07/17/2014 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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New York Times Editorial Board: Shunting the Homeless From Sight

Is homelessness a crime? The question was answered forthrightly in the negative last month by a federal appeals court ruling that struck down a Los Angeles ban on citizens’ living out of their automobiles as a desperate necessity in hard times. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit pronounced the ban – an important part of the city’s anti-homelessness campaign – to be a “broad and cryptic” law that “criminalizes innocent behavior.”

The ruling was an emphatic signal that the nation’s burgeoning problem of homelessness cannot be dealt with by simplistic attempts to criminalize behavior driven by the need to survive. Don’t count on the decision becoming the instant law of the land, however; a new study has exposed a rush by more and more cities to resort to punitive, unreasonable new laws to force the homeless out of sight and out of mind. [..]

But the crackdown laws and arrests are not, the study found, cost effective ways of dealing with homelessness. A Utah housing survey concluded that the cost of jail time and medical care for a homeless person was $16,670 a year against $11,000 for an apartment and care by a social worker. Affordable housing is clearly a wiser alternative.

For all the tough new laws, the homeless are still present. Local governments must face this fact with something better than punitive denial.

Richard (RJ) Eskoa: Are Disabled Americans Pawns in a Larger Social Security Game?

William Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal about a Republican senator’s plans to force a confrontation on government disability benefits. Though Mr. Galston doesn’t seem to see it this way, it sounds as if Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to hold benefits for disabled Americans hostage in order to force Social Security cuts on everyone.[..]

Right-wing wars of disinformation and demonization can be a wonder to behold, but the attacks on disabled recipients of Social Security benefits have been especially mean-spirited. Claims of “fraud” in the disability program are, simply put, counterfactual. There are other claims, too — that there’s an epidemic in malingering exacerbated by overly generous benefits, that poor screening and lax rules allow abled-bodied people to collect benefits, that there’s a widespread “double-dipping” problem, and that loopholes allow people to collect benefits while working.

Ana Marie Cox: Voter ID’s last stand: let’s finally declare laws what they are – racist on purpose

How is a concealed-carry gun permit OK to get in the voting booth, but an elderly woman’s Medicare card is not? Liberals have argued. Now it’s time for a verdict

This week, the US Department of Justice and the state of Texas started arguments in the first of what will be a summer-long dance between the two authorities over voting rights. There are three suits being tried in two districts over gerrymandering and Texas’s voter identification law – both of which are said to be racially motivated. In its filing, the DoJ describes the law as “exceed[ing] the requirements imposed by any other state” at the time that it passed. If the DoJ can prove the arguments in its filing, it won’t just defeat an unjust law: it could put the fiction of “voter fraud” to rest once and for all.

These battles, plus parallel cases proceeding in North Carolina, hinge on proving that the states acted with explicitly exclusionary intent toward minority voters – a higher standard was necessary prior to the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) back in January. Under Section 3, the DoJ had wide latitude to look at possible consequences of voting regulation before they were even passed – the “preclearance” provision. Ironically, because the states held to preclearance had histories of racial discrimination, some of the messier aspects of the laws’ current intentions escaped comment.

Robert Reich: The Rise of the Non-Working Rich

In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”

In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.

The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.

In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech entrepreneurs.

It’s going to their children, who did nothing except be born into the right family.

Sadhbh Walshe: Jihad, justice and the American way: is this a model for fair terrorism trials?

The government stokes fear and fails to understand the Muslim world. But inside at least one courtroom remains an unusual precedent: context can be served

Sitting and waiting in US District Court here on Wednesday, you got the undeniable sense that something unusual was about to happen.

Here was the end of a terrorism trial with two men who had already pled guilty – the British citizen Babar Ahmad to providing material support for terrorism by way of administering a website that called on Muslims to devote themselves to jihad, which he did, and the British-born Talha Ahsan to helping him, despite being a mailman for the site for five months in 2001 – but both of whom still looked nervous in that familiar shackle-and-jumpsuit uniform of so many Muslim foreigners in this country over the past 13 years. [..]

Yet here was a terrorism trial about non-operational terrorism – about a website, and Ahmad’s visit to an Afghan training camp in 1999, and ultimately about over-aggressive prosecutors seeking 25 and 15 years, respectively – and here it was coming to a close not under the specter of xenophobia so much as all-American common sense.

No, Judge Janet Hall was not willing to entertain the Fox News-ification of terrorism. “There is no way to rationalize the sentences” the government had recommended, she said, at least not based on claims that two men promoted “violent jihad” and provided what is known as “material support” for terrorists. “In my view,” the judge said, “jihad does not equal terrorism. In a perversion of what Islam teaches, terrorists have misappropriated the concept of jihad from its true meaning – struggle. But jihad is not what happened on 9/11.”

