Daily Archive: 02/11/2013

Feb 11 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The Ignorance Caucus

Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speech’s majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.

To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didn’t succeed – and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that’s not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

And such is the influence of what we might call the ignorance caucus that even when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because it’s surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we’re trying to change.

The New York Times Editorial: Quietly Killing a Consumer Watchdog

The consumer bureau has taken seriously its mandate to protect the public from the kinds of abuses that helped lead to the 2009 recession, and it has not been intimidated by the financial industry’s army of lobbyists. That’s what worries Republicans. They can’t prevent the bureau from regulating their financial supporters. Having failed to block the creation of the bureau in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, they are now trying to take away its power by filibuster, and they may well succeed.

The bureau cannot operate without a director. Under the Dodd-Frank law, most of its regulatory powers – particularly its authority over nonbanks like finance companies, debt collectors, payday lenders and credit agencies – can be exercised only by a director. Knowing that, Republicans used a filibuster to prevent President Obama’s nominee for director, Richard Cordray, from reaching a vote in 2011. Mr. Obama then gave Mr. Cordray a recess appointment, but a federal appeals court recently ruled in another case that the Senate was not in recess at that time because Republicans had arranged for sham sessions.

Noah Feldman: Obama’s Drone Attack on Your Due Process

The biggest problem with the recently disclosed Obama administration white paper (pdf) defending the drone killing of radical clerk Anwar al-Awlaki isn’t its secrecy or its creative redefinition of the words “imminent threat.” It is the revolutionary and shocking transformation of the meaning of due process.

Fortunately, as seen during John Brennan’s confirmation hearing for Central Intelligence Agency director, Congress is starting to notice]. [..]

The Obama administration’s apparent belief that due process can be satisfied in secret internal inside the executive branch is arguably a greater departure from precedent. It is a travesty of the very notion of due process. And to borrow a phrase from Justice Robert Jackson, it will now lie about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any administration that needs it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands

When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country – and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans and other financial assistance came from the Federal Reserve. America. What a great country.

But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

Robert Kuttner: The Sorry State of Our Union

President Obama delivers his fifth State of the Union Address on Tuesday. Based on White House leaks, the president will emphasize rebuilding the middle class. He will invoke the importance of education, infrastructure, clean energy, and manufacturing.

These are terrific themes, economically and politically. The only problem is that rebuilding the middle class by the public investments that the society needs is out of the question — because of the downward drag of a budget politics that the president shares.

The administration is officially committed to the idea that we need another $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade — a rate of fiscal contraction half again as large as this year’s Sequester, and for 10 full years.

Robert Reich: Coming Tuesday (Hopefully): The State of the Union’s Economy

If you’re sitting in the well of the House when a president gives a State of the Union address (as I’ve had the privilege of doing five times), the hardest part is on the knees. You’re required to stand and applaud every applause line, which means, if you’re in the cabinet or an elected official of the president’s party, an extraordinary amount of standing and sitting.

But for a president himself, the State of the Union provides a unique opportunity to focus the entire nation’s attention on the central issue you want the nation to help you take action on.

President Obama has been focusing his (and therefore America’s) attention on immigration, guns, and the environment. All are important. But in my view none of these should be the central theme of his address Tuesday evening.

Feb 11 2013

On This Day In History February 11

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.

February 11 is the 42nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 323 days remaining until the end of the year (324 in leap years).

On this day in 1990, Nelson Mandela is released from prison

Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, is released from prison after 27 years on February 11, 1990.

In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg’s youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government.

In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several other ANC leaders and sentenced to life in prison.

Imprisonment

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison. While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known as the most significant black leader in South Africa. On the island, he and others performed hard labour in a lime quarry. Prison conditions were very basic. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations. Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges. Mandela describes how, as a D-group prisoner (the lowest classification) he was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. Letters, when they came, were often delayed for long periods and made unreadable by the prison censors.

Whilst in prison Mandela undertook study with the University of London by correspondence through its External Programme and received the degree of Bachelor of Laws. He was subsequently nominated for the position of Chancellor of the University of London in the 1981 election, but lost to Princess Anne.

In his 1981 memoir Inside BOSS secret agent Gordon Winter describes his involvement in a plot to rescue Mandela from prison in 1969: this plot was infiltrated by Winter on behalf of South African intelligence, who wanted Mandela to escape so they could shoot him during recapture. The plot was foiled by British Intelligence.

In March 1982 Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, along with other senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba. It was speculated that this was to remove the influence of these senior leaders on the new generation of young black activists imprisoned on Robben Island, the so-called “Mandela University”. However, National Party minister Kobie Coetsee says that the move was to enable discreet contact between them and the South African government.

In February 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he ‘unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon’. Coetsee and other ministers had advised Botha against this, saying that Mandela would never commit his organisation to giving up the armed struggle in exchange for personal freedom. Mandela indeed spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

The first meeting between Mandela and the National Party government came in November 1985 when Kobie Coetsee met Mandela in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Mandela was recovering from prostate surgery. Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.

