Taking On Adam Smith (and Karl Marx) – NYTimes.com

Having read the first part of the book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” – it seems well founded and thorough.. and in part pointing to some obvious dynamics of concentration of wealth and power..
But an important thing is how he connects economics to other fields like history and social sciences.. something economists often avoid to do..As they prefer numbers and equations and to avoid analyzing or commenting on the bigger forces in society and politics that heavily influence economic developments..
He addresses this dynamic in particular:

“It is long since past the time when we should have put the question of inequality back at the center of economic analysis and begun asking questions first raised in the nineteenth century. For far too long, economists have neglected the distribution of wealth, partly because of Kuznets’s optimistic conclusions and partly because of the profession’s undue enthusiasm for simplistic mathematical models based on so-called representative agents.”

And more directly:

“To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.
Economists are all too often preoccupied with petty mathematical problems of interest only to themselves. This obsession with mathematics is an easy way of acquiring the appearance of scientificity without having to answer the far more complex questions posed by the world we live in. There is one great advantage to being an academic economist in France: here, economists are not highly respected in the academic and intellectual world or by political and financial elites. Hence they must set aside their contempt for other disciplines and their absurd claim to greater scientific legitimacy, despite the fact that they know almost nothing about anything.”

His thesis is also simple..
That fortunes tend to grow faster than the general economy.. thus grabbing an ever larger share..
H
e then underpins it with data..

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/business/international/taking-on-adam-smith-and-karl-marx.html

PARIS — Thomas Piketty turned 18 in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, so he was spared the tortured, decades-long French intellectual debate about the virtues and vices of communism. Even more telling, he remembers, was a trip he took with a close friend to Romania in early 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet empire.

“This sort of vaccinated me for life against lazy, anticapitalist rhetoric, because when you see these empty shops, you see these people queuing for nothing in the street,” he said, “it became clear to me that we need private property and market institutions, not just for economic efficiency but for personal freedom.”

But his disenchantment with communism doesn’t mean that Mr. Piketty has turned his back on the intellectual heritage of Karl Marx, who sought to explain the “iron laws” of capitalism. Like Marx, he is fiercely critical of the economic and social inequalities that untrammeled capitalism produces — and, he concludes, will continue to worsen. “I belong to a generation that never had any temptation with the Communist Party; I was too young for that,” Mr. Piketty said, in a long interview in his small, airless office here at the Paris School of Economics. “So it’s easier in a way to reopen these big issues about capitalism and inequality with a fresh eye, because I was too young for that fight. I don’t have to justify myself as being pro-communist or pro-capitalist.”

In his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (Harvard University Press), Mr. Piketty, 42, has written a blockbuster, at least in the world of economics. His book punctures earlier assumptions about the benevolence of advanced capitalism and forecasts sharply increasing inequality of wealth in industrialized countries, with deep and deleterious impact on democratic values of justice and fairness.

Jeb Bush Talks Approach If He Runs for President – NYTimes.com

I’d say this gives Hillary 0 – Jeb 1… While she’s freezing the field and being mysterious about her intentions, Jeb’s giving a straight answer with a deadline and what his main concerns and message will be. Professional and constructive.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/us/politics/jeb-bush-outlines-campaign-strategy-should-he-choose-to-run.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. — With eyes increasingly on him, Jeb Bush signaled on Sunday the kind of campaign he would mount if he runs for president, one arguing against ideological purity tests while challenging party orthodoxy on issues like immigration and education.

Even as he sharply criticized President Obama for his handling of foreign affairs and health care, Mr. Bush made clear that he would run against the style of politics that has characterized recent Republican nominating contests. He said he would decide by the end of the year, in part on whether he thinks he could avoid “the vortex of a mud fight” with a “hopeful” message.

“We need to elect candidates that have a vision that is bigger and broader, and candidates that are organized around winning the election, not making a point,” Mr. Bush told an audience at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. “Campaigns ought to be about listening and learning and getting better. I do think we’ve lost our way.” He added, “I’m not being critical of my party, but campaigns themselves are reflective of this new America.”

To Hit Back at Kochs, Democrats Revive Tactic That Hurt Romney

One could add that this is not only a symbolic attack on private wealth buying democracy, but it is also a very real attack on the main corrupting force in politics at the moment.. which feeds into the larger dynamic of concentration of wealth in industrial countries…
A presidential campaign costs $1 bn, the Koch brothers made $12 bn just last year..
And all the limits to campaign funding are slowly being dismantled…
The US in the hands of a couple of businessmen would yield enormous profits for their companies and huge losses of freedom for the rest…
This looks very much like the defining issue in this era of US history.. and the right time to scale it back… like TR did a 115 years ago…

To Hit Back at Kochs, Democrats Revive Tactic That Hurt Romney
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/us/politics/to-hit-back-at-kochs-democrats-revive-tactic-that-hurt-romney.html

WASHINGTON — After months of wincing in the face of negative ads funded by the industrialists David and Charles Koch, Democrats believe they have finally found a way to fight back: attacking the brothers’ sprawling business conglomerate as callous and indifferent to the lives of ordinary people while pursuing profit and power.

By drawing public attention to layoffs by subsidiaries of Koch Industries across the country — a chemical plant in North Carolina, an oil refinery in Alaska, a lumber operation in Arkansas — Democrats are seeking to make villains of the reclusive billionaires, whose political organizations have spent more than $30 million on ads so far to help Republicans win control of the Senate.

