Monthly Archive: April 2013

Apr 30 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

John Nichols: How Voter Backlash Against Voter Suppression Is Changing Our Politics

As the 2012 election approached, Republican governors and legislators in battleground states across the country rushed to enact restrictive Voter ID laws, to eliminate election-day registration and to limit early voting. Those were just some of the initiatives that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People identified as “an onslaught of restrictive measures across the country designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color.”

Why did so much energy go into the effort? [..]

A key supporter of the Ohio voter registration and turnout drive, State Senator Nina Turner says, “Republicans thought that they could suppress the vote, but these efforts actually motivated people to get registered and cast a ballot. It’s no surprise that the communities targeted by these policies came out to the polls in a big way-they saw this not just as an affront to their rights, but as a call to action.”

Turner’s point turns out to be highly significant.

George Zornick: House GOP Plans Even Deeper Food Stamp Cuts

Lost in the shuffle of last year’s big fiscal cliff deal was the deal that didn’t happen on a new farm bill.

One of the major points of contention was funding for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, run by the US Department of Agriculture. Republicans in the House proposed steep cuts: $16.5 billion over the next decade, which would eliminate food assistance to as many as 3 million low-income Americans. The Senate countered with a farm bill cutting $4.5 billion from SNAP over the same time period.

There was simply no deal to be had on the farm bill, and so Congress passed a simple extension until September 30. Now Congress has to start over-all prior versions of the farm are dead, since there’s a new Congress.

Bruce A. Dixon: The Obama Legacy, Pt 1 of Many: Top Ten Things Black America Will Have To Show For 8 Years of President Obama

When Barack Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, what will black America, his earliest and most consistent supporters, have to show for making his political career possible. We’ll have the T-shirts and buttons and posters, the souvenirs. That will be the good news. The bad news is what else we’ll have…. and not.

To hear our black political class tell it, the election of the first black US president was its ultimate achievement to date, a giant step toward fulfillment of a previous generation’s insurgent agenda for social transformation. Is that real? Has the career of Barack Hussein Obama really advanced any of the historic goals of the Freedom Movement? Is the question even fair?

With corporate media already speculating about next year’s midterm elections, and the presidential contest of 2016, it’s entirely appropriate to discuss the president’s legacy. And fair is fair — the black political class doesn’t want its meager achievements compared to the agenda of those who fought for our freedom a half century ago, it probably ought to abandon its ceaseless self-promotion as the inheritors of that tradition.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The Economic Whodunit

The policy mystery of our time is why politicians in the United States and across much of the democratic world are so obsessed with deficits when their primary mission ought to be bringing down high and debilitating rates of unemployment.

And since last week saw a cross-party celebration of the opening of George W. Bush’s presidential library, I’d add a second mystery: Why is it that conservative Republicans who freely cut taxes while backing two wars in the Bush years started preaching fire on deficits only after a Democrat entered the White House?

Dave Johnson: Sequester Closes Cancer Clinic Doors, Congress Does Nothing

Affluent business flyers inconvenienced by delays = national emergency that Congress immediately fixes. Cancer clinics closing = Congress does squat, goes home. This is just one more story of our corrupt times.

Last week the sequester cuts kicked in at airports and caused affluent business fliers to experience some delays, so Congress acted immediately to fix it. The same sequester has been forcing cancer clinics to send away patients so they can’t receive the chemotherapy that they hope will keep them alive. Is Congress rushing to the rescue like they did for affluent business travelers who faced some flight delays? Not so much. They do have their priorities, after all. [..]

The kicker, it doesn’t even save the government money, instead it costs money:

   The care will likely be more expensive: One study from actuarial firm Milliman found that chemotherapy delivered in a hospital setting costs the federal government an average of $6,500 more annually than care delivered in a community clinic.

So not only does this sequester kill people, it costs the government much more than it saves.

