Daily Archive: 01/25/2013

Jan 25 2013

I’m right back here, in exactly the same spot

Jan 25 2013

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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Paul Krugman: Deficit Hawks Down

President Obama’s second Inaugural Address offered a lot for progressives to like. There was the spirited defense of gay rights; there was the equally spirited defense of the role of government, and, in particular, of the safety net provided by Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But arguably the most encouraging thing of all was what he didn’t say: He barely mentioned the budget deficit. [..]

Mr. Obama’s clearly deliberate neglect of Washington’s favorite obsession was just the latest sign that the self-styled deficit hawks – better described as deficit scolds – are losing their hold over political discourse. And that’s a very good thing.

Why have the deficit scolds lost their grip? I’d suggest four interrelated reasons.

New York Times Editorial: Women in the Battlefield

The Pentagon’s decision to end its ban on women in combat is a triumph for equality and common sense. By opening infantry, artillery and other battlefield jobs to all qualified service members regardless of sex, the military is showing that categorical discrimination has no place in a society that honors fairness and equal opportunity.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who overturned the ban this week, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who unanimously urged him to do it, deserve praise for bringing military policy in line with reality. Women have been in the thick of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. More than 280,000 have been deployed there, thousands have been injured and more than 150 killed. With the rule abolished, such service and sacrifice will no longer be unofficial and unrecognized.

Joseph A. Palermo: Flaccid Filibuster Reform Throws a Wet Blanket on ‘Audacity’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talked a big game about taking apart the filibuster leading up to his Grand Bargain with Republican leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky senator now promises to play nice. But like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown, he has once again snookered the hapless Majority Leader. Reid has rewarded McConnell for his years of obstructionism and hyper-partisanship. The whole charade wouldn’t matter much if the fate of the United States and the world didn’t depend to a large degree on the decisions of these 100 politicians.

Reid’s handshake deal with McConnell means there’ll be no “talking filibuster” like in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and he also caved on the idea of requiring a 41-vote threshold to filibuster. Senators can still saunter over to the floor followed by a text message from a staffer and tie up any piece of legislation that doesn’t meet their fancy. And without a formal vote on altering the filibuster, we don’t even know all of the Democratic senators who sided with McConnell and the Republicans to hold them accountable. [..]

The Democrats should try something new: Stand up for what you believe in, have a public fight about it, and then if you lose you still look like you have principles and a backbone. Reid’s filibuster deal with McConnell makes the Democrats look like they have neither principles nor backbone.

John Nichols: Why Do ‘Pro-Life’ Pols Like Paul Ryan Protect Weapons of Mass Murder?

Congressman Paul Ryan consistently-make that aggressively-identifies himself as “pro-life.”

If the Catholic congressman’s definition of the term is narrowly limited to the debate about reproductive rights, perhaps Ryan can convince himself that his use of the term is appropriate.

But leading American Catholics are telling Ryan and other politicians that they can’t get away with claiming to be “pro-life” and “pro-NRA.” Theologians, priests and nuns are challenging the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee-who often suggests that his ideas and positions are influenced by Catholic teaching on social and economic issues-and other elected Catholics who trumpet their “pro-life” positions to think more seriously about the meaning of the term.

George Zornick: There Was No Reason to Surrender on Filibuster Reform

There’s a lot of unconvincing spin coming from the Senate Democrats who brokered an awful “filibuster reform” deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday morning. Chief among them is the argument that this is any kind of actual reform-it isn’t. [..]

Simply put, the most radical ideas put forth by Republicans, and thus those most deserving of the filibuster, are likely to be wildly unpopular. They can be defeated without it. And in the event of a crisis, Democrats would still have the talking filibuster.

An even broader point-and the most important one-is that the Senate was simply not designed to work under a sixty-vote threshold. It’s not what the framers intended. The Senate is considered the more deliberative body because members have six-year terms and generally bigger constituencies, not because they are supposed to pass everything with a supermajority. If Reid truly respects the institution, he should have considered restoring it to its original form.

Alex Pareene: Virginia GOP jumps on the deform-the-electoral vote bandwagon

Republicans know America doesn’t support them, so now they’re looking to count less of America

Electoral vote-rigging plans show a Republican Party that is finally acknowledging the reality that a majority of Americans don’t subscribe to its brand of conservatism. Virginia was a “red state” for the entirety of the post-Civil Rights Act era, and this move shows that the GOP has effectively given up on winning it for the foreseeable future. It’s a stunning admission of irrelevance. [..]

Now we see what the Republican Party does when it can’t ignore the evidence that most Americans aren’t Republicans: Instead of changing anything at all about their beliefs to bring themselves closer to the mainstream, they are all brainstorming increasingly bizarre ways of winning elections without receiving more support from citizens.

Jan 25 2013

On This Day In History January 25

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.

January 25 is the 25th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 340 days remaining until the end of the year (341 in leap years).

