Jun 05 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering 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 “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Joseph Stiglitz: The climate crisis is our third world war. It needs a bold response

Critics of the Green New Deal ask if we can afford it. But we can’t afford not to: our civilisation is at stake

Advocates of the Green New Deal say there is great urgency in dealing with the climate crisis and highlight the scale and scope of what is required to combat it. They are right. They use the term “New Deal” to evoke the massive response by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the United States government to the Great Depression. An even better analogy would be the country’s mobilization to fight World War II.

Critics ask, “Can we afford it?” and complain that Green New Deal proponents confound the fight to preserve the planet, to which all right-minded individuals should agree, with a more controversial agenda for societal transformation. On both accounts the critics are wrong.

Yes, we can afford it, with the right fiscal policies and collective will. But more importantly, we must afford it. The climate emergency is our third world war. Our lives and civilization as we know it are at stake, just as they were in the second world war.

Kathleen Parker: Trump’s royal visit to the U.K. proves money can’t buy you class

If there was “great love all around” during President Trump’s state visit to Britain, as he tweeted Monday, the participants royal and decidedly otherwise were deceptively discreet.

From the coverage, one might have thought that Madame Tussauds had teamed up with George Lucas to create a charade parade of mechanized wax figures. What a crew of dour sourpusses they were.

But then, what would one expect when New York’s most famous hillbilly drags his entire entourage to sup at the sumptuous table of the queen of England as though word had leaked of an all-you-can-eat buffet and free booze over at Lizzie’s Eatery? Donald Trump may have plenty of dough and houses dripping with gold, but his money has that new smell, and his crass behavior is testament to the adage — and more recently Countess Luann de Lesseps’s song — “Money can’t buy you class.” To which I would only add, “honey.”

 Walter E. Block: Stop Trying to Make Coal Great Again

When it comes to coal, President Trump seems to care more about politics than free-market principles.

Should rowboats be made out of plastic, wood or metal? Should restaurants feature red, white, blue or no tablecloths at all? What proportion of loafers, sneakers, high heels and regular shoes should the footwear industry offer us?

For Republicans who favor free enterprise, the answer to all of these questions would be: Leave it to market forces. If, somehow, entrepreneurs get the proportions wrong, the profit and loss system can be relied upon to correct the imbalances. As a libertarian, anti-tax, anti-regulation, free-market economist, this is the approach I favor.

One would think that Republicans would apply this same logic to our fuel industry. In their view, government has a legitimate role to play in ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants or even windmills. But it should not favor, or oppose, nuclear power, gas, oil, coal, wind, water, solar, or any other source of energy over any other.

Why then does President Trump keep trying to prop up coal at the expense of alternative energy sources?

Charlie WarzeL: Why Does Google Know Everything You’ve Bought on Amazon for the Past Six Years?

Sometimes it’s worth pausing to ask the simplest questions.

Last month, CNBC reported on a page in Google’s account settings titled “Purchases” — a month-by-month list of items you’ve bought across online services like Amazon and other apps that are collected via Google services like Gmail.

It’s not quite fair to call the reveal of the Google Purchases page a scandal; the page is publicly accessible, and it’s not as if the company is illicitly purchasing the information — instead, it’s scanning your inbox and scraping information based on confirmation and purchase emails you directed to your Gmail account.

And yet, Purchases is a jarring example of how leaky our data really is and how large companies can aggregate that information unbeknown to the consumer. I, for one, was unaware that almost every concert ticket, Domino’s pizza and Amazon purchase (including a 2014 accidental purchase of the film “Tango & Cash”) was being logged by Google. Equally troubling: The purchases can’t easily be deleted from the page without also deleting the receipt emails from your Gmail account.

When I scanned my list I was struck by the length of the trail of information — more than six years of online purchases. The depth of that digital record reminded me of other reports of individuals downloading their data from Facebook and Google after 2018’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and despairing at the granular detail of the information collected. Every movement cataloged, analyzed and leveraged. But to what end?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Trump’s attack on working people demands a bold, progressive response

A recent cover of the Economist hails the “great jobs boom” across the developed world. Although President Trump claims credit for the good news, the reality is that the boom is global: Two-thirds of developed countries enjoy record high employment among those of working age. Yet even with the global economy at its best, it still doesn’t work for working people, particularly in the United States.

It’s true that the top-line unemployment rate in the United States — 3.6 percent — is the lowest in half a century (although distorted because labor force participation is still depressed) and wages finally have begun to stir. But Trump’s claim that his tax cuts and deregulation policies are the cause of this is laughable. Assessing the 2017 tax cuts, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service noted that gross domestic product growth in 2018 — 2.9 percent — was virtually the same as the Congressional Budget Office had projected without the tax cuts. Nor was there any “indication of a surge in wages.” Instead, there was — as critics predicted — a record $1 trillion in stock buybacks, as chief executives and investors pocketed the tax giveaways.

Similarly Trump’s deregulation boasts are also, not surprisingly, a stretch. A review by Rutgers University professor Stuart Shapiro concludes that it was “extremely unlikely” that Trump’s deregulation through his first year in office had “any appreciable effect on the economy.” In fact, the states and cities enjoying the greatest jobs boom are largely those in which labor market regulations — hikes in the minimum wage, guarantees of vacation or family leave time, crackdowns on wage theft and more — are proliferating.