Daily Archive: 02/17/2015

Feb 17 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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New York Times Editorial Board: The Roadblock to Sentencing Reform

For more than a year, members of Congress have been doing a lot of talking about the need to broadly reform harsh federal sentencing laws, which are a central factor in the explosion of the federal prison population. It’s an overdue conversation, and one of the few in which Democrats and Republicans find some agreement – but, so far, they have nothing to show for it. [..].

None of the bills got anywhere, but it was encouraging to see all three reintroduced in the new Republican-led Senate. At least it was until they ran into a roadblock in the shape of Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa. Mr. Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wields great power over any sentencing legislation.

His predecessor, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, is a co-sponsor of the most far-reaching bill, which would allow judges to ignore mandatory minimum sentences in certain circumstances.

But Mr. Grassley, for reasons that defy basic fairness and empirical data, has remained an opponent of almost any reduction of those sentences. In a speech from the Senate floor this month, he called the bills “lenient and, frankly, dangerous,” and he raised the specter of high-level drug traffickers spilling onto the streets.

Dean Baker: Greece Does Battle With Creationist Economics: Can Germany Be Brought Into the 21st Century?

Europeans have been amused in recent weeks by the difficulty that Republican presidential candidates have with the theory of evolution. But these cognitive problems will only matter if one of these people gets into the White House and still finds himself unable to distinguish myth from reality. By contrast, Europe is already suffering enormous pain because the people setting economic policy prefer morality tales to economic reality.

This is the story of the confrontation between Greece and the leadership of the European Union. The northern European countries, most importantly Germany, insist on punishing Greece as a profligate spender. They insist on massive debt payments from Greece to the European Union and other official creditors to make up for excessive borrowing in prior years. [..]

The result of the German program for Greece has been an economic downturn that makes the Great Depression in the United States look like a bad day. Seven years after the start of the downturn Greece’s economy is more than 23 percent smaller than its peak in 2007.

Robert Reich: How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1% and Bust the Rest

Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1 percent.

The rest of us could buy some products cheaper than before. But those gains would be offset by losses of jobs and wages.

This is pretty much what “free trade” has brought us over the last two decades.

I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.

Recent trade agreements have been wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders. They get better access to foreign markets and billions of consumers.

They also get better protection for their intellectual property — patents, trademarks, and copyrights. And for their overseas factories, equipment, and financial assets.

But those deals haven’t been wins for most Americans.

H. A. Goodman: How Jon Stewart Turned Conservative Lies Into Groundbreaking Comedy and Enlightened a Generation

Jon Stewart is a brilliant comedian, but like all entertainers, he needs material in order to create satire and comedy. The Daily Show isn’t a standup routine, it’s a natural consequence of America’s political culture. After all, when Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly represent patriotism and American exceptionalism, the fodder for laughs is endless.

Stewart’s brand of humor and political analyses has always been based on an amusing look at conservative media’s attempt to shape a national narrative. Insane quotes and odd viewpoints on everything from health care to where Obama was born can be found from conservatives today, and the GOP seems to know exactly what God is thinking and even why the good Lord thinks rape is a “gift.” [..]

If conservatives view Jon Stewart as an irresponsible political satirist, it could be because conservative ideology is often times bizarre. The notion of a Muslim president born in Africa, advocating Shariah law and the destruction of our capitalist system, isn’t just a perfect storyline for a comedian like Stewart. People around the country take this mentality seriously, which makes it even funnier. The Daily Show pounces upon this irrationality in our political system.

Gary Hart: Welcome to the Money Primary

The first presidential primary is underway, not simply because the political press cannot wait but because he or she who signs up the most megabucks wins that primary and is well on the way to a nomination. Step right up and participate–that is if you can write a very large check.

This is the saddest commentary on the state of American “democracy” a concerned citizen can think of. Campaigns cost money, a lot of money. Somewhere between 75% and 90% of that money goes to media advertising, even as media commentators (whose salaries it pays) deplore how mercantile campaigns have become. What’s left over goes to compensate increasingly highly paid “strategists”, consultants, media advisors, time buyers, professional organizers, and so forth.

This is fundamental corruption recognized as such by theorists of the republic since Athens. That corruption is not bribery; it is placing narrow, personal, or special interests ahead of the common good. By that definition, the 21st century American Republic is massively corrupt. The money contributed in the Money Primary buys access and access produces results.

Feb 17 2015

The Breakfast Club (It’s My Party)

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

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer gets life in prison; House lawmakers pick a president; Garry Kasparov beats IBM’s Deep Blue at chess; NBA star Michael Jordan born; The Eagles release their greatest hits.

Breakfast Tunes

Leslie Gore May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Then Everybody Can

If our smart guys can do this, then everybody can. And everybody can learn how to do it!

As long as we’re the good guys with the ability to infect computers…


Feb 17 2015

On This Day In History February 17

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

February 17 is the 48th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 317 days remaining until the end of the year (318 in leap years).

On this day in 1904,  Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy.

The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906). Not one of these, however, was an immediate success when it opened. La Boheme, the now-classic story of a group of poor artists living in a Paris garret, earned mixed reviews, while Tosca was downright panned by critics.

Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Puccini based his opera in part on the short story “Madame Butterfly” (1898) by John Luther Long, which was dramatized by David Belasco. Puccini also based it on the novel Madame Chrysantheme (1887) by Pierre Loti. According to one scholar, the opera was based on events that actually occurred in Nagasaki in the early 1890s.

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on February 17, 1904, at La Scala in Milan. It was very poorly received despite the presence of such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in the lead roles. This was due in large part to the late completion and inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting the second act into two acts and making other changes. On May 28, 1904, this version was performed in Brescia and was a huge success.

The opera is set in the city of Nagasaki. Japan’s best-known opera singer Tamaki Miura won international fame for her performances as Cio-Cio San; her statue, along with that of Puccini, can be found in Nagasaki’s Glover Garden.

Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire for companies around the world and it is the most-performed opera in the United States, where it ranks as Number 1 in Opera America’s list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

Feb 17 2015

139th Westminster Kennel Club

Is it that time of year again?  I look at the snow on the ground and while it’s not quite as bad as the Blizzard of ’13 (which basically took me out for 4 days) there’s still a lot of it.  What could be better than to be in a nice warm arena with some cute doggies?

New breeds?  Sure we have new breeds, first of all the Coton de Tulear which is basically another one of those dust mop dogs, all hair with tiny eyes and nose peeking out of the fluff.  It will be competing in the ‘Non-Sporting’ group which is a catch all for the breeds who have no other purpose than to be, well… dogs.  Second we have the Wire Haired Vizla which is a Vizla with a curly coat.  They will compete in the ‘Sporting Group’.

Tonight’s coverage is on CNBC starting at 8 pm ET and will cover the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding Groups.  I’ll try to put up some pretty tables shortly but I’ve been busy most of the day and they don’t post the brackets until the breed judging is done (around 4 pm).

There will be a repeat at 11 pm (so pretty much immediately) on CNBC and at 8 am tomorrow on USA which will cover the final night.