07/12/2011 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”.

Eugene Robinson: Something to Squawk About

Washington has many lazy habits, and one of the worst is a reflexive tendency to see equivalence where none exists. Hence the nonsense, being peddled by politicians and commentators who should know better, that “both sides” are equally at fault in the deadlocked talks over the debt ceiling.

This is patently false. The truth is that Democrats have made clear they are open to a compromise deal on budget cuts and revenue increases. Republicans have made clear they are not.

Put another way, Democrats reacted to the “grand bargain” proposed by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner by squawking, complaining and highlighting elements they didn’t like. This is known throughout the world as the way to begin a process of negotiation.

Republicans, by contrast, answered with a definitive “no” and then covered their ears. Given the looming Aug. 2 deadline for default if the debt ceiling is not raised, the proper term for this approach is blackmail.

John Nichols: If Obama Hikes Medicare Eligibility Age, That Will Be A Twelve Percent Benefit Cut

The word in Washington is that President Obama has, in negotiations with congressional Republicans, offered to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

A report in the Washington Post quoted “a Democratic official familiar with the discussions,” while other media outlets quoted multiple unnamed sources with knowledge of the talks the president and congressional leaders have been engaged in with regard to raising the debt ceiling. All the reports suggest that Obama would trade the change in the eligibility age for a Republican agreement to accept some new taxes.

Obama essentially acknowledged as much Monday, when he said: “I’m prepared to take significant heat from my party to get something done.”

And rightly so.

Mark Weisbrot: Why the Euro Is Not Worth Saving

The Euro is crashing today to record lows against the Swiss Franc, and interest rates on Italian and Spanish bonds have hit record highs. This latest episode in the Eurozone crisis is a result of fears that the contagion is now hitting Italy. With a two-trillion dollar economy and $2.45 trillion in debt, Italy is too big to fail and the European authorities are worried. Although there is currently little basis for the concern that Italy’s interest rates could rise high enough to put its solvency in jeopardy, financial markets are acting irrationally and elevating both the fear and the prospects of a self-fulfilling prophesy. The fact that the European authorities cannot even agree on how to handle the debt of Greece – an economy less than one-sixth the size of Italy – does not inspire confidence in their capacity to manage a bigger crisis.

The weaker Eurozone economies – Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain – are already facing the prospect of years of economic punishment, including extremely high levels of unemployment (16, 12, 14 and 21 percent, respectively).  Since the point of all this self-inflicted misery is to save the Euro, it is worth asking whether the Euro is worth saving. And it is worth asking this question from the point of view of the majority of Europeans who work for a living, i.e., from a progressive point of view.

James M Cypher: Nearly $2 Trillion Purloined from US Workers in 2009

In 2009, stock owners, bankers, brokers, hedge-fund wizards, highly paid corporate executives, corporations, and mid-ranking managers pocketed-as either income, benefits, or perks such as corporate jets-an estimated $1.91 trillion that 40 years ago would have collectively gone to non-supervisory and production workers in the form of higher wages and benefits. These are the 88 million workers in the private sector who are closely tied to production processes and/or are not responsible for the supervision, planning, or direction of other workers.

From the end of World War II until the early 1970s, the benefits of economic growth were broadly shared by those in all income categories: workers received increases in compensation (wages plus benefits) that essentially matched the rise in their productivity. Neoclassical economist John Bates Clark (1847-1938) first formulated what he termed the “natural law” of income distribution which “assigns to everyone what he has specifically created.” That is, if markets are not “obstructed,” pay levels should be “equal [to] that part of the product of industry which is traceable to labor itself.” As productivity increased, Clark argued, wages would rise at an equal rate.

George Zornick: Will Eric Cantor’s Financial Backers Allow Him to Kill a Debt Ceiling Increase?

House Democrats are circulating a resolution accusing majority leader Eric Cantor of a salacious conflict of interest: he owns shares in a fund that takes a short position on long-dated government bonds, which in layman’s terms means Cantor stands to profit if the government defaults on its debt, and so probably shouldn’t be such a prominent negotiator in the ongoing debt ceiling talks.

