Daily Archive: 04/22/2011

Apr 22 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Syrian forces kill 38 at ‘Good Friday’ protests

AFP

2 hrs 7 mins ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syrian forces shot dead at least 38 people when they moved in to disperse thousands who took to the streets for “Good Friday” protests to test long sought-after freedoms, sources said.

A day after President Bashar al-Assad scrapped decades of emergency rule, his forces fired live rounds at demonstrators in several towns and cities nationwide, witnesses and activists told AFP by telephone.

The official SANA news agency said security forces intervened using only tear gas and water cannon to “prevent clashes” between protesters and passers-by.

Apr 22 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles

At long last, your Bloguero’s Muse returned from her long vacation, all tanned, relaxed, full of stories of exotic places, and most important, offering encouragement for completion your Bloguero’s novel.  As far as the novel goes, it’s much easier to deal with the Muse than with her partner in creativity, the Crone.  If the Muse is air; the Crone, fire.  Suffice it to say that the novel moves steadily toward completion, at all times gingerly keeping a step or two ahead of the flames.  The Muse was sweet.  And poignant.  “How were things while I was away?” she asked.  I lied.  I said they were ok, fine, going well, moving right along.  “Now, now, now” she replied in a whisper, shaking hear head.  “I’ve read what you’ve been writing.  Let’s try to be accurate with each other, shall we?”   At least she didn’t suck her teeth.  Or call me a prevaricator.  This is a conversation that I don’t ever want to have with her fierce partner.

Thursday was a huge milestone,  The One Thousandth Post On The Dream Antilles.  Your Bloguero is astonished to have reached this point.  He can hear some people muttering, “Well, so that’s what you’ve been doing with your time instead of….”  The long string of objects after that “instead of” is the catalog of things that evidently were less important to your Bloguero than sitting at the keyboard.  Your Bloguero is not proud of the list.   Only time will tell whether these choices made any real sense.  The cliché has not yet been written about whether people on their death beds say they wished they spent more time writing for their blogs.

Step Right Up And Meet The Mets notes that the Mets are simply awful and are losing at a rate guaranteed to make them lose more than 100 games this season. It’s just April, but based on what your Bloguero has seen so far, their season is over.  They are toast.  Why is this important?  Because the Mets are a distraction your Bloguero enjoys.  And this year, to be blunt, because they stink they are not adequately distracting him.

Your Bloguero celebrated and noted in passing 420 Day.  The War on Drugs, so named by Richard M. Nixon, has been raging for more than forty years.  As wars go, it is among the most expensive, stupid and unproductive.  Your Bloguero joins with Peter Tosh and Bob Marley to say, “Legalize it!”  And he encourages you to make a donation to NORML.  Four decades of stupidity is quite enough.  Your donations might turn the tide.

Your bloguero notes that this Digest was a weekly feature of the Port Writers Alliance.  It appears for reasons that your Bloguero is extremely hardpressed to describe, that the PWA is no longer.  It has disappeared.  Regardless, your Bloguero presses on.  He usually posts this Digest on Saturday morning early.  He hopes that because of the holiday weekend, you will forgive his putting it up a trifle early.  Your bloguero will be back next week, hopefully on Saturday morning early.

Apr 22 2011

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”

Click on image to enlarge

Paul Krugman: Patients Are Not Consumers

Earlier this week, The Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible, as I’ll explain in a minute.

But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice.”

Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car – and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.

Robert Reich: Beware the “Middle Ground” of the Great Budget Debate

How debates are framed is critical because the “center” or “middle ground” is supposedly halfway between the two extremes.

We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich.

By this logic, the center lies just between.

Baloney.

New York Times Editorial: Rethinking Their Pledge

Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma, has had the good sense to demand an end to the $5 billion annual tax credit to makers of corn ethanol, a wasteful subsidy to farm states that is also dubious environmental policy. For his outspokenness, Senator Coburn was pilloried by anti-government activists of his own party who cannot stand the idea of more revenues flowing into the federal Treasury. But he and a few others in the Senate are holding fast, suggesting that at least some Republicans are willing to break with party orthodoxy to reduce the long-term budget deficit

The loudest criticism came from Grover Norquist, whose group, Americans for Tax Reform, is the author of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that has become a sacred covenant for virtually anyone wishing to run as a Republican. More than 95 percent of the Republicans in Congress have signed it (including Senator Coburn), as have many Republican governors and state lawmakers.

