Daily Archive: 10/31/2013

Oct 31 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 thea Pundits”.

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Dean Baker: Alan Greenspan owes America an apology

The former Fed chair is promoting his new book. He should admit his role in the housing crisis, not insult our intelligence

Alan Greenspan will go down in history as the person most responsible for the enormous economic damage caused by the housing bubble and the subsequent collapse of the market. The United States is still down almost 9m jobs from its trend path. We are losing close to $1tn a year in potential output, with cumulative losses to date approaching $5tn. [..]

The horror story could have easily been prevented had there been intelligent life at the Federal Reserve Board in the years when the housing bubble was growing to ever more dangerous proportions (2002-2006). But the Fed did nothing to curb the bubble. Arguably, it even acted to foster its growth with Greenspan cheering the development of exotic mortgages and completely ignoring its regulatory responsibilities.

Most people who had this incredible infamy attached to their name would have the decency to find a large rock to hide behind; but not Alan Greenspan. He apparently believes that he has not punished us enough. Greenspan has a new book which he is now hawking on radio and television shows everywhere.

Jeremy Scahill: Will the Global War on Terror Ever End?

Policies initiated under President Bush and continued and expanded under Obama have brought the world to the dawn of a new age, the era of the Dirty War on Terror.

On January 21, 2013, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Just as he had promised when he began his first campaign for president six years earlier, he pledged again to turn the page on history and take U.S. foreign policy in a different direction. “A decade of war is now ending,” Obama declared. “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”  [..]

Yet, as Obama embarked on his second term in office, the United States was once again at odds with the rest of the world on one of the central components of its foreign policy. The drone strike in Yemen the day Obama was sworn in served as a potent symbol of a reality that had been clearly established during his first four years in office: U.S. unilateralism and exceptionalism were not only bipartisan principles in Washington, but a permanent American institution. As large-scale military deployments wound down, the United States had simultaneously escalated its use of drones, cruise missiles, and Special Ops raids in an unprecedented number of countries. The war on terror had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The question all Americans must ask themselves lingers painfully: How does a war like this ever end?

Robert Sheer: Obama, Congress Owe Snowden Thanks, and a Pardon

Now we know that even the president needs leaks from Edward Snowden to be fully informed about the dastardly acts of his own top spy agency. It was Snowden’s recent revelations that led Obama to order an investigation into spying on private communications of 35 world leaders, including our closest allies, a clear betrayal of the trust needed to establish a more peaceful world.

According to a Wall Street Journal account from senior U.S. officials, the president had been kept in the dark as to the extent of the NSA spy program: “President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them. They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection ‘priorities,’ but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets.” Huh?  

Ana Marie Cox: Dick Cheney, one-man zombie apocalypse

The former VP has returned from the shadows – weirdly, to court the Tea Party for daughter Liz’s Senate run. Happy Halloween!

Rationally, I realize that the reappearance of Dick Cheney in the media landscape is tied to his promoting his new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. And, with equal clear-mindedness, I know that his publisher no doubt timed the book’s debut to capitalize on the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act – Cheney has gravely insisted in interviews that the ACA would limit the technological innovations that allow his own survival.

A more primal part of me simply sees “Cheney”, “heart” and “Halloween” and I clutch my own chest in fear. [..]

‘m as eager a student of horror novels as politics, but I don’t usually get a chance to bring the wisdom of one field into the other. By way of wishing you a happy Halloween, let me also issue a reminder: the risk of bringing someone back from the dead is that they turn on you. When people play God, they only create monsters … boo!

Eugene Robinson: The Out-of-Control NSA

Let’s get this straight: The National Security Agency snooped on the cellphone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Perhaps for as long as a decade? And President Obama didn’t know a thing about it?

Either somebody’s lying or Obama needs to acknowledge that the NSA, in its quest for omniscience beyond anything Orwell could have imagined, is simply out of control.

The White House has not denied news reports-courtesy of disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden-that the spy agency eavesdropped on Merkel’s phone calls. Press secretary Jay Carney said that “the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” which sure sounds like an admission that such “monitoring” took place in the past.

Karen Higgins: Targeting Wall Street, Robin Hood Tax Comes to Washington

With Congress about to begin the next cycle of budget battles – mostly focused on how much more pain to inflict on Main Street communities across America – a far different message is bubbling up across the land.

Activists from across the land gathered in Washington October 29 to step up what has become an increasingly vocal demand for a change of priorities and tone – with a call to expand the revenue pie with a tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax.

“The fire in this room will light up the sky for a lot of people,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union surveying the room in the closing session of an action conference for the Robin Hood Tax campaign.

For the past two years, a movement has been building in the U.S., now endorsed by more than 160 local and national organizations who are calling for a sharp turn away from policies of austerity and more budget cuts with a financial transaction tax on stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial instruments, paid by those very same banks, investment houses, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street traders who created the latest financial crisis.

Or as Hanley put it, “There’s been a 40 year crime wave and we’ve been the victims.”

Oct 31 2013

The Heart, She Holler

Because I’ve always wanted to write about dancing vaginas pizza.

Oct 31 2013

On This Day In History October 31

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.

October 31 is the 304th day of the year (305th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 61 days remaining until the end of the year.

This day is internationally known as Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, Reformation Day, and Day of the Dead for the Philippines

On this day in 1926, Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician and escape artist of the 20th century, dies of peritonitis in a Detroit hospital.

Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Budapest in 1874, the son of a rabbi. At a young age, he immigrated with his family to Appleton, Wisconsin, and soon demonstrated a natural acrobatic ability and an extraordinary skill at picking locks.

He went on his first international tour in 1900 and performed all over Europe to great acclaim. In executing his escapes, he relied on strength, dexterity, and concentration-not trickery-and was a great showman.

In 1908, Houdini began performing more dangerous and dramatic escapes. In a favorite act, he was bound and then locked in an ironbound chest that was dropped into a water tank or thrown off a boat. In another, he was heavily bound and then suspended upside down in a glass-walled water tank. Other acts featured Houdini being hung from a skyscraper in a straitjacket, or bound and buried-without a coffin-under six feet of dirt.

In his later years, Houdini campaigned against mediums, mind readers, fakirs, and others who claimed supernatural talents but depended on tricks. At the same time, he was deeply interested in spiritualism and made a pact with his wife and friends that the first to die was to try and communicate with the world of reality from the spirit world.

Eyewitnesses to an incident in Montreal gave rise to speculation that Houdini’s death was caused by a McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, who delivered multiple blows to Houdini’s abdomen to test Houdini’s claim that he was able to take any blow to the body above the waist without injury.

The eyewitnesses, students named Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz (sometimes called Jack Price and Sam Smiley), proferred accounts of the incident that generally corroborated one another. The following is Price’s description of events:

   Houdini was reclining on his couch after his performance, having an art student sketch him. When Whitehead came in and asked if it was true that Houdini could take any blow to the stomach, Houdini replied groggily in the affirmative. In this instance, he was hit three times before Houdini could tighten up his stomach muscles to avoid serious injury. Whitehead reportedly continued hitting Houdini several more times and Houdini acted as though he were in some pain.

Houdini reportedly stated that if he had time to prepare himself properly he would have been in a better position to take the blows. He had apparently been suffering from appendicitis for several days prior and yet refused medical treatment. His appendix would likely have burst on its own without the trauma. Although in serious pain, Houdini continued to travel without seeking medical attention.

When Houdini arrived at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan on October 24, 1926, for what would be his last performance, he had a fever of 104 F (40 C). Despite a diagnosis of acute appendicitis, Houdini took the stage. He was reported to have passed out during the show, but was revived and continued. Afterwards, he was hospitalized at Detroit’s Grace Hospital.

Houdini died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix at 1:26 p.m. in Room 401 on October 31, aged 52.

After taking statements from Price and Smilovitz, Houdini’s insurance company concluded that the death was due to the dressing-room incident and paid double indemnity.

Houdini’s funeral was held on November 4, 1926 in New York, with more than 2,000 mourners in attendance. He was interred in the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York, with the crest of the Society of American Magicians inscribed on his gravesite. To this day the Society holds a broken wand ceremony at the grave site in November. Houdini’s widow, Bess, died on February 11, 1943, aged 67, in Needles, California. She had expressed a wish to be buried next to him but instead was interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester, New York, as her Catholic family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery out of concern for her soul.

Oct 31 2013

2013 Major League Baseball Championship Game 6: Cardinals @ Red Sox

Well, the highlight could turn out to be American Celtic punk music group Dropkick Murphys singing the national anthem, especially if you’re a Cards fan.

In Monday’s game the Sox scored in the Top of the 1st off a 1 Out Double followed by another for an RBI.  In the 4th the Cards tied it up on a Solo Shot.  Then in the 7th the Sox put it away with a 1 Out Single, a Walk, an RBI Double, and an RBI Single.  Red Sox 3 – 1, lead Series 3 – 2.

Now the Cards have to win 2 straight at Fenway which will not be easy.

Facing elimination tonight’s lineup features Allen Craig at DH replaced at 1st by Matt Adams for the Cardinals with Daniel Descalso replacing the error prone Pete Kozma at Short and Jon Jay instead of Shane Robinson in Center.  The Sox will DH David Ortiz substituting Mike Napoli at 1st and replace Daniel Nava with Shane Victorino in Right.

Boston will start John Lackey (10 – 13, 3.52 ERA R).  He’s not much better than that in the post-season, he lost Game 2 last Thursday at Fenway in this same matchup and is 2 – 1 with 16 hits and 7 runs in 19 and a 3rd innings for an ERA of 3.36 (6.75 in the loss).  He’ll be countered by rookie phenom Michael Wacha (4 – 1, 2.78 ERA R) who is 4 – 0 in the playoffs with 11 hits and 3 runs in 27 innings for a still stunningly low (anything less than 1.0 is pretty gosh darn stunning) ERA of 0.98.

Now if it wasn’t for Thursday’s game I might be more pessimistic about the Cardinal’s prospects for extending the Series to 7.  They are facing elimination in one of the quirkiest Parks in all Baseball, but Lackey is no prize.  I would expect Sox Manager John Farrell to tap the Bullpen early if he gets into trouble, but the Sox Bullpen is no prize either.  I suspect instead he’s playing for a deciding Game 7 tomorrow when he’ll probably start Peavy against Kelly.

But, since I do naturally favor the Senior League over the Junior and the Cards are most in need of the help (and the video is so much more entertaining), tonight the Rally Squirrel will make what could be his last appearance this season.