Chris Christie apologizes for ‘occupied territories’ remark – Kenneth P. Vogel – POLITICO.com

So Christie happily slams reporters and regular folks to their faces.. but quickly wags his tail to a wealthy donor who didn’t like his choice of words..

This is an interesting process of Christie perhaps being forced to lose his candor and fall in line with the standarized language tracks..

Which might chop of even more support.. and the national scene is not his natural element…

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/chris-christie-occupied-territories-apology-105169.html

LAS VEGAS – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a Saturday afternoon meeting with Sheldon Adelson apologized for stepping on a fault line in fraught Middle East politics during a speech he gave earlier in the day, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

Invoking a 2012 trip he and his family took to Israel, Christie recalled “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.”

While the story was intended to forge common cause with Adelson and the several hundred donors to the Republican Jewish Coalition to which Christie was speaking, his use of the term “occupied territories” set off murmurs in the crowd.

Vladimir Putin Is Right Out Of A Russian Novel : The Protojournalist : NPR

Some Russian friends and acquaintances have tried earlier to explain the strength of certain Russian “ideas” that trump reality and rational thinking..

This piece expands on this concept and gives great food for thought on what might influence the thinking of President Putin..

It’s no excuse.. but it might be helpful to understand this in order to manage the relations best possible and avoid playing into the enemy role constructed in parts of Russian literature and culture..

http://www.npr.org/blogs/theprotojournalist/2014/03/29/294807461/vladimir-putin-is-right-out-of-a-russian-novel

Russia is a hypothetical culture. Ruled by despots for most of our history, we are used to living in fiction rather than reality,” writes Nina L. Khrushcheva, who teaches international affairs at The New School. She is also the great granddaughter of the late communist leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev.

(..) The political — and very real and serious — drama unfolding in Ukraine right now “isn’t merely geopolitical,” says Andrew D. Kaufman. “It’s a deep-seated drama of the Russian soul that’s been around for centuries. And Russian literature is the place we see it in full flower.” Andy is a Russian literature at the and author of the upcoming Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times.

The question Putin is grappling with, Andy says, “is one that recurs throughout the nineteenth-century Russian classics: What is the source of our national greatness?”

Nineteenth-century writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, for instance, believed that Russia’s mission was to establish a widespread Christian empire — with Russia at its epicenter, Andy says, pointing to The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov as exemplary novels. Dostoevsky’s contemporary, Leo Tolstoy, on the other hand, believed that every nation is unique and worthwhile — none better or worse than others.

(..) In certain works by Dostoevsky, says Laura Goering, professor of Russian at , “the West is depicted as something seductive, yet soulless, a temptation to be resisted at all costs.”

Report Details Claim by Ally: Christie Knew of Bridge Lane Closings

So Christie’s lawyers made a report vindicating him.. not denying that he knew about it, but claiming that he doesn’t "recall" being told about the closures as they were happening..

If he gets back into the 2016 race.. this won’t go away that easy…

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/28/nyregion/chris-christie-lawyer-bridge-scandal-report.html

The Port Authority official who directed the shutdown of lanes to the George Washington Bridge said that he informed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey about it at a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony while the lanes were closed, according to an internal review that lawyers for the governor released on Thursday. (..)

But the report said that Mr. Christie did not recall Mr. Wildstein’s raising the topic during their interaction and, in a sweeping claim of vindication, found no evidence that he — or any current members of his staff — was involved in or aware of the scheme before it snarled traffic for thousands of commuters in Fort Lee, N.J., from Sept. 9 to the morning of Sept. 12.

As Kiev looks West, Putin turns east to build Eurasian dream | Reuters

If there is no hidden joker on Russia’s part in this game.. Putin has done everything wrong leading up his grand project.. set to launch January 2015… of a “Eurasian Union”…
Only two countries had signed up.. one is stepping away.. the other one worried about sovereignty…

The rest of the former Soviet states are more reluctant then ever and some drawn more to the West than before..

This is sad… another ten years with Putin could set the country way back…

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/us-ukraine-crisis-centralasia-idUSBREA2Q0BP20140327

(Reuters) – With his biggest prize escaping his grasp in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is likely to turn to the autocrats of Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, to further his aim of erecting a Eurasian Union of former Soviet states.

The Russian president’s swift annexation of Crimea has earned him huge popularity at home but ends his dream for now of bringing the rest of Ukraine voluntarily into the new structure he plans to build on as much as possible of the ex-Soviet space.

“Having lost Ukraine, Central Asia will be much more sought after by Moscow in striking its integration plans,” said Lilit Gevorgyan, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

Kazakhstan in particular was one of two ex-Soviet countries, along with Belarus, to join a customs union with Russia.
Members plan to sign documents this year to form the Eurasian Economic Union, a regional bloc within former Soviet borders intended eventually as a counterweight to the EU.

Matthews: ‘I think the Senate goes’ | TheHill

It’s a very troubling scenario to have a fully controlled Congress by a handful of rich donors.. changing laws to suit their interests…

http://thehill.com/video/senate/200691-matthews-i-think-the-senate-goes

MSNBC host Chris Matthews on Thursday predicted Democrats would lose control of the Senate in the midterm elections.

Matthews said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Democrats heard from “the ghost of Christmas future” earlier this week when Democrat Alex Sink lost to Republican David Jolly in a special election for Florida’s 13th congressional district on Tuesday.

“It is going to be very hard to hold the Senate. I think the Senate goes,” he predicted, given the low turnout in midterms
. “I think we heard from the ghost of Christmas future this week, which is they are going to lose the Senate.”