Daily Archive: 08/27/2013

Aug 27 2013

Syria: Intevention Less Popular Than Congress

The United States is seemingly on the fast track to attack Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government. The US had the backing of the Great Britain and some of the European countries but here in the US, intervention has less support than Congress:

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has finally found something that Americans like even less than Congress: the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria. Only 9 percent of respondents said that the Obama administration should intervene militarily in Syria; a RealClearPolitics poll average finds Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, making the country’s most hated political body almost twice as popular.

The poll was taken the same week that reports of the Assad government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people in the rebel held suburbs of Damascus. A clear 60% of the respondent to the poll are firmly opposed to any intervention, while the remainder were unsure.

Obviously President Barack Obama is not listening to the people. Nor is he listening to Congress who prefer that the president consult with them even though under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. According to the WPR, the president is “required to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

Perhaps it is time that the WPR be  once again revised to keep the US out of these disatrous adventures.

According to Jon Walker at FDL, it appears unlikely that congress would give its blessing to this action:

Once again we are on the path to significant military action against a country in the Middle East and once again it looks like the intent of the Constitution will be ignored. President Obama will begin military action against a Syria without Congressional approval even though there will be plenty of time to get it. There is no hurry, hard deadline or ticking clock. This is not an emergency.

Obama has not called Congress back into session for an official declaration of war in accordance with the War Powers Clause of the Constitution nor is there any indication that Congress leaders even want to fulfill their Constitutional responsibility by ending their summer recess early.

This has all the earmarks of being a great fiasco that will cause even more harm to US image in the region and even more harm to the Syrian people.  

Aug 27 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”.

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Dean Baker: Pinching Pensions to Keep Wall Street Fat and Happy

The debate over public pensions shows clearly the contempt that the elites have for ordinary workers. While elites routinely preach the sanctity of contract when it works to benefit the rich and powerful, they are happy to treat the contracts that provide workers with pensions as worthless scraps of paper.

We see this attitude on display currently in the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings. It is even more clearly on display in efforts by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to default on the city’s pension obligations.

The basic story in both cases is that the contracts that workers had labored under are being laughed at by the elites because they find it inconvenient to carry through with the terms. In the case of Detroit, public sector workers face the loss of much of their pension as a result of the city’s effort to declare bankruptcy.

Bill Moyers: The End Game for Democracy

We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.

The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible. That’s the real joke.

Sometimes I long for the wit of a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They treat this town as burlesque, and with satire and parody show it the disrespect it deserves. We laugh, and punch each other on the arm, and tweet that the rascals got their just dessert. Still, the last laugh always seems to go to the boldface names that populate this town. To them belong the spoils of a looted city. They get the tax breaks, the loopholes, the contracts, the payoffs.

Bob Dreyfus: No War with Syria!

Here’s the core question now, in regard to Syria: if it’s true that President Bashar al-Assad’s government used poison gas in an incident that killed hundreds of people, at least, in the suburbs of Damascus, can the United States avoid military action in response? The answer is: yes. And it should.

That doesn’t mean that the United States ought to do nothing. The horrific incident, reported in detail by Doctors Without Borders, demands action. But the proper response by the United States is an all-out effort to achieve a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war. It’s late in the game but it can be done. The first step would be for Washington to put intense pressure on Saudi Arabia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Turkey, to halt the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, while simultaneously getting Russia and Iran to do the same. A concerted, worldwide diplomatic effort along those lines could work, but there’s zero evidence that President Obama has even thought of that.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: A Dream Deferred: The Minimum Wage Was Higher in 1963 Than It Is Today.

When Bayard Rustin addressed the March on Washington in 1963 he said this: “We demand that there be an increase in the national minimum wage so that men may live in dignity.” The crowd cheered in response. But after fifty years of commemorating that march, after thousands of reverent re-readings of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, that dream remains deferred – and worse.

The minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1963.

Of the people who speak reverently about that march this week, how many will fight for a higher minimum wage so that all people can live in dignity? How many people will remember the full name of that gathering – “the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”?

