Daily Archive: 06/24/2011

Jun 24 2011

NYS Legislature Passes A Bill (Up Dated)

Yes, the New York State legislature passed a really important bill yesterday fixing a long neglected problem of importance for the all New Yorkers. No, it was not the Marriage Equality Bill that would allow same sex marriage in New York. It was naming Sweet Corn as the official state vegetable. Just what we need in NY, more starch in our diets. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for equality for our GLBT brothers and sisters.

Up Dated: We’re getting there. I’ll keep you posted.

NY pols begin to clear way for gay marriage vote

Jun 24 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”.

New York Times Editorial: Their Temper Tantrum

Congressional Republicans, who played a major role in piling up the government’s unsustainable debt in the first place, have thrown a tantrum and walked out of the debt limit talks. This bit of grandstanding has brought the nation closer to the financial crisis that Republicans have been threatening for weeks. But, at least now, their real goals are in sharp focus.

The two Republicans in the talks, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and Senator Jon Kyl, the minority whip, had no intention of actually negotiating. Negotiations require listening to those on the other side and giving them something they want in exchange for some of your goals.

There are those of us who knew all along that they weren’t negotiating in good faith. Now get Obama to realize that fact.

Robert Sheer: Bill Clinton’s Legacy of Denial

Does Bill Clinton still not grasp that the current economic crisis is in large measure his legacy? Obviously that’s the case, or he wouldn’t have had the temerity to write a 14-point memo for Newsweek on how to fix the economy that never once refers to the home mortgage collapse and other manifestations of Wall Street greed that he enabled as president.

Endorsing the Republican agenda of financial industry deregulation, reversing New Deal safeguards, President Clinton pursued policies that in the long run created more damage to the American economy than any other president since Herbert Hoover, whose tenure is linked to the Great Depression. Now, in his Newsweek piece, Clinton has the effrontery to once again revive his 1992 campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as the article’s title without any sense of irony, let alone accountability. But that has always been the man’s special gift-to rise above, and indeed benefit from, the messes he created.

Paul Krugman: Facing Political Barriers, Fed Candidate Opts Out

Nobel laureate Peter Diamond had a depressing Op-Ed in The New York Times on June 5, withdrawing himself from contention as a member of the Federal Reserve board in the face of Republican opposition.


What you need to know about Mr. Diamond is not just that he’s a very great economist, but that he’s an economist’s economist – someone who is a deeply respected theorist, not at all someone who made his way as an ideologue. His work is basically apolitical.

Except that these days everything is political.

Willaim Rivers Pitt: Clarence Thomas Must Go

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.

– Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I do not like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In my opinion, he has no business sitting on the high court after the reprehensible treatment he forced Anita Hill to endure, and has been a disgrace to the bench lo these last twenty years. Anthony Weiner, one of Clarence Thomas’ most ardent critics, was just run out of Washington DC on a rail for behavior far less offensive; Mr. Thomas is lucky there was no such thing as Twitter when he was sexually harassing Hill, or he’d be chasing ambulances outside of muni court like the hack he is. He sits up there like a lump, never speaking or offering questions to petitioners, and has not had an original thought since his shameful Senate approval.

But his vapid intellectual presence on the bench is only a small part of the story. Mr. Thomas has, by all appearances, turned his position on the court into a license to print money for himself, his family, and a few choice friends.

Eugene Robinson: Why does the Afghanistan war go on?

Some heard a declaration of victory, others an admission of defeat. The many contradictions in President Obama’s speech about Afghanistan Wednesday night were perhaps intended to obscure the bottom line: Tens of thousands of American troops will remain for at least three more years, some of them will be maimed or killed, and Obama offered no good reason why.

The only debate within the administration, it appears, was whether to bring home the troops far too slowly or not at all. Obama decided on the too-slowly option.

Michael Prysner: Obama’s speech means nothing to us and our families

President Barack Obama said in his speech on June 22, “This has been a difficult decade for our country.”

But it has not been difficult for everyone in the United States. It has not been difficult for the defense contractors, with their billion-dollar contracts churning out an endless supply of missiles to be fired and armored vehicles to be blown up. It has not been difficult for the oil giants, making record profits and getting access to new, untapped corners of the most resource-rich region of the world. It has not been difficult for the politicians, most of them millionaires themselves, getting fatter with lobbying money, whose sons and daughters do not die in combat, who smile and say they “support the troops” while they limit funding for veterans to mere scraps from the table.

