Daily Archive: 11/06/2013

Nov 06 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 thea Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Laura Flanders: We Need a Robin Hood Tax-Not Cuts in Food Stamps

I saw a man dressed as Robin Hood on Halloween and I almost begged him to stay around.

We need Robin Hood and his merry band of wealth redistribution specialists not just on Halloween but every day, and this year in particular we need him on November 1.

That’s when $332 million in cuts to the food stamp or SNAP program go into effect. Three point one million low-wage workers, seniors, veterans and children are losing urgently needed aid.  And that’s just the cuts the President and Congress enacted in 2010. We need Robin Hood because Congress is talking about taking $39 billion more. And we need Robin because while 1.2 million poor children are going to be eating even less, 400 already rich Americans are enjoying even more.

Take a look at the Forbes 400 List. While the working poor have taken cut after cut, the richest Americans have seen their wealth double in the last ten years.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Strange silence on success in removing Syria’s chemical weapons

Last week, buried beneath banner headlines blaring about Obamacare hearings, National Security Agency surveillance revelations and the Boston Red Sox’ World Series win, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) quietly reported that Syria “has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable.”

On the heels of winning the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, the unglamorous but undeniably effective OPCW, using saws, sledgehammers and cutting torches in the middle of a war zone, defied predictions by meeting the Nov. 1 deadline to disable Syria’s chemical weapons program. The bombshell was that there was no bombshell – at least, not of the unconscionable chemical kind. [..]

That the story made few waves was all the more surprising considering that when Secretary of State John Kerry first – and, as was widely presumed, mistakenly – suggested this path to disarmament, the perceived gaffe was thoroughly covered, parsed and even parodied.

Zoë Carpenter : Will ENDA Be the Next Casualty of the GOP’s Internal Crisis?

Last night the Senate voted 61-30 to consider a law barring employers nationwide from discriminating against gay and transgender workers. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), marking the first time the Senate has taken up workplace protections for transgender Americans, and the chamber’s first consideration of legal rights for gay workers since 1996, when a version of ENDA was defeated 50-49.

Although the bill is expected to pass the Senate later this week behind overwhelming popular support, ideological resistance from House Republicans may keep it from becoming law. On Monday, Speaker John Boehner indicated that he will refuse to bring ENDA up for a vote. “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” said a spokesman.

Aura Bogado: Immigration Activists Continue to Fight on All Fronts

October was a busy month on the streets for comprehensive immigration reform backers-but it was quiet in on the floor of the House. While pro-immigrant lawmakers and their supporters keep putting pressure on Congress to pass overhaul legislation, record-setting numbers of detentions and deportations of immigrants continue. But so do actions that challenge the way immigrant communities are targeted.

Thousands of people in about 150 cities participated in mobilizations on October 5, calling for Republicans to move forward on the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. That was followed by a civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. on October 8, in which 200 people were arrested-including eight members of Congress. President Obama has also spent a good amount of time talking about immigration: Immediately after the debt crisis was averted in October, the president made clear, through a series of statements and interviews, that immigration was once again a priority. And time and time again, Obama has squarely put the onus on the House Republicans that he says won’t give comprehensive immigration reform a chance to go through.

Medea Benjmin: Drones Have Come Out of the Shadows

At each of the over 200 cities I’ve traveled to this past year with my book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, I ask the audience an easy question: Have they ever seen or heard from drone strike victims in the mainstream US press? Not one hand has ever gone up. This is an obvious indication that the media has failed to do its job of humanizing the civilian casualties that accompany President Obama’s deadly drone program.

This has started to change, with new films, reports and media coverage finally giving the American public a taste of the personal tragedies involved.

On October 29, the Rehman family-a father with his two children-came all the way from the Pakistani tribal territory of North Waziristan to the US Capitol to tell the heart-wrenching story of the death of the children’s beloved 67-year-old grandmother. And while the briefing, organized by Congressman Alan Grayson, was only attended by four other congresspeople, it was packed with media.

Hazel Henderson: New Policies Beyond Austerity and Stimulus

It is time to move the global policy debate beyond the binary options of “austerity” versus “stimulus.” Both these macroeconomic policies have caused untold harm to millions and produced dangerous policy stalemates in Europe and the U.S., Japan and other countries.

The experiments in Europe to impose austerity have not only caused unemployment, falling growth rates and quality of life but also rising extremism and political polarization.

Europeans have learned that debts can’t be paid by more borrowing. And the U.S. Congress is succumbing to mob rule by 50 Republicans who shut down the government. These self-inflicted crises are damaging U.S. credibility and its currency.

Nov 06 2013

On This Day In History November 6

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.

November 6 is the 310th day of the year (311th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 55 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th President of the United States over a deeply divided Democratic Party, becoming the first Republican to win the presidency. Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote but handily defeated the three other candidates: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Constitutional Union candidate John Bell, and Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas, a U.S. senator for Illinois.

Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, Douglas 1,376,957 votes, Breckinridge 849,781 votes, and Bell 588,789 votes. The electoral vote was decisive: Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together had only 123. Turnout was 82.2%, with Lincoln winning the free Northern states. Douglas won Missouri, and split New Jersey with Lincoln. Bell won Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Breckinridge won the rest of the South. There were fusion tickets in which all of Lincoln’s opponents combined to form one ticket in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, but even if the anti-Lincoln vote had been combined in every state, Lincoln still would have won a majority in the electoral college.

As Lincoln’s election became evident, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead; by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed. The seven states soon declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the Confederate States of America. The upper South (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal. President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy. There were attempts at compromise, such as the Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended the Missouri Compromise line of 1820, and which some Republicans even supported. Lincoln rejected the idea, saying, “I will suffer death before I consent…to any concession or compromise which looks like buying the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitutional right.”

Lincoln, however, did support the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which had passed in Congress and protected slavery in those states where it already existed. A few weeks before the war, he went so far as to pen a letter to every governor asking for their support in ratifying the Corwin Amendment as a means to avoid secession.

Nov 06 2013

Pond Scum and Dog Poop

So where was that Terry McAuliffe “Mandate” the Centerist NeoLiberal Third Way Blue Dog DLC DNC Villager 1%ers were promising?

Oh, it was an Invisible Inflation Confidence Fairy.

By every objective measure these people are failures.  Non-performers unable to deliver the results they promise.

Liars and Confidence Men.  Thieves and Grifters.

And they think you mere marks and rubes.  You gonna take that?

Evidently not.  Otherwise it would actually have been a mandate.

Nov 06 2013

Organlegging

Organlegging is the name of a fictional crime in the Known Space universe created by Larry Niven. It is the illicit trade of black market human organs for transplant. The term organlegging is a portmanteau combining the words “organ” and “bootlegging”, literally the piracy and smuggling of organs.

The crime developed as a response to the Organ Bank Problem, a concept featured prominently in the early Known Space stories, particularly those set in the 21st and 22nd century.



In Niven’s universe, it was possible to transplant nearly any organ in the body (and prevent rejection) by the mid 21st century. Since any organ could now be replaced, in theory one could use the organ banks to extend life indefinitely. To maintain communal organ banks, one needs donors (i.e. dead people). When the death rate is reduced (via the organ banks), the number of donors decreases. Thus, the supply of organs would continually reduce.

Compounding this problem, the high success rate of organ transplants tended to discourage research into other viable medical treatments. As a result, medical research was stagnated to a large extent, focusing primarily on improving transplants and little else. Repairing a failing organ (which could presumably fail again later) was considered secondary to the “complete” solution of replacing the failing organ.

An example in the Known Space universe was that anyone who wore eyeglasses was considered a reasonable candidate for an eye transplant (one or both); whereas in the real world, today’s nearsighted population can solve the problem (temporarily) by wearing corrective lenses or (more permanently) by undergoing laser surgery.

On Earth, the problem led to a repressive society almost unrecognizable by today’s standards. Since the average citizens wished to extend their lives, the world government sought to increase the supply by using condemned criminals to supply the organ banks. When this failed to meet the demand, citizens would vote for the death penalty for more and more trivial crimes. First violent crimes, then theft, tax evasion, false advertising, and even traffic violations became punishable by the organ banks. This failed to solve the problem, as once the death penalty was passed for a crime, people stopped committing it. This resulted in nearly every crime meriting the death penalty. Further attempts to alleviate the problem by declaring certain groups of cryogenically frozen people to be dead in law (the so-called “Freezer Bills”) and harvesting their organs also proved to be unsuccessful. The freezer vaults represented a finite supply and therefore were eventually exhausted.

Nov 06 2013

NSA: “Electronic Omnivore”

“Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search.”

   –Keith B. Alexander, September 2013

Inside the “Electronic Omnivore”: New Leaks Show NSA Spying on U.N., Climate Summit, Text Messaging

The New York Times has revealed new details about how the National Security Agency is spying on targets ranging from the United Nations to foreign governments to global text messages. We are joined by New York Times reporter Scott Shane, who reports that the NSA has emerged “as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations.” The Times article reveals how the NSA intercepted the talking points of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of a meeting with President Obama in April and mounted a major eavesdropping effort focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007. The Times also reveals the existence of an NSA database called Dishfire that “stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case.” Another NSA program called Tracfin “accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases.”



Transcript can be read here

As U.S. Weighs Spying Changes, Officials Say Data Sweeps Must Continue

by David E. Sanger, The New York Times

The Obama administration has told allies and lawmakers it is considering reining in a variety of National Security Agency practices overseas, including holding White House reviews of the world leaders the agency is monitoring, forging a new accord with Germany for a closer intelligence relationship and minimizing collection on some foreigners.

But for now, President Obama and his top advisers have concluded that there is no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of “metadata,” including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States.

Instead, the administration has hinted it may hold that information for only three years instead of five while it seeks new technologies that would permit it to search the records of telephone and Internet companies, rather than collect the data in bulk in government computers. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., has told industry officials that developing the new technology would take at least three years.

