Daily Archive: 06/23/2014

Jun 23 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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New York Times Editorial Board: The Hidden Cost of Trading Stocks

‘Best Execution’ and Rebates for Brokers

There’s no escaping the conclusion that the stock market is not a level playing field where all investors, large and small, have an equal shot at a fair deal.

A recent groundbreaking study found that undetected insider trading occurs in a stunning one-fourth of public-company deals. Experts have long debated the pros and cons of high-frequency trading, another pervasive practice, but there is no doubt that it gives superfast traders the jump on others in trading stocks. And the very idea of trading on a public exchange, where stock prices and trading volumes are visible to all, is being eclipsed by private trading of public stocks in off-exchange venues, called dark pools, usually operated by banks. [..]

Securities regulators clearly need to better enforce the best execution requirements on brokers, and require better disclosure on brokers’ routing decisions and the rebates they earn. If Congress won’t provide more resources for enforcement, rebates need to be passed along to the customer or eliminated altogether.

Paul Krugman: The Big Green Test

Conservatives and Climate Change

On Sunday Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and a lifelong Republican, had an Op-Ed article about climate policy in The New York Times. In the article, he declared that man-made climate change is “the challenge of our time,” and called for a national tax on carbon emissions to encourage conservation and the adoption of green technologies. Considering the prevalence of climate denial within today’s G.O.P., and the absolute opposition to any kind of tax increase, this was a brave stand to take.

But not nearly brave enough. Emissions taxes are the Economics 101 solution to pollution problems; every economist I know would start cheering wildly if Congress voted in a clean, across-the-board carbon tax. But that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. A carbon tax may be the best thing we could do, but we won’t actually do it.

Yet there are a number of second-best things (in the technical sense, as I’ll explain shortly) that we’re either doing already or might do soon. And the question for Mr. Paulson and other conservatives who consider themselves environmentalists is whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers, and in particular whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers implemented by the other party. If they aren’t, their supposed environmentalism is an empty gesture.

Glen Ford: U.S. Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements

“In the language of ‘terrorism studies,’ the human beings involved in these social movements are ‘contagions,’ as in vectors of disease.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is immersed in studies about…people like you. The Pentagon wants to know why folks who don’t themselves engage in violence to overthrow the prevailing order become, what the military calls, “supporters of political violence.” And by that they mean, everyone who opposes U.S military policy in the world, or the repressive policies of U.S. allies and proxies, or who opposes the racially repressive U.S. criminal justice system, or who wants to push the One Percent off their economic and political pedestals so they can’t lord it over the rest of us. (I’m sure you recognize yourself somewhere in that list.)

The Pentagon calls this new field of research “terrorism studies,” which is designed to augment and inform their so-called War on Terror. Through their Minerva Research Initiative, the military has commissioned U.S. universities to help it figure out how to deal with dissatisfied and, therefore, dangerous populations all around the world, including the United States.

The Minerva Initiative was the subject of an article in The Guardian newspaper by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, an academic who studies international security issues. The Initiative seeks to sharpen the U.S. military’s “warfighter-relevant insights” into what makes people tick, and get ticked off at power structures, in regions “of strategic importance to the U.S.” Since the U.S. is an empire seeking global hegemony, and sees the whole world as strategic, the Minerva program’s areas of interest involve – everybody on the planet.

Robert Kuttner: Reforming the Federal Sweatshop

The White House is holding a summit Monday, June 23 on working families. The summit is intended to call attention to the fact that President Obama wants to raise wages and job opportunities for working Americans, especially for working women. This is a welcome initiative, though there is a great deal that the President could do by executive order without waiting for a deadlocked Congress to act.

The grotesque income inequality in our economy has at last some in for some overdue attention. For the vast majority of working Americans, there is only one source of income — wages and salaries. [..]

One of the tricks that corporations use to batter down wages is to contract out work, so that the true employer is not accountable to its workforce. What is shocking is that the most influential employer that resorts to this device is none other than the federal government.