Gareth Porter: Obama Leaves Door Open to Long-Term U.S. Afghan Combat

President Barack Obama’s speech announcing that the 33,000 “surge” troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn by “summer” 2012 indicates that he has given priority to the interests of the military and the Pentagon over concerns by key officials in his administration over the impact of the war’s costs on domestic socioeconomic needs.

And in a section of the speech that must be interpreted in the context of his past policy decisions on Iraq, Obama appeared to support the desire of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus to keep a substantial number of combat troops in Afghanistan beyond the publicly announced “transition” in 2014.

Jun 24 2011

NJ Workers Bargaining Rights & Benefits Attacked

Ed Schultz rails against the latest attack on the middles class, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s bill ending collective bargaining on health care for state employees and reducing their benefits.

This is an outrageous attack on state employees and unions that will hurt them for years. The bill will increase the costs of contributions to pension funds and limit access to health care at the same time it could increase subscriber costs by several hundred percent.  It removes the right to choose where they go for treatment unless they purchase an even more expensive plan. Most public employees have no collective bargaining rights except for health care, this bill ends that right.

It also freezes retirees cost of living adjustments (COLA) for the next 30 years. These raises have fluctuated and for the last two years have been 0%. Without some raises the elderly in New Jersey may well find themselves impoverished.

While the bill was opposed by many Democrats, it was the Democratic leadership, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, who sold out betrayed the fundamental Democratic values. Any Democrat that voted for this horrendous bill should be primaried by a real Democrat.

Jun 24 2011

On This Day In History June 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.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 24 is the 175th day of the year (176th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 190 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

Roth v. United States, along with its companion case, Alberts v. California, was a landmark case before the United States Supreme Court which redefined the Constitutional test for determining what constitutes obscene material unprotected by the First Amendment.

Prior history

Under the common law rule that prevailed before Roth, articulated most famously in the 1868 English case Hicklin v. Regina, any material that tended to “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences” was deemed “obscene” and could be banned on that basis. Thus, works by Balzac, Flaubert, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence were banned based on isolated passages and the effect they might have on children.

Samuel Roth, who ran a literary business in New York City, was convicted under a federal statute criminalizing the sending of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” materials through the mail for advertising and selling a publication called American Aphrodite (“A Quarterly for the Fancy-Free”) containing literary erotica and nude photography. David Alberts, who ran a mail-order business from Los Angeles, was convicted under a California statute for publishing pictures of “nude and scantily-clad women.” The Court granted a writ of certiorari and affirmed both convictions.

The case

Roth came down as a 6-3 decision, with the opinion of the Court authored by William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Court repudiated the Hicklin test and defined obscenity more strictly, as material whose “dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest” to the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.” Only material meeting this test could be banned as “obscene.” However, Brennan reaffirmed that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and thus upheld the convictions of Roth and Alberts for publishing and sending obscene material over the mail.

Congress could ban material, “utterly without redeeming social importance,” or in other words, “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”

With the Court unable to agree as to what constituted obscenity, the Justices were put in the position of having to personally review almost every obscenity prosecution in the United States, with the Justices gathering for weekly screenings of “obscene” motion pictures (Black and Douglas pointedly refused to participate, believing all the material protected). Meanwhile, pornography and sexually oriented publications proliferated as a result of the Warren Court’s holdings, the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s flowered, and pressure increasingly came to the Court to allow leeway for state and local governments to crack down on obscenity. During his ill-fated bid to become Chief Justice, Justice Abe Fortas was attacked vigorously in Congress by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond for siding with the Warren Court majority in liberalizing protection for pornography. In his 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon campaigned against the Warren Court, pledging to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court.

The demise of Roth

In Miller v. California (1973), a five-person majority agreed for the first time since Roth as to a test for determining constitutionally unprotected obscenity, superseding the Roth test. By the time Miller was considered in 1973, Brennan had abandoned the Roth test and argued that all obscenity was constitutionally protected, unless distributed to minors or unwilling third-parties.

Jun 24 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Is canceled.  Cancelado.  And why, you wonder is it canceled rather than merely delayed?  The dog ate the homework? A good question.  Your Bloguero regrets to inform that as he types these lines, he sits in the gritty city of his birth, Newark, New Jersey (Note: your Bloguero apologizes to the reader for this apparent redundancy).  He is sitting at gate C-71 at the Airport.  And it was evening and it was morning, and it is the beginning of the second day of travel from Eastern New York to urgently, passionately desired Mexico.  Total elapsed mileage so far: less than 150.  Total elapsed time: 1 day and counting.