NSA official cites ‘stop and frisk’ in effort to explain searches of phone records

by Ali Watkins, McClatchy Washington Bureau

The general counsel of the National Security Agency on Monday compared the agency’s telephone metadata collection program to the highly controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice used by law enforcement officers, saying the agency uses that same standard to choose which phone numbers to query in its database.

“It’s effectively the same standard as stop-and-frisk,” Rajesh De said in an attempt to explain the evidentiary use of “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to identify which phone numbers to target from the agency’s huge database of stored cellphone records.

De made the comment during a rare hearing of an obscure government body, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress created in 2004 to oversee the government’s expanded intelligence collection operations but which until Monday had never held a substantive hearing. [..]

The comparison was the latest in questionable analogies that intelligence officials have used in an effort to explain the agency’s metadata collection programs since former defense contractor Edward Snowden revealed their existence in June.

Intelligence officials, for example, have said repeatedly that the collection of hundreds of millions of phone records allows them to build a haystack in which to find a needle, apparently missing the irony that “finding a needle in a haystack” is an expression meant to convey that a task is all but impossible.

NSA’s Path to Totalitarianism

by Norman Pollack, Counterpunch

The New York Times, a recipient, along with the Guardian, of Snowden’s disclosures about the illegal activities of Obama and USG, is breaking out, as now, of its reticence about the nation’s profound disregard of constitutional principles AND its related policies of global hegemony at all costs-here Scott Shane’s lengthy article (3 Nov.), “No Morsel Too Miniscule for All-Consuming N.S.A.”  NSA to all intents and purposes appears as a “rogue” organization, extremism in the putative service of liberty, except that the designation is a way of distracting attention, and removing accountability, from its authorization and mission at the highest levels-call it, licensed roguery, official (with Obama’s eyes supposedly averted).  Or better, call it, stripped of all cosmetics, the unerring mark of a Police State, itself become identical  with Fortress America, the National-Security State.

Eavesdropping on foreign leaders speaks to an arrogance of power, in which the US claims for itself every right, unilaterally, to script both sides of the foreign dialogue as well as micromanage to its own advantage the rhythm and content of global events, from regional trade partnerships to the use of military force in shoring up alliance systems against a host of enemies, some terrorist groups to be sure, but, using that as pretext, mounting counterrevolution globally against alternative modes, notably, socialist, of modernization: autonomous national and/or radical aspirations seeking distance from US market penetration, the tarnished necklace of its worldwide military bases and CIA stations, and not least, the ideological saturation (assisted by IMF and World Bank applications of pressure) of market fundamentalism, the property right, unrestricted capital flows, and the honor of serving American industry with the lowest possible labor costs, as meanwhile we see the financialization of capitalism here and the gutting of the manufacturing base.

Eavesdropping, of course, is the polite term for control freak, which translates, in the realm of power politics, into societal desperation to employ any and all means for staying on top, cyber-strategies of disruption as well as information-gathering, campaigns of disinformation, CIA-JSOC paramilitary programs of regime change, and, upping the ante, as here, learning every move in advance of foreign leaders, the better-take no chances, take no prisoners-to orchestrate world politics in our favor.

Nov 06 2013

2013 Election Night Open Thread

  • New Jersey Governor
  • Virginia Governor
  • New York City Mayor

Likely to be an early night.

More (but not much more) to come.

* * * * *

Vonnegut called them cat’s asses.

So your little more.  I do occasionally find something of interest at the Great Orange Satan and living in Stars Hollow as I do I found this little piece about a local election (in the biggest City in the State thank you) amusing-

Who Cares About VA, NJ, or NYC Elections? The Real Action is the Bridgeport, CT School Board!

by LunkHead @ Daily Kos

Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 09:28 AM PST

New Jersey and New York City are foregone conclusions.

Virginia is a contest that is really about the GOP’s voter suppression efforts.

Bridgeport is about whether or not we can protect our children from the looters in the educational industrial complex.

You see, the pro-privatization slate for the school board was defeated in the Democratic Primary by the Connecticut Working Families Party candidates, and so in the general election will be face Republicans, who are being tacitly, and in some cases explicitly, supported by the Democratic Party establishment (including governor Malloy).

I certainly try to vote WFP at every opportunity, they didn’t field or cross-endorse any candidates in Stars Hollow so I wasn’t able to this year.  Our local Democrats are at least pro-zoning and the environment however misguided they are about some other issues so I generally vote a straight ticket.  That and I know many of the Republicans personally and they’re straight up assholes the lot.  Those SAT fill in the dot ballots are a heck of a lot less convenient than the old mechanical voting booths, but you can put up a whole lot of stations for not much money.  They’ve also cut back on polling stations which I think sucks so I signed a petition to change that back.

They ran out of stickers so I can’t prove I voted, but it’s ok I have a lot left over from previous elections.

Your thoughts below.