Eugene Robinson: Field Manual for Despots

WASHINGTON-If I were a Middle Eastern despot, I’d know how to handle the pro-democracy movement that threatens my rule: Crack down viciously, using deadly force against civilians, and make no meaningful concessions. The West will fulminate and posture but won’t intervene decisively. I can survive.

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, Bahrain’s al-Khalifa royal family and others have surely been watching events in Libya and taking notes. The NATO-led attempt to dislodge Moammar Gadhafi is going nowhere fast. Bickering allied leaders have no stomach-or popular support at home-for war making of the kind that would be necessary to defeat Gadhafi’s army and take Tripoli. The regime is bloodied but unbowed.

One wonders why we bothered at all.

David Sirota: Beware of Vampire Squids and Their Stadium Schemes

When it comes to media voyeurism and the economic insights it can provide, the ads in Vanity Fair rival Charlie Rose’s television program as the best peep show of all. Between rip-and-sniff Dolce & Gabbana pages and come-hither Gucci models, readers get to see not what the kings are selling the lowly serfs, but what the royal family is telling itself.

This is why I read Vanity Fair-its ads provide a valuable glimpse into the palace. May’s edition is no exception, thanks to Goldman Sachs-aka the investment bank at the center of Wall Street’s 2008 meltdown.

On page 123 of the glossy mag, this very same bank presents itself as the savior of one of those Middle-American cities whose averageness (and baseball bats) makes it synonymous with good ol’ fashioned Americana: Louisville, Ky.

Joe Conason: The Trouble With Trump

Everything we really need to know about the character of Donald Trump was revealed when the wannabe president frivolously accused Barack Obama’s late grandparents of committing fraud with his birth announcement. Trump told CNN that they had placed the Aug. 13, 1961, announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser because they wanted to get “welfare” and other benefits. But this casual falsehood revealed only the tiniest hint of the truth about Trump that Americans will discover if he actually runs for the White House.

Anticipating such scrutiny, Trump should use more caution when mouthing off about “welfare,” for instance. His family wealth and his own business have both depended heavily on the corporate welfare that supports the real estate industry, starting with the Federal Housing Administration support that undergirded his father Fred’s residential empire more than half a century ago.

Noam Chomsky: Is the World Too Big to Fail?

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces — coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called “the most strategically important area in the world” — “a stupendous source of strategic power” and “probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment,” in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: One Year After BP Oil Spill: Communities Lead While Congress Fails

One year ago today, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit exploded in the Gulf of Mexico – a catastrophe that most Americans will never forget.

11 people lost their lives. According to Good, roughly 5 million barrels of oil gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf – eventually covering more than 60 miles of shoreline. Areas of the shore remain oil-soaked to this day.

The tragedy highlighted the need for new regulations to strengthen oversight of offshore drilling.  In response, Congress held more than 60 hearings related to the BP disaster; more than 100 oil spill-related bills were introduced.

How many passed?  None.  Zero.

Stephen Bradberry: A Developing Health Crisis Across the Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS – Days after the BP oil disaster began, on Apr. 20, 2010, BP and the U.S. administration pledged that Gulf Coast communities would be made whole. One year later that promise remains unfulfilled: across the Gulf there is a developing health crisis as a result of the oil spill.

Our state and federal governments, and BP itself, must demonstrate the will to take actions promised a year ago.

The BP spill poured over 170 million gallons of crude oil and immeasurable amounts of toxic gases into the waters and atmosphere of the Gulf of Mexico, in addition to the two million gallons of chemical dispersants used in the response operations, the full impact of which is yet unknown. For coastal communities exposed to these poisons, and that continue to find oil in their marshes and fishing nets, the health impact, we can be sure, will be severe and long term.

Apr 22 2011

GOP Strategy: Ply Them with Liquor

They say liquor is quicker.

Wisconsin Recall Fight Heats Up As Democrats Complain Of ‘Shots For Signatures’ Deals (AUDIO)

by Amanda Terkel

WASHINGTON — In an effort to gather enough signatures to trigger recall elections of state senators in Wisconsin, some backers are turning to peculiar, unconventional and, it appears, even intoxicating means.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party is planning to file a complaint to the state Government Accountability Board alleging that a Republican signature-gatherer offered alcoholic beverages to a group of women to get them to sign a recall petition against a Democratic state senator.

Although that’s not illegal in Wisconsin, it is strongly discouraged and, Democrats argue, evidence that Republicans don’t really have enough grassroots support for their recall campaigns.