It’s a juicy bit of meat, but the attack is actually pretty silly. According the resolution, which was obtained by the Huffington Post, Cantor’s shares in that fund total $3,300, and it’s quite a stretch to imagine that someone who is worth as much as $7.7 million would tank the US economy in order to profit on such a paltry investment. (As Cantor’s spokesman also pointed out, his $263,000 government pension means he would lose more than he would gain if the government defaulted anyhow).

Cantor is a good target for Democrats, as he is now back in the driver’s seat of his party’s debt limit talks after House Speaker John Boehner was unable to win a large-scale deal. However, if one is to examine Cantor’s finances in search of a motive-and the finances that really matter, his campaign account and leadership PAC-a different story emerges. Cantor, much like the GOP as a whole, is so thoroughly beholden to Wall Street firms it’s hard to imagine he won’t agree to a deal by August 2.

Robert Weiner and John Horton,: End Trickle Down Economics to Pay Off Debt

President Obama has given speech after speech calling on Congress to reduce tax breaks for the wealthy to balance the budget. When President Clinton left office, the budget had been balanced for four consecutive years with surpluses projected through 2011. The tax rate for the wealthiest 2 percent of wage earners was 39.6 percent. President George W. Bush, however, chose to pursue the system of so-called “trickle-down” economics through tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

The result: surplus turned into deficit. By the end of Bush’s second term, the United States was embroiled in the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Trickle-down economics has not worked since Herbert Hoover tried it. It is a myth that adding money to the wealthy through tax cuts stimulates jobs and grows the economy. Under Democratic presidents since 1930 who have emphasized people programs and resisted tax breaks for the richest, annual growth in GDP has averaged 5.4 percent, according to Commerce Department and Office of Management and Budget statistics.

Mike Farrell: Extremely Unctuous

Raised in the Catholic Church, I was a pretty confused kid. Father O’Reilly, one of the priests at St. Peter’s, the church our family attended most of the time, spoke with such a pronounced brogue that I couldn’t follow him. But I didn’t understand the Mass either, so I smiled and pretended he made sense, just accepting him on faith along with the rest of it.

But at some point it all began to itch. Ours was the “One True Faith” and everyone else was damned to hell. Really? That was tough to think about, because some non-Catholics we knew seemed like pretty nice folks-well, most of them, anyway. And what about the people in Africa and other places who maybe never even had a chance to know about Jesus and Peter, The Rock Upon Which He Built His Church?

Hell for everybody but us? It clearly made some feel special, but I couldn’t make it sit right.

Le Tour- Stage 10

Aurillac to Carmaux 99 miles.

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.


No not Contador, though this is a great example of what happens to a ‘normal’ rider.  Alexandr Kolobnev of Katusha had a urine sample taken after Stage 5 test positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a diurectic sometimes used to mask other drugs (though not performance enhancing in and of itself).

Since the news was released yesterday, a mere 4 days after the sample, Kolobnev has withdrawn/was booted (accounts disagree) from Le Tour and fired from his team (or not yet, accounts disagree) and is facing a $3 million fine.  Oh, and police tossed his hotel room.

I invite you to compare and contrast.

Today’s Stage has what are called ‘rolling hills’ with 2 category 4 and 2 category 3 climbs.  The sprint checkpoint is pretty early and will happen just before or soon after we join the race.

Hoogerland and Flecha are still with us so far but I’ll note the withdrawal list doesn’t reflect Kolobnev at the moment so perhaps the true toll of Sunday is not yet reflected.  Of course standings haven’t changed since yesterday.

Today’s coverage starts at 8 am.

On This Day In History July 12

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 images to enlarge

July 12 is the 193rd day of the year (194th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 172 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1862, the Medal of Honor is created.

