Daily Archive: 06/02/2014

Jun 02 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.

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

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Paul Krugman: On Inequality Denial

A while back I published an article titled “The Rich, the Right, and the Facts,” in which I described politically motivated efforts to deny the obvious – the sharp rise in U.S. inequality, especially at the very top of the income scale. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I found a lot of statistical malpractice in high places. [..]

What may surprise you is the year in which I published that article: 1992.

Which brings me to the latest intellectual scuffle, set off by an article by Chris Giles, the economics editor of The Financial Times, attacking the credibility of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Mr. Giles claimed that Mr. Piketty’s work made “a series of errors that skew his findings,” and that there is in fact no clear evidence of rising concentration of wealth. And like just about everyone who has followed such controversies over the years, I thought, “Here we go again.” [..]

This picture makes some people uncomfortable, because it plays into populist demands for higher taxes on the rich. But good ideas don’t need to be sold on false pretenses. If the argument against populism rests on bogus claims about inequality, you should consider the possibility that the populists are right.

Charles M. Blow: Yes, All Men

As I drove my son back to college last week, where he’ll take a summer chemistry course, he said something that struck me: “I believe it’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.”As I drove my son back to college last week, where he’ll take a summer chemistry course, he said something that struck me: “I believe it’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.” [..]

Yes, we should all be feminists, but too often we believe that the plight of the oppressed is solely the business of the oppressed, and that the society in which that oppression is born and grows and the role of the oppressors and beneficiaries are all somehow subordinate. p,,]

Wrong.

Fighting female objectification and discrimination and violence against women isn’t simply the job of women; it must also be the pursuit of men.

Only when men learn to recognize misogyny will we be able to rid the world of it. Not all men are part of the problem, but, yes, all men must be part of the solution.

New York Times Editorial Board: Encouragement (Sort of) About Press Freedom

At a meeting with journalists last week, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was questioned about the prolonged quest to compel James Risen, a reporter for The Times, to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency official. Prosecutors say Mr. Sterling was a source for restricted information in Mr. Risen’s 2006 book on the C.I.A. “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail,” Mr. Holder said.

The statement went an intriguing step further than his previous pledge not to prosecute reporters for their news-gathering activities and was taken as a hint that the Justice Department might choose not to jail Mr. Risen for defying a subpoena ordering him to disclose his sources. [..]

Still, there are reasons to be wary. Mr. Holder did not, for example, rule out imposing steep fines, or otherwise inflicting harm on Mr. Risen and press freedom.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Real Piketty Scandal (Is Right-Wing Deception)

Conservatives in all corners of the globe must have felt their hearts sing, if only for a moment, when the Financial Times ran a piece entitled “Piketty findings undercut by errors.” Sadly for them, the FT’s claims proved untrue. But if you think that put an end to the accusations against the French economist and his findings on inequality, you don’t know today’s conservatives. [..]

Conservatives aren’t obligated to accept the defenses of Piketty, either, however persuasive many of us find them. But to ignore them altogether, to hype the FT’s attack and omit such exhaustively researched and data-rich rebuttals, is to conduct an indefensible cherry-picking of both facts and arguments.

And that, ironically, is what the Financial Times wrongly accused Piketty of doing.

Conservatives can claim that the progressive solutions which worked so well in the past won’t work today. They can argue, as libertarian Garrett Jones does, that “the best way to defuse the situation is to teach tolerance for inequality. ” They can even continue to promote the disproven solutions of the past, as a new book from Arthur Laffer et al. does. (It won laudatory blurbs from Dick Cheney and Phil Gramm, if that tells you anything.)

That’s how honest debate works — or should. We should all be willing to hawk our wares in the marketplace of ideas.  But to distort the facts or make false accusations is to poison that marketplace with tainted goods. When conservatives do it as a matter of routine — on economics, climate change and so many other issues — it also sends the subliminal message that they don’t believe they can win an argument on its merits.Conservatives aren’t obligated to accept the defenses of Piketty, either, however persuasive many of us find them. But to ignore them altogether, to hype the FT’s attack and omit such exhaustively researched and data-rich rebuttals, is to conduct an indefensible cherry-picking of both facts and arguments.

And that, ironically, is what the Financial Times wrongly accused Piketty of doing.

Robert Reich: Freedom Summer II

I spent several days in New York last week with students from around the country who were preparing to head into the heartland to help organize Walmart workers for better jobs and wages. (Full familial disclosure: My son Adam is one of the leaders.)

