Daily Archive: 12/09/2012

Dec 09 2012

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert

Hire Learning

According to a rare bit of journalism in the New York Post, there is a growing trend of parents hiring tutors to do a little more than just toot.

Dec 09 2012

On This Day In History December 9

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.

December 9 is the 343rd day of the year (344th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 22 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1861, The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is established by the U.S. Congress.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a United States Congressional investigating committee created to handle issues surrounding the American Civil War. It was established on December 9, 1861, following the embarrassing Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah T. Chandler of Michigan, and continued until May 1865. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate states, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses. The Committee was also involved in supporting the war effort through various means, including endorsing emancipation, the use of black soldiers, and the appointment of generals who were known to be aggressive fighters. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, and became identified with the Radical Republicans who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln.

History

Union officers often found themselves in an uncomfortable position before the Committee. Since this was a civil war, pitting neighbor against neighbor (and sometimes brother against brother), the loyalty of a soldier to the Union was simple to question. And since Union forces had very poor luck against their Confederate counterparts early in the war, particularly in the Eastern Theater battles that held the attention of the newspapers and Washington politicians, it was easy to accuse an officer of being a traitor after he lost a battle or was slow to engage or pursue the enemy. This politically charged atmosphere was very difficult and distracting for career military officers. Officers who were not known Republicans felt the most pressure before the Committee.

During the committee’s existence, it held 272 meetings and received testimony in Washington and at other locations, often from military officers. Though the committee met and held hearings in secrecy, the testimony and related exhibits were published at irregular intervals in the numerous committee reports of its investigations. The records include the original manuscripts of certain postwar reports that the committee received from general officers. There are also transcripts of testimony and accounting records regarding the military administration of Alexandria, Virginia.

One of the most colorful series of committee hearings followed the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, where Union Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, a former congressman, accused Maj. Gen. George G. Meade of mismanaging the battle, planning to retreat from Gettysburg prior to his victory there, and failing to pursue and defeat Robert E. Lee‘s army as it retreated. This was mostly a self-serving effort on Sickles’s part because he was trying to deflect criticism from his own disastrous role in the battle. Bill Hyde notes that the committee’s report on Gettysburg was edited by Wade in ways that were unfavorable to Meade, even when that required distorting the evidence. The report was “a powerful propaganda weapon” (p. 381), but the committee’s power had waned by the time the final testimony was taken of William T. Sherman on May 22, 1865.

The war it was investigating completed, the committee ceased to exist after this last testimony, and the final reports were published shortly thereafter. The later Joint Committee on Reconstruction represented a similar attempt to check executive power by the Radical Republicans.

Dec 09 2012

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis 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

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Steve Kornacki will be filling in for Chris Hayes. Joining him at 8 AM ET will be: Dan Savage (@fakedansavage), nationally syndicated sex advice columnist and co-founder of the It Gets Better Project; Neera Tanden (@neeratanden), president and CEO of  the Center for American Progress; David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ), Reuters columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of “Author, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill)” and distinguished visiting lecturer at the Syracuse University College of Law; Mike Pesca (@pescami), sports correspondent for National Public Radio; Avik Roy (@aviksaroy), former member of Mitt Romney’s health care policy advisory group, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes The Apothecary, a blog on health-care and entitlement reform, for Forbes.com; David Cullen, author of the New York Times bestseller “Columbine;” Stephen Barton, survivor of the Aurora, Colorado shooting and outreach policy associate for Mayors Against Illegal Guns; and Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh), MSNBC political analyst, editor at large of Salon.com, and author of “What’s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never Was.”

This Week with George Stephanopolis: There will be two round tables on “This Week”. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., face off on the stalled fiscal cliff negotiations.

The second roundtable will debate all the week’s politics, with political odd couple James Carville and Mary Matalin, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and ABC News’ George Will and Matthew Dowd.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D). He’ll be joined on the roundtable with TIME Magazine‘s Joe Klein, Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett and CBS This Morning Co-host Norah O’Donnell on what to look for in the coming week of negotiations at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

The Chris Matthews Show: Chris Matthews’ panel guests this Sunday are Michelle Caruso-Cabrera; David Ignatius, The Washington Post Columnist; John Harris, Politico Editor-in-Chief; and Kelly O’Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent.

Meet the Press with David Gregory:  MTP guests are Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate Dick Durbin and top lieutenant to House Speaker Boehner, California Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

The roundtable guests are  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA); Bloomberg White House Correspondent who interviewed President Obama this week, Julianna Goldman; NY Times White House Correspondent Helene Cooper; Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward; and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are  Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). She also has an exclusive interview with IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde. Joining her for a roundtable discussion are Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal, Jackie Calmes of The New York Times, Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics and CNN’s Sr. Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dec 09 2012

The Great Debate on the Grand Sell Out of Medicare

Whether you voted for Barack Obama or not, the reality is he is on the same path he was on for the last four years and that is to sell out the majority of Americans to reach a “bargain” with Republicans, who lost the election, on the mythical “fiscal cliff” and the  unconstitutional “debt ceiling.” Part of that sell out is raising the eligibility age for Medicare recipients to 67. This little nugget has started a “great debate” and a bit of an internet dispute about whether or not this is a good, or even workable, idea.

In his article at AMERICAblog our friend Gaius Publius, who is just reporting it, quotes Paul Krugman’s reaction on his NY Times blog to Ezra Klein’s commentary in The Washington Post on Jonathan Chait’s article in The New Yorker, who thinks that raising the eligibility age by two years is an OK idea. What the Herr Doktor said:

Ezra Klein says that the shape of a fiscal cliff deal is clear: only a 37 percent rate on top incomes, and a rise in the Medicare eligibility age. [..]

