Daily Archive: 04/07/2014

Apr 07 2014

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: Oligarchs and Money

Econonerds eagerly await each new edition of the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook. Never mind the forecasts, what we’re waiting for are the analytical chapters, which are always interesting and even provocative. This latest report is no exception. In particular, Chapter 3 – although billed as an analysis of trends in real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates – in effect makes a compelling case for raising inflation targets above 2 percent, the current norm in advanced countries. [..]

But the I.M.F. evidently doesn’t feel able to say outright what its analysis clearly implies. Instead, the report resorts to euphemisms that preserve deniability: the analysis “could have implications for the appropriate monetary policy framework.”

So what makes the obvious unsayable? In a direct sense, what we’re seeing is the power of conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom doesn’t come from nowhere, and I’m increasingly convinced that our failure to deal with high unemployment has a lot to do with class interests.

Robert Reich: McCutcheon took us back in time, but it might just birth the next Occupy

The conservative supreme court thinks it can build a gilded age for the era of income inequality. They won’t know what hit ’em

The supreme court is composed of five justices appointed by Republican presidents, and four appointed by Democratic ones. In the McCutcheon v FEC case decided on Wednesday, the five Republican appointees interpreted the first amendment to protect the right of individuals to pour as much as $3.6m into a political party or $800,000 into a political campaign.

The decision by those justices allows individual donors to buy – and federal officeholders to solicit – unparalleled personal influence in Washington. McCutcheon drowns out the voices of ordinary citizens. [..]

The decision rests on the court’s dubious finding that such spending does not give rise to corruption. That’s baloney, as anyone who has the faintest familiarity with contemporary American politics well knows. As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissenting opinion: “where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard”.

Trevor Timm: Leak the CIA Report: It’s the Only Way to Know the Whole Truth About Torture

Unless, of course, you think spies redacting 6,300 pages of their own sins is transparency. Look how much leaks told us this week

In a seemingly rare win for transparency, headlines blared on Thursday that the Senate Intelligence Committee had voted to declassify key findings of its massive report on CIA torture. Unfortunately, most news articles waited until the final two paragraphs to mention the real news: the public won’t see any of the document for months at minimum, and more than 90% of the investigation – characterized as “the Pentagon Papers of the CIA torture program” – will remain secret indefinitely.

In reality, only the executive summary and its conclusions – 480 out of some 6,300 pages – were even included in the vote, and they’re nowhere close to being published: it now heads to the White House for “declassification review”, an arduous process that will involve multiple government agencies taking a black marker to the documents, including the CIA, the same agency accused in the report of systematically torturing prisoners and lying about it for years. The spy report’s subjects and suspects will now become its censors.

It’s possible the only way the public will ever get to see the entire landmark report is the same way we’ve learned everything we know about it: if someone leaks it.

Kevin Gosztola: The CIA and the ‘Cult of Intelligence’ Will Manage to Keep Vast Majority of Senate Torture Report Secret

Why is it that the public will likely never get to read much of a major investigative report the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence produced on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program-a program that included torture?

Thursday, the Senate intelligence committee voted to declassify portions of the 6,300-page report-the executive summary, findings and conclusions. It was not long after the vote that it was confirmed that the White House would have the CIA conduct a declassification review of these parts of the report before they were released.

This conflict of interest was addressed by Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, who told The Guardian the CIA functionally will control “the declassification process, and they have an interest in how they as an agency are portrayed in the final product.” He added, “They’re not an impartial party, and that’s a flaw in the process.”

Yet, what if it is not a flaw? What if it is a feature? The CIA has made it this far in history without facing any accountability whatsoever for torturing and even causing the deaths of captives it confined in a network of secret prisons the agency maintained.

Richard (RJ) EskowL Is Charles Koch Un-American? Let Thomas Jefferson Decide

In a surprisingly self-pitying Wall Street Journal editorial, billionaire Charles Koch has put forward the proposition that the nation’s “collectivists” have unfairly characterized him as “un-American.”

What Koch calls “character assassination,” however, others would describe as a simple recounting of the facts. Koch and his brother David are known for injecting massive amounts of their (partially inherited) wealth into the political process, academia, and propaganda in order to promote their right-wing (and self-serving) point of view.

