Daily Archive: 01/26/2015

Jan 26 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”.

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Zephyr Teachout: Legalized Bribery

Last Thursday, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly for the past 20 years, was arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud, extortion and receiving bribes. According to Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who brought the charges, the once seemingly untouchable Mr. Silver took millions of dollars for legal work he did not do. In exchange, he used his official power to steer business to a law firm that specialized in getting tax breaks for real estate developers, and he directed state funds to a doctor who referred cases to another law firm that paid Mr. Silver fees.

Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system.

Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Trevor Timm: The war on leaks has gone way too far when journalists’ emails are under surveillance

The outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers, who are exercising their First Amendment rights to publish classified information in the public interest-just like virtually every other major news organization in this country-is an attack on freedom of the press itself, and it’s shocking that more people aren’t raising their voices (and pens, and keyboards) in protest.

In the past four years, WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers.

Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts, which was inexplicably kept secret from them for almost two and a half years.

Paul Krugman: Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition, is about to become prime minister of Greece. He will be the first European leader elected on an explicit promise to challenge the austerity policies that have prevailed since 2010. And there will, of course, be many people warning him to abandon that promise, to behave “responsibly.”

So how has that responsibility thing worked out so far?

To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika – the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission – extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions.

Jonathan Schwartz: Survivor of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre ‘Very Happy Obama Didn’t Come to Paris’

In a new interview Laurent Léger, an investigative reporter at Charlie Hebdo and a survivor of the January 7th assault on the magazine’s Paris office, condemned President Obama for his administration’s attack on press freedom.

“You have to be very happy Obama] didn’t come to the march in Paris,” said Léger. “[His administration’s actions are] an absolute scandal. It’s very good he didn’t come to the march that day.” A 2013 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists [stated that the Obama administration’s “war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive… since the Nixon administration.” Eight whistleblowers have been prosecuted by Obama’s Justice Department under the 1917 Espionage Act, twice as many as under all other presidents combined. [..]

Léger said he believed many French officials at the January 10th rally in Paris protesting the assault on Charlie Hebdo were sincere. However, he described the presence of numerous top officials from countries with poor records on freedom of the press as “incredible and ludicrous. It’s too bad that the cartoonists who were killed couldn’t be there to see it. If they had, they would have made some fantastic cartoons.”

Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe: Counter-terrorism is supposed to let us live without fear. Instead, it’s creating more of it

How many ‘terrorism plots’ initiated by FBI informants will the agency interrupt before Congress finally performs some oversight?

People think that catching terrorists is just a matter of finding them – but, just as often, terrorists are created by the people doing the chase. [..]

The stated purpose of the FBI’s counter-terrorism mission is to enable Americans to go about their daily lives without fear. But in addition to imprisoning hundreds of Muslim men caught up in the FBI’s informant-led traps, the agency has actively created and encouraged a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion among Americans exercising their constitutional right to freedom of religion. In fact, the FBI’s tactics have profoundly impacted law enforcement’s ability to maintain a relationship of trust with Muslim American communities, much to the detriment to our collective national security. Authorities must rein in the informant program, and institute immediate congressional oversight, if they sincerely aim to defend the liberty and security of all Americans, regardless of race or religion.

Wendall Potter: Health Insurers’ Stock Soars as They Dump Small Business Customers

Several million previously uninsured Americans now have coverage because of Obamacare, but it could be argued that the people who have benefited most from the law — at least financially — are the top executives and shareholders of the country’s health insurance companies.

Among those who apparently have not yet benefited much at all, at least so far, are owners of small businesses who would like to keep offering coverage to their employees but can no longer afford it. They can’t afford it because insurers keep jacking their rates up so high every year that more and more of them are dropping employee health benefits altogether.

And let’s be clear, these insurers aren’t suffering. UnitedHealth Group, the largest health insurer, reported last week that it made $10.3 billion in profits in 2014 on revenues of $130.5 billion. Both profits and revenues grew seven percent from 2013.

Jan 26 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 1.26.15

I have 3 articles for your perusal this Monday morning.

First, some necessary tempering about this “new” person the president has seemingly morphed into since the midterms:

He’s not suddenly Paul Krugman: Let’s not morph Obama into Elizabeth Warren quite yet

So what’s not to like? The bad news is there’s quite a bit. The problem is that Obama’s deeds so often contradict his words. Indeed, examine his actions over these same two months and one could also construct a compelling counter-narrative to this tale of populist transformation.

Jump!

Jan 26 2015

On This Day In History January 26

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 26 is the 26th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 339 days remaining until the end of the year (340 in leap years).

On this day in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip guides a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts to the colony of New South Wales, effectively founding Australia. After overcoming a period of hardship, the fledgling colony began to celebrate the anniversary of this date with great fanfare.

Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day) is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.

Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818. It is presently an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia and is marked by inductions into the Order of Australia and presentations of the Australian of the Year awards, along with an address from the governor-general and prime minister.

The date is controversial to some Australians, particularly those of Indigenous heritage, leading to the use of alternate names, such as Invasion Day and Survival Day. Proposals have been made to change the date of Australia Day, but these have failed to gain widespread public support.

Arrival of the First Fleet

On 13 May 1787, a fleet of 11 ships, which came to be known as the First Fleet, was sent by the British Admiralty from England to Australia. Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, the fleet sought to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay on the coast of New South Wales, which had been explored and claimed by Captain James Cook in 1770. The settlement was seen as necessary because of the loss of the colonies in North America. The Fleet arrived between 18 and 20 January 1788, but it was immediately apparent that Botany Bay was unsuitable.

On 21 January, Philip and a few officers travelled to Port Jackson, 12 kilometres to the north, to see if it would be a better location for a settlement. They stayed there until 23 January; Philip named the site of their landing Sydney Cove, after the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. They also had some contact with the local aborigines.

They returned to Botany Bay on the evening of 23 January, when Philip gave orders to move the fleet to Sydney Cove the next morning, 24 January. That day, there was a huge gale blowing, making it impossible to leave Botany Bay, so they decided to wait till the next day, 25 January. However, during 24 January, they spotted the ships Astrolabe and Boussole, flying the French flag, at the entrance to Botany Bay; they were having as much trouble getting into the bay as the First Fleet was having getting out.

On 25 January, the gale was still blowing; the fleet tried to leave Botany Bay, but only the HMS Supply made it out, carrying Arthur Philip, Philip Gidley King, some marines and about 40 convicts; they anchored in Sydney Cove in the afternoon.

On 26 January, early in the morning, Philip along with a few dozen marines, officers and oarsmen, rowed ashore and took possession of the land in the name of King George III. The remainder of the ship’s company and the convicts watched from onboard the Supply.

Meanwhile, back at Botany Bay, Captain John Hunter of the HMS Sirius made contact with the French ships, and he and the commander, Captain de Clonard, exchanged greetings. Clonard advised Hunter that the fleet commander was Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse. The Sirius successfully cleared Botany Bay, but the other ships were in great difficulty. The Charlotte was blown dangerously close to rocks; the Friendship and the Prince of Wales became entangled, both ship losing booms or sails; the Charlotte and the Friendship actually collided; and the Lady Penrhyn nearly ran aground. Despite these difficulties, all the remaining ships finally managed to clear Botany Bay and sail to Sydney Cove on 26 January. The last ship anchored there at about 3 pm.

Note that the formal establishment of the Colony of New South Wales did not occur on 26 January, as is commonly assumed. That did not occur until 7 February 1788, when the formal proclamation of the colony and of Arthur Phillip’s governorship were read out. The vesting of all land in the reigning monarch George III also dates from 7 February 1788.