In 1988 Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release. Various restrictions were lifted and people such as Harry Schwarz were able to visit him. Schwarz, a friend of Mandela, had known him since university when they were in the same law class. He was also a defence barrister at the Rivonia Trial and would become Mandela’s ambassador to Washington during his presidency.

Throughout Mandela’s imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela! In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem de Klerk. De Klerk announced Mandela’s release in February 1990.

Mandela was visited several times by delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross, while at Robben Island and later at Pollsmoor prison. Mandela had this to say about the visits: “to me personally, and those who shared the experience of being political prisoners, the Red Cross was a beacon of humanity within the dark inhumane world of political imprisonment.”

Feb 11 2013

The Grand Discussion: Economic Recovery Part 2

After his exclusive interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes, Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist/blogger, Dr. Paul Krugman (@NYTimeskrugman) joins Chris and his panel guests Dean Baker (@DeanBaker13), co-director Center for Economic & Policy Research and author; Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein), a former vice president of information technology at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist; and Heather McGhee (@hmcghee), vice-president of Demos. Enjoy the lively and informed discussion about the self imposed sequester crisis, global austerity and the role of inequality in the recovery.

Feb 11 2013

The Grand Discussion: Economic Recovery Part 1

The US economy is stagnating and all that our elected officials are fixated on is reducing the deficit and debt with more spending cuts at a time when the government should be investing in this country to help produce jobs. Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist/blogger, Dr. Paul Krugman has explained that austerity measures in this sluggish economy will only further the pain with more job losses and increase the likely hood of a second recession.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes, sat down with Dr. Krugman for a fascinating one on one conversation about the president’s latest bid to delay the looming sequester cuts and why there is a difference between “Macro-economics 101” and what policy makers in DC are talking about. They also discuss the banking crisis and the continued divergence between profits and wages.

Feb 11 2013

CISPA Resurrected

Stop CISPAYou know that dress or shirt that’s been hanging in your closet for years, you know that hideous shade of fuscia that was a fashion must have for barely a season but you had to buy it, well, there are some bills in Congress that are just like that, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is one of those bills. On Friday, while everyone was distracted by the blizzard in the Northeast, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.)announced that they would reintroduce CISPA next week. Apparently alarmed by the recent hacks of government web sites and private banking information, this dynamic duo plan on reintroducing the same bill that the House passed last year that President Barack Obama’s advisors recommended he veto.

The bill, in the form it was presented in 2011,

would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. The stated aim of the bill is to help the U.S government investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyberattack. [..]

CISPA has been criticized by advocates of Internet privacy and civil liberties, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Avaaz.org. Those groups argue CISPA contains too few limits on how and when the government may monitor a private individual’s Internet browsing information. Additionally, they fear that such new powers could be used to spy on the general public rather than to pursue malicious hackers. CISPA has garnered favor from corporations and lobbying groups such as Microsoft, Facebook and the United States Chamber of Commerce, which look on it as a simple and effective means of sharing important cyber threat information with the government.

Some critics saw CISPA as a second attempt at strengthening digital piracy laws after the anti-piracy Stop Online Piracy Act became deeply unpopular. Intellectual property theft was initially listed in the bill as a possible cause for sharing Web traffic information with the government, though it was removed in subsequent drafts

It is now clawing its way back to life. The ACLU is asking for our help to once again gear up to protect and preserve the right to freedom of the internet

Because of your activism last year, big and important changes were made to the Senate cyber bill, including significant privacy protections. Let’s do it again House-side. If the House wants smart cyber legislation that also protects privacy, it needs to ensure that the programs are civilian-led, minimize the sharing of sensitive personal information between government and corporations, and protect collected information from non-cyber uses.

So bone up on what CISPA does, see the many organizations from left to right who have opposed CISPA, compare it (pdf) to the far better legislation in the Senate, and read why even the Obama administration threatened to veto this bill last year. And get ready to fight for your right to online privacy once again.

This was what Internet Activist Aaron Swartz fought against when he called CISPA “The Patriot Act of the Internet”

Swartz told Russia Today that whereas SOPA was exclusively “about giving the government the power to censor the Internet,” CISPA has the same kind of censorship provisions but “is more like a Patriot Act for the Internet.”

“It sort of lets the government run roughshod over privacy protections and share personal data about you,” he explained, “take it from Facebook and Internet providers and use it without the normal privacy protections that are in the law. … It’s an incredibly broad and dangerous bill.”

“The thing about this bill is it doesn’t really have any protections against cyber threats,” Swartz added. “All it does is make people share their information. But that’s not going to solve the problem. What’s going to solve the problem is actual security measures, protecting the service in the first place, not spying on people after the fact.”

This bill needs to be stopped and quickly. The time to act is now, educate yourself, your family and friends to the danger this bill represents.

Violating Our Privacy Is Not An Option

Sign this petition and send Congress a message that our rights are not negotiable.

For Aaron and for us.