Daily Archive: 09/14/2012

Sep 14 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Tangerine Bolen: US Citizens’ Due Process Rights Saved from the NDAA’s Indefinite Detention

Thanks to determined citizens and a stalwart judge, American liberty is preserved from the NDAA’s most Orwellian provision

You can’t change the world if you don’t believe in impossible things. On Wednesday, I was reminded that my obstinate faith in the ability of citizens to stand up against an all-out assault on civil liberties by my own government is not so absurd, after all. Judge Katherine Forrest (an Obama-appointed judge) granted people everywhere a permanent injunction against an unconstitutional provision, section 1021, in the NDAA – and thus a reprieve from the terror of being indefinitely detained by the US military, without charge, evidence or trial.You can’t change the world if you don’t believe in impossible things. On Wednesday, I was reminded that my obstinate faith in the ability of citizens to stand up against an all-out assault on civil liberties by my own government is not so absurd, after all. Judge Katherine Forrest (an Obama-appointed judge) granted people everywhere a permanent injunction against an unconstitutional provision, section 1021, in the NDAA – and thus a reprieve from the terror of being indefinitely detained by the US military, without charge, evidence or trial.

These incredible powers that my government asserted were its absolute right to possess have been held in check by one judge, seven plaintiffs, four attorneys, public figures who publicized our case when national media would not, and supporters around the globe who pitched in to help cover court costs. My government is so unresponsive, our politics so compromised and our slide away from a democratic republic and toward tyranny so steep, that despair and paralysis would have been the more “normal” reaction in the face of things.

Tangerine Bolen is executive director of Revolution Truth, a citizen-driven first amendment campaign inspired by WikiLeaks.

New York Times Editorial: A Post-9/11 Conundrum

For 11 years, Americans have struggled to reach a sensible legal balance that protects both national security and civil liberties – an existential challenge made harder by the last president’s wild excesses and abuses of power in the name of combating terrorism. This week, a vote in Congress and a decision by a federal judge, Katherine Forrest, made starkly clear how much that remains a work in progress.

With little in the way of real debate or scrutiny, the House voted 301 to 118 to extend the FISA Amendments Act for five years, an unfortunate law passed in 2008 that expanded the government’s power to conduct surveillance without warrants in the future. It also retroactively approved the George W. Bush administration’s unlawful snooping in broad violation of Americans’ constitutionally protected privacy.

Moving in the other direction, Judge Forrest, of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, on Wednesday permanently enjoined a controversial provision of a 2011 law in which Congress codified expansive interpretations of a president’s authority to detain individuals indefinitely, beyond the real needs of the war in Afghanistan, the campaign against Al Qaeda or legitimate counterterrorism efforts in general.

Paul Krugman: The iPhone Stimulus

Are you, or is someone you know, a gadget freak? If so, you doubtless know that Wednesday was iPhone 5 day, the day Apple unveiled its latest way for people to avoid actually speaking to or even looking at whoever they’re with.

So is the new phone as insanely great as Apple says? Hey, I’ll leave stuff like that to David Pogue. What I’m interested in, instead, are suggestions that the unveiling of the iPhone 5 might provide a significant boost to the U.S. economy, adding measurably to economic growth over the next quarter or two.

Do you find this plausible? If so, I have news for you: you are, whether you know it or not, a Keynesian – and you have implicitly accepted the case that the government should spend more, not less, in a depressed economy.

Before I get there, let’s talk about where the buzz is coming from.

Mark Weisbrot: Moody’s Threat to Downgrade US Debt is Political, Not Fiscal

Moody’s threat this week to downgrade the US government’s credit rating says a whole lot more about the credit rating agency than it does about the US debt situation. It is really a way of telling the world that Moody’s is making a political statement, rather than an assessment of risk for investors who want actual information about US Treasury securities. This is really an embarrassment for Moody’s – since they are supposed to be evaluating risk – although most of the media didn’t seem to notice.

If you had to pick any sovereign bond in the world that has the least risk of default, it would have to be a US Treasury bond. Anyone who is holding bonds issued by the US government can be pretty sure that they will get their full interest payments and principal, if they hold it to maturity, unless there is some calamity as gigantic as a nuclear war. One reason is that the US has its own central bank and can simply create the money to pay bondholders, if necessary.

Dean Baker: Canada Proves the Decline of Unions is Not Inevitable

In polite circles in Washington it is common to view unions as a quaint anachronism. They may have made sense back when most workers had little education and worked in factories, but there really is no place for them in a 21st century economy. From this perspective, the sharp decline in union membership that we have seen in the last three decades is simply a natural process, sort of like the development of more powerful computers.

There is evidence that suggests otherwise, most notably that many other wealthy countries still have very high rates of unionisation. The share of the workforce represented by unions is 80 per cent or higher in many European countries. While some may want to attribute the eurozone crisis to factors like high unionisation rates (as opposed to inept central bankers) they face the problem that non-eurozone countries like Denmark and Sweden seem to be doing just fine.

Sep 14 2012

European Central Bank Buys Bonds, US Fed Funds Jobs

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi won the approval of the German court to implement his [plan to buy up the bonds of ailing Eurozone members and the Netherlands rejected ant-euro candidates in Parliamentary elections www.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/world/europe/european-union-celebrates-german-and-dutch-decisions.html?_r=1&ref=europe]:

PARIS – There was a general sigh of relief in the European Union this week. The cause was not better performance in the troubled and highly indebted southern countries of the euro zone, but crucial decisions made in the rich northern nations with perfect credit ratings, where skepticism about the common currency is running high.

On Wednesday, the German Constitutional Court found a way to declare that the permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, is legal, clearing the way to use it in time to recapitalize troubled banks as well as governments. And the Dutch voted for mainstream parties in a parliamentary election, choosing not to be enticed by parties wanting to leave the euro.