Howell Willaims:Brian Schweitzer’s ‘gay-dar’ did pick up on something about Southern men

There’s long legacy of effeminate men in the South – and particularly the lisping, land-owning lads of yore

Everyone from Adam Smith to Karl Marx agreed that, to be a man, hard work was required. Masculinity was – and still is – defined in part by one’s ability to work. Slave owners’ refusal to produce wealth with their own heads and hands made their virility somehow questionable. The image of the southern dandy with his silk hat and seersucker suit satisfied a populist imagination that viewed effete southern slave-owners with disdain.

Today, that effeminate southern dandy lives on, if in modified form. Cantor is only the most recent southern Republican to have his sexuality whispered about. Rumors have swirled around Texas Governor Rick Perry (which he’s denied), despite his recent comments that being gay is like being an alcoholic: you can put the habit down if you try hard enough (spoken like someone who’s in recovery). And South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has dealt with similar backbiting for years – most recently when a rival in the Republican primary called him “ambiguously gay” – despite hilariously-worded denials. Whether Perry or Graham are practicing homosexuals isn’t the point: accusing them of being gay is part of a long history of questioning the virility – and thereby the abilities – of southern men in positions of power.

The truth is, the image of the southern elite is kinda gay, and Schweitzer’s not a homophobe – he was just boning up on some good ol’-fashioned populist elite-hating. Good luck to him at besting Hillary, though – she’s spent a lot of time with powerful southern men herself.

Jun 23 2014

The Breakfast Club: 6-23-2014

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. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

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.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Jun 23 2014

On This Day In History June 23

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.

June 23 is the 174th day of the year (175th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 191 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin. Hopes for better U.S.-Soviet relations run high as U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin in Glassboro, New Jersey, for a three-day summit. The meeting ended inconclusively, however, as issues such as Vietnam and the Middle East continued to divide the two superpowers.

Background

With the United States gradually losing ground in the Vietnam War, the administration was looking for other solutions to the conflict.

On 5 June 1967 the Six-Day War began between Israel and the Arab states. The war led to an increase in Soviet-US diplomatic contact and cooperation; there were some who hoped this could continue to help the US solve the Vietnam war and other pressing international issues. Several days later the Soviet Union sent Premier Alexei Kosygin to New York to hold a speech on the then-ongoing Middle Eastern crisis at the United Nations headquarters. When the United States government was informed of this the Americans gladly welcomed Kosygin to a meeting between him and President Lyndon B. Johnson. On 13 June 1967 Johnson sought out J. William Fulbright, a Senator, at a White House reception. Llewellyn Thompson, then US ambassador to the USSR, believed that a conference could “start the process of moving toward an understanding with the Soviets”. Fulbright even believed that Johnson was reconsidering his Vietnam strategy. Later Fulbright wrote two letters to Johnson about the importance of a summit between the two nations. Johnson agreed, and wrote a letter in return, which said they were waiting for a Soviet response for US invitation. Walt Rostow, the National Security Adviser at the time, said it was a 20 percent chance of the summit having a good effect on Soviet-US relations, and only a 10 percent chance of the summit going awry.

The Soviet Political Bureau (Politburo) were divided over the usefulness of the summit. Andrei Gromyko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time and still not a member of the Politburo, was able to win support for it. Gromyko noted that Soviet-US dialogue which had been suspended in 1963 should be reactivated, despite the Vietnam War putting a great deal strain on the two countries’ relations.

Kosygin agreed to address the United Nations wished to conduct the summit in New York. Johnson, wary of encountering protesters against the war in Vietnam, preferred to meet in Washington, D.C.. Roughly equidistant, Hollybush was selected as a compromise. The summit took place at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in Glassboro, New Jersey.

