Democracy and Diversity

This paper draws on my experience as a leader of West Mt. Airy Neighbors in the early 2000s as well as on my academic work on communitarian political thought. It was written for an International Conference on Deliberative Democracy held in Hangzhou, China in December 2004. It was published in Chinese translation in 2005 in a book edited by Bao-Gang He. An earlier version was presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in 2003. Continue reading

James Harden, COVID and Y2K: Thinking About Time and Causality

Sometimes I wonder how the human race as a whole, especially those of us in the so-called advanced countries, can be so unimaginably slow in recognizing the danger of global warming. There are, of course, many examples in history of civilizations and societies that did themselves in by engaging in practices, such as over-farming in ways that leads to the death of or erosion of vital lands. But this has typically happened to civilizations and societies that had no technological capacity to look ahead and see the long-term consequences of what they were doing. We have that capacity. Yet we are moving slowly, and possibly far too slowly to deal with global warming. Obviously, the political interest of the wealthy fossil fuel industry is a major barrier. And so is the anti-government ideology of the far right. But it has occurred to me from time to time that human beings… Continue reading

Hoist Meet Petard

In order to secure support from the 20 craziest  members of the Republican (as opposed to the crazy members who support him), Kevin McCarthy has been agreeing to various proposals that will weaken the power of the party leadership. While we don’t know the details, it appears he has been supporting rules that would limit the use of closed rules in the consideration of some (or perhaps) all legislation on the floor of the House. Before any legislation can be considered on the floor of the US House, the House has to adopt a “rule” that has first been adopted by the House Rules Committee which, since the mid 1970s, has been an arm of the party leader,  that is the Speaker of the House. A closed rule prohibits any amendments from being considered on the floor. An open rule allows any amendment to be propose. And a modified closed… Continue reading

Chanukah and Hellenism

Originally written during Chanukah 2014. Happy Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukkah, Chanukka, Hanuka, Channukah, Hanukah, Chanukkah, Hannukah, Chanuka or Hanaka I’ve always loved this holiday–fighting for political and religious freedom chimed with so much I believed in. And then I learned that the Maccabees were not just fighting against the Seleucids but the Hellenistic Jews whose syncretic practices conflicted with what they took to be a more pure form of Jewish practice. That complicated things since I’m a Hellenistic Jew, myself, for whom syncretism (which is a fancy way of saying mash-ups) are deeply attractive. My work in political philosophy draws on and attempts to weave together ideas from Jewish (especially as they have influenced modern liberalism) and Greek sources. So I’m loathe to identify with a moment in Jewish history which attacked those Jews whose ideas prefigure my own. I’m not quite done figuring out how to reinterpret the holiday so… Continue reading

Inequity and Inadequacy in K-12 Education Funding in Pennsylvania: Fiscal Year 2022-23 Update

By Marc Stier, Eugene Henninger-Voss, Diana Polson, and Stephen Herzenberg This paper updates the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s analysis of the inadequacy and inequity in school funding to take into account the 2022-23 budget enacted at the end of June 2022. Our conclusion is that, despite the substantial $850 million addition to basic education funding and level up funding this year, Pennsylvania’s K-12 school districts remain both inadequately and inequitably funded. The funding gap between rich and poor school districts as well as those with a large and small share of Black and Hispanic students, remains deeply wrong, from both a moral and pragmatic point of view. These inequities are fundamentally unfair. And the harm the long-term prospects of too many of our kids as well as of the Pennsylvania economy as a whole. [1]   [1]. This paper draws and updates previous research by the Pennsylvania Budget and… Continue reading

Statement Against the Impeachment of DA Larry Krasner

A decision by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to impeach Larry Krasner is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin. But perhaps it’s best to start with basic principles. Impeachment in US or Pennsylvania constitutional law was never thought of as a means to pursue policy goals. It is not meant to be a way for the majority of the legislature to replace officials who follow policies they do not favor. It was designed to enable the General Assembly to protect the separation of power against officials who overstep its bounds or to remove officials who are corrupt. The General Assembly’s disagreement with Larry Krasner is over his policies. There are ways to influence those policies short of impeachment. Legislators can revise state laws that give the DA discretion in certain areas. They can give, and have given, concurrent authority to other prosecutors in… Continue reading

Memo: Another Blue Shift Coming

TO: Editorial Board Writers, Columnists, and Other Interested Parties FROM: Marc Stier, Director, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center SUBJECT: Another blue shift coming in PA election returns DATE: November 7, 2022   In late October of 2020, we released a paper titled, “2020 Election Expectations: High Numbers of Mail-Votes and the Blue Shift.” We explained that due to Democrats being far more likely than Republicans to vote by mail, the initial count of the votes on Election Day would show Republicans ahead in many state-wide and local races—but that as mail ballots were counted, there would be a “blue shift” as vote tallies showed Democrats’ number of votes catching up to, and in many cases surpassing, the Republicans’. We warned that Donald Trump and his followers would use the blue shift to buttress their claims that the 2020 election was rigged—claims that began long before Election Day. Our predictions about… Continue reading

If you do your part, things are looking good for Tuesday

I’m not at all certain about what is doing to happen on Tuesday. But I’m becoming more confident that IF YOU ALL DO YOUR PART–knocking on doors and getting out to vote yourself–the results will be good. Two strong pieces of evidence. First, a recent poll of people 19-29 , shows that people that age (1) say the will turn out at rates equal to 2018 and, in battlegrounds states like PA, at rates 5 points higher than 2018. And they support Democrats for Congress by a 2-1 margin. Second, to judge by who are the new voters, and who sought and are returning mail ballots in PA (and elsewhere) women are coming out to vote very heavily to save abortion. I know the polls are close everywhere. But the results of polling in close elections at this stage of the game are heavily dependent on estimates of who is going… Continue reading

f PA Republicans Were Serious About Crime in Philly They Would Actually Fight It

Originally published by the Pennsylvania Capital Star on October 24, 2022 Violent crime—especially murder—shocks us all. Not only does it directly harm the victims but it also undermines the sense of security we all want to have. And, it creates difficulties for our communities. A high crime rate in a community discourages both business investment and consumption, leading to economic distress and poverty. Yet instead of putting forward serious solutions that reflect what we know about how to reduce murder rates, Republicans are spreading fear for electoral purposes with their usual racist dog whistles, which point fingers at Philadelphia and blame District Attorney Larry Krasner. The hypocrisy of these attacks is demonstrated in a new paper we recently released. Look at the communities represented by the three leading Republican critics of District Attorney Krasner in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Rep. Tim O’Neal represents Washington County where murders increased by 800 percent… Continue reading

It’s Best Done with Scissors: Improvisation and Editing in the work of Miles (and Groucho)

What problem were Miles and his produce Teo Macero trying to solve by their methods of constructing music in the studio in the late 60s and 70s?[1] What was the point of Teo turning the tape machines on while Miles and his colleagues played in the studio and then constructing long pieces of music from different parts of these tapes? One answer, I think, is this: Miles and Teo was trying to develop a new solution to the problem of combining three elements in jazz: collective improvisation, the density of a large band, and what I will call a long form of music. [1] This is the first of two papers on Miles electric music. It originated in an email to the fabled Miles list  in 1998. Eric Siegel, Patrick Brown, Steve Asseta, and the late Walter Oller, made very helpful comments on it at the time which has influenced… Continue reading