11/18/2010 archive

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”.

Robert Reich: Why the Lame Duck Congress Must Extend Jobless Benefits For Hard-hit Families But Not Tax Cuts For the Rich

America’s long-term unemployed – an estimated 4 million or more – constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.

Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can forget about the next Congress.)

The long-term unemployed can’t get work because there are still five people needing work for every job opening. And the long-term jobless are often at the end of the job line: Either they don’t have the right skills or enough eduction, or have been out of work so long prospective employers are nervous about hiring them.

They’re also a big problem for the economy. Without enough money in their pockets, they and their families can’t pay their mortgages, which keeps fueling the mortgage crisis. Nor can they replace worn-out cars and clothing, or buy muchof anything else, which is a drag on the economy.

Republicans and many blue-dog Dems say we can’t afford another extension.

But these are many of the same people who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for at least another two years.

Nicholas D. Kristof: A Hedge Fund Republic?

Earlier this month, I offended a number of readers with a column suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around.

My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.

That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Is the Tea Party out to banish Bush-style conservatism?

Will the Tea Party sell out for a mess of pottage in the form of a ban on earmarks?

That’s one possibility. But another is that this embrace of a purely symbolic approach to deficit reduction is a sign that the Tea Party’s central goals may lie elsewhere – in an effort to push the Republican Party away from those aspects of George W. Bush’s legacy that tried to steer the conservative movement in a new direction. The real point may be to get the GOP to say goodbye to the idea of a compassionate conservatism and to Bush’s peculiar but real brand of multiculturalism.

It was entertaining to watch Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly capitulate to the Tea Party by supporting a two-year ban on requests for earmarks from his chamber’s Republicans.

Justice: Terrorist Trial Verdict In NYC: Up Date x 2

The rule of law and justice won yesterday when, terrorist suspect, Ahmed Ghailani, was  was convicted of one count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. He was acquitted of four counts of conspiracy, including conspiring to kill Americans and to use weapons of mass destruction in the 1998 terrorist bombings of the United States Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Mr. Ghailani will be facing a prison term of 20 years to life based on that one charge. All the evidence was circumstantial and Mr. Ghailani’s attorneys argued he wad been duped into participating.

The prosecutors in this case were not able to bring a key witness in to testify because because the government had learned about the man through Mr. Ghailani’s interrogation while he was in C.I.A. custody, where his lawyers say he was tortured. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court, who presided over the trial, pointed out that a military commission judge would have excluded that testimony, too. The prosecutors also did not submit any statements made by Mr. Ghailani while he was in custody of the CIA and in Guantanamo because as his lawyers argued those statements were made under coercion and inadmissible. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, has said he will ask for a life on January 25 when Mr. Ghailani will return to court for sentencing.

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent, detailed analysis of how our criminal justice system has worked very well in this case:

But the most important point here is that one either believes in the American system of justice or one does not.  When a reviled defendant is acquitted in court, and torture-obtained evidence is excluded, that isn’t proof that the justice system is broken; it’s proof that it works.  A “justice system” which guarantees convictions — or which allows the Government to rely on evidence extracted from torture — isn’t a justice system at all, by definition.  The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson made this point quite well today:

Let’s be clear: if time in the extra-judicial limbo of black sites, and the torture that caused some evidence to be excluded, makes prosecutors’ jobs harder, the problem is with the black sites and the torture, and not with the civilian trials that might eventually not work out quite the way everyone likes. It’s a point that bears some repeating.  Our legal system is not a machine for producing the maximum number of convictions, regardless of the law.  Jurors are watching the government, too, as well they should. Ghailani today could be anyone tomorrow.

Not good enough for Rep. Peter King (R-NY ) who decried that this was a “wake up call” for the Obama administration to abandon its plan to try terrorist suspects in civilian courts. Instead of blaming confessed war criminal George W. Bush and his co-conspirator, Dick Cheney, for using torture to coerce confessions, Mr. King chose to blame the President and the Justice Department for its “failure”. Mr. King needs to read the Nuremberg Principles and understand that since he has not called for an investigation of the war crimes that Mr.Bush and Mr. Cheney have openly admitted, that he, too, can be charged as a war criminal. Such is the rule of law.

Up Date: It is clear that our criminal justice system worked despite the obstacles thrown in the way. Both President Obama and Attorney General Holder should be commended for sticking to the principles of law and should continue to try these cases in our courts. The verdict should also be a message for Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, our NY Senators and Representatives that these trials can and should be held in New York. If there is a “failure” here, it is that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are not in a prison cell awaiting trial for war crimes.

Up Date 2: Constitutional lawyer and law professor, Jonathan Turley, was a guest today on “Hard Ball” with Michael Smerconish, sitting in for Chris Matthews, to discuss the verdict. Former Gov. George Pataki presented the argument that because Mr. Ghailani was not convicted on all counts that this was a failure and future trails of terror suspects should be held by military tribunals. My advice before viewing is secure all objects that could damage your monitor if thrown. Mr. Pataki is quite infuriating.

