Monday Reads

dog fetching paperGood Morning!

I’ve got some interesting things for you to watch and read today.  The first is a show with Bill Moyers on Big Media’s Power Play.  It includes comments by Senator Bernie Sanders and a former Republican Congressman of the old school sort’ve conserative who thinks today’s Republican party is not “rational” or “adult”.

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled a majority of American media. Now that number is six. And Big Media may get even bigger, thanks to the FCC’s consideration of ending a rule preventing companies from owning a newspaper and radio and TV stations in the same city. Such a move — which they’ve tried in 2003 and 2007 as well –would give these massive media companies free rein to devour more of the competition, control the public message, and also limit diversity across the media landscape. Bernie Sanders, one of several Senators who have written FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking him to suspend the plan, discusses with Bill why Big Media is a threat to democracy, and what citizens can do to fight back.

Also on the show, Bill is joined by former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards, a founding father of modern conservative politics who now fears the movement has abandoned its principles. Edwards explains why both political parties require radical change, and shares his perspective on Grover Norquist and anti-tax pledges. “It’s not conservatism, not rational, not adult,” Edwards tells Bill. ” It’s a 12-year-old’s kind of thinking.” Edwards chaired the Republican Policy Committee, was a founding trustee of the conservative Heritage Foundation, and served as National Chairman of the American Conservative Union.

The next suggestion is an article and series of pictures call “Going Souterrain” from The Economist in its December Intelligent Life Feature.  The article provides a narrative of a repeat adventure into the massive caverns, catacombs, and basements of old Paris.

SOME YEARS AGO, I sat on a stone-cut bench in a dark chamber in the catacombs of Paris wearing a headlamp and muddied boots, and listened to the strange story of Félix Nadar, the first man to photograph the underground of Paris. In 1861, Nadar invented a battery-operated flash lamp, one of the first artificial lights in the history of photography, and promptly brought his camera into Paris’s sewers and catacombs. Over three months, Nadar—41, moustachioed, with unruly red hair—shot in the darkness beneath the streets. He used 18-minute exposures and, as models, wooden mannequins dressed in the garb of city workers. On the surface, the images of dim, claustrophobic passageways created a stir. Parisians had heard of the vast subterranean networks underlying their streets and Nadar brought this dark lattice to light. The pictures opened up Paris’s relationship to its subterranean spaces—catacombs and crypts, sewers and canals, reservoirs and utility tunnels—a connection which, over the years, has grown deeper and more peculiar than in any other city. catacombs

Now, a century and a half behind Nadar, I am back in Paris with a group of urban explorers. Our aim is to examine the city’s connection to its underground in a way no one has before: we will attempt to walk from the southern edge to the northern, using only catacombs, telecom tunnels, sewers and other hidden infrastructure. It is a 14-mile trek, every step illegal. The six of us—five Americans and an Australian—are prepared for a two- or three-day journey, with nights sleeping in the bowels of Paris. We have packed food, sleeping bags, an arsenal of flashlights and headlamps, and gas meters to alert us to any poisonous fumes in the sewers. It will be urban troglodytism, a walkabout in the wilderness under the city.

You can also find some more fascinating photos from this National Geographic photo essay of the Paris Catacombs.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspects have never looked better but is she willing to take it on again?  There was speculation from James Carville on ABC’s Sunday Show and a big article in the NYT.  First off , Carville’s take on the how popular the SOS with Democrats.

With Clinton’s popularity across the board surging in the four years after her first run for the presidency, Carville says that the consensus among Democrats is that Hillary Clinton would give the party its best chance to win.

“I don’t know what she’s going to do, but I do know this:  The Democrats want her to run.  And I don’t just mean a lot of Democrats.  I mean a whole lot of Democrats, like 90 percent across the country,” Carville said. “We just want to win.  We think she’s the best person and shut it down.  And that’s across the board.”

But Republican political adviser – and Carville’s wife- Mary Matalin said it’s unlikely the Secretary of State would be able to clear the field.

“I wish she would run. But it defies human nature to think that Democrats, even though they are redistributionist and utopians, would not be competitive, that [Virginia Senator Mark] Warner or all these other Democrats who’ve been waiting in the wings are going to have a dynasty, since Democrats are always complaining about these dynasties, they’re going to have another Clinton step up, and everyone’s going to go, yeah, step back?  I don’t think so,” Matalin said.

Jodi Cantor’s take at the NYT is a bit more studied.

Ann Lewis, a longtime adviser, echoed that. “In the last four years, she has seen firsthand the difference she can make for women and girls,” she said.

But even if Mrs. Clinton returns full time to her activist feminist roots, it is not yet clear exactly where she would begin: the topic is diffuse by its very nature. Nor is a campaign for, say, safer cookstoves in China the obvious way to win over voters in Iowa — and her work could touch on issues, including reproductive health, that could prove sensitive.

