Aaron Swartz at a Stop SOPA rally on Jan. 18, 2012. Photo by Daniel J. Sieradski, Creative Commons
At our staff meeting earlier today, Bill gave a heartfelt tribute to the programming prodigy and Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life on Friday at the age of 26.
At age 14, Swartz helped develop RSS, the now ubiquitous tool for syndicating Web content. He went on to found Infogami, which became part of the popular social news website, Reddit. He was instrumental in the founding of Creative Commons, DemandProgress.org and archive.org, and was well known in Web circles as a passionate advocate for a free and open Internet.
At the time of his death, Swartz was facing the possibility of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines for illegally downloading millions of academic articles from JSTOR, a subscription-only service, which he allegedly intended to release to the public.
But it was Swartz’s political activism, and particularly his concern about the corrosive effects of money in politics, outlined in this post by Matt Stoller on naked capitalism that really struck Bill. MORE
Our Economic Pickle: “Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product. Until 1975, wages nearly always accounted for more than 50 percent of the nation’s G.D.P., but last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent. Since 2001, when the wage share was 49 percent, there has been a steep slide.” [New York Times]
Following the House GOP leadership election, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speaks to reporters after the House Republicans voted for her to head the Republican Conference for the next session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Double Trouble: House GOP Eyes Default, Shutdown: “House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or shutting down the government, to force President Barack Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.” [Politico]
How NRA’s True Believers Converted a Marksmanship Group into a Mighty Gun Lobby: “They are absolutist in their interpretation of the Second Amendment. The NRA learned that controversy isn’t a problem but rather, in many cases, a solution, a motivator, a recruitment tool, an inspiration.” [The Washington Post] MORE
Tavis Smiley, left and Cornel West, center, visit the D.C. Central Kitchen on August 10, 2011. (Flickr/D.C. Central Kitchen via The Nation)
Next Thursday, at George Washington University in the nation’s capital — just four days before President Obama’s inauguration — broadcaster Tavis Smiley will bring together a bipartisan panel and an array of poverty experts in a nationally televised event, “Vision for A New America: A Future Without Poverty.”
Expect a heated debate, as a panel that includes Newt Gingrich, Cornel West and Michael Moore discusses Smiley’s call for a national plan to cut poverty in half in ten years and to eradicate it in twenty-five.
It’s part of Smiley’s latest effort to bring attention to the more than 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, on less than $18,000 annually for a family of three. Smiley is also calling on the president to deliver a major public policy address on poverty — which includes telling the American people what they can do to help — and to convene a White House Conference on the Eradication of Poverty. MORE
Paul Krugman and John Maynard Keynes (AP Photo/Fredrik Persson, Scanpix Sweden)
Paul Krugman has been called “today’s leading interpreter of John Maynard Keynes,” the British economist whose ideas created a shift in thinking about macroeconomics during the 1930s, when the U.S. was struggling to recover from the Great Depression. Keynesians tend to favor public sector spending — a tactic that suceeded when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration prepared for war in Europe — to help economies through difficult times.
In fact, Krugman — who was recently interviewed on Moyers & Company — even introduced Macmillan’s recent edition of Keynes’ seminal work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money calling it “the most important book in the history of economics.” MORE
Bloomberg Businessweek produced this colorful chart detailing what was gained and lost in terms of the occupations, genders, sexual orientation, religious affiliations — and mustaches — of our representatives in the transition from the 112 to the 113 Congress. MORE
A Drone War Is Still a War: “But drones also highlight a terrible anomaly of civil- libertarian societies: the contrast between how we treat killing — state-sponsored killing — in battle, and how we treat killing in civilian life. ” [Washington Monthly]
In this photo provided by the National Park Service, the Statue of Liberty is illuminated for the first time since it was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Friday evening, Nov. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/National Park Service, Mike Litterst)
The Magic Coin and Nine Other Crazy Debt-Ceiling Ploys: “There are at least nine ways the U.S. can avoid crashing into the debt ceiling besides the one everybody’s talking about lately, namely minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Tea Party Looks To D.C. Insiders For Help, Cash: “The tea party may have been built by the grass roots, but in order to survive, it’s going to have to rely on the Beltway political machines and big money groups it once disparaged.” [Politico]
Fiscal Cliff Resolution Leaves Some Republicans Miffed at CEOs: “As the executives plan their next rounds of meetings on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and more fiscal policy standoffs loom, some sources say the CEOs’ clout in typically friendly Republican offices may be waning.” [Roll Call]
In a 2010 Senate hearing that has become a focal point for progressivecritics, Jacob Lew, the president’s pick for Treasury Secretary, told Senator Bernie Sanders that he didn’t believe deregulation was a “proximate cause” of the financial crisis.