Wisconsin Democrats Laugh Off “Republican Recall Racket”

by David Weigel

Today, a bit less than a week before the deadline, recall petitions are being filed against three Wisconsin Democratic senators. State Democratic party spokesman Graeme Zielinski has given me the party’s response to the petitions, which can be summed up as “ha, ha.”

Without any real enthusiasm on the part of the citizens of the districts to support the anti-Wisconsin Walker agenda, the Republican recall racket was forced to rely on road agents from a Colorado firm and elsewhere, mercenaries from out-of-state who came in and were paid money per recall signature. The only real press that this practice got was the reporting on a Colorado canvasser with a dangerous felony record who was was preying on visitors to Lambeau Field and taking stolen items to a motel room paid for by Republicans. But that dangerous Colorado felon employed by the Republican Party was just the tip of the iceberg.  At the heart of the Republican effort from the start was a mercenary spirit that naturally used deception and fraud to gain signatures.

snip

The Republican recall racket used unethical practices to gain signatures. In Burlington, for instance, a Republican canvasser offered patrons of a tavern shots of liquor in exchange for recall signatures against Sen. Bob Wirch. And in Green Bay, Republicans left recall signatures unattended with a sign that said, “Out to lunch,” an unethical and forbidden practice.

Apr 22 2011

Accessory After The Fact

DOJ Sits On Its Thumbs A Year After Macondo’s Mouth Of Hell Roared

By: bmaz Friday April 22, 2011 5:31 am

Jason Anderson, Aaron Dale Burkeen, Donald Clark, Stephen Curtis, Roy Wyatt Kemp, Karl Kleppinger, Gordon Jones, Blair Manuel, Dewey Revette, Shane Roshto, Adam Weise

These are names you should know. These are the first, and most blatant, victims of the Deepwater Horizon explosion at Macondo. Their actual names do not quickly come to the tongue, nor are they so easy to find. In fact, you know what I had to do to find them? Go through the same process this guy did. And, still, the first link I found them at was his post.



(N)othing, not diddly squat, has been done. And if the corporate powers that be in this country, and the political puppets who serve them, including Barack Obama, Eric Holder and the currently politicized Department of Justice, have anything to say about it (and they have everything to say about it) nothing significant is going to be done about BP, TransOcean, Halliburton and the Gulf tragedy, or anything related, in the future.

Like the craven and dishonest shell game that has been played by the current administration with regard to torture and destruction of evidence, the US government appears to simply be determined to shine this on with the bare minimum of faux accountability and disingenuous rhetoric to soothe the perturbed masses and maintain status quo with their partners in corporate/political domination of the American populous. That is clearly who they are, and quite apparently who we have become.

So, what could have been the process? Well, that is pretty easily delineated. In fact, I set it out definitively on May 28th of last year. Please refer to the link to the post for a complete list of the factors, nee elements of the crimes, that were already present a year ago. It is startling to realize what was already known then; especially when compounded with what is known now. The only difference today is that we can definitively add the United States government, and the administration of Barack Obama, to the queue of “Criminals in the Gulf“.



The US government and the Administration/DOJ of Barack Obama is just stringing it out and propping up the status quo and corporate interests such as BP. Seriously, I have been in the criminal law business for two and a half decades, and you literally almost have to fight to not be prosecuting BP for the criminally negligent, if not recklessly indifferent, deaths of the eleven lost souls on Deepwater Horizon.

Like with torture and the financial meltdown, the criminal activity is so obvious you have to consciously want to “look forward” and want to not prosecute in order to not do so. And that is, apparently, just exactly the case with the Obama Administration and the Holder Department of Justice to date. For the better part of a year, DOJ pitched the bogus meme there was a team working diligently on the BP Oil Spill. But that “task force” was led by Tony West and Ignacia Moreno, a couple of talking head tailored suits out of DOJ Main. Knowledgable former EPA criminal investigators pointed out early on, it seemed just for show and, sure enough, very little appears to have resulted from all those months of the DOJ Deepwater Horizon investigation. In fact, the only notable thing which appears to be resulting from the so called “criminal investigation” is that it is being used to shield and hide the real ecological destruction to the Gulf occasioned by the oil spill, such as the inexplicable and tragic dolphin deaths.