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz : You and Your Family Are Guinea Pigs for the Chemical Corporations

How Americans Became Exposed to Biohazards in the Greatest Uncontrolled Experiment Ever Launched

A hidden epidemic is poisoning America.  The toxins are in the air we breathe and the water we drink, in the walls of our homes and the furniture within them.  We can’t escape it in our cars.  It’s in cities and suburbs.  It afflicts rich and poor, young and old.  And there’s a reason why you’ve never read about it in the newspaper or seen a report on the nightly news: it has no name — and no antidote.

The culprit behind this silent killer is lead.  And vinyl.  And formaldehyde.  And asbestos.  And Bisphenol A.  And polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  And thousands more innovations brought to us by the industries that once promised “better living through chemistry,” but instead produced a toxic stew that has made every American a guinea pig and has turned the United States into one grand unnatural experiment.

Apr 30 2013

Obama in a web of deceit – is he a spider or a bug?

Now that the academic and evidentiary support for austerity is shot full of holes, President Obama has an opportunity to perform a face-saving extrication from his position.  Will he do it?

A recent study by a grad student at the University of Massachussets has pointed out critical errors in celebrated Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff’s study which has been the much-cited intellectual underpinning of the austerity movement.  In short R-R’s study showed a correlation between high levels of national debt (with a stated critical threshold point at 90% of GDP) and slow economic growth.  The results of the study have been often stated as proof that debt at 90% GDP causes slow economic growth and that austerity measures must be employed to bring down debt.  

Reinhart-Rogoff quickly achieved almost sacred status among self-proclaimed guardians of fiscal responsibility; their tipping-point claim was treated not as a disputed hypothesis but as unquestioned fact. For example, a Washington Post editorial earlier this year warned against any relaxation on the deficit front, because we are “dangerously near the 90 percent mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth.” Notice the phrasing: “economists,” not “some economists,” let alone “some economists, vigorously disputed by other economists with equally good credentials,” which was the reality.

Many prominent economists had previously pointed out another major error in the way that the study has been used by those who favor austerity:

There were good reasons for not accepting the Reinhart and Rogoff results even before this error was uncovered, as many of us had argued. Most importantly there is a serious issue of the direction causation. Countries tend to have high debt levels because their economies are doing poorly.

Unfortunately, there was not much press notice of the causation problem in R-R’s study, probably because it’s the kind of story that the media find too difficult to explain.  But when the grad student from the University of Massachussets discovered spreadsheet errors in their work, now there was an issue that our news media could latch onto with confidence that it was within their ability to explain it.  Consequently it has gotten quite a bit of coverage and R-R’s study has been discredited.

Apr 30 2013

On This Day In History April 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

April 30 is the 120th day of the year (121st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 245 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1900, Jones dies in a train wreck in Vaughn, Mississippi, while trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express.

John Luther (“Casey”) Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was an American railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee, who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). On April 30, 1900, he alone was killed when his passenger train, the “Cannonball Express,” collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi, on a foggy and rainy night.

His dramatic death, trying to stop his train and save lives, made him a hero; he was immortalized in a popular ballad sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, an African American engine wiper for the IC.

Death

On April 29, 1900 Jones was at Poplar Street Station in Memphis, Tennessee, having driven the No. 2 from Canton (with his assigned Engine No. 382 ). Normally, Jones would have stayed in Memphis on a layover; however, he was asked to take the No. 1 back to Canton, as the scheduled engineer (Sam Tate), who held the regular run of Trains No. 1 (known as “The Chicago & New Orleans Limited”, later to become the famous “Panama Limited”) and No. 4 (“The New Orleans Fast Mail”) with his assigned Engine No. 382, had called in sick with cramps. Jones loved challenges and was determined to “get her there on the advertised” time no matter how difficult it looked.

A fast engine, a good fireman (Simeon T. Webb would be the train’s assigned fireman), and a light train were ideal for a record-setting run. Although it was raining, steam trains of that era operated best in damp conditions. However, the weather was quite foggy that night (which reduced visibility), and the run was well-known for its tricky curves. Both conditions would prove deadly later that night.

Normally the No. 1 would depart Memphis at 11:15 PM and arrive in Canton (188 miles to the south) at 4:05 AM the following morning. However, due to the delays with the change in engineers, the No. 1 (with six cars) did not leave Memphis until 12:50 am, 95 minutes behind schedule.

