Monday, May 30, 2011

Democratic Left Roundup: Economics Edition

Matthew Forstater, The Freedom Budget at 45 Levy Institute (PDF)

Discusses the Freedom Budget and its continuing relevance and presents a functional finance primer.
allowing the U.S. to default on its debt would have widespread consequences for the U.S. and world economies, including potentially pushing the U.S. back into a recession or, in the words of Princeton Professor Alan Blinder, “reignit[ing] the world financial crisis.” And as the Wall Street Journal noted today, failure to raise the debt ceiling would force draconian spending cuts that would wipe out all of the anticipated 2011 economic growth in just 95 days
“Exiting from the Crisis: Towards a Model of More Equitable and Sustainable Growth” is a new book (over 270 pages) now available on line.

This volume of essays from global trade union leaders and economists is the product of the Global Unions Taskforce on a New Growth Model, a joint project of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Global Union Research Network (GURN).

The task force involved more than 30 global trade union economists .... from a wide array of advanced, emerging and developing countries. The report includes a Preface by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, and fills a long-standing need to set out the global labour movements economic alternatives in a systematic fashion.
William K Black on cost-benefit analysis and Mitch Daniels on the New Economic Perspectives from Kansas City blog

Daniels warmed up his global warming denial audience (pun intended) with this joke, which he said he often shared with his daughter. Many of us who are parents look for these opportunities to mix family meals and an opportunity for moral instruction. This is how Daniels relates his efforts at teaching moral reasoning:

'If James Carville and Geraldo Rivera were both drowning, and you could only save one [laughter], would you read the paper, or eat lunch [laughter and applause]?'
Altruism is, as Ayn Rand stressed, a grave error. To be a Good Samaritan, particularly to save the life of someone who disagrees with you, is not a mitzvah but an unpardonable sin. It follows that one should teach their children that the correct response to learning that a person is drowning and only they can save a life – is to let them drown – while noshing. The death of those who disagree with us is a cause for celebration [“laughter and applause”].
One of the nice things about this post from Black is a list of 15 cases that undermine the argument that any economic regulation harms consumers.

Doug Henwood "What Financial Emergency"

Close examination of the CBO's projections cannot support anything resembling hysteria. The two things that have everyone terrified, Social Security and Medicare, actually look quite unthreatening.

In 2010, Social Security spending was 4.8% of GDP. In 2021, the CBO projects it will be 5.3%, an increase of 0.5 point. In 2010, Medicare spending (less premiums paid by beneficiaries) was 3.1% of GDP. In 2021, the CBO projects it will be 3.6%, also an increase of 0.5 point.

In other words, the budgetary monsters that are supposed to be the ruin of the American way of life will increase their share of the national economy by about 1%. That's a bit less than what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing us, and less than half the cost of the Bush tax cuts.
Ron Baiman explains how tax increases on just the upper 10% offamilies, restoring their income to 1973 inflation adjusted levels,would immediately erase the federal deficit.

Kathy Ruffing "What the 2011 Trustees' Report Shows About Social Security" Center for Budget Policies and Priorities

“The revenue loss over the next 75 years from making all of those [Bush]tax cuts permanent would be two and one-half times the entire Social Security shortfall over that period. Indeed, the revenue loss just from extending the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 — the top 2 percent of Americans — would itself be almost as large as the Social Security shortfall over the 75-year period. (See Figure 1.) Members of Congress cannot simultaneously claim that the tax cuts are affordable while the Social Security shortfall constitutes a dire fiscal threat.”

Gar Alperovitz "The New-Economy Movement" The Nation

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Bob Dylan and Miles Davis

This week marked the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan and the 85th anniversary of Miles Davis' birthday. So, our first double header. We'll get bak to hard core blues next week and, perhaps, come up with a post on Rolling Stones list of Bob's 70 greatest songs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Best of the Democratic Left

David McReynolds, "The View from Over the Hill"

 On April 26, 2011, there was a book party in New York City for Martin Duberman's double biography of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, titled A Saving Remnant.
This is McReynolds expanded version of his remarks.  He is a former chair of War Resisters International, and was the Socialist Party candidate for President in 1980 and 2000. 

Dissent writers on the killing of Osama Bin Laden  

Michael Walzer and four others. 

Russell Fox on "The History and Legacy of Kansas Populism

Alan Johnson, "The Mind of the Pro-Tyrant Left" 

This pro-tyrant left thinks it holds the key to the entire world in the palm of its hand. If America is opposed to a tyrant, then—there is some dubious logic here, but this really is the crucial move—the tyrant must be opposing America. And—this is the last stretch, stay with me—therefore the tyrant is an “anti-imperialist” and, objectively, “progressive.”

And these ideas have been adopted in softer forms throughout the culture—we see it in the refusal of emotional commitment to the West in its battles against dictators and terrorists, the refusal to credit the West with anything but malign intent, the tendency to blame ourselves when we are attacked, the demonization of Israel, and the pathological refusal to see plain the nature of forces such as Hamas and Hezbollah, who were defined by the leading American academic Judith Butler as “part of the global Left.”

