09/12/2014 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: Legal Authority for Fighting ISIS

As the Pentagon gears up to expand its fight against ISIS, a fundamentalist Sunni militant group that controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, Congress appears perfectly willing to abdicate one of its most consequential powers: the authority to declare war.

The cowardice in Congress, never to be underestimated, is outrageous. Some lawmakers have made it known that they would rather not face a war authorization vote shortly before midterm elections, saying they’d rather sit on the fence for a while to see whether an expanded military campaign starts looking like a success story or a debacle. By avoiding responsibility, they allow President Obama free rein to set a dangerous precedent that will last well past this particular military campaign.

Paul Krugman: The Inflation Cult

Wish I’d said that! Earlier this week, Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica, writing on The Times’s DealBook blog, compared people who keep predicting runaway inflation to “true believers whose faith in a predicted apocalypse persists even after it fails to materialize.” Indeed.

Economic forecasters are often wrong. Me, too! If an economist never makes an incorrect prediction, he or she isn’t taking enough risks. But it’s less common for supposed experts to keep making the same wrong prediction year after year, never admitting or trying to explain their past errors. And the remarkable thing is that these always-wrong, never-in-doubt pundits continue to have large public and political influence.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. But as regular readers know, I’ve been trying to figure it out, because I think it’s important to understand the persistence and power of the inflation cult.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 5 Reasons the SEC’s Executive-Pay Rules Matter — And 5 Ways to Use Them

Two little-known rules on corporate reporting of executive pay are currently being reviewed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. While they have received almost no press coverage, these rules could have far-reaching consequences for our nation’s economy and the future of the middle class.

The Dodd Frank law requires corporations to disclose the difference between the pay received by their CEO and the median income of all other employees, and the SEC is currently finalizing the regulations, which will determine how this reporting is to be done. It has also announced that it will release rules by the end of the year requiring corporations to report on the relationship between senior executive compensation and corporate performance.

While these rules may sound obscure and largely symbolic, here are five reasons they should be receiving wider attention — followed by five ways this kind of information can be used to improve economic policy:

John Nichols: The Senate Tried to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Today. Guess What Stopped Them?

A majority of the United States Senate has voted to advance a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of Congress and the states to establish campaign fundraising and spending rules with an eye toward preventing billionaires and corporations from buying elections.

“Today was a historic day for campaign finance reform, with more than half of the Senate voting on a constitutional amendment to make it clear that the American people have the right to regulate campaign finance,” declared Senator Tom Udall, the New Mexico Democrat who in June proposed his amendment to address some of the worst results of the Supreme Court’s interventions in with the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (pdf) and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decisions, as well as the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that [it’s going to take more than a majority http://www.archives.gov/federa… to renew democracy.

Mychal Denzel Smith: What More Will It Take to Arrest Darren Wilson?

“Hands up, don’t shoot!” has been the cry of the thousands who took to the streets seeking justice for Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9. According to multiple witnesses, Brown had his hands in the air-a gesture generally understood to signal surrender-when Wilson shot him to death. The police have a different story: they say Brown was the aggressor, having reached for Wilson’s gun while the officer was still in his vehicle, and later charging toward Wilson. This version of the story, frankly, sounds ridiculous. And now there’s more reason that ever to doubt the police’s explanation. CNN has reported on two witnesses that had not previously given statements to journalists: [..]

At this point, I need someone to answer this question for me like I’m stupid: What else is needed to arrest Darren Wilson? I’m not asking what a prosecutor would need to for a murder conviction, or even what a grand jury would need to bring formal charges. What else is needed for police to say, “Darren Wilson, you shot and killed someone, you are under arrest”? What more?

Steven W. Thrasher: America is a democracy. So why do we make it hard for certain people to vote?

Voter ID. Re-registration requirements. Demanding a fixed address. Exercising your franchise shouldn’t be so tough

Since I first registered to vote on my 18th birthday, I haven’t missed voting in a single election that I can remember. My feat has been nothing short of a pain in the ass, given that I have moved 14 times in the 19 years since.

