Daily Archive: 08/12/2014

Aug 12 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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Dean Baker: The Entitlement of the Very Rich

The very rich don’t think very highly of the rest of us. This fact is driven home to us through fluke events, like the taping of Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent comment, in which he trashed the people who rely on Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of government benefits.

Last week we got another opportunity to see the thinking of the very rich when Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, complained at a summit with African heads of state and business leaders that there is even an argument over the reauthorization of Export-Import Bank. According to the Washington Post, Immelt said in reference to the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, “the fact that we have to sit here and argue for it I think is just wrong.”

To get some orientation, the Ex-IM Bank makes around $35 billion a year in loans or loan guarantees each year. The overwhelming majority of these loans go to huge multi-nationals like Boeing or Mr. Immelt’s company, General Electric. The loans and guarantees are a subsidy that facilitates exports by allowing these companies and/or their customers to borrow at below market interest rates.

John Nichols: Congress Needs to Assert Checks and Balances on Any New Iraq Mission

It is not a lack of sympathy with the historic and current circumstance of Iraq’s religious minorities – or of other persecuted peoples in that traumatized country – that leads some of the most humane and responsible members of Congress to say that President Obama must seek approval from the House and Senate before committing the United States military to a new Iraq mission.

Nor is it isolationism or pacifism that motivates most dissent.

Rather, it is a healthy respect for the complex geopolitics of the region combined with a regard for the wisdom of the system of checks and balances and the principles of advice and consent outlined in the US Constitution.

Ari Berman: North Carolina Becomes the Latest Casualty of the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act Decision

On Wednesday, August 6, the country celebrated the forty-ninth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the most impactful civil rights law ever passed by Congress. Two days later, a federal judge in North Carolina denied a preliminary injunction to block key provisions of the state’s new voting law, widely described as the most onerous in the country.

North Carolina’s new voting restrictions will now be in effect for the 2014 midterms and beyond, pending a full trial in July 2015, a month before the fiftieth anniversary of the VRA. The federal government and plaintiffs including the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters argued during a hearing last month that three important parts of the law-a reduction in early voting from seventeen to ten days, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period, and a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct-disproportionally burdened African-American voters in violation of Section 2 of the VRA and should be enjoined before the 2014 election.

Scott Lemieux: The NCAA’s business model is about to collapse – and that’s a good thing

An almost radical court ruling has only one downside: it didn’t go far enough to pay student-athletes for the sham that is ‘amateur’ college athletics

On Friday afternoon, US District Judge Claudia Wilken issued a potentially landmark antitrust ruling against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, finding that the severe restrictions the NCAA places on the ability of its players to be compensated clearly violated federal antitrust laws.

The ruling didn’t go far enough: there are still far too stringent caps on how players can be compensated, and the judge permitted the NCAA to maintain its indefensible ban on third party payments to players. But, not unlike the first tentative state court opinions requiring states to make civil unions available to same-sex couples in lieu of marriage, the biggest NCAA ruling in this era of backlash could have a ripple effect and eventually reverse their increasingly unpopular standards. Or, it’s possible that the ruling will allow the NCAA to tinker with, but maintain, a terrible system: the implications of the ruling are too unclear to be sure.

But given that the NCAA’s professed commitment to “amateurism” is an increasingly farcical sham that allows administrators and even comically inept coaches to rake in massive amounts of money while players get paid a fraction of their value, that judgment day can’t come soon enough.

Jeb Lund: Welcome back to Iraq fear-mongering, brought to you by John McCain and Co

We now return to our regularly scheduled Sunday shows, featuring another war, another 9/11 and Hillary. We still deserve better than this

It’s so great to be bombing again. And not like any of this BS remote-controlled bombing where we only admit to it two weeks later, after photos surface of some remote-control jockey from the 38th Chairborne precision-striking a Yemeni funeral. I’m talking real deal bombing. Maybe we even get another Outkast song out of it.

These aren’t my sentiments, but if you watched the Sunday American talk shows this week, you could get the impression that these were the attitudes of an entire nation: There is a humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq, and the only way to stop the killing is to kill our way our of it. No, dig UP, stupid. The president has already authorized several strikes in just a couple days, but, like, what is the freaking holdup?