The first section of the run would take Jones from Memphis 100 miles south to Grenada, Mississippi, with an intermediate water stop at Sardis, Mississippi (50 miles into the run), over a new section of light and shaky rails at speeds up to 80 mph (129 km/h). At Senatobia, Mississippi (40 miles into the run) Jones passed through the scene of a prior fatal accident from the previous November. Jones made his water stop at Sardis, then arrived at Grenada for more water, having made up 55 minutes of the 95 minute delay.

Jones made up another 15 minutes in the 25-mile stretch from Grenada to Winona, Mississippi. The following 30-mile stretch (Winona to Durant, Mississippi) had no speed-restricted curves. By the time he got to Durant (155 miles into the run) Jones was almost on time. He was quite happy, saying at one point “Sim, the old girl’s got her dancing slippers on tonight!” as he leaned on the Johnson bar.

At Durant he received new orders to take to the siding at Goodman, Mississippi (eight miles south of Durant, and 163 miles into the run) and wait for the No. 2 passenger train to pass, and then continue on to Vaughan. His orders also instructed him that he was to meet passenger train No. 26 at Vaughan (15 miles south of Goodman, and 178 miles into the run); however, No. 26 was a local passenger train in two sections and would be in the siding, so he would have priority over it. Jones pulled out of Goodman, only five minutes behind schedule, and with 25 miles of fast track ahead Jones doubtless felt that he had a good chance to make it to Canton by 4:05 AM “on the advertised”.

But the stage was being set for a tragic wreck at Vaughan. The stopped double-header freight train No. 83 (located to the north and headed south) and the stopped long freight train No. 72 (located to the south and headed north) were both in the passing track to the east of the main line but there were more cars than the track could hold, forcing some of them to overlap onto the main line above the north end of the switch. The northbound local passenger train No. 26 had arrived from Canton earlier which had required a “saw by” in order for it to get to the “house track” west of the main line. The saw by maneuver for No. 26 required that No. 83 back up and allow No. 72 to move northward and pull its overlapping cars off the south end, allowing No. 26 to gain access to the house track. But this left four cars overlapping above the north end of the switch and on the main line right in Jones’ path. As a second saw by was being prepared to let Jones pass, an air hose broke on No. 72, locking its brakes and leaving the last four cars of No. 83 on the main line.

Meanwhile, Jones was almost back on schedule, running at about 75 miles per hour toward Vaughan, unaware of the danger ahead, since he was traveling through a 1.5-mile left-hand curve which blocked his view. Webb’s view from the left side of the train was better, and he was first to see the red lights of the caboose on the main line. “Oh my Lord, there’s something on the main line!” he yelled to Jones. Jones quickly yelled back “Jump Sim, jump!” to Webb, who crouched down and jumped about 300 feet before impact and was knocked unconscious. The last thing Webb heard when he jumped was the long, piercing scream of the whistle as Jones tried to warn anyone still in the freight train looming ahead. He was only two minutes behind schedule about this time.

Jones reversed the throttle and slammed the airbrakes into emergency stop, but “Ole 382” quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track. He had amazingly reduced his speed from about 75 miles per hour to about 35 miles per hour when he impacted with a deafening crunch of steel against steel and splintering wood. Because Jones stayed on board to slow the train, he no doubt saved the passengers from serious injury and death (Jones himself was the only fatality of the collision). His watch was found to be stopped at the time of impact which was 3:52 AM on April 30, 1900. Popular legend holds that when his body was pulled from the wreckage of his train near the twisted rail his hands still clutched the whistle cord and the brake. A stretcher was brought from the baggage car on No. 1 and crewmen of the other trains carried his body to the depot 陆-mile away.

Apr 30 2013

Who could have foreseen?

Oh, wait- EVERYBODY!

