Daily Archive: 05/10/2013

May 10 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”.

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Paul Krugman: Bernanke, Blower of Bubbles?

Bubbles can be bad for your financial health – and bad for the health of the economy, too. The dot-com bubble of the late 1990s left behind many vacant buildings and many more failed dreams. When the housing bubble of the next decade burst, the result was the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s – a crisis from which we have yet to emerge.

So when people talk about bubbles, you should listen carefully and evaluate their claims – not scornfully dismiss them, which was the way many self-proclaimed experts reacted to warnings about housing. [..]

For one important subtext of all the recent bubble rhetoric is the demand that Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues stop trying to fight mass unemployment, that they must cease and desist their efforts to boost the economy or dire consequences will follow. In fact, however, there isn’t any case for believing that we face any broad bubble problem, let alone that worrying about hypothetical bubbles should take precedence over the task of getting Americans back to work. Mr. Bernanke should brush aside the babbling barons of bubbleism, and get on with doing his job.

Henry A. Giroux: Lockdown, USA: Lessons From the Boston Marathon Manhunt

The American public rightfully expressed a collective sigh of relief and a demonstration of prodigious gratitude towards law enforcement authorities when the unprecedented manhunt for the Boston marathon bombers came to an end. The trauma and anxiety felt by the people of Boston and to some degree by the larger society over the gratuitously bloody and morally degenerate attacks on civilians was no doubt heightened given the legacy of 9/11.  Since the tragic events of that historical moment, the nation has been subjected to “a media spectacle of fear and unreason delivered via TV, news sites and other social media;”  it has also been engulfed in a nationwide hysteria about Muslims. Moreover, the American public has been schizophrenically immersed within a culture of fear and cruelty punctuated by a law-and-order driven promise for personal safety, certainty, and collective protection that amounted to a Faustian bargain with the devil, one in which Americans traded constitutional rights and numerous civil liberties for the ever expanding presence of a militarized security and surveillance state run by a government that has little regard for human rights or the principles of justice and democracy.  

Peter Van Buren: Homeland Insecurity

What do words mean in a post-9/11 world? Apart from the now clich├ęd Orwellian twists that turn brutal torture into mere enhanced interrogation, the devil is in the details. Robert MacLean is a former air marshal fired for an act of whistleblowing.  He has continued to fight over seven long years for what once would have passed as simple justice: getting his job back. His is an all-too-twenty-first-century story of the extraordinary lengths to which the U.S. government is willing to go to thwart whistleblowers.

First, the government retroactively classified a previously unclassified text message to justify firing MacLean. Then it invoked arcane civil service procedures, including an “interlocutory appeal” to thwart him and, in the process, enjoyed the approval of various courts and bureaucratic boards apparently willing to stamp as “legal” anything the government could make up in its own interest.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Problem in New York Politics Is Big Money, Not Small Parties

Rahm Emanuel was right: A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Following the arrest of a leading state senator last month, which confirmed every New Yorker’s worst suspicions about the depths of our state’s corruption problem, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has a rare opportunity to push common sense reforms to get money out of our politics. But, instead, he’s seized the moment to push a “reform” that would leave our state’s politics even more dominated by the wealthy and well-connected.

As I noted last month, Cuomo has endorsed a legal change that would hamstring New York State’s third parties, including the Working Families Party, a savvy and steadfast counterweight against the power of big business and its backers in both parties. The WFP has been able to maximize its leverage here because, unlike most states, New York allows fusion voting: third parties can endorse a worthy candidate who’s also running on the Democratic or Republican Party ballot line, and place that candidate on their own line as well. Or, if neither candidate deserves their support, third parties can run their own candidate against them. Strategically deploying that option has helped the WFP become a force to be reckoned with.

Robert Reich; Sexual Assaults and Nuclear Missiles: What’s the Matter With the Military?

After years of repeated reports of sexual assaults — and years of promises to prevent them, and then years of studies and commissions to find the best way of doing so — a Defense Department study released Tuesday estimates that some 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in the last fiscal year, up from about 19,000 the year before.

Moreover, it turns out the Air Force lieutenant colonel in charge of preventing sexual assault has been arrested for … sexual assault. According to the police report, a drunken Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski allegedly approached a woman in a parking lot in Arlington, Va., Sunday night, and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.

Why has it been so difficult for the Air Force or the Defense Department to remedy this problem?

Les Leopold: The Rich Have Gained $5.6 Trillion in the ‘Recovery,’ While the Rest of Us Have Lost $669 Billion

Oh, are we getting ripped off. And now we’ve got the data to prove it. From 2009 to 2011, the richest 8 million families (the top 7 percent) on average saw their wealth rise from $1.7 million to $2.5 million each. Meanwhile the rest of us — the bottom 93 percent (that’s 111 million families) — suffered on average a decline of $6,000 each.

