01/30/2015 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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New York Times Editorial Board: Washington and Havana Break the Ice

A couple of years after America’s attempted invasion of Cuba in 1961, the disastrous intervention known as the Bay of Pigs, an envoy President John F. Kennedy secretly dispatched to Havana posed an odd question to the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

“Do you know how porcupines make love?” James Donovan asked, to make a point about how hard it would be to establish a trustful relationship between Washington and Havana. “Very carefully.”

More than a half century later, as American and Cuban officials faced each other last week for historic talks to begin normalizing relations, it was evident that trust remains in short supply. But this first step in the present détente bodes well for a process that will require patience and deft managing of expectations in both countries.

Paul Krugman: Europe’s Greek Test

In the five years (!) that have passed since the euro crisis began, clear thinking has been in notably short supply. But that fuzziness must now end. Recent events in Greece pose a fundamental challenge for Europe: Can it get past the myths and the moralizing, and deal with reality in a way that respects the Continent’s core values? If not, the whole European project – the attempt to build peace and democracy through shared prosperity – will suffer a terrible, perhaps mortal blow.

First, about those myths: Many people seem to believe that the loans Athens has received since the crisis broke have been subsidizing Greek spending.

The truth, however, is that the great bulk of the money lent to Greece (pdf) has been used simply to pay interest and principal on debt. In fact, for the past two years, more than all of the money going to Greece has been recycled in this way: the Greek government is taking in more revenue than it spends on things other than interest, and handing the extra funds over to its creditors.

Linda Sarsour: Republicans need to learn that Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive

Texas legislator Molly White joined some more famous conservatives in the ‘Super Bowl of Bigotry’ this week, vying for the title of Biggest Islamophobe

In many parts of the United States, if you want to win an election, you need talking points full of misinformation and bigotry towards Muslims to scare the wits out of non-Muslim Americans in to voting for you (and others to fund your campaign). Events in the Middle East simply provide more fuel to an already-raging fire, and convince officials elected to serve all of their constituents that their inappropriate and bigoted comments will not only go unchallenged but will be applauded. [..]

Meanwhile, American Muslims continue to build civic and electoral power. From serving on state party committees in California to founding the first-ever Muslim Democratic Club in New York City (dedicated to electing Muslims on all levels of government across the nation, which I co-founded and of which I am currently the president), American Muslims are an emerging political bloc. We are not waiting for validation from bigoted politicians or to pass tests of our allegiance from the likes of White – and we will respond to bigotry, regardless of party affiliation. As the 2016 elections quickly approach, we as voters expect real debates on issues impacting all Americans: the economy, education, healthcare and national security. It is our responsibility to keep elected officials and candidates accountable to all the people they serve; that is how we pledge our allegiance.

Ladar Levison: Prosecutors used the same legal strategy against Barrett Brown as they did me. Are you next?

FBI agents and the state’s lawyers misrepresented events to create a false narrative, and the judges in both our cases bought it

When it happened to me, I dismissed it as an anomaly. The government – while trying to access the private emails of my company’s 410,000 users – made material misrepresentations to the courts in a coordinated campaign to portray me as obstinate and uncooperative. Their intent? To manipulate a judge into accepting an unconstitutional legal theory. It cost me my business.

Barrett Brown, whose investigative journalism frequently embarrassed the DOJ and FBI, wasn’t quite so lucky. Last week, he was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by another two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $890K in restitution. That was the penalty for pleading guilty to three charges: “accessory after the fact”, a charge he faced for attempting to negotiate redactions in the stolen data, “obstructing justice” because he moved his laptop from a table to a cabinet, and “threatening a federal agent” in a video posted on the internet. The justification provided for his harsh sentence was a “trafficking in stolen authentication features” charge, for sharing a hyperlink to a public website, that the prosecution dropped before his plea. ]..]

Barrett Brown and I don’t have a lot in common: I’m a clean-cut, successful American entrepreneur, and, at the time of his arrest, Barrett was eking out an existence as an independent journalist while attempting to cope with a series of personal problems. We were both singled out by the government for what they thought we could – and would – tell them about other people. When we resisted, they twisted our words, our actions and the law. The result has been a set of disturbing court decisions that may give the government the ability to selectively prosecute anyone they wish. This time it was a journalist. Next time it could be you.