Obama’s budget puts House Democrats in bind

By: Alex Isenstadt, Politico

April 30, 2013 05:00 AM EDT

How large a role Medicare and Social Security play in the 2014 debate remains to be seen – Democrats intend to highlight issues like immigration and gun control, with an eye toward driving minority and younger voters to the polls. But they also want to use entitlements as part of a broader message branding Republicans as overly ideological and uncaring about the middle class.

Driving home that theme, some Democrats say, will be tricky after the president’s controversial endorsment of chained CPI, a stingier way of calculating growth in Social Security benefits, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts.

“It is highly problematic,” said one Democratic pollster and veteran of congressional races, who requested anonymity because he didn’t want to be seen as picking a fight with the White House. “There is no question the entitlement debate makes for an easy campaign ad.”



In an interview with CNN after Obama unveiled his budget earlier this month, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon called the plan “a shocking attack on seniors.”

“I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said.

Walden’s remarks drew criticism from some in the GOP, which has come out in favor of chained CPI as a way of reducing the deficit. But the NRCC chairman’s point was made: Republicans had been given a free opportunity to hit back on entitlements, long a Democratic trump card.

Brock McCleary, a GOP pollster and former NRCC deputy political director, said Republicans couldn’t expect to gain an advantage on who’s most likely to defend programs but could try to fight the issue to a draw.

“The president has very clearly shown the way for how Republicans can keep voters in the lurch about which party is going to protect entitlements,” he said.

Electoral victory my ass.

Apr 30 2013

Around the Blogosphere

The main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an Open Thread.

h/t to Yves Smith at naked capitalism for pointing out this article by Lynn Parramore at Alternet:

When Your Boss Steals Your Wages: The Invisible Epidemic That’s Sweeping America

Mike Styvers‘ at Truthout interview with Noam Chomsky:

Noam Chomsky: Smoke and Mirrors, or Civil Liberties Under President Obama

From our friend Gaius Publius at Americablog:

Matt Yglesias resigns from the presumed-progressive community – with prejudice

At his blog Beat the Press, Dean Baker gives us the latest saga of the “Let Grandma Eat Cat Food” duo:

Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson Still Want to Cut Social Security and Medicare

More on the “Obamacare Clusterfuck” from our pal lambert who has been a real tear at his blog, Corrente:

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: OH rollout

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: ObamaCare will take three years to settle down, says new IA insurance commissioner

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Pundits say that after ObamaCare is in place, we can start to look at the real problems

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Improved application form to be introduced

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Small businesses in non-Medicaid states face big fines

Can somebody who actually understands health insurance benefits take a look at this and comment?

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Non-Medicaid states privilege legal immigrants over citizens

Over at FDL, The Dissenter Kevin Gosztola:

Former NYPD Head of Intelligence Analysis Uses Boston Bombing to Revive ‘Radicalization’ Report He Co-Authored

From Jon Walker at FDL’s Action:

What the FAA Fight Shows About the Danger of Obama’s Entitlement Reforms

Great must read piece from bmaz on the Constitution and the Miranda warning at emptywheel:

Tsarnaev: Right to Counsel, Not Miranda, Is the Key

The feds may have violated Tsarnaev’s constitutional rights:

Tucked in the body of this Los Angeles Times report is the startling revelation of Tsarnaev’s attempt to invoke:

   A senior congressional aide said Tsarnaev had asked several times for a lawyer, but that request was ignored since he was being questioned under the public safety exemption to the Miranda rule. The exemption allows defendants to be questioned about imminent threats, such as whether other plots are in the works or other plotters are on the loose.

Apr 30 2013

The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Poorer

Paul Krugman wrote about the human tragedy of the economic policy failures of the Obama administration which has prioritized deficit reduction over putting people back to work. The impact of those failures can be seen in New York City where, as reported in the New York Times, the racial wealth gap has widen since the recession:

The Urban Institute study found that the racial wealth gap yawned during the recession, even as the income gap between white Americans and nonwhite Americans remained stable. As of 2010, white families, on average, earned about $2 for every $1 that black and Hispanic families earned, a ratio that has remained roughly constant for the last 30 years. But when it comes to wealth – as measured by assets, like cash savings, homes and retirement accounts, minus debts, like mortgages and credit card balances – white families have far outpaced black and Hispanic ones. Before the recession, non-Hispanic white families, on average, were about four times as wealthy as nonwhite families, according to the Urban Institute’s analysis of Federal Reserve data. By 2010, whites were about six times as wealthy.

