Daily Archive: 01/16/2015

Jan 16 2015

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

New York Times Editorial Board: Wrong Responses to Charlie Hebdo

Leaders in Europe are justifiably trying to figure out what they should be doing to prevent terrorist attacks like the recent massacre at the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Regrettably, some politicians are proposing the kind of Internet censorship and surveillance that would do little to protect their citizens but do a lot to infringe on civil liberties. [..]

Of course, governments can and should take steps to identify threats and prevent terrorist attacks through targeted intelligence gathering. But there is good reason to believe that widespread censorship and intrusive surveillance will only undermine personal freedoms and could even make us less secure.

Paul Krugman: Francs, Fear and Folly

Ah, Switzerland, famed for cuckoo clocks and sound money. Other nations may experiment with radical economic policies, but with the Swiss you don’t get surprises.

Until you do. On Thursday the Swiss National Bank, the equivalent of the Federal Reserve, shocked the financial world with a double whammy, simultaneously abandoning its policy of pegging the Swiss franc to the euro and cutting the interest rate it pays on bank reserves to minus, that’s right, minus 0.75 percent. Market turmoil ensued.

And you should feel a shiver of fear, even if you don’t have any direct financial stake in the value of the franc. For Switzerland’s monetary travails illustrate in miniature just how hard it is to fight the deflationary vortex now dragging down much of the world economy.

Dave Johnson: What You Need to Know When Obama Talks Trade

President Obama is likely to use the State of the Union to push for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the rigged “fast track” trade promotion authority. Here are some facts to counter the expected public relations campaign.

But first, of course “trade” is a good and necessary thing. We all trade with others. This is how people, businesses and even countries “make a living.” Critics of our country’s current trade policies are not “anti-trade”; they are anti-trade deficit. They are opposed to the use of so-called “trade” agreements to promote the interests of the largest multinational and Wall Street corporations at the expense of America’s working people, its middle class, its domestic “Main Street” companies, our environment and the country’s long-term economic health.

David Cay Johnston: Elites fight back against mismeasure of poverty

New initiative by charitable organizations seeks to update statistics on financial hardship

Our understanding of poverty is starting to undergo a transformation, thanks to new research and the backing of wealthy and powerful interests.

United Way chapters in six states and the Rochester Area Community Foundation in New York are putting financial hardship in 21st century America on their volunteers’ and donors’ agendas. Since these organizations represent business leadership as well as prosperous and generous families, the development suggests that the power structure in these places is working to redefine what it means to be in need.

Their separate initiatives hold the promise of addressing one of the worst black marks on American society: A third of U.S. children live in poverty, giving us one of the worst child poverty rates among developed countries. This rate also acts as a tax on the country’s future that will be paid in lost economic output, increased demand for social services and human misery. Lowering the child poverty rate, on the other hand, will ease taxpayer burdens by producing fewer tax eaters and more tax payers.

George Zornick: Perhaps the Most Important Question About the Democratic Party Right Now

Over at U.S. News & World Report, Pat Garofalo has a very interesting piece up that asks “Are Democrats Trolling the Left?” This question deserves some serious consideration, because the answer could tell us a huge amount about American politics over the next several years.

In recent weeks, had Washington had re-formed with a Republican Congress, Democrats made a sudden left turn on economic policy. House Democrats, led by Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, proposed a middle-class tax cut that would be financed by higher taxes on wealthy CEOs along with a small tax on financial transactions. Meanwhile, President Obama is preparing to ask Congress for a bill that would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.

There’s an optimistic way to look at this: Democrats learned a lesson during the 2014 midterms about failing to offer a bold economic agenda, and have finally seen the light on some good policies that tackle income inequality and an ever-growing financial sector directly.

Cori Cryder: Why do Republicans insist on keeping cleared men at Guantánamo?

Pity the Guantánamo Bay detainee: he is the easiest target for the politicians who wish to be seen “doing something” about terrorism, but who are entirely indifferent to these men’s lives or whether continuing our failed policies there will make anyone safer.

The latest example: four Senators, who on Tuesday introduced another bill seeking to cut off any funding which could allow detainees – including men long cleared for release by federal agents – to leave this legal black hole. One of the four is John McCain, who campaigned for president in 2008 saying that the detention center at Guantánamo needed to be closed. [..]

This legislation is nothing but a transparent effort to score political points and keep the post-9/11 fear-industrial complex spinning. Its passage would damage America’s world standing and destroy the lives of dozens of cleared prisoners and their families – but in a Republican-controlled Congress, there is a real risk that it could pass.

