Daily Archive: 10/14/2013

Oct 14 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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Paul Krugman: The Dixiecrat Solution

So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family – but only for a week, after which the threats will resume.

Not much of an offer, is it? But here’s the kicker: Your neighbor’s relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn’t also demand that you kill your dog.

And now you understand the current state of budget negotiations.

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Inequality Is a Choice

American inequality began its upswing 30 years ago, along with tax decreases for the rich and the easing of regulations on the financial sector. That’s no coincidence. It has worsened as we have under-invested in our infrastructure, education and health care systems, and social safety nets. Rising inequality reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance.

And Europe seems all too eager to follow America’s bad example. The embrace of austerity, from Britain to Germany, is leading to high unemployment, falling wages and increasing inequality. Officials like Angela Merkel, the newly re-elected German chancellor, and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, argue that Europe’s problems are a result of a bloated welfare spending. But that line of thinking has only taken Europe into recession (and even depression). That things may have bottomed out – that the recession may be “officially” over – is little comfort to the 27 million out of a job in the E.U. On both sides of the Atlantic, the austerity fanatics say, march on: these are the bitter pills that we need to take to achieve prosperity. But prosperity for whom?

Bob Garfield: False equivalence: how ‘balance’ makes the media dangerously dumb

We’ve seen it in climate change reporting; we see it in shutdown coverage. Journalists should be unbiased, yes, but not brainless

et us state this unequivocally: false equivalency – the practice of giving equal media time and space to demonstrably invalid positions for the sake of supposed reportorial balance – is dishonest, pernicious and cowardly.

On the other hand, according to the grassroots American Council of Liberty Loving Ordinary White People Propped Up by the Koch Brothers, the liberal media want to contaminate your precious bodily fluids and indoctrinate your children in homosocialism.

Haha, kidding. Of course, there’s no such group. But false equivalency in the news has been very much, in fact, in the news lately – thanks to reporting on the US government shutdown that characterizes the impasse as the consequence of two stubborn political parties unwilling to compromise on healthcare.

Joshua Holland:The Radicalization of the GOP: the Most Important Political Story Today

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) once claimed that “80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists” and called those who worship in them “an enemy living amongst us.” He held McCarthyesque hearings into the supposed “radicalization of American Muslims,” parading a line of prominent bigots through the House Homeland Security Committee. [..]

In the past few weeks, dozens of political journalists have dubbed him a moderate. In fact, he’s been anointed a leader among the Republican moderates. He earned that label because, like other New York pols, he doesn’t blindly support the National Rifle Association, and because he opposes shutting down the government and threatening to unleash a potential economic catastrophe in a hopeless quest to defund Obamacare. That’s it. That’s how low the bar of moderation in the Republican Party now falls.

Arguably, the most important political story of our time – one necessary to understanding the last five years of so-called “gridlock” in Washington, DC – is one that journalists wedded to the idea that ‘both sides do it’ are uncomfortable reporting: the wildly asymmetric polarization of our two major political parties as Democrats inched to the left and Republicans lurched to the right.

Robert Reich: Why Giving Republican Bullies a Bloody Nose Isn’t Enough

It appears that negotiations over the federal budget deficit are about to begin once again, and presumably Senate Republicans will insist that Obama and the Democrats give way on taxes and spending in exchange for reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling for at least another year.

But keeping the government running and paying the nation’s bills should never have been bargaining chits in the first place, and the President and Democrats shouldn’t begin to negotiate over future budgets until they’re taken off the table.

The question is how thoroughly President Obama has learned that extortionist demands escalate if you give in to them.

Michael Lind: The South is holding America hostage

The Tea Party’s not crazy — they had a plan. Now liberals and progressives need one, too

When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done here, here and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies – from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements – serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.

Just as a strategy is not a conspiracy, so it is not insanity. Ironically, American progressives, centrists and some Northern conservatives are only deluding themselves, when they insist that the kind of right-wing Southerners behind the government shutdown are “crazy.” Crazy, yes – crazy like a fox.

Oct 14 2013

On This Day In History October 14

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.

October 14 is the 287th day of the year (288th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 78 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager (born February 13, 1923) is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound (1947). Originally retiring as a brigadier general, Yeager was promoted to major general on the Air Force’s retired list 20 years later for his military achievements.

His career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces. After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and upon graduation was promoted to the rank of flight officer (the World War II USAAF equivalent to warrant officer) and became a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot. After the war he became a test pilot of many kinds of aircraft and rocket planes. Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 13,700 m (45,000 ft). . . .

Yeager remained in the Air Force after the war, becoming a test pilot at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) and eventually being selected to fly the rocket-powered Bell X-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight, after Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 to break the sound “barrier.”  Such was the difficulty in this task that the answer to many of the inherent challenges were along the lines of “Yeager better have paid-up insurance.” Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental X-1 at Mach  1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 m). Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, he broke two ribs while riding a horse. He was so afraid of being removed from the mission that he went to a veterinarian in a nearby town for treatment and told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley about it.

On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the airplane’s hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch of the airplane. Yeager’s flight recorded Mach 1.07, however, he was quick to point out that the public paid attention to whole numbers and that the next milestone would be exceeding Mach 2. Yeager’s X-1 is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Oct 14 2013

Sunday Train: eBikes & Green Austerity

About a week ago, the following story caught my eye:

For the first time on record, bicycles have outsold cars in Spain.

 

Higher taxes on fuel and on new cars have prompted cash-strapped Spaniards to opt for two wheels instead of four. Last year, 780,000 bicycles were sold in the country – compared to 700,000 cars. That’s due to a 4 percent jump in bike sales, and a 30 percent drop in sales of new cars.

And this is not primarily about a wave of government policies promoting cycling, or an outbreak of climate activism among the young … its the result of the crisis. As this NPR story concludes:

“We are learning every day, about the crisis. Maybe it’s not changing the things that we thought at the beginning would change – the politicians, the banks, that kind of things. But it’s changing our minds,” says Juan Salenas, another cyclist at the Bici Crítica rally. “We spend less. We try to live with [what we have, and be] more happy. And we try to keep what we have, because maybe we will lose it tomorrow.”

Spain is experiencing a shift in which both conventional and eBike sales are increasing, but as The Economist reports, in Germany, France and the Netherlands, where transport cycling culture is more entrenched, the shift is within bicycle sales:

In the Netherlands one bicycle in six sold is an e-bike. In Germany the cycle industry expects electric-bike sales to grow by 13% this year, to 430,000 (the most sold in any European country), and to account for 15% of the market before long. In France sales of traditional bicycles fell by 9% in 2012 while those of e-bikes grew by 15%.

 

E-bikes are catching on as people move to cities and add concern about pollution and parking to worry over petrol prices and global warming. Frank Jamerson, who produces the Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports, estimates sales at around 34m this year and perhaps 40m in 2015. China buys most of them and makes even more, with European sales of 1.5m in second place.

So, as events in DC have unraveled to the point were the outcome that the Democrats are fighting for is to fund the government at austerity “sequester” levels, this Sunday Train looks at Electric Bikes.