‘Closing the door on democracy’

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Via Raw Story: Previous Florida governor Charlie Crist really puts the screws to Rick Scott. I’m beginning to wonder if Charlie is thinking about running again. He was a pretty good governor, except when he had to placate the right wing. He wouldn’t have that problem as a Democrat, and it’s long been rumored that he’s thinking of switching:

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) on Wednesday criticized his successor, Gov. Rick Scott (R), and other Republicans for using “shameless” tactics that suppress voting rights, including requiring photo IDs, preventing felons from voting and purging voter rolls.

“The concern really is on sort of a closing the door on democracy,” Crist told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “For example, they’ve already changed the policy as it relates to former, non-violent felons. We had established a policy where they would have their rights automatically restored, give them the opportunity to vote once they had served their time and paid their debt to society. … That has now been changed under the new administration.”

“In addition, they’ve also said that early voting — which is a great tradition is Florida — has been reduced from a 14-day period before the elections to eight days before, making it again more difficult for legal citizens to have their right to vote be heard.”

Mitchell noted that Attorney General Eric Holder had recently compared voter photo ID requirements to Jim Crow laws, telling the NAACP that they were the equivalent of “poll taxes.”

“He’s on the right track,” the former governor agreed. “Anytime that you put more impediments into a citizen’s right — a legal citizen’s right to vote and make that more difficult, you impede the natural right of democracy and a citizen’s right to have their voice heard in important elections.”

Cash before students

Heh. This Washington Post story has to walk such a thin line, considering that their Kaplan division made so much more money for them than their newspaper holdings. Almost always, there is little a for-profit college offers that you can’t get at community college for a lot less money. As someone who was a recruiter at one of these money mills, take my word for it: The for-profit college that’s worth the enormous amount of money you’ll owe is the exception, not the rule:

A Senate committee that successfully pressed for tighter regulation of the for-profit higher education sector published a report Sunday that said the business had put shareholders before students.

As of 2009, the report said, three-quarters of students in for-profit colleges attended institutions owned either by publicly traded companies or private equity firms. It said the schools excelled at recruiting students, but not necessarily at retaining them: More than half of students at for-profit schools who enrolled in the 2008-09 academic year left without a degree, the report found. Half of all non-finishers ended their studies within four months.

The findings are in line with concerns voiced last year when the Department of Education imposed stricter rules on for-profit schools that benefit from federal student loans.

The new report is titled “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success.” It concludes a two-year investigation by Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Including appendices, the document totals about 800 pages.

Investigators studied operations at 30 for-profit higher education companies, including industry leaders Apollo Group, Education Management Corp., DeVry and Kaplan. Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post Co.

“We uncovered two very big problems in for-profit higher education,” Harkin said in a statement. “One, billions of taxpayer dollars are being squandered. And two, many for-profit schools are doing real, lasting harm to the students they enroll.”

How income inequality killed the music business

Yet another reason to despise Mitt Romney! Fascinating post from entertainment attorney and music consulant Bob Lefsetz:

So Reagan lowers the tax rates in the eighties and suddenly incomes start to diverge. And the record execs don’t want to be on the wrong side of the divide. They no longer care about music, they just want money. The acts are disposable. It devolves into formula by the nineties. And by time MTV stops playing music, at the advent of the twenty first century, after the executives have wrung all the cash out of both new acts and old, via overpriced CDs, the scene was dead.

And I don’t know when it’s going to come back.

The acts have no soul, no backbone anymore. The first thing they want to do is sell out to the Fortune 500, do endorsement deals. You see they want the money. And their handlers are imploring them to do this, because they want their commission. Everybody’s chasing an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. And anybody who is smart is staying out. What did David Geffen say last week, “I’d kill myself if I got into the music industry now.”? As for the consumer, he’s screwed incessantly. Wall Street rolled up the concert business and ticket prices went through the roof. And very few acts want to go to paperless and keep prices low, because they too want the cash, they too want to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They’re chasing the bankers, who make millions year in and year out. Very few musicians do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t try.

Sure, banking is boring, but tech is not. Which is why a huge swath of the youth make apps, are entrepreneurs, they want to be in control of their own destiny and make a fortune, the sky’s the limit in tech. But there’s a definite ceiling in music.

And the radio stations were rolled up, hell, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners took Clear Channel private and squeezed out billions, despite the company being in extreme debt, and now stations have innumerable commercials and they all sound the same. And they’ll only play what’s on the major labels. Who won’t sign something left field without instant radio play, they don’t want to take that chance, there’s too much money involved.

The rich are getting richer and the musicians are being left out. And yes, piracy contributes to income deprivation, but it’s more complicated than that. Adele sold ten million albums in America and she doesn’t do any endorsements. Her music is perceived to be honest and from the heart. That’s a role model for you. But no one’s following in her footsteps. No one is taking a risk. Then again, you can’t manufacture Adele on an assembly line, you can just recognize genius and nurture it. But that’s no longer the job of the music industry.

The fact that so many are so wealthy is putting a huge dent in our cultural institutions. Sure, there were scalpers in the sixties and seventies, but no one paid ten or twenty times face value, because no one had that kind of cash. You could get a good ticket back then. It’s almost impossible today.

Shape of things to come

I just thought this was really cool:

A heated, computer-controlled nozzle glided smoothly back and forth, then up and down, depositing a thin trail of sugar in the shape of a delicate, miniature cage.

A scene from a high-tech pastry kitchen? A 21st-century reboot of Willy Wonka’s candy factory?

Far from it. The sugar cage was a first step toward manufacturing blood vessels for artificial organs, made with a custom-built 3-D “printer” in a bioengineering lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

Once they harden, these crisscrossing lines of sugar can be surrounded with a gel that contains cells from the desired type of organ – say, a liver. The sugar dissolves, leaving behind a cube of liver cells with a network of hollow channels, which can then be lined with other cells to create rudimentary blood vessels.

The resulting cubes of tissue are small, and the Penn researchers are many years away from making functional organs on the scale needed for human patients. But the team’s results, published this month in the journal Nature Materials, represent a promising advance in a field that is eager for alternatives to donated organs from cadavers.

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