Daily Archive: 04/26/2012

Apr 26 2012

And this is a bad thing how?

(h/t Mike Lux)

It Would Be Horrible If We Had Two Different Political Parties

Atrios

Pieces like this remind us that the political establishment – including the press – really hates the idea of having two different political parties that actually disagree about stuff, and maybe even provides an actual real choice for voters. It’s much better when people are elected on personality and image, and the consensus policies of the Wise Old Men Of Washington can be implemented without any troubling disagreement or, god forbid, notice by the voters.

2 House Democrats Defeated After Opposing Health Law

By JONATHAN WEISMAN, The New York Times

Published: April 25, 2012

A 10-term congressman and founding member of the centrist Blue Dog coalition was trounced by a newcomer, Matt Cartwright, a Scranton lawyer who ran hard against Mr. Holden’s moderate voting record.

The ouster of the Democratic incumbents – and the tough primaries being waged against some House Republicans – suggest that redistricting ultimately is going to send more liberal Democrats and more conservative Republicans to the House.



With the defeat of Mr. Altmire and Mr. Holden, a Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats that peaked in 2010 at 54 dipped prospectively to 23.



The result “shows clearly that a Democrat beholden to special interests is going to have a tough time convincing voters he represents their interests,” said Daniel Mintz, national director of coordinated campaigns for the liberal group MoveOn.org, which joined the fray for Mr. Cartwright.



Harry McGrath, the Lackawanna County Democratic Party chairman, said the anti-incumbent sentiment that helped fuel the Tea Party’s rise in 2010 is still alive. Down the ballot, two state representatives also lost their primaries, as did a veteran former county commissioner who was supposed to breeze into the Democratic nomination for state representative.

He also pointed to something else: angry women, still upset over measures like Pennsylvania’s efforts to mandate invasive ultrasounds before abortions. Former Representative Patrick Murphy had the backing of Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia and former Gov. Ed Rendell in his quest to be Pennsylvania’s attorney general. He was expected to dominate Philadelphia and its suburbs, then knock off his Democratic rival, Kathleen Kane, a former Lackawanna County assistant district attorney. But Ms. Kane won with the backing of fed-up women, Mr. McGrath said.

Fire them all.

Apr 26 2012

Romney Wants An Economy He Refuses to Make Possible

Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism

Romney indulged in soaring rhetoric{1} when he declared victory{2} in the fight to become the Republican Nominee and launched his General Campaign pitch:

I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

One problem: he refuses to make it possible. The success of new business enterprise requires customers with the means and willingness to buy, and productive workers, equipment and natural resources. Romney’s policies are:

  • To take even more of the means from those with the willingness to buy to those who place a higher priority on accumulating wealth
  • Offer his hypothetical entrepreneurs workers that are under-skilled and under-educated
  • Saddle prospective entrepreneurs that attended college with a burden of debt
  • Reduce the freedom of those workers with health benefits to take a job with that entrepreneur
  • And insist on leaving all of those entrepreneurs exposed to the risk of the next oil price shock recession throwing them into bankruptcy

He expresses a desire for a wonderfully desirable economy, but his policies promise that his administration will be too damn lazy to lift a finger to it possible.

Heck, that could be a bumper sticker: “Vote Romney for a Lazy, Do-Nothing Government.”

That’s it. Nothing below the fold but notes.

Apr 26 2012

The French Presidential Election 2012: A Rejecting of Austerity?

With the first round of elections over, the campaign for the Presidency of France between the two top candidates, François Hollande and Nicholas Sarkozy begins under the cloud of most of Europe in economic recession. Just how much the latest news of England slipping back into recession under the weight of the Cameron government’s austerity measures along with increased taxes, remains to be seen but there are signs that it is already having an impact:

To the left: a likely new direction for France and Germany

If a new austerity-sceptic alliance emerges across the Channel, will Cameron and Osborne end up as Europe’s last deflationists?

Quite suddenly, there is talk of change in the eurozone’s economic strategy and, in particular, of the need for urgent action by the European Union to reverse the downward spiral of negative growth and rising unemployment. The likelihood that François Hollande will be elected as president of France next weekend has injected an important note of dissent into the pro-austerity consensus. Even more important than the French elections, however, may be the indications that even the political debate in Germany is now changing its tune.

