David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and bestselling author whose recent work explores the causes and conditions of inequality in the United States. At the Syracuse University College of Law he’s a distinguished visiting lecturer, where he teaches the history of property, taxation, regulation, and commerce. He’s written a trilogy of books on our pro-corporate tax system; the most recent: The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind. He’s also editing the forthcoming book Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality and writes regular columns for Al Jazeera America, Tax Analysts, and a weekly piece for Newsweek.
Sep 05 2014
Sep 05 2014
“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: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ‘Disservice to Democracy’
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who has a huge war chest, is presumed to be far ahead in Tuesday’s Democratic primary race. That assumption, however, should not allow him to shrink from a debate with Zephyr Teachout, his gutsy opponent. Ms. Teachout, a Fordham University law professor, has already appeared alone on NY1 on Tuesday after Mr. Cuomo refused to participate in a debate. At Democratic clubs and other forums, the governor has avoided taking on his opponents, and, on Thursday, Ms. Teachout debated Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee, on WNYC – also minus the governor.
By not appearing with his challengers, Mr. Cuomo deprives voters of a vigorous discussion of state issues. When he was asked recently about whether refusing to debate shows disrespect for democracy, he scoffed at the idea. “I don’t think it has anything to do with democracy,” he said on Tuesday. In fact, he added, “I’ve been in many debates that I think were a disservice to democracy.”
Paul Krugman: The Deflation Caucus
On Thursday, the European Central Bank announced a series of new steps it was taking in an effort to boost Europe’s economy. There was a whiff of desperation about the announcement, which was reassuring. Europe, which is doing worse than it did in the 1930s, is clearly in the grip of a deflationary vortex, and it’s good to know that the central bank understands that. But its epiphany may have come too late. It’s far from clear that the measures now on the table will be strong enough to reverse the downward spiral.
And there but for the grace of Bernanke go we. Things in the United States are far from O.K., but we seem (at least for now) to have steered clear of the kind of trap facing Europe. Why? One answer is that the Federal Reserve started doing the right thing years ago, buying trillions of dollars’ worth of bonds in order to avoid the situation its European counterpart now faces
Talk about America’s decline is usually wrong. But how else would you describe a country that, in a world of exploding tensions, is unable to confirm dozens of ambassadors to foreign posts because of partisan squabbling?
Even by Washington standards, the Senate Republicans have hit a new low for hypocrisy. They denounce President Obama’s inaction on foreign policy – and simultaneously refuse to confirm his nominees for U.S. ambassadors to such hot spots as Turkey, on the front lines against the Islamic State, and Sierra Leone, epicenter of the Ebola outbreak.
Let’s say it plainly: This is how nations lose their power and influence, when they are unable to agree even on basic matters such as diplomatic representation. The decision-making system breaks down, and the public is too bored or disunited to take action. Sadly, that’s a snapshot of the United States in 2014.
In Idaho, where a controversial “ag-gag” bill was signed into law in February, things are only getting more secretive at factory farms. Earlier this week, AP obtained a copy of a confidential letter sent by a dairy industry group in the state to its member farmers. The letter urged farmers to deny interview requests from members of the media, and not to offer press tours on their farms.
The letter (see a copy here), sent by United Dairymen of Idaho chairs Tom Dorsey and Tony Vanderhulst, was received by 500 dairy farmers in the state. It noted an increase in media requests to film on farms after the passing of Idaho’s ag-gag bill, which banned journalists and whistleblowers from filming at factory farms and slaughterhouses. It recommended that farmers defer media requests to the organization instead of dealing with them on their own:
For protection of your farm and the Idaho dairy industry, we recommend that you coordinate any requests for television, print or radio interviews with the Idaho Dairymen’s Association or the Idaho Dairy Products Commission/United Dairymen of Idaho …”
It also provided four sample responses to deny journalists when asked for an interview or farm tour.
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Politicians Show Their Gratitude Where It Count$
There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart, a poet wrote, and as this year’s summer winds toward its end and elections approach, gratitude is indeed what our politicians have flowing from that space where their hearts should be.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is grateful to his friend Rick Anderson, the CEO of Delta Airlines. In late July, a week after McConnell treated him to breakfast in the Senate Dining Room, checks for McConnell’s super PAC came winging their way from Anderson and his wife, as well as Delta’s political action committee.
“This is the kind of rare access that most of us will never experience.” That’s Sheila Krumholz, executive director the Center for Responsive Politics, the campaign finance watchdog. She was talking to National Journal about Delta’s boss dining in first class with McConnell: “Who makes a good enough breakfast companion for a sitting senator in a highly competitive reelection campaign to take time out of their busy day? It never hurts if the person can follow up with a donation, and all the better if it can be a sizable one.”
Michael T. Klare: Oil Is Back!
A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America
Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you’d think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path. By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy. As it happens, the opposite is occurring. U.S. oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone — and, if current trends persist, it should rise again both this year and next. [..]
Accompanying all this is a little noticed but crucial shift in White House rhetoric. While President Obama once spoke of the necessity of eliminating our reliance on petroleum as a major source of energy, he now brags about rising U.S. oil output and touts his efforts to further boost production.
Just five years ago, few would have foreseen such a dramatic oil rebound. Many energy experts were then predicting an imminent “peak” in global oil production, followed by an irreversible decline in output. With supplies constantly shrinking, it was said, oil prices would skyrocket and consumers would turn to hybrid vehicles, electric cars, biofuels, and various transportation alternatives. New government policies would be devised to facilitate this shift, providing tax breaks and other incentives for making the switch to renewables.
Sep 05 2014
Iconic comedienne Joan Rivers passed away on Thursday, September 4, a week after suffering a cardiac arrest during an outpatient procedure at a private endoscopy clinic. She was 81 years old and had spent 50 years in show business.
In the almost 50 years since she burst onto the scene on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Rivers ascended to the pinnacle of American showbusiness – even as she skewered its excesses with her scathing wit.
A workaholic, Rivers had been hosting an online weekly talk show called In Bed with Joan, and had just filmed a special award-show episode of E!’s Fashion Police before being taken ill. She was frequently performing live stand-up, and had finished the fourth season of Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best, the reality show in which she starred with her daughter. [..]
Rivers never made a secret of the surgical procedures that significantly altered her looks. Instead, they became a source of material for her act. “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they’ll donate my body to Tupperware,” she once said.
Her daughter, Melissa, released this statement yesterday:
PHOTO: Statement from Melissa Rivers on Joan Rivers' death pic.twitter.com/4l06qk1J0l
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) September 4, 2014
In her 2012 best selling book, Ms. Rivers laid out the plans for her funeral.
When I die (and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything’s in your name), I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action . . . . I want craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing “Mr. Lonely.” I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyoncé’s.
Her funeral will be held Sunday in Manhattan at Temple Emmanual-El.
Sep 05 2014
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.
September 5 is the 248th day of the year (249th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 117 days remaining until the end of the year..
On this day in 1882, the first Labor Day was celebrated in NYC with a parade of 10,000 workers. The Parade started at City Hall, winding past the reviewing stands at Union Square and then uptown where it ended at 42nd St where the marcher’s and their families celebrated with a picnic, concert and speeches. The march was organized by New York’s Central Labor Union and while there has been debate as to who originated the idea, credit is given to Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.
It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date was chosen as Cleveland was concerned that aligning an American labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.