Daily Archive: 07/01/2011

Jul 01 2011

New Deadline For Debt Ceiling Bill: July 22

The White House is now saying that Congress must pass a bill by July 22 in order for the government not to default on its debt.

The Obama administration believes congressional leaders must agree to a deficit-reduction deal by July 22 in order to raise the government’s borrowing limit in time to avoid a default in early August, according to Democratic officials with knowledge of the negotiations.

The government needs a week or two to write and pass the necessary legislation and take the steps necessary to avoid missing a payment. “We’re down to the wire,” one official said.

Brain Beutler of Talking Points Memo reports Sen. Charles Schhumer (D-NY), in an telephone interview with reporters, said that while the Constitutional option is worth exploring, he thinks “it needs a little more exploration and study. It’s probably not right to pursue at this point and you wouldn’t want to go ahead and issue the debt and then have the courts reverse it.”

Legal scholars and other Democratic Senators have been taking a very close look at the 14th Amendment clause that forbids Congress from defaulting on US debt.

Republican economist Bruce Bartlett, who believes that the Republicans are playing with “the financial equivalent of nuclear weapons”, argues that Section 4 renders the debt ceiling unconstitutional, and obligates the President to consider the debt ceiling null and void.

If the Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the government stops paying its obligations, the first people who should not get paid is Congress.

Jul 01 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”.

Paul Krugman: To the Limit

In about a month, if nothing is done, the federal government will hit its legal debt limit. There will be dire consequences if this limit isn’t raised. At best, we’ll suffer an economic slowdown; at worst we’ll plunge back into the depths of the 2008-9 financial crisis.

So is a failure to raise the debt ceiling unthinkable? Not at all.

Many commentators remain complacent about the debt ceiling; the very gravity of the consequences if the ceiling isn’t raised, they say, ensures that in the end politicians will do what must be done. But this complacency misses two important facts about the situation: the extremism of the modern G.O.P., and the urgent need for President Obama to draw a line in the sand against further extortion.

Eugene Robinson: Our Robotic Assassins

The skies over at least six countries are patrolled by robotic aircraft, operated by the U.S. military or the CIA, that fire missiles to carry out targeted assassinations. I am convinced that this method of waging war is cost-effective but not that it is moral.

There has been virtually no public debate about the expanding use of unmanned drone aircraft as killing machines-not domestically, at least. In the places where drone attacks are taking place, there has understandably been great uproar. And in the rest of the world, questions are being raised about the legal and ethical basis for these antiseptic missile strikes.

New York Times EDitorial: Ethics, Politics and the Law

The ethical judgments of the Supreme Court justices became an important issue in the just completed term. The court cannot maintain its legitimacy as guardian of the rule of law when justices behave like politicians. Yet, in several instances, justices acted in ways that weakened the court’s reputation for being independent and impartial.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito Jr., for example, appeared at political events. That kind of activity makes it less likely that the court’s decisions will be accepted as nonpartisan judgments. Part of the problem is that the justices are not bound by an ethics code. At the very least, the court should make itself subject to the code of conduct that applies to the rest of the federal judiciary.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Defending the Supremely Powerful

The United States Supreme Court now sees its central task as comforting the already comfortable and afflicting those already afflicted.

If you are a large corporation or a political candidate backed by lots of private money, be assured that the court’s conservative majority will be there for you, solicitous of your needs and ready to swat away those pesky little people who dare to contest your power.

This court has created rules that will have the effect of declaring some corporations too big to be challenged through class actions, as AT&T consumers and female employees at Wal-Mart discovered.

David Sirota: Shining the Spotlight on the Corporate Pay Gap

We’ve long known that executive pay has skyrocketed during the last 40 years-and especially during the last 20. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the average CEO makes roughly 300 times the average worker-up from 100 times the average in the early 1990s and 40 times the average in the 1970s. In this new Gilded Age, we are inundated with stories about how executives-even in taxpayer-subsidized industries like banking-are paying themselves record salaries. This is nothing new-in fact, it’s lately been a bragging point for firms in their efforts to attract talent.

So, then, why is Corporate America suddenly so shy about compensation rates?