Andrew Bacevich: Save Us From Washington’s Visionaries

En route back to Washington at the tail end of his most recent overseas trip, John Kerry, America’s peripatetic secretary of state, stopped off in France “to share a hug with all of Paris.” Whether Paris reciprocated the secretary’s embrace went unrecorded.

Despite the requisite reference to General Pershing (“Lafayette, we are here!”) and flying James Taylor in from the 1960s to assure Parisians that “You’ve Got a Friend,” in the annals of American diplomacy Kerry’s hug will likely rank with President Eisenhower’s award of the Legion of Merit to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and Jimmy Carter’s acknowledgment of the “admiration and love” said to define the relationship between the Iranian people and their Shah.  In short, it was a moment best forgotten.

Alas, this vapid, profoundly silly event is all too emblematic of statecraft in the Obama era.  Seldom have well-credentialed and well-meaning people worked so hard to produce so little of substance.

Steven W. Thrasher: Legal same sex marriage is coming to Alabama – it’s just a question of when

In a state where interracial marriage remained unconstitutional until the year 2000, is there hope for same sex couples who want to wed right now?

“Honestly, I thought it was a hoax,” Kacie Reeves of Jasper, Alabama said of when she heard that a federal judge ruled that same sex marriages would be allowed in her home state. She and her fiancée, Brittany Rush, had long planned a wedding for friends and family in May – after which they planned to “take a vacation and drive to some other state where we could make it legal.” [..]

The brides-to-be still have good reasons to be skeptical about getting legally wed at home. Shortly after the jubilant news, a 14-day stay was put in effect. Then, in a letter to Alabama governor Robert Bentley, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore wrote that nothing “grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage” and vowed to “stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”

Judge Moore is as wrong about same sex marriage as he was about refusing to remove a 2.6 ton statue of the 10 Commandments from government property (which saw him removed from the bench more than a decade ago): the federal ruling indeed applies to all Alabama officials. But while a ruling in favor of same sex marriage by the Supreme Court this spring could potentially create a right to it in all 50 states, will that stop Alabama’s legal obfuscation and insurrection on marriage equality, given its history?

Most Transparent Administration Evah!

A Year After Reform Push, NSA Still Collects Bulk Domestic Data, Still Lacks Way to Assess Value

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept


The presidential advisory board on privacy that recommended a slew of domestic surveillance reforms in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations reported today that many of its suggestions have been agreed to “in principle” by the Obama administration, but in practice, very little has changed.

“The Administration accepted our recommendation in principle. However, it has not ended the bulk telephone records program on its own, opting instead to seek legislation to create an alternative to the existing program,” the report notes.

And while Congress has variously debated, proposed, neutered, and failed to agree on any action, the report’s authors point the finger of blame squarely at President Obama. “It should be noted that the Administration can end the bulk telephone records program at any time, without congressional involvement,” the report says.

The board noted that Obama has accepted some, but not all, of the privacy safeguards it recommended – somewhat reducing the ease and depth with which National Security Agency agents can dig through the domestic data, but not, for instance, agreeing to delete the data after three years, instead of five.

A year ago, the board also recommended that Congress enact legislation enabling the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which currently approves both specific and blanket warrant applications without allowing anyone to argue otherwise, to hear independent views. It recommended more appellate reviews of that court’s rulings.

There’s been no progress on either front.

A year ago, the board recommended that “the scope of surveillance authorities affecting Americans should be public,” and that the intelligence community should “develop principles and criteria for the public articulation of the legal authorities under which it conducts surveillance affecting Americans.”

Something is apparently brewing in that area, but it’s not entirely clear what. “Intelligence Community representatives have advised us that they are committed to implementing this recommendation,” with principles “that they will soon be releasing,” the report says.

But one recommendation in particular – that the intelligence community develop some sort of methodology to assess whether any of this stuff is actually doing any good – has been notably “not implemented.”

“Determining the efficacy and value of particular counterterrorism programs is critical,” the board says. “Without such determinations, policymakers and courts cannot effectively weigh the interests of the government in conducting a program against the intrusions on privacy and civil liberties that it may cause.”

Yup.  It’s transparent alright.

The Breakfast Club (Freedom’s Just Another Word)

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

Tet offensive begins in Vietnam; Adolph Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany; Franklin D. Roosevelt born; Mahatma Gandhi assassinated; ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Northern Ireland; The Lone Ranger debuts on radio.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma Gandhi

On This Day In History January 30

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 30 is the 30th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 335 days remaining until the end of the year (336 in leap years).

On this day in 1969, The Beatles’ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.

A din erupted in the sky above London’s staid garment district. Gray-suited businessmen, their expressions ranging from amused curiosity to disgust, gathered alongside miniskirted teenagers to stare up at the roof of the Georgian building at 3 Savile Row. As camera crews swirled around, whispered conjecture solidified into confirmed fact: The Beatles, who hadn’t performed live since August 1966, were playing an unannounced concert on their office roof. Crowds gathered on scaffolding, behind windows, and on neighboring rooftops to watch the four men who had revolutionized pop culture play again. But what only the pessimistic among them could have guessed-what the Beatles themselves could not yet even decide for sure-was that this was to be their last public performance ever. . . . . .

When the world beyond London’s garment district finally got to see the Beatles’ last concert, it was with the knowledge, unshared by the original, live audience, that it was the band’s swan song. On Abbey Road Paul had sung grandly about “the end,” but it was John’s closing words on the roof that made the more fitting epitaph for the group that had struggled out of working-class Liverpool to rewrite pop history: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

The Daily/Nightly Show (Competitive Advantage)

So tonight we talk about lying in sports and of course the only answer is if you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying.  Seriously, this is why they have refs.

If this were the only NFL scandal it might be worth noticing but in a year punctuated by child abuse and domestic violence along with the continued problem of blunt force concussion it’s hard to really care that much.

And of course the NFL is hardly the only sport effected, if you really want to talk corruption what about Formula One, the Olympics or World Cup.  Their governing bodies are pure graft from bottom to top which is why the sailors at Sao Paulo will be competing in an open air sewer and soccer players in the simmering oven that is Qatar to say nothing of the police brutality to hide the homeless in Rio or the Shia majority in Bahrain or the Nepalise slave labor.

So we’re not even all that exceptional and unless the conversation is sparkling and goes in a different direction than I expect this won’t be the most exciting Nightly Show in the series and the Koch last night was a little flat.


Kristen Schaal was pretty funny though.

Show us what we’re fighting for

I’ve never understood why guys talk about their ‘man parts’ as if they were someone else.

Next week’s guests-

The Daily Show

Sarah Chayes is a former reporter for NPR and advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Recently she’s been working to get Afghan farmers producing perfume precursors instead of Opium.  She may have a thing or two to say about the SIGAR Report on waste, fraud, and abuse in Afghanistan the the Pentagon is now trying to suppress by refusing to co-operate with the Special Inspector General.

As always the real news below.

Keystone XL Pipeline Gets Senate OK

This afternoon the Senate passed a bill that approves the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill passes after several marathons session that saw many amendments to improve the safety of the pipeline, which will originate in Canada, carrying the dirtiest oil extracted from the Alberta Canada tar sands. The bill passed by 62 – 36 with nine Democrats joining the unanimous Republican caucus. The bill already has passed the House by 266 to 153, with 28 Democrats voting with the Republican majority. The bill now moves to conference committee to rectify minor differences between the two bills. It will then be sent to President Barack Obama, who has said that he would veto the bill. Republicans have not been able to muster the votes in either the House or the Senate needed to overcome a presidential veto.

According to the State Department impact study, the pipeline would only create about 35 permanent jobs,  despite the oft repeated, and usually unchallenged, GOP and industry lie that it would create thousands of jobs. One popular blogger tweeted that more Senators voted for the bill than the number of jobs it would create.

Besides the impact on climate change that would be caused by refining and using this oil, the oil if spilled is nearly impossible to clean up from the soil and riverbeds, not to mention extremely expensive. The route that the pipeline would take across the US could have a severe impact on the water supply in the Midwest if there was a leak.

As MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pointed out pipelines leak

and blow up

There is also a need for inspectors

The environment does not need another pipeline, nor do we.