Jessica Valenti: The campus rape problem doesn’t end at the gates. We need bigger solutions

The renewed focus on university sexual assault policies can’t blind us to the broader culture that allows rapists to operate with impunity

Recently, a friend told me about a campus rape case that actually ended well. The victim, who didn’t want to pursue the case with law enforcement, went to the college’s administrators. They investigated, began proceedings against the accused, and generally made all the right moves. The accused attacker didn’t admit to anything, but withdrew from school rather than be found guilty – and the campus now feels like a safe place for his victim.

As for the rest of the world, well: it just gained a sexual predator with no record to speak of.

Rape on college campuses is finally getting the attention it deserves – a White House task force, increased activism, an ongoing wave of media attention – and the concentration on such high rates of campus sexual assault as well as administrations’ typically poor response is especially needed.

But we can’t allow the renewed focus on campus rape to blind us to the broader culture that enables rapists to target victims – often without serious legal or social repercussions. And I mean everywhere, not just at college.

The Breakfast Club (Summer Nights Edition)

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

Breakfast Tunes

Who says we didn’t lose?

“Iraq Has Already Disintegrated”: ISIS Expands Stronghold as Leaks Expose US Doubts on Iraqi Forces

Democracy Now

July 16, 2014

Iraq remains on the verge of splintering into three separate states as Sunni militants expand their stronghold in the north and west of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself a caliphate last month and now controls large parts of northern and western Iraq and much of eastern Syria. Recent advances by ISIS, including in the city of Tikrit, come amidst leaks revealing extensive Pentagon concerns over its effort to advise the Iraqi military. Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, are scrambling to form a power-sharing government in an effort to save Iraq from splintering into separate Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish states. We are joined by two guests: Reporting live from Baghdad is Hannah Allam, foreign affairs correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, and joining us from London is Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent and author of the forthcoming book, “The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.”

U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force


JULY 13, 2014

The report concludes that only about half of Iraq’s operational units are capable enough for American commandos to advise them if the White House decides to help roll back the advances made by Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq over the past month.

Adding to the administration’s dilemma is the assessment’s conclusion that Iraqi forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki are now heavily dependent on Shiite militias – many of which were trained in Iran – as well as on advisers from Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.

The Pentagon’s decision this month to rush 200 troops, plus six Apache helicopter gunships and Shadow surveillance drones, to the Baghdad airport was prompted by a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex, the main hub for sending and withdrawing American troops and diplomats, was vulnerable to attack by ISIS fighters, American officials have now disclosed.

“It’s a mess,” said one senior Obama administration official who has been briefed on the draft assessment and who, like two other American officials briefed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing review and the delicate nature of the assessment.

One of the assessment’s conclusions was that Iraqi forces had the ability to defend Baghdad, but not necessary hold all of it, especially against a major attack. Already, the capital has been targeted by ISIS car bombs.

Le Tour 2014: Stage 12, Bourg-en-Bresse / Saint-Étienne

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Yesterday all the action took place at the back of the race as Andrew Talansky (team leader of Garmin from the USA), the very last rider, struggled against back injuries caused by 2 crashes, one in Nancy and one on the Gérardmer descent Saturday, to avoid the broom car, so called because it picks up riders unable to continue, and time disqualification, on this day 37 minutes from the stage winner, Tony Gallopin.

After a a solid 4 minutes on the side of the road talking with the team manager and unkinking his back, he remounted and struggled to the finish a mere 32:05 behind.  It was, as the French say, an outstanding example of cran, guts, and whether he starts today or not he did not quit and that is a quality so admired that about half the (French) TV coverage was devoted to his effort and they stayed with it long past the normal post stage wrap up.

Otherwise it was a breakaway day with a pack of about 36 riders including most of the top contenders slipping away into the hills at the end and Tony Gallopin, the maillot jaune on La Fête Nationale, capturing the finishing sprint for the stage victory.

So the the results for Stage 11 look something like this.  On the stage it was Tony Gallopin with John Degenkolb in 2nd and Matteo Trentin in 3rd.  In all 35 riders scored the lead time including most of the usual suspects, an additional 10 riders were within a minute of the lead.  Nothing much changed in the General Classification with Vincenzo Nibali leading, Riche Porte closest (2:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:47), Romain Bardet (3:01), Tony Gallopin (3:12), Thibaut Pinot (3:47), Tejay Van Garderen (3:56), and Jean-Christophe Péraud (3:57).  Bauke Mollema (4:08) leads a group of 4 riders at under 5 minutes behind, Gerant Thomas 2 at under 6, and Mikel Nieve Iturralde 2 at under 7.  Everyone else is farther back than that.  In Points Peter Sagan has a commanding lead (301), Bryan Coquard (164), Marcel Kittel (157), Alexander Kristoff (127), André Greipel (111), Mark Renshaw (110), Greg Van Avermaet (100), Vincenzo Nibali (95), and Tony Gallopin (87).  Everyone else is over 11 points behind.  In the Climbing contest Joaquim Rodriguez (51), Thomas Voeckler (34), Tony Martin (26), Vincenzo Nibali (20), Alessandro De Marchi (18), Blel Kadri (17) and Thibaut Pinaut (16).  Everyone else is at least 4 points behind.  In Team competition it is AG2R, Astana (3:19), Belkin (4:25), and Sky (4:56).  Everyone else is ove 21 minutes behind.  For the Youth contest it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:46), and Michal Kwiatkowski (1:38).  Tom Dumoulin is 12:42 back, Peter Sagan (your prohibitive Points leader) is 38:07 behind.  Everybody else is about an hour or more off the pace.