   The dollar value of that gap has grown, as well. By the most recent data, the average white family had about $632,000 in wealth, versus $98,000 for black families and $110,000 for Hispanic families.

The two factors that contributed to the gap were the housing downturn and loss of retirement savings that hit black families the hardest due a number of elements: predatory lending in minority neighborhoods; a higher proportion of their wealth invested in the home; higher unemployment rates and lower incomes among blacks; and the need to borrow out of retirement finds in a depressed market, “leaving them out in the cold as the market recovered.”

An article written by the editors of The Nation pointed out this chilling fact:

Here is New York in 2013: a city of dazzling resurrection and official neglect, remarkable wealth and even more remarkable inequality. Despite the popular narrative of a city reborn-after the fiscal crisis of the ’70s, the crack epidemic of the ’80s, the terrorist attack of 2001, the superstorm of 2012-the extraordinary triumph of New York’s existence is tempered by the outrage of that inequality. Here, one of the country’s poorest congressional districts, primarily in the South Bronx, sits less than a mile from one of its wealthiest, which includes Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And here, a billionaire mayor presides over a homelessness crisis so massive that 50,000 men, women and children sleep in shelters each night. More New Yorkers are homeless these days than at any time since the Great Depression.

The numbers tell the story. Between 2000 and 2010, the median income of the city’s eight wealthiest neighborhoods jumped 55 percent, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. Meanwhile, as the cushy precincts got even cushier, median income dipped 3 percent in middle-income areas and 0.2 percent in the poorest neighborhoods. [..]

The money pouring in at the top of the income brackets has simply pooled there, without trickling down to the bottom or even the middle. This great pooling has occurred as median wages have fallen, the cost of living has increased, and the poverty rate has risen to 21 percent-as high as it was in 1980. As a result, America’s most iconic city now has the same inequality index as Swaziland.

The article goes on to say that this isn’t entirely NYC’s fault with the economic shift over the last thirty years to finance but it also pointed out that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies were a largely contributed to the problem.

[..]  the stewards of New York City-its mayor, legislators and other influencers-could have made choices to counter this trend: “New York City’s government is significant enough in its breadth…that the policy tools exist and the wherewithal exists to do something at the margins to lessen inequality.” The choices, however, that might have corrected some of the skew-within education, economic development, labor rights, poverty policy, budgeting-have largely been ignored in favor of creating a very different model of metropolis. [..]

Bloomberg himself expressed this vision in a March 2012 piece in the Financial Times bearing the title “Cities Must Be Cool, Creative and In Control,” in which he wrote:

For cities to have sustained success, they must compete for the grand prize: intellectual capital and talent.

I have long believed that talent attracts capital far more effectively and consistently than capital attracts talent. The most creative individuals want to live in places that protect personal freedoms, prize diversity and offer an abundance of cultural opportunities.

Then he added, “Economists may not say it this way but the truth of the matter is: being cool counts.” [..]

In essence, Bloomberg’s is a vision of the city forged primarily around the care and feeding of thought leaders, professionals and strivers-with little concern, and sometimes active contempt, for the ones who do the care and feeding. (In 2011, 400,000 New York workers, many of whom toil in service sector jobs, were not paid enough to hoist themselves out of poverty.) This is a fundamentally two-tier style of urbanism, one in which a cool, creative and well-managed metropolis glitters like something lovely, its radiance drawing attention away from the dimmed surroundings.

Yves Smith at naked capitalism observes:

But you can see more signs of stress even in the more insulated parts of New York City. Retail vacancies are up, even on the well-trafficked shopping streets, the worst since the post-2009 period. More restaurants seem to be taking a hit too, which suggests that non-expense-account diners are cutting back. And if ZIRP-supported NYC is looking a bit less robust, how well can the rest of the country be faring?

h/t to Yves for the video

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but ain’t we got fun?

