Daily Archive: 12/28/2012

Dec 28 2012

Jump

Figured I’d hop onto the cliche bandwagon with this clip. I expect it will be well worn segue music on the cable channels soon if not already.

I was never a Van Halen fan but I remember this tune well. Embarrassing as it is to admit, it was very popular back when I was in high school.

My money is on a grand betrayal before January 1st anyway.

Van Halen, Jump, 1984

Songwriters: DUPRI, JERMAINE/WEBSTER, GREGORY ALLEN/PIERCE, MARVIN R

Vocals: David Lee Roth

Guitar: Eddie Van Halen

Bass: Michael Anthony

Drums: Alex Van Halen

(Words by Van Halen)

To spare your ears I’ve posted the lyrics below-

Dec 28 2012

Secret Surveillance Continued for Five More Years

Obama FISA? While Congress is stalled on the great fiscal myth negotiations, on thing that both houses are have agreed is unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance. This morning, the Senate extended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for another five years, rejecting amendments that would have reined in some of the worst abuses. The White House had pushed for a quick, “clean” reauthorization without any amendments before the bill’s Dec. 31 expiration date. The amended FISA was passed in 2008 to retroactively cover Bush-era domestic surveillance and give immunity to the telecommunication companies that participated.

Kevin Gosztola at FDL‘s Dissenter summarizes the amendments that were defeated:

the Senate voted on amendments put forward during the day’s debate: (Sen. Ron) Wyden’s oversight and transparency amendment, which would request a rough estimate or any information the NSA has on the collection of Americans’ communications; the (Sen Jeff) Merkley FISA Court Amendment, which would require FISA court rulings to be declassified in some way and released to the public; the (Patrick) Leahy Sunset Amendment, which would shorten the length of the law’s reauthorization to three years; and an amendment put forward by Sen. Rand Paul to “all US communications, whether sought by US intelligence agencies like the NSA or any government agency, are protected against unwarranted searches and seizures-even if they are held by third party email providers like Google.”

The Leahy Amendment failed to pass 38-52. The Senate voted on Merkley’s amendment immediately after. It failed to pass 37-54. Rand Paul’s amendment (which Feinstein said would’ve repealed the FISA Amendments Act) failed to pass.

The amendment by Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) was defeated this morning.

Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian describes the Senate floor show by the Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) did her best blustering imitation of Vice President Dick Cheney’s fear mongering:

Feinstein insisted that one could support their amendments only if “you believe that no one is going to attack us”. She warned that their amendments would cause “another 9/11”. She rambled about Najibullah Zazi and his attempt to detonate a bomb on the New York City subway: as though a warrant requirement, let alone disclosure requirements for the eavesdropping program, would have prevented his detection. Having learned so well from Rudy Giuliani (and Harry Reid), she basically just screamed “Terrorist!” and “9/11” over and over until her time ran out, and then proudly sat down as though she had mounted rational arguments against the transparency and oversight amendments advocated by Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul.

Even more notably, Feinstein repeatedly argued that requiring even basic disclosure about the eavesdropping program – such as telling Americans how many of them are targeted by it – would, as she put it, “destroy the program”. But if “the program” is being conducted properly and lawfully, why would that kind of transparency kill the program? As the ACLU’s Richardson noted: “That Sen. Feinstein says public oversight will lead to the end of the program says a lot about the info that’s being hidden.” In response to her warnings that basic oversight and transparency would destroy the program, Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer similarly asked: “Why, if it’s all on the up and up?”

All of this was accomplished with the core Bush/Cheney tactic used over and over: they purposely waited until days before the law is set to expire to vote on its renewal, then told anyone who wants reforms that there is no time to consider them, and that anyone who attempted debate would cause the law to expire and risk a Terrorist attack. Over and over yesterday, Feinstein stressed that only “four days remained” before the law expires and that any attempts even to debate the law, let alone amend it, would leave the nation vulnerable.

President Obama was opposed to FISA before he voted for it as a senator. This is not the “change” we should be supporting.

Ben Franklin would be disgusted with President Obama and this congress.  

Dec 28 2012

Viewing Movies: Who Else Besides Me Really Misses the Old Days?

