Daily Archive: 04/02/2012

Apr 02 2012

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: Pink Slime Economics

The big bad event of last week was, of course, the Supreme Court hearing on health reform. In the course of that hearing it became clear that several of the justices, and possibly a majority, are political creatures pure and simple, willing to embrace any argument, no matter how absurd, that serves the interests of Team Republican.

But we should not allow events in the court to completely overshadow another, almost equally disturbing spectacle. For on Thursday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed what was surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.

New York Times Editorial: Their Contributors’ Bidding

Don’t they ever learn? Large bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate have now passed the deeply flawed JOBS Act and President Obama is expected to sign it soon. The full name is equally seductive: Jump-start Our Business Start-ups Act. What it is is an invitation to a fresh round of financial malfeasance. It rolls back important investor safeguards from the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley law and the post-financial crisis Dodd-Frank law.

The official justification for the legislation – debunked in expert testimony – is that rules on disclosure, accounting and auditing make it unduly difficult for new companies to raise money by issuing stock. The real driving force behind the bill is the eagerness of politicians in both parties to please bankers and business executives who relentlessly demand deregulation and have the deep pockets to get their way, especially in an election year.

Robert Reich: Whose Recovery?

Luxury retailers are smiling. So are the owners of high-end restaurants, sellers of upscale cars, vacation planners, financial advisors, and personal coaches. For them and their customers and clients the recession is over. The recovery is now full speed.

But the rest of America isn’t enjoying an economic recovery. It’s still sick. Many Americans remain in critical condition.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate last quarter (far better than the measly 1.8 percent third quarter growth). Personal income also jumped. Americans raked in over $13 trillion, $3.3 billion more than previously thought.

Chris Hedges: Someone You Love: Coming to a Gulag Near You

The security and surveillance state does not deal in nuance or ambiguity. Its millions of agents, intelligence gatherers, spies, clandestine operatives, analysts and armed paramilitary units live in a binary world of opposites, of good and evil, black and white, opponent and ally. There is nothing between. You are for us or against us. You are a patriot or an enemy of freedom. You either embrace the crusade to physically eradicate evildoers from the face of the Earth or you are an Islamic terrorist, a collaborator or an unwitting tool of terrorists. And now that we have created this monster it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to free ourselves from it. Our 16 national intelligence agencies and army of private contractors feed on paranoia, rumor, rampant careerism, demonization of critical free speech and often invented narratives. They justify their existence, and their consuming of vast governmental resources, by turning even the banal and the mundane into a potential threat. And by the time they finish, the nation will be a gulag.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The Right’s Stealthy Coup

Right before our eyes, American conservatism is becoming something very different from what it once was. Yet this transformation is happening by stealth because moderates are too afraid to acknowledge what all their senses tell them.

Last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on health care were the most dramatic example of how radical tea partyism has displaced mainstream conservative thinking. It’s not just that the law’s individual mandate was, until very recently, a conservative idea. Even conservative legal analysts were insisting it was impossible to imagine the court declaring the health care mandate unconstitutional, given its past decisions.

Sam Parry: If the Supreme Court Goes Rogue

What happens to a Republic under a written Constitution if a majority of the Supreme Court, which is empowered to interpret that Constitution, goes rogue? What if the court’s majority simply ignores the wording of the founding document and makes up the law to serve some partisan end? Does that, in effect, turn the country into a lawless state where raw power can muscle aside the democratic process?

Something very much like that could be happening if the Supreme Court’s five Republicans continue on their apparent path to strike down the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, they will be rewriting the Constitution’s key Commerce Clause and thus reshaping America’s system of government by fiat, rather than by the prescribed method of making such changes through the amendment process.

Michael T. Klare: Welcome to the New Third World of Energy, the United States

How Big Energy Companies Plan to Turn the United States into a Third-World Petro-State

The “curse” of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged, while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land.  Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century “new Saudi Arabia” for “tough energy” — deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas.  But here’s a question no one considers: Will the oil curse become as familiar on this continent in the wake of a new American energy rush as it is in Africa and elsewhere?  Will North America, that is, become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World?

Brian Moench: Autism and Disappearing Bees: A Common Denominator?

A few days ago the Salt Lake Tribune’s front page headline declared, “Highest rate in the nation, 1 in 32 Utah boys has autism.”  This is a national public health emergency, whose epicenter is Utah, Gov. Herbert.  A more obscure story on the same day read: “New pesticides linked to bee population collapse.”  If you eat food, and hope to do so in the future, this is another national emergency, Pres. Obama.  A common  denominator may underlie both headlines. [..]

How does this relate to vanishing bees and our food supply?  Two new studies, published simultaneously in the journal Science,  show that the rapid rise in use of insecticides is likely responsible for the mass disappearance of bee populations.   The world’s food chain hangs in the balance because 90% of native plants require pollinators to survive.

Apr 02 2012

On This Day In History April 2

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 2 is the 92nd day of the year (93rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 273 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1513, Ponce de Leon discovers Florida. Near present-day St. Augustine, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon comes ashore on the Florida coast, and claims the territory for the Spanish crown.

Although other European navigators may have sighted the Florida peninsula before, Ponce de Leon is credited with the first recorded landing and the first detailed exploration of the Florida coast. The Spanish explorer was searching for the “Fountain of Youth,” a fabled water source that was said to bring eternal youth. Ponce de Leon named the peninsula he believed to be an island “La Florida” because his discovery came during the time of the Easter feast, or Pascua Florida.