Joe Conason: Four Trillion for War-and Rising

Anyone paying attention to the costs of U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan must have known that the president badly underestimated those numbers on June 22, when he told the nation that we have spent “a trillion dollars” waging war over the past decade. For well over two years, we have known that the total monetary cost of those wars will eventually amount to well over $2 trillion, and might well rise higher, according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz and his associate Linda Bilmes.

What we didn’t know until this week is that the expense in constant dollars-leaving aside the horrific price paid by the dead, wounded, displaced and ruined in every country-will likely reach well over $4.4 trillion.

Jul 01 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Greetings from Bahia Soliman, just north of Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico.  If your Bloguero sent postcards, he would send you one like this:

Photobucket

On the back it would say, in your Bloguero’s miserable chicken scratch, “Having a great time.  Weather slightly problematic. No matter.”  You could take the postcard and stick it to the door of your refrigerator.  A small window into a distant place.  Maybe you could feel the heat and humidity and smell the salt on the breeze and hear the clacking of the cocos.  Maybe you could feel the warm water of the bay on your face and imagine yourself sitting in clear water up to your neck with the sun on your face.  Maybe you could hear the bird calls and the frog choir in the mangrove.

On the zero-to-ten scale of mellowness, what your Bloguero refers to as the “Donovan Mellow Yellow Index,” your Bloguero is hovering at about 7.6.  He would be at 8.7 or so if it were not for his friends at Verizon and their shenanigans.  Your Bloguero is not telling the tale here, because it is still ongoing.  Suffice it to say, that the world record for annoyance while on hold might belong to Verizon.  No, it’s not the sound of Kenny G playing in a lavatory somewhere.  It’s commercials for handheld devices and is a bumper crop of techno-speak.  Like your Bloguero almost cares what kind of processor this thing has and how it will make him into a worldwide badass communications machine.  Your Bloguero don’t want to be no machine, gracias.  He is trying hard to be a person, the dehumanization of hours on hold with Verizon notwithstanding.  A question: is it mandatory that employees of Verizon who answer your Bloguero’s calls have to listen to the advertisements for altead ½ hour per week? It should be.  Call the Public Utilities Commission.

A Short Walk With Michel Peissel recounts that explorer’s trek down the coast of Quintana Roo, right through Bahia Soliman, and your Bloguero’s following the same path.

No Warnings explains that although the precursor to what is now called Tropical Storm Arlene ran right over your Bloguero’s house earlier in the week, there was no word of warning from la Autoridad.  All is well, nonetheless, but it would be nice not to be the last to know about these events.   Not all ignorance is bliss.

A Haiku Pas De Deux marvels at a series of Haiku written in Spanish by Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz and translated into English by Eliot Weinberger.  Your Bloguero loves to call to your attention such wonderful work.  Aplauso!

A Love Letter is about your Bloguero’s house, that was built in what he calls “Estilo Robinson Crusoe” in the 1990’s.  Your Bloguero lives in what has now become a museum of sorts, but he is still fully in love with the house.

The State of the Union recounts your Bloguero’s recent conversation with Manuel Acero, a fictional character, who is making trouble for your Bloguero and apparently trying to seize the means of literary production.  The struggle may continues, but your Bloguero is hopeful that a collective agreement will be made.  Your Bloguero is not yet wearing the prescribed t-shirt.

Being What They Aren’t worries that distraction has now made boredom virtually extinct.  And soon, your Bloguero laments, all of the delicious fruits of boredom may also be gone.  The loss of boredome is not a good thing.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes it isn’t actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. Sometimes, like now, it is.  Your Bloguero solicits your support.  No, not your money.  Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will not feel that he is speaking to himself on the stage of a cavernous, but quite empty concert hall.  Your Bloguero does not want to feel like Prof. Irwin Corey.  Or, easier, just click the “Encouragement jar” (if there is one).

Jul 01 2011

Obama’s DOJ Still Covering Up War Crimes

Last week during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Gen. David Petraeus held that the US should keep the door open for torture. This week the Obama Justice Department determined that only two detainee deaths under investigation by specially appointed prosecutor, John H. Durham would warrant any further action:

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it was opening a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two terrorism suspects in C.I.A. custody overseas, but it was closing inquiries into the treatment of nearly 100 other detainees over the last decade.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that a two-year review by a specially appointed prosecutor, John H. Durham, had determined that any further investigation into that large group of cases “is not warranted.” The inquiry into the two deaths, though, could result in criminal charges against Central Intelligence Agency officers or contractors.

