Daily Archive: 02/24/2015

Feb 24 2015

Tuesday Movie Special

Feb 24 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

James K. Galbraith: Reading the Greek Deal Correctly

On Friday as news of the Brussels deal came through, Germany claimed victory and it is no surprise that most of the working press bought the claim.  [..]

In fact, there was never any chance for a loan agreement that would have wholly freed Greece’s hands. Loan agreements come with conditions. The only choices were an agreement with conditions, or no agreement and no conditions. The choice had to be made by February 28, beyond which date ECB support for the Greek banks would end. No agreement would have meant capital controls, or else bank failures, debt default, and early exit from the Euro. SYRIZA was not elected to take Greece out of Europe. Hence, in order to meet electoral commitments, the relationship between Athens and Europe had to be “extended” in some way acceptable to both.

But extend what, exactly?

Juan Cole: In the New Gilded Age, Social Protest Dominates Academy Awards Ceremony

If social and economic inequality were a mine, and if America were deep in this mine with a canary in tow, the canary would long since have expired.  Some 400 billionaires have more wealth than the bottom half of Americans.  We lived through a year of dramatic incidents underscoring the continued second-class citizenship of African-Americans.  Women still don’t make as much for the same work as their male counterparts and their right to choice and control over their own bodies has been de facto curtailed by theocratic state legislatures.  Gay people still face prejudice and resistance to same sex marriage rights.

The committed artists honored at the 87th Academy Awards took advantage of their bully pulpits to make an amazing series of eloquent statements on behalf of minorities and the discriminated-against. Referring to the controversy over the all-white nominees in acting categories, host Neil Patrick Hayden quipped at the opening, “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest-I mean brightest.”  For all this hoopla about the overwhelmingly white, elderly and male character of the Academy voting members, however, the stage they provided to honorees was the scene of many poignant pleas for equality and decency.

Michael Winship: The Awesome Life of an American Congressman

We could go on about the inherent contradiction of “Downton Abbey” as the biggest hit on public television – that a series about a fading, genteel (and Gentile) British aristocracy and its servants dominates the schedule of a broadcasting service mandated to promote diversity and give a voice to the underrepresented. And sometime soon, we will talk about precisely that and more. [..]

But for now, let’s talk instead about Congressman Aaron Schock, Republican from Illinois. You’ve heard about how his interior decorator pal, proprietor of a company called Euro Trash, redecorated Schock’s new Capitol Hill office in high “Downton Abbey” style – which is more than somewhat ironic because, as Josh Israel at ThinkProgress pointed out, “Schock has repeatedly voted against federal funding for public broadcasting, voting to defund National Public Radio and for a Paul Ryan budget that zeroed out all funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” But even more important, Schock’s expensive tastes and how he spends money to make money for his party tells a sad story of the state of Congress and campaign fundraising.

Shefali Sharma: Big Meat Lobby to Attack New Dietary Guidelines

The North American Meat Institute, national beef and pork associations and other corporate lobbies of the powerful meat industry are seething at the historic new scientific report by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Why historic? Because the committee takes on the meat industry head to head in a scientific report intended to help set five year national guidelines on nutrition and because for the first time, the recommendations take into account the environmental footprint of our food (production) choices. If these recommendations are accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the report will not only help set national nutrition policy but will also likely impact the $16 billion school lunch program. The USDA and HHS will jointly release the National Dietary Guidelines later this year.

Based on their research, the Committee came to the conclusion that, “a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.” [..]

Now, the powerful lobby is planning an all-out offensive in Congress to prevent USDA and HHS from adopting these recommendations as the national guidelines. Citizens can comment on the report until April 8th-the meat lobby hopes to extend this period to 120 days rather than the 45 typically allotted.

Jared Bernstein: Tax Cuts Are Palliatives, Not Cures

I don’t think you need a crystal ball to predict that whoever runs for president in 2016 will have some sort of tax cut at the heart of their platform, probably targeted at the middle class, and I’m talking both Democrats and Republicans. It will likely be pitched as a response to middle-class wage and income stagnation, and as such, I certainly understand the motivation. The disconnect between growth and middle-class prosperity is the motivation for my own tax cut proposal new book, The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity, hopefully out within the next few months.

But I actually say little about tax cuts as a solution to the fundamental disconnect, for reasons Larry Mishel articulated effectively in an NYT op-ed yesterday: “What has hurt workers’ paychecks is not what the government takes out, but what their employers no longer put in — a dynamic that tax cuts cannot eliminate.”

Thor Benson: Raising the Alarm Over Devices That Let Police Snoop Into Our Homes

Dozens of law enforcement agencies in the United States have been outfitted with Doppler radar devices that allow officers to observe people through the walls of their own homes-raising concerns that the devices can be used to violate Fourth Amendment protections.

