Monthly Archive: November 2010

Nov 30 2010

Fracking A! New York

This has got to be the best political news I’ve read in a long time. A little before 1:00 a.m. last night, by a vote of 94-44, the New York State Assembly passed the moratorium on hydraulic fracture drilling.

Well it may only be state legislature and the governor still need to sign but apparently this moratorium to protect our drinking water is a first. It’s not top down and the Working Families Party humbly takes some of the credit for more than 52,000 New Yorkers signing the petition urging the Assembly to act.

Go ahead: get up from your chair. Do a little dance, pump your fist, or do whatever you do to celebrate a victory of grassroots action over corporate power.

I just received a letter form the WFP and I was doing just that.  

Nov 30 2010

But, but, but…

More hopey changiness-

OFA Tries to Get Supporters to Write Letters to the Editor Praising a Federal Worker Pay Freeze

By: David Dayen Tuesday November 30, 2010 9:55 am

That’s right, the organizing project of the Democratic National Committee wants you to organize in support of freezing public worker salaries.

And don’t worry, later in the email, OFA tells you how the Administration has really been responsible on this issue – they’ve frozen salaries of White House officials and political appointees, froze non-defense discretionary spending, and more.

So go out there and sharpen those pencils and tell everyone how great it is to cut people’s pay!

Is there any core principle of the Democratic Party Barack Hussein Obama isn’t willing to sell out?

Nov 30 2010

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”.

The Pundit and Political “Poutrage” about the recent release of over 250,000 documents by Wikileaks, or as Keith Olbermann so aptly phrased it, “Wiki TMZ”, is below the fold.

John Kampfner: Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority

Mr Assange is an unconventional figure, a man who lives in the shadows and enjoys doing so

You should never shout “fire” in a crowded theatre. Once you have accepted this old adage, you accept that there are limits to free expression. The important word in the first sentence is not “fire”, but “crowded”. A crowded theatre would lead