Daily Archive: 11/05/2013

Nov 05 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 thea Pundits”.

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Dean Baker: The Weak Economy and Deficit Reduction: Deniers and Terrorists

The folks making economic policy in Washington are getting ever more resistant to evidence. As we approach the sixth anniversary of the downturn with no end in sight, the nation has been treated to the perverse spectacle of our Treasury Secretary celebrating the sharp drop in the deficit.

This is a bit like celebrating a sunny day in a region suffering from drought. In an economy that is suffering from lack of demand, as is the case in the United States today, smaller deficits are bad news. They mean less demand, slower growth, and fewer jobs.

This is not a complex point. Ever since the collapse of the housing bubble, the U.S. economy has suffered from inadequate demand. The inflated house prices of the bubble era led to a building boom. They also fueled a consumption boom, as people spent based on the $8 trillion in bubble generated housing equity. The bubble generated demand disappeared when the bubble burst leaving a gap in annual demand of more than $1 trillion a year.

The large deficits the government has run since the downturn began helped to fill part of this gap. Smaller deficits mean the government is filling less of the gap. That shouldn’t be hard to understand.

Gary Younge: US Republicans make the poor pay to balance the budget

The impetus to cut food stamps is ideological not fiscal, and low-wages mean work provides no guarantee against hunger

During a discussion at the University of Michigan in 2010, the billionaire vice-chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway firm, Charles Munger, was asked whether the government should have bailed out homeowners rather than banks. “You’ve got it exactly wrong,” he said. “There’s danger in just shovelling out money to people who say, ‘My life is a little harder than it used to be.’ At a certain place you’ve got to say to the people, ‘Suck it in and cope, buddy. Suck it in and cope.'” [..]

Immediately after Obama’s election in 2008, his chief of staff to be, Rahm Emanuel, said: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” The crisis didn’t go to waste. But it is the right that has seized the opportunity. Not content with balancing the budget on the bellies of the hungry, it is also fattening the coffers of the wealthy on the backs of the poor.

Richard Wolff: The Great Austerity Shell Game: Here’s How the Capitalist Scam Works

Let government borrow for crisis bailouts, then insist cuts pay for them. Guess who loses.

Center-right governments in Britain and Germany do it. So do the center-left governments in France and Italy. Obama and the Republicans do it, too. They all impose “austerity” programs on their economies as necessary to exit the crisis afflicting them all since 2007. Politicians and economists impose austerity now much as doctors once stuck mustard plasters on the skins of the sick.

Austerity policies presume that the chief economic problems today are government budget deficits that increase national debts. Austerity policies solve those problems mainly by cutting government spending, and secondarily, by limited tax increases. Reducing expenditures while raising revenues does cut governments’ deficits and their needs to borrow.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Hooray for Taxes

Joshua Holland of BillMoyers.com  offers an important counterpoint to today’s slanted political dialogue with his new essay on “the high cost of low taxes.” This hidden cost needs to become the center of our public debate. Washington’s obsession with tax cuts and deficit reduction is distracting the American people from the slow dismantling of the social contract, and its devastating impact — financial and otherwise — on all but the wealthiest among us.

Our political discourse focuses far too much on the cost of taxation, while all but ignoring its benefits. Journalists and politicians rarely discuss the direct or indirect costs Americans often encounter when forced to rely on the private sector for services which might be more efficiently provided through government.

Michael Cohen: The TSA shootings at LAX highlight America’s real terror threat

Arguably, the $8bn a year spent on the TSA prevents rare acts of terrorism. Yet we do nothing to stop thousands of US gun deaths

In 2012, 15 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks.

The previous year, more than 32,000 Americans died from gun violence (including homicides, suicides and accidents). That total represents an almost 2,600 person increase in gun deaths since 2001.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent to be killed in the line of duty was not slain by an al-Qaida terrorist, but rather by an American with a gun.

Gerardo Hernandez, who was shot and killed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, was tasked with protecting Americans from a threat that barely exists. Instead, he died from a threat that we as a nation tacitly accept as a “price of freedom”: practically unfettered access to firearms.

Harvey Wasserman: Dear Climate Scientists, Please Note the Global Terror at Fukushima Four

Four climate scientists have made a public statement claiming nuclear power is an answer to global warming.

Before they proceed, they should visit Fukushima, where the Tokyo Electric Power Company has moved definitively toward bringing down the some 1300 hot fuel rods from a pool at Unit Four.  

Which makes this a time of global terror.  

Since March 11, 2011, fuel assemblies weighing some 400 tons, containing more than 1500 extremely radioactive fuel rods, have been suspended 100 feet in the air above Fukushima Daiichi’s Unit Four.  “If you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool, the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs,” says Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.  Former US Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, an expert on fuel pool fires, calculates potential fallout from Unit Four at ten times greater than what came from Chernobyl.  

Nov 05 2013

On This Day In History November 5

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.

November 5 is the 309th day of the year (310th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 56 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1938, Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings receives its world premiere on NBC radio

Adagio for Strings is a work for string orchestra, arranged by the American composer Samuel Barber from the second movement of his String Quartet. Barber finished the piece in 1936, and in 1938, it was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Toscanini’s conducting was recorded at 8H Studio for radio broadcasting. Toscanini took the piece on tour to Europe and South America. It is disputed whether the first performance of Adagio in Europe was conducted by Toscanini or Henry J. Wood. Barber has rejected many arrangements published by G. Schirmer, such as the organ arrangement by William Strictland.

The piece begins with a B flat played by the violins. Lower strings enter two beats after the violins. At practical tempo, the piece length is about eight minutes. The piece’s reception was generally positive, with Alexander J. Morin writing that Adagio for Strings contains “full of pathos and cathartic passion, rarely leaves a dry eye.” The piece can be heard in many TV shows and movies.