One popular handheld version of the technology is called the Range-R, produced by New York-based defense contractor L-3 Communications. L-3’s marketing materials promise that the Range-R is sensitive enough to detect a breathing (but otherwise motionless) person on the other side of a 12-inch-thick brick or concrete wall 50 feet away. [..]

Some privacy advocates believe the police use of a Range-R or similar device without a warrant amounts to “unreasonable searches and seizures,” a violation that the Fourth Amendment is meant to protect against. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001, in Kyllo v. United States, that when the government “uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment ‘search,’ and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.” Later, in the 2013 case Florida v. Jardines, the generally right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that at the Fourth Amendment’s “very core” is “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.”

Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told Truthdig that “there are circumstances when [the device] could be used consistent with the Fourth Amendment. But, he added, “it is absolutely crucial that law enforcement has a proper warrant and limits its use to only gathering information permitted by that warrant. It’s not that hard [to obtain the warrant] if police have probable cause and have a good reason to conduct the search.”

Feb 24 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 2.24.15

Well, this morning I have 4 – yes, 4 – articles for ya!

First up, if you are the working poor as I am, you’ve definitely dealt with some of these:

12 THINGS THAT ONLY THE WORKING POOR TRULY UNDERSTAND

Republicans LOVE to hate the poor. They see them as inferior, lazy moochers who just bask in their poorness and enjoy all of the happiness being poor brings them. They tell America that poor people could stop being poor if they just work hard enough.

What they forget to mention when they paint this fictional portrait of happy poor people are the struggles the roughly 50 million Americans who live below the poverty line face. Normal, everyday things that cause someone with little or no money to weep in frustration.

Jump!

Feb 24 2015

On This Day In History February 24

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 24 is the 55th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 310 days remaining until the end of the year (311 in leap years).

On this day in 1803, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, decides the landmark case of William Marbury versus James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States and confirms the legal principle of judicial review–the ability of the Supreme Court to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional–in the new nation.

Marbury v. Madison is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in the world that a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.”

This case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed by President John Adams as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia but whose commission was not subsequently delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to force Secretary of State James Madison to deliver the documents, but the court, with John Marshall as Chief Justice, denied Marbury’s petition, holding that the part of the statute upon which he based his claim, the Judiciary Act of 1789, was unconstitutional.

Marbury v. Madison was the first time the Supreme Court declared something “unconstitutional,” and established the concept of judicial review in the U.S. (the idea that courts may oversee and nullify the actions of another branch of government). The landmark decision helped define the “checks and balances” of the American form of government.

The Issue

There are three ways a case can be heard in the Supreme Court: (1) filing directly in the Supreme Court; (2) filing in a lower federal court, such as a district court, and appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court; (3) filing in a state court, appealing all the way up through the state’s highest courts, and then appealing to the Supreme Court on an issue of federal law. The first is an exercise of the Court’s original jurisdiction; the second and third are exercises of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.

Because Marbury filed his petition for the writ of mandamus directly in the Supreme Court, the Court needed to be able to exercise original jurisdiction over the case in order to have the power to hear it.

Marbury’s argument is that in the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for writs of mandamus. This raises several issues that the Supreme Court had to address:

  • Does Article III of the Constitution create a “floor” for original jurisdiction, which Congress can add to, or does it create an exhaustive list that Congress can’t modify at all?
  • If Article III’s original jurisdiction is an exhaustive list, but Congress tries to modify it anyway, who wins that conflict, Congress or the Constitution?
  • And, more importantly, who is supposed to decide who wins?
  • In its answer to this last question, the Supreme Court formalizes the notion of judicial review. In short, the constitutional issue on which Marbury v. Madison was decided was whether Congress could expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

    Feb 24 2015

    Not Citizenfour

    Nope, Brave New Films War on Whistleblowers

    Feb 24 2015

    Exceptional!

    This is why they hate us: Fox News, drones, “American Sniper” and the gross face we show the world

    Marcy Wheeler, Salon

    Friday, Feb 20, 2015 08:30 AM EST

    Imagine if the United States had waged its Cold War ideological struggle with the Soviet Union on the same three-year cycle consumer goods companies currently use for branding?



    Instead, you might have the shoddy branding campaign the U.S. is fighting ISIL with right now, conceived largely in terms of unique impressions on Twitter rather than whether we can change larger narratives about America and the West.

    “We’re getting beaten on volume, so the only way to compete is by aggregating, curating and amplifying existing content,” Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard A. Stengel said for a recent New York Times story.