This week, I almost failed to vote for the first time: I had moved – again – in the gap between the board of elections deadline to change my address and the New York state primary election. I did try to update my voter registration online, but didn’t receive a confirmation. I was confused if I was eligible to vote where I now live, or at the last address where I had been registered.  [..]

Most people like me don’t have hours to spend voting by provisional ballot, as I did on Tuesday. And by “people like me”, I mean those of us who are somewhat fringe and move often. According to Demos, “Almost 36.5 million US residents moved between 2011 and 2012,” and “low-income individuals were twice as likely to move as those above the poverty line.”

Voter transience has a huge demographic effect on the electorate.

On This Day In History September 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.

September 12 is the 255th day of the year (256th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 110 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1940, Lascaux cave paintings discovered

Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne département. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic  art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,000 years old. They primarily consist of primitive images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list along with other prehistoric sites in the Vezere valley.

The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers, Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, as well as Marcel’s dog, Robot. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, the carbon dioxide  produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state, and were monitored on a daily basis. Rooms in the cave include The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines.

Lascaux II, a replica of two of the cave halls – the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery – was opened in 1983, 200 meters from the original. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.

Good Question


Obama Broke His Promise to Latinos

Why are we still supporting him?


September 08, 2014

When Barack Obama and I last sat down in 2006, I refused to shake his hand. Today, I still won’t. His announcement last weekend that he would delay executive action on immigration is his fifth broken promise to Latinos on this all-important issue for our community. He has been blind to the pain of the 1,100 deportations our communities face every day and the anguish our families feel as they are swung back and forth as political pawns.

The question for us Latinos – especially the nearly 24 million of us eligible to vote – is, what to do about this? How can we ensure that the fastest-growing demographic in the country isn’t taken for granted by Democrats who purport to be our allies but often dash our hopes in the face of the least bit of political pressure? There are no obvious or even satisfactory answers, but one thing is clear: We’ve been slapped in the face one too many times by this president. And it probably won’t be the last: Obama has a long record of betraying Latinos – and it predates his days in the White House.

In the run-up to his second election, Obama vowed that immigration would be the top priority in his second term. Latinos made their mark on election night 2012, and many voted with the plights of their undocumented mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and best friends in mind. We delivered for Obama, with 71 percent of us supporting the president. Only 27 percent favored Mitt Romney – a lower percentage than Republican candidates received in the last three presidential elections. Our votes made a difference: We helped Obama win the key states of Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado.

We believed in Obama’s “Audacity of Hope.” We put him back in the White House expecting him to keep his end of the bargain – finally.

Last weekend, Obama backed off his most recent promise to push immigration reform through executive action to protect vulnerable Senate Democrats who would otherwise come under fire during the upcoming midterms. But by trying to shield those lawmakers, he may have harmed others.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Reps. Brad Schneider and Bill Foster – all Democrats who have kept their promises to the Latino community and consistently supported reform – will face reelection and risk losing if disaffected Latinos refuse to show up at the polls. Between now and the midterms, more than 60,000 Latinos and immigrants will very likely be separated from their loved ones and thousands of U.S. citizen children will be left without a mother or a father before the president acts. Most of these human beings have lived in the United States for more than a decade and do backbreaking work that Americans do not want to do, contributing to and growing industries that Americans cannot do without. All they ask is for a chance to get right with the law, legally enter the workforce and stay together with their families. Obama’s broken promise and delayed action will mean many of them will be deported.

Their suffering and that of their families, friends and children should weigh on the consciences of the president and the Democrats who encouraged Obama to put off – again and again and again and again and again – the push for immigration reform.

As for our own plan of action? It’s hard for me to imagine many of us voting for Republicans, who have at times been downright hostile to immigrant communities. But maybe Latinos in places like Colorado, Florida, Arkansas and North Carolina – states with closely contested Senate or governor’s races – should sit this election out. Maybe only by paying a price at the polls will Democrats finally stop throwing us under the bus.