So, what does all this mean for the concept of meaningful and appropriate accountability for BP and the other criminal malefactors in the Gulf Oil Spill? The smart money is on the “nothing good” square. While the DOJ now, all of a sudden, is interested in “streamlining” the case, in actuality it likely is the path being set up for a package deal to resolve everything nice and neat so both BP and the Obama Administration can “look forward”. There are subtle tells as to where the Administration is going. The first tell is the newfound emphasis on “Seamen’s manslaughter”, in that, although it is a felony homicide provision, it only requires a showing of regular negligence, as opposed to gross negligence or recklessness under the traditional criminal homicide provisions.

And this is where the sidelining of the environmental crimes team comes into play. By only dealing in terms of regular negligence, as opposed to gross negligence, on the environmental crimes, the administration can minimize the financial penalties assessed to BP. Under the Clean Water Act, the two factors which determine the size of the financial penalty are the total amount of barrels spilled and whether the spill was the result of ordinary negligence, in which case the strict liability damages are assessed at $1,100 per barrel spilled; or “gross negligence” in which case the fine is as high as $4,300 per barrel spilled.

On the largest oil spill in history, having to pay the severely higher damages under gross negligence would be a serious blow to BP. But BP’s own disclosures reveal they are quite certain that will not occur, and there is every indication the Obama Administration intends to see it does not impose such a “hardship” on its favorite partner for military fuel purposes. Not to mention that Barack Obama is again in full campaign fundraising mode and BP is one of his biggest corporate sponsors.



BP itself, on the other hand, looks set up to be escorted through the process by the Administration and DOJ mostly unscathed. That is what the government does for its valued corporate partners. In fact, far from being penalized and/or debarred from federal contracting as it should be, as Jason Leopold reported Wednesday, BP is being given sweetheart no-bid contracts by the Administration.

Maybe a rackets prosecutor is the right guy after all, because this is quite a racket being run between the US government and BP. A year after Macondo the Mouth of Hell roared, and it is business as usual. Who could have predicted?

Apr 22 2011

US Now A Third World Country?

Applications for unemployment fell by 13,000 last week which was less than expected. Partially to blame was the idling plants by automakers in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The economy in the first quarter of 2011 is expected to have only grown by 2.0% after a 3.1 percent pace in the last three months of 2010.

Then there is that “little” housing issue that lingers in the background holding back economic growth.

Millions of foreclosures and short sales — when lenders agree to let borrowers sell homes for less than their values — have forced home prices down and more are expected this year. Tight credit has made mortgage loans tough to come by. Some potential buyers who could qualify for loans are worried that prices will fall further.

The dismal housing market is weighing on the overall economic recovery. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Most economists expect home prices — and by extension home sales and construction — to slip even further in 2011 before a modest recovery takes hold.

Well, former President Bill Clinton thinks that the US economy could use a little help from a friend. For the first time since Pres. Clinton started his Global Initiative, it will meet in Chicago in June hosting a jobs summit for the US:

New York, NY- President Bill Clinton announced today that he will host a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting focused on creating jobs and driving economic growth in the United States. The meeting, CGI America, will be the first CGI event solely dedicated to economic issues impacting the U.S. and will take place in Chicago on June 29-30, 2011.

snip

CGI America is being held in Chicago because the city is representative of the challenges confronting communities around the country, is home to some of the most influential companies in the U.S and has been a leader in creating jobs through investments in clean energy, a commitment to early childhood education and a renewed focus on technology.

Bill, what are you trying to tell us?

Apr 22 2011

Nothing To See Here

Radioactive Iodine Found In Human Breast Milk

Tiny Fish Spur Widening Worry

Japan Discovers High Radiation Levels in One Species, Stoking Environmental and Safety Concerns

By JURO OSAWA and YOREE KOH in Tokyo and DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI in Kesennuma, Japan, The Wall Street Journal

APRIL 6, 2011

Officials from Tepco and the agency have said repeatedly that the level of radiation that has seeped into the sea over the past two weeks-while measured at highly elevated levels right near the plant-posed no major immediate threat to humans or to the environment, because the water disperses quickly into the vast ocean. But the contaminated fish were caught about 50 miles south of the reactors, well beyond the 12.5-mile evacuation perimeter.

One sample of konago caught Friday contained twice the permissible level of radioactive iodine-131, which has a half-life of eight days and which can accumulate in the thyroid in humans, possibly raising the risk of thyroid cancer. The other konago sample, caught Monday, had just over the permissible limit for cesium, an element with an uncertain impact on human health. Three different types of cesium were discovered, one of which has a half-life of 30 years.