Combined with the European Central Bank’s decision to restart its bond-buying program in return for more budget discipline, immediately lowering interest rates on Italian and Spanish bonds, European leaders could begin to feel that perhaps the worst is over in the euro crisis, at least for now.

The markets also “cheered” Federal Reserve president Ben Bernake’s open ended third round of quantitative easing (QE-3, not a criuse ship)

The Fed on Thursday said it would buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities every month until the labor market improves. The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, also said it plans to keep its federal funds rate near zero though at least mid-2015.

“While we will hear a lot of criticism on the FOMC’s aggressive moves, we shouldn’t forget that for markets, it usually doesn’t pay to fight the Fed,” wrote strategists at KBC Bank in Brussels.

The S&P 500 SPX on Thursday ended 23.43 points higher at 1,459.99, a 1.6% rise, and its highest finish since 2007. The Dow DJIA jumped 206.51 points to close at 13,539.86. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP rose 41.52 points to 3,155.83.

From a technical standpoint, the Fed-inspired rally drove the S&P 500 above key resistance in the 1,440 to 1,445 range, said analysts at Credit Suisse. They now see room for the index to rise toward the 1,480 level or possibly 1,500 during the next one to six months.

Greece may get some wiggle room to find its way out of it financial crisis:

The Fed on Thursday said it would buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities every month until the labor market improves. The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, also said it plans to keep its federal funds rate near zero though at least mid-2015.

“While we will hear a lot of criticism on the FOMC’s aggressive moves, we shouldn’t forget that for markets, it usually doesn’t pay to fight the Fed,” wrote strategists at KBC Bank in Brussels.

The S&P 500 SPX on Thursday ended 23.43 points higher at 1,459.99, a 1.6% rise, and its highest finish since 2007. The Dow DJIA jumped 206.51 points to close at 13,539.86. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP rose 41.52 points to 3,155.83.

From a technical standpoint, the Fed-inspired rally drove the S&P 500 above key resistance in the 1,440 to 1,445 range, said analysts at Credit Suisse. They now see room for the index to rise toward the 1,480 level or possibly 1,500 during the next one to six months.

These latest actions may have aided Spain’s economy, as well, but not to the extent that they won’t have to ask the ECB for help:

The turnaround has been so dramatic that it’s allowed Spain, one of the most badly affected countries, to suggest that it may not need aid after all.

“I don’t know if Spain needs to ask for it,” Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament on Wednesday, referring to external aid.

But according to Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, even though the ECB bond plan is “working wonders,” it won’t prevent Spain from eventually seeking a bailout.

Sep 14 2012

On This Day In History September 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 14 is the 257th day of the year (258th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 108 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this Day in 1901, U.S. President William McKinley dies after being shot by a deranged anarchist during the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

President and Mrs. McKinley attended the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. He delivered a speech about his positions on tariffs and foreign trade on September 5, 1901. The following morning, McKinley visited Niagara Falls before returning to the Exposition. That afternoon McKinley had an engagement to greet the public at the Temple of Music. Standing in line, Leon Frank Czolgosz waited with a pistol in his right hand concealed by a handkerchief. At 4:07 p.m. Czolgosz fired twice at the president. The first bullet grazed the president’s shoulder. The second, however, went through McKinley’s stomach, pancreas, and kidney, and finally lodged in the muscles of his back. The president whispered to his secretary, George Cortelyou  “My wife, Cortelyou, be careful how you tell her, oh be careful.” Czolgosz would have fired again, but he was struck by a bystander and then subdued by an enraged crowd. The wounded McKinley even called out “Boys! Don’t let them hurt him!” because the angry crowd beat Czolgosz so severely it looked as if they might kill him on the spot.

One bullet was easily found and extracted, but doctors were unable to locate the second bullet. It was feared that the search for the bullet might cause more harm than good. In addition, McKinley appeared to be recovering, so doctors decided to leave the bullet where it was.

The newly developed x-ray machine was displayed at the fair, but doctors were reluctant to use it on McKinley to search for the bullet because they did not know what side effects it might have on him. The operating room at the exposition’s emergency hospital did not have any electric lighting, even though the exteriors of many of the buildings at the extravagant exposition were covered with thousands of light bulbs. The surgeons were unable to operate by candlelight because of the danger created by the flammable ether used to keep the president unconscious, so doctors were forced to use pans instead to reflect sunlight onto the operating table while they treated McKinley’s wounds.

McKinley’s doctors believed he would recover, and the President convalesced for more than a week in Buffalo at the home of the exposition’s director. On the morning of September 12, he felt strong enough to receive his first food orally since the shooting-toast and a small cup of coffee. However, by afternoon he began to experience discomfort and his condition rapidly worsened. McKinley began to go into shock. At 2:15 a.m. on September 14, 1901, eight days after he was shot, he died from gangrene surrounding his wounds. He was 58. His last words were “It is God’s way; His will be done, not ours.” He was originally buried in West Lawn Cemetery in Canton, Ohio, in the receiving vault. His remains were later reinterred in the McKinley Memorial, also in Canton.

Czolgosz was tried and found guilty of murder, and was executed by electric chair at Auburn Prison on October 29, 1901.

Sep 14 2012

Wink at the Moon

Neil Armstrong memorial packs Washington cathedral

By Ian Simpson, Reuters

7 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon, was praised in a NASA memorial service at the National Cathedral on Thursday as a humble hero who led mankind into space.

Mourners who filled the vast Episcopal cathedral to mark Armstrong’s death last month heard him eulogized as a dedicated team player who shunned the limelight for decades after piloting the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

“He embodied all that is good and all that is great about America. Neil, wherever you are, you again have shown us a way to the stars,” Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon as the commander of the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, said in a tribute from the pulpit.