Daily Archive: 07/24/2012

Jul 24 2012

Foolish Reassessment of Settledness

Because the big problem is not the U.S. obsession with guns, violence, and fame or a corrupt conventional media establishment and cowardly politicians; it’s people who dress up in fishnet stockings and teddies.

Frank-N-Furter, it’s all over

Your mission is a failure

Your lifestyle’s too extreme

I’m your new commander

You now are my prisoner

We return to Transylvania

Prepare the transit beam

Madness takes its toll.

Jul 24 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times:6,000 Bullets

With the ease of downloading a song, anyone with a computer and a credit card can order thousands of bullets and shotgun shells on the Internet, along with tear-gas canisters and speed loaders. They can get the same high-capacity ammunition clips that infantry soldiers use. They can even get bulletproof vests and SWAT helmets. All without fear of a single background check.

No one is paying attention to whether buyers have criminal histories or mental-health records. No one is monitoring bulk sales of ammunition to see who might be building an arsenal. Even after a young man in Colorado buys 6,000 rounds by mail order and uses them to commit mass murder, it is the rare politician who proposes to make the tools of terror slightly harder to obtain.

Michael E. Webber: Will Drought Cause the Next Blackout?

WE’RE now in the midst of the nation’s most widespread drought in 60 years, stretching across 29 states and threatening farmers, their crops and livestock. But there is another risk as water becomes more scarce. Power plants may be forced to shut down, and oil and gas production may be threatened.

Our energy system depends on water. About half of the nation’s water withdrawals every day are just for cooling power plants. In addition, the oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day, injecting water into aging oil fields to improve production, and to free natural gas in shale formations through hydraulic fracturing. Those numbers are not large from a national perspective, but they can be significant locally.

Noam Chomsky: Destroying the Commons: How the Magna Carta Became a Minor Carta

Down the road only a few generations, the millennium of Magna Carta, one of the great events in the establishment of civil and human rights, will arrive. Whether it will be celebrated, mourned, or ignored is not at all clear.

That should be a matter of serious immediate concern. What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine what kind of world will greet that event. It is not an attractive prospect if present tendencies persist — not least, because the Great Charter is being shredded before our eyes.

The first scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone. It was not an easy task. There was no good text available. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats” — a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

Dean Baker: Raising the Minimum Wage Is Cheap and Easy

There are some policies that are pretty much no-brainers. We all agree that the Food and Drug Administration should keep dangerous drugs off the market. We all agree that the government should provide police and fire protection. And, we pretty much all agree that workers should be able to count on at least some minimal pay for a day’s work.

The minimum wage is non-controversial. The vast majority of people across the political spectrum support the minimum wage. In fact, one of the big accomplishments of the Gingrich Congress in 1996 was a 22 percent increase in the minimum wage. The only real issue is how high it should be. There are good reasons for believing that the minimum wage should be considerably higher than it is today.

Chris Hedges: The Greatest Crimes Against Humanity Are Perpetrated by People Just Doing Their Jobs

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

Jul 24 2012

Austerity Insanity

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

~Albert Einstein~

Europe losing battle against debt crisis

Europe is fighting losing battles on two fronts. The debt crisis which began in Greece almost three years ago has spread to other countries. The recovery from the global financial crisis is ending, and the region will be in recession during the rest of the year. To combat the debt crisis, Greece, Ireland and Portugal have received bailout funds from the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (the “troika”), but are required to reduce borrowing through cuts in spending and higher taxes. To offset the recessionary impact of the fiscal tightening, the ECB has repeatedly eased monetary policy to encourage lending to the private sector.

Neither measure has worked as intended. The eurozone’s latest unemployment figure of 11.1 per cent in May is the highest in the euro era. Spain, the country recording the region’s highest unemployment rate of 24.6 per cent, announced a €65bn fiscal tightening programme this month. The new austerity measures will result in a deeper recession and even higher unemployment.

On the monetary front, the ECB implemented two repurchase agreements totalling €1tn with the region’s banks. While the aim was to ease the liquidity crisis that the banks experienced in November, the ECB move had the perverse impact of making those banks the principal purchasers of their own governments’ debt as foreign investors exited. This raises the risk for banks in case their governments default on their debt, or restructure payments. After a cut in the deposit rate the ECB pays the banks to zero on July 5, the central bank expected the banks to increase loans. Instead, they appear to be sitting on the funds.

