01/20/2015 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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Dean Baker: Democrats Take on Wall Street With Financial Transactions Tax

There has long been interest in financial transactions taxes among progressive Democrats. The list of people who have proposed financial transactions taxes over the years includes Representatives Peter DeFazio and Keith Ellison, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders.

But the proposal last week came from Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is part of the party’s leadership. And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that she also supports the proposal. This means that financial transactions taxes are now part of the national debate on tax and financial policy. [..]

The Democrats deserve a lot of credit for adopting this proposal. The financial industry is enormously powerful and will do everything it can to bury Van Hollen’s plan before it gains any traction. Look for a slew of economic studies showing that a tax of 0.1 percent on stock trades will be the end of the economy as we know it. The reality is that it just means the end of speculative finance as they know it, and this is a very good thing.

Trevor Timm: Obama and Cameron’s ‘solutions’ for cybersecurity will make the internet worse

Drafting policies to imprison people who share an HBO GO password? Eliminating end-to-end data encryption? They can’t be serious

The current state of the US and UK governments’ ass-backwards approach to cybersecurity was on full display this week – culminating with British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama meeting to discuss the issue at the White House on Friday. When it comes to cybersecurity, it seems the UK and US want to embrace every crazy idea except what we know actually works. [..]

But just because Cameron’s been proven to be technically illiterate and may be attempting to publicly back away from his most radical proposal, that doesn’t mean that he won’t later push forward. FBI director Jim Comey proposed similar legislation to Cameron’s just a few months ago, and Cameron used eerily similar talking points in Washington on Friday as Comey did in late 2014. Plus, the rest of Cameron’s plan is downright scary for Internet privacy even without a formal encryption ban.

And then there’s the White House’s so-called solution to the cybersecurity problem, which they unveiled earlier this week. President Obama introduced it saying we had to do something about incidents like the headline-grabbing Sony hack, or the juvenile hijacking of US Central Command’s twitter account – but what he didn’t say was that those proposals wouldn’t have stopped those attacks at all.

Steven W. Thrasher: Obama should show black lives matter by hosting relatives of those killed by cops at his State of the Union

The president should use the political theatre of this address to focus American’s attention squarely on the loss of human life when police kill black civilians

Tuesday at President Obama’s penultimate State of the Union address, when Obama points for effect at someone sitting with the First Lady as her guest, every single guest around her should be a family member of someone killed by a police officer. [..]

This of course will never happen, but it’s what I want.

President Obama should use the political theatre of his “Skutniks” – the humans used to give a face to presidential pet problems since Ronald Reagan invited Lenny Skutnik to the State of the Union in 1982 – to focus American’s attention squarely on the loss of human life when cops kill black civilians. If President Obama wants us to believe that he thinks black life matters, it’s not enough for him to form a task force on 21 century policing: task forces and commissions are where serious reforms go to be forgotten.

Robert Reich: The New Compassionate Conservatism and Trickle-Down Economics

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are zeroing in on inequality as America’s fundamental economic problem.

Bush’s new Political Action Committee, called “The Right to Rise,” declares “the income gap is real” but that “only conservative principles can solve it.”

Mitt Romney likewise promised last week that if he runs for president he’ll change the strategy that led to his 2012 loss to President Obama (remember the “makers” versus the “takers?”) and focus instead on income inequality, poverty, and “opportunity for all people.”

The Republican establishment’s leading presidential hopefuls know the current upbeat economy isn’t trickling down to most Americans.

But they’ve got a whopping credibility problem, starting with trickle-down economics.

Nick Turse: The Golden Age of Black Ops

Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015

In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.  Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight.  It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers.  And it was the second time they failed. [..]

Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans.  Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny.  In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell, and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.        

Ronald Weitzer: Diversity among police officers is key, but it won’t solve the problems with policing

Shared training and on-the-job socialization results in many similarities among officers regardless of race – including in how they treat non-white citizens

In Ferguson, Missouri, 50 of the 53 police officers are white in a city that is two-thirds African American. In Connecticut’s state capital, Hartford, 66% of the police department is white but only 16% of the residents are. And these are just two examples: despite progress over the past 50 years, many police departments remain predominantly white in cities and towns where the majority of the population is nonwhite. [..]

Why does this matter? Do police officers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds act differently while on the job? Do they have different kinds of relationships with minority communities? Aren’t all officers trained to do their jobs similarly and to treat all civilians the same regardless of race?

Research shows that, in general in the US, there is not a strong correlation, let alone a causal relationship, between an officer’s race and how officers treat members of the public when they respond to calls from civilians or stop and question them on the streets Statistics are, of course, not predictive of individual behavior, and studies of specific departments or communities vary. A 2004 study in Indianapolis (Indiana) and St. Petersburg (Florida) by Ivan Sun and Brian Payne, for example, found that black officers were more likely than white officers working in black neighborhoods to provide information, referrals to other agencies, and to treat residents respectfully, although the black officers were also more likely to use physical force against citizens in conflict situations. But, again, most studies find similarities overall in police behavior irrespective of officers’ racial background.

On This Day In History January 20

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 20 is the 20th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 345 days remaining until the end of the year (346 in leap years).

On this day in 1801, John Marshall is appointed the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall (September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835) was an American jurist and statesman whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law while enhancing the role of the Supreme Court as a center of power. Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, serving from 1801 until his death in 1835. He had served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800, and was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801. Marshall was from the Commonwealth of Virginia and was a leader of the Federalist Party.

The longest-serving Chief Justice of the United States, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades (a term outliving his own Federalist Party) and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the Constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, the Marshall Court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. In particular, he repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.