No One is Happy with Obama When it Comes to Immigration

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Tuesday September 9, 2014 12:23 pm

President Obama’s immigration strategy makes no sense to me.

For political reasons Obama delayed his promised executive actions on immigration – even though this executive orders seems to be more popular than his current complete lack of leadership

In an attempt to find compromise Obama has instead adopted an immigration strategy that makes no one happy. He already upset people on the right with some of his positions and by initially saying he would take executive action. Yet by breaking his promise to take executive action by the end of the summer he also managed to anger people on the left without winning over any conservatives. Even people who don’t care that much about the issue are still left with the impression Obama is cynical and dishonest.

It is impressive to see a politician adopt the strategy of first taking the political hit by announcing a controversial plan, and then getting none of the rewards by also lying to your supporters.

Dancing with myself

Obama’s Best Hope Against ISIS Was Just Killed, So Let’s Make Friends with Iran

By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept


Thus far, U.S. hopes against ISIS have been pinned on the group’s most palatable enemies: The Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga, and more moderate Syrian rebels. While those groups have not been defeated, their position today is weaker than ever. As such, some cooperation with America’s ostensible enemies in the Iranian military will likely be necessary to any plan to defeat the Islamic State.

Obama’s non-Iranian options look particularly bleak after yesterday’s shocking assassination of one of Syria’s top anti-ISIS rebel commanders and dozens of his lieutenants. The commander, Hassan Abboud, was killed in an explosion during an underground meeting. So many members of his group, Ahrar al-Sham, were killed in the explosion that it’s now unclear whether it will continue to exist and provide a key counterweight to ISIS. Ahrar al-Sham was one of the best organized Syrian opposition factions aside from ISIS.

The loss of Abboud and his lieutenants only underlines the need for a reset of U.S. policy in the region. While American politicians have cast ISIS as a mortal threat to their country, the group’s primary conflict today is not with the United States – even if ISIS’s horrific beheadings of U.S. citizens served the group’s propaganda goals, and even if America’s catastrophic military adventurism facilitated [its creation and ascendance ].

No, ISIS’s real focus today is on expanding its territory by combating regional governments – Iraq and Syria at the moment – and by fending off rival militias. And it turns out this has done wonders for relations within the Middle East. For the first time in three years, the interests of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Iraq are all aligned towards stifling the existential threat posed by the radical insurgency of ISIS. Even the Iranian and Saudi governments – normally bitter rivals – are seeking to set aside their differences to confront this rising danger.

Rather than reflexively satisfying an emotional need to “do something” in the face of atrocities committed by ISIS against American citizens, a policy of coalition-building across ideological lines could potentially eliminate the group and perhaps begin to heal sectarian divisions in the region. Obama’s speech tonight offers a prime opportunity to articulate a pragmatic, effective strategy. If ISIS is really the apocalyptic threat that U.S. politicians have made it out to be, such pragmatism is absolutely necessary. American policy on this issue has so far been both incomprehensible and counterproductive. But by bringing all major parties to one side against ISIS, something positive may be salvaged from it yet.

Steven Sotloff Was Sold To ISIS By ‘Moderate’ Rebels, Family Spokesman Tells CNN

By Ed Mazza, The Huffington Post

09/09/2014 12:10 am EDT

Steven Sotloff, the American journalist murdered by Islamic State militants last week, was sold to the terrorist organization by supposedly moderate rebels in Syria, a family spokesman told CNN on Monday night.

“For the first time, we can say Steven was sold at the border. Steven’s name was on a list that he had been responsible for the bombing of a hospital,” Barak Barfi said on “Anderson Cooper 360.” “This was false, activists spread his name around.”

“We believe that these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to ISIS, and that was the reason he was captured,” Barfi told Cooper.

TDS/TCR (Thought Police)


Ugh… Sausage!

Life is suffering

I have achieved… nothing.  Doesn’t that make me the better Buddhist?

The real news, as well as next week’s guests below.