But former aides say that Mrs. Clinton drew a lesson from her 2008 run: she believes that the country approves of her, and of female candidates in general, when they appear to be serving others rather than seeking power out of personal ambition. By that logic, Mrs. Clinton’s interest in helping poor women around the world would not hurt her politically in 2016 and might add to her current politician-above-politics luster.

Her former aides also agree that she was too cautious in the early months of her last campaign and hurt herself by hiding her real passions. Regardless of whether she runs, telling Mrs. Clinton not to focus on women would be like “telling Al Gore not to talk about the environment,” said Paul Begala, a longtime adviser to Mr. Clinton. (Mr. Gore did not always emphasize his knowledge on the subject in 2000, which later looked unwise.)

Today is Human Rights Day all over the world.

Sixty-four years ago today, on December 10, 1948, the world came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In the UDHR, the United States and governments from around the globe recognized that human beings are, by virtue of their birth, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that these serve as “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Today, we affirm this commitment and look to the Universal Declaration not just as a reminder of values, but as a guide for action.

Last Thursday in Dublin, Secretary Clinton emphasized the important role that human rights has played and will continue to play in our foreign policy. As she said, “Human rights cannot be disconnected from other priorities. They are inextricably linked with all of the goals we strive for in our countries and around the world.” Regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability, all people deserve the freedom to pursue happiness and fulfillment, to speak openly, to come together with others and organize peacefully, to believe and worship as they see fit, and to participate fully in the public life of society with confidence in the rule of law. In upholding and advancing these freedoms, we live up to our values, we honor our international commitments, and we create an environment for every individual to reach their full potential.

Paul Krugman writes today of the robber barons and stealing resources from our country.  Corporate profits have never been higher but more people in the US are falling out of the middle class and into financial trouble.   Krugman continues to discuss the problem of income inequality and plutocratic piracy.  He also discusses the increased role of technology in modern business.  What role do all of these things have in collapsing the income of the American Worker?

What about robber barons? We don’t talk much about monopoly power these days; antitrust enforcement largely collapsed during the Reagan years and has never really recovered. Yet Barry Lynn and Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation argue, persuasively in my view, that increasing business concentration could be an important factor in stagnating demand for labor, as corporations use their growing monopoly power to raise prices without passing the gains on to their employees.

I don’t know how much of the devaluation of labor either technology or monopoly explains, in part because there has been so little discussion of what’s going on. I think it’s fair to say that the shift of income from labor to capital has not yet made it into our national discourse.

Yet that shift is happening — and it has major implications. For example, there is a big, lavishly financed push to reduce corporate tax rates; is this really what we want to be doing at a time when profits are surging at workers’ expense? Or what about the push to reduce or eliminate inheritance taxes; if we’re moving back to a world in which financial capital, not skill or education, determines income, do we really want to make it even easier to inherit wealth?

So, there are some things to think on today.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?



22 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    I swear these “robber barons” of Wall Street spent too much time in their youth playing “Monopoly”. They seem to be acting that the wealth of the nation belongs soley to them.

    One question that still has to be answered is how, if the average worker is reduced to low wages, no health insurance, and the inability to “bargain” for his rightful place in the workforce, can these “greedy guts” expect to produce goods and services that few can manage to afford?

    It seems that nothing is ever enough for these greedy bastards. If low wages, no benefits, and the elimination of collective bargaining is their way of creating a future of prosperity they have been reading the wrong stats.

    Without people spending money there is little incentive to “create jobs” to meet the demand and the shelves will remain full because few can afford to buy their products.

    Their reasoning makes no sense.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Jodi Cantor is such a hack. Safer cookstoves in China? WTF! I think it’s more likely Hillary would keep working on issues like human trafficking.

    • dakinikat says:

      I think the minute you spend time in the beltway you become a shallow person. I must have something to do with all that shallow water surrounding the city.

    • NW Luna says:

      Matalin and Cantor are very shallow thinkers.

      Reproductive health issues as “sensitive”? We saw what happened to (most) Republicans on that issue last election. Hillary’s work to ensure reproductive health rights for women will only help her.

      Safer cookstoves = better health for women and children who no longer breath toxic fumes. Better for the environment since fuel efficiency is improved; less deforestation and less soil erosion. Hillary sees how ostensibly tiny or disparate issues come together to influence living conditions.

      We should be so lucky to have Hillary run in 2016. I won’t hold my breath. She well deserves to do whatever she wants.

  3. Allie says:

    This statement is interesting to me:

    “…I don’t know how much of the devaluation of labor either technology or monopoly explains, in part because there has been so little discussion of what’s going on. I think it’s fair to say that the shift of income from labor to capital has not yet made it into our national discourse.