By now seemingly every print and online outlet has had a crack at explaining why the Sunday shows are so phenomenally useless. And they are. They are invariably the most intelligence-insulting television panel discussion on a day during which their far more popular competition is usually the Beefcake Backslap Chucklefuck Hour on Fox, discussing how Stem test scores will affect our nation’s football readiness. The purpose of these shows is to give a klatsch of DC navel-gazers time to congratulate themselves on addressing problems you don’t face and with which you do not identify, by advocating policies you don’t support or need. These are people who neither know of nor care about your existence, and they are endlessly high-fiving themselves for screwing you over on your behalf.

Joe Conason: Ebola’s Message: Foreign Aid and Science Funding in a Time of Global Peril

Most Americans have long believed, in embarrassing ignorance, that the share of the U.S. federal budget spent on foreign aid is an order of magnitude higher than what we actually spend abroad. Years ago, this mistaken view was amplified from the far right by the John Birch Society. Today, it is the tea party movement complaining that joblessness and poverty in the United States result directly from the lamentable fact that “President Obama keeps sending our money overseas.”

Actually, spending on foreign assistance has remained remarkably steady for many years in Washington, at around 1 percent, a minuscule level compared with what other developed nations spend to improve living standards in the developing world. But perhaps that is because those other countries have figured out what we may soon learn from the latest Ebola outbreak: Disease vectors do not respect national or political boundaries-and the lack of medical infrastructure in one country can ultimately threaten all countries.

At this very moment, the health systems built by many years of painstaking effort in Africa-inadequate as they are-struggle to prevent the spread of this awful illness beyond the countries already struck. We would be far safer if those systems were more modern and robust.

Aug 12 2014

The Breakfast Club 8-12-2014 (Oh Captain, My Captain – Nanu, Nanu)

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

Aug 12 2014

You can’t say enough bad things about Nixon

Burt (Wides) played a major role in the creation of both Congressional and White House oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, FBI, and NSA. He headed the Church Committee investigation of the CIA, the first ever Congressional investigation of its questionable activities. He then helped create the Senate and House Intelligence Committees; ran the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board for Jimmy Carter; and investigated Dick Cheney’s War on Terror, including torture and extraordinary rendition for Congressman John Conyers. He has served as chief of staff or senior counsel to three U.S. Senators and two congressional committees.

Transcript

Transcript

Nixon’s Treason Now Acknowledged

By: David Swanson, Firedog Lake

Thursday August 7, 2014 11:02 am

A George Will column this week, reviewing a book by Ken Hughes called Chasing Shadows, mentions almost in passing that presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon secretly sabotaged peace talks that appeared likely to end the war on Vietnam until he intervened.  As a result, the war raged on and Nixon won election promising to end the war.



You’d almost have to already know what Will was referring to if you were going to pick up on the fact that Nixon secretly prevented peace while publicly pretending he had a peace plan.  And you’d have to be independently aware that once Nixon got elected, he continued the war for years, the total carnage coming to include the deaths of 4 million Vietnamese plus hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and Laotians, with the deaths from bombs not previously exploded continuing on a major scale to this day, and, of course, the 58,000 Americans killed in the war who are listed on a wall in D.C. as if somehow more worthy than all the others.



Will is not the only one to acknowledge what Nixon did.  The Smithsonian reported on Nixon’s treason last year, on the occasion of new tapes of Lyndon Johnson being released.  But the Smithsonian didn’t call it treason; it treated the matter more as hard-nosed election strategizing.  Ken Hughes himself published an article on the History News Network two years ago saying almost exactly what Will’s column said this week. But the publication used the headline “LBJ Thought Nixon Committed Treason to Win the 1968 Election.”



Will’s focus is on Hughes’ theory that Nixon’s plan to break into or even firebomb the Brookings Institution was driven by his desire to recover evidence of his own treasonous sabotaging of peace, and that Watergate grew from Nixon’s desire to coverup that horrendous crime.  This differs from various theories as to what Nixon was so desperate to steal from Brookings (that he was after evidence that Kennedy murdered Diem, or evidence that LBJ halted the bombing of Vietnam just before the election to help Humphrey win, etc.) It certainly seems that Nixon had reasons for wanting files from Brookings that his staff did not share his views on the importance of. And covering up his own crimes was always a bigger motivation for Nixon than exposing someone else’s.  Nixon was after Daniel Ellsberg, not because Ellsberg had exposed Nixon’s predecessors’ high crimes and misdemeanors, but because Nixon feared what Ellsberg might have on him.