In this clip from Bill’s interview with economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Bill asks Krugman what he thinks of Lew’s views on the financial crisis, and what his appointment might mean in terms of future Wall Street regulation.
In economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s book, End This Depression Now!, there’s a chapter titled “The Second Gilded Age” in which he describes the extraordinary rise in wealth and power of the very rich during this era of unregulated greed. Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the top one percent of Americans have seen their incomes increase by 275 percent. After accounting for inflation, the typical hourly wage for a worker has increased just $1.23.
Big Money, as Krugman writes in his book, buys Big Influence. And that’s why the financiers of Wall Street never truly experience regime change — their cash brings both political parties to heel. So it is that the policies that got us where we are today — in this big ditch of chronic financial depression — have done little for most, but have been very good to a few at the top.
But they’re not satisfied with having only most of it — they want it all. If Krugman were writing his book today, he could find plenty of evidence in the deal that supposedly kept us from going over the fiscal cliff. Behind closed doors, Congress larded it with corporate tax breaks worth tens of billions of dollars — everything from tax credits for NASCAR racing and the railroads to subsidies for Hollywood, rebates for the rum industry and loopholes for off-shore financing that could help giant multinationals like General Electric avoid billions of dollars in corporate income taxes. MORE
Ronald Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)
As we head toward what will likely be another rancorous debt ceiling debate, the writers at The Guardian’s Datablog have updated their great series of charts that tell the ceiling’s story.
Since 1944, America’s debt ceiling has been increased 94 times. Up until the mid-90s, it was a pretty routine part of congressional business. But in the fall of 1995, Republican House leaders Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and John Boehner announced that within seven years they wanted $245 billion in tax cuts, entitlement reform and a balanced budget. President Clinton refused to give in and Americans dealt with the most serious government shutdown in U.S. history. In early 1996, when Moody’s announced they were considering downgrading America’s debt rating, the Republicans finally folded.
“The most crucial difference between Clinton’s debt limit battle and the current crisis is that, in 1996, the Republicans were bluffing. No Republican seriously considered defaulting on the debt to be a viable option,” Kara Brandeisky wrote in The New Republic.
The tradition of asking a poet to compose and recite a poem for the inauguration began in 1961 with John F. Kennedy, who asked Robert Frost. The idea has been revived twice — first by Bill Clinton, who invited Maya Angelou and then Miller Williams to speak at his first and second inaugurations, and again by Barack Obama, who invited Elizabeth Alexander to speak in January 2009, and now, Richard Blanco.
Blanco often writes in author statements that he was “made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States” — meaning that he was conceived in Cuba by Cubans, who fled Fidel Castro and lived in Spain as exiles for 45 days, where Blanco was born, before continuing on to America. He was named for Richard Nixon, who took a strong stand against Castro (and who, TIME magazine points out, was born exactly 100 years before the day that Obama’s selection of Blanco was announced). Blanco will be both the first Latino and the first gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration. At 44, he’s also the youngest.
Addie Whisenant, the inaugural committee’s spokeswoman, told The New York Times that Mr. Obama picked Blanco because his “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.” In this YouTube video, Blanco reads his poem Betting on America: