12/27/2013 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 Fear Economy

More than a million unemployed Americans are about to get the cruelest of Christmas “gifts.” They’re about to have their unemployment benefits cut off. You see, Republicans in Congress insist that if you haven’t found a job after months of searching, it must be because you aren’t trying hard enough. So you need an extra incentive in the form of sheer desperation.

As a result, the plight of the unemployed, already terrible, is about to get even worse. Obviously those who have jobs are much better off. Yet the continuing weakness of the labor market takes a toll on them, too. So let’s talk a bit about the plight of the employed.

Some people would have you believe that employment relations are just like any other market transaction; workers have something to sell, employers want to buy what they offer, and they simply make a deal. But anyone who has ever held a job in the real world – or, for that matter, seen a Dilbert cartoon – knows that it’s not like that.

New York Times Editorial Board: New Victories for Marriage Equality

With every new court ruling or legislative enactment or popular vote affirming Americans’ fundamental right to marry, the arguments against same-sex marriage sound increasingly desperate and hollow.

Those arguments were dealt multiple blows in the past few days, first last Friday when a federal district judge in Utah invalidated the state’s constitutional amendment and laws prohibiting marriage between anyone other than a woman and a man. The suit had been brought by three lesbian and gay couples, but Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling immediately allowed same-sex couples to marry statewide, and by Christmas Day about 700 had.

On Monday, another federal district judge, Timothy Black, ruled that Ohio, which also does not permit same-sex marriage, must recognize such marriages performed in other states. [..]

If Utah’s appeal is heard by the Supreme Court, the court should extend its repeated invocation of the equal dignity of gays and lesbians and strike down all bans on same-sex marriage.

Christina Pelosi: All I Want for Christmas Are My Voting Rights

As we gather for the holidays, we remember the empty chairs at far too many holiday tables: for servicemembers killed overseas, children slain by gun violence, and loved ones lost to AIDS, cancer and other diseases due to stigma and poverty — and we recommit ourselves to the work we must do to advocate for policies in diplomacy, safety, healthcare, and opportunity that reflect our highest American values of peace and equality.  [..]

That is why all I want for Christmas are my voting rights from which all other rights flow. Without voting rights, our struggle for women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, immigrants’ rights and workers’ rights is just a conversation. We know that a handful of voter fraud cases have been used to silence millions of voices and we must change that.

Robert Naiman: Could We Make Opposition to Iran War Obligatory for Blue State Democrats?

On August 8, 2006, something world-historical happened in Connecticut: Joe Lieberman was kicked out of the Democratic Party as punishment for the crime of supporting the Iraq war. The retribution delivered to Lieberman established a “red line” for “blue state” Democrats: support the Iraq war, and something like this could happen to you. [..]

What if we could make examples of some blue state Democrats who are vulnerable to pressure from the pro-war forces – not punishment examples, but deterrence examples? What if we could show by example that engagement by Democrats can keep these blue state Democrats from going over to the pro-war side? [..]

What if Ohio Democrats decided that they weren’t going to allow Sherrod Brown to go over to the pro-war side this time? Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Democratic friends don’t let Democratic friends support wars of choice. What if, for example, some brothers and sisters in the Ohio labor movement would sidle up quietly next to Senator Brown and say, “hey, Sherrod, you’re not thinking of screwing the President on this, are you?”

William Pfaff: We Need Your Prayers This Season, Pope Francis

Christmas this year seems more the occasion of religious war than of the peace to which the greeting cards routinely allude. Peace talks, such as the “5 plus 1” talks seeking reconciliation with Iran to eliminate the threat of war from or against that country, are the subject of sectarian and political attack inside the U.S. Congress and in Israel. Who wants peace if you can have the rewarding destruction of a rival? [..]

The United States, according to President Obama, is the “greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.” He doesn’t mention peace, since the United States during the last two decades has chosen to be constantly at war.

The only man of peace for whom there currently seems universal admiration and deference is Pope Francis. For most West European and American admirers, that seems less to be because they want the peace the Pope calls for in his Christmas declaration, but because they want women and married priests-and because the Pope has asked who is he to pass judgment on homosexuals who are believing Christians.

No doubt he nonetheless is praying for all of us this Christmas. We need the prayers.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The De Blasio-Bloomberg Paradox

he standard line on New York City’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who takes office next Wednesday, is that he’s the antithesis of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That’s not quite true, and New York’s voters probably hope it isn’t. In electing de Blasio, they were looking for a course correction from the Bloomberg years, not a repudiation.

Change they’ll certainly get. Bloomberg is a billionaire who lives in Manhattan’s upscale precincts. De Blasio is a progressive populist who hails from middle-class Brooklyn. He campaigned on his “tale of two cities” divided between the very rich and everyone else. [..]

But the larger point is that the most heralded progressive politicians have been those who married their quest for social justice with reform-minded efficiency. It would be good for the country if the leader of the town that includes Wall Street became a powerful national voice against inequality. The paradox is that a touch of Bloombergism could make de Blasio a more effective populist mayor.

Most Censored and Ignored News of 2013

According to Project Censored these are the 25 news stories of 2013 that were under-reported, ignored, or poorly covered with a false narrative that skewed the facts.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of “All In,” and his panel discussed what they thought were the stories that went under reported

What news stories need more and better coverage?  

Take this job and shove it.

The Fear Economy

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: December 26, 2013

Some people would have you believe that employment relations are just like any other market transaction; workers have something to sell, employers want to buy what they offer, and they simply make a deal. But anyone who has ever held a job in the real world – or, for that matter, seen a Dilbert cartoon – knows that it’s not like that.

