08/29/2014 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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Paul Krugman: The Fall of France

François Hollande, the president of France since 2012, coulda been a contender. He was elected on a promise to turn away from the austerity policies that killed Europe’s brief, inadequate economic recovery. Since the intellectual justification for these policies was weak and would soon collapse, he could have led a bloc of nations demanding a change of course. But it was not to be. Once in office, Mr. Hollande promptly folded, giving in completely to demands for even more austerity.

Let it not be said, however, that he is entirely spineless. Earlier this week, he took decisive action, but not, alas, on economic policy, although the disastrous consequences of European austerity grow more obvious with each passing month, and even Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is calling for a change of course. No, all Mr. Hollande’s force was focused on purging members of his government daring to question his subservience to Berlin and Brussels.

David Sirota: Microsoft’s $29.6 billion scam: Tech giant leads the way in tax-avoiding innovation

Reading companies’ annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission is a reliable cure for insomnia. Every so often, though, there is a significant revelation in the paperwork. This year, one of the most important revelations came from Microsoft’s filings, which spotlighted how the tax code allows corporations to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship yet avoid paying U.S. taxes.

According to the SEC documents, the company is sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore. That amount of money represents a significant spike from prior years.

To put this in perspective, the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.

The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers – although often legal – threaten to significantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.

David Dayen: “Principles be damned”: How basic reform could get crushed in a liberal state

In California, reform to shine light on big political donors is on verge of losing. Here’s a surprising reason why

The biggest reason why it will be so hard to get money out of politics is that there’s so much money in politics. The system favors incumbents, from incumbent politicians to their incumbent funders. And they have little incentive to shake up the status quo that brought them to power, even if their constituents and their ideological principles call out for reform.

This is precisely what’s playing out in California. One of the most liberal legislatures in the country has struggled to pass a campaign finance measure that would merely force disclosure on political advertising, because several labor unions that spend heavily on campaigns oppose it. This has infuriated progressive groups in California and across the nation.

The bill, known as the California DISCLOSE Act, is based on the national DISCLOSE Act that came within one vote of passage back in 2010. It would require all political advertising to prominently display the names of the three largest funders, whether on print, radio, mailer, billboard, Web or television spots. The names would have to be the actual original funders, not some fake front group like “Californians for a Better World” or something. The DISCLOSE Act also require campaign committees to publish a website for voters, listing all funders who donated $10,000 or more.

Sasha Weblin: Blockbuster bank settlements leave consumers hanging

Details of homeowner relief stay opaque while tax deductions and accounting loopholes lower cost to banks

Last week Bank of America reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to the tune of $16.65 billion for its role in selling faulty mortgages in the financial crisis. Such big-dollar settlements with large banks – including, in the past year, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase – sound like harsh punishments but in actuality amount only to slaps on the wrist.

For one, those colossal dollar figures are rarely the actual prices the banks will pay. The real costs to these companies is muddled by tax deductions, unclear directives and accounting loopholes. The secretive negotiation process for settlements is also inconsistent with the civil and criminal process the average American faces.

It’s no wonder, then, that the nation has settlement fatigue; the feeling among consumer advocates and the public is that these agreements have negligible impact on the lives of homeowners affected by the financial crisis.

Miles Rapoport: Sen. McConnell Makes the Case

Those of us working on political money issues have a fresh appreciation today for the old saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows. That’s because Sen. Mitch McConnell, long known as a champion of big money in politics, has made a stunningly compelling case for a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and the states to restore sensible limits on political spending. We appreciate his help and his clarity.

By happy coincidence, the Senate will vote on just such a proposal next month, the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19). Senators still undecided about the amendment should study Sen. McConnell’s remarks carefully. [..]

Sen. McConnell called the Democracy for All Amendment radical; it is anything but. In a few sentences, it restores an understanding of the Constitution that was in place for at least a century until recently unraveled by the Roberts court. It affirms that money is not speech and that no one, however wealthy or powerful, has a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence our elections.