Yesterday, your Bloguero’s friends at United Airlines had a small mechanical problem, and at about 8 am your Bloguero, who was then through security and waiting to get on a plane that was strangely and conspicuously absent, was informed in sum and substance that he could not go.  Tomorrow, yes.  What is now Yesterday, and was today at that time, we’re sorry, today, no.  No?  No.  Sir, I can put you on a flight at 6:55 am tomorrow with four stops all over this vast and wonderful country with its amber waves of grain and purple mountains. You will reach your deeply longed for destination at about 4 pm CT.  Your Bloguero stares in full disbelief.  He computes: 10 hours to arrive?  3 changes?  Overnight waiting? Your Bloguero decides to throw his fabled penury to the jackals and to get to get a ticket direct from Newark.  He rents a car. He drives.  He marvels at the complexities of the Information Society.   (Note to United: Your email that this flight was canceled reached your Bloguero about 4 hours after the cancellation.  So much for digital competence.)

In the middle of his unexpected, sudden highway excursion, as if there weren’t enough difficulties in the world already, your Bloguero has an extremely unpleasant encounter with his friends at Hertz.  I recount this in its glory for your edification.  Your Bloguero, who had gotten a good rate on a rented car back in May, informs H that, alas, he will not pick up the vegetable until noon, less than 24 hours late, but late nonetheless, the next day at noon.  This, your Bloguero assumes is a courtesy that responsible people should provide, rather than just showing up the next day with an explanation and demanding the car.  How very, very wrong.  The result of this courtesy?  Hertz is ever so very slightly sorry to inform your Bloguero that he will have to pay almost 3 times as much for the rental as was his original deal.  What?  For a day less?  How can that be?  And why, pray tell?  The “explanation” is priceless.  Sir, it is because when you modify your reservation it’s as if you canceled the old one and made a new one at today’s prevailing rate, according to H’s computer system, so you get the exorbitant rate we have today, not the rate you contracted for back in May.  H does not say, “Sir, we are mercilessly gouging you because we are a mighty global corporation, and your lizard overlord, and you, a mere mortal, exist to be taken advantage of.”  Five phone calls later, telephones, computers, prompts, eventually people, assistant managers, managers, promised but unmade calls back, and your Bloguero, who is then feeling the jackbooted foot of H on his throat and his shoulders entering his ears because of his undissipated annoyance, cancels the reservation.  He makes another one, almost as cheap with National.  Net increase of cost? $30.  Your Bloguero spends most of the money H tried to extract from him taking his children out to dinner on his way to Newark and a motel via Manhattan.  Your Bloguero resolves to tell the world of H’s treachery, and never, ever to use their company again.  (Note to H, whose full name will never again be typed in this blog: you owe me $30.  Pay up.)

Your Bloguero sits in the airport in overcast Newark.  He wonders: is there a single reported case in which a stranger has ever offered to a passenger a package or luggage to carry onto a flight?

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest.  Sometimes it is actually a digest of essays posted in the past week.  Sometimes, like now, it isn’t.  Hasta Pronto!


Jun 24 2011

Six In The Morning

Libya rebels ‘in secret talks’ with Tripoli underground

By Bridget Kendall BBC News, Benghazi

A member of the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi revealed they were holding secret talks to prepare for the regime’s fall.

The member said the talks were being held via Skype and satellite phones.

The rebels want to gauge the impact of pressure from Nato air strikes and shortages on morale in Tripoli.

Secondly, they want to involve the Tripoli underground opposition in their general strategy for ousting Col Gaddafi, so that if anyone is emboldened to take to the streets again in the capital it is woven into a bigger plan.

Frday’s Headlines:

End of the Afghan war is in sight. Now the political fighting begins

European Union leaders pledge to help Greece

More mass rapes in DRC as army runs amok

Islamists break Pakistan’s military ranks

Peru set to surpass Colombia as world’s top coca producer

Jun 24 2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Jun 24 2011

The Abbreviated Evening Edition

Due to playing in the mud (don’t ask, trust me it’s messy), the Evening Edition will brought to you by c’est moi.

Oil dives to 4-month low as emergency stocks unleashed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil tumbled 6 percent on Thursday to a four-month low after the world’s top consumers released emergency oil reserves for the third time ever, a surprise intervention to aid the struggling global economy.

The International Energy Agency announced it would inject 60 million barrels of government-held stocks in the global market, immediately increasing world supply by some 2.5 percent for the next month and sending prices spiraling, with U.S. crude prices erasing all of the year’s gains.