The austerity measures that Germany has insisted on imposing on financially strapped countries as a requirement for bailing out the banks that caused it all, is coming back to bite the hand that fed it.

Germany Under Cloud From Euro Zone Woes

FRANKFURT – Germany’s stellar credit rating has been thrown into doubt because of the cost of holding together the euro zone, potentially making it more difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel to muster political support to aid Greece and Spain.

Moody’s Investors Service said late Monday that it was changing the outlook on Germany, as well as on the Netherlands and Luxembourg, to “negative,” citing what it said was an increased risk that those countries will have to bear the cost of propping up Spain and Italy.

That helped push up borrowing costs Tuesday for both Germany and Spain ahead of talks late in the day between the finance ministers of both countries in Berlin.

While Germany’s bond yields remain near record lows, Spain’s have reached levels that are considered unsustainable for long, raising fears that it will have to ask for aid that its European partners cannot afford.

Austerity’s Big Winners Prove To Be Wall Street And The Wealthy

Governments in Europe, most notably the United Kingdom, have also pursued tax cuts for the rich while imposing austerity measures on the working classes. And the European financier class has benefited even more directly than their American counterparts from these budgets.

Every time the European Union has reached a crisis point on the debt carried by Greece or Spain, EU leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have come to the rescue with bailout funds. That money goes to the banks that own Greek and Spanish debt, whose holdings would take a hit if either country were unable to repay. But the bailout comes with harsh austerity requirements intended to encourage budgetary discipline, so it’s ordinary citizens who end up taking the hit. The most vulnerable populations are harmed by the bailouts, while the well-paid financial professionals who made the deals to finance Greek and Spanish deficits in the first place continue profiting handsomely.

“Imposing pain on Greeks is … a blood price for the ever-repeated bailouts whose actual beneficiaries are said to be Greeks, but are in fact French and German bankers,” said (James) Galbraith.

Eventually it will all come to an end. Then what?

Jul 24 2012

On This Day In History July 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

July 24 is the 205th day of the year (206th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 160 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1911, Machu Picchu discovered

American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911, when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.

Traveling on foot and by mule, Bingham and his team made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, where a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day–July 24–after a tough climb to the mountain’s ridge in cold and drizzly weather, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate network of stone terraces marking the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area. The latter had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.

Hiram Bingham theorized that the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns”. More recent research by scholars such as John Howland Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas.

Johan Reinhard believes Machu Picchu to be a sacred religious site. This theory stands mainly because of where Machu Picchu is located. Reinhard calls it “sacred geography” because the site is built on and around mountains that hold high religious importance in the Inca culture and in the previous culture that occupied the land. At the highest point of the mountain in which Machu Picchu was named after, there are “artificial platforms [and] these had a religious function, as is clear from the Inca ritual offerings found buried under them” (Reinhard 2007). These platforms also are found in other Incan religious sites. The site’s other stone structures have finely worked stones with niches and, from what the “Spaniards wrote about Inca sites, we know that these (types of) building(s) were of ritual significance” (Reinhard 2007). This would be the most convincing evidence that Reinhard points out because this type of stylistic stonework is only found at the religious sites so it would be natural that they would exist at this religious site. Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca llaqta, a settlement built to control the economy of conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. An alternative theory is that it is an agricultural testing station. Different types of crops could be tested in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces; these were not large enough to grow food on a large scale, but may have been used to determine what could grow where. Another theory suggests that the city was built as an abode for the deities, or for the coronation of kings

Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and few outsiders knew of its existence.

Jul 24 2012

Climate Change Is a Hot Commodity

Amidst the worst drought in 50 years, Up host Chris Hayes discusses climate change on the price of food. Joining Chris are:

Bryn Bird, second-generation farmer in Granville, Ohio at Bird’s Haven Farms.  She is also a field outreach coordinator for Rural Coalition;

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” and syndicated columnist for King Features;

Josh Barro (@jbarro), contributor to Forbes.com with “The Barrometer;”

Stacy-Marie Ishmael (@s_m_i), adjunct professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, former editor of “FT Tilt;”

Gary Gensler (@cftc), chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission since May 2009. Gensler previously served as the under-secretary of domestic finance at the Treasury Department.