Daily Archive: 07/13/2015

Jul 13 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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Paul Krugman: The Laziness Dogma

Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “no-vacation nation.” According to a 2009 study, full-time U.S. workers put in almost 30 percent more hours over the course of a year than their German counterparts, largely because they had only half as many weeks of paid leave. Not surprisingly, work-life balance is a big problem for many people.

But Jeb Bush – who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth – says that Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

Mr. Bush’s aides have tried to spin away his remark, claiming that he was only referring to workers trying to find full-time jobs who remain stuck in part-time employment. It’s obvious from the context, however, that this wasn’t what he was talking about. The real source of his remark was the “nation of takers” dogma that has taken over conservative circles in recent years – the insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs.

Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan: Cybersecurity, Encryption and The Golden Age of Surveillance

The Internet, the electronic nervous system of the planet, has changed human society, profoundly altering the way we conduct our lives. It has been a great leveler, allowing people to connect, publish and share on a global scale. You can write, shop and bank online, or organize a demonstration that could overthrow a dictatorship. But the Internet also opens us to intense monitoring, exposing our most personal, private communications to the prying eyes of corporations and government spies, not to mention criminals. One way we can protect ourselves is with encryption, which provides security for our data, allowing us to send and store digital information safely, essentially scrambling the information. In order to unscramble it, you need a key, a password. The ability of regular people to access encryption tools has prompted the governments of both the United States and the United Kingdom to propose special access to all communications. They want a master key to everyone’s digital life.

FBI Director James Comey appeared before a Senate Committee on Wednesday, July 8, along with U.S Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. As the meeting convened, the frailty of our networks was on display for the world: The New York Stock Exchange was shut down for half a day, supposedly due to a computer “glitch”; United Airlines grounded flights when it lost access to its computer systems; and The Wall Street Journal website was down due to “technical difficulties.” The Senate panel was called “Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy.” “Going Dark” is a term used when people encrypt their communications. A joint statement from the duo, delivered by Yates, acknowledged “citizens have the right to communicate with one another in private without unauthorized government surveillance – not simply because the Constitution demands it, but because the free flow of information is vital to a thriving democracy.”

Despite the lofty pledge, Comey and others in the so-called intelligence community want unlimited access to all communications, all the time. They want what digital security experts call “extraordinary access mandates.”

George Zornick: Obama Won’t Let Some Mass Graves Stop the TPP

 When Congress finally passed fast-track trade authority last month, there was a major problem for President Obama and his trade negotiators: a provision of the bill forbid any fast-tracked trade deal from including countries on Tier 3 of the State Department’s human trafficking list.

 That’s the worst classification the United States gives to countries in its Trafficking In Persons annual report, a status earned by countries like Zimbabwe, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and North Korea. Also on the list: Malaysia, one of the 12 potential signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that is in the final round of negotiations this month.

Malaysia is home to many “outsourcing companies” that are, in reality, professional slaving operations: foreign workers, often refugees fleeing desperate situations in nearby countries like Burma, are recruited to the country with the promise of legitimate work but then subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The State Department and international human rights groups have routinely concluded the Malaysian government does very little to inhibit the traffickers’ operation.

Robert Kuttner: Delusion in the Desert

I’m here at Planet Hollywood as the token liberal to participate in two debates — one on what is killing the American Dream; the other a mock trial of the Federal Reserve. Paul Krugman is also here, debating the cause and cure of inequality. We’re outnumbered about a thousand to one.

The annual FreedomFest convention of some 2,000 libertarian conservatives is doubly surreal. What better setting for libertarian dreams than fantastical Las Vegas — the free market as casino, made flesh.

Like casino operators, these libertarians live on fantasies. They inhabit an imagined universe where markets never do anything wrong and government never does anything right. This is comforting because it is true by definition and thus resists any evidence to the contrary. Mostly they are very nice, idealistic people, if sweetly delusional about economics.

Patrick Cockburn: We Can All Get by Quite Well Without Banks – Ireland Managed to Survive Without Them

A 1970 strike in Ireland provoked an admirable outbreak of ingenuity – Greece should take note

Television reporters stand in front of the shut doors of banks in Athens and speak as if a few days more of bank closure brings the Greeks that much closer to catastrophe. Media coverage dwells obsessively on the theme that for Greece it is five minutes to midnight, but somehow midnight never comes. Shuttered banks are a striking physical symbol of economic disaster, but even they are not proof that the final dénouement is at hand.

