Daily Archive: 05/26/2015

May 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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Robert Reich: What Ever Happened to Antitrust?

Last week’s settlement between the Justice Department and five giant banks reveals the appalling weakness of modern antitrust.

The banks had engaged in the biggest price-fixing conspiracy in modern history. Their self-described “cartel” used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency exchange market. It was a “brazen display of collusion” that went on for years, said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

But there will be no trial, no executive will go to jail, the banks can continue to gamble in the same currency markets, and the fines – although large – are a fraction of the banks’ potential gains and will be treated by the banks as costs of doing business.

America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits.

No longer. Now, giant corporations are taking over the economy – and they’re busily weakening antitrust enforcement.

Dean Baker: Bernie Sanders Takes It to Wall Street With Financial Transactions Tax

Last week, Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont and only announced challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, took a strong stand for everyday people. He proposed a financial transactions tax (FTT), effectively a Wall Street sales tax, and to use the revenue to make public colleges tuition free.

While making college affordable to low and middle income families is important, the proposal for an FTT is a real game changer. There is no single policy that would have anywhere near as much impact in reforming the financial sector. A FTT would effectively impose a sales tax on stocks and other financial assets, so that speculators have to pay a tax on their trades, just like people who buy shoes or clothes. [..]

In short, a FTT is a great way to raise large amounts of money to meet important public needs. It will come almost entirely at the expense of the financial industry and should strengthen the economy. We now have one presidential candidate who is prepared to support a strong FTT. Are there others?

New York TImes: A Foolish Attempt to Weaken Truck Safety

The trucking industry is again pushing Congress to allow bigger and heavier trucks with overworked drivers behind the wheel onto the country’s roads.

Republican lawmakers have attached a long industry wish list to an appropriations bill that will be voted on by the House in the coming weeks. It includes provisions that would allow trucks to carry longer trailers across the country, make it harder for the Department of Transportation to require drivers get more rest before they hit the road and forbid the department from raising the minimum insurance it requires trucks and buses to carry. The insurance levels have been in effect since 1985. [..]

Public interest groups such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; the Teamsters, which represents truck drivers; and the Obama administration have objected to the trucking provisions in the House bill. And with good reason. In 2013, the latest year for which data is available, 3,964 people died in accidents involving large trucks, most of whom were riding in another vehicle or were pedestrians. That is up 17 percent from 2009. Over the same period, traffic fatalities overall have fallen 3 percent, to 32,719.

It is hard to know for sure why the number of fatal accidents increased. It could be that there were more trucks on the road in 2013 than during the recession. But this data should give lawmakers serious pause before they make major changes to trucking regulations in an appropriations bill.

John Nichols: Ireland Embraces Marriage Equality and Shows the US What Democracy Looks Like

Ireland is not a perfect land, as the Irish are generally quite willing to acknowledge.

But Ireland did a perfect thing on Friday.

By a 62-38 margin, the Irish people amended their constitution to provide for marriage equality.

Other countries have permitted lesbians and gays to marry-and subsections of countries have done so, as is the case in the Unites States. But this have tended to happen via legislative and judicial action. Ireland has done so by a vote of the people-an overwhelming vote-and it is the first country in the world to have made the choice by popular referendum.

Headlines in The Irish Times recognized more than an election result. It was, they suggested “a national boat-rocking” that might well have “changed the republic forever.”

Eugene Robinson: Stop Logging Our Phone Calls

Once in a great while, House Republicans get it right. So let me praise them for leading a bipartisan effort to curtail the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data on the phone calls of innocent Americans.

The USA Freedom Act, which the House passed earlier this month by an overwhelming 338-88 vote, would end the NSA’s vast effort to compile phone call “metadata.” We only learned that the government was keeping a comprehensive record of our calls when fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden spilled the beans; our elected officials, including President Obama, hadn’t bothered to tell us.

I agree with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that the bill passed by the House doesn’t go far enough to restore our privacy. But it is light-years better than what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants, which is to allow the blanket surveillance to continue pretty much as is.

