05/12/2014 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”.

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Sen. Rand Paul: Show Us the Drone Memos

I BELIEVE that killing an American citizen without a trial is an extraordinary concept and deserves serious debate. I can’t imagine appointing someone to the federal bench, one level below the Supreme Court, without fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. [..]

I believe that all senators should have access to all of these opinions. Furthermore, the American people deserve to see redacted versions of these memos so that they can understand the Obama administration’s legal justification for this extraordinary exercise of executive power. The White House may invoke national security against disclosure, but legal arguments that affect the rights of every American should not have the privilege of secrecy.

I agree with the A.C.L.U. that “no senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.” The A.C.L.U. cites the fact that in modern history, a presidential order to kill an American citizen away from a battlefield is unprecedented.

Paul Krugman: Crazy Climate Economics

Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don’t – but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you’ll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word “class” is “Marxism talk.” In the right’s eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere – for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of “diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme – why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.

And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.

Trevor Timm: The battle to retake our privacy can be won – really!

A close look at the new NSA reform bill – and court cases that may be just as important – reveals that, one year after Snowden’s breakthrough, we’re finally getting somewhere

After months of inaction – and worries that real change at the National Security Agency was indefinitely stalled – there was a flurry of action in Congress this week on the most promising NSA reform bill, as the USA Freedom Act unanimously passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and then, surprisingly, out of the Intelligence Committee, too. Only its movement came at a price: the bill is now much weaker than it was before.

What would the legislation actually do? Well, for one, it would take the giant phone records database out of the NSA’s hands and put it into those of the telecom companies, and force judicial review. Importantly, it doesn’t categorically make anything worse – like the House Intel bill pushed by Rep Mike Rogers would have – and it would at least end the phone records program as it exists today, while making things a little bit better for transparency.

Simon Jenkins: Ukraine should be left to forge its own course

A key principle of liberal politics is self-determination. Step forward the people of Ukraine – not Washington or London

Last night’s Ukraine referendum yields not one crisis but two. The first is separatist pressure of the sort that has long plagued the politics of Europe. A poorly drawn border, an ethnic or linguistic minority, an inept central government – all lead to revolt. Resolution lies either in devolution and confederation or in partition and independence. Witness Ireland, Kosovo, Slovakia and Macedonia, and perhaps the Basques, the Catalans and the Scots.

The second crisis is more dangerous. It is when such local conflicts acquire outside sponsors; when they translate into the big power politics. They become test-your-weight machines for heads of state. Intervention is what “real men” do; something “must be done”. That is now happening in Ukraine.

Chase Madar: This American life (without parole)

There’s a whiff of clemency in the springtime air: New federal commutation guidelines announced two weeks ago may provide an exit for hundreds, maybe thousands of federal prisoners in for nonviolent “low level” offenses if they’ve already served 10 years with “good conduct.” If you’re wondering who these rules will affect, and why they’re so necessary, consider these three Americans currently set to rot away in prison for nonviolent crimes committed years ago. [..]

We’re likely to see some pushback against even the mild step of mercy commutations. After all, “the law is the law,” as we freedom-loving Americans somehow love to sternly say. But the funny thing is, the law is not the law, at least much of the time. The law sure wasn’t the law for Goldman Sachs or any of the other financiers who tanked our economy, and not for CIA torturers either. The law is the law, but only for some. [..]

But if you’re a poor nonviolent offender without connections, like Euka Wadlington or Larry Duke or Alice Marie Johnson, the law is the law for as long as you draw breath.  

If Eric Holder came up with a legal rationale for pardoning Marc Rich, he can certainly see the logic in delivering clemency to Euka, Larry, Alice Marie and the thousands of others like them. The question is whether Holder and the president have the will and the spine.

On This Day In History May 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

May 12 is the 132nd day of the year (133rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 233 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1937, George Denis Patrick Carlin was born in the Bronx. He was raised by his mother in Morningside Heights which he and his friends called “White Harlem” because it sounded tougher. He was raised Irish Catholic and educated in Catholic schools. He often ran away from home. After joining the Air Force while stationed in Louisiana, Carlin became a DJ in Shreveport starting on his long career in entertainment. Carlin rose to fame during the 60’s and 70’s, generating the most controversy with his famous “Seven Dirty Words”:

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that’ll infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.

His arrest and the subsequent FCC rulings ended up in the Supreme Court which upheld the right of the FCC to regulate the public airways. In the ruling it called the routine “indecent but not obscene”.

In 1961, Carlin was also present in the audience the night that Lenny Bruce was arrested in San Fransisco for obscenity. He was arrested, as well, after the police, who were questioning the audience, asked Carlin for ID. He said he didn’t have any because he didn’t believe in government-issued ID’s.

We all know the rest. His popularity as a comic and “commentarian” on politics, religion and social issues made him a popular guest on late night talk shows. His death in  June 22, 2008 saddened many. He left behind his second wife, Sally Wade, whom he married after his first wife Brenda died of liver cancer in 1997. He left a daughter by his first marriage, Kelly.

Happy Birthday, George, you are missed.

The Breakfast Club: 5-12-2014

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

Sunday Train: GOP Transport Bill proposes to Cut That TIGER

I guess Sunday Train did not cover the White House transport proposal, which put forward a $302b 4-year surface transportation authorization, more than $20b per year higher than current levels. With respect to rail funding, it proposed reorganizing intercity passenger rail funding into Current Rail Service and Rail Service Improvement programs, merging the Amtrak funding which was authorized in FY 2013 and 2014 with the Higher Speed / High Performance rail program which was zeroed out in the funding that passed Congress.

For the 2015 budget year, it proposed:

  • for Federal-Aid Highways an additional $7.1b (+18%);
  • for Transit-Formula grants, an additional $5.3b (+62%);
  • for Transit New Starts, an additional $370m (+15%);
  • for TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery), an additional $650m, (+108%));
  • for “Current Rail Service”, an additional $1.1b (+43% compared to previous Amtrak authorization);
  • for the new “Rail Service Improvement Programs”, $2.3b;
  • for the new Freight Program, $1b;
  • for the new Critical Immediate Investments stimulus spending (aka “Fix It First” projects), $4.85b;
  • for the new Fixing and Accelerating Surface Transportation (FAST), $1b;
  • for the new Rapid Growth Area Transit Program, $500m.

But the President proposes budgets, the Congress authorizes spending and appropriates the funds within (and sometimes well under) those authorized levels, and with the current Republican House Majority, any White House transportation budget is largely a work of fiction. It is, at most, a set of ambit claims for the complex three-way negotiations over budgeting between the House, the Senate, and the White House.

However, now the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee has released its Fiscal Year 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, so now that three-way negotiation process can get started. The tl;dr version of the House proposal is, “If you like our current collapsing infrastructure, boy do we have a budget for you!”