When the 17th-century English revolutionaries dreamt of “a world turned upside down” it was not this they had in mind.
 David Osler, Rawanda: test case for absolute anti-imperialism

The more I think about it in retrospect, the more I am convinced that the UN should have gone in. Rwanda was hardly a purely academic question, and moral stances taken at the time had discernible outcomes. If there are any good counterarguments, they do not immediately occur to me.

This is not to say that the left should cheerlead the use of armed forces in every situation of humanitarian concern; opposition to the demands of the military-industrial complex rightly remains very much the default position. Nor should we back any old intervention; the risk of making a hash of it are invariably huge. Minimum preconditions include careful planning, thoughtful execution and widespread regional support.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Mose Allison "Ever Since the World Ended"

Seems like the perfect day for one of Mose Allison's best. (wikipedia bio website)

Ever since the world ended,
I don't go out as much.
People that I once befriended
Just don't bother to stay in touch.
Things that used to seem so splendid
Don't really matter today.
It's just as well the world ended--
It wasn't working anyway.

Every since the world ended,
There's no more bible belt.
Remember how we all pretended?
Going 'round, lying 'bout the way we felt.
Every rule has been amended,
There's no one keeping score.
It's just as well the world ended
We couldn't have taken much more.

Ever since the world ended,
There's no more black or white.
Ever since we all got blended,
there's no more reason to fuss and fight.
Dogmas that we once defended
no longer seem worthwhile.
Ever since the world ended,
I face the future--
With a smile.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rapture Day

The free-thought community in Wichita has organized an interesting event for Rapture Day on Saturday May 21.

Rapture Day is going to be a day of great speakers giving presentations with a focus on religion and how it relates to various doomsday claims. The event will be held at the Wichita State University CAC theater on 21 May 2011. This is the date that Harold Camping, a Christian broadcaster, has claimed will be the day of the Rapture. We are putting this event on for two primary reasons. The first and most important is to have some fun and let other secular thinkers in the area know that they are definitely not alone. The second is to help educate people on the nature and history of these types of claims and help expose how this fatalistic thinking is a danger to our modern society.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Democratic Left roundup

 Some good reads from blogs and websites on the democratic left.

Marc Cooper blasts  the "worst of both worlds" in Cuba.

Right Wing Watch notes "Historians Agree: David Barton Is No Historian"

Eric Lee on "Israeli ‘apartheid’ and the ghost of Bayard Rustin"

Christopher Hitchens reviews the letters of Rosa Luxemburg

More evidence that those who think Hitch has become a rightist are, to put it gently, wrong.

Josh Harkinson on Ron Paul's 15 Most Extreme Positions

Guy Molyneux cautions that Obama should resists calls from  conservative Democrats to move to the center.  Instead, he should redefine the debate.

Having signaled to voters that he got the message they sent him in 2010, Obama must pivot and broaden the discussion. Democratic moderates urge the president to seize the political center, which is somewhat akin to telling a baseball team to "score more runs" -- elections are won in the center by definition. But conceding ground and moving to the right is not the only, or best, strategy for capturing the political center. Democrats can also seek to define the GOP as further from the center than the public currently understands. Fortunately, today that simply requires telling the truth. A strong contrast message, with well-targeted attacks on Republican priorities, will allow Democrats to seize the center -- and over time, to redefine where the "center" is.

Taking the fight to Republicans can also bolster the public's perception of the president as a strong leader. In February of 2009, 80 percent of Americans thought Barack Obama was a "strong and decisive leader," but that has fallen to only 53 percent today. Obama has said he aspires to be a transformational president in the mode of Ronald Reagan, but Democrats came to fear Reagan, while no one fears Obama (with the possible exception of liberal Democrats). Obama needs to shatter the Republican conceit that the GOP's agenda is actually popular. That will only happen if he draws a sharp line and proves that more Americans stand on his side of the line.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Freedom Riders documentary

Another great PBS  documentary, The Freedom Riders, will premiere on Monday May 16. (Most places 9/8C.) 

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

FREEDOM RIDERS is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.
From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Wounded Knee, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till)

FREEDOM RIDERS features testimony from a fascinating cast of central characters: the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Rides firsthand. The two-hour documentary is based on Raymond Arsenault's book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

I've seen shortened versions of the documentary twice, as part of the Tallgrass Film Festival and at the Kansas African American Museum, and recommend it enthusiastically.

I also like the book that the Freedom Riders documentary is based on: Raymond Arsenault's Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice As part of the documentary promotion, Arsenault has prepared a significantly abridged version of the book (roughly 320 vs 700 pages). PBS is offering a special deal on a DVD and the abridged book.

I should also add that there is an excellent website for Freedom Riders.

The Storm That Swept Mexico

PBS airs an important two-hour documentary, The Storm That Swept Mexico,  about the Mexico revolution tonight (May 15). Check your local listings or the website for details.


Here is how the producers describe the documentary

The Storm That Swept Mexico tells the gripping story of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the first major political and social revolution of the 20th century. The revolution not only changed the course of Mexican history, transforming economic and political power within the nation, but also profoundly impacted the relationships between Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Leading the initial wave of 20th century worldwide political and social upheavals, the Mexican revolution was the first major revolution to be filmed. The Storm That Swept Mexico incorporates photographs and motion pictures from the earliest days of cinema. Much of this material has never been seen before by North American and international audiences.

