market power or excessive political influence.

Genuine economic theory (not Friedmanite Market Fundamentalism) points out that free information is an essential part of a functioning competitive market. Competition here does not mean cutthroat competition characterized by financial shenanigans and back-alley corporate muggings, but rather competition based on quality and cost of products and services among parties none of whom can interfere with the others or the proper workings of the market. A Free Market in the sense of Freedom from “combinations in restraint of trade”.

Current Supreme Court legal doctrine holds, illegitimately, that corporations have the privacy rights of natural persons (in the old phrase), that is, of humans. Specifically, it grants to corporations the rights intended for ex-slaves in the Reconstruction amendments to the US Constitution. As long as corporations are in fact chattels, wholly owned and in no way free, or even capable of freedom, this cannot be legitimate. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. To say that corporations have human rights is to say that they are, in fact, more equal than humans, because humans do not have the limited liability and other special privileges granted to corporations by statute. Such a doctrine is not what Brandeis had in mind when bringing to light the Constitutional right to privacy.

Justice, genuine moral understanding, and true economics all agree that corporations, as creatures of government granted certain privileges, must have the corresponding duties and responsibilities. Chief among them is financial disclosure. Not by requiring the government to get a warrant, as in a criminal case, but as a matter of daily routine. Not by requiring disclosure to oversight agencies that will keep “trade secrets” away from the prying eyes of investors, the media, the public at large, but disclosure that cannot be waived, directly to those concerned. As Brandeis put it himself,


But the disclosure must be real. And it must be a disclosure to the investor. It will not suffice to require merely the filing of a statement of facts with the Commissioner of Corporations or with a score of other officials, federal and state. That would be almost as ineffective as if the Pure Food Law required a manufacturer merely to deposit with the Department a statement of ingredients, instead of requiring the label to tell the story. Nor would the filing of a full statement with the Stock Exchange, if incorporated, as provided by the Pujo Committee bill, be adequate.

To be effective, knowledge of the facts must be actually brought home to the investor, and this can best be done by requiring the facts to be stated in good, large type in every notice, circular, letter and advertisement inviting the investor to purchase. Compliance with this requirement should also be obligatory, and not something which the investor could waive. For the whole public is interested in putting an end to the bankers’ exactions. England undertook, years ago, to protect its investors against the wiles of promoters, by requiring a somewhat similar disclosure; but the British act failed, in large measure of its purpose, partly because under it the statement of facts was filed only with a public official, and partly because the investor could waive the provision.

Today, of course, we can do much better. We can require disclosure on the World-Wide Web. Disclosure of transactions; disclosure of political contributions; disclosure of contracts; disclosure of communications between corporations and the government; disclosure of conflicts of interest; disclosure of anything material to the public’s understanding of the workings of the economy in general and financial shenanigans in particular.

For starters.

Further reading

Wikipedia on Louis Brandeis

Brandeis…became a recognized lawyer through his work on progressive social causes. Starting in 1890, he helped develop the “right to privacy” concept by writing a Harvard Law Revkiew article of that title, and was thereby credited by legal scholar Roscoe Pound as having accomplished “nothing less than adding a chapter to our law”…He later fought against powerful corporations, monopolies, public corruption, and mass consumerism, all of which he felt were detrimental to American values and culture.

Wikipedia on Woodrow Wilson

In his first term as President, Wilson persuaded a Democratic Congress to pass major progressive reforms. Historian John Cooper argues that in his first term, Wilson successfully pushed a legislative agenda that few presidents have equaled, and remained unmatched up until the New Deal. This agenda included the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and an income tax. Child labor was curtailed by the Keating–Owen Act of 1916, but the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1918. This act served as an example for the later successful effort in the 1930s. He also had Congress pass the Adamson Act, which imposed an 8-hour workday in various industries, which was eventually approved by the Supreme Court. He also became a major advocate for the women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Much of his agenda would later serve as an example or a basis of support for the New Deal.

I have added Brandeis’s book to the Education Working Group Reading List.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, No, They’re Laughing at Us!

At New Deal 2.0 (recommended), Brandi Lupo wrote on  Wednesday, 11/30/2011 at 12:17 pm

Why OWS is Allowed to Have iPads and Laptops

An iPhone in the hands of an Occupy Wall Street protester, a fancy laptop at the media station, and all things name brand at OWS have been used to characterize the movement as a bunch of hypocritical, spoiled brats, angry about a system they are clearly benefitting from. The clothes they wear, phones they use, and food they eat are all sponsored and brought to them by “the very corporations [they] seek to destroy.”

a characterization the author correctly disputes. I replied:

We are in a Gandhi moment.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

To which I have added, then they claim that it was their idea all along. As Harry Truman said, you can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Ignoring OWS failed in less than a month. The apologists for the 1% have been trying to get everybody to laugh at us, specifically with meaningless insults and specious objections to everything we do, such as using technology to organize nationwide, even worldwide.