Jun 23 2014

Sunday Train: Improving the Conventional Amtrak California services

I’m a terrible tease ~ that is, in the sense of “not terribly good at it” ~ since I teased more on Texas Rooftop Solar, both two weeks ago when I talked about Texas Utility Scale Solar, and last week when I talked about California assuring the funding to start building it HSR, using Cap and Trade funding. However, here I am, talking about California trains again … because while wearing my Sunday Train editorial hat, I wanted to force the author to follow through on the tease, wearing my Sunday Train author hat, I refused, because I wanted to write about both plans and opportunities for existing “conventional” intercity passenger rail in California.

That is, in general I am talking about:

  • The San Joaquin, from Bakersfield through Fresno with on leg running to Oakland and another leg running to Sacramento;
  • The Capitol Corridor from San Jose / Oakland through to Sacramento;
  • The Caltrain from San Jose though “Silicon Valley” to downtown San Francisco;
  • The ACE from Stockton via Tracy and Livermore through to San Jose; and
  • The Surfliner, from Santa Barbara through LA Union Station and Anaheim to San Diego.

For a Buckeye who has experienced a not too dissimilar variety of intercity rail services when living and teaching in New South Wales, Australia, a collection of intercity services to make me green with envy, given our two nightly trains between midnight and 6am in this part of Ohio three late night Cardinal services per week in Cincinnati, and ZERO FREAKING SERVICES PER DAY, PER WEEK OR PER FREAKING MONTH FOR COLUMBUS OR DAYTON, THANK YOU VERY MUCH HOPEFULLY ONE-TERM GOVERNOR. KASICH … {deep breath} … and here I’m going to talk about making those conventional California services better … below the fold.

Jun 23 2014

Sunday Movie Showcase

Jun 23 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: War Profiteers Ecstatic at Middle East Mess by Justina

In 1935, US General Smedley Butler detailed in his “War is a Racket” the World War I  racket he had served.  It is now much, much worse.

Vice-President Richard Cheney and his fellow Neo-Cons originally lit the barn fires with their factually unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Bush-Cheney then torched the secular, but Sunni sect based, ruling Baathist Party and applauded the decapitation of its brutal, but anti-al Qaeda leader, Saddam Hussein.  (Saddam himself had originally been put in place by the US CIA in a coup, but thereafter fell out of favor with the US government because he dared to assert exclusive control of Iraq’s oil industry.)

Up to his ouster, Saddam had successfully kept the radical jihadists out of Iraq, which even the US intelligence agencies have admitted:

“There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”

Now jihadis even more extreme than Al Qaeda, the ISIS, are an hour outside of Baghdad, threatening the capitol city and its Shia sect residents.  Its Sunni sect population, a minority in Baghdad, is seemingly terrified of the reaction of the Shiite majority as well as the blatantly brutal, although Sunni ISIS.  Likely everyone there is arming.  (The NRA must be delighted.)

Jun 23 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: War Profiteers Ecstatic at Middle East Mess by Justina

In 1935, US General Smedley Butler detailed in his “War is a Racket” the World War I  racket he had served.  It is now much, much worse.

Vice-President Richard Cheney and his fellow Neo-Cons originally lit the barn fires with their factually unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Bush-Cheney then torched the secular, but Sunni sect based, ruling Baathist Party and applauded the decapitation of its brutal, but anti-al Qaeda leader, Saddam Hussein.  (Saddam himself had originally been put in place by the US CIA in a coup, but thereafter fell out of favor with the US government because he dared to assert exclusive control of Iraq’s oil industry.)

Up to his ouster, Saddam had successfully kept the radical jihadists out of Iraq, which even the US intelligence agencies have admitted:

“There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”

Now jihadis even more extreme than Al Qaeda, the ISIS, are an hour outside of Baghdad, threatening the capitol city and its Shia sect residents.  Its Sunni sect population, a minority in Baghdad, is seemingly terrified of the reaction of the Shiite majority as well as the blatantly brutal, although Sunni ISIS.  Likely everyone there is arming.  (The NRA must be delighted.)