William K. Black: Mueller: I Crippled FBI Effort v. White-Collar Crime, My Successor Will Make It Worse

FBI Director Robert Mueller is taking his victory lap as he steps down after 12 years of service. I have done three articles in a series that explains how the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) conned the FBI into adopting the Tea Party’s mythology about the causes of the crisis – virginal banks beset by ultra-sophisticated fraudulent hairdressers. The MBA created a faux definition of mortgage fraud under which the bank and its senior officers were always the victims instead of the perpetrators. [..]

White-collar crime investigations and prosecutions are massive money makers that reduce the deficit, but Mueller, Holder, and Obama refuse to make these points and refuse to prosecute the elite bank fraudsters. On substantive and political grounds their actions are either inexplicable or all too explicable and support my readers’ belief that the FBI leadership no longer wants to investigate and prosecute the elite bank frauds.

Robert Reich: Trimmings for Labor Day

The good news this Labor Day: Jobs are returning. The bad news this Labor Day: Most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits.

The trend toward lousy wages began before the Great Recession. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, weak wage growth between 2000 and 2007, combined with wage losses for most workers since then, means that the bottom 60 percent of working Americans are earning less now than 13 years ago.

This is also part of the explanation for why the percent of Americans living below the poverty line has been increasing even as the economy has started to recover — from 12.3 percent in 2006 to around 14 percent this year. More than 35 million Americans now live below the poverty line.

Many of them have jobs. The problem is these jobs just don’t pay enough to lift their families out of poverty.

Aug 27 2013

On This Day In History August 27

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 27 is the 239th day of the year (240th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 126 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1883, The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On 27 August four enormous explosions took place at 05:30, 06:44, 10:02, and 10:41 local time. The explosions were so violent that they were heard 3,500 km (2,200 mi) away in Perth, Western Australia and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,800 km (3,000 mi) away, where they were thought to be cannonfire from a nearby ship. Each was accompanied by very large tsunamis, which are believed to have been over 30 meters (100 ft) high in places. A large area of the Sunda Strait and a number of places on the Sumatran coast were affected by pyroclastic flows from the volcano.

The pressure wave generated by the colossal final explosion radiated from Krakatoa at 1,086 km/h (675 mph). It was so powerful that it shattered the eardrums of sailors on ships in the Sunda Strait and caused a spike of more than two and half inches of mercury in pressure gauges attached to gasometers in the Jakarta gasworks, sending them off the scale. The pressure wave radiated across the globe and was recorded on barographs all over the world, which continued to register it up to 5 days after the explosion. Barograph recordings show that the shockwave from the final explosion reverberated around the globe 7 times in total. Ash was propelled to a height of 80 km (50 mi).

The eruptions diminished rapidly after that point, and by the morning of August 28 Krakatoa was silent. Small eruptions, mostly of mud, continued through October, though further reports continued through February 1884. These reports were discounted by (Rogier) Verbeek.

The combined effects of pyroclastic flows, volcanic ashes and tsunamis had disastrous results in the region. There were no survivors from 3,000 people located at the island of Sebesi, about 13 km (8.1 mi) from Krakatoa. Pyroclastic flows killed around 1,000 people at Ketimbang on the coast of Sumatra some 40 km (25 mi) north from Krakatoa. The official death toll recorded by the Dutch authorities was 36,417, although some sources put the estimate at 120,000 or more.

Ships as far away as South Africa  rocked as tsunamis hit them, and the bodies of victims were found floating in the ocean for weeks after the event. The tsunamis which accompanied the eruption are believed to have been caused by gigantic pyroclastic flows  entering the sea; each of the four great explosions was accompanied by a massive pyroclastic flow resulting from the gravitational collapse of the eruption column.

In the aftermath of the eruption, it was found that the island of Krakatoa had almost entirely disappeared, except for the southern half of Rakata cone cut off along a vertical cliff, leaving behind a 250-metre (820 ft) deep caldera.

In the year following the eruption, average global temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 C (2.2 F). Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888.

The eruption darkened the sky worldwide for years afterwards, and produced spectacular sunsets throughout the world for many months. British artist William Ashcroft made thousands of colour sketches of the red sunsets half-way around the world from Krakatoa in the years after the eruption.