Jan 16 2015

The Breakfast Club (Winter)

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.

 photo 807561379_e6771a7c8e_zps7668d00e.jpg

This Day in History

Operation Desert Storm begins; Space Shuttle Columbia takes off for last time; Prohibition takes effect.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Supervillains

It’s quite impressive that the prisoners in Gitmo are the masterminds behind everything bad that happens in the world. Maybe it isn’t a prison camp at all, but an Evil Lair Of Evil, a base of operations for all terrorism everywhere. If so, we probably should close it, no?

Atrios

Jan 16 2015

On This Day In History January 16

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.

January 16 is the 16th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 349 days remaining until the end of the year (350 in leap years).

On this day in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” is ratified.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

The amendment and its enabling legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but made it difficult to obtain it legally.

Following significant pressure on lawmakers from the temperance movement, the House of Representatives passed the amendment on December 18, 1917. It was certified as ratified on January 16, 1919, having been approved by 36 states. It went into effect one year after ratification, on January 17, 1920. Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.

When Congress submitted this amendment to the states for ratification, it was the first time a proposed amendment contained a provision setting a deadline for its ratification. The validity of that clause of the amendment was challenged and reached the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of such a deadline in Dillon v. Gloss (1921).

Because many Americans attempted to evade the restrictions of Prohibition, there was a considerable growth in violent and organized crime in the United States in response to public demand for illegal alcohol. The amendment was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933. It remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety.

To define the language used in the Amendment, Congress enacted enabling legislation called the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed that bill, but the House of Representatives immediately voted to override the veto and the Senate voted similarly the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest date allowed by the 18th Amendment.Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed that bill, but the House of Representatives immediately voted to override the veto and the Senate voted similarly the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest date allowed by the 18th Amendment.

Jan 16 2015

War On-With Parades

So we’ve recently passed another milestone in our perpetual War. Sunday December 28th 2014 marked the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan.

And we recently passed another set of new year’s parades Rose Bowl and Mummers etc. I’d ask the question “Who doesn’t love a parade?” but I get that there are plenty of people who have an aversion to parades in the same way some people are freaked out by clowns.

Anyhow, I thought it was as good a time as any to reflect on the time line of the country’s aversion to a ticker tape parade celebrating the end of longest running “combat operations” in our history.

Obviously, a ticker tape victory parade makes some people feel a little awkward. And it should. It highlights the fact that combat is NOT over. Military action should never have be used as a substitute for law enforcement action. Not to mention all the rest of the hypocrisy: the false pretenses, the unprosecuted torture war crimes, the illegal spying on and execution of American citizens. There’s plenty for the country to be outraged about. At the very least embarrassed.

A parade forces people to recon with what exactly we went to war for. Can you really declare victory against a tactic? What’s the difference between a War On something and a War With something? And when will we have that victory parade for the war on with drugs?
 

more War on with-

Jan 16 2015

The Daily Show (No Hero)

Pencil Necked Geek

Below the real news and next week’s guests.

Well, some of them.

Jan 16 2015

Why Do These Two Clowns Still Have Thier Jobs?

Both CIA Director John Brennan and White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough should be fired for violating the constitutional separation of powers in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency’s spying on congressional aids who were looking into the CIA’s roll in torture. Now The CIA’s internal panel, with all the members close allies of Brennan or CIA insiders, released its report that concluded its own innocence and accused the Senate staffers of stealing the documents. From Tim Cushing at Techdirt

Now that the long-delayed CIA Torture Report has been released, it’s time to find someone to blame. Not for the torture, of course. There will apparently be no punishments handed down for the abuse uncovered by the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Also, apparently, there will be no huge international fallout. Remember just a few short weeks ago when we were promised increased terrorist activity if the report was released? Still waiting…) But there will be some noise made about the Senate’s alleged impropriety.

One-man transparency army Jason Leopold reports at Vice that the Senate allegedly stole documents from the CIA — documents they weren’t supposed to have access to. But the credulity of this assertion really depends on how much you trust the source. [..]

So, the CIA took it upon itself to perform an investigation no one asked for in order to clear itself of allegations that it had spied on Senate staffers. Chalk that one up to active disinterest by the administration in pursuing any allegations of wrongdoing associated with the Torture Report. Several months ago, the Senate claimed the CIA had hacked its computers and accessed Torture Report work-in-progress but the DOJ declined the invitation to investigate further.

Now, the CIA is claiming it was blameless (you know, other than the torture), based on its own internal investigation. The OIG report alleging CIA abuse of Senate computers was reviewed by the CIA’s in-house Accountability Board and determined to be “riddled with errors.”

The CIA’s accusations against the Senate boil down to a bundle of classified internal CIA documents known as the “Panetta Review.” [..]

