Jun 23 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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New York Times Editorial Board: The Hidden Cost of Trading Stocks

‘Best Execution’ and Rebates for Brokers

There’s no escaping the conclusion that the stock market is not a level playing field where all investors, large and small, have an equal shot at a fair deal.

A recent groundbreaking study found that undetected insider trading occurs in a stunning one-fourth of public-company deals. Experts have long debated the pros and cons of high-frequency trading, another pervasive practice, but there is no doubt that it gives superfast traders the jump on others in trading stocks. And the very idea of trading on a public exchange, where stock prices and trading volumes are visible to all, is being eclipsed by private trading of public stocks in off-exchange venues, called dark pools, usually operated by banks. [..]

Securities regulators clearly need to better enforce the best execution requirements on brokers, and require better disclosure on brokers’ routing decisions and the rebates they earn. If Congress won’t provide more resources for enforcement, rebates need to be passed along to the customer or eliminated altogether.

Paul Krugman: The Big Green Test

Conservatives and Climate Change

On Sunday Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and a lifelong Republican, had an Op-Ed article about climate policy in The New York Times. In the article, he declared that man-made climate change is “the challenge of our time,” and called for a national tax on carbon emissions to encourage conservation and the adoption of green technologies. Considering the prevalence of climate denial within today’s G.O.P., and the absolute opposition to any kind of tax increase, this was a brave stand to take.

But not nearly brave enough. Emissions taxes are the Economics 101 solution to pollution problems; every economist I know would start cheering wildly if Congress voted in a clean, across-the-board carbon tax. But that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. A carbon tax may be the best thing we could do, but we won’t actually do it.

Yet there are a number of second-best things (in the technical sense, as I’ll explain shortly) that we’re either doing already or might do soon. And the question for Mr. Paulson and other conservatives who consider themselves environmentalists is whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers, and in particular whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers implemented by the other party. If they aren’t, their supposed environmentalism is an empty gesture.

Glen Ford: U.S. Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements

“In the language of ‘terrorism studies,’ the human beings involved in these social movements are ‘contagions,’ as in vectors of disease.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is immersed in studies about…people like you. The Pentagon wants to know why folks who don’t themselves engage in violence to overthrow the prevailing order become, what the military calls, “supporters of political violence.” And by that they mean, everyone who opposes U.S military policy in the world, or the repressive policies of U.S. allies and proxies, or who opposes the racially repressive U.S. criminal justice system, or who wants to push the One Percent off their economic and political pedestals so they can’t lord it over the rest of us. (I’m sure you recognize yourself somewhere in that list.)

The Pentagon calls this new field of research “terrorism studies,” which is designed to augment and inform their so-called War on Terror. Through their Minerva Research Initiative, the military has commissioned U.S. universities to help it figure out how to deal with dissatisfied and, therefore, dangerous populations all around the world, including the United States.

The Minerva Initiative was the subject of an article in The Guardian newspaper by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, an academic who studies international security issues. The Initiative seeks to sharpen the U.S. military’s “warfighter-relevant insights” into what makes people tick, and get ticked off at power structures, in regions “of strategic importance to the U.S.” Since the U.S. is an empire seeking global hegemony, and sees the whole world as strategic, the Minerva program’s areas of interest involve – everybody on the planet.

Robert Kuttner: Reforming the Federal Sweatshop

The White House is holding a summit Monday, June 23 on working families. The summit is intended to call attention to the fact that President Obama wants to raise wages and job opportunities for working Americans, especially for working women. This is a welcome initiative, though there is a great deal that the President could do by executive order without waiting for a deadlocked Congress to act.

The grotesque income inequality in our economy has at last some in for some overdue attention. For the vast majority of working Americans, there is only one source of income — wages and salaries. [..]

One of the tricks that corporations use to batter down wages is to contract out work, so that the true employer is not accountable to its workforce. What is shocking is that the most influential employer that resorts to this device is none other than the federal government.

Howell Willaims:Brian Schweitzer’s ‘gay-dar’ did pick up on something about Southern men

There’s long legacy of effeminate men in the South – and particularly the lisping, land-owning lads of yore

Everyone from Adam Smith to Karl Marx agreed that, to be a man, hard work was required. Masculinity was – and still is – defined in part by one’s ability to work. Slave owners’ refusal to produce wealth with their own heads and hands made their virility somehow questionable. The image of the southern dandy with his silk hat and seersucker suit satisfied a populist imagination that viewed effete southern slave-owners with disdain.

Today, that effeminate southern dandy lives on, if in modified form. Cantor is only the most recent southern Republican to have his sexuality whispered about. Rumors have swirled around Texas Governor Rick Perry (which he’s denied), despite his recent comments that being gay is like being an alcoholic: you can put the habit down if you try hard enough (spoken like someone who’s in recovery). And South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has dealt with similar backbiting for years – most recently when a rival in the Republican primary called him “ambiguously gay” – despite hilariously-worded denials. Whether Perry or Graham are practicing homosexuals isn’t the point: accusing them of being gay is part of a long history of questioning the virility – and thereby the abilities – of southern men in positions of power.

The truth is, the image of the southern elite is kinda gay, and Schweitzer’s not a homophobe – he was just boning up on some good ol’-fashioned populist elite-hating. Good luck to him at besting Hillary, though – she’s spent a lot of time with powerful southern men herself.