I hesitate to stick a fork in it with both the Alps and the Pyrenees to come, but with over 50% of Le Tour complete were I a betting man I’d start putting my money on stage wins, place, and show.  It’s starting to look very America’s Cup/Formula One.

Today’s stage is about 115 and a quarter miles and is another one of those ‘hilly’ sections that encourages breakaways instead of bunch sprints.  The Sprint Checkpoint is early (40 km) and uphill after a little dip and there are 2 Category 4s and 2 Category 3s with the finish on the flat after a descent.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 58.5 Col de Brouilly 1.7 km @ 5.1% 4
Km 83.0 Côte du Saule-d’Oingt 3.8 km @ 4.5% 3
Km 138.0 Col des Brosses 15.3 km @ 3.3% 3
Km 164.0 Côte de Grammond 9.8 km @ 2.9% 4

Now tomorrow there are only 2 climbs, but we are in the Alps for sure.  One is Category 1 and the other is Beyond Category.  Things could still change so stay tuned.

On This Day In History July 17

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.

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July 17 is the 198th day of the year (199th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 167 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1998, a diplomatic conference adopts the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, establishing a permanent international court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002. As of March 2011, 114 states are party to the statute. Grenada will become the 115th state party on 1 August 2011. A further 34 states have signed but not ratified the treaty. Among other things, the statute establishes the court’s functions, jurisdiction and structure.

Under the Rome Statue, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Thus, the majority of international crimes continue to go unpunished unless and until domestic systems can properly deal with them. Therefore, permanent solutions to impunity must be found at the domestic level.


Following years of negotiations aimed at establishing a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals accused of genocide and other serious international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and the recently defined crimes of aggression, the United Nations General Assembly convened a five-week diplomatic conference in Rome in June 1998 “to finalize and adopt a convention on the establishment of an international criminal court”. On 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining.[5] The seven countries that voted against the treaty were Iraq, Israel, Libya, the People’s Republic of China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.

On 11 April 2002, ten countries ratified the statute at the same time at a special ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, bringing the total number of signatories to sixty, which was the minimum number required to bring the statue into force, as defined in Article 126. The treaty entered into force on 1 July 2002; the ICC can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The statute was modified in 2010 after the Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, but the amendments to the statute that were adopted at that time are not effective yet.

The Rome Statute is the result of multiple attempts for the creation of a supranational and international tribunal. At the end of 19th century, the international community took the first steps towards the institution of permanent courts with supranational jurisdiction. With the Hague International Peace Conferences, representatives of the most powerful nations made an attempt to harmonize laws of war and to limit the use of technologically advanced weapons. After World War I and even more after the heinous crimes committed during World War II, it became a priority to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes so serious that needed to be called “against humanity”. In order to re-affirm basic principles of democratic civilisation, the alleged criminals were not executed in public squares or sent to torture camps, but instead treated as criminals: with a regular trial, the right to defense and the presumption of innocence. The Nuremberg trials marked a crucial moment in legal history, and after that, some treaties that led to the drafting of the Rome Statute were signed.

UN General Assembly Resolution n. 260 9 December 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, was the first step towards the establishment of an international permanent criminal tribunal with jurisdiction on crimes yet to be defined in international treaties. In the resolution there was a hope for an effort from the Legal UN commission in that direction. The General Assembly, after the considerations expressed from the commission, established a committee to draft a statute and study the related legal issues. In 1951 a first draft was presented; a second followed in 195] but there were a number of delays, officially due to the difficulties in the definition of the crime of aggression, that were only solved with diplomatic assemblies in the years following the statute’s coming into force. The geopolitical tensions of the Cold War also contributed to the delays.

Trinidad and Tobago asked the General Assembly in December 1989 to re-open the talks for the establishment of an international criminal court and in 1994 presented a draft Statute. The General Assembly created an ad hoc committee for the International Criminal Court and, after hearing the conclusions, a Preparatory Committee that worked for two years (1996-1998) on the draft. Meanwhile, the United Nations created the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR) using statutes-and amendments due to issues raised during pre-trial or trial stages of the proceedings-that are quite similar to the Rome Statute.

During its 52nd session the UN General Assembly decided to convene a diplomatic conference for the establishment of the International Criminal Court, held in Rome 15 June-17 July 1998 to define the treaty, entered into force on 1 July 2002.

TDS/TCR (No Hugging, No Learning)


All Bear Report-

Jon used up all 4 of the segments of his 3 segment show on Hillary Clinton which you can find extended and web exclusively along with the rest of the real news below.