06/04/2015 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: The Federal Reserve Board’s Payroll Tax on our Children

The deficit hawks appear to be making a comeback, at least in the media, if not among the public at large. This isn’t surprising since we have billionaires prepared to spend large chunks of their money to scare people about the deficit, regardless of how unimportant it might be as an economic concern.

The latest storyline is that the deficit may not be a problem now, but it is projected to grow in size over the next decade. In particular, as interest rates rise we will be forced to divert an increasing portion of government spending to interest payments and away from things we might really care about like improving infrastructure and education.

There are many things wrong with this analysis, most obviously that even if interest payments rise as projected, relative to the size of the economy they will still be less in 2025 than they were in the early 1990s. And the interest burden in 1990s didn’t prevent us from having a decade that ended with four years of broadly shared wage growth and low unemployment. So the horror story here doesn’t look quite so frightening.

Trevor Timm: Snowden’s leaks forced NSA reform on Congress. The US would still jail him

The catalyst for Congress’ historic vote on NSA reform on Tuesday – the same person who led to a federal court to rule that NSA mass surveillance of Americans was illegal – remains exiled from the United States and faces decades in jail. The crime he’s accused of? Telling the American public the very truth that forced Congress to restrict, rather than expand, the spy agency’s power for the first time in over forty years.

The passage of the USA Freedom Act is quite simply a vindication of Edward Snowdenand it’s not just civil libertarians who have noticed: he’s forced even some of the most establishment-friendly commentators to change their opinions of his actions. But it’s a shame that almost everyone nonetheless ignores the oppressive law under which Snowden was charged or the US government’s outrageous position in his case: that if he were to stand trial, he could not tell the jury what his whistleblowing has accomplished.

The White House told reporters on Thursday that, despite the imminent passage of NSA reform, they still believe Edward Snowden still belongs in prison (presumably for life, given his potential charges), while at the same time, brazenly taking credit for the USA Freedom Act passing, saying that “historians” would consider it part of Obama’s “legacy.” Hopefully historians will also remember, as Ryan Lizza adeptly documented in the New Yorker, that Obama was handed every opportunity to reform the NSA before Edward Snowden, yet behind the scenes repeatedly refused to do so. Instead, the Obama administration was dragged kicking and screaming across the finish line by Snowden’s disclosures, all while engaging in fear-mongering that would make Dick Cheney proud.

Rashad Robinson: The US government could count those killed by police, but it’s chosen not to

For centuries, black communities in America have faced physical abuse and unjustified deadly force at the hands of law enforcement. Modern policing even originated in slave patrols and night watches that captured people who tried to escape slavery. According to the most recent FBI data, local police kill black people at nearly the same rate as people lynched in the Jim Crow-era – at least two times a week. The Guardian’s latest count for the first five months of 2015 puts that number at around once per day.

But the verifiable impact on black lives of racially discriminatory policing remains largely unknown. Despite federal law authorizing the US attorney general to collect nationwide data on police use of force, there remains no federal database on how often police kill civilians, let alone abuse their authority.

According to Guardian’s The Counted, police killed 464 people in the first 5 months of 2015, including 135 black people. Their data shows that, in 2015 so far, the black people killed by the police are twice as likely to be unarmed as the white people. According to a recent Washington Post analysis, at this rate, police will fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people by the end of year. The federal government has no way to confirm or disprove this data, though they’ve long had the authority to compile it themselves.

Leo W. Gerard: Trade Enforcement Failure

It’s all the rage now for Republican presidential candidates to spurn the Royal Romney approach and, instead, fawn over workers.

When former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum announced his presidential bid last week, he did it from a factory floor and called for increasing the minimum wage. Former New York Gov. George Pataki, who also launched his candidacy last week, named as his political inspiration Teddy Roosevelt, a corporate trust-buster and working-class hero. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who entered the race in April, said that to win elections, “you’ve got to get the people who work for the people who own businesses.”

That is true – if the businesses are in America. There’s not much point in American candidates soliciting votes from workers at factories that U.S. corporations closed here and moved overseas with the help of free-trade agreements (FTAs). Decade after decade of free trade, presidents promised workers that the deals set the highest standards for labor. And decade after decade, the federal government failed at enforcement, placing Americans in competition with child laborers, underpaid and overburdened foreign workers and victims of human trafficking.

Robert Reich: Ten Ways To Make The Economy Work For The Many, Not The Few: #7 Strengthen Unions And Preempt States “Right To Work” Laws

One big reason America was far more equal in the 1950s and 1960s than now is unions were stronger then. That gave workers bargaining power to get a fair share of the economy’s gains – and unions helped improve wages and working conditions for everyone.

But as union membership has weakened – from more than a third of all private-sector workers belonging unions in the 1950s to fewer than 7 percent today – the bargaining power of average workers has all but disappeared.

In fact, the decline of the American middle class mirrors almost exactly the decline of American labor union membership.

So how do we strengthen unions?

John Nichols: 2 Million Americans Petition Congress to Reject Fast Track

There are a lot of reasons Americans, even Americans who are generally supportive of President Obama, don’t want Congress to grant him Trade Promotion Authority to “fast-track” negotiations and the approval process for a sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. For instance, the president wants Congress to surrender its ability to make amendments to this deal and to agreements negotiated by the next president-even amendments that seek to lock in protections for labor rights, human rights, and the environment. The administration wants Congress to give up its power to hold a meaningful debate before voting on this and future deals. Yet, even as it seeks fast-track authority, the administration refuses to share the details of the agreement as it now stands with Congress.

Presidents always seek maximum flexibility.

But Congress does not have to grant it.

The Senate has, after a good deal of wrangling, bent to the White House’s fast-track demand. But the House, where trade debates are always more intense, could still say “no.”

Revelations about what’s being proposed in global-trade negotiations point to why this is the wrong time for Congress to surrender oversight authority.

On This Day In History June 4

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 4 is the 155th day of the year (156th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 210 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1919, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

The Nineteenth Amendment‘s text was drafted by Susan B. Anthony with the assistance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The proposed amendment was first introduced in the U.S. Senate colloquially as the “Anthony Amendment”, by Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California. Sargent, who had met and befriended Anthony on a train ride in 1872, was a dedicated women’s suffrage advocate. He had frequently attempted to insert women’s suffrage provisions into unrelated bills, but did not formally introduce a constitutional amendment until January 1878. Stanton and other women testified before the Senate in support of the amendment. The proposal sat in a committee until it was considered by the full Senate and rejected in a 16 to 34 vote in 1887.

A three-decade period known as “the doldrums” followed, during which the amendment was not considered by Congress and the women’s suffrage movement achieved few victories. During this period, the suffragists pressed for the right to vote in the laws of individual states and territories while retaining the goal of federal recognition. A flurry of activity began in 1910 and 1911 with surprise successes in Washington and California. Over the next few years, most western states passed legislation or voter referenda enacting full or partial suffrage for women. These successes were linked to the 1912 election, which saw the rise of the Progressive and Socialist parties, as well as the election of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Not until 1914 was the constitutional amendment again considered by the Senate, where it was again rejected.

On January 12, 1915, a proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for women’s suffrage was brought before the House of Representatives, but was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174. Another proposal was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. During the previous evening, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the amendment. It was passed by the required two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Wilson again made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the proposal fell two votes short of passage. On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon and failed by only one vote.

There was considerable desire among politicians of both parties to have the proposal made part of the Constitution before the 1920 general elections, so the President called a special session of the Congress so the proposal would be brought before the House again. On May 21, 1919, it passed the House, 42 votes more than necessary being obtained. On June 4, 1919, it was brought before the Senate and, after a long discussion, it was passed with 56 ayes and 25 nays. Within a few days, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan ratified the amendment, their legislatures being in session. Other states followed suit at a regular pace, until the amendment had been ratified by 35 of the necessary 36 state legislatures. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee narrowly approved the Nineteenth Amendment, with 50 of 99 members of the Tennessee House of Representatives voting yes. This provided the final ratification necessary to enact the amendment.

Class Is A Civil Rights Issue

Black America is getting screwed: Shocking new study highlights the depths of economic disparities

by David Dayen, Salon

Tuesday, Jun 2, 2015 05:59 AM EST

Before being assassinated, Martin Luther King envisioned a Poor People’s Campaign descending on Washington to demand better education, jobs and social insurance. He saw it as an extension of his work on civil rights, equal in importance and scope. In “a nation gorged on money while millions of its citizens are denied a good education, adequate health services, meaningful employment, and even respect,” King wrote in announcing the Poor People’s Campaign, “all of us can almost feel the presence of a kind of social insanity which could lead to national ruin.”

The report, released today by the think tank Demos and the NAACP, focuses on African-American and Latino workers in the retail industry. While we’re supposed to believe that e-commerce and Amazon’s dominance has destroyed retail, the industry is actually the fastest growing in America, representing one out of every six new jobs in the economy last year. And while low wages and occupational hazards define retail work generally, that experience is even worse for people of color.

According to the Demos/NAACP study, black retail workers are nearly twice as likely to be living below the poverty line as the overall workforce. African-Americans and Latinos have fewer supervisory roles in retail relative to white counterparts, and more low-paid cashier positions. Among retail workers of color, there are more involuntary part-time employees, who want more hours but cannot receive them. And Black and Latino workers make less than their similarly situated colleagues – 75 percent of the average wage of a retail salesperson, and 90 percent of the average wage of a cashier, for example.

This isn’t all that different from the broader labor force, and it suggests a racial gap that resembles the gender gap on wages and opportunity – and is far worse when it comes to unemployment. Men and women are unemployed at the same rate, but African-Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed. It’s happening despite statutes like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, intended to make racial discrimination on the job illegal. Yet despite recent high-profile racial discrimination settlements with major retailers like Walgreen, Walmart and Wet Seal, economic results for people of color remain weak. Median black family income is actually less than it was relative to white families 50 years ago, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The report’s authors chalk this up partially to issues with the retail industry overall, which does not deliver its workers the financial benefits of their productivity. But black and Latino workers find themselves even more squeezed. They are occupationally segregated into the lowest-wage positions in retail: cashiers and salespersons. These jobs are often not full-time (the average retail employee works only 31 hours a week), and involve unpredictable “just-in-time scheduling,” where a worker can be sent home from their shift if business lags, or told not to come in on a moment’s notice. Erratic week-to-week work schedules make it nearly impossible to manage a personal budget or secure childcare.

In addition, the high degree of unemployment in communities of color gives them less power to bargain for better wages. As a result, Black and Latino retail workers are paid less for the same work, translating to $1,850 a year in lost earnings for a full-time cashier, or $7,500 for a full-time salesperson. Seventy percent of retail workers of color make under $15 an hour, the threshold that the Fight for 15 movement considers a living wage.

Workers also need reliable hours and the ability to collectively bargain, and should be able to receive full-time work if they want it, the report adds. These changes would almost entirely close the retail wage gap between white workers and workers of color, bringing millions of families out of poverty.

The racial wage, employment and opportunity gap erodes the basic respect for black and Latino families. It’s as much a problem on the job as it is in the streets, even if it’s carried out in a less violent manner. The nation doesn’t talk about this enough; there’s no “Equal Pay Day” for African-Americans and Latinos. But there’s a civil rights movement that can insist that earning enough money to support a family represents a basic fight for justice. The more that’s denied, the more it will be delayed.

The Breakfast Club (On The Road Pt. 1)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgI will be busy this weekend visiting relatives and TMC will be out of town also.  Normally (and I’m not bragging or wanting anyone to feel bad about their contribution) these take me from 3 to 4 hours to do, exclusive of the time spent reading to find the material.

What takes the time is writing the front part (sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on the depth of treatment) and expanding the news stories with quotes (always a slog and terrifically time consuming).

Anyway, while I’m on the road I’m dispensing with the tricky and time consuming (and amusing and informative I hope) bits and formating everything as blog posts (title, author, publication) which will save a ton of time better spent on napping or socializing with people who already think I’m a driven eccentric (which is of course, true).

I apologize to you dear reader for this blatant disregard of your needs and feelings and can only promise that I shall return from this exhausted and cranky (I shall be dealing with children and I like them just fine if properly prepared), and resume my normal sub-standard output as soon as I can decently get away with it.

Science Oriented Video

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)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Sookie St. James)


You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.

Tonightly’s panel is Dan St. Germain, Jo Koy, and Kristina Wong.  Topics?  We don’t need no stinking topics, but it might be about The whitewashing of Allison Ng.


The Definition of Insanity

This week’s guests-

Melissa McCarthy is  probably on to talk about her new film Spy, but she recently had an encounter with a critic who was hung up on her appearance-

“Would you do this to a man?”: Melissa McCarthy destroys sexist reporter who called her “hideous”

by Colin Gorenstein, Salon

Thursday, May 21, 2015 05:02 PM EST

Turning the tables on the reporter, McCarthy asked him, “Would you do that to a man?”

McCarthy then dug into the reporter’s personal life, asking if he had children or, God-forbid, a daughter. How would you feel if your daughter came home one day saying that she didn’t get a job because she was considered unattractive, the actress urged the reporter to consider. That’s when McCarthy said she saw a look of recognition flash across his face.

“I said, ‘Just know every time you write stuff, every young girl in this country reads that and they just get a little bit chipped away,'” she said. “I just think we tear down women in this country for all of these superficial reasons and women are so great and strong. And I really think he heard that. The writer was really loving and you could tell he was a loving father. I think that it’s a bad habit that we’ve gotten into, and it’s not that people are malicious. I just think it’s so easy to take a swipe. Just go the other way; build it up.”

Bill de Blasio’s 2 part web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.