The recording of the 1938 world premiere, with Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra, was selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the United States Library of Congress. Since the 1938 recording, it has frequently been heard throughout the world, and was one of the only American pieces to be played in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The Adagio was broadcast over the radio at the announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s death. It was also played at the funeral of Albert Einstein and at the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco. It was performed in 2001 at Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the victims of the September 11 attacks, replacing the traditional upbeat patriotic songs. It was also played during the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. In 2004, listeners of the BBC’s Today program voted Adagio for Strings the “saddest classical” work ever, ahead of “Dido’s Lament” from Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell, the “Adagietto” from Gustav Mahler’s 5th symphony, Metamorphosen by Richard Strauss and Gloomy Sunday as sung by Billie Holiday.

Adagio for Strings can be heard on many film, TV, and video game soundtracks, including Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning film Platoon, David Lynch’s 1980 Oscar-nominated film The Elephant Man, Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko, Lorenzo’s Oil, A Very Natural Thing, Reconstruction, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Oscar-nominated 2001 film Amélie. It has been heard in episodes of The Simpsons, Big Brother 2010 (UK), That Mitchell and Webb Look, The Boondocks, South Park, Seinfeld, ER (TV series), Big Love. A recorded performance by the London Symphony Orchestra was, for a time, the highest selling classical piece on iTunes. The work is extremely popular in the electronic dance music genre, notably in trance. Artists who have covered it include Armin van Buuren, William Orbit, Ferry Corsten, and Tiesto. eRa included this song in their new album Classics.

Nov 05 2013

Does Democracy Still Work in America?

Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.

Aristotle

‘Oligarchic tendencies’: Study finds only the wealthy get represented in the Senate

Members of the U.S. Senate do not respond equally to the views of all their constituents, according to research to be published in Political Research Quarterly next month. Senators overall represent their wealthiest constituents, while those on bottom of the economic rung are neglected. [..]

The study used data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey to compare constituents’ political opinion to the voting behavior of their Senators in the 107th through 111th Congresses. With more than 90,000 respondents, the NAES is the largest public opinion survey conducted during presidential elections.

In all of the five Congresses examined, the voting records of Senators were consistently aligned with the opinions of their wealthiest constituents. The opinions of lower-class constituents, however, never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior.

The neglect of lower income groups was a bipartisan affair. Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans. [..]

Contrary to popular opinion, it was Democrats – not Republicans – who were more responsive to upper-class opinion in the 111th Congress.

Does Democracy Still Work in America?

My question would be: does Democracy still exist in America?

Nov 05 2013

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Remember, remember! The Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and plot;

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes photo gty_guy_fawkes_nt_111104_wblog_zps060f73e0.jpg So the poem starts that commemorates the Gun Powder Plot of 1605 and  Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. That night has been celebrated in England on November 5th as Guy Fawkes Night ever since with bonfires and masks inspired by Guy Fawkes’ image. The holiday, the poem and, especially, the mask was made popular again by the 2006 motion picture “V for Vendetta.” Set in the future, “V” is an anonymous masked revolutionary working to destroy the fascist, totalitarian government with  elaborate, violent, and intentionally theatrical campaign that kills the leaders of the government and inspires the people to take back self-rule.

The mask was adopted by the group Anonymous whose members wore the mask during a 2008 protest of the Church of Scientology. The group has been called “freedom fighters,” “digital Robin Hoods,” “a cyber lynch-mob” and  “cyber terrorists.” Whatever you call them they were named of Time‘s “100 most influential people in the world for 2012.

OWS Symbol photo adbusters_occupy-wall-street-590_zps26ba429c.jpg It also became a symbol of the Occupy Wall Street movement that raised the awareness of the world to social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the undue influence of corporations on government, especially Wall Street. Their slogan “We Are the 99%” became the probably the best known phrase of the last 2 years and the mask one of the most recognized symbols of the movement next to the dancer on the Wall Street bull.

This Guy Fawkes Day is being remembered by #OWS and Anonymous with day long protests and actions around the world with a call to action to the people to take back their self rule from the corrupt governments and corporations. Battered and scarred, they are still here but the time for revolution is ripening. The lion sleeps no more

Greetings world. We are anonymous. We are the people.

Governments of the world: take this message as your last will and testament. The game is officially over. Social media has given birth to something new. Now it’s time to set the record straight. This video is intended as that spark that gets delivered straight into the hearts and minds of the world. This video is an idea – a shared idea – so listen very carefully and make sure you are sitting down.

On the 5th of November 2013, Anonymous call for a day of global civil disobedience. This time we target all government facilities across the globe. Calling all free thinkers: the time for civil disobedience is now. This time it also seems unions from around the world are supporting this action. The lion sleeps no more. Ask yourself this: where will you be when we make history? November 5th, 2013. Worldwide. Now it’s a vendetta. Now it’s personal. Now it’s time to occupy everywhere. It’s time to throw everything we have at November 5th. It’s time to relight the flame of protest until our demands are met. Now it’s time for our brothers and sisters of the awakening to take to the streets. Austerity means war.

Here’s to the dreamers, the one’s that stand for human freedom, the Occupiers, the people that change things. It’s about solidarity, but more than that, it’s about the people, the people we meet, the people of the world standing together for a common goal. Concerned by numerous ecological and social problems, we stand united. As long as there are young and idealist people that share the views of ultimate human freedom, there will always be hope for the world.

We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. On November 5th, 2013: EXPECT US.

To find a march near you go to The Million Mask March World Event to find a city.