There was a time when moviegoing here in the United States (and probably throughout the world) was considered a real pasttime and a big deal for many people, whether one went to the movies with family, friends, or even solo.  Yet, at the time when that was the case, going solo wasn’t the cool thing to do, so, due to my relative social isolation when I was growing up,  plus the fact that I lived in an idyllic suburban town with no adequate public transportation, plus I didn’t learn to drive and get my driver’s license until around Christmastime 1968, as a high school Senior, plus since I drove one of the family cars (a 1963 Buick Jalopy station wagon), I was limited as to how much I was allowed to use the family car.   I’ll also add that getting a driver’s license, particularly among suburban kids (like myself), was considered a rite of passage, if one gets the drift.  Most of the kids where I went to high school, and certainly in my grade, got their licenses by the summer before they entered their Junior year of high school, but was a year late in getting my driver’s license.  I had sort of a rocky start, but I mellowed out, and became a more confident driver.  

When I finally graduated from high school in late June of 1969, I was pleasantly surprised by a home-made certificate (by my sister, who was still quite ill, but managed to do stuff and go to my graduation, anyway) stating that I was entitled to one little auto.  It turned out that my grandparents were giving me a car.  I tried some cars when I visited  my grandparents (who’re now both deceased), who lived out West, and decided on a Toyota Corona, with a 4-gear & reverse Stick shift car.  It was then that I began to taste freedom, and was able to get around pretty much anywhere.  Having a car represented freedom, independence and responsibility.  It was still a rocky start, but everything mellowed out and fell into place after awhile here, as well.  

Dec 28 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

Paul Krugman; Is Growth Over?

The great bulk of the economic commentary you read in the papers is focused on the short run: the effects of the “fiscal cliff” on U.S. recovery, the stresses on the euro, Japan’s latest attempt to break out of deflation. This focus is understandable, since one global depression can ruin your whole day. But our current travails will eventually end. What do we know about the prospects for long-run prosperity?

The answer is: less than we think.

The long-term projections produced by official agencies, like the Congressional Budget Office, generally make two big assumptions. One is that economic growth over the next few decades will resemble growth over the past few decades. In particular, productivity – the key driver of growth – is projected to rise at a rate not too different from its average growth since the 1970s. On the other side, however, these projections generally assume that income inequality, which soared over the past three decades, will increase only modestly looking forward.

New York Times: Time to Confront Climate Change

Four years ago, in sharp contrast to the torpor and denial of the George W. Bush years, President Obama described climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing challenges and pledged an all-out effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions. [..]

Since his re-election, Mr. Obama has agreed to foster a “conversation” on climate change and an “education process” about long-term steps to address it. He needs to do a good deal more than that. Intellectually, Mr. Obama grasps the problem as well as anyone. The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.

Shannyn Moore: My Guns Are Less Regulated Than My Uterus

I’m old enough to remember when the NRA was invited into our schools to educate students on gun safety. Yes, I’m old, and I grew up in rural Alaska, but the NRA as an institution has changed as much as everything else has since then. It now operates as a lobby for gun manufacturers rather than for responsible gun owners who grew up with the traditions of hunting and shooting. [..]

In Alaska, many of us need guns to fill our freezers, but if you need a 30-round clip you’re a pretty poor hunter. If you are hoarding automatic (yes, they are legal) or semi-automatic weapons, you need Viagra. [..]

I’m not advocating for no guns. I like mine and am not about to give them up. But in this country, my uterus is more regulated than my guns. Birth control and reproductive health services are harder to get than bullets. What is that about? Guns don’t kill people — vaginas do?

When the cottonwood is flying and Alaskans are all lined up for Sudafed, we have to get it from a pharmacist, give them our identification, and the state keeps track of how much we’re consuming just so they’re sure we’re not running a meth lab. I get it, meth is bad, but I can buy bullets right off the shelf.

Dean Baker: Washington Post Pushes Mayan End of the World Story on “Fiscal Cliff”

Yes, the Washington Post is getting very worried that it will have egg all over its face if January 1 comes with no budget deal and we don’t get its promised recession. The paper pushed this line yet again, telling readers:

“Unless the House and the Senate can agree on a way to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” more than $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will take effect next year, potentially sparking a new recession.”

Of course the potential for a new recession does not refer to missing the January 1 deadline. It is the risk the country faces if we continue well into 2013 paying higher tax rates and with large cuts in spending. This is an enormously important distinction.

Trevor Timm: Why We Should All Care About Today’s Senate Vote on the FISA Amendments Act, the Warrantless Domestic Spying Bill

Today is an incredibly important vote for the future of your digital privacy, but some in Congress are hoping you won’t find out.

Finally, after weeks of delay, the Senate will start debate on the dangerous FISA Amendments Act at 10 am Eastern and vote on its re-authorization by the end of the day. The FISA Amendments Act is the broad domestic spying bill passed in 2008 in the wake of the warrantless wiretapping scandal. It expires at the end of the year and some in Congress wanted to re-authorize it without a minute of debate.