We can actually quantify that weakness by looking at the quits rate – the percentage of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs (as opposed to being fired) each month. Obviously, there are many reasons a worker might want to leave his or her job. Quitting is, however, a risk; unless a worker already has a new job lined up, he or she doesn’t know how long it will take to find a new job, and how that job will compare with the old one.

Now think about what this means for workers’ bargaining power. When the economy is strong, workers are empowered. They can leave if they’re unhappy with the way they’re being treated and know that they can quickly find a new job if they are let go. When the economy is weak, however, workers have a very weak hand, and employers are in a position to work them harder, pay them less, or both.

Is there any evidence that this is happening? And how. The economic recovery has, as I said, been weak and inadequate, but all the burden of that weakness is being borne by workers. Corporate profits plunged during the financial crisis, but quickly bounced back, and they continued to soar. Indeed, at this point, after-tax profits are more than 60 percent higher than they were in 2007, before the recession began. We don’t know how much of this profit surge can be explained by the fear factor – the ability to squeeze workers who know that they have no place to go. But it must be at least part of the explanation. In fact, it’s possible (although by no means certain) that corporate interests are actually doing better in a somewhat depressed economy than they would if we had full employment.

What’s more, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that this reality helps explain why our political system has turned its backs on the unemployed. No, I don’t believe that there’s a secret cabal of C.E.O.’s plotting to keep the economy weak. But I do think that a major reason why reducing unemployment isn’t a political priority is that the economy may be lousy for workers, but corporate America is doing just fine.

Who the President Reads

At the end of each year Salon’s Alex Pareene gives us his list of his top ten journalistic hacks. This year Alex has ranked the columnists that are President Barack Obama top reads. As, he points out in the article, the Internet has made the conversation more “democratized” than in the past when everyone relied on the print media. Today it isn’t so much how many people read a columnist, it’s who.

But as a Politico editor could tell you, it’s not how many you reach, it’s who. Among Friedman’s readers: much of the nation’s executive class. Among Allen’s? Nearly everyone who works in any capacity for every member of Congress. That’s why it’s necessary to criticize them. They really do “drive the conversation,” to use a particularly odious Politico-ism. Both what is considered politically possible and politically desirable in this country depend in large part on what a handful of mainly older, mainly white and overwhelmingly male columnists and pundits say. Who is let into that conversation and who is left out of it has consequences for all Americans. That was made clear 10 years ago, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, which the nation’s premier political opinion makers (what we once called “Thought Leaders”) almost universally supported. The Bush administration was aware of this, too, and devoted more efforts to convincing them than to trying to win over what we vaguely call “the people.”

President Barack Obama. Barack Obama loves newspaper columnists. He reads them, because he thinks they offer smarter commentary than one hears on cable news, and he invites them to the White House regularly, so he can influence their writing.

There in lies the problem, as Alex lays it out. Of the columnists that Pres. Obama has said are his favorite reads and who he has invited to the White House, none are women, all but one is black, most are older than 50 and most supported the Iraq war in 2003.

These are the men whose opinions the president “favors”

12. Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

11. Jonathan Chait, New York magazine.

10. Josh Barro, Business Insider.

9. Ezra Klein, Washington Post.

8. E.J. Dionne, Washington Post.

7. David Brooks.

6. Gerald Seib, Wall Street Journal.

5. David Ignatius, Washington Post.

4. Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg View.

3. Joe Klein, Time.

2. Thomas Friedman, The Davos Herald-Register.

1. Fred Hiatt, Washington Post Editorial Page editor.

Who do you think the president should be reading more? Why?

On This Day In History December 27

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.

December 27 is the 361st day of the year (362nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are four days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1932, Radio City Music Hall opened in New York City.

The 12-acre complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center was developed between 1929 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University. The Radio City Music Hall was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey in the Art Deco style. Rockefeller initially planned a new home for the Metropolitan Opera on the site, but after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the plans changed and the opera company withdrew from the project.

Its originally planned name was International Music Hall. The names “Radio City” and “Radio City Music Hall” derive from one of the complex’s first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America. Radio City Music Hall was a project of Rockefeller; Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who previously opened the Roxy Theatre in 1927; and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. RCA had developed numerous studios for NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, just to the south of the Music Hall, and the radio-TV complex that lent the Music Hall its name is still known as the NBC Radio City Studios.

The Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932 with a lavish stage show featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high-class variety entertainment. The new format was not a success. The program was very long and individual acts were lost in the cavernous hall. On January 11, 1933, the Music Hall converted to the then familiar format of a feature film with a spectacular stage show which Rothafel had perfected at the Roxy Theatre. The first film was shown on the giant screen was Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck and the Music Hall became the premiere showcase for films from the RKO-Radio Studio. The film plus stage spectacle format continued at the Music Hall until 1979 with four complete performances presented every day.

By the 1970s, changes in film distribution made it difficult for Radio City to secure exclusive bookings of many films; furthermore, the theater preferred to show only G-rated movies, which further limited their film choices as the decade wore on. Regular film showings at Radio City ended in 1979. Plans were made to convert the theater into office space, but a combination of preservation and commercial interests resulted in the preservation of Radio City and in 1980, after a renovation, it reopened to the public.

Radio City Music Hall is currently leased to and managed by Madison Square Garden, Inc. Movie premieres and feature runs have occasionally taken place there but the focus of the theater throughout the year is now on concerts and live stage shows. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular continues to be an important annual event. The Music Hall has presented most of the leading pop and rock performers of the last 30 years as well as televised events including the Grammy Awards, the Tony Awards, and the MTV Music Awards.