Apr 29 2013

Happy Birthday, Willie

Singer, song writer, poet, author and activist Willie Nelson is 80 today, or maybe tomorrow

The singer whose birthday is Monday or Tuesday – Nelson says April 29, the state of Texas claims April 30 – occupies a unique space in America’s cultural memory. A walking bag of contradictions, he wears his hair long in braids and has a penchant for pot smoking, yet remains arguably conservative country music’s greatest songwriter. He’s accepted by left and right, black and white and is instantly recognizable to a majority of Americans.

Like few other music stars, his image has grown to represent more than the notes he’s played or the lyrics he’s written. Like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra, he’s become a figurehead for a uniquely American way of thinking. He represents the outlaw and the maverick. If Elvis was all about the pelvis and the sexual revolution, Nelson is American independence: the raised middle finger tossed with a twinkle in the eye.

Willie’s activism has brought attention to such causes as small farmers, organizing Farm Aid in 1985 along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp that still raises money for small family farmers.

He is also the co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) advisory board that supports its legalization, regulation and taxation.

Willie’s activism doesn’t end there. He has support and invested in biodiesal, the better treatment for horses and the LGBT movement calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In 2008, Willie was interviewed by Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!. Here is an excerpt from that hour long interview

“One person carrying a message can change the world.”

Happy Birthday, Willie, and many more.

Apr 29 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The Story of Our Time

Those of us who have spent years arguing against premature fiscal austerity have just had a good two weeks. Academic studies that supposedly justified austerity have lost credibility; hard-liners in the European Commission and elsewhere have softened their rhetoric. The tone of the conversation has definitely changed.

My sense, however, is that many people still don’t understand what this is all about. So this seems like a good time to offer a sort of refresher on the nature of our economic woes, and why this remains a very bad time for spending cuts.

Let’s start with what may be the most crucial thing to understand: the economy is not like an individual family.

Jared Bernstein: This FAA Sequester Vote Doesn’t Smell Right

Well, well. It appears that both the Senate and House have voted to end sequester-imposed furloughs of air traffic controllers, just in time for the weekend.

You choose: Is this bipartisan support to mitigate one of the noxious effects of sequestration, which I and others have been tracking? Or is it papering over the high-visibility stuff that affects the affluent while lots of other budget bleeding goes on beneath the radar?

I choose the latter. While the annoyance of flight delays caught the attention of elected officials, businesspeople and other frequent flyers, lots of other, less advantaged Americans will continue to feel the pain of the sequester due to cuts in a variety of programs.

Leslie Harris: CISPA Changes Show Power of Internet Advocacy

Last week CISPA, the cybersecurity information-sharing bill, passed the House. Though fundamentally flawed, the bill is very different from when it passed the House a year ago, demonstrating the power of a growing Internet advocacy community that sometimes underestimates its own influence. Two game-changing achievements stand out.

When CISPA was reintroduced this year, CDT and others pointed out that, once again, the bill allowed information shared with the government for cybersecurity purposes to be used for national security purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. In the face of criticism that this loophole would turn CISPA into a backdoor intelligence-gathering operation, the House Intelligence Committee amended the text to clearly prohibit such uses. Chalk up one significant victory for Internet advocacy.

Robert Kuttner: Reality 1, Austerity 0

It’s been a very bad week for the merchants of austerity.

In Europe, the just-released statistics on first quarter performance show EU nations sliding deeper into recession. In Spain and Greece, unemployment rates are approaching a staggering 30 percent. In Britain, the Tory government took as good news the fact that the UK managed to eke out 0.3 percent growth. Even Germany, the prime sponsor of these policies, is on the edge of recession. [..]

And Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt had a really terrible week. Their now infamous 2010 claim that nations get into economic trouble when their debt ratios exceed 90 percent of GDP was blown to hell by a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts. For three years, critics have been pressing R&R to share their raw data. When Thomas Herndon and colleagues Michael Ash and Robert Pollin finally got hold of the research and reworked R&R’s numbers, it turned out that they had selectively used data and made basic errors of arithmetic.