The good news is-thanks for your phone calls, emails, and tweets-Congress will now be forced to debate it, which means we can affect its outcome. [..]

Any Senator who wants to stay true to the Constitution should vote no on its re-authorization, but in the alternative, there are four common sense amendments up for debate today that would go a long-way in curbing the law’s worst abuses

Joe Conason: Veterans Denounce Neoconservative ‘Swiftboating’ of Chuck Hagel

If Chuck Hagel is nominated by President Obama to serve as Secretary of Defense, there will be at least three compelling arguments in his favor. He served with distinction in the military and would, like Secretary of State nominee John Kerry, bring a veteran’s perspective to his post. He has adopted and articulated a sane perspective on the grave foreign policy blunders whose consequences still haunt the nation, including the Iraq and Vietnam wars. And as we have learned ever since his nomination was first floated, he has made all the right (and right-wing) enemies. [..]

The “swiftboating” of Hagel is being mobilized by the likes of William Kristol, the “Weekly Standard” editor, who managed to avoid service in Vietnam but still believes that bloody tragedy was a great idea. Kristol and his ilk have been so wrong about every policy issue over the past four decades that their angry opposition to Hagel is a sterling endorsement of him.

Dec 28 2012

The True Meaning of Christmas

Shoppers disappoint retailers this holiday season

By DANIEL WAGNER, Associated Press

Wed, Dec 26, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. holiday sales so far this year have been the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession. That puts pressure on stores that now hope for a post-Christmas burst of spending.



But stores still have some time to make up lost ground. The final week of December accounts for about 15 percent of the month’s sales, said Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. And the day after Christmas typically is among the biggest shopping days of the year.



In New York, the Macy’s location at Herald Square also was buzzing with shoppers. Ulises Guzman, 30, a social worker, said he held off buying until the final days before Christmas, knowing the deals would get better as stores got desperate. He said he was expecting discounts of at least 50 percent.

He saw a coat he wanted at Banana Republic for $200 in the days before Christmas but decided to hold off on making a purchase; on Wednesday, he got it for $80.



Holiday sales are a crucial indicator of the economy’s strength. November and December account for up to 40 percent of annual revenue for many retailers. If those sales don’t materialize, stores are forced to offer steeper discounts. That’s a boon for shoppers, but it cuts into stores’ profits.

Spending by consumers accounts for 70 percent of overall economic activity, so the eight-week period encompassed by the SpendingPulse data is seen as a critical time not just for retailers but for manufacturers, wholesalers and companies at every other point along the supply chain.



Online sales, typically a bright spot, grew only 8.4 percent from Oct. 28 through Saturday, according to SpendingPulse. That’s a dramatic slowdown from the online sales growth of 15 to 17 percent seen in the prior 18-month period, according to the data service.

The Media Excuses Are Missing What’s Really Behind Weak Retail Sales

Lance Roberts, Street Talk Live, Business Insider

Dec. 27, 2012, 4:57 AM

The excuses for the weakness, however, were just as much off the mark as the original analysts’ estimates.

While these excuses may play well in the media, in reality, the fiscal cliff, end of October storm and the school shooting had very little to do with retail sales on a nationwide basis.  However, what does have much to do with the level of retail sales are incomes.

Not surprisingly when wages and salaries are growing at a slower rate there is a corresponding weakness in the level of retail sales.  The peak in wages and salaries occurred in early 2011 with the subsequent growth rate trending weaker.  This corresponds with the economy which has continued to muddle along at a very anemic pace.



The decline in incomes, which can be seen in the roughly 1.2 million person increase in food stamp participation from June to September, is why retail “holiday” spending is weaker.  With credit limits reduced, incomes stagnant and real costs of living on the rise – it is not surprising that retail sales are far weaker than the NRF’s holiday season predictions.

Dec 28 2012

On This Day In History December 28

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 28 is the 362nd day of the year (363rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are three days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1895, the first commercial movie is screened in Paris.

On this day in 1895, the world’s first commercial movie screening takes place at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The film was made by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, two French brothers who developed a camera-projector called the Cinematographe. The Lumiere brothers unveiled their invention to the public in March 1895 with a brief film showing workers leaving the Lumiere factory. On December 28, the entrepreneurial siblings screened a series of short scenes from everyday French life and charged admission for the first time.

Movie technology has its roots in the early 1830s, when Joseph Plateau of Belgium and Simon Stampfer of Austria simultaneously developed a device called the phenakistoscope, which incorporated a spinning disc with slots through which a series of drawings could be viewed, creating the effect of a single moving image. The phenakistoscope, considered the precursor of modern motion pictures, was followed by decades of advances and in 1890, Thomas Edison and his assistant William Dickson developed the first motion-picture camera, called the Kinetograph. The next year, 1891, Edison invented the Kinetoscope, a machine with a peephole viewer that allowed one person to watch a strip of film as it moved past a light.

In 1894, Antoine Lumiere, the father of Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), saw a demonstration of Edison’s Kinetoscope. The elder Lumiere was impressed, but reportedly told his sons, who ran a successful photographic plate factory in Lyon, France, that they could come up with something better. Louis Lumiere’s Cinematographe, which was patented in 1895, was a combination movie camera and projector that could display moving images on a screen for an audience. The Cinematographe was also smaller, lighter and used less film than Edison’s technology

The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas (19 October 1862, Besancon, France – 10 April 1954, Lyon) and Louis Jean (5 October 1864, Besancon, France – 6 June 1948, Bandol), were among the earliest filmmakers in history. (Appropriately, “lumière” translates as “light” in English.)

(In) 1862 and 1864, and moved to Lyon in 1870, where both attended La Martiniere, the largest technical school in Lyon. Their father, Claude-Antoine Lumière (1840-1911), ran a photographic firm and both brothers worked for him: Louis as a physicist and Auguste as a manager. Louis had made some improvements to the still-photograph process, the most notable being the dry-plate process, which was a major step towards moving images.

It was not until their father retired in 1892 that the brothers began to create moving pictures. They patented a number of significant processes leading up to their film camera – most notably film perforations (originally implemented by Emile Reynaud) as a means of advancing the film through the camera and projector. The cinèmatographe itself was patented on 13 February 1895 and the first footage ever to be recorded using it was recorded on March 19, 1895.

Their first public screening of films at which admission was charged was held on December 28, 1895, at Salon Indien du Grand Cafè in Paris. This history-making presentation featured ten short films, including their first film, Sortie des Usines Lumière a Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). Each film is 17 meters long, which, when hand cranked through a projector, runs approximately 50 seconds.

Dec 28 2012

Government’s Revolving Door

In a recent on air essay on his PBS program, Moyers & Company and an opinion piece at Huffington Post, Bill Moyers took a look at the revolving door of special interest groups and their lobbyists, how they win and the rest of us lose.

Washington’s Revolving Door Is Hazardous to Our Health

We’ve seen how Washington insiders write the rules of politics and the economy to protect powerful special interests but now, as we enter the holiday season, and a month or so after the election, we’re getting a refresher course in just how that inside game is played, gifts and all. In this round, Santa doesn’t come down the chimney — he simply squeezes his jolly old self through the revolving door. [..]

The last time we looked, 34 former staff members of Senator Baucus, whose finance committee has life and death power over the industry’s wish list, were registered lobbyists, more than a third of them working on health care issues in the private sector. And the revolving door spins ever faster after a big election like the one we had last month, as score of officials, elected representatives and their staffs vacate their offices after the ballots are counted. Many of them head for K Street and the highest bidder. [..]

Reforms were passed that are supposed to slow down the revolving door, increase transparency and limit the contact ex-officials and officeholders can have with their former colleagues. But those rules and regulations have loopholes big enough for Santa and his sleigh to drive through, reindeer included. The market keeps growing for insiders poised to make a killing when they leave government to help their new bosses get what they want from government. That’s the great thing about the revolving door: one good turn deserves another.

The door continues to spin with the latest exodus from Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). DSWright at FDL‘s News Desk has the latest:

Step right up and Spin the Revolving Door – and what is your prize? Why, a nice job on Wall Street working for the people you used to regulate – you wrote in the loopholes, now you get the cash for exploiting them! [..]

Many Americans understood that the Dodd-Frank “reforms” were mostly worthless. They will not prevent another crisis or another massive TARP type bailout as the law did absolutely nothing about Too Big To Fail banks (which have actually gotten bigger).

This should not have been a surprise given one of the law’s namesakes, Senator Chris Dodd, was caught red handed getting special loans from perhaps the worst offender in irresponsible mortgage origination – Countrywide. Senator Dodd barely survived an ethics investigation from his similarly compromised colleagues.

But what critics may not have understood was that Dodd-Frank was apparently a jobs program for politically connected staffers.

The last count of lobbyists, as of October, directly involved in advising the president, a member of his cabinet or campaign staff is 55.