Now, let’s suppose that all of the CIA’s allegations are true. If so, should the Senate be held accountable for actions it took that resulted in the exposure of CIA wrongdoing? Obviously, the CIA feels it should. But the documents “improperly accessed” were internal CIA documents that showed the agency was lying to its overseers about its interrogation techniques. Without this “improper” access, it’s likely the Torture Report wouldn’t have been as devastating. Large amounts of CIA wrongdoing would have remained undisclosed.

What’s included in the Panetta Review is information the Senate Intelligence Committee should have had access to in the first place. But the CIA deliberately and wrongfully withheld information that contradicted the narrative it was feeding to its overseers. If the Senate is to be punished for its wrongful access, then it follows that the CIA should be held accountable for its deliberate misrepresentation of its torture programs. Instead, there’s now a chance the investigators will pay for their (mild in comparison) misconduct while the agency walks away clean.

That’s not all, it seems Brennan was in cahoots with the White House, specifically, his good buddy, McDonough.

White House Knew CIA Snooped On Senate, Report Says

By Ali Watkins, The Huffington Post

Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan consulted the White House before directing agency personnel to sift through a walled-off computer drive being used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to construct its investigation of the agency’s torture program, according to a recently released report (pdf) by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General.

The Inspector General’s report, which was completed in July but only released by the agency on Wednesday, reveals that Brennan spoke with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough before ordering CIA employees to “use whatever means necessary” to determine how certain sensitive internal documents had wound up in Senate investigators’ hands.

Brennan’s consultation with McDonough also came before the CIA revealed the search to then-Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), whose staff was the target of the snooping.

The new information suggesting the White House was aware of — and did not stop — the CIA’s computer snooping is unlikely to improve the existing distrust between Senate committee members and the executive branch. Feinstein has said that the CIA’s computer search likely violated the constitutional separation of powers, an allegation the White House has declined to directly address.

John Brennan Exonerates Himself with Sham Investigation

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept

The outrageous whitewash (pdf) issued yesterday by the CIA panel John Brennan hand-picked to lead the investigation into his agency’s spying on Senate staffers is being taken seriously by the elite Washington media, which is solemnly reporting that officials have been “cleared” of any “wrongdoing“.

But what the report really does is provide yet more evidence of Brennan’s extraordinary impunity.

The panel concluded that CIA officials acted reasonably by scouring Senate computer drives in early 2014 when faced with a “potential security breach”. (That “breach” had allowed Senate staffers investigating CIA torture to access, more than three years earlier, a handful of documents Brennan didn’t want them to see.) [..]

But the CIA yesterday also released a redacted version of the full report of an earlier investigation by the CIA’s somewhat more independent inspector general’s office (pdf). And between the two reports, it is now more clear than ever that Brennan was the prime mover behind a hugely inappropriate assault on the constitutional separation of powers, and continues to get away with it.

Most notably, the official who ran the CIA facility where the Senate staffers had been allowed to set up shop wrote in a memo to the inspector general that Brennan, after speaking with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about the errant documents, called him and “emphasized that I was to use whatever means necessary to answer the question of how the documents arrived on the SSCI side of the system.” [..]

And it was Brennan who made the paramount error in judgement here, when he decided that finding out how a series of embarrassing, revelatory CIA documents found their way into the hands of congressional overseers – really not such a bad thing – was somehow more of a threat to national security than respecting the independence of a separate branch of government, recognizing whose job it is to provide oversight over who, or honoring the spirit of an agreement between the agency and the Senate.

The whitewash was very much by design. Brennan stocked the panel with three CIA staffers and two of the most easily manipulated, consummate Washington insiders you could possibly imagine: former senator Evan Bayh, whose reputation as an unprincipled opportunist is legend; and Bob Bauer, whose lifelong mission has been to raise money for Democrats, not take stands. Then, with in-your-face chutzpah, Brennan called it an “accountability board”.

Far from “clearing” anyone of anything, the panel’s report is just the latest element in a long string of cover-ups and deceptions orchestrated by Brennan.  [..]

The panel’s report can also be seen as Brennan’s total assault on David B. Buckley, the CIA inspector general who wrote the first, highly critical report on the incident – and who suddenly resigned a few days ago and is “out this week” according to his office. The report didn’t just bat down the inspector general’s conclusions as “unsupported”; it belittled them. In a recommendation that simply dripped with contempt, the panel concluded that “it would be better” if the inspector general’s office “kept more complete records of interviews.”

Meanwhile, the full (though redacted) inspector general’s report fleshes out a lot of the details of the previously-released executive summary, which generally concluded that the CIA had improperly accessed the Senate computers.

The CIA and NSA have become rogue agencies that need to be reigned in not just by congress but ny the executive branch, as well