Vijay Prashad: Made in Bangladesh: The Terror of Capitalism

On Wednesday, April 24, a day after Bangladeshi authorities asked the owners to evacuate their garment factory that employed almost three thousand workers, the building collapsed. The building, Rana Plaza, located in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, produced garments for the commodity chain that stretches from the cotton fields of South Asia through Bangladesh’s machines and workers to the retail houses in the Atlantic world. Famous name brands were stitched here, as are clothes that hang on the satanic shelves of Wal-Mart. Rescue workers were able to save two thousand people as of this writing, with confirmation that over three hundred are dead. The numbers for the latter are fated to rise. It is well worth mentioning that the death toll in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City of 1911 was one hundred and forty six. The death toll here is already twice that. This “accident” comes five months (November 24, 2012) after the Tazreen garment factory fire that killed at least one hundred and twelve workers. [..]

In the Atlantic world, meanwhile, self-absorption over the wars on terror and on the downturn in the economy prevent any genuine introspection over the mode of life that relies upon debt-fueled consumerism at the expense of workers in Dhaka. Those who died in the Rana building are victims not only of the malfeasance of the sub-contractors, but also of twenty-first century globalisation.

Robert Reich: Earth to Washington: Repeal the Sequester

Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. Most had forecast growth of at least 3 percent (on an annualized basis) in the first quarter. But we learned this morning (in the Commerce Department’s report) it grew only 2.5 percent.

That’s better than the 2 percent growth last year and the slowdown at the end of the year. But it’s still cause for serious concern. [..]

So what is Washington doing? Worse than nothing. It has now adopted the same kind of austerity economics that’s doomed Europe — cutting federal spending and reducing total demand. And the sequester doesn’t end until September 30. It takes an even bigger bite out of the federal budget next fiscal year.

Earth to Washington: The economy is slowing. The recovery is stalling. At the very least, repeal the sequester.

Apr 29 2013

On This Day In History April 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 28 is the 118th day of the year (119th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 247 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day, two events occurred involving the South Pacific. Separated by 158 years, one was a mutiny, the other a grand adventure.

Apr 28, 1789: Mutiny on the HMS Bounty Mutiny on the Bounty: The mutiny  was led by Fletcher Christian against the commanding officer, William Bligh. The sailors were attracted to the idyllic life on the Pacific island, and repelled by the alleged cruelty of their captain. Captain Bligh and 18 sailors were set a drift in the South Pacific, near the island of Tonga. Christian along with some of the mutineers and native Tahitians eventually settled on Pitcairn Island an uninhabited volcanic island about 1000 miles south of Tahiti. The mutineers who remained behind on Tahiti were eventually arrested and returned to England where three were hanged. The British never found Christian and the others. Captain Bligh and the 18 others eventually arrived in Timor.

Years later on 1808. am American whaling vessel discovered the colony of women and children led by the sole surviving mutineer, John Adams. The Bounty had been stripped and burned. Christian and the other 8 mutineers were dead. Adams was eventually granted amnesty and remained the patriarch of Pitcairn Island until his death in 1829.

1947 Thor Heyerdahl and five crew mates set out from Peru on the Kon-Tiki to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. His crew of six fellow Norwegians set sail from Peru on a raft constructed from balsa logs and other materials that were indigenous to the region at the time of the Spanish Conquistadors. After 101 days crossing over 400 miles they crashed into a reef at Raroia  in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Heyerdahl’s book, “The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas”, became a best seller, the documentary won an Academy Award in 1951. The original raft is on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. Heyerdahl died April 18, 2002 in Italy.

Apr 29 2013

Sunday April 28, 2013: Up With Steve Kornacki Tweets

Today's topics were comprehension immigration reform, The SEC, money in politics, voting rights, Voter ID laws, and North Carolina politics. But most importantly, for me, Alexis Goldstein is back on #Uppers.

People loved the shit out of this one.

Thank you for reading.

Older posts «

Fetch more items