President Abraham Lincoln signs into law a measure calling for the awarding of a U.S. Army Medal of Honor, in the name of Congress, “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection.” The previous December, Lincoln had approved a provision creating a U.S. Navy Medal of Valor, which was the basis of the Army Medal of Honor created by Congress in July 1862. The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation’s highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.


The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by American soldiers was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782, when he created the Badge of Military Merit, designed to recognize “any singularly meritorious action.” This decoration is America’s first combat award and the second oldest American military decoration of any type, after the Fidelity Medallion.

Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U.S. armed forces had been established. In 1847, after the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, a Certificate of Merit was established for soldiers who distinguished themselves in action. The certificate was later granted medal status as the Certificate of Merit Medal.

Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valor was proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes to Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the United States Army. Scott did not approve the proposal, but the medal did come into use in the Navy. Senate Bill 82, containing a provision for a “Medal of Honor”, was signed into law (12Stat329) by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was “to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honor, as the Navy version also came to be called: “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection.”

As there were only two medals that could be issued until the World War I including the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor was sometimes awarded for deeds that would not later merit that distinction. In 1917, when other medals were created for bravery, a recall was requested for 910 Medals of Honor that had been previously issued, but no longer considered that noteworthy. Thereafter, and until the present day, the Medal was awarded for deeds that were considered exceptional.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

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Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Obama: “Die Quickly”

We are doomed and so are our future generations.

President Obama at today’s (7/11) press conference:

As for Social Security, which he acknowledged is not the source of any deficit problems, he basically said that, as long as we’re doing a big deal, we might as well throw that in. “The reason to include that in this package is, if you’re going to take a bunch of tough votes, you might as well do it now,” Obama said.

Obama Offered To Raise Medicare Eligibility Age As Part Of Grand Debt Deal

by Sam Stein

According to five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations — including both Republicans and Democrats — the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues.

The proposal, as discussed, would not go into effect immediately, but rather would be implemented down the road (likely in 2013). The age at which people would be eligible for Medicare benefits would be raised incrementally, not in one fell swoop.


A proposal to raise the eligibility age for Medicare — which was part of a budget plan put forth by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) — would face steep opposition from within the Democratic Party. The amount of money it would save is also relatively small, as the vast majority of Medicare funding is spent on more elderly populations. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the Medicare eligibility age was increased from 65 to 67, the federal government would save $124.8 billion between 2014 and 2021.

Paul Krugman, Conscience of a Liberal

That’s a truly cruel idea; as it happens, I know several people who are hanging on, postponing needed medical care, hoping that they can make it to 65 before something terrible happens. And if I know such people in my fairly sheltered social circles, just imagine how widespread such stories must be.

But beyond that, think about what it means to move people out of Medicare into private insurance, if they can get it.

Medicare has its problems – but all the evidence says that it is substantially more cost-effective than private insurance. Partly this is because it has lower administrative costs; partly it’s because Medicare is able to use its market power to negotiate lower prices. And the international evidence is overwhelming: single-payer systems are much cheaper than systems centered on private insurance.

So think of this as a national interest thing rather than a budget thing: Lieberman is proposing that we move a substantial number of older Americans into a worse, more expensive health care system. Why would you want to do such a thing, as opposed to raising enough additional revenue to keep them on Medicare?

Where is the outrage?

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 UK hacking scandal widens with Brown, royal claims

By Robin Millard, AFP

3 hrs ago

Britain’s phone hacking scandal spiralled Monday amid reports that former premier Gordon Brown and the royals were targeted, as the government dealt a blow to Rupert Murdoch’s bid for pay-TV giant BSkyB.

In a story taking new twists and turns by the hour and shaking the entire establishment, Brown was reportedly hacked by The Sunday Times and The Sun, both stablemates of Murdoch’s doomed News of the World tabloid.

The royal family were meanwhile allegedly targeted by the News of the World, Britain’s biggest selling weekly newspaper, which Murdoch shut down at the weekend amid allegations of widespread illegal phone hacking.