I recall a six-and-a-half month strike that closed all banks in Ireland in 1970 which was meant to have similarly calamitous results as predicted for Greece today, but in fact had very little destructive impact. Contrary to expectations, Irish people rapidly found other ways of carrying out the functions previously performed by the banking industry. The economist Michael Fogarty, who wrote the official report on the bank dispute, was quoted by the Irish Independent as saying that “the services of the clearing banks proved by no means as indispensable as would have been expected before the dispute”. Others take the example of the Irish bank strike as evidence that much of what banks do is a “socially useless activity”.

A 1970 strike in Ireland provoked an admirable outbreak of ingenuity – Greece should take note

John Nichols: What Is Scott Walker Trying to Hide?

As the Wisconsin governor prepares to announce his candidacy for president, his office admits involvement in an attempt to gut open-records laws.

As he prepares to launch his 2016 presidential bid, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is caught up in a hometown controversy that is going from bad to worse.

The governor-whom former White House counsel John Dean refers to as “more Nixonian than Nixon”-has never been much for transparency. But a botched attempt by his legislative allies to gut the state’s open-records law has blown up on Walker in a big way. [..]

 But Walker danced around questions about whether he or his aides were involved in the ham-handed attempt to make it dramatically harder for citizens and journalists to review his official actions at a point when he is stepping onto the national stage.

That’s understandable, as getting caught out on an attempt to undermine open government is not usually considered the right move on the eve of announcing one’s presidential candidacy.

Jul 13 2015

The Breakfast Club (Nothing Really Matters)

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

Live Aid concerts held in London and Philadelphia; A French revolutionary is stabbed in his bath; Civil War draft riots erupt in New York; A power blackout hits the Big Apple; Actor Harrison Ford born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I ask this in all seriousness — what in the zipless fck is wrong with our species? People, here’s some tips on fireworks. Do not light them off your head. Do not light them off your chest. And, when you light one, throw the damn thing as far as you can! These things explode. You’re aware of that, right? Oh, and when the sign says beware of the alligator, please, you know, do your very best to beware of the damn alligator. This has been a terrible week for Charles Darwin.

Charles Pierce

Jul 13 2015

On This Day In History July 13

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 images to enlarge

July 13 is the 194th day of the year (195th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 171 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1930, the first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously on 13 July and were won by France and USA, who defeated Mexico 4-1 and Belgium 3-0 respectively. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and in doing so became the first nation to win the World Cup.

Previous international competitions

The world’s first international football match was a challenge match played in Glasgow in 1872 between Scotland and England, which ended in a 0-0 draw. The first international tournament, the inaugural edition of the British Home Championship, took place in 1884. At this stage the sport was rarely played outside the United Kingdom. As football grew in popularity in other parts of the world at the turn of the 20th century, it was held as a demonstration sport with no medals awarded at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics (however, the IOC has retroactively upgraded their status to official events), and at the 1906 Intercalated Games.

After FIFA was founded in 1904, it tried to arrange an international football tournament between nations outside the Olympic framework in Switzerland in 1906. These were very early days for international football, and the official history of FIFA describes the competition as having been a failure.

At the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, football became an official competition. Planned by The Football Association (FA), England’s football governing body, the event was for amateur players only and was regarded suspiciously as a show rather than a competition. Great Britain (represented by the England national amateur football team) won the gold medals. They repeated the feat in 1912 in Stockholm, where the tournament was organised by the Swedish Football Association.

With the Olympic event continuing to be contested only between amateur teams, Sir Thomas Lipton organised the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy tournament in Turin in 1909. The Lipton tournament was a championship between individual clubs (not national teams) from different nations, each one of which represented an entire nation. The competition is sometimes described as The First World Cup, and featured the most prestigious professional club sides from Italy, Germany and Switzerland, but the FA of England refused to be associated with the competition and declined the offer to send a professional team. Lipton invited West Auckland, an amateur side from County Durham, to represent England instead. West Auckland won the tournament and returned in 1911 to successfully defend their title. They were given the trophy to keep forever, as per the rules of the competition.

In 1914, FIFA agreed to recognise the Olympic tournament as a “world football championship for amateurs”, and took responsibility for managing the event. This paved the way for the world’s first intercontinental football competition, at the 1920 Summer Olympics, contested by Egypt and thirteen European teams, and won by Belgium. Uruguay won the next two Olympic football tournaments in 1924 and 1928. Those were also the first two open world championships, as 1924 was the start of FIFA’s professional era.

Due to the success of the Olympic football tournaments, FIFA, with President Jules Rimet the driving force, again started looking at staging its own international tournament outside of the Olympics. On 28 May 1928, the FIFA Congress in Amsterdam decided to stage a world championship itself. With Uruguay now two-time official football world champions and to celebrate their centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay as the host country of the inaugural World Cup tournament.