    Since I entered the workforce in the mid-70s – first at entry-level clerical work and then slowly into modest income range – my experience has been that companies used to give pretty good raises back in the day, sometimes in the 10% range and regularly. Then in the early 90s, corporate bean-counters decided raises should be 2 – 3% and that’s what corporate America did to everyone. Now they don’t even give raises yearly. I’ve suffered several years of corporate wage freezes and one across-the-board 5% cut! That was right before the CEO flipped the company and left with 14MIL in his pocket. The raises I get now are 2% or below. I’ve been with the same trans-national company 14 years and technology has only helped me increase my skills.

    I think that is fairly typical, too. But no discussion despite the fact it started over 20 years ago. Do journalists today have any sense of that history, or are they just ignoring it.

    P.S. I actually like my employer although it’s part of the dreaded Blackstone group.

    • janicen says:

      I entered the workforce at around the same time as you but my experience was different. I didn’t see any generosity or consideration from employers until around ’95 or ’96. Then it seemed the floodgates opened and employers were throwing raises, stock options, and benefits at my husband and me. It only lasted until the second Bush administration and then things all turned to sh!t.

      • dakinikat says:

        People like Mitt Romney changed the game. It became all about slash and burn. His form of vulture capitalism really did a way with providing benefits to any one but the executive suite denizens. They are ‘talent’. Every one else is interchangeable with their office machines.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s a very important response to the baby boomer bashing from Dean Baker.

    One of themes that recurs endlessly in news coverage is that the United States and other countries face a disastrous threat to their living standards as a result of a falling ratio of workers to retirees. This is one that can be easily dismissed with some simple arithmetic.

    A falling ratio of workers to retirees means that a larger chunk of what each worker produces must be put aside to a support the retired population. (Btw, this is true regardless of whether or not we have a Social Security or Medicare system. The only issue is whether retirees are able to maintain something resembling normal living standards.) However, that does not imply that the working population must see a drop in their living standards.

    Fans of arithmetic might note that the ratio of workers to retirees fell from 5 to 1 in the early sixties to 3 to 1 in the early 90s. This sharp drop in the ratio of workers to retirees did not prevent both workers and retirees from enjoying substantial improvements in living standards over this period. The reason is that productivity growth, what each workers produces in an hour of work, swamped the impact of a falling ratio of workers to retirees.

    That will also be the case as the ratio of workers to retirees falls from the current 3 to 1 to a bit under 2 to 1 over the next 23 years under any plausible assumption about productivity growth. The chart below compares the impact of the decline in the ratio of workers to retirees in reducing the living standards with the impact of productivity growth in raising living standards, assuming that the average retiree consumes 85 percent as much as the average worker.

    • RalphB says:

      Dean Baker hits the nail on the head. The shift of so much income from the bottom to the top ranks may be our biggest problem as a country.

    • NW Luna says:

      Productivity keeps growing. But what do the workers get for their increased productivity?

      Stupid question. /s

  5. RalphB says:

    Driftglass actually gives Charles Pierce serious competition in a Sunday talking head post today 🙂

    Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

    But the shambling, rambling, embarrassing remains of George Will seems positively sizzling with vitality and brio compared to Zombie Mary Matalin. I tell you, it is downright creepy to watch the woman who James Carville hired to breed him a passel of snake-headed swamp babies continue to work her waxy face hole and snap and snarl and bite long after her soul and ideas have died and purified and drooled out her eyes.

    A season of “The Living Dead” had girded me for such an experience, but I wanted to Tweet Dr. Krugman that all chunks he was carving out of her would do no good: to turn a Walker like Matalin into a harmless pile of chip-chop, nothing short of a snow shovel to the brain stem will do.

    • dakinikat says:

      I cannot for the life of me figure out why Matalin is relevant any more. The only thing I can see that she still holds is a relationship with the Cheney clan which is really a zombie cult.

      • RalphB says:

        She’s not only not relevant, she’s really only a low class attack dog for the right. Having her on automatically makes any program stupider.

  6. I’ve got something for you Dak, Polish archaeologists find unknown tomb in Egypt | Medieval News

    The discovery was made at the historic necropolis of Saqqara, which had functioned as a burial ground for the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

    Archaeologists had been carrying out excavations at the tomb of a dignitary named Ichi, who served at the court of Pharaoh Pepi over 4000 years ago.

    The newly discovered tomb, which is connected to that of Ichi, lies within an area referred to as “the Dry Moat.”

    Click here to read this article from TheNews.Pl

  7. NW Luna says:

    Sunday, yesterday, was the first day possible to marry with a license received on the first day they were issued after Marriage Equality passed in Washington state.

    My local newsblog ran some pics of some local happy newlyweds here. One of the brides is Jessica (who was my realtor, if you ever need to buy a house in Seattle). Warning: You may need kleenex. Story has links to other great pics, too.

    Wishing all the married couples much happiness!