This is an issue on which progressives and libertarian-minded conservatives find common ground-and shared passion. Following the 9/11 attacks, our elected officials exchanged a measure of our liberty for the promise, or the illusion, of greater security. It was a hasty and foolish bargain.

Gary  Young: Far from facing the truth, the US is telling new lies about Iraq

A couple of weeks ago, the Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was asked in an interview with Fox News whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have invaded Iraq. It’s the kind of predictable question for which most people assumed he would have a coherent answer. They were wrong. Jeb blew it. “I would have [authorised the invasion],” he said. “And so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.” [..]

The trouble with this is that we did know then. The world knew, which is why majorities in almost every other country opposed it. The United Nations was trying to acquire proof one way or another but was not allowed to finish the job. Politicians were not, in fact, led to war by faulty intelligence; they deliberately commissioned the intelligence that would enable them to go to war.

According to notes taken by Steve Cambone, aide to the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just hours after the 9/11 attack Rumsfeld demanded: the “best info fast … judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time – not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].” The Pentagon’s top lawyer was told “to talk w/ PW [Paul Wolfowitz] for additional support [for the] connection w/ UBL.” “Need to move swiftly,” Cambone noted. “Go massive – sweep it all up things related and not.”

America got the war it wanted; it just wasn’t the war it expected.

May 26 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 5.26.15

Hey there! I have 3 small articles for ya while you nurse your weekend hangover this morning!

First, yep, no such thing as climate change:

Catastrophic Flooding Sweeps Away Homes, Breaks Records

Going from one extreme to another is a hallmark of climate change. Scientists predict more droughts in the coming decades, as well as more intense rainstorms. In the midwest, the number of storms that drop more than three inches of rain have increased by 50 percent, according to an analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Jump!

May 26 2015

On This Day In History May 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.

Click on image to enlarge

May 26 is the 146th day of the year (147th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 219 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1637, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

The Pequot War was an armed conflict in 1634-1638 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Saybrook colonies with American Indian allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes). Hundreds were killed; hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other survivors were dispersed. At the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day Southern New England. It would take the Pequot more than three and a half centuries to regain political and economic power in their traditional homeland region along the Pequot (present-day Thames) and Mystic rivers in what is now southeastern Connecticut.

The Mystic massacre

Believing that the English had returned to Boston, the Pequot sachem Sassacus took several hundred of his warriors to make another raid on Hartford. Mason had visited and recruited the Narragansett, who joined him with several hundred warriors. Several allied Niantic warriors also joined Mason’s group. On May 26, 1637, with a force up to about 400 fighting men, Mason attacked Misistuck by surprise. He estimated that “six or seven Hundred” Pequot were there when his forces assaulted the palisade. As some 150 warriors had accompanied Sassacus to Hartford, so the inhabitants remaining were largely Pequot women and children, and older men. Mason ordered that the enclosure be set on fire. Justifying his conduct later, Mason declared that the attack against the Pequot was the act of a God who “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven . . . Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies.”  Mason insisted that any Pequot attempting to escape the flames should be killed. Of the estimated 600 to 700 Pequot resident at Mystic that day, only seven survived to be taken prisoner, while another seven escaped to the woods.

The Narragansett and Mohegan warriors with Mason and Underhill’s colonial militia were horrified by the actions and “manner of the Englishmen’s fight . . . because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” The Narragansett left the warfare and returned home.

Believing the mission accomplished, Mason set out for home. Becoming temporarily lost, his militia narrowly missed returning Pequot warriors. After seeing the destruction of Mystic, they gave chase to the English forces, but to little avail.

May 26 2015

Sunday Train: In Worrying News, Non-Petroleum in Transport Hits 60-year High

The US Energy Information Administration released a story last week which sounded like good news: Nonpetroleum Share of Transportation Energy at Highest Level Since 1954. “Since 1954” means, since before I was born or, as hard as it is to wrap my brain around, a period spanning six decades.

So, surely this is good news? Well, if you have glanced at their accompanying chart, no, not so much. A more descriptive headline would be, “US transport continues to be addicted to petroleum as its primary energy source”. And digging into the US EIA numbers reveals that the situation is even more grave than the chart to the right would make you think.