11/19/2012 archive

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”.

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Paul Krugman: The Twinkie Manifesto

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s – the Twinkie Era – do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

New York Times Editorial: Class-Based vs. Race-Based Admissions

Admissions policies that take class into account, rather than race, are getting a renewed push as a win-win solution. The contention is that they more fully serve the goal of diversity in higher education and provide a progressive way to resolve an enduring conflict that has now returned to the Supreme Court in a case about race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin.

But a crucial premise of the class-over-race argument is wrong. It is not possible to maintain the same level of racial diversity in higher education while applying a race-blind admissions policy. Class-based admissions generally reduce the number of black and Hispanic students. To maintain or build the levels of racial diversity on selective campuses, it is necessary to maintain race-conscious admissions.

Dean Baker: Fiscal Cliff Hysteria is Manipulated by Self-Serving Deficit Hawks

Missing the January deadline simply means those who want to preserve Bush tax cuts for the super-rich lose political leverage

Washington elites have spent much of the last three decades getting hysterical about budget deficits, but they are outdoing themselves in the current budget stand-off which they labeled as the “fiscal cliff”. Their story is that scheduled increases in taxes at the end of 2012, coupled with mandated cuts in spending, will send the economy tumbling into recession if Congress doesn’t take action before the end of the year.

The horror story associated with this 1 January deadline depends on fundamentally misrepresenting reality. There are projections from the Congressional Budget Office and other independent forecasters that show the combination of tax increases and spending cuts would chop more than 3.5 percentage points off GDP growth. This hit would mean a contracting economy and push the unemployment rate back over 10%.

However, the part that is generally downplayed in this genuine horror story, or left out altogether, is that the projection of a recession is not based on missing the 1 January deadline. The projection assumes that the higher tax rates and lower spending levels are left in place throughout the year – a scenario that almost no one considers plausible.

Robert Reich: Why We Should Stop Obsessing About the Federal Budget Deficit

I wish President Obama and the Democrats would explain to the nation that the federal budget deficit isn’t the nation’s major economic problem and deficit reduction shouldn’t be our major goal. Our problem is lack of good jobs and sufficient growth, and our goal must be to revive both.

Deficit reduction leads us in the opposite direction — away from jobs and growth. The reason the “fiscal cliff” is dangerous (and, yes, I know — it’s not really a “cliff” but more like a hill) is because it’s too much deficit reduction, too quickly. It would suck too much demand out of the economy.

Robert Kuttner: Ben Bernanke for Treasury Secretary

Why Bernanke to succeed Tim Geithner? Several reasons.

First, he is probably the most influential and credible person in official Washington who is not part of the echo chamber on deficit reduction. By his speeches and actions, Bernanke has made it clear that he considers the most serious threat to the economy to be a continued deflationary drag, and not worries about the public debt.

Bernanke’s Fed has poured money into the economy by buying bonds by the trillions of dollars. He’s driven interest rates about as low as they can go using this method, and he has repeatedly said that it’s not enough. He’s open to even more drastic measures, such as selective purchases of certain kinds of bonds to get bank lending and mortgage refinancing moving at the scale necessary.

In his “fiscal cliff” speech of last August 31, Bernanke pointedly refused to join the austerity posse. On the contrary, he all but asked Congress to use fiscal policy to stimulate the economy in the short run.

Bob Herbert: Why Walmart and Big Retailers Should Pay Their Workers More

Henry Ford famously decided in 1914 to pay many of his workers the then incredible sum of five dollars a day, which was substantially higher than the prevailing wage at the time.

While that wasn’t done specifically to enable Ford’s workers to buy his cars (his primary objective was to reduce employee turnover), it did at times have that effect. More important, Ford’s innovation, which shocked the industrialists of that era, helped kickstart America’s high-wage, high-consumption economy and the creation of its vast middle class.