First, raising the Medicare age is terrible policy. It would be terrible policy even if the Affordable Care Act were going to be there in full force for 65 and 66 year olds, because it would cost the public $2 for every dollar in federal funds saved. And in case you haven’t noticed, Republican governors are still fighting the ACA tooth and nail; if they block the Medicaid expansion, as some will, lower-income seniors will just be pitched into the abyss.

Second, why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what. [..]

All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?

If anyone in the White House is seriously thinking along these lines, please stop it right now.

Meanwhile, Chait’s article, Go Ahead, Raise the Medicare Retirement Age, prompted David Dayen’s response at FDL and the Wanker of the Day Award from Atrios.

Dayen’s critique prompted some poutrage from Chait and Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly, who was more concerned about “tone” than the consequences of raising Medicare’s eligibiliy age.

Which resulted in Dayens’ response to Chait, the ill informed Ezra Klein comment agreeing with Chait that the Affordable Care Act would “blunt the pain,” and a hat tip to Kilgore’s pique about “tone.”

Meanwhile, Karoli at Crooks & Liars gets it in her response to Klein’s interview with Peter Orzag, former director of the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget, currently Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup:

Listen Up, White House! Take Medicare Eligibility Age Off The Table NOW.:

Raising the Medicare eligibility age is terrible, awful, horrible policy that plays right into the Republicans’ goal of killing Medicare altogether. Obamacare does not change that fact in substantive ways. Here’s why, in bullets:

  • Adverse selection – Obamacare or no Obamacare, raising the eligibility age means people enter the Medicare system with a higher likelihood of health problems. Even if they have health insurance before they’re eligible for Medicare, facts are facts: The older one gets, the more likely health problems become.
  • Administrative costs – Medicare’s administrative costs consistently come out to about 7 percent. Obamacare allows for administrative costs of 15 percent. Extending coverage via Obamacare means higher, not lower, costs to the government and the middle class. Subsidies will cost more for that older group as well as for the younger group, since insurers will set a higher baseline on young people in order to pad reserves for older people because of the 3:1 ratio requirement on rates between youngest and oldest.
  • Workforce phase-outs of older employees – This is the dirty little elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about. Because of the high demand for jobs right now, older employees are being shoved phased out earlier. Beginning at around age 50 to 55, jobs become scarce for older workers, leaving them with a 10-15 year gap before they become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. That means they’re living on their savings, home equity, or odd jobs just to scratch their way to the social safety net. Moving that football means leaving them on the hook for 2 extra years, not only for living expenses, but also covering their health insurance, whether or not subsidized.

[..]I’ve been told by some pragmatic liberals who I usually agree with that I’m being unreasonable on this point. I beg to differ. It is not reasonable for Peter Orszag to say we’ve gotten a concession from Republicans because privatizing Social Security is off the table entirely. That’s a little like saying we’re really lucky that they’re holding the gun to our hearts instead of our heads. The impact of conceding any ground on Medicare eligibility is immeasurably negative for Democrats.

HELLO, Barack, raising the eligibility age for Medicare is a really bad idea.

Dec 09 2012

What We Now Know

Up host Chris Hayes outlines what we’ve learned since the week began, including details from a new World Bank report that suggests region s on North Africa and much of the Middle East will suffer more severely from the effects of climate change. Joining him on Saturday’s Up with Chris Hayes are Robert Freling, executive director of the Solar Electric Light Fund; Katie McGinty, senior vice president and managing director, Strategic Growth at Weston Solutions, Inc.; David Roberts (@drgrist), staff writer on energy politics at Grist.org; and Shalini Ramanathan (@UnGranola), vice president of development at RES Americas and Next Generation Project Fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

Facing Up to the Threat of Climate Change in the Arab World

   

  • Consequences of climate change especially acute in the Arab world
  • Traditional coping methods severely stressed by current rate of climate change
  • Actions needed to reduce vulnerability also contribute to sustainable development

The year 2010 was globally the warmest since records began in the late 1800s, with 19 countries setting new national temperature highs. Five of these were Arab countries, including Kuwait, which set a new record at 52.6 °C in 2010, only to be followed by 53.5 °C in 2011.

According to a new report, Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries, extreme weather events are the new norm for the region. The consequences of the global phenomenon of climate change are especially acute in the Arab world.  While the region has been adapting to changes in rainfall and temperature for thousands of years, the speed with which the climate is now changing has, in many cases, outstripped traditional coping mechanisms.

Climate change is a reality for people in Arab countries,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa region. “It affects everyone – especially the poor who are least able to adapt – and as the climate becomes ever more extreme, so will its impacts on people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. The time to take action at both the national and regional level in order to increase climate resilience is now.

To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios

by Justin Gillis

SWARTHMORE, Pa. – A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

As they consider how to ratchet up their campaign, the students suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of a national movement.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

How Cellphone Companies Have Resisted Rules for Disasters

by Cora Currier, ProPublica, Dec. 3, 2012

In a natural disaster or other emergency, one of the first things you’re likely to reach for is your cellphone. Landlines are disappearing. More than 30 percent of American households now rely exclusively on cellphones.

Despite that, cell carriers have successfully pushed back against rules on what they have to do in a disaster. The carriers instead insist that emergency standards should be voluntary, an approach the Federal Communications Commission has gone along with.

After Hurricane Katrina, for instance, carriers successfully opposed a federal rule that would have required them to have 24-hours of backup power on cell towers. In another instance, an FCC program to track crucial information during an emergency – such as which areas are down and the status of efforts to bring the network back – remains entirely voluntary. Nor is the information collected made public.

After Sandy, when thousands roamed the streets looking for service, many had no idea where they could get a signal. AT&T and Sprint, among the major carriers, didn’t initially release details on what portion of their network was down.