Occasionally, they fight us with excessive and often illegal police power, resulting in great embarrassment to themselves and greater turnout for us. The fight can be predicted to grow more serious, nastier, sometimes more violent, as opposition to previous movements has often been–Civil Rights; ending the Vietnam War; union organizing; votes for minorities, and before them women and ex-slaves; Abolition; religious freedom; and so on and on.

But then we win. What do we win? Well, that depends on what we hold out for. I would, somewhat in jest, recommend that whatever they eventually offer us, we take, and then just keep going until the whole world is fair. But that is not how it will turn out. We may find, as I hope, that out of the 99% we can cobble together a 61% filibuster-proof working majority in Congress and the state legislatures, and just start to do what needs to be done.

It is not just the US 99% vs the US 1%. It is several billion people around the world vs all of the corrupt regimes, all of the oppressors, all of the financial typhoons and industrial maggots (Thank you, Tommy Smothers) as opposed to those who gained their wealth without cheating and without special favors from governments, and all of the 1% wannabes who do their bidding, and everybody who believes that the rich are on their side when the rich are making promise to get others on their side.

“Your problem is that you believe that politicians mean what they say.”–Former California House Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown

In particular, it is about a billion or so children at a time, which is to say, all of them. It is, of course, the job of children to take over the world as they get older. Now that computers cost less than printed textbooks, it is my job at Sugar Labs (the Free Software and Open Education Resources partner of One Laptop Per Child), and my great pleasure, to make presents for millions of children every day, for education, for qualifying for jobs, for making global alliances, for creating effective civil society organizations in every country, for realizing Doug Engelbart’s dream of Enhancing Collective Intelligence…for whatever the children determine they need.

According to Adam Smith, in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, wealth is not money, and financial shenanigans make countries poorer. He cited a number of notable examples of currency manipulations, stock fraud, insane trade policies, and most of all financial favors sought by the rich, or as we say today, the 1%. No, wealth consists of productive capacity together with the ability to distribute production to those who need it. Not

“Everything for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”–Smith, Wealth of Nations

Posted by Edward Mokurai Cherlin | November 30th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does OWS Want?

A former classmate wrote

As someone who is entirely sympathetic to the motivations of the Occupy movement (and equally bothered and bewildered by their lack of goals)…

and I replied:

We have goals, just not a platform. Unlike some, we do not claim to have all of the answers. For a start, OWS is not a political party. Here is a rough outline of what OWS would like:

Ultimately, fix the system. Not just Glass-Steagal or a financial transactions tax, or any particular package of financial reforms, not just voting rights or getting corporate money out of politics, not just any other particular measure, but the whole system.

That depends on having the conversation about what is actually wrong. It is like Bill Clinton saying in his second term that the US needs to have a conversation about race, a conversation that has only recently begun to be publicly visible, with half of the political/pundit/bloviationist class trying to derail it by saying, “No, you’re the racists.”

So first, stop insulting us, stop trying to get the cops to shut us down, stop pretending you can make the problem go away when the problem is you. Talk to us. And in the meantime, we will talk among ourselves.

  • How does the economy work? How should it work? What is required to make that happen?
  • How does the political process work? How should it work? What is required to make that happen?
  • How does education work? How should it work? What is required to make that happen?

In short, how does the 1% tail wag the 99% dog, and how do we stop it?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Trashers, Book Savers

The Bloomberg Administration’s Sanitation Department took away a library of 5,000 books the from the Zucotti Park location of Occupy Wall Street, and destroyed most of it, simply by treating it as trash, not property.

Press Conference on Library Destruction: Full Video

Packed Press Conference Documents Ruins of Over 3,000 Books

I would like to suggest that we create a digital version of the OWS library, so that we can share it with the 99% worldwide. The idea would be to find or create digital copies of all of the 5,000 or so books in the library that was trashed by the NYC Sanitation Department.

To begin with, we need a library catalog. Please add book titles and authors to our book list.

Let us not be Stephen Crane’s Wayfarer:

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Book about the 99%

The new book This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement  was edited by Sarah van Gelder and the staff of YES! Magazine and published November 2011 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers. I added the book to our book list. Here is an article adapted from the book.

Ten Ways the Occupy Movement Changes Everything

I have copied just the headings:

Here’s how the Occupy movement is already changing everything:

  1. It names the source of the crisis.
  2. It provides a clear vision of the world we want.
  3. It sets a new standard for public debate.
  4. It presents a new narrative.
  5. It creates a big tent.
  6. It offers everyone a chance to create change.
  7. It is a movement, not a list of demands.
  8. It combines the local and the global.
  9. It offers an ethic and practice of deep democracy and community.
  10. We have reclaimed our power.

I commented:

Shorter 1%: “Everything for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind”–Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

I will blog this to our OWS Education Working Group…[and look! Here I am.]

I could discuss these points in greater detail, but that is not the point. Go read the article, and make your own comments there. Counter the naysayers who claim that we are a vile rabble without a coherent thought in our heads, that nothing will ever change, that we are delusional, and so on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment