Daily Archive: 07/01/2014

Jul 01 2014

World Cup 2014: USA v Belgium

Most sports analysts are still scratching their heads that USA made it out of the elimination rounds of the 2014 World Cup. The team is almost the worst offensively and to get past Belgium today, they need to be more aggressive.

The pregame drama revolved around the health of two star players, with Belgium’s Vincent Kompany questionable with an injury and Jozy Altidore possibly making a return from his hamstring injury for the United States. The Americans could use some help with their attack, which generated precious few chances in their final group game against Germany. Belgium has fallen into the habit of scoring late, and only when it really needs to, often after substitutes come in to add energy. It will need to break out of that pattern as the competition improves if it hopes to advance.

Here are the results so far in the knockout rounds of sixteen:

After tying with Chile 1 – 1 and two mandatory overtime rounds, Brazil beat them 5 – 2 in penalty kicks.

Columbia 2 – Uruguay 0

Netherlands 2 – Mexico 1

Costa Rica beat Greece 5 – 3 in penalty kick after regulation and overtime play.

France 2 – Nigeria 0

Germany 2 – Algeria 1

Argentina 1 – Switzerland 0

The Quarter Finals start Friday July 4:

Noon EDT France vs Germany

4 PM EDT Brazil v Columbia

Saturday July 5

Noon EDT Agentina v The winner of USA – Belgium

4 PM EDT Netherlands v Costa Rica

Jul 01 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Adam Winkler: Corporations Are People, And They Have More Rights Than You

Ever since Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision allowing unlimited corporate and union spending on political issues, Americans have been debating whether, as Mitt Romney said, “Corporations are people, my friend.” Occupy Wall Street protestors decried the idea, late night comedians mocked it, and reform groups proposed amending the Constitution to eliminate it. Today, however, the Supreme Court endorsed corporate personhood — holding that business firms have rights to religious freedom under federal law. Not only do corporations have rights, their rights are stronger than yours. [..]

Protecting women’s rights, according to the Court, isn’t a good enough reason for the government to force a business corporation, at least a privately held one like chain craft store Hobby Lobby, to include birth control in its insurance contrary to the business owner’s wishes. At least that’s what the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held in Hobby Lobby. Federal statutes guaranteeing religious freedom to “persons” apply equally to closely held business corporations, and those corporations’ religious liberty is “substantially burdened” by having to provide their employees with contraception. So the rights of employees have to give way to the rights of the corporation.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 5 Signs the US Is Failing to Protect Women’s Rights in the Workplace

The Prime Minister of Morocco recently compared women to “lanterns” or “chandeliers,” saying that “when women went to work outside, the light went out of their homes.” His remarks, which ran counter to Morocco’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights for women, promptly provoked both street demonstrations and an “I’m not a chandelier” Twitter hashtag.

But before we celebrate our culture’s moral superiority over a Middle Eastern nation – which sometimes seems to be a reflexive instinct in this country – perhaps we should stop and consider the fact that the prime minister’s remarks would not have been out of place in many of our own nation’s political and media conversations.

What’s more, our country’s bias against women in the workplace isn’t just cultural. As is true elsewhere, evidence for it can be found in both policy choices and economic data.

What’s a glass ceiling, after all, if not another place to hang a chandelier?

Here are five signs that much more needs to be done to ensure equal workplace rights for women in the United States.

Noam Chomsky: Whose Security?

How Washington Protects Itself and the Corporate Sector

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.

Ron Johnson and Jonathan Turley: Restoring balance among the branches of government in Washington

The controversy over President Obama’s decision to exchange five high-ranking Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last month focused largely on the price paid. There was less focus on Obama ignoring a federal law that required him to notify Congress 30 days in advance of releasing detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Laws such as this have been enacted to allow vital oversight of actions of such consequence. If this were an isolated instance, it could be dismissed. It is not.

After announcing that he intended to act unilaterally in the face of congressional opposition, Obama ordered the non-enforcement of various laws – including numerous changes to the Affordable Care Act – moved hundreds of millions of dollars away from the purposes for which Congress approved the spending and claimed sweeping authority to act without judicial or legislative controls.

A growing crisis in our constitutional system threatens to fundamentally alter the balance of powers – and accountability – within our government. This crisis did not begin with Obama, but it has reached a constitutional tipping point during his presidency. Indeed, it is enough to bring the two of us – a liberal academic and a conservative U.S. senator – together in shared concern over the future of our 225-year-old constitutional system of self­governance.

Dean Baker: Will India Be the Uber of the Pharmaceutical Industry?

Many self-styled libertarians have been celebrating the rise of Uber. Their story is that Uber is a dynamic start-up that has managed to disrupt the moribund cab industry. The company now has a market capitalization of $17 billion.

While Uber’s market value probably depends mostly on its ability to evade the regulations that are imposed on its competitors, the company has succeeded in transforming the industry. At the least we are likely to see a modernized regulatory structure that doesn’t saddle cabs with needless regulations and fees.

Unfortunately, the taxi industry is not the only sector of the U.S. economy that can use modernization. The pharmaceutical industry makes the taxi industry look like cutting edge social media. The government imposed barriers to entry in the pharmaceutical industry don’t just raise prices by 20 or 30 percent, as may be the case with taxi fares, they raise prices by a factor or ten, twenty, or even one hundred (that would be 10,000 percent).

Lawrence B. Wilkerson: Empire’s Age-Old Aim: Wealth and Power

In his very excellent book, King Leopold’s Ghost, Adam Hochschild registers a chapter-long lament near the book’s end that even though in the preceding pages he has chronicled in an unprecedented manner the crimes against humanity of Leopold’s Congo enterprise, so what? Such crimes were almost a concomitant of colonial empire. Britain, France, Germany, the United States — all the so-called civilized colonial powers — were guilty of such crimes. Whether murder and plunder in India, slaughter in Algeria, devastation in Cameroon, or torture and massacre in the Philippines, few western powers can rightfully claim innocence. And, perhaps most worrisome, their national myths mask or even convert most of the crimes, and what the myths don’t eliminate or alter poor education and memory lapses do.

Surely, however, at this opening to the 21st Century, we have made some progress. Our constant rhetoric — particularly from Washington — asserts that we have. International criminal justice and human rights are pursued with relish, are they not?

Not according to the example of Richard Bruce Cheney. As has been the case since humankind began to organize itself, Dick Cheney believes that wealth and power — his and his cronies wealth and power foremost — are still the relevant strategic objectives of empire. King Leopold of Belgium is not dead, simply reincarnated in a more modern form. Torturing people is dependent on a nation’s supposed needs, killing people on the expediency of policy, waging war on monetary and commercial gain, and lying to the people is a highly reputable tactic in pursuit of each. Leopold would love Dick Cheney.

Jul 01 2014

The Breakfast Club: 7-1-2014

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

Jul 01 2014

On This Day In History July 1

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.

July 1 is the 182nd day of the year (183rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 183 days remaining until the end of the year. The end of this day marks the halfway point of a leap year. It also falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in a leap year.

On this day in 1997, Hong Kong returned to China.

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverts back to Chinese rule in a ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles of Wales, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand Hong Kongers protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful.

Hong Kong is one of two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China’s south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong’s population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups. Hong Kong’s Han Chinese majority originate mainly from the cities of Guangzhou and Taishan in the neighbouring Guangdong province.

Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839-42). Originally confined to Hong Kong Island, the colony’s boundaries were extended in stages to the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories by 1898. It was occupied by Japan during the Pacific War, after which the British resumed control until 1997, when the PRC acquired sovereignty. The region espoused minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism during the colonial era. The time period greatly influenced the current culture of Hong Kong, often described as “East meets West”, and the educational system, which used to loosely follow the system in England until reforms implemented in 2009.

Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. The Basic Law of Hong Kong, its constitutional document, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and military defence, governs its political system. Although it has a burgeoning multi-party system, a small-circle electorate controls half of its legislature. An 800-person Election Committee selects the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the head of government.

As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the ninth most traded currency in the world. The lack of space caused demand for denser constructions, which developed the city to a centre for modern architecture and the world’s most vertical city. The dense space also led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport travelling rate exceeding 90 percent, the highest in the world. Hong Kong has numerous high international rankings in various aspects. For instance, its economic freedom, financial and economic competitiveness, quality of life, corruption perception, Human Development Index, etc., are all ranked highly.

Jul 01 2014

Trade in Services Agreement

Crossposted from DocuDharma

Obama’s Latest Betrayal of America and Americans in Favor of the Big Banks: TISA

By William K. Black, New Economic Perspectives

Posted on June 24, 2014

The three “de’s” – deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization – has been critical to the three modern U.S. financial crises. The combination is intensely criminogenic and produces the fraud epidemics that drive our crises. The second, and vastly more destructive, phase of the Savings and Loan (S&L) debacle is a classic example. The criminogenic environment was the product of each of the three “de’s” and modern executive and professional compensation.



TISA is designed to replicate, indeed, optimize the criminogenic environment that made fraudulent financial CEOs wealthy by “looting” “their” banks. The (effective) “regulators in the field” figured this out by 1983 – over 30 years ago. We wrote up our findings in great detail. Top economists and top white-collar criminologists studying those findings a decade later (1993) agreed with the findings. Since the original findings in 1983, we have the (prevented) “liar’s” loans crisis of 1991 when federal S&L regulators based in California drove what were then a brand new product called “low doc” loans out of the regulated industry. That “second front” – while the S&L regulators were containing the S&L debacle – was dealt with so effectively that there was no resultant financial crisis. Indeed, it is only with the benefit of the current crisis that we can understand that the containment of the overall S&L debacle (driven primarily by fraudulent commercial real estate loans and investments) and the incipient crisis is liar’s loans prevented a crisis that would have become similar in scope to the current crisis. The S&L debacle was contained before it caused even a minor national recession.



The TISA draft (Article X.16) is very clear about the second great paradox: bankers must be told everything that regulators are thinking about adopting and have ample opportunity to influence the regulators’ drafting of the rule. But TISA is an international secret that will remain an international secret for five years after it is adopted. Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the drafts are kept secret even from Congress. Indeed, TISA is “classified” so that those who might blow the whistle on the travesty may be prosecuted.



TISA’s drafting consists of a meeting of banking thieves who are successfully demanding a return to what Gramlich correctly described as “no cops on the beat.” If the street robbers of the world demanded that we remove the cops on the beat we would be enraged. Bankers and their neoclassical economist allies, however, regularly lobby for just such a boon to elite white-collar criminals. We have millennia of experience with what happens when we give the elites the power to loot with impunity.



TISA is awful for honest bankers. Effective financial regulators are the essential “cops on the beat.” Only we have shown the ability to break the “Gresham’s” dynamic (bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets and professions) that fraudulent CEOs create. When we break that dynamic we make it possible for honest bankers to prevail. TISA is good for only one group – dishonest bank executives.

That brings us back to the reason the bank CEOs have demanded that TISA be “classified” and kept from the public and even Congress. Indeed, the plan is to classify its provisions for five years after TISA is adopted. That delay is meant to make it politically possible for TISA to be adopted and then continue to protect heads of state from being thrown out of office by their enraged constituents.



Ask yourself this question: why would the bankers and heads of state have demanded, and received, “classified” treatment of a document that did not have any confidential information (there are no state secrets, no privacy issues, and nothing of proprietary value in the leaked TISA draft) and made no meaningful restriction on regulation and supervision due to the “nowithstanding” clause of Article 17? The demand for classified treatment makes it inescapable that the bankers and government officials involved in drafting TISA are trying to hide something they believe would outrage the public. The paradox is that the bankers’ and politicians’ rabid fear of disclosure to the public and Congress of TISA’s assault on regulation confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that subparagraph 2 of Article 17 and Article 20 combine to make TISA a grave threat to the global economy, workers, and honest bankers by making the financial world even more criminogenic.

Jul 01 2014

On the Moral Bankruptcy of the Democratic Party: Charlie Crist (Exhibit A)

I lived in Florida for five years. Because I donated to and volunteered for Democrats in Florida, I find myself on about a billion different fundraising “activist” email lists. So it was no surprise to me that every Democrat running for something in Florida contacted me today to let me know that if I would just chip in $5 or $10 to help candidate X win election Y, they will “fight” to overturn today’s SCOTUS verdicts.