Marshall was thrust into the office of Chief Justice in the wake of the presidential election of 1800. With the Federalists soundly defeated and about to lose both the executive and legislative branches to Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, President Adams and the lame duck Congress passed what came to be known as the Midnight Judges Act, which made sweeping changes to the federal judiciary, including a reduction in the number of Justices from six to five so as to deny Jefferson an appointment until two vacancies occurred. As the incumbent Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth was in poor health, Adams first offered the seat to ex-Chief Justice John Jay, who declined on the grounds that the Court lacked “energy, weight, and dignity.” Jay’s letter arrived on January 20, 1801, and as there was precious little time left, Adams nominated Marshall, who was with him at the time and able to accept immediately. The Senate at first delayed, hoping that Adams would make a different choice, such as promoting Justice William Paterson of New Jersey. According to New Jersey Senator Jonathan Dayton, the Senate finally relented “lest another not so qualified, and more disgusting to the Bench, should be substituted, and because it appeared that this gentleman (Marshall) was not privy to his own nomination”. Marshall was confirmed by the Senate on January 27, 1801, and received his commission on January 31, 1801. While Marshall officially took office on February 4, at the request of the President he continued to serve as Secretary of State until Adams’ term expired on March 4. President John Adams offered this appraisal of Marshall’s impact: “My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life.”

The Breakfast Club (Don’t Fear the Fall)

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.

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This Day in History

Iran releases American hostages; Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy innaugurated as President.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Responsible Gun Owners

Hint: If you can’t remember if you have one in your bag, you aren’t.


The Daily/Nightly Show (Series Premier)

As I’m sure is true with the shows themselves there are still some kinks to get worked out.

What do we know?

Larry Wilmore on Colbert Takeover: ‘Replacing Stephen Is Impossible’

By Andy Greene, Rolling Stone

January 16, 2015

Wilmore was chosen for the job almost a year ago, soon after David Letterman announced his retirement and CBS signed up Colbert. “Jon Stewart and I got together to talk about what we might do with the slot,” says Kent Alterman, the president of content development and original programming at Comedy Central. “He had this idea for this show with Larry as the host, since his whole career has really built him toward that moment. Considering Jon’s track record when it comes to discovering talent, you’d have to be a real idiot to argue with him.”

Stewart’s pitch was rather simple. “His basic idea was there were lots of underrepresented voices out there that deserve to be heard,” says Wilmore. “He envisioned it as a Daily Show/panel show, with me hosting it. I was surprised he had me in the middle of the bull’s-eye. My jaw just kinda dropped. I went, ‘OK . . . sure. That sounds great.'”

There is still no guest list, this is what Jon Looks like for the week-

The Daily Show

Some continuity-

Alabama Justice

Mike Huckabee == Elmer Gantry (that’s an equation test not an assignment operator for the uninitiate).

I have here in my pocket – and thank heaven you can’t see them – lewd, dirty, obscene, and I’m ashamed to say this: French postcards. They were sold to me in front of your own innocent high school by a man with a black beard… a foreigner.

You want to read the whole thing?  It was written by Sinclair Lewis and dedicated to my meta namesake, H.L. Mencken.  I assure you that it will do more to feed your soul than any amount of time spent listening to this charlatan mountebank grifter.  Hot Dog?

But I do hope you’ll stick around for the Second Act.

Questions, Questions, Not a Lot of Answers

In an extended segment of MSNBC’s  “All In,” host Chris Hayes spoke with author and co-founder of “The Intercept” Jeremy Scahill about the claim by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that they were responsible for the shooting at the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo.” Later in the segment, Hayes speaks with satirical cartoonist, Ted Rall about the limits of free speech and expression.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: We Directed Paris Attack as ‘Vengeance for the Prophet’

By Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has now officially taken responsibility for the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last Friday, but denied any involvement in the subsequent attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris. [..]

As we reported earlier this week, “In analyzing AQAP’s potential role in the Paris attack, it’s worth remembering the four-month delay between the group praising the 2009 underwear plot and the group releasing evidence it actually orchestrated the act. Short of such video or photographic documentation, and even with an official statement from AQAP’s leadership, it would be difficult to prove that AQAP indeed sponsored the raid on Charlie Hebdo.” If such photographic or video evidence exists, AQAP will undoubtedly release it. When pressed as to whether the group has and will publish proof of this nature, an AQAP source told The Intercept, “We are not in a hurry.”

For in-depth analysis of AQAP, Anwar al Awlaki and the Paris attacks, see our previous coverage here and here.

On Charlie Hebdo and the Real Free Speech Weenies

By Ted Rall, A New Domain

Not everyone believes in free speech.

I’m not talking about those on the authoritarian right. No one expects them to stand up for the right to dissent. They are ideologically consistent; for them, the rights of the individual always is a distant second to the prerogatives of the state and its incessant campaign to maintain the status quo that keeps them in power.

Today I’m pointing to those – liberals, progressives, left libertarians – who purport to support freedom of expression, and must be seen to do so in order to continue to identify as members of the antiauthoritarian left, but only state their defense of press and personal freedom with reservations. [..]

If those cartoons hadn’t been outrageous, the cartoonists who drew them probably wouldn’t have gotten shot to death. (Similarly, my cartoons about 9/11 icons were over-the-top. That’s why they stirred a fuss.)

To believe in freedom of expression, to truly defend satire, we must stand up for it unequivocally, without reservation – not despite our distaste for the cartoons or standup routines or humorous essays or films drawing fire from critics and potential murderers, but because they make us uncomfortable.

If you can’t compartmentalize, if you can’t refrain from playing the critic even when the cartoons or whatever have gotten their creators blown away by automatic weapons, then you are not with us. You are with them.