The reports of contaminated fish have followed reports of tainted produce including spinach and broccoli, as well as raw milk, in Fukushima prefecture and other areas close to the reactors. The reports of contaminated seafood are potentially more worrisome, because the contaminated seawater, and the fish, move in uncontrollable and untraceable paths.

Apr 22 2011

iPhone Follow Up

Gaius Publius’ account of Michigan State Police downloading the entire contents of your cell phone didn’t exactly escape my attention, but was hardly the focus of my earlier piece (which is that it can happen at all and is happening right now).

Police in Michigan have been, apparently illegally, snooping through the mobile phones of anyone they wish at traffic stops. (Yes, traffic stops.) They have a high-tech snooping device that can download everything in 1.5 minutes, including hidden files. The device can also reportedly defeat password-protection.

There have been subsequent developments.

Sen. Franken calls for investigation of Apple iPhone spying

by Gaius Publius on 4/21/2011 05:49:00 PM

Not all that breathlessly noteworthy in my opinion, what would you expect Al to say (unless he has the common Hollywood Apple blindness)?

On the other hand there are some potentially interesting aspects to this-

MI State Police: We have nothing to hide, that is why we have been stonewalling ACLU for 3 years

by John Aravosis (DC) on 4/21/2011 07:30:00 PM

(T)here are reports that the Michigan State Police are downloading the entire cell phone contents, included deleted records (such as text messages and emails), of people stopped for simply traffic violations. The ACLU, three years ago, filed a FOIA request to determine exactly what the Michigan State Police were up to. The State Police stonewalled, for three years. Now because the news has gone national, suddenly they’re talking, and sent Gaius a statement, published below. But they still haven’t complied with the ACLU’s FOIA request, which would prove whether the Police are violating people’s privacy or not.

Well worth a read.

Apr 22 2011

On This Day In History April 22

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.

April 22 is the 112th day of the year (113th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 253 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1978, The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.

It was Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker brothers, who first discovered them in the gritty blues clubs of Chicago’s South Side in 1969 and handed them their big break nine years later with an introduction to music-industry heavyweight and host of television’s Rock Concert, Don Kirshner. Actually, none of that is true, but it’s the story that Saturday Night Live’s Paul Shaffer told on April 22, 1978 as he announced the worldwide television debut of that night’s musical guest, the Blues Brothers-the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

Origins

The genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 17, 1976, Saturday Night Live sketch. In it, “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” play the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee”, with Belushi singing and Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they wore for the “Killer Bees” sketch.

Following tapings of SNL, it was popular among cast members and the weekly hosts to attend Aykroyd’s Holland Tunnel Blues bar, which he had rented not long after joining the cast. Dan and John filled a jukebox with songs from many different artists such as Sam and Dave and punk band The Viletones. John bought an amplifier and they kept some musical instruments there for anyone who wanted to jam. It was here that Dan and Ron Gwynne wrote and developed the original story which Dan turned into the initial story draft of the Blues Brothers movie, better known as the “tome” because it contained so many pages.

It was also at the bar that Aykroyd introduced Belushi to the blues. An interest soon became a fascination and it was not long before the two began singing with local blues bands. Jokingly, SNL band leader Howard Shore suggested they call themselves “The Blues Brothers.” In an April 1988 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, Aykroyd said the Blues Brothers act borrowed from Sam & Dave and others: “Well, obviously the duo thing and the dancing, but the hats came from John Lee Hooker. The suits came from the concept that when you were a jazz player in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, to look straight, you had to wear a suit.”

The band was also modeled in part on Aykroyd’s experience with the Downchild Blues Band, one of the first professional blues bands in Canada, with whom Aykroyd continues to play on occasion. Aykroyd first encountered the band in the early 1970s, at or around the time of his attendance at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and where his initial interest in the blues developed through attending and occasionally performing at Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House.

Apr 22 2011

Six In The Morning

Earth Day’s 41st anniversary celebrated by Google

Earth Day, credited with launching modern environmental movement in US, appears as Google doodle again



If you open Google’s homepage you will be greeted by an Eden-like scene of diverse wild animals in their natural habitats.

This Google doodle, built around the search giant’s logo, is its latest celebration of Earth Day, started 41 years ago to raise awareness of and appreciation for the natural world.

The interactive scene features two pandas, one of which shocks the other with a sneeze when you place your mouse on it, a nod to this YouTube video.

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