    Another persistent misconception lies in where ISIL’s own propaganda has been effective. Both British and – less officially – American officials have called on Twitter to police speech, rightly pointing out the influence of ISIL propaganda posted there. Yet such views utterly ignore the powerful boost Fox and (until it came to a Jordanian pilot burned alive on video) CNN have given the very same propaganda by airing it for hours and days. ISIL propaganda on U.S. cable channels “radicalizes” different groups of people in ways that are every bit as dangerous as a young Muslim kid watching ISIL videos online, ways that feed a clash of civilization narrative rather than that of America’s Middle Eastern allies combating murderous thugs trying to take and hold territory in a region of strategic importance.

    That also seems to breed a lack of awareness of the degree to which our own actions serve as propaganda serving ISIL’s goals. Yes, the U.S. flies drones because they are viewed as a safer (for our service members, as well as civilians on the ground) alternative to airstrikes. But the drones also persist as an audible and visual presence that permeates the consciousness of those who might otherwise oppose Islamists. “I see them every day and we are scared of them,” Mohammed Tuaiman, a 13-year-old killed, as an alleged al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula member, in an American drone strike last month, said to the Guardian in an interview laws year. “We even dream of them in our sleep.” And yet people in the U.S. rarely weigh those dreams against the nightmares we see over and over on Fox and CNN. It’s not enough to say we don’t behead people (though our close allies in Saudi Arabia do) or burn them alive in cages if our omnipresent weapons permeate people’s consciousness like an ISIL video being replayed on Fox.

    But a very big part of the problem, it seems to me, is that the U.S. is thinking only in terms of “countering” an enemy. “We’ve got to discredit these ideologies,” President Obama said at today’s CVE summit. In part this means their American narratives end up scolding ISIL’s narrative, rather than presenting another more resonant one. More generally, however, it doesn’t even try to offer up America as the kind of promise to others it represented during the Cold War. The U.S. will not win this ideological war by attempting to do no more than drown out ISIL’s message in Twitter hits.

    What does America think it is offering the world, beyond submission under the weight of an unrivaled military?  Why would people choose that over an ideology that promises – falsely – principle and morals? With the austerity America’s bankers demand, the U.S. isn’t even offering financial stability.



    And the president who has presided over six years of impunity for the bankers who crashed the global economy promised to combat corruption. “We’ll keep leading a global effort against corruption, because the culture of the bribe has to be replaced by good governance that doesn’t favor certain groups over others.”

    “The essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress … is institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally,” said the president to a community often deprived of just that.

    So to the extent we’re promising something, we’re not delivering on it.

    Then there’s the larger picture. Consider what we’ve sold in two of our greatest export industries in recent years. Hollywood continues to sell its product around the world (with illegal knockoffs extending its reach). Yet it has been selling – with the explicit assistance of the administration – the torture of “Zero Dark Thirty” or the blind targeting of “American Sniper” rather than America as a beacon of freedom.

    America’s tech giants had been a vehicle for communication and even for mobilization in recent years, until we learned the degree to which the NSA had prioritized a futile bid of omniscience online over the viability of those brands and what they stood for, both from a commercial and ideological perspective. More recently, we’ve learned American hardware, too, may have been hijacked as another tool of spying.

    I’m not a fan of intelligence agencies buying out cultural institutions, as they did during the Cold War.

    But if you’re going to wage an ideological war, do so competently. You’re not trying to sell a consumer an overpriced box of cereal or watery beer.

    Yup, our elites folks.  The best and the brightest.

    Feb 24 2015

    The Daily/Nightly Show (Paden)

    I thought we were pals after all that riding we did together. All of a sudden he’s worried about some mutt. Well, we did like he asked. We left him, and he went to jail for a dog. You want to hear the funny part? Paden didn’t even like that damn dog.

    It evened out in the end. They locked me up; the dog sprung me.

    So, what does it mean to love America?  I for one think it means recognizing the United States is not the only damn country on two continents and a land bridge and never confusing one with the other, but then again I have a lot of “crazy” ideas about ‘Liberty and Justice for All’ and ‘We, The People’ that are just so Enlightenment as to make me quaint and cuddly like a Mennonite kneecapper at an Amish Field Party.

    Anyway, tonight we get to hear Martin Short (Canadian), Big Sean, Frank Rich and former senior media adviser to Mitt Romney Tara Setmayer (nee Wall) pontificate on the subject which will be a relief for you since you generally get me spouting off about it 3 or 4 times a day.

    Continuity

    James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now.  The report of my illness grew out of the report of his illness, the report of my death was an exaggeration.

    Mark Twain, May 1897

    To the death, serious wounding, or ‘Uncle’ saying Arby’s.

    Horny Las Vegas Teens

    This week’s guests-

    Christine Lagarde is the head of the IMF.  Do you think we will hear anything about SYRIZA and Greece?

    Hmm…