06/01/2011 archive

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Real Political Courage

In August of 1964, President Johnson went to Congress to ask for sweeping authority to conduct military action in Vietnam. The “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,” as this authority was called, would give the president broad power to engage in a war of any size, for any length of time, without the need for a formal declaration of war from Congress. It was popular within Congress and throughout the country, and Johnson rightly expected it to pass without much opposition.

Out of that uncritical unity, Sen. Wayne Morse (D-Ore.) and Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) rose to give a scathing and extraordinarily prescient critique of the resolution, and of our involvement in Vietnam. “Mr. President,” said Morse, on the Senate floor, “criticism has not prevented, and will not prevent, me from saying that, in my judgment, we cannot justify the shedding of American blood in that kind of war in southeast Asia. I do not believe that any number of American conventional forces in South Vietnam…can win a war, if the test of winning a war is establishing peace.” He called the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution “an undated declaration of war” and urged his colleagues to join him in opposing it.

Rania Khalek: For Sale: The Desperate States of America

While we have been frantically playing defense against relentless assaults on multiple fronts, from anti-union legislation to draconian anti-choice laws to the attempted privatization of Medicare, the selling off of public assets to the private sector has received little attention.

As states face a budget shortfall of $125 billion dollars for fiscal year 2012, leaders are searching for creative ways to fill budget gaps, while refusing to consider the one legitimate solution: forcing tax-dodging corporations and the rich to pay their fair share in taxes.  Rather than upset the moneyed interests who bought their seats in office, politicians of all stripes prefer to cut pensions, close schools, slash child nutrition programs, and most importantly privatize, privatize, privatize!

Diane Ravitch: Waiting for a School Miracle

Ten years ago, Congress adopted the No Child Left Behind legislation, mandating that all students must be proficient in reading or mathematics by 2014 or their school would be punished.

Teachers and principals have been fired and schools that were once fixtures in their community have been closed and replaced. In time, many of the new schools will close, too, unless they avoid enrolling low-performing students, like those who don’t read English or are homeless or have profound disabilities.

Educators know that 100 percent proficiency is impossible, given the enormous variation among students and the impact of family income on academic performance. Nevertheless, some politicians believe that the right combination of incentives and punishments will produce dramatic improvement. Anyone who objects to this utopian mandate, they maintain, is just making an excuse for low expectations and bad teachers.

Amy Goodman: Hope and Resistance in Honduras

While most in the United States were recognizing Memorial Day with a three-day weekend, the people of Honduras were engaged in a historic event: the return of President Manuel Zelaya, 23 months after being forced into exile at gunpoint in the first coup in Central America in a quarter-century. While he is no longer president, his peaceful return marks a resounding success for the opponents of the coup. Despite this, the post-coup government in Honduras, under President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, is becoming increasingly repressive, and is the subject this week of a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, signed by 87 members of the U.S. Congress, calling for suspension of aid to the Honduran military and police.

As the only U.S. journalist on Zelaya’s flight home, I asked him how he felt about his imminent return. “Full of hope and optimism,” he said. “Political action is possible instead of armaments. No to violence. No to military coups. Coups never more.”

Ruth Marcus: ‘Paul’ and ‘Barack’ talk Medicare

When it comes to Medicare, the one thing everyone agrees on is that it’s time for an “adult conversation.” So let’s listen in on two imaginary participants – “Paul” and “Barack.”

Disclaimer: This conversation is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual political figures is, unfortunately, purely coincidental.

Paul: Okay, you guys won the first round. Congratulations on that New York House seat. But “Medicare as we know it” can’t continue. Seniors now have little incentive to control costs, and providers, paid by the procedure, have every reason to ramp them up. Medicare costs were 8.5 percent of the federal budget in 1990 – they’ll be 17.4 percent by 2020.

Barack: The current system can’t go on. I wouldn’t say this publicly, but my party’s wrong to pretend it can. Still, your approach goes way too far. Seniors would get help to buy private insurance but would pay a lot more than they do now.

Maureen Dowd: Non Means Non

In Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” an American writer clambers into a yellow vintage Peugeot every night and is transported back to hobnob with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gertrude Stein in the shimmering movable feast. The star-struck aspiring novelist from Pasadena, played by Owen Wilson, gets to escape his tiresome fiancée and instead talk war and sex with Papa Hemingway, who barks “Have you ever shot a charging lion?” “Who wants to fight?” and “You box?”

Many Frenchmen – not to mention foundering neighbor, the crepuscular Casanova Silvio Berlusconi – may be longing to see that Peugeot time machine come around a cobblestone corner.