Do the math and you’ll discover that the top 7 percent gained a whopping $5.6 trillion in net worth (assets minus liabilities) while the rest of lost $669 billion. Their wealth went up by 28 percent while ours went down by 4 percent.

It’s as if the entire economic recovery is going into the pockets of the rich. And that’s no accident. Here’s why.

May 10 2013

On This Day In History May 10

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

May 10 is the 130th day of the year (131st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 235 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drive a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. history. No longer would western-bound travelers need to take the long and dangerous journey by wagon train, and the West would surely lose some of its wild charm with the new connection to the civilized East.

Since at least 1832, both Eastern and frontier statesmen realized a need to connect the two coasts. It was not until 1853, though, that Congress appropriated funds to survey several routes for the transcontinental railroad. The actual building of the railroad would have to wait even longer, as North-South tensions prevented Congress from reaching an agreement on where the line would begin.

Route

The Union Pacific laid 1,087 miles (1,749 km) of track, starting in Council Bluffs, and continuing across the Missouri River and through Nebraska (Elkhorn, now Omaha, Grand Island, North Platte, Ogallala, Sidney, Nebraska), the Colorado Territory (Julesburg), the Wyoming Territory (Cheyenne, Laramie, Green River, Evanston), the Utah Territory (Ogden, Brigham City, Corinne), and connecting with the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit. The route did not pass through the two biggest cities in the Great American Desert — Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. Feeder lines were built to service the two cities.

The Central Pacific laid 690 miles (1,100 km) of track, starting in Sacramento, California, and continuing over the Sierra Nevada mountains into Nevada. It passed through Newcastle, California and Truckee, California, Reno, Nevada, Wadsworth, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, and Wells, Nevada, before connecting with the Union Pacific line at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory. Later, the western part of the route was extended to the Alameda Terminal in Alameda, California, and shortly thereafter, to the Oakland Long Wharf at Oakland Point in Oakland, California. When the eastern end of the CPRR was extended to Ogden, it ended the short period of a boom town for Promontory. Before the CPRR was completed, developers were building other railroads in Nevada and California to connect to it.

At first, the Union Pacific was not directly connected to the Eastern U.S. rail network. Instead, trains had to be ferried across the Missouri River. In 1873, the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge opened and directly connected the East and West.

Modern-day Interstate 80 closely follows the path of the railroad, with one exception. Between Echo, Utah and Wells, Nevada, Interstate 80 passes through the larger Salt Lake City and passes along the south shore of the Great Salt Lake. The Railroad had blasted and tunneled its way down the Weber River canyon to Ogden and around the north shore of the Great Salt Lake (roughly paralleling modern Interstate 84 and State Route 30). While routing the railroad along the Weber River, Mormon workers signed the Thousand Mile Tree, to commemorate the milestone. A historic marker has been placed there. The portion of the railroad around the north shore of the lake is no longer intact. In 1904, the Lucin Cutoff, a causeway across the center of the Great Salt Lake, shortened the route by approximately 43 miles (69 km), traversing Promontory Point instead of Promontory Summit.

May 10 2013

Obama: Privacy For Me But Not For Thee

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpgThe New York Times revealed in an article by Charles Savage that the Justice Department is preparing legislation that would allow the FBI to wiretap online communications with far greater ease:

The Obama administration is weighing a proposal that would fine companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. An earlier proposal by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would have required all companies to build in this capacity from the outset – a costly mandate that critics worried would stifle tech innovation and small businesses.

Attorney Albert Gidari Jr., who specializes in representing technology companies, told the Times: “We’ll look at lot more like China than America after this.”

Albert Gidari Jr., who represents technology companies on law enforcement matters, told the NYT, “We’ll look a lot more like China than America after this.” Gidari further stated, “that if the United States started imposing fines on foreign Internet firms, it would encourage other countries, some of which may be looking for political dissidents, to penalize American companies if they refused to turn over users’ information.”

The Raw Story notes:

It’s not clear yet if the White House will send this proposal to Congress, but if they do it’s sure to ignite another major debate on Internet freedom and privacy rights not unlike the struggle over network neutrality and the push-back against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

And according to the Department of Justice, “warrants? we don’t need no stinking warrants:”

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.

Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they’re not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access to e-mail correspondence.

The Fourth Amendment is apparently irrelevant to Mr. Constitutional Law Professor.

The fight to protect the Constitution from Barack Obama and his Justice Department continues.