But now that he’s brought it up: Is Charles Koch really un-American?

I’m not comfortable answering that question myself. It promises to judge the person, rather than the deeds, and is all too reminiscent of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. (It’s worth noting that, for a guy who resents being labeled, Koch is certainly quick to label his enemies “collectivists” — a term which is strikingly reminiscent of McCarthyism.)

So let’s turn the question over to an unimpeachable authority: Thomas Jefferson. He seems like an arbitrator all parties can agree upon. Koch even cites Jefferson in his own defense.  Unfortunately, all that citation accomplishes is to make it painfully clear that Koch is no Jefferson scholar.

César Chelala: The Case for Donald Rumsfeld’s Prosecution

I have just finished watching the film “The Unknown Known” by Errol Morris, which is a long interview with Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense during the Iraq war, and cannot stop thinking about Rumsfeld’s role in the use of torture, for which he was widely condemned.

In 2009, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, stated that there was already enough evidence to try former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes. Nowak’s statement confirmed what human rights and legal organizations have been saying for several years, and spotlights one of the Bush administration’s most controversial decisions regarding the use of torture. [..]

Decades ago, Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe how “normal people”, given the circumstances, could commit atrocious crimes.

The documentary “The Unknown Known,” draws its title from one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s most famous rhetorical pronouncements. In the film, Morris interviews Rumsfeld at length, and allows him to give his version of the facts that led to the Iraq war and subsequent events. Looking at Rumsfeld, totally oblivious and uncaring about the devastation that he and his accomplices unleashed in Iraq, I am tempted to call the process “the impunity of evil.”

Apr 07 2014

The Breakfast Club: 4-7-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Apr 07 2014

On This Day In History April 7

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.

April 7 is the 97th day of the year (98th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 268 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, The World Health Organization is founded. WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on April 7, 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health Organization, which was an agency of the League of Nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the original agencies of the United Nations, its constitution formally coming into force on the first World Health Day, (April 7, 1948), when it was ratified by the 26th member state. Jawaharlal Nehru, a major freedom fighter of India had given an opinion to start WHO. Prior to this its operations, as well as the remaining activities of the League of Nations Health Organization, were under the control of an Interim Commission following an International Health Conference in the summer of 1946. The transfer was authorized by a Resolution of the General Assembly. The epidemiological service of the French Office International d’Hygiène Publique was incorporated into the Interim Commission of the World Health Organization on January 1, 1947.

Activities

Apart from coordinating international efforts to control outbreaks of infectious disease, such as SARS, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza, and HIV/AIDS, the WHO also sponsors programmes to prevent and treat such diseases. The WHO supports the development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, pharmaceutical diagnostics, and drugs. After over two decades of fighting smallpox, the WHO declared in 1980, that the disease had been eradicated – the first disease in history to be eliminated by human effort. The WHO aims to eradicate polio within the next few years.

The organization develops and promotes the use of evidence-based tools, norms and standards to support Member States to inform health policy options. It regularly publishes a World Health Report including an expert assessment of a specific global health topic. The organization has published tools for monitoring the capacity of national health systems and health workforces to meet population health needs, and endorsed the world’s first official HIV/AIDS Toolkit for Zimbabwe (from 3 October 2006), making it an international standard.

In addition, the WHO carries out various health-related campaigns – for example, to boost the consumption of fruits and vegetables worldwide and to discourage tobacco use. The organization relies on the expertise and experience of many world-renowned scientists and professionals to inform its work. Experts met at the WHO headquarters in Geneva in February, 2007, and reported that their work on pandemic influenza vaccine development had achieved encouraging progress. More than 40 clinical trials have been completed or are ongoing. Most have focused on healthy adults. Some companies, after completing safety analysis in adults, have initiated clinical trials in the elderly and in children. All vacciness so far appear to be safe and well-tolerated in all age groups tested.

The WHO also promotes the development of capacities in Member States to use and produce research that addresses national needs, by bolstering national health research systems and promoting knowledge translation platforms such as the Evidence Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet). WHO and its regional offices are working to develop regional policies on research for health – the first one being the Pan American Health Organization/Regional Office for the Americas (PAHO/AMRO) that had its Policy on Research for Health approved in September 2009 by its 49th Directing Council Document CD 49.10.