Some may yearn to return to a time when manly aggression was celebrated rather than suspected, especially after waking up Tuesday to see the remarkable front page of Libération – photos of six prominent French women in politics with the headline “Marre des machos,” or “Sick of machos.”


The Joke Is On Us

The GOP staged a debt ceiling “stunt” vote by presenting a clean bill to the floor of the House under suspension of the rules. Suspension of the rules requires a 2/3 vote, allows only 40 minutes of debate and prohibits amendments. Chris Hayes, an editor at the Nation sitting in for Lawrence O’Donnell, discusses the House vote on this not so funny “joke” with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Jon Walker at FDL observes

This move is the ultimate expression of political kabuki, and goes beyond just a show vote. Even if there were a majority of the House that supported voting for a clean debt ceiling increase, due to suspended rules, they now have no incentive to actually vote for the bill. After all, voting to raise the debt ceiling isn’t very popular, so knowing this bill can’t get a two-thirds vote, individual members have no reason to take an unpopular vote that will end up doing nothing.

Boehner isn’t having a vote on a clean bill to prove it can’t pass without major concessions, he has preordained the bill’s failure, taking away members’ reasons to actually vote for the bill, therefore assuring the final roll call will look very bad. Boehner will then point to this big failure he himself guaranteed as somehow justifying his making even more demands.

The hostages takers are demanding even more ransom and they won’t be satisfied until all the hostages are dead.

The Next Meltdown


(T)he ECB keeps saying that restructuring is unthinkable. Yet austerity programs are not working; the prospect of a return to normal financing is receding rather than approaching.

If you ask me, the water level has now dropped so far that the fuel rods are exposed. We really are in meltdown territory.

How is that austerity thing working out for you?

Cuts Threatening UK Economic Recovery: OECD

By: Matthew West, Associate Web Producer, CNBC

Published: Thursday, 26 May 2011 | 8:41 AM ET

At the start of the year the OECD forecast growth of 1.7 percent, but in March it lowered its forecast to 1.5 percent. However on Wednesday it lowered its forecast again to 1.4 percent. It also lowered its growth forecast for 2012 from 2 percent to 1.8 percent.

It warned unemployment in the UK would rise from 7.9 percent to 8.1 percent of the population by the end of this year and would rise to 8.3 percent in 2012 as a result of the slow pace of growth.

UK Consumer Recovery to be Slowest in 180 Years

By: Daniel Pimlott, Financial Times

Published: Wednesday, 1 Jun 2011 | 2:19 AM ET

The UK economy is set to experience the slowest pick-up in consumer spending of any post-recession period since 1830, according to a Financial Times analysis of official forecasts.

“The only sustainable recovery is the kind of recovery that rebalances away from consumer demand and towards external demand,” said one Treasury aide.

It is unclear, however, whether trade and business investment will prove sufficient to offset weak consumer spending and public sector cuts – which together account for more than 85 percent of the economy.

Manufacturing Grows at Slowest Pace in Almost Two Years as New Orders Fall

By Svenja O’Donnell, Bloomberg News

Jun 1, 2011 5:55 AM ET

U.K. manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in almost two years in May as weak domestic demand led to a drop in production and new orders, a survey showed.

A gauge based on a survey by Markit Economics and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply declined to 52.1, the lowest since September 2009, from a downwardly revised 54.4 in April, according to an e-mailed report in London today. Output and new orders fell for the first time since the middle of 2009, and producers of consumer goods and smaller manufacturers were hit hardest.

“The fact that the output and new orders fell for the first time in two years does raise questions about where economic growth will come from,” Hetal Mehta, an economist at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe in London, said in an e-mailed note.

Manufacturing gloom is moving UK closer to double-dip recession

With firms’ order books on a downward trajectory, and mortgage demand going the same way, Britain’s recovery is in tatters

Larry Elliott, guardian.co.uk

Wednesday 1 June 2011 13.33 BST

The news on the UK economy just gets worse and worse. Wednesday’s dismal snapshot of manufacturing removes one of the last remaining reasons to be modestly upbeat about Britain’s recovery prospects.

Research out today from Ipsos Mori showed that only 10% of Britons consider the state of the economy to be good, making the UK one of the most pessimistic nations in the world. The gloom seems entirely justified given the ferocious squeeze on real incomes and the severity of the government’s fiscal tightening, and it is resulting in a slowdown in domestic demand. The breakdown of Wednesday’s report showed that consumer goods are being hit harder than investment goods.

Up until recently, the softness of home-based demand has been disguised by the buoyancy of exports, with firms able to use the 25% devaluation of sterling to boost overseas sales. But the decline in the European and Chinese PMIs shows that international demand is also slackening, leading to the third successive decline in export order books for UK firms.