Almost exactly fifty years ago a similar group headed to Mississippi to register African-Americans to vote, in what came to be known as Freedom Summer.

Call this Freedom Summer II.

The current struggle of low-wage workers across America echoes the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Today, as then, a group of Americans is denied the dignity of decent wages and working conditions. Today, just as then, powerful forces are threatening and intimidating vulnerable people for exercising their legal rights. Today, just like fifty years ago, people who have been treated as voiceless and disposable are standing up and demanding change.

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Jun 02 2014

The Breakfast Club: 6-2-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. I’m jetlagged, so today it’s posted when I wake up. Deal with it.

The Breakfast Club Logo photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps5485351c.png

This Day in History

Jun 02 2014

On This Day In History June 2

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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 2 is the 153rd day of the year (154th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 212 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1962, Ray Charles takes country music to the top of the pop charts.

Ray Charles was one of the founding fathers of soul music-a style he helped create and popularize with a string of early 1950s hits on Atlantic Records like “I Got A Woman” and “What’d I Say.” This fact is well known to almost anyone who has ever heard of the man they called “the Genius,” but what is less well known-to younger fans especially-is the pivotal role that Charles played in shaping the course of a seemingly very different genre of popular music. In the words of his good friend and sometime collaborator, Willie Nelson, speaking before Charles’ death in 2004, Ray Charles the R&B legend “did more for country music than any other living human being.” The landmark album that earned Ray Charles that praise was Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which gave him his third #1 hit in “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which topped the U.S. pop charts on this day in 1962

Executives at ABC Records-the label that wooed Ray Charles from Atlantic with one of the richest deals of the era-were adamantly opposed to the idea that Charles brought to them in 1962: to re-record some of the best country songs of the previous 20 years in new arrangements that suited his style. As Charles told Rolling Stone magazine a decade later, ABC executives said, “You can’t do no country-western things….You’re gonna lose all your fans!” But Charles recognized the quality of songs like “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Don Gibson and “You Don’t Know Me,” by Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker, and the fact that his version of both of those country songs landed in the Top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts was vindication of Charles’s long-held belief that “There’s only two kinds of music as far as I’m concerned: good and bad.”

Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his Modern Sounds albums. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Frank Sinatra called Charles “the only true genius in show business.”

Rolling Stone ranked Charles number 10 on their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004, and number two on their November 2008 list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. In honoring Charles, Billy Joel noted: “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley. I don’t know if Ray was the architect of rock & roll, but he was certainly the first guy to do a lot of things . . . Who the hell ever put so many styles together and made it work?”

 

Jun 02 2014

Sunday Train: A “Bipartisan” Transport Bill You Can Support

For me, when I hear the word “bipartisan”, my first reaction is to brace myself to confront a piece of corporate mischief making being peddled under the excuse that there is some other piece of corporate mischief making that is even worse and this bad policy will stop … or sometimes just delay … that even worse policy from being implemented.

However, since the appeal came from Transportation for America, I was willing to keep reading and see what was in it:

Most taxpayers would agree that the level of government closest to the people should have more control over how transportation dollars get spent in their local communities.  Yet local cities, towns and counties control less than 15 percent of all federal transportation dollars.

If you think that needs to change, then stop what you’re doing and ask your representatives to cosponsor this critical, bipartisan bill. It would give local communities more access to federal transportation funds that they can invest in homegrown transportation plans and projects that they control.

Join me below the fold to have a look and a think about this proposal.

Jun 02 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Toward a Leftist Program for Working Class Consciousness by MrJayTee

The original title of this diary was to be “Toward a Leftist Program by the Working Class, for the Working Class”, an neat, academic-sounding title reflecting an admirable goal: how can we, whatever our class background or position on the left, understand the needs and goals of working people in the United States and help to catalyze the development of a political program that reflects those needs and goals, one ideally led by the working class itself?

Looking at the critical ingredients of such a program, the lack of one especially stands out to me: the paralyzing absence of any significant consciousness among American workers of themselves as a class apart, one locked in a harrowing and historic struggle with the ruling class for the control of their lives and futures. The purpose of this diary, then, is to consider this problem in general programmatic terms using the thoughts proffered below as a point of departure.

Before going further, I hasten to note that I am not an academic, theorist, or long-time activist, just a working class guy and ecumenical socialist who was lucky enough to get a broad education. I am intent on understanding how my own class, so numerous and possessing a proud history of action and achievement, can embrace and use its own enormous power and what, if anything, the serious left can do to catalyze revolutionary working class consciousness.