Apr 30 2014

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Heidi Moore: Thomas Piketty is a rock-star economist – can he re-write the American dream?

The unlikely bestseller has roiled pundits and crystallized a conversation about inequality we should have had long ago. Now he has to win over normal people

When the movie is made about the fall of Western capitalism, Thomas Piketty will be played by Colin Firth. Piketty, whom the Financial Times called a “rock-star economist”, isn’t a household name – but he should be, and he has a better shot than any other economist. He is the author and researcher behind a 700-page economic manifesto, titled Capital in the 21st Century, that details the path of income inequality over several hundred years.

This sublime nerdishness is, somehow, a huge hit. It is now No 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list and sold out in many bookstores. When Piketty spoke on a panel this month at New York’s CUNY with three other economists – two of them Nobel-prize winners, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman – the Frenchman was the headliner. The event was so packed that the organizers had to create three overflow rooms. Weeks after the release of Capital, intellectuals are still salivating, even calling Piketty the new de Tocqueville.

ZoĆ« Carpenter: There Is No Such Thing As a ‘Typical’ Low-Wage Worker

Spotted among a few hundred people rallying outside the Capitol on Monday for a higher minimum wage: A bearded man in a jean jacket, with a bandana on his head. A woman with close-cut gray curls and a gap where her top front teeth should be. A young man in a suit. Dreadlocks, ponytails, and mullets; baseball caps and cowboy hats and a lime green headscarf. Teenagers in hoodies, and one in a fishnet top with a leopard print bra underneath. Middle-aged women in pink hats.

With the Senate preparing to hold a procedural vote as early as Wednesday on a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, it’s worth considering what’s at stake in the debate-or rather, who. As the rally illustrated, it’s hard to point to a “typical” low-wage worker. Many are in the fast-food industry, the most unequal sector of the American economy. Others are in domestic work, or retail, or are bank tellers. Some are highly educated while others have not graduated from high school. One sure thing is that most aren’t kids making date money.

Jessica Valenti: The White House wants to end campus rape. Great. Now what about colleges?

Obama and Biden have taken a sudden feminist turn on sexual assault. Shouldn’t someone still make some rules for punishing school rapists?

American colleges are not known for taking rape very seriously: activists at Brown University are currently protesting the measly one-semester suspension of a man who sexually assaulted and choked another student; 23 students currently allege that Columbia University violated federal law by discouraging victims of sexual assault from reporting and allowing rapists to stay on campus; the University of Chicago is facing a federal investigation over its handling of sexual assault; and Tufts University revoked its agreement with the US Department of Education to remedy a poor track record of dealing with sexual assault on campus in violation of Title IX. And that’s just this week.

But thanks to the work of grassroots and student-led organizations, a new initiative from the White House to curb sexual assault on campus is using explicitly feminist ideas to frame their recommendations. Color this feminist pleasantly surprised, if not entirely satisfied.

Emma Brockes: The truth about Airbnb: not a racket, nor brothel, just sparing a dime on rent

Questions we should be asking about the startup: isn’t it just a course correction for a real-estate system stacked against us? Also: is someone having sex in my bed?

Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, has lots of questions for the residents of the “digital Wild West” who rent out their apartments on Airbnb. Roughly: who are you, where do live and you’re making how much from your spare room, five flights up and with an unrestricted view of your neighbor’s air vent?

All of which misses the exact point of the ingenius pad-crashing service, and the more pressing issue facing users, not lawyers. As those of us with friends who hand over their keys for the weekend know well, there is only one question for occasional landlords on Airbnb, to be asked in a squealy voice and with a face like you just sucked an extra large lemon: how can you let strangers have sex in your bed?!

Ana Marie Cox: The NRA has declared war on America

Wayne LaPierre and Co are not out merely to defend the Second Amendment or Newtown or gun laws anymore. They want you to pay the price for freedom and they want their money now

As the annual meeting of National Rifle Association members started here this weekend, the gentleman seated next to me said to settle in: “It’s mostly administrative stuff. We vote on things.” He paused for emphasis: “It’s the law.”

He’s somewhat mistaken, of course. The NRA doesn’t have any state-mandated obligation to hold an annual meeting. What’s more, the NRA has very little respect for the law. A half an hour later, at that very meeting, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre exhorted the crowd to a morally obligated vigilantism. He drew a vivid picture of a United States in utter decay and fragmented beyond repair, Mad Max-meets-Hunger Games, divided by Soylent Green:

Katrina vanden Heuvel: What Cliven Bundy Learned From the Koch Brothers

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s fifteen minutes of fame are up. He was a Fox News poster boy when he refused to pay fees for grazing his cows on federal land and greeted federal rangers with the threat of armed resistance. But when he voiced his views on the joys of slavery for “the Negro,” his conservative champions fled from his side.

What is interesting about Bundy, however, is not his tired racism but rather his remarkable sense of entitlement. His cattle have fed off public lands for two decades while he refused to pay grazing fees that are much lower than those he would have to pay for private land (and lower even than the government’s costs). “I’ll be damned if this is the property of the United States,” he says, claiming he won’t do business with the federal government because the Constitution doesn’t prohibit Americans from using federal lands.