Daily Archive: 09/15/2014

Sep 15 2014

Scotland The Brave

On Thursday, September 18, Scottish voters will decide if Scotland should secede from the United Kingdom. Polling shows that the vote is too close to call and the outcome is heavily dependent on workers turning out

The dramatic surge in support for the yes vote has made next week’s referendum on Scottish independence too close to call, prompting a panic across London’s political spectrum that has prompted offers of new political concessions to persuade want-away Scots to stay. But the secessionist impulse is being fueled by long-term economic changes that have left Scotland’s working class increasingly disenchanted with the economic policies of Britain’s major political parties.

Last Monday former Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot, hurriedly announced that, if Scotland remains part of the union, it will get significant new financial powers as well as greater control over its welfare and benefits system. These reforms would be delivered, Brown said, on the basis of an accelerated legislative timetable. “A no vote on 18 September will not be an endpoint but the starting gun for action,” he said. “We are demanding a tight timetable with tough deadlines and streamlined procedures … The alternative to an irreversible separation is a more powerful Scottish parliament.”

The current Prime Minister David Cameron made dire warnings about the consequences of a slit with the UK:

In an emotional speech on his final visit north of the border before polling day, the prime minister warned that a yes vote would end the UK “for good, for ever” and would deprive the Scottish people of a shared currency and pooled pension arrangements.

In a seeming attempt to reach out to voters who might be tempted to support independence to free Scotland from the Tories, Cameron said that he would not be prime minister forever – but a break with the rest of the UK would be permanent.

Mr. Cameron got a little help from British ex-patriot, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” Well, almost.

Over the course of the show’s main segment, Oliver looked at the rival political operations, including the “Better Together” campaign’s slogan, “No thanks.” As the host said, “‘No thanks’ is a violently British way to refuse something. That is just one step away from ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly.'”

Later, Oliver turned to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s feeble attempts to keep the United Kingdom united. “He embodies all of the things I hate most about England,” Oliver said of Cameron, “and I’m English!” Showing a particularly damning photo of Cameron at Oxford, he added, “That is the face of a man who fast-forwards through the servant parts of Downton Abbey.”

Finally, Oliver decided to make his case for Scotland staying with the UK using the kind of grand, sweeping, romantic gesture found in films like Love Actually. Surrounded by bagpipe players and Scotland’s inexplicable official animal, the unicorn, Oliver used written placards to plead, “Don’t go, Scotland!”

Sep 15 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

Trevor Timm: Obama’s legally dubious Isis campaign is just a way to continue perpetual war

The question isn’t whether this is war. It is. The question is how long until we’re clamouring for ground troops in Iraq again

In a speech that would make Dick Cheney proud, the president told us (and the Pentagon repeated) this week that we are at war with Islamic State (Isis) “in same way we are at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates” – a war that will go on indefinitely, is based on a strategy that’s been failing for over a decade and will never legally be called a war.

What Obama really did, however, was confirm for everyone what the late Hunter S Thompson recognized, shortly after 9/11, when he wrote, “We are At War now – with somebody – and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.” [..]

The president also announced that he wouldn’t be needing congressional approval for prolonged airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, ignoring both their constitutional obligations and his … and that we’d be funneling more weapons to a group of “moderate” fighters that hardly anyone believes is moderate nor particularly good at fighting, including Obama.

Legal scholars on the left and the right denounced the president’s unconstitutional decision to bypass Congress and authorize military action unilaterally by pinning it to the 13 year-old Authorization for Use of Military Force against al-Qaida – which expelled Isis months ago.

Rebecca Burns: Wall Street’s teetering new rental empire

The rise of rent-backed securities ensures we’ll have another crash

History may repeat itself, but in few places are its cycles so maddeningly short as on Wall Street, where the recent advent of rent-backed securities has whipped financiers into another feeding frenzy. The innovators of this hot new financial product have found a way to slice, dice and repackage debt tied to thousands of real-estate-owned (REO) homes – a process that may sound awfully familiar.

That’s because it is: Rent-backed securities are the direct descendants of the mortgage-backed securities that crashed the economy in 2008. This time, however, investors’ income streams are coming not from monthly payments on frequently predatory mortgages but from the rent checks of thousands of ordinary tenants in single-family homes.