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On This Day in History: November 18

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.

November 18 is the 322nd day of the year (323rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 43 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1883, the Railraods create the first time zones At exactly noon on this day, American and Canadian railroads begin using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. The bold move was emblematic of the power shared by the railroad companies.

The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone.

Timekeeping on the American railroads in the mid 19th century was somewhat confused. Each railroad used its own standard time, usually based on the local time of its headquarters or most important terminus, and the railroad’s train schedules were published using its own time. Some major railroad junctions served by several different railroads had a separate clock for each railroad, each showing a different time; the main station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example, kept six different times.

Charles F. Dowd proposed a system of one-hour standard time zones for American railroads about 1863, although he published nothing on the matter at that time and did not consult railroad officials until 1869. In 1870, he proposed four ideal time zones (having north-south borders), the first centered on Washington, D.C., but by 1872 the first was centered 75 W of Greenwich, with geographic borders (for example, sections of the Appalachian Mountains). Dowd’s system was never accepted by American railroads. Instead, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented a version proposed by William F. Allen, the editor of the Traveler’s Official Railway Guide. The borders of its time zones ran through railroad stations, often in major cities. For example, the border between its Eastern and Central time zones ran through Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Charleston. It was inaugurated on Sunday, November 18, 1883, also called “The Day of Two Noons”, when each railroad station clock was reset as standard-time noon was reached within each time zone. The zones were named Intercolonial, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Within one year, 85% of all cities with populations over 10,000, about 200 cities, were using standard time. A notable exception was Detroit (which is about half-way between the meridians of eastern time and central time), which kept local time until 1900, then tried Central Standard Time, local mean time, and Eastern Standard Time before a May 1915 ordinance settled on EST and was ratified by popular vote in August 1916. The confusion of times came to an end when Standard zone time was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress on March 19, 1918, in the Standard Time Act.

Morning Shinbun Thursday November 18

Thursday’s Headlines:

WW2 file: The Guernsey resistance


Terror Verdict Tests Obama’s Strategy on Detainees

General Motors’ public offering may net $20 billion


Economic crash to drive 100,000 out of Ireland

Champagne bubbles up from the sea bed after 200 years

Middle East

Israel finally leaves tiny village straddling Middle East’s political fault line

President to protect Saddam deputy


Kabul gets its own stimulus package

A whole new world for US and Asia: Can America adapt to the power shift?


Military officers in Madagascar claim coup takeover

Nigerian military rescue 19 hostages in Niger Delta

Latin America

Cholera, fear spread beyond the border

Senate to vote again on military gay ban  

Reid plans vote after Thanksgiving; White House urges passage before year’s end  

msnbc.com news services

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will call for a vote after Thanksgiving on legislation that would allow gays to serve openly in the military.

His announcement makes good on his pre-election promise to resurrect during the lame-duck session legislation that would repeal the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

NBC/WSJ poll: Record support for gays serving openly in the military.But it remains far from certain whether the legislation would have enough votes to pass. Several leading Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, have said they oppose lifting the ban.

Prime Time

Solid premiers.  Of them the most interesting to me are Secrets of the Dead Lost Ships of Rome and Circus, both on PBS.

Keith is bringing back ‘Worst Person In The World’.  I wonder what’s behind that?

I’m Burke. Carter Burke. I work for the company. But don’t let that fool you, I’m really an okay guy.

Look, this is an emotional moment for all of us, okay? I know that. But, let’s not make snap judgments, please. This is clearly-clearly an important species we’re dealing with and I don’t think that you or I, or anybody, has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.


Dave hosts Jake Gyllenhaal, Fran Lebowitz, and Ne-Yo.  Jon has Jay-Z, Stephen Ian Frazier.  Conan hosts Susan Casey (you need a damn wiki entry), Russell Brand, and Kid Rock.


Those specimens, are worth millions to the bio-weapons corperation. If you’re smart, we can both come out of it as heroes and we’ll be set up for life.

You’re really crazy Burke, you know that. You really think that you can get a dangerous organism like that passed ICC quarantine?

How can they impound it if they don’t know about it?

They “will” know about it, Burke, from me. Like they’ll know that you are responsible for the deaths if 158 colonists here.

You’re wrong.

I just read the colony log. Dated 0-6-1-2-7-9 signed Burke Carter J. You sent them to that ship and you didn’t warn them. Why didn’t you warn them, Burke?

Okay. What if that ship didn’t even exist, huh didn’t you ever think about that? I didn’t know. I went in and made a major security issue out of it, and everybody steps in, and the Administraor steps in., and I made a decision and it was a bad call, Ripley, it was a bad call.

Bad call? These people are dead Burke! Don’t you have any idea what you have done here? I ‘m gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this, you’re not gonna sleaze your way out of this one. Right to the wall.

You know Ripley, I was hoping that you would be smarter than this.

I’m happy to disappoint you.

You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.

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