Intelligence officials saw the announcement as a vindication of sorts.

The stench of hypocrisy of President Obama is hard to ignore. His “looking forward” stand does not wash in the International courts nor does making flowery statements on International Torture Day when he is covering up the Bush regime and CIA war crimes:

As we mark the anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture, I join people around the world in honoring the victims of torture, paying tribute to all those who are courageously working to eradicate these inhuman practices from our world, and reaffirming the commitment of the United States to achieving this important goal. . . . .

As a nation that played a leading role in the effort to bring this treaty into force, the United States will remain a leader in the effort to end torture around the world and to address the needs of torture victims.

That’s not just hypocrisy, it an outrageous lie. Since his election, Obama has made it clear that he would cover any and all crimes committed by the previous administration and since his inauguration has embraced and expanded some of those very same policies.

From Glenn Greenwald, it is now official, “torture crimes are now officially covered up”:

In August, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder — under continuous, aggressive prodding by the Obama White House —announced that three categories of individuals responsible for Bush-era torture crimes would be fully immunized from any form of criminal investigation and prosecution:  (1) Bush officials who ordered the torture (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld); (2) Bush lawyers who legally approved it (Yoo, Bybee, Levin), and (3) those in the CIA and the military who tortured within the confines of the permission slips they were given by those officials and lawyers (i.e., “good-faith” torturers).  The one exception to this sweeping immunity was that low-level CIA agents and servicemembers who went so far beyond the torture permission slips as to basically commit brutal, unauthorized murder would be subject to a “preliminary review” to determine if a full investigation was warranted — in other words, the Abu Ghraib model of justice was being applied, where only low-ranking scapegoats would be subject to possible punishment while high-level officials would be protected.

It is very clear that those who ordered the use of torture will not be held accountable and with the appointment of Gen. Petraeus as director of the CIA, it will most likely continue under the Obama administration. Under the Nuremberg Principles and the UN Convention Against Torture, Mr. Obama could be prosecuted for war crimes and crmes against humanity.

Jul 01 2011

On This Day In History July 1

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 1 is the 182nd day of the year (183rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 183 days remaining until the end of the year. The end of this day marks the halfway point of a leap year. It also falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in a leap year.

On this day in 1997, Hong Kong returned to China.

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverts back to Chinese rule in a ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles of Wales, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand Hong Kongers protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful.

Hong Kong is one of two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China’s south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong’s population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups. Hong Kong’s Han Chinese majority originate mainly from the cities of Guangzhou and Taishan in the neighbouring Guangdong province.

Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839-42). Originally confined to Hong Kong Island, the colony’s boundaries were extended in stages to the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories by 1898. It was occupied by Japan during the Pacific War, after which the British resumed control until 1997, when the PRC acquired sovereignty. The region espoused minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism during the colonial era. The time period greatly influenced the current culture of Hong Kong, often described as “East meets West”, and the educational system, which used to loosely follow the system in England until reforms implemented in 2009.

Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. The Basic Law of Hong Kong, its constitutional document, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and military defence, governs its political system. Although it has a burgeoning multi-party system, a small-circle electorate controls half of its legislature. An 800-person Election Committee selects the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the head of government.

As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the ninth most traded currency in the world. The lack of space caused demand for denser constructions, which developed the city to a centre for modern architecture and the world’s most vertical city. The dense space also led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport travelling rate exceeding 90 percent, the highest in the world. Hong Kong has numerous high international rankings in various aspects. For instance, its economic freedom, financial and economic competitiveness, quality of life, corruption perception, Human Development Index, etc., are all ranked highly.

Jul 01 2011

Six In The Morning

Revealed: British government’s plan to play down Fukushima

Internal emails seen by Guardian show PR campaign was launched to protect UK nuclear plans after tsunami in Japan

Rob Edwards

guardian.co.uk,  

British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and before the extent of the radiation leak was known.

Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.

Read The Emails Here




Friday’s Headlines:

Extreme weather link ‘can no longer be ignored’

Damascus vibrations ripple in Baghdad

Hu warns Chinese Communist Party

Germany Approves End to the Nuclear Era

Reluctance to engage in hotel battle raises questions of Afghan preparedness

Jul 01 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for June 30, 2011-

DocuDharma

Jul 01 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