The opposition German social democratic SPD hopes for election victory in the key state of North Rhine Westphalia on 13 May, as well as in the German general election next year. The SPD has already signalled that it will support the French Socialists in support of an investment-led EU strategy to boost growth and jobs. Moreover, the German social democrats and the German Green party also back the creation of euro-bonds and using the proceeds of a tax on financial transactions to finance a return to growth.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is a bit nervous about a Hollande government:

It is unclear at this time whether next year’s German general election will lead to an SPD/Green coalition government or to a “grand coalition” of the SPD and Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats. But Angela Merkel has already sent some of her top advisers to Paris to explore the proposals of the French Socialists and to see to what extent she and a future President Hollande might be able to salvage a Franco-German partnership in the EU.

The conservative German government is resolutely opposed to any formal re-negotiation of the “stability and governance treaty” which has been cited to justify the crippling austerity measures imposed on Greece and other eurozone “peripheral” economies. But Hollande is now focussing on a series of “additional measures” rather than actual “changes” to the treaty. These additional growth measures would include a major boost to the resources of the European Investment Bank to allow it to put far more capital to work, especially in the hardest-hit economies. Second, the French Socialists would like to see the European stability mechanism given the status of a bank, so that it can receive funding from the European Central Bank and thus be better able to contain any future crisis affecting the euro. Third, they argue for widening the mandate of the ECB so that it is obliged to pursue growth objectives as well as price stability.

Unsurprisingly, a number of sympathetic noises off are being heard from Rome, Madrid and other EU countries, where centre-right governments which are struggling against economic suffocation by obsessive austerityitis.

President Nicholas Sarkozy, who is behind Hollande 54% to 46% in the polls, has said that there would be no coalition with the far right wing National Front Party, whose candidate, Marine Le Pen garnered 17.9% of the vote placing third:

“There will be no pact with the Front National,” he told France Info radio, adding there were too many issues on which they disagreed to imagine giving the party cabinet posts. The Front National has called for France to quit the euro and a hold a referendum on the death penalty, both far from Sarkozy’s manifesto.

“There will be no Front National ministers, but I refuse to demonise men and women who in voting for Marine Le Pen cast a crisis vote, a vote of anger, a vote of suffering and a vote of despair. I have to listen to their message and take them into account, and not think it’s time to hold my nose,” Sarkozy said.

Currently the National Front holds no seats in the French Parliament but hope to change that in the up coming national elections in June.

Geographically, Le Pen has broadened Front National support beyond her father’s heartlands in the south, and polled well in villages and rural constituencies across the country as well as on the outskirts of cities. She did well in the depressed former industrial areas of the north and east, but also saw increases in support in rural areas beyond Bordeaux and in Normandy. The prospect of Front National gains has left Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, a broad coalition of centre right and rightwing factions, scrapping over what tack to take to hang on to their seats. The party is already divided and facing an internal battle over its future if Sarkozy loses the election

There will obviously be a battle for Le Pen’s 6.4 million voters with the far left accusing Sarkozy of drifting too far to the right, making some ugly comparisons:

The communist paper L’Humanité sparked a row with its front page comparing Sarkozy to Marshal Pétain, the leader of France’s Nazi collaborationist Vichy regime in the 1940s, who was convicted of treason after the second world war.

The paper said Sarkozy’s decision to hold his own Labour Day rally in Paris on 1 May to celebrate what he termed “real” work, as opposed to the traditional, trade-union-led rallies by the left, harked back to a Pétain-style discourse. Pétain – whose motto was “travail, famille, patrie” (work, family, country) – had aimed to reclaim 1 May for the right.

Max Staat wrote: “Sarkozy isn’t Pétain, happily, but the similarities point to the dangers for our country of the president-candidate adopting the theses of the extreme right.”

And you thought American political campaigns were ugly. Fortunately, the election is May 6, eleven days and all campaigning  ends on Friday May 4.