First voyage to Florida

Ponce de Leon equipped three ships with at least 200 men at his own expense and set out from Puerto Rico on March 4, 1513. The only contemporary description known for this expedition comes from Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, a Spanish historian who apparently had access to the original ships’ logs or related secondary sources from which he created a summary of the voyage published in 1601. The brevity of the account and occasional gaps in the record have led historians to speculate and dispute many details of the voyage.

The three ships in this small fleet were the Santiago, the San Cristobal and the Santa Maria de la Consolacion. Anton de Alaminos was their chief pilot. He was already an experienced sailor and would become one of the most respected pilots in the region. After leaving Puerto Rico, they sailed northwest along the great chain of Bahama Islands, known then as the Lucayos. By March 27, Easter Sunday, they reached the northern end of the Bahamas sighting an unfamiliar island (probably Great Abaco).

For the next several days the fleet crossed open water until April 2, 1513, when they sighted land which Ponce de Leon believed was another island. He named it La Florida in recognition of the verdant landscape and because it was the Easter season, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers). The following day they came ashore to seek information and take possession of this new land. The precise location of their landing on the Florida coast has been disputed for many years. Some historians believe it occurred at St. Augustine; others prefer a more southern landing at a small harbor now called Ponce de Leon Inlet; and some argue that Ponce came ashore even further south near the present location of Melbourne Beach.

After remaining in the vicinity of their first landing for about five days, the ships turned south for further exploration of the coast. On April 8 they encountered a current so strong that it pushed them backwards and forced them to seek anchorage. The tiniest ship, the San Cristobal, was carried out of sight and lost for two days. This was the first encounter with the Gulf Stream where it reaches maximum force between the Florida coast and the Bahamas. Because of the powerful boost provided by the current, it would soon become the primary route for eastbound ships leaving the Spanish Indies bound for Europe.

Apr 02 2012

Warriors vs. Journalists, Obama vs. Truth

This past week, several stories appeared which indicate the degree to which true investigative reporting about US efforts in the Global War on Terror is at odds with the desires of the Obama administration and the lengths to which the administration will go to create their preferred narrative and suppress reporting that fails to fit.  At the same time, the President and other administration officials have made public statements, unsupported by documentation, that they refuse for alleged “national security reasons” to release to the ACLU and journalists.

This diary will continue some of the themes developed in a previous diary, President Obama’s Propaganda Wars regarding the Obama administration’s attempts to “dominate the information spectrum.”

The stories this week suggest that sometimes in the Global War on Terror, it’s a matter of getting the images correct.  If the action is popular, we get, “Engaged-Commander-in-Chief-sweating-the-details Obama.”  If the action is controversial, or perhaps questionably legal, we get “Spectator Obama,” watching the action from the stands along with everybody else.

obama cic or spectator lg

Apr 02 2012

Pique the Geek 20120401: The Things that we Eat. Pink Slime

Pink slime is a slang term, and not a terribly inapt one for what is technically known as lean finely textured beef or boneless lean beef trimmings.  Although I used the term pink slime in the title to get your attention, I think that it is a bit pejorative and shall use the term “the product” henceforth.

Since this is a meat product, it is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and not the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  This seems to me to have a bearing on how it has been approved.

There are a LOT of politics and hype surrounding the product, and I think that it serves my readers to look at the technical issues before we examine the political and PR issues.  You might be surprised where I come down on the safety and wholesomeness of the product.

Apr 02 2012

Sunday Train: HSR & the Slow Trains of No. California

The headlines out of California indicate that there has been a substantial shift in terms of the California HSR system. In particular, it seems that Gov. Brown has waded into the fray and is reframing the issue from the Only-An-Infrastructure-Geek-Could-Love frame of the Initial Construction Segment and the mythical “Train to Nowhere”, to the “when do I get to ride it?” frame of the Initial Operating Service.

You can find the lead up to the big move at the CHSRblog:

Deal Reached to Combine Caltrain Electrification and HSR (22MAR)

Legislature Appears to Have Votes to Approve HSR Funding (23MAR)

Jerry Brown Lowers HSR Cost by $30 billion

And Newspaper sneak previews of what will be Monday’s Big News at:

Sacramento Bee: Gov. Jerry Brown to change high-speed rail plan, lower cost by $30

Mercury News: Questions remain despite revised Calif. rail plan  

SF Chronicle: High-speed rail plan slashes costs to calm critics

However, while the newspaper accounts given glimpses and hints and quotes of very carefully written statements from the principle actors … digging into the details will have to wait until the details are released.

So instead, I want to take a look at the existing “Slow Speed Rail” systems of Northern California, to get a better background understanding of what “connecting with” the existing systems might mean.

Apr 02 2012

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Emergency Alert-OWS Occupies the US. Congress

Reprinted from: Daily Kos

In an unprecedented move, we are delaying the publication of our regular Anti-capitalist meet-up diary to bring you a special report.  Four hours ago, several hundred US citizens and residents, reportedly members of OWS (Occupy Wall Street), occupied both chambers of the United States Congress.

Corporate media sources have refused to report the event until control can be reestablished by authorities. However, according to Al Gazeera, who just started running a live stream an hour ago, the occupiers entered both houses and forced the Senate into the House of Representatives Chamber for a joint session.  We can only speculate whether the occupiers used guns to force the Senators into the Chamber or simply took over using the force of their numbers. We understand they dismantled the microphones in the chamber and began a General Assembly using the human microphone.