On this day in 1905, the world’s largest diamond is found. At the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, a 3,106-carat diamond is discovered during a routine inspection by the mine’s superintendent. Weighing 1.33 pounds, and christened the “Cullinan,” it was [the largest diamond ever found.

The Cullinan diamond is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found, at 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g).

The largest polished gem from the stone is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.1 g) was the largest polished diamond in the world until the 1985 discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond, 545.67 carats (109.13 g), also from the Premier Mine. Cullinan I is now mounted in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross. The second largest gem from the Cullinan stone, Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa, at 317.4 carats (63.5 g), is the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. Both gems are in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

History

The Cullinan diamond was found by Frederick Wells, surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, on January 26, 1905. The stone was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the diamond mine.

Sir William Crookes performed an analysis of the Cullinan diamond before it was cut and mentioned its remarkable clarity, but also a black spot in the middle. The colours around the black spot were very vivid and changed as the analyzer was turned. According to Crookes, this pointed to internal strain. Such strain is not uncommon in diamonds.

The stone was bought by the Transvaal government and presented to King Edward VII on his birthday. It was cut into three large parts by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam, and eventually into 9 large gem-quality stones and a number of smaller fragments. At the time, technology had not yet evolved to guarantee quality of the modern standard, and cutting the diamond was considered difficult and risky. In order to enable Asscher to cut the diamond in one blow, an incision was made, half an inch deep. Then, a specifically designed knife was placed in the incision and the diamond was split in one heavy blow. The diamond split through a defective spot, which was shared in both halves of the diamond.

Jan 25 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: The Last Word on Filibuster Reform

Tom Harkin: Filibuster Reform Failure Hamstrings Obama Agenda

by Michael McAuliff

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) warned President Barack Obama that he “might as well take a four-year vacation” if the Senate fails to pass real filibuster reform — and the plan being unveiled Thursday by Senate leaders doesn’t qualify, the veteran lawmaker said. [..]

“Does it help a little bit? Anything helps around here,” Harkin said of the leaders’ filibuster plan. “It still will provide a system where people can filibuster and they don’t even have to come here.” [..]

“I said to President Obama back in August … and I said to him the night before the election, I said to him, ‘Look, if you get reelected, if we don’t do something significant about filibuster reform, you might as well take a four-year vacation,'” Harkin said. “This is not significant.”

The president is left with few options, Harkin added.

“He can go out and give wonderful speeches and things like that, but with the House in the hands it’s in and the fact that in the Senate now you have to have 60 votes to pass anything, well, I dare say that Obama’s package — his very aggressive proposals — will not get very far,” said Harkin.

I will give the last word on filibuster reform to MSNBC “The Ed Show” host Ed Schultz:

Is Harry Reid really a Democrat?

Jan 25 2013

Transaction Tax: Three Cents on the Trade

While we have been distracted by the irrational exuberance of a second term for Barack Obama, Benghazi (again) and gun control, the European Union has come around to the realization that there is a need to do something about the economy. On Tuesday the the EU approved a financial transaction tax (FTT) for eleven nations:

Eleven countries won the EU’s backing for a financial transaction tax (FTT), with Germany, France, Italy and Spain adding their names to eurozone neighbours Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The UK, which already imposes a tax on share trades, could benefit from a shift in banking business if Germany and France tax foreign exchange or derivatives trading in Frankfurt and Paris.

The levy, which could raise as much as €35bn (£29.3bn) a year for the 11 countries, is designed to prevent a repeat of the conditions that stoked the credit crunch by reining in investment banks. Following the decision, the European Commission will put forward a new proposal for the tax, which if agreed on by those states involved, would mean the levy could be introduced within months. Although critics say such a tax cannot work properly unless applied worldwide or at least across Europe, countries such as France are already banking on the extra income from next year.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tweeted:

Despite past unsuccessful attempts to introduce a FTT, two Democratic representatives, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), will reintroduce the FTT which would raise an estimated $352 billion over the next decade by imposing a 0.03 percent tax on trades. That translates to 3 dollars on every $100 in trades. Critics have said that it will have a detrimental effect on economic growth, one of the bill’s sponsors have stated that has already been proven to be false:

“For 50 years we had a tax that was about seven times larger than this when the country was seeing the greatest growth in its history, post-World War II,” he said. “So we’ve proven this will not have a detrimental impact on growth. In fact, it perhaps is beneficial to growth. It’s not necessarily beneficial to salaries of hedge fund managers on Wall Street.”

Complaints that an FTT would encourage businesses to move elsewhere are countered by the facts that 52 financial executives, including several former heads of mega-banks JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, endorsed the idea and forty countries around the world have already embraced a transactions tax.

Journalist Economist and author David Cay Johnston joined Ed Schultz on the The Ed Show what the FTT would mean for the American economy.

With the capitulation on filibuster reform and the feral children still running the asylum, there is little chance that something this sensible will even get out of committee. That is a very sad state of affairs for this country.

Correction: We received a very kind e-mail from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston noting that he is not an economist. He is a renowned investigative journalist who has written about economics and the US tax system.