The national associations of selected nations were invited to send a team, but the choice of Uruguay as a venue for the competition meant a long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides. Indeed, no European country pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition. Rimet eventually persuaded teams from Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In total thirteen nations took part: seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America.

World Cups before World War II

After the creation of the World Cup, the 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, did not plan to include football as part of the schedule due to the low popularity of the sport in the United States, as American football had been growing in popularity. FIFA and the IOC also disagreed over the status of amateur players, and so football was dropped from the Games. Olympic football returned at the 1936 Summer Olympics, but was now overshadowed by the more prestigious World Cup.

The issues facing the early World Cup tournaments were the difficulties of intercontinental travel, and war. Few South American teams were willing to travel to Europe for the 1934 and 1938 tournaments, with Brazil the only South American team to compete in both. The 1942 and 1946 competitions were cancelled due to World War II and its aftermath.

Jul 13 2015

More Odds or Onions

Can you pick The Onion without hovering your mouse over the links.

This one should be easy but then again… Well you have a 50 / 50 shot at least.

ZZ Top Reveals Meaning Behind Classic Song ‘Legs’

HOUSTON-More than three decades after the song was a chart-topping smash and became an instant classic-rock staple, ZZ Top finally revealed to fans Tuesday the meaning behind its iconic hit “Legs.”

“People have been coming up with all these crazy interpretations for 30 years, so we’ve finally decided to just come out and say that the song’s about a woman’s sexy legs and how much they make us want her sexually,” said lead vocalist Billy Gibbons, acknowledging that spelling out the meaning of “Legs” might take away from its longstanding mystique.

“If the song means something else to you, that’s still cool, but there were lots of people who wanted to know what we were driving at.” Gibbons went on to say, however, that most of ZZ Top’s songs, such as the anti-apartheid anthem “Tush,” were pretty straightforward.

Turkey Testicle Festival host not ruffled by competing event

EAST DUNDEE, Ill. (AP) – The owner of a suburban Chicago pub that has held an annual Turkey Testicle Festival for 32 years isn’t testy at all that a nearby community plans to host its own celebration of the unusual dish this November. J.R. Westberg, who owns the Parkside Pub in Huntley, told The Daily Herald that his only criticism of East Dundee’s plan for its own event the day before Thanksgiving is the organizers’ lack of originality. They gave it the exact same name and scheduled it for the same date and time

The Huntley festival often attracts more than 4,000 people to snack on the deep-fried turkey bits, which some attendees consider a “dare food” and prefer doused in ranch dressing or Tabasco sauce. East Dundee businessman Cliff Surges says there’s enough interest to support both festivals and that the new one will target a different demographic. Surges hopes to draw 1,000 to 2,000 people to East Dundee’s event, which he says will be “family-oriented.”

Like the Huntley festival, the new one will raise money for charity. “It’s one of those silly things you can have some fun with and do some good with,” Surges said.

Jul 13 2015

Eating Worms

All that is left for Greece is to eat worms and it still would not satisfy Kaiser Merkel. #ThisIsACoup

A list of draconian new austerity demands handed to the Greek government in Brussels Sunday ignited a global backlash against Germany, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

#ThisIsACoup became the top trending hashtag on Twitter worldwide – and is #1 in Germany and Greece.

The tag was attached to tens of thousands of angry comments denouncing Germany’s aggressive demands that the Greek parliament pass new severe austerity laws within days to raise taxes, privatize public assets and cut back on pensions. [..]

Here are the EU proposals that outraged many around the globe:

1. Streamlining the VAT

2. Broadening the tax base

3. Sustainability of pension system

4. Adopt a code of civil procedure

5. Safeguarding of legal independence of ELSAT – the statistic office

6. Full implementation of spending cuts

7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive

8. Privatize electricity transmission grid

9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans

10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED

11. De-Politicize the Greek administration

12. Return of the Troika t0 Athens (the paper calls them the institutions)

Those are the demands that must be approved by Wednesday. The only thing they forgot to ask for is resignation of the prime minister, his cabinet and the Greek parliament.

From Ian Welsh

Basically the Greeks offered the EU everything they had asked for before and then some, but the EU won’t take it, they want their pound of flesh for being embarrassed by the referendum.

I get that Syriza and some Greeks don’t want Grexit, and will do virtually anything to avoid it, but I’m hoping (probably vainly) that there might be some depths to which they will not sink, some abasement they will not endure, some calamity they will not inflict upon the weakest and poorest in their own society.

Probably not. Not quite sure why I still have faith in humanity to ever do the right thing when any other option exists.

“OK, now that you’re crawling, down on your belly!”

Worms.