Nearly a century later, in the midst of a weak economy and rising poverty, my colleagues at Demos, a New York-based think tank, have made a compelling case that Ford’s revolutionary approach to industrial wages should now be applied to America’s retail sector.

Not his father’s Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo, fake Democrat

By Alex Pareene, Salon

Monday, Nov 19, 2012 07:45 AM EST

If the New York state Senate remains controlled by the Republican Party, it won’t be because of the voters. Democrats have 30 seats, with 32 required for a majority. They’re also ahead in two races currently being recounted. … One guy who’s staying conspicuously out of the fight: Democratic governor and 2016 presidential contender Andrew Cuomo.

(I)t’s not just that Cuomo’s not trying to help his party win a majority that voters actually voted for. He has at times actively hindered their chances. Cuomo signed off on gerrymandered state Senate districts and did not demand independent, nonpartisan redrawing. In doing so he intended to preserve the status quo – Republicans in charge of the state Senate, Democrats in charge of the more representative assembly – but voters in New York pretty clearly decided that they preferred Democrats in charge of both houses, even with districts drawn specifically to make that nearly impossible.

And if Republicans get their majority, with the tacit support of Cuomo, the governor will have once again shown that he is not the progressive figure he will likely try to sell himself as if he runs for president. His tenure so far has been marked by flashy liberal victories on issues like gay marriage, along with a quietly conservative economic agenda: A property tax cap, total neglect of mass transit, and (partial) support for fracking. Even on economic issues where Cuomo has more liberal priorities, he rarely pushes his Republican friends particularly hard. (A Republican-controlled state Senate will almost certainly block a minimum wage increase Cuomo ostensibly supports.) There’s a reason, in other words, that the National Review loves him.

Democrats ought to know what sort of Democrat he is. If Cuomo allows Republicans to subvert the will of the voters of New York, so that he has an easier time cutting taxes and rolling back regulations, he shouldn’t be allowed to sell himself to future primary voters as a progressive.

As Atrios says- Zombie Liberal Bloggers Can Still Eat Brains.

On This Day In History November 19

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 19 is the 323rd day of the year (324th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 42 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address.

On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing.  The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee’s defeat and retreat from Gettysburg marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army’s ultimate decline.

Charged by Pennsylvania’s governor, Andrew Curtin, to care for the Gettysburg dead, an attorney named David Wills bought 17 acres of pasture to turn into a cemetery for the more than 7,500 who fell in battle. Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery’s dedication. Almost as an afterthought, Wills also sent a letter to Lincoln-just two weeks before the ceremony-requesting “a few appropriate remarks” to consecrate the grounds.

Text of Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Numbers Racket Could Kill Us All

From Rolling Stone:

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

By Bill McKibben

…here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.


The minus 99 above is a factorial in scientific number notation.  Mr. McKibben hasn’t shared any basis of the math with us that would allow anyone to verify the figure but I am not in the denial business.  I assume that Mr. McKibben is simply accepting the math done by geophysicists.

Rather surprisingly, one of the denialists is the new math superstar, Nate Silver.

Thereby hangs a tale showing that survival of the human species and maybe all species on earth is threatened as much by Mr. McKibben as by the Koch Brothers, Exxon and any number of bad guys.

The math is quite easy. You need not be a Tennessee inbred with extra digits giving him higher mathematical powers to see the problem.

To people like Mr. McKibben the primary answer is solar, the ultra-expensive energy source that gobbles up scarce resources in money, materials and labor and fails when it is most needed because the sun goes out every night.  It is not the only intermittent (sometime) power source that the new environmentalists push and they even give a call out to the greatest power source on earth, geothermal, but only that which requires cutting edge technology that has been pursued going on a century or so with the most meager results to date.  They fiercely attack thermal biomass that could save the forests and eliminate waste that pollutes land, air and water without any addition to carbon above ground while destroying far more potent greenhouse gases than CO2.