TBC: Morning Musing 8.29.14

So I saw this meme on Facebook today that I’m ambivalent about today.



On This Day In History August 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 29 is the 241st day of the year (242nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 124 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1533, the 300 year old Inca civilization ended when Francisco Pizarro’s conquistadors strangled the last Inca Emperor, Atahuallpa.

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the Inca built a dazzling empire that governed a population of 12 million people. Although they had no writing system, they had an elaborate government, great public works, and a brilliant agricultural system. In the five years before the Spanish arrival, a devastating war of succession gripped the empire. In 1532, Atahuallpa’s army defeated the forces of his half-brother HuÁscar in a battle near Cuzco. Atahuallpa was consolidating his rule when Pizarro and his 180 soldiers appeared.

In 1531, Pizarro sailed down to Peru, landing at Tumbes. He led his army up the Andes Mountains and on November 15, 1532, reached the Inca town of Cajamarca, where Atahuallpa was enjoying the hot springs in preparation for his march on Cuzco, the capital of his brother’s kingdom. Pizarro invited Atahuallpa to attend a feast in his honor, and the emperor accepted. Having just won one of the largest battles in Inca history, and with an army of 30,000 men at his disposal, Atahuallpa thought he had nothing to fear from the bearded white stranger and his 180 men. Pizarro, however, planned an ambush, setting up his artillery at the square of Cajamarca.

On November 16, Atahuallpa arrived at the meeting place with an escort of several thousand men, all apparently unarmed. Pizarro sent out a priest to exhort the emperor to accept the sovereignty of Christianity and Emperor Charles V., and Atahuallpa refused, flinging a Bible handed to him to the ground in disgust. Pizarro immediately ordered an attack. Buckling under an assault by the terrifying Spanish artillery, guns, and cavalry (all of which were alien to the Incas), thousands of Incas were slaughtered, and the emperor was captured.

Atahuallpa offered to fill a room with treasure as ransom for his release, and Pizarro accepted. Eventually, some 24 tons of gold and silver were brought to the Spanish from throughout the Inca empire. Although Atahuallpa had provided the richest ransom in the history of the world, Pizarro treacherously put him on trial for plotting to overthrow the Spanish, for having his half-brother HuÁscar murdered, and for several other lesser charges. A Spanish tribunal convicted Atahuallpa and sentenced him to die. On August 29, 1533, the emperor was tied to a stake and offered the choice of being burned alive or strangled by garrote if he converted to Christianity. In the hope of preserving his body for mummification, Atahuallpa chose the latter, and an iron collar was tightened around his neck until he died.

TDS/TCR (Gay Paree)


Phallic Symbolism

What?!  No Truthiness?!

Who will be working on Labor Day?  Well I will because you have to have a gosh darn good excuse to travel on a Holiday when everyone else is on the road too.  Our boys. perched as they are in the navel of the universe- New York City, simply get another day off.

The real news, as well as the 2 part web exclusive extended interview with Hassan Abbas and next week’s guests below.

238 Years of Racism In America (continued)

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

~Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852~

This is the 4th, 5th and 6th part of the conversation with African American historian and author Gerald Horne at Real News Network “Reality Assets Itself.” The  first three parts are here.

White Unity and American Propaganda History

Transcript can be read here

Abolition of Slavery was Not a Fight Against Racism

Transcript can be read here

“I Can’t Breathe”

Transcript can be read here

238 Years of Racism In America

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

~Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852~

Racism and white supremacy in America has existed since this country was founded, even to the extent that it was enshrined in the Constitution itself and declared every 5 slaves be counted as 3 people in terms of apportionment for the House of Representatives. With the  abolition of slavery and the Thirteenth Amendment, new ways of discrimination arose with Jim Crow laws in the Soutn and relining in the North.