But Nixon’s sabotaging of peace in 1968 has been known for many years.  And that explanation of the Brookings incident has been written about for years, and written about in a context that doesn’t bury the significance of the story.



It’s almost universally maintained by those who have expressed any opinion on the matter that if the public had known about Nixon’s treason while he was president, all hell would have broken loose.  Are we really such idiots that we’ve now slipped into routinely acknowledging the truth of the matter but raising no hell whatsoever?  Do we really care so much about personalities and vengeance that Nixon’s crime means nothing if Nixon is dead?  Isn’t the need to end wars and spying and government secrets, to make diplomacy public and nonviolent, a need that presses itself fiercely upon us regardless of how many decades it will take before we learn every offensive thing our current top officials are up to?

HE WAS A CROOK

by Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone via The Atlantic

June 16, 1994

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern — but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.



The historians were strongly represented by the No. 2 speaker, Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s secretary of state and himself a zealous revisionist with many axes to grind. He set the tone for the day with a maudlin and spectacularly self-serving portrait of Nixon as even more saintly than his mother and as a president of many godlike accomplishments — most of them put together in secret by Kissinger, who came to California as part of a huge publicity tour for his new book on diplomacy, genius, Stalin, H. P. Lovecraft and other great minds of our time, including himself and Richard Nixon.

Kissinger was only one of the many historians who suddenly came to see Nixon as more than the sum of his many squalid parts. He seemed to be saying that History will not have to absolve Nixon, because he has already done it himself in a massive act of will and crazed arrogance that already ranks him supreme, along with other Nietzschean supermen like Hitler, Jesus, Bismarck and the Emperor Hirohito. These revisionists have catapulted Nixon to the status of an American Caesar, claiming that when the definitive history of the 20th century is written, no other president will come close to Nixon in stature. “He will dwarf FDR and Truman,” according to one scholar from Duke University.

It was all gibberish, of course. Nixon was no more a Saint than he was a Great President. He was more like Sammy Glick than Winston Churchill. He was a cheap crook and a merciless war criminal who bombed more people to death in Laos and Cambodia than the U.S. Army lost in all of World War II, and he denied it to the day of his death. When students at Kent State University, in Ohio, protested the bombing, he connived to have them attacked and slain by troops from the National Guard.

(h/t Jeralyn @ Talk Left)

Aug 12 2014

On This Day In History August 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 image to enlarge

August 12 is the 224th day of the year (225th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 141 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. It is also known as the “Glorious Twelfth” in the UK, as it marks the traditional start of the grouse shooting season.

On this day in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovers three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turn out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer.

Amazingly, Sue’s skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Hendrickson’s employer, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paid $5,000 to the land owner, Maurice Williams, for the right to excavate the dinosaur skeleton, which was cleaned and transported to the company headquarters in Hill City. The institute’s president, Peter Larson, announced plans to build a non-profit museum to display Sue along with other fossils of the Cretaceous period.

Preparation and display

The Field Museum hired a specialized moving company, with experience in transporting delicate items, to move the bones to Chicago. The truck arrived at the museum in October 1997. Two new research laboratories funded by McDonalds were created and staffed by Field Museum preparators whose job was to slowly and carefully remove all the rock, or “matrix” from the bones. One preparation lab was at Field Museum itself, the other was at the newly opened Animal Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando. Millions of visitors observed the preparation of Sue’s bones through glass windows in both labs. Footage of the work was also put on the museum’s website. Several of the fossil’s bones had never been discovered, so preparators produced models of the missing bones from plastic to complete the exhibit. The modeled bones were colored in a reddish hue so that visitors could observe which bones were real and which bones were plastic. The preparators also poured molds of each bone. All the molds were sent to a company outside Toronto to be cast in hollow plastic. Field Museum kept one set of disarticulated casts in its research collection. The other sets were incorporated into mounted cast skeletons. One set of the casts was sent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida to be presented for public display. Two other mounted casts were placed into a traveling tour that was sponsored by the McDonald’s Corporation.

