02/18/2014 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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Dean Baker: Corporate Cronyism: The Secret to Overpaid CEOs

It’s hardly a secret that the heads of major corporations in the United States get mind-bending paychecks. High pay may be understandable when a top executive turns around a failing company or vastly expands a company’s revenue and profit, but CEOs can get paychecks in the tens or hundreds of millions even when they did nothing especially notable.

For example, Lee Raymond retired from Exxon-Mobil in 2005 with $321 million. (That’s 22,140 minimum wage work years.) His main accomplishment for the company was sitting at its head at a time when a quadrupling of oil prices sent profits soaring. Hank McKinnel walked away from Pfizer in 2006 with $166 million. It would be hard to identify his outstanding accomplishments. [..]

It’s not hard to write contracts that would ensure that CEO pay bears a closer relationship to the company’s performance. For example, if the value of Raymond’s stock incentives at Exxon were tied to the performance of the stock of other oil companies (this can be done) then his going away package probably would not have been one-tenth as large. Also, there can be longer assessment periods so that it’s not possible to get rich by bankrupting a company.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Don’t Do It, Mr. President!

President Obama’s budget is scheduled to be released on March 4, and a critical question remains unanswered. Will he or won’t he reprise the “chained CPI” cut to Social Security that he proposed in last year’s budget? Nobody on his team is talking. The answer to that question could determine the financial fate of millions of Americans — and the political fate of the president’s party.

The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent reviewed some of the pushback the president has been getting on this subject. So far, 16 senators have signed a letter asking him to drop the chained CPI this time around. Two progressive groups, the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, have initiated a petition with the same demand.

Sargent also provides an overview of the chained CPI, something we’ve also done a number of times. To avoid repeating ourselves, we’ll leave it at this: It’s a benefit cut, and a pretty big one at that.

That raises a lot of questions.

Joe Sestak: Making the Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

When I entered Congress in 2007, the year the recession began, the second vote I took was to raise the minimum wage $1.40 to $7.25 an hour. I did so recognizing an important fact: This first increase of the minimum wage in 10 years was still less than the minimum wage in 1968 when adjusted for inflation ($10.74).

The reduction in the real value of the minimum wage from half a century ago is particularly tough today because the majority of those working for minimum or low wages are no longer young teenagers. For instance, 68 percent of fast-food workers are adults, of whom over a quarter have children. And 65 percent are woman, all working longer for less. [..]

What we’re missing today is pragmatic leadership where leaders are willing to say, “Here’s where we are, here’s what I think we have to do based on the facts, here’s measurable benchmarks that we need to hit, and if we don’t, hold me accountable.” So what are the facts?

Peter van Buren: Drone Killing the Fifth Amendment

How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Death at a Time

Terrorism (ter-ror-ism; see also terror) n. 1. When a foreign organization kills an American for political reasons.

Justice (jus-tice) n. 1. When the United States Government uses a drone to kill an American for political reasons.

How’s that morning coffee treating you? Nice and warming? Mmmm.

While you’re savoring your cup o’ joe, imagine the president of the United States hunched over his own coffee, considering the murder of another American citizen. Now, if you were plotting to kill an American over coffee, you could end up in jail on a whole range of charges including — depending on the situation — terrorism. However, if the president’s doing the killing, it’s all nice and — let’s put those quote marks around it — “legal.” How do we know? We’re assured that the Justice Department tells him so.  And that’s justice enough in post-Constitutional America. [..]

At the moment, we are threatened with a return to a pre-Constitutional situation that Americans would once have dismissed out of hand, a society in which the head of state can take a citizen’s life on his own say-so. If it’s the model for the building of post-Constitutional America, we’re in trouble. Indeed the stakes are high, whether we notice or not.

Michael Brenner: The American Public School Under Siege

A feature of the Obama presidency has been his campaign against the American public school system, eating way at the foundations of elementary education. That means the erosion of an institution that has been one of the keystones of the Republic. The project to remake it as a mixed public/private hybrid is inspired by a discredited dogma that charter schools perform better. This article of faith serves an alliance of interests — ideological and commercial — for whom the White House has been point man. A President whose tenure in office is best known for indecision, temporizing and vacillation has been relentless since day one in using the powers of his office to advance the cause. Such conviction and sustained dedication is observable in only one other area of public policy: the project to expand the powers and scope of the intelligence agencies that spy on, and monitor the behavior of persons and organizations at home as well as abroad.

The audacity of the project is matched by the passive deference that it is accorded. There is no organized opposition — in civil society or politics. Only a few outgunned elements fight a rearguard action against a juggernaut that includes Republicans and Democrats, reactionaries and liberals — from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to the nativist Christian Right of the Bible Belt. All of this without the national “conversation” otherwise so dear to the hearts of the Obama people, without corroboration of its key premises, without serious review of its consequences, without focused media attention.

