Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Sunday Reading

Emerging Strategy for the DEMS; Karoli at Crooks and Liars, Dems Strategy on Extending Unemployment Insurance  Dems will leverage their votes to pass the Farm Bill for an extension of Unemployment . “Now that Congress is set to leave town even as unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans are set to expire just after Christmas, is there any chance that Democrats can still prevail on Republicans to agree to extend them? Dems who are pushing for an extension have hatched a new plan to do just that: Once Congress returns, they will refuse to support the reauthorization of the farm bill — which will almost certainly need Dem support to pass the House — unless Republicans agree to restart unemployment benefits with the farm bill’s savings.”  I guess two can play that game.

She Did It for the Kids. “Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Friday lashed out at critics who she said had accused her and Fox News of being racist because she insisted that Santa Claus and Jesus Christ had to be white men. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly said at the time. “But this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But Santa is what he is.

Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know?” she added. “I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa — I just want the kids watching to know that.” So is the verifiable fact both Jesus and Santa Claus are white men or historical figures? Megyn Kelly won’t back down   David’s Feed

PPACA Website Adventures: Next stop, the call center. I got the power cord to my phone, plugged it in along with my headphones so I could be hands-free, and started dialing. First try, I got the “call back later, we’re too busy” recording. So I waited awhile and tried again. Big mistake. I should have just kept dialing.

It took a total of nine tries to get into the queue, but I did finally hit the magic “Press 1 for English” message. I did so, and settled into the wait, hoping against all hope that I wouldn’t get dumped from the queue like I had on two other occasions.

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Who are these missing workers?

From author Heidi Shierholz at Economic Policy Institute:

A blog post by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in the Wall Street Journal highlights findings from a paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that much of the shrinking of the U.S. workforce has been due to workers retiring early…

I’ve looked at the breakdown by age of the 5.6 million “missing workers”—potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities in the aftermath of the Great Recession, are neither employed nor actively seeking work. More than three-quarters of missing workers are under age 55 and are therefore unlikely to be early retirees…

(Chart below the fold)

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‘Socialism’ is a rough proxy for interventionist government? REALLY, Thomas Edsall?

Obama argues that government action is required to redress the growing disparity between rich and poor, diminished opportunities for upward mobility and economic stagnation. Public opinion, at least according to the Stimson analysis, is moving in precisely the opposite direction. A 2011 Pew Research Center survey gives us a glimpse of some of the headwinds Obama faces. Pew found that among all voters, capitalism (a rough proxy for deregulated markets) is viewed favorably by a 50-40 margin and socialism (a rough proxy for interventionist government) negatively by 60-31.

Does Rising Inequality Make Us Hardhearted?, Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, today

Wow, whata surprise.  By a 50-40 margin, Americans polled by the Pew Research Center in 2011 preferred capitalism to socialism.

Excuse me, but, so what?

Folks, I’m really, really liberal on economics issues, but I am not nor have I ever been a Socialist or a supporter of actual socialism.  (I swear, Sen. McCarthy!)  My best guess is that that’s also true of a majority of, say, Swedes, Canadians and Germans.  As is reflected in their government’s policies. They hold liberal views on economic and fiscal policy.  They are not socialists.

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Five Hundred Writers Call for A Bill of Digital Rights

From Tom Stoppard to Eva Manasse writers around the world have called for an end of Internet spying. Following is their petition to the United Nations.

In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your email, your social networking and internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.

This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.

A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.

* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.

* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical triumphs, the presumption of innocence.

* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.

* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.

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The Third Way summary

It’s critical to understand that Third Way presents itself as “centrist” and a think tank:

thirdway
Third Way

Via Huffington Post Bill Black summarizes the profiles of the trustees:

Twenty of the twenty-nine trustees come from finance (counting the lawyer whose specialty is representing private equity firms). Their most common background is Mitt Romney’s — private equity — and hedge funds. The nine non-finance members include:

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Mainstream Journalism As Just Another “Ism.” (The fallacy of the belief that the modern mainstream media has actual standards)

(Reuters) – Employers tried the carrot, then a small stick. Now they are turning to bigger cudgels.

For years they encouraged workers to improve their health and productivity with free screenings, discounted gym memberships and gift cards to lose weight. More recently, a small number charged smokers slightly higher premiums to get them to quit.

Results for these plans were lackluster, and healthcare costs continued to soar. So companies are taking advantage of new rules under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul in 2014 to punish smokers and overweight workers.

–  How your company is watching your waistline, Kathleen Kingsbury, Reuters, Nov. 13, 2013

May I suggest that Ms. Kingsbury’s employer, Reuters, use a cudgel to get her and her editor to actually think about whether what they offer their news-media subscribers doesn’t contradict itself within the very same piece?  (Reuters is what was known for a century or so as a newswire service and is now just known as a news service; like the AP and UPI, it was historically, and now still mainly, a news-gathering service that publishes only through major-media outlets that subscribe to its services.  Such as Yahoo News, which is where I read it three weeks ago.  Thus, the reference to “their news-media subscribers.”  Okay, okay, I’m a journalism pedant.  I even know that Reuters is pronounced Royters, not Rooters, and that unlike AP and the old UPI it is a British import.  Thanks, Dad!)

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Deserving to be poor

Via Economist’s View, Paul Krugman notes a pattern in out post racial rhetoric:

So what’s this all about? One reason…, Daniel Little suggested in a recent essay, is market ideology: If the market is always right, then people who end up poor must deserve to be poor. I’d add that some leading Republicans are, in their minds, acting out adolescent libertarian fantasies. “It’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,”declared Paul Ryan in 2009.

But there’s also, as Mr. Little says, the stain that won’t go away: race.

In a much-cited recent memo, Democracy Corps … reported on the results of focus groups held with members of various Republican factions. They found the Republican base “very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority” — and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps Those People, not people like themselves, and binds the rising nonwhite population to the Democratic Party. And, yes, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks.

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