Click on image to enlarge

Apr 26 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”.

Eugene Robinson: The Devil We Don’t Know

It may not be the economy, stupid.

Then again, James Carville’s famous maxim about the 1992 presidential campaign might well be valid in 2012. But it’s quite possible that on Election Day, voters’ most urgent concerns-economic or not-will be driven by overseas events that neither President Obama nor his Republican opponent can predict or control. [..]

And if the Carville dictum turns out to be right? Well, stock markets around the world swooned on Monday-not because of anything U.S. officials said or did but because of events in Europe that made investors nervous. The Dutch government fell, after failing to win approval of new austerity measures, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy finished second in his bid for re-election and faces a runoff.

It may be that in 2012 it’s the eurozone crisis, stupid. And there’s nothing Obama or Romney can do about it.

Robert Reich: How Europe’s Double Dip Could Become America’s

Europe is in recession.

Britain’s Office for National Statistics confirmed today (Wednesday) that in the first quarter of this year Britain’s economy shrank .2 percent, after having contracted .3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. (Officially, two quarters of shrinkage make a recession). On Monday Spain officially fell into recession, for the second time in three years. Portugal, Italy, and Greece are already basket cases. It seems highly likely France and Germany are also contracting.

Why should we care? Because a recession in the world’s third-largest economy, combined with the current slowdown in the world’s second-largest (China), spells trouble for the world’s largest.

Glen Ford: Private Prison Corporations Are Modern Day Slave Traders

The nation’s largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is on a buying spree. With a war chest of $250 million, the corporation, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, earlier this year sent letters to 48 states, offering to buy their prisons outright. To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full. Plus, the corporate jailers demand a 20-year management contract, on top of the profits they expect to extract by spending less money per prisoner.

For the last two years, the number of inmates held in state prisons has declined slightly, largely because the states are short on money. Crime, of course, has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, but that has never dampened the states’ appetites for warehousing ever more Black and brown bodies, and the federal prison system is still growing. However, the Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag.

John Cavanagh and Scott Klinger: Bank CEOs Gain as Millions Lose Dreams, Retirement to Foreclosure

Inside and outside of Wells Fargo’s annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, thousands of angry protesters decried the bank’s leading role in the loss of millions of American homes to foreclosure.

If you want to know why the protesters are so angry, consider this double standard. For most Americans, retirement security lies in the value of their homes. Millions of these people have been losing that security as the nation’s largest banks have foreclosed on them. Yet the CEOs of these banks are reaping giant pay packages and padding their own retirement security with profits squeezed from ordinary people.

For many American families, a paid-off home is part of the dream of a secure retirement. The roof over their heads has long comprised the largest element of most families’ net worth. The housing crisis brought to us by the country’s biggest bankers has stolen the dreams of the nearly 4 million families who have lost their homes to foreclosure since the housing crisis began in 2007.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Will a Young Generation’s Dreams Be Rescued — Or Bundled and Sold on Wall Street?

Interest rates for student loans will double on July 1 unless Congress acts. That’s outrageous — but the fiscal abuse of our nation’s young people runs far deeper than that. An entire generation has been trapped into debt servitude and joblessness by the implacable machinery of Wall Street greed. Bank-servile scolds insult the young people of America while the bankers’ economic engines strip-mine their financial future.

Jobless or overextended college graduates aren’t even allowed to declare bankruptcy — a privilege that’s extended to every reckless investor and mismanaged corporation in the nation. Once they finally find work, college graduates face years of garnished wages to repay the loans that funded their often-overpriced educations. If they haven’t repaid that debt by the time they grow old — a very real possibility at the cost of a college education today — they’ll even be forced to surrender part of their Social Security benefits.

That’s indentured servitude.

Mike Lux: K Street and Wall Street in Trouble in 2012

The big news coming out of the Pennsylvania primaries yesterday are that two of K Street’s favorite Capitol Hill Democrats, Tim Holden and Jason Altmire, got upset in races where they had lots more cash than their opponents but still got taken down. The way these races played out should be a big lesson to Democrats who think they can take special interest cash, make pro-special interest votes and still win elections. And with big issues like student loans, tax subsidies for Wall Street and Big Oil, and accountability for the big banks in play the rest of the year, politicians should pay attention.