When rent-backed securities premiered on the market in October 2013, the $479 million offering from the private equity giant Blackstone Group generated more demand from investors than the private equity firm could accommodate. Since then, Blackstone and several other firms specializing in the rental of single-family homes have sold more than $3 billion of these bonds. REO-to-rental securitization has been hailed as an exciting new asset class, with financial analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods estimating that it could swell into a nearly $1 trillion industry over the next six years.

Eugene Robinson: What If This Doesn’t Work?

President Obama has committed the United States to another open-ended Middle East war in which the potential for doing harm rivals the possibility of doing good.

That’s the bottom line from Obama’s sober address to the nation. The president made his decision cautiously, reluctantly, even painfully. But make no mistake: The pledge to “destroy” the Islamic State is a long-term commitment, and success will depend on a host of partners that may be unreliable. [..]

To ask the even more obvious: Once you get involved in the Syrian civil war, how on earth do you get out?

David Sirota: Shareholders’ Quest for More Transparency

If you own a share of a company, how much information about the company are you entitled to? That is the question embedded in the debate over a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would force publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending to their shareholders.

As of this month, a 2011 petition to the SEC proposing the rule has received more than 1 million comments-most of them in favor of the mandate. Supporters of the rule, some of whom demonstrated outside the SEC last week, say that’s the highest number of public comments ever submitted in response to a petition for a SEC rule. That level of public engagement, the proponents say, means the agency must stop delaying and implement the proposal. They also say that as hundreds of millions of dollars flood into politics through anonymous “dark money” sources, the rule is more needed than ever.

Joe Conason: Republicans’ Reaction to Obama Speech Reveals Much-About Them

Minutes after President Barack Obama concluded his strong and sensible address explaining how he intends to destroy the terrorist organization the Islamic State, Republicans popped up on television like political snipers. He should have kept a “residual force” in Iraq, complained Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and he is to blame for the Islamic State’s advances. He sounds just like George W. Bush, gloated former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and he is reluctantly enacting the advice of Dick Cheney.

None of those remarks was accurate, but the falsehoods revealed once more the irrepressible Republican impulse to slur a Democratic president-even when the nation faces a serious security threat. In this instance, as the president attempts to unite us and bring together a broad coalition of allies, their behavior is worse than inappropriate. Indeed, were the roles reversed, the Republicans would surely describe such conduct as unpatriotic.

Sep 15 2014

The NFL’s Problem with Domestic Abuse

The National Football League (NFL) has a problem with not just holding its players responsible for domestic abuse but with investigating itself on the issue.

On her show MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that it isn’t just the Ravens’ Ray Rice beating his then fiance unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator but other players who have not only been charged but convicted of abuse and assault who are still playing.

In light of all the attention that the Rice incident has drawn and the inconsistent statements by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, there are calls for Mr. Goodell to resign or be fired. One of the NFL’s sharpest critics, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann took to the airways over the last several nights to chastise Commissioner Goodell

Last night, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign over the domestic abuse scandal surrounding Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. In a new segment set to air tonight, Olbermann changed his mind: Goodell should not resign, the host argued – He should be fired.

It was a report from the Associated Press, claiming that law enforcement sent the video of Rice beating his then-fiancée unconscious in an elevator months before it was released by TMZ this week, that made Olbermann argue for the commissioner’s termination. Goodell had claimed that he had not seen the video until now.

“You have already forfeited your privilege of resigning,” Olbermann said to Goodell, saying that the only way for the NFL “to restore just the slightest credibility to the den of liars” that is the league would be for them to “fire you.”

Keith also ripped the commissioner for his appointments questioning the independence of the former FBI Director Robert Meuller and two team owners, who are his friends, to investigate.

And the calls for Goodell’s resignation go on: from David Haugh at The Chicago Tribune

Forgive me for not waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the so-called independent investigation of the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case.

Independent implies free of bias, which seems implausible for the panel the league assembled to evaluate the accountability of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

It will be led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, a partner in the law firm WilmerHale that recently helped the NFL negotiate a Sunday Ticket deal with DirectTV worth billions. It will be aided by two Goodell supporters who also happen to his bosses, owners John Mara of the Giants and Art Rooney II of the Steelers.

