Ezra Klein on Vox Media

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Ezra Klein, Vox Media

Why hadn’t the Internet made the news better at delivering crucial context alongside new information? Read More

Nate Silver and the end of newspapers

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Nate Silver, New York Times

A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work Read More

Occupy Wall St is gaining traction: A Tea Party for the Left?

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We are the 99% Read More

The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher and post-punk

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This heaven gives me migraine Read More

London Burning, Punk Rock and a Tea Party dream come true

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Is this a fate that America wishes upon itself? Read More

A history of horse racing and our current political climate

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Politics and horse racing analogies Read More

Sarah Palin: Disrupting PR and News Cycles

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Giving credit to Palin for her disruption Read More

What else would $60 billion buy?

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I thought it was worth a cut and paste of this article from David Leonhardt, author of the Economix blog for the New York Times.

One doesn’t have to choose political sides in the ongoing debate about the ‘Bush tax cuts’ to see that by extending the tax cuts for those whose incomes are above what one might call a middle class income will create an even larger deficit. An additional $600 billion over ten years. Here’s Leonhardt’s list of what $60 billion could buy us each year if we didn’t give it away to the rich. It appears to be a no-brainer that we could put people to work and help the economy:

$60 Billion: The approximate amount that extending the Bush tax cuts on income above $250,000 a year — which Congress seems on the verge of doing — will cost a year, in inflation-adjusted terms. On average, the affluent households that benefit from these cuts will save $25,000 annually. What else might that $60 billion a year buy?

Economix Blog: More on the Numbers

• As much deficit reduction as the elimination of earmarks, President Obama’s proposed federal pay freeze, a 10 percent cut in the federal work force and a 50 percent cut in foreign aid — combined.

• A tripling of federal funding for medical research.

• Universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, with relatively small class sizes.

• A much larger troop surge in Afghanistan, raising spending by 60 percent from current levels.

• A national infrastructure program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, mass transit, water systems and levees.

• A 15 percent cut in corporate taxes.

• Twice as much money for clean-energy research as suggested by a recent bipartisan plan.

• Free college, including room and board, for about half of all full-time students, at both four- and two-year colleges.

• A $500 tax cut for all households.

Some much needed good news

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Chile Mine Rescue
President Sebastian Pinera of Chile hugged Florencio Avalos after he was rescued from the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile

It’s still early right now, 2:10 AM in Chile, where as I write 4 miners have been rescued from the tomb that they have endured for the last 68 days. Hopefully as the long night progresses, all of them, along with the rescuers who bravely descended more than half a mile down into the mine to facilitate their rescue, will return safely to their loved ones.

This episode has transfixed millions of people across the globe and hopefully it ends well. The Chilean government, rightfully, should accept the praise of nations and their citizens, for refusing to buckle to the technological hardships or the cost of rescuing these men.

Americans can look to Chile and the national pride that emanates from these efforts, devoid of partisan politics and roadblocks, and consider what “big” government really means – having the money, the will, and the resources to get things done.

The end of decency – in search of a civil society

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The End of Decency

I was reading Matt Bai’s article in his political column in the NY Times yesterday, Voter Disgust Isn’t Only About Issues, and found myself realizing that although the article was ostensibly about the Tea Party and their complaints with politicians of all stripes, it was in fact a discourse on the lack of decency in the world today.

Usually in election periods consultants rush out and beat the bushes looking for voters who are leaning one way or the other, especially in a period such as this one, where election races are tight. It turns out that in the mid-term elections this year, voters are not acting out their assigned roles. They are concerned about a lot more than who will win a seat in Congress.

They are worrying about the larger breakdown of civil society.

Bai writes about three consultants who are taking a different approach to checking the pulse of the nation this year, and the results they report will only come as a surprise to anyone who has been living under a rock for the last few years:

“..three New York consultants who specialize in corporate marketing, taking on tasks like predicting the behavior of shoppers in supermarkets, have been experimenting with a different approach. The three — Jeff Levine, a pollster who has worked for Democratic candidates, and the marketing consultants Claire Tondreau and Christopher Brace — have been convening small groups of self-identified independent voters who are friends or relatives of one another for focus groups in a participant’s living room.

No campaign or client is sponsoring the research, and no one is looking to “move” the voters with slogans or ad scripts. In fact, very little, if anything, is even mentioned about partisan politics. Instead, the facilitator asks the half-dozen or so voters to invent their own countries and to compare their idealized versions with the country they actually live in.

The focus group that met here in New Jersey on Monday included a bartender, a lawyer and a school bus driver. The dominant theme of the discussion, in which jobs and taxes came up only in passing, seemed to be the larger breakdown of civil society — the disappearance of common courtesy, the relentless stream of data from digital devices, the proliferation of lawsuits and the insidious influence of media on their children.

These voters did not hate politicians. They simply saw both parties, along with the news media and big business, as symptoms of the larger societal ailment.”

I believe we are all very aware of how personal responsibility, common decency and civic behavior have all taken a back seat to boorishness, vicious baiting, road rage and hostility. It is almost impossible these days to have a reasonable debate, either in person or online, without the debate devolving into a cavalcade of name calling and back biting.

I have an acronym for this attitude – MITY – pronounce it Mighty, and it stands for More Important Than You. You should try it on for size. Next time you are in a debate or discussion that you are struggling to win [because it's all about winning, right? Not achieving consensus,] try calling your opponent [because it's a fight,] a moron, or a bully, or “not worthy of my time you imbecile…” It works every time. You end up the winner without fail. You can wear your MITY badge with pride.

Here’s some examples of MITY folks in action:

The Prius drivers who tailgate me all the way from my home as I drive at only 5mph more than the speed limit, until the first red light, where they can pull along side and scowl at me, then floor it when the light turns green. They are MITY.

Better yet, those Portland drivers who are above the law that disallows talking or texting on your mobile while driving. They do it anyway, because never mind the danger to bicyclists, pedestrians and other drivers – they are MITY.

Yes, I’m being facetious here, but the breakdown begins at a very granular level. If the traffic cops are not going to enforce the laws that apply to tailgating, speeding and talking on a mobile while driving, then everyone who gets away with that behavior will take their MITY act to the next level.

What message is a parent sending to their teenagers in the car when they break the law in front of them? Personal responsibility does not include “getting away with it.”

From politicians on down, and especially through today’s cable TV shows, normal discourse has been abandoned. When there is no respect for the President of the USA, what hope is there for everyone else?

Here are three disparate examples of stories I came across in the news just today. In order of appearance they move from a fairly benign take on society and parental responsibilty, to a sad reflection on race in America today, to the outright horror and despicableness depicted on a TV show. Read on and make up your own mind:

Noisy kids: Where should the line be drawn? – The Guardian
The Seat Not Taken – John Edgar Wideman, a black American on the empty seat beside him as he commutes by train.
Mother Told Live On Italian TV of Her Daughter’s Murder – This takes things beyond the pale..

This is everyone’s fault. We are responsible and can take steps to change it. It’s not hyperbole to say that the future of a decent society demands it.

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