Once the preparators finished removing the matrix from each bone, it was sent to the museum’s photographer who made high-quality photographs. From there, the museum’s paleontologists began the study of the skeleton. In addition to photographing and studying each bone, the research staff also arranged for CT scanning of select bones. The skull was too large to fit into a medical CT scanner, so Boeing’s Rocketdyne laboratory in California agreed to let the museum use their CT scanner that was normally used to inspect space shuttle parts.

Bone damage

Close examination of the bones revealed that Sue was 28 years old when she died, making her the oldest T. rex known. During her life this carnivore received several injuries and suffered from numerous pathologies. An injury to the right shoulder region of Sue resulted in a damaged shoulder blade, a torn tendon in the right arm, and three broken ribs. This damage subsequently healed (though one rib healed into two separate pieces), indicating Sue survived the incident. The left fibula is twice the diameter of the right one, likely a result of infection. Original reports of this bone being broken were contradicted by the CT scans which showed no fracture. Multiple holes in the front of the skull were originally thought to be bite marks by some, but subsequent study found these to be areas of infection instead, possibly from an infestation of an ancestral form of Trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan parasite that infests birds. Damage to the back end of the skull was interpreted early on as a fatal bite wound. Subsequent study by Field Museum paleontologists found no bite marks. The distortion and breakage seen in some of the bones in the back of the skull was likely caused by post-mortem trampling. Some of the tail vertebra are fused in a pattern typical of arthritis due to injury. The animal is also believed to have suffered from gout. In addition, there is extra bone in some of the tail vertebrae likely caused by the stresses brought on by Sue’s great size. Sue did not die as a result of any of these injuries; her cause of death is not known.

Display

After the bones were prepared, photographed and studied, they were sent to New Jersey where work began on making the mount. This work consists of bending steel to support each bone safely and to display the entire skeleton articulated as it was in life. The real skull was not incorporated into the mount as subsequent study would be difficult with the head 13 feet off the ground. Parts of the skull had been crushed and broken, and thus appeared distorted. The museum made a cast of the skull, and altered this cast to remove the distortions, thus approximating what the original undistorted skull may have looked like. The cast skull was also lighter, allowing it to be displayed on the mount without the use of a steel upright under the head. The original skull is exhibited in a case that can be opened to allow researchers access for study. When the whole skeleton was assembled, it was forty feet (twelve meters) long from nose to tail, and twelve feet (four meters) tall at the hips.

Aug 12 2014

Regulating Pay Day Lenders Is Like Whack-A-Mole

On HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” John Oliver took on the predatory Pay Day loan scams which he described as the “circle of debt” and is like trying to regulate “Wack-a-Mole.”

Payday loans put a staggering amount of Americans in debt. They prey on the elderly and military service members. They’re awful, and nearly impossible to regulate. We’ve recruited Sarah Silverman to help spread the word about how to avoid falling into their clutches.

On Monday it was announced that New York prosecutors were going to take another wack at them.

New York Prosecutors Charge Payday Lenders With UsuryNew York Prosecutors Charge Payday Lenders With Usury

By Jessica Silver Greenberg, The New York Times

A trail of money that began with triple-digit loans to troubled New Yorkers and wound through companies owned by a former used-car salesman in Tennessee led New York prosecutors on a yearlong hunt through the shadowy world of payday lending.

On Monday, that investigation culminated with state prosecutors in Manhattan bringing criminal charges against a dozen companies and their owner, Carey Vaughn Brown, accusing them of enabling payday loans that flouted the state’s limits on interest rates in loans to New Yorkers.

Such charges are rare. The case is a harbinger of others that may be brought to rein in payday lenders that offer quick cash, backed by borrowers’ paychecks, to people desperate for money, according to several people with knowledge of the investigations.

“The exploitative practices – including exorbitant interest rates and automatic payments from borrowers’ bank accounts, as charged in the indictment – are sadly typical of this industry as a whole,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said on Monday.

In the indictment, prosecutors outline how Mr. Brown assembled “a payday syndicate” that controlled every facet of the loan process – from extending the loans to processing payments to collecting from borrowers behind on their bills. The authorities argue that Mr. Brown, along with Ronald Beaver, who was the chief operating officer for several companies within the syndicate, and Joanna Temple, who provided legal advice, “carefully crafted their corporate entities to obscure ownership and secure increasing profits.”

Now if they had just done the same with the CEO’s of the Too Big To Fail banks.