On This Day In History February 18

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.

February 18 is the 49th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 316 days remaining until the end of the year (317 in leap years).

On this day in 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous, and famously controversial, novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Considered as one of the Great American Novels, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective).

The book is noted for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. Satirizing a Southern antebellum society that had ceased to exist about twenty years before the work was published, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.

The work has been popular with readers since its publication and is taken as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It has also been the continued object of study by serious literary critics. It was criticized upon release because of its coarse language and became even more controversial in the 20th century because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes and because of its frequent use of the racial slur “nigger”, despite that the main protagonist, and the tenor of the book, is anti-racist. According to the January 20, 2011 Chase Cook/The Daily article, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn novel will be released in a new edition. Two words will be changed throughout the whole book, “injun” and “nigger” to “indian” and “slave”. The book is being changed as quoted in the article, “only to make it viable to the 21st century”.

Snow Happens

About Winter-

I’ve had Seasonal Affective Disorder for longer than I care to say though when I was a child Winter was my favorite season of the year, stark and pristine in a manichaean way.  Full of fun activities like snow forts and sledding, ice skating and snowball fights, skiing and snowmen.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention snow?

Huge piles of it, soft and deep, making everything… clean.  As it melted I used to walk past the remaining patches imagining myself on Mars.

Over on the next street we had the longest sled run in the world, starting on the boundary of the witches at the top of the hill and zooming through the hedges between the yards all the way down the block until you got dumped off the jump at the end and skidded to a stop in a shower of sparks on the street (watch out for those cars).

Of course I never got invited to the ‘cool’ slope that plunged at 70 degrees into a thicket of trees you could bash your head against, but one perfect day after an ice storm my sister and I discovered the parking lot and driveways of the Church a block away covered in a thick unsalted sheet.

Now that was fun, almost like a Skeleton run, and if you got your speed up just right and jammed your Flexible Flyer over hard you could pull as many as 4 or 5 360 degree spins before you smashed into the plow tailings in the bottom most lot.

Take that ‘cool’ kids.

Like many of you today I face the prospect of chipping through 4 to 6 inches of ‘Wintry Mix’ with an inch or two of ice at the bottom and I can’t feel the fun any more.  At least I was able to convince Richard and Emily not to drive to Florida for my Aunt’s birthday even though it’s a milestone.

As for myself, I just can’t stop thinking about climate change and the death of the world I once knew.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation. -Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

As the reigning Lorelai I think it’s high past time to think about our relationship with snow-

I have never, ever taken refuge by calling any of my diaries ‘community’ as if that invoked some kind of safey bubble of immunity (it has been appended by people who don’t understand my work).  I stand alone and if you don’t like what I write have at.

1% Economics




Chris Hedges: Antidote to Defeatism

Activist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges discusses the forces driving the acceleration of global decline,the military mind and the antidote to defeatism in a two part interview with Abby Martin on RT’s “Breaking the Set.”

Chris Hedges Part I: Crisis Cults and the Collapse of Industrial Civilization

Chris Hedges Part II: The Military Mind & the Antidote to Defeatism

XXII Day 11

Saw Men’s and Women’s last rocks.  2 – 7, 1 – 8.  Big discussion about whether Curling should be fun or medal focused.  Must say, who gives a fuck about medals anyway eh?  Leave it up to the teams.

Yes I will have another beer.

At least 1 tie breaker tomorrow between Great Britain and Norway (Men’s).  May be your last chance to see the fancy pants.

    Time     Network Event
5 pm CNBC Curling: women’s Switzerland vs. China
5 pm Vs. Women’s hockey, first semifinal: USA vs. Sweden.
8 pm NBC Figure skating: ice dancing gold medal final; freestyle skiing: men’s aerials gold medal final; bobsled: two-man gold medal final runs.
1:01 pm NBC Ski jumping: men’s team K-125 large hill gold medal final.
2 am NBC Figure skating: ice dancing gold medal final; freestyle skiing: men’s aerials gold medal final; bobsled: two-man gold medal final runs. (repeat)
3 am Vs. Hockey: men’s elimination round.
5:30 am Vs. Nordic Combined: men’s individual K-125 large hill, ski jumping.
7 am Vs. Hockey: men’s elimination round.
10 am Vs. Speed skating: men’s 10,000m gold medal final; Nordic Combined: men’s individual K-125 large hill, cross-country.
noon MSNBC Hockey: men’s elimination round.
noon Vs. Hockey: men’s elimination round; bobsled, women’s competition.
3 pm NBC Speed skating: men’s 10,000m gold medal final; Nordic Combined: men’s individual K-125 large hill gold medal final.
3 pm Vs. Hockey.
5 pm CNBC Curling: men’s and women’s tie breaker.
5 pm Vs. Hockey: Game of the Day.

Monday’s medal results are below the fold ~TMC