Apparently, Goodell’s uncle and cousin were busy. [..]

The idea of crisis management is to control damage, not create more. The NFL hiring rich, white male cronies as a checks-and-balance system for Goodell only enhanced the perception that the commissioner can’t be trusted regarding the Rice case. In trying to protect “the shield,” as Goodell likes to call the league, he keeps diminishing its brand. How many newspapers and websites in the country Thursday referred to the NFL as the National Football Liars? What’s the cumulative effect of universal criticism? [..]

When punishing the Saints organization in 2012 for the bounty scandal, despite denials by many that they were not aware of such a system in place, Goodell famously said that ignorance is no excuse. Ironically, Goodell’s words resonate loudest now. Ignorance is no excuse. [..]

Many owners probably will continue to back Goodell unless sponsors such as Marriott or FedEx threaten to sever ties with the league. Short of sponsors fleeing, the old boys’ club will point to the NFL’s second-least-valuable team, the Bills, selling recently for $1.1 billion as a sign that Goodell excels at the part of the job they consider most important.

Effective commissioners find ways to make money and a difference. Goodell no longer qualifies as one and should step down.

Sep 15 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 9.15.14

I’ve got 3 articles from my weekend reading for your perusal.

The first one is on the stupidity of the DC politicos and their stupid geniusus:

All these effing geniuses: Ezra Klein, expert-driven journalism, and the phony Washington consensus

In a recent article on Vox, Ezra Klein declared that his generation of Washington journalists had discovered political science, and it is like the hottest thing on wheels. In the old days, he writes, journalists “dealt with political science episodically and condescendingly.” But now, Klein declares, “Washington is listening to political scientists, in large part because it’s stopped trusting itself.” Klein finds that political scientists give better answers to his questions than politicians themselves, because politicians are evasive but scientists are scientists, you know, they deal in “structural explanations” for political events. So the “young political journalists” who are roaring around town in their white lab coats frightening the local bourgeoisie “know a lot more about political science and how to use it” than their elders did.

Hence Klein’s title: “How Political Science Conquered Washington.”

Nearly every aspect of this argument annoyed me. To suggest, for starters, that people in Washington are-or were, until recently-ignorant or contemptuous of academic expertise is like saying the people of Tulsa have not yet heard about this amazing stuff called oil. Not only does Washington routinely fill the No. 1 spot on those “most educated cities” articles, but the town positively seethes with academic experts. Indeed, it is the only city I know of that actually boasts a sizable population of fake experts, handing out free-market wisdom to passers-by from their subsidized seats at Cato and Heritage.

Jump!

Sep 15 2014

On This Day In History September 15

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 15 is the 258th day of the year (259th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 107 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1963, a bomb explodes during Sunday morning services in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls.

The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was a racially motivated terrorist attack on September 15, 1963, by members of a Ku Klux Klan group in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. The bombing of the African-American  church resulted in the deaths of four girls. Although city leaders had reached a settlement in May with demonstrators and started to integrate public places, not everyone agreed with ending segregation. Other acts of violence followed the settlement. The bombing increased support for people working for civil rights. It marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The three-story Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was a rallying point for civil rights activities through the spring of 1963, and is where the students who marched out of the church to be arrested during the 1963 Birmingham campaign’s Children’s Crusade were trained. The demonstrations led to an agreement in May between the city’s African-American leaders and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to integrate public facilities in the country.

In the early morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan group, planted a box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the church, near the basement.

At about 10:22 a.m., when twenty-six children were walking into the basement assembly room for closing prayers of a sermon entitled “The Love That Forgives,” the bomb exploded. According to an interview on NPR on September 15, 2008, Denise McNair’s father stated that the sermon never took place because of the bombing. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (aged 11), Carole Robertson (aged 14), and Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), were killed in the attack, and 22 additional people were injured, one of whom was Addie Mae Collins’ younger sister, Sarah.

The explosion blew a hole in the church’s rear wall, destroyed the back steps, and left intact only the frames of all but one stained-glass window. The lone window that survived the concussion was one in which Jesus Christ was depicted knocking on a door, although Christ’s face was destroyed. In addition, five cars behind the church were damaged, two of which were destroyed, while windows in the laundromat across the street were blown out.