Here’s your math.  You will need only two fingers or two toes or whatever pair you have available, even two heads that the Bill McKibbens of the world fear you will get from eating GMO’s.

Experts looking at the energy supply figure that solar and wind can supply 20% of the power needed by humans to maintain civilization, 40% at most.  Let us call it 50%.

For the rest you need baseload renewables to replace fossil fuels.

Take away one of your two fingers or toes or heads or whatever and the remainder can end human life and perhaps all life on the planet.

Then Mother Earth, a most bounteous lady who can turn into a mass killer beyond compare (and has) when her simple rules are disobeyed, can try again to evolve an intelligent species if she is still up to it.  She has obviously failed this time.

Best,  Terry

Striking Out Debt

Occupy group offers debt forgiveness for Americans

As lawmakers in Washington continue to intensify focus on  the national debt and deficit, millions of American are dealing with a debt woe of their own. Amin Husain, editor of Tidal Magazine; Sarah Ludwig, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Project; and Doug Henwood, editor of Left Business join Up with Chris Hayes to redirect attention to the real people who matter.

Astra Taylor of Strike Debt explains how getting out of debt has become the new American dream. The panelist explain Strike Debt’s “Rolling Jubilee” and how they plan to pull off raising money to buy debt from Americans, then cancel it.

#OWS Rolling Jubilee

A bailout of the people by the people

Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.

What is Strike Debt?

Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. First started in New York City, but inspired by movements around the globe, Strike Debt now has affiliates across the country. We believe people should not go into debt for basic necessities like education, healthcare and housing. Strike Debt initiatives like the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual offer advice to all kinds of debtors about how to escape debt and how to join a growing collective resistance to the debt system. Our network has the goal of building a broad movement, with more effective ways of resisting debt, and with the ultimate goal of creating an alternative economy that benefits us all and not just the 1%.

What is Strike Debt?

Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. First started in New York City, but inspired by movements around the globe, Strike Debt now has affiliates across the country. We believe people should not go into debt for basic necessities like education, healthcare and housing. Strike Debt initiatives like the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual offer advice to all kinds of debtors about how to escape debt and how to join a growing collective resistance to the debt system. Our network has the goal of building a broad movement, with more effective ways of resisting debt, and with the ultimate goal of creating an alternative economy that benefits us all and not just the 1%.

Can you abolish my debt?

There is no way to seek out a specific person and buy that person’s defaulted debt. With 15% of Americans currently being pursued by a debt collector, looking for one person’s debt would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Anonymous accounts are bundled together and sold as a whole. Before purchasing debt, there is only limited information as to whose debt we are buying. These peculiarities are part of the scandal that we are trying to highlight.Will the Rolling Jubilee have to file a 1099-C Cancellation of Debt form with the IRS?No. The Rolling Jubilee will earn no income from the lending of money and is therefore exempt from filing a Form 1099-C under the Internal Revenue Code Section 6050P.

Is this legal?

Yes! What should actually surprise everyone is the fact that it is legal to trade in people’s misfortune. As part of the deregulation of the finance industry, the government made it legal to buy and sell charged-off debt. [..]

How Does Rolling Jubilee Work?Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.

Pique the Geek 20121118: Scotch Whisky

Scotch whisky is quite different than most other distilled grain spirits.  First of all, it has its own spelling.  Except for Scotch, the spelling is “whiskey”.  In the case of Scotch, it is “whisky”.  I do not know if that is a Gaelic thing, but it is true.  Likewise, the plural of “whisky” is “whiskies”, whilst the plural of “whiskey” is “whiskeys”.  Actually, these distinctions are at best approximate, as some American brands of things that are not Scotch call themselves “whisky”.  But Scotch is almost always spelt “whisky”.

Actually, I am not sure if “Scotch” should even be the name for it.  Some of them call themselves “Scots’ Whisky”.  That might be a better way of saying it.

Now for the Geeky stuff.  Follow with me for several hundreds of years?