Holden was an incumbent and his only weakness was that he was forced to run in a more Democratic district than he used to have. Given that he voted with corporate special interests and Republicans a lot of the time — including on the Bush tax cuts and fracking and factory farms — that became a big problem when he faced a progressive challenger named Matt Cartwright. Holden had the support of the Democratic establishment and the monied interests, but Cartwright thumped him.

Apr 26 2012

CISPA: Cybersecurity That Leaves Us All Unsecure

Here we go again with the right to internet privacy and security for the individual being threatened by the government on behalf of corporations. On November 11 last year, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Michael Rogers (R-MI) and 111 co-sponsors. The bills supposed purpose would allow the voluntary sharing of attack and threat information between the U.S. government and security cleared technology and manufacturing companies to ensure the security of networks against patterns of attack.

What does that mean, you ask? Well, as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) explains the bill would allow “both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications without judicial oversight provided that they do so of course in the name of cyber-security.” Paul calls the CISPA the new SOPA:

CISPA represents an alarming form of corporatism, as it further intertwines government with companies like Google and Facebook. It permits them to hand over your private communications to government officials without a warrant, circumventing well-established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. It also grants them broad immunity from lawsuits for doing so, leaving you without recourse for invasions of privacy. Simply put, CISPA encourages some of our most successful internet companies to act as government spies, sowing distrust of social media and chilling communication in one segment of the world economy where America still leads.

Proponents of CISPA may be well-intentioned, but they unquestionably are leading us toward a national security state rather than a free constitutional republic. Imagine having government-approved employees embedded at Facebook, complete with federal security clearances, serving as conduits for secret information about their American customers. If you believe in privacy and free markets, you should be deeply concerned about the proposed marriage of government intelligence gathering with private, profit-seeking companies. CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people. We can only hope the public responds to CISPA as it did to SOPA back in January. I urge you to learn more about the bill by reading a synopsis provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on their website at eff.org. I also urge you to call your federal Senators and Representatives and urge them to oppose CISPA and similar bills that attack internet freedom.

This is CISPA (pdf):

  • CISPA could allow any private company to share vast amounts of sensitive, private data about its customers with the government.
  • CISPA would override all other federal and state privacy laws, and allow a private company to share nearly anything-from the contents of private emails and Internet browsing history to medical, educational and financial records-as long as it “directly pertains to” a “cyber threat,” which is broadly defined.
  • CISPA does not require that data shared with the government be stripped of unnecessary personally-identifiable information. A private company may choose to anonymize the data it shares with the government. However, there is no requirement that it does so-even when personally-identifiable information is unnecessary for cybersecurity measures. For example, emails could be shared with the full names of their authors and recipients. A company could decide to leave the names of its customers in the data it shares with the government merely because it does not want to incur the expense of deleting them. This is contrary to the recommendations of the House Republican Cybersecurity Task Force and other bills to authorize information sharing, which require companies to make a reasonable effort to minimize the sharing of personally-identifiable information.
  • CISPA would allow the government to use collected private information for reasons other than cybersecurity. The government could use any information it receives for “any lawful purpose” besides “regulatory purposes,” so long as the same use can also be justified by cybersecurity or the protection of national security. This would provide no meaningful limit-a government official could easily create a connection to “national security” to justify nearly any type of investigation.
  • CISPA would give Internet Service Providers free rein to monitor the private communications and activities of users on their networks. ISPs would have wide latitude to do anything that can be construed as part of a “cybersecurity system,” regardless of any other privacy or telecommunications law.
  • CISPA would empower the military and the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect information about domestic Internet users. Other information sharing bills would direct private information from domestic sources to civilian agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. CISPA contains no such limitation. Instead, the Department of Defense and the NSA could solicit and receive information directly from American companies, about users and systems inside the United States.
  • CISPA places too much faith in private companies, to safeguard their most sensitive customer data from government intrusion. While information sharing would be voluntary under CISPA, the government has a variety of ways to pressure private companies to share large volumes of customer information. With complete legal immunity, private companies have few clear incentives to resist such pressure. There is also no requirement that companies ever tell their customers what they have shared with the government, either before or after the fact. As informed consumers, Americans expect technology companies to have clear privacy policies, telling us exactly how and when the company will use and share our personal data, so that we can make informed choices about which companies have earned our trust and deserve our business.
  • On Wednesday the White House Office of Management and Budget issues a lengthy statement in opposition to CISPA and a threat to veto the bill:

  • “H.R. 3523 fails to provide authorities to ensure that the Nation’s core critical infrastructure is protected while repealing important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards. […]”
  • “The bill also lacks sufficient limitations on the sharing of personally identifiable information between private entities and does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes. […]”
  • It would “inappropriately shield companies from any suits where a company’s actions are based on cyber threat information identified, obtained, or shared under this bill, regardless of whether that action otherwise violated Federal criminal law or results in damage or loss of life. […]”
  • And finally, it “effectively treats domestic cybersecurity as an intelligence activity and thus, significantly departs from longstanding efforts to treat the Internet and cyberspace as civilian spheres. […]”
  • “If H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” OMB
  • said.

    h/t to Joan McCarter at Daily Kos for the summery

    We at The Stars Hollow Gazette and Docudharma strongly oppose CISPA and urge you to contact your Congress person:

    Tell Congress: Keep My Inbox Away From the Government

    and to sign the petition:

    Stop CISPA

    Apr 26 2012

    On This Day In History April 26

    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 26 is the 116th day of the year (117th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 249 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

    The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine). An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western Russia and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima I nuclear incident, which is considered far less serious and has caused no direct deaths). The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles, crippling the Soviet economy.

    The disaster began during a systems test on 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the town of Pripyat. There was a sudden power output surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a more extreme spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus.

    The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive about its procedures.

    (Click on image to enlarge) Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident. Thirty one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers. A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. Estimates of the number of deaths potentially resulting from the accident vary enormously: the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest it could reach 4,000; a Greenpeace report puts this figure at 200,000 or more; a Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 excess deaths occurred between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination.

    Decommissioning

    After the explosion at reactor four, the remaining three reactors at the power plant continued to operate. In 1991, reactor two suffered a major fire, and was subsequently decommissioned. In November 1996, reactor one was shut down, followed by reactor three on December 15, 2000, making good on a promise by Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma that the entire plant would be closed.

    Even after the last reactor shutdown, people continue to work at the Chernobyl plant until reactor units 1, 2, and 3 are totally decommissioned, which is expected to take years. The first stage of decommissioning is the removal of the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is placed in deep water cooling ponds. However, storage facilities for this are not suitable for long term containment, and those on site do not have the capacity for all the spent fuel from units 1, 2 and 3. A second facility is planned for construction that will use dry storage technology suitable for long term storage and have the required capacity.

    Removal of uncontaminated equipment has begun at unit 1 and this work could be complete by 2020-2022.

    The remains of reactor unit 4 will remain radioactive for some time. The isotope responsible for the majority of the external gamma radiation dose at the site is Caesium-137 which has a half-life of about 30 years. It is likely that with no further decontamination work the gamma ray dosage at the site will return to background levels in about three hundred years. However, as most of the alpha emitters are longer lived, the soil and many surfaces in and around the plant are likely to be contaminated with transuranic metals such as plutonium and americium, which have much longer half-lives. It is planned that the reactor buildings will be disassembled as soon as it is radiologically safe to do so.

    Apr 26 2012

    My Little Town 20120425: Old Stomping Grounds

    Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

    Tonight I am going to cover something a little different.  Rather than recollections as a very small child, I shall fast forward to when the former Mrs. Translator were married and living in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  When time permitted, we were quite the outdoor types, backpacking, rafting, spelunking, and just all around outdoor and nature enthusiasts.

    Our mutual love of the out of doors was a real bonding element in our relationship, and even after the boys were born we did not stop going out of doors, but obviously we could not backpack with infants.  We just modified how we enjoyed going until they got old enough to carry their own backpacks.