In a six part series at Real News Network “Reality Assets Itself“, African American historian and author Gerald Horne discusses the history of racial discrimination and its impact on the national psyche and politics today. This is the first three parts.

The Price of NAACP Compromise Was Too High

Transcript can e read here

The Black Scare and the Democratic Party

Transcript can be read here

The Counter-Revolution of 1776 and the Construction of Whiteness

Transcript can be read here

The Biannual Silly Season Is About To Begin In Earnest

I know you all just can’t wait for congressional vacations to end and the run up to the term elections in November. So here is a bit of a preview what’s in store:

First up is from the blue eyed crazy man from Iowa.

Steve King: ‘All Bets Are Off’ On Government Shutdown If Obama Acts On Immigration

By Igor Bobic, Huffington Post

One of the most vehement opponents of comprehensive immigration reform said Wednesday that he supports a tactic that could lead to another federal government shutdown.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that “all bets are off” about the fate of a continuing resolution to fund the government if President Barack Obama decides to unilaterally take action to provide deportations relief for undocumented immigrants.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear,” King said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”

Of course, he’ll easily hold his House seat.

In Kentucky, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch, “the human hybrid turtle,” McConnell is facing a tighter race than was expected from his Democratic challenger, Secretary of State Allison Lundgen Grimes, who leans right of center. But Mitch has some problems that might cost him his comfy seat.

A Kentucky Objection to McConnell’s Pandering to Millionaires and Billionaires

By John Nichols, The Nation

When the political mercenaries of American oligarchy jet off to consort with their electoral paymasters, they never imagine that the interactions will have consequences with constituents. The meetings are conducted in secret, the commitments that are made are never supposed to be revealed.

But, as Mitt Romney learned during the 2012 campaign, this is a new political era – when the old backroom banter about abandoning “the 47 percent” can go public and become the rallying cry for an opponent.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was learning that Wednesday, as revelations about the top Republican’s pledges to serve the agenda of the billionaire Koch Brothers came back to haunt him on the campaign trail in Kentucky. Within hours after the revelation of McConnell promising a room full of millionaires and billionaires that he would block minimum-wage increases, the extension of unemployment benefits and student-loan debt relief, his Democratic challenger was signaling that the senator would be held to account at home.

Mitch McConnell’s promise to the Koch brothers

Sen. McConnell delivered a promise during a meeting hosted by the Koch brothers. Lawrence O’Donnell explains why his comments are a turning point in his campaign.

And if Mitch’s woes with the Koch wasn’t enough, there is some hanky-panky. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explains how a political bribery case involving former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson could upset McConnell’s campaign

There are a couple of governors having a rough time getting reelected:

Pennsylvania’s incumbent Republican governor has a wee problem with his poll numbers tanking. He’s trailing his Democratic opponent Tom Wolf, 24 – 49. I suppose that may be behind the governor’s reason for expanding medicaid for low income residents under the Affordable Care Act.

Up in Maine, Governor Paul LePage, Republican incumbent, is behind by 8 points in a three way race and he really hates the press.

“The worst part of my life is newspapers are still alive — sorry, I had to say it.”

LePage hasn’t been shy about his dislike of newspapers. In February 2013, he said newspapers were his “greatest fear.” He has also stated he wants to “blow … up” the headquarters of the Portland Press Herald and has boycotted sharing comments with at least three papers in the state.

The governor’s race in Wisconsin is neck and neck 70 days out from election day with the Republican incumbent scandal ridden, Koch brothers beholden, Scott Walker three points behind his Democratic opponent, Mary Burke. Yet, the folks at 538 Blog are predicting a Walker win. Here’s hoping Nate is wrong on this one.

Back in New York, The New York Times refused to endorse incumbent Governor Andrew Coumo, citing ethics, in his primary challenge from Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who is getting a lot more recognition because of that and Andy’s lame attempts to keep her off the ballot. The primary in September 9.

Let the games begin.