Manufacturing accounts for one-eighth of UK output, so we will have to wait for the PMIs for construction and services over the next two days to get a more complete picture of the state of the nation. But the drop in mortgage demand from already depressed levels, revealed by Wednesday’s Bank of England figures, suggests that growth in the second quarter of 2011 is unlikely to match the 0.5% in the first. Indeed, the sharp fall in sterling after the manufacturing PMI was released is a sign that the financial markets believe the UK is moving dangerously close to a double-dip recession.

Oh ek, that’s just the Brits.  We’re exceptional!

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Decline to Eight-Year Low, Case-Shiller Says

By Bob Willis, Bloomberg News

May 31, 2011 10:45 AM ET

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities fell 3.6 percent from March 2010, the biggest year-over-year decline since November 2009, the group said today in New York. At 138.16, the gauge was the weakest since March 2003.

Nationally, home prices decreased 5.1 percent in the first quarter from the same time in 2010, and were down 4.2 percent from the previous three months, the biggest one-quarter decrease since the first three months of 2009. At 125.41, the index was the lowest since the second quarter of 2002.

“This month’s report is marked by the confirmation of a double-dip in home prices across much of the nation,” David Blitzer, chairman of the Case-Shiller index committee at S&P, said in a statement.

Further declines in home prices are likely to constrain the consumer spending that makes up 70 percent of the economy, as homeowners feel less wealthy and have little home equity to borrow against.

Why housing is in a depression

Commentary: New data says the double dip is even worse than the 1930s

Brett Arends, Market Watch

June 1, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EDT

Writes Capital Economics’ senior economist Paul Dales, “On the Case-Shiller measure, prices are now 33% below the 2006 peak and are back at a level last seen in the third quarter of 2002. This means that prices have now fallen by more than the 31% decline endured during the Great Depression.”

Capital Economics says the latest double-dip in housing should come as no surprise. It’s very much following a pattern seen in the early 30s, when a brief recovery also petered out. The same has also happened in other big housing busts around the world, the think-tank says. It believes prices are going to fall even further before we hit rock bottom, maybe sometime next year.

Capital Economics says, back in the Depression, it took 19 years for house prices to recover to their previous peaks.

Private Jobs Post Tepid Rise

By KATHLEEN MADIGAN, The Wall Street Journal

JUNE 1, 2011, 8:53 A.M. ET

Private businesses barely added jobs in May as large companies cut workers, according to a report released Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected ADP to report a much larger job gain of 190,000 last month. The April data were revised to show a rise of 177,000 versus 179,000 first reported.

The ADP survey tallies only private-sector jobs, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ nonfarm payroll data, to be released Friday, include government workers. In recent months, state and local governments have been laying off workers to close budget gaps.

As a result, economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expect total nonfarm payrolls increased by 183,000 in May, down from the 244,000 gain reported in April.

Current Obama economic policy deserves nothing but whispers, giggles, and contempt.

What Davies doesn’t say is that there’s a good reason Lucas won’t even consider the obvious explanation in terms of a shortfall in demand. More than 30 years ago, in a burst of radically premature triumphalism, Lucas and his colleagues declared the “Death of Keynesian economics”. As cited by Greg Mankiw (pdf), Lucas wrote that Keynesian theorizing was so passe that people would giggle and whisper if it came up in seminars.

Since then, as is obvious to everyone but the hermetic inhabitants of the freshwater (Chicago School of Economics) world, the attempt to explain business cycles in terms of rational expectations and frictionless markets has failed; and Keynesian economics continues to be very useful. But to concede that, to even consider the possibility that we’re in a demand-shortfall slump of the kind Keynes diagnosed, would be an incredible comedown for Lucas.

So he can’t and won’t consider the possibility.

On This Day in History June1

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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 1 is the 152nd day of the year (153rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 213 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. CNN went on to change the notion that news could only be reported at fixed times throughout the day. At the time of CNN’s launch, TV news was dominated by three major networks–ABC, CBS and NBC–and their nightly 30-minute broadcasts. Initially available in less than two million U.S. homes, today CNN is seen in more than 89 million American households and over 160 million homes internationally.

CNN was the brainchild of Robert “Ted” Turner, a colorful, outspoken businessman dubbed the “Mouth of the South.” Turner was born on November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and as a child moved with his family to Georgia, where his father ran a successful billboard advertising company. After his father committed suicide in 1963, Turner took over the business and expanded it. In 1970, he bought a failing Atlanta TV station that broadcast old movies and network reruns and within a few years Turner had transformed it into a “superstation,” a concept he pioneered, in which the station was beamed by satellite into homes across the country. Turner later bought the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and aired their games on his network, TBS (Turner Broadcasting System). In 1977, Turner gained international fame when he sailed his yacht to victory in the prestigious America’s Cup race.

