Daily Archive: 08/26/2013

Aug 26 2013

Syria: Moving Closer to Military Intervention

Warning: Pictures and videos contained in the links are graphic and disturbing. They may not be suitable for viewing by the squeamish, young children or in the workplace.

The United States and Great Britain moved closer to military intervention in the Syrian uprising after it was revealed that chemical agents were used in the suburbs of Damascus the killed at least 355 and injured thousands. The action is unlikely to gain the imprimatur of the UN or full NATO support, since, with the Syrian government and rebel groups blaming each other, there is no “smoking gun” on which side used the weapons.

Syria crisis: UK and US move closer to intervention

by Nicholas Watt, The Guardian

Foreign secretary says Britain and allies could intervene in Syria without the authority of United Nations

Britain and the US are inching towards a military attack against the regime of Bashar al-Assad after William Hague said all other options have failed over the past year.

As the Syrian president said the US would face failure if it intervened in his country, the UK foreign secretary said Britain and its allies could intervene without the authority of the UN. [..]

General Sir Nick Houghton, the chief of the defence staff, is to discuss military options with his US counterpart, General Martin Dempsey, and other allied military chiefs at a summit in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Russia and China are likely to veto any UN security council resolution authorising military action, but Hague said such a move could be legal under international law even without UN approval.

Obama likely to resist Syria military intervention regardless of UN findings

by Paul Lewis, The Guardian

White House official says administration will struggle to prove Assad regime ordered chemical attack to a ‘legal standard’

A senior US administration official said over the weekend that there is “very little doubt” that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in an incident that killed at least a hundred people last week.

However Gary Samore, the White House’s co-ordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction until earlier this year, said that the administration will struggle to prove the Syrian government ordered the attack to a “legal standard”.

Both the US and the UK are determined to place the onus of the attack on the Assad government, however, there remains a lot of questions. In a post at Washintons Blog, numerous experts expressed their doubts

From an AFP article

   “At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

   “In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

   John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.

   “Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them show pinpoint pupils… this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents,” he said.

   Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specialises in chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses in its stockpiles.

   “We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses… are becoming fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,” Winfield told AFP.

At the blog What Really Happened, Michael Rivero had some serious questions:

1. Why would Syria’s Assad invite United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to Syria, then launch a chemical weapons attack against women and children on the very day they arrive, just miles from where they are staying?

2. If Assad were going to use chemical weapons, wouldn’t he use them against the hired mercenary army trying to oust him? What does he gain attacking women and children? Nothing! The gain is all on the side of the US Government desperate to get the war agenda going again.

As I type these words, US trained and equipped forces are already across the border into Syria, and US naval forces are sailing into position to launch a massive cruise missile attack into Syria that will surely kill more Syrians than were claimed to have died in the chemical attack.

Another question that was posed by Ryan Dawson, ” Why would Assad need to use chemical weapons when he has all but defeated the hired mercenaries using conventional forces?”

Good question.

After having come under sniper fire, UN inspectors gained access to one of the hospitals in the area where the attack occurred.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he had instructed his top disarmament official, Angela Kane, who was visiting Damascus, to register a “strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces” to ensure the safety of the inspectors after the assault. There was no indication that any member of the inspection team had been hurt.

Mr. Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at a regular daily briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York that the assailants, who had not been identified, fired on the first vehicle in the convoy, which was “hit in its tires and its front window, ultimately it was not able to travel further.”

Mr. Haq said the inspectors, who numbered about a dozen, resumed their trip to a suspected attack site in a Damascus suburb after the vehicle was replaced, visiting two hospitals and interviewing witnesses, survivors and doctors. “They took a number of relevant samples, they feel very satisfied with the results of their work,” Mr. Haq said. A second visit was planned for Tuesday.

The rush to intervene has been tempered with some push back from Congress. While Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have urged President Barack Obama to “become more engaged” in the region. However, both sides of the aisle are looking to force the president to seek congressional insight and approval before military action is taken. They do urge that non-military aid be continued. As reported in a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 60% of Americans are against intervention.

Intervention in the Middle East by western nations has not moved the region toward stability. If anything, it has made has destabilized the region and fueled terrorist attacks in those countries and around the world. If anything there is an urgent need for caution until it can be determined who used these weapons.

Aug 26 2013

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

Jeff Jarvis: As a Democrat, I am disgusted with President Obama

I voted for Obama reluctantly, but never did I imagine he would become another Richard Nixon

What are you thinking, Mr President?

Is this really the legacy you want for yourself: the chief executive who trampled rights, destroyed privacy, heightened secrecy, ruined trust, and worst of all, did not defend but instead detoured around so many of the fundamental principles on which this country is founded?

And I voted for you. I’ll confess you were a second choice. I supported Hillary Clinton first. I said at the time that your rhetoric about change was empty and that I feared you would be another Jimmy Carter: aggressively ineffectual.

Never did I imagine that you would instead become another Richard Nixon: imperial, secretive, vindictive, untrustworthy, inexplicable.

Dave Zirin: Seeing ‘New Jim Crow’ Placards Seized by Police & More From the March on Washington

I spent eight hours today amongst thousands at the March on Washington, and the people present were some of the most remarkable, resilient people I have ever had the privilege to be around. The number-one face on T-shirts, placards, and even homemade drawings was not President Obama or even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was Trayvon Martin. I also witnessed homemade signs calling for jobs programs, speaking out against the school closures and in solidarity with those overseas victimized by US militarism. The people at this march are the face of resistance to what Dr. King called the “evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism.” [..]

The day was symbolized for me on multiple levels by seeing DC Park police seize 200 professionally printed placards from activists that were distributing them for free. The placards read, “Stop Mass Incarceration. Stop the new Jim Crow.” Police said that it was “unlawful solicitation”, even though organizers were clearly giving them away. When those having their signs seized complained, they were threatened with fines or arrest. I heard one DC police officer say, “Hey, you can get them back at the end of the day. On second thought, given your attitude you cannot. ”

I have never seen free placards confiscated at a national gathering by DC police. Then again, I’ve also never seen a demonstration so thickly monitored, with park police, the Department of Homeland Security and the military on every corner.

Paul Krugman: The Decline of E-Empires

Steve Ballmer’s surprise announcement that he will be resigning as Microsoft’s C.E.O. has set off a huge flood of commentary. Being neither a tech geek nor a management guru, I can’t add much on those fronts. I do, however, think I know a bit about economics, and I also read a lot of history. So the Ballmer announcement has me thinking about network externalities and Ibn Khaldun. And thinking about these things, I’d argue, can help ensure that we draw the right lessons from this particular corporate upheaval. [..]

First, about network externalities: Consider the state of the computer industry circa 2000, when Microsoft’s share price hit its peak and the company seemed utterly dominant. Remember the T-shirts depicting Bill Gates as a Borg (part of the hive mind from “Star Trek”), with the legend, “Resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated”? Remember when Microsoft was at the center of concerns about antitrust enforcement?

The odd thing was that nobody seemed to like Microsoft’s products. By all accounts, Apple computers were better than PCs using Windows as their operating system. Yet the vast majority of desktop and laptop computers ran Windows. Why?

Anat R. Admati: We’re All Still Hostages to the Big Banks

NEARLY five years after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers touched off a global financial crisis, we are no safer. Huge, complex and opaque banks continue to take enormous risks that endanger the economy. From Washington to Berlin, banking lobbyists have blocked essential reforms at every turn. Their efforts at obfuscation and influence-buying are no surprise. What’s shameful is how easily our leaders have caved in, and how quickly the lessons of the crisis have been forgotten.

We will never have a safe and healthy global financial system until banks are forced to rely much more on money from their owners and shareholders to finance their loans and investments. Forget all the jargon, and just focus on this simple rule.

William K. Black: Bhide: Pick a ‘Boring’ Fed Chair Because Supervision Is the Key and It Requires ‘Dullness’

There have been a flurry of columns by economists and finance scholars claiming that Obama has decided that the next Fed Chair needs to be a strong supervisor and supporting that decision. Why, when, and how Obama underwent such a miraculous “Road to Damascus” conversion to favor vigorous regulation, supervision, and prosecution given the fact that early in his term he promoted Timothy Geithner and reappointed Ben Bernanke – two of the most spectacular supervisory failures in history – is never explained. Why this zeal for vigorous supervision only applies to the Fed is never explained. Why the economists and finance scholars suddenly (again, with the exception of Prasch) support making tough supervision a top priority of the new Fed Chair is never explained convincingly. Perhaps there was an entire caravan of economist traveling with Obama on the Road to Damascus.

Dean Baker: The Machines Displacing Middle Wage Jobs: Don’t Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Comforting Story

We are hearing endless accounts of how technology is displacing middle wage jobs (e.g. see the piece by David Autor and David Dorn in the NYT today). That would be work like manfacturing jobs, bookkeeping jobs, and other jobs that used to provide a middle class standard of living. It’s a comforting story for the people who control the media, but it happens not to be true.

The story told by Autor and Dorn is that technology displaces these jobs putting downward pressure on the wages of formerly middle class workers. At the same time it creates more jobs for the people who program the machines, hence we see higher wages for high end workers.

John Nochols: ‘New York Times’ to New York Democrats: Get Over That ‘Hope and Idealism’

The editors of The New York Times wanted everyone to read their endorsement of Christine Quinn for the Democratic nomination for mayor of the nation’s largest city. [..]

So, in a Democratic primary, the Times encourages voters to back the candidate who is most like a term-limited former Republican who was last re-elected as an independent.

Translation: for New York Democrats who are satisfied with the status quo, there’s a way to keep on keeping on.

Aug 26 2013

On This Day In History August 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.

August 26 is the 238th day of the year (239th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 127 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1920, The 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. The amendment was the culmination of more than 70 years of struggle by woman suffragists. Its two sections read simply:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” and “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

America’s woman suffrage movement was founded in the mid 19th century by women who had become politically active through their work in the abolitionist and temperance movements. In July 1848, 200 woman suffragists, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, met in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women’s rights. After approving measures asserting the right of women to educational and employment opportunities, they passed a resolution that declared “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.” For proclaiming a women’s right to vote, the Seneca Falls Convention was subjected to public ridicule, and some backers of women’s rights withdrew their support. However, the resolution marked the beginning of the woman suffrage movement in America.

n January 1918, the woman suffrage amendment passed the House of Representatives with the necessary two-thirds majority vote. In June 1919, it was approved by the Senate and sent to the states for ratification. Campaigns were waged by suffragists around the country to secure ratification, and on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, giving it the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it the law of the land.

The package containing the certified record of the action of the Tennessee legislature was sent by train to the nation’s capital, arriving in the early hours of August 26. At 8 a.m. that morning, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed it without ceremony at his residence in Washington. None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement were present when the proclamation was signed, and no photographers or film cameras recorded the event. That afternoon, Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Suffrage Association, was received at the White House by President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson, the first lady.

The 26th of August was proclaimed “Women’s Equality Day” in 1971 when a joint resolution, that was introduced by Rep. Bella Abzug, was passed. Each year the President issues a proclamation recognizing women’s equality.

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex;

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26th, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as “Women’s Equality Day,” and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

Aug 26 2013

Connecticut Zimmerman Wannabe: Convicted.

Landlord found guilty of killing tenant

Daniel Tepfer, CT Post
Saturday, August 24, 2013

BRIDGEPORT — A city landlord claimed he fatally shot an unarmed black man in self defense, but a jury found otherwise Friday, convicting him of murder.

Jimmy Cunningham, 41, had boasted prior to trial that, like George Zimmerman, he too would be found not guilty.

“I’ll be home having a steak dinner when this is over,” he boasted to court personnel in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear….

h/t My girlfriend who gets the local paper for the coupons. I usually send it straight to recycling.

As good as it is that they are sending this asshole to prison, it’s shameful that Connecticut, home of the Sandy Hook School Massacre, still has a Stand Your Ground Law that gives nut jobs like Cunningham the idea that it’s okay to shoot someone when you think you might lose a fight.

“I feared for my Life”

Sure he did.

It turns out Cunningham is a real prince. The details of his crime are just horrific. After shooting his victim he manhandles the body onto the cooler rack on the back of his Hummer. Doesn’t load him inside the vehicle to take him to the hospital. That would be too much work. He covers the guy with an old tarp and takes the extra looong way to the hospital. Witnesses saw an arm sticking out of the tarp dragging on the street. He takes a hard turn and the body falls onto the street where upon he decides to smack him around to see if he’s still alive. Sensing he’s not, he loads him back onto the cooler rack and secures him with bungee cords this time. Fearing police would shoot first and ask questions later, Cunningham decides to travel to his grandmothers house, park his Hummer in the woods and begins putting the body into plastic garbage bags.

“It started to rain and I wasn’t going to let him get nasty” he explained.

Aug 26 2013

Sunday Train: Florida Rapid Rail project moves toward a 2015 ribbon cutting

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

I saw on the twitter feeds of some transit/transport bloggers (twitter list) some interesting news about the ongoing All Aboard Florida project for a 3hr rail service between Miami and Orlando. They are seeking land for their Miami station complex:


Managers for All Aboard Florida, the project to build an Orlando-to-Miami passenger train service, are about to begin negotiations with Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency to acquire two parcels in downtown Miami as part of the plan to build a massive train station and transportation hub downtown.



He [Michael Reininger, president and chief development officer for the train project] said the two parcels are key to the project, as they are integral to the planned station and transport hub, a project he said will dramatically transform downtown Miami and Overtown, where project managers expect to create jobs and new opportunities for area residents and businesses. “We are not just developing these two blocks,” Reininger said. “In fact, we’re developing a very major infrastructure and development program that will be transformative for the entirety of downtown Miami.”

Besides building the Miami station for the Miami-Orlando train, Reininger said, All Aboard Florida is also planning a transportation hub that would provide links between the intercity train and the Miami-Dade transit services there such as Metrorail, Metromover and Metrobus.

And are also bidding for additional develoment on a neighboring site, which would crosslink the All Aboard Florida Station to the MDM proposals for a new Marriot at Miami Worldcenter:

The company that is planning to build a 3-hour rail link between Miami and Orlando recently responded to an RFP by the Overtown CRA for a plot of land near a station that they are planning to build in downtown Miami.

All Aboard Florida proposes to build office, retail and residential uses, including a 24-story tower on the overtown parcels. It would be linked to a new Marriott at Miami Worldcenter proposed by MDM, as well as the All Aboard Florida station.