WHO also conducts health research in communicable diseases, non-communicable conditions and injuries; for example, longitudinal studies on ageing to determine if the additional years we live are in good or poor health, and, whether the electromagnetic field surrounding cell phones has an impact on health. Some of this work can be controversial, as illustrated by the April, 2003, joint WHO/FAO report, which recommended that sugar should form no more than 10% of a healthy diet. This report led to lobbying by the sugar industry against the recommendation, to which the WHO/FAO responded by including in the report the statement “The Consultation recognized that a population goal for free sugars of less than 10% of total energy is controversial”, but also stood by its recommendation based upon its own analysis of scientific studies.

The World Health Organization’s suite of health studies is working to provide the needed health and well-being evidence through a variety of data collection platforms, including the World Health Survey covering 308,000 respondents aged 18+ years and 81,000 aged 50+ years from 70 countries and the Study on Global Aging and Adult Health (SAGE) covering over 50,000 persons aged 50+ across almost 23 countries. The World Mental Health Surveys, WHO Quality of Life Instrument, WHO Disability Assessment Scales provide guidance for data collection in other health and health-related areas. Collaborative efforts between WHO and other agencies, such as the Health Metrics Network and the International Household Surveys Network, serve the normative functions of setting high research standards.

WHO has also worked on global initiatives in surgery such as the Global Initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care and the Guidelines for Essential Trauma Care focussed on access and quality. Safe Surgery Saves Lives addresses the safety of surgical care. The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist is in current use worldwide in the effort to improve safety in surgical patients.

Apr 07 2014

Sunday Train: Koch Brothers Aim to Screw Tennessee Transit Riders & Motorists

In a move to squash the freedom and local political autonomy of Nashville residents, the Koch Brothers-finded Americans For Prosperity turn out to be supporting a proposed State of Tennessee law outlawing Bus Rapid Transit systems that have dedicated lanes. From ThinkProgress:

On Thursday, the Tennessee Senate passed SB 2243, which includes an amendment that “prohibits metropolitan governments and any transit authorities created by a metropolitan government from constructing, maintaining or operating any bus rapid transit system using a separate lane, or other separate right-of-way, dedicated solely to the use of such bus rapid transit system on any state highway or state highway.” The amendment is aimed at Nashville’s proposed $174 million rapid bus system called the Amp, but would apply to any mass transit system proposed in Nashville.

The Amp, a proposed 7.1-mile bus rapid transit system that would cut commute times along one of Nashville’s major corridors, has been staunchly opposed by the Tennessee branch of Americans for Prosperity, a lobbying organization founded in part by the Koch brothers. AFP’s Tennessee director told the Tennessean that SB 2243 was the result of a conversation he’d had with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Tracy. In addition, AFP pushed the Senate to vote on the bill – efforts that led to StopAmp.org, one of the lead groups opposing the Amp, thanking AFP in a press release after SB 2243 passed the Senate. The transit system’s opponents say it would create traffic problems and safety issues due to its middle-lane location, a claim that a spokesman for the Amp Coalition disputes.

One thing we know is that the claim of traffic problems and safety issues from a middle lane location is a red herring ~ not because its patent nonsense, though it is, but because that’s not what the bill restricts. The bill does not ban center lane Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), or side lane BRT, it bans effective BRT. If passed by the House and signed into law, it requires that any BRT system run exclusively in mixed traffic … which means that its not likely to be a BRT at all, but would be, instead, a new coat of paint on city buses and some improved facilities at some city bus stops.

So more on why the Koch Brothers are against Tennesseans having effective BRT and so also against improved traffic conditions in Tennessee cities, below the fold.

Apr 07 2014

March Madness 2014: Women’s Semi-Finals

Time Network Seed School Record Region Seed School Record Region
6:30 ESPN 1 Notre Dame (35 – 0) East 4 Maryland (27 – 6) South
9:00 ESPN 1 UConn (37 – 0) MidWest 2 Stanford (33 – 3) West