Early history

The Cable News Network was launched at 5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday June 1, 1980. After an introduction by Ted Turner, the husband and wife team of David Walker and Lois Hart anchored the first newscast. Burt Reinhardt, the then executive vice president of CNN, hired most of CNN’s first 200 employees, including the network’s first news anchor, Bernard Shaw.

Since its debut, CNN has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television companies, several web sites, specialized closed-circuit channels (such as CNN Airport Network), and a radio network. The company has 36 bureaus (10 domestic, 26 international), more than 900 affiliated local stations, and several regional and foreign-language networks around the world. The channel’s success made a bona-fide mogul of founder Ted Turner and set the stage for the Time Warner conglomerate’s eventual acquisition of Turner Broadcasting.

A companion channel, CNN2, was launched on January 1, 1982 and featured a continuous 24-hour cycle of 30-minute news broadcasts. A year later, it changed its name to “CNN Headline News”, and eventually it was simply called “Headline News”. (In 2005, Headline News would break from its original format with the addition of Headline Prime, a prime-time programming block that features news commentary; and in 2008 the channel changed its name again, to “HLN”.)

Le Tour Update

Hi-Wheel GreyEvidently it’s ok for professional bike racers to dope as long as their name isn’t Lance Armstrong who has never, ever tested positive for a banned substance despite the testimony of embittered rivals and former team mates.

You see there is no doubt at all that Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol, a steroid given to cattle to promote faster weight (muscle) gain and used in humans to treat asthma by increasing aerobic capacity and improving the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream.

And this was not just some random off season test.  He actually tested positive during the Tour.

But because he’s not Lance Armstrong the Court of Arbitration for Sport has decided to delay his hearing until safely after this year’s Tour (July 2nd to 24th) so he can defend the title he should be stripped of.

Bad beef my ass.

More Lies

This is why I no longer watch Talking Head Sundays.  Krugman opines

(E)ven I am surprised by this. When the gaping holes in the Ryan plan were revealed, I expected the Very Serious People to move on and find a new GOP daddy to idolize. Instead, however, they’ve mostly dug in, condemning anyone who points out that the plan is a piece of junk as being somehow out of bounds.

Steve Benen (whom Krugman hat tips) says

It’s exasperating, but it’s worth reemphasizing what too many establishment types simply refuse to understand: Democrats are telling the truth. Indeed, Dems are doing what the media is reluctant to do: offering an accurate assessment of the Republican plan for Medicare. If voters find the GOP proposal frightening, the problem is with the plan, not with Democrats’ rhetoric.

I’m at a loss to understand what, exactly, Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, and their cohorts would have Dems do. Congressional Republicans have a plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme. The proposal would not only help rewrite the social contract, it would also shift crushing costs onto the backs of seniors, freeing up money for tax breaks for the wealthy. The plan is needlessly cruel, and any serious evaluation of the GOP’s arithmetic shows that the policy is a fraud.

Which part of this description is false? None of it, but apparently, Democrats just aren’t supposed to mention any of this.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 31, 2011-


The Patriot Act Renewed Without Change

The (un)Patriot Act was passed, unamended, without debate, and signed by President Obama, who was still in Europe, with a robotic pen before it could expire. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who along with several other liberal senators, had proposed an amendment that put an end to the government secret interpretation of the law, cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Read (?-NV) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (?-CA) to withdraw the amendment. Reid promised to hold hearings on secret law, and, if his concerns were not met, propose his amendment at a later date.

I long ago gave up any hope of change from the current regime. It’s obvious that they have shed their skins and revealed themselves to be no better than the Bush/Cheny criminal regime that they are covering.

George Washington University law professor, Jeffrey Rosen, joins Cenk Uygur to discuss the (un)Patriot Act, its unconstitutionality, the duplicity of Harry Reid and how American’s really do not understand what is in this bill.

Say good-by to the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment, as well as, Article III courts.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 55 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Mladic jailed in The Hague to face war crimes charges

by Jan Hennop, AFP

23 mins ago

THE HAGUE (AFP) – Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic was placed in custody in The Hague on Tuesday to await trial on genocide and war crimes charges after almost 16 years on the run.

“Ratko Mladic was today transferred to the Tribunal’s custody,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said in a statement.

“Mladic … has been admitted to the UN detention unit in The Hague.”