The first hour, “The Tiger is Unleashed,” charts the struggle by Francisco I. Madero and his followers to end the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, and traces the emergence of two remarkable rebel leaders: Emiliano Zapata and General Francisco “Pancho” Villa. But the Revolution was not merely an internal affair; it was an international event, profoundly influenced by U.S. and European foreign policy.

The second hour, “The Legacy,” examines international influence on the Mexican revolution, investigating the extraordinary plan, hatched in Germany, to seek Mexico’s support against the United States, if it was to enter World War I. In addition to the warfare, there was a cultural revolution as well. Beginning in the 1920s, and continuing through and beyond the 1940s, Mexican artists burst onto the international cultural stage, and Mexico City became the nexus of an indigenous art movement. Against this backdrop, the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas in many ways fulfills the promises of the revolution. But after Cárdenas’s extraordinary administration, politics regress, and in 1968, shortly before Mexico City is to host the Olympics, a new type of revolution explodes.

Interviewing distinguished scholars from the disciplines of history, economics, literature, political science, women’s studies, and art history, The Storm That Swept Mexico explores the beliefs and conditions that led to the revolution, influenced the course of the conflict, and determined its consequences over the century that followed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Robert Johnson "Sweet Home Chicago"

Last weeks artist Big Joe Turner and and this week's, Robert Johnson ,were born weeks apart in May 1911, so even though there is no film of Johnson performing, I thought it fitting to feature the "King of the Delta Blues." This video couples his classic "Sweet Home Chicago" with street scenes of Chicago in the 1930s.

Allmusic puts Johnson in perspective

If the blues has a truly mythic figure, one whose story hangs over the music the way a Charlie Parker does over jazz or a Hank Williams does over country, it's Robert Johnson, certainly the most celebrated figure in the history of the blues. Of course, his legend is immensely fortified by the fact that Johnson also left behind a small legacy of recordings that are considered the emotional apex of the music itself. These recordings have not only entered the realm of blues standards ("Love in Vain," "Crossroads," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Stop Breaking Down"), but were adapted by rock & roll artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton.
If you want to learn more about Johnson, I highly recommend Elijah Wald's Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Wald has revolutionized our understanding of Johnson and the blues.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Elsewhere on Democratic Left Blogs

Russell Fox longs for a certain kind of left

The left I want is a complicated one: it's a left which wants to put empowerment first, and that means helping people--as I must always remind myself as well--grasp the limits, the particularity, within which such empowerment is possible. That's a hard left to maintain, and who knows? Perhaps it's an imaginary one. But allowing oneself to think that the conservatism inherent to a seriously liberalism, that the communitarianism that ought to ground any left, is some sort of unfortunate nostalgia, isn't correct, or at least not necessarily. In fact, if the left is to be rightly understood--or at least so I believe--it is anything but.

Norm Geras examines four reactions to the killing of Osama Ben Ladin: l)justified and legal; 2) unlawful but justified; 3) lawful but not justified; and 4) neither lawful nor justified.

Marc Cooper takes on a leading advocate of the neither lawful nor justified position, and says it is time for Noam Chomsky to retire.

Adam Holland on why Ron Paul's racist newsletters still matter.

Mark Engler warns that  the internet can be  a tool for repression.

Eric Lee writes defends Bob Dylan against Margaret Dowd's criticism.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Big Joe Turner "Roll 'em Pete"

May 18 is the centennial of the birth of Kansas City blues shouter Big Joe Turner. Turner played a key role in the creation of boogie woogie and rock 'n' roll. Turner has quite justly been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

One of his early --and enduring--hits was "Roll 'em Pete" co-written with his piano playing partner Pete Johnson.

I've always liked this verse, the opposite of the sacchrine.

Well, you're so beautiful, you've got to die someday
Well, you're so beautiful, you've got to die someday
All I want's a little loving, just before you pass away

Gloria: 4 different songs, 4 rock eras

Russell Fox devoted his Friday 70-80s music video post to Laura Branigan's "Gloria". It took me only a few seconds to realize that this wasn't a cover of Van Morrison and Them's "Gloria." which isn't all that surprising since it was a big, big hit-probably outselling the Them 45 and the Shadows of Knight cover.*   I realized that I had heard the song before. Another generation would think of "Gloria" as yet another song by U2. And, what do you know there was a doo wop song "Gloria" a hit for the Cadillacs in 1954, though this "Gloria" was a 1948 hit for the Mills Brothers and recorded by several artists a few years earlier.

I wonder if there is another song title that has been given to so many different songs.

Vote for your favorite in the comments. (Mine would be for Van Morrison/Them.)

There's also a video of Van Morrison performing the song with blues great John Lee Hooker.

*The Shadows had slightly altered the song's lyrics, replacing Morrison's original "she comes to my room, then she made me feel alright" with "she called out my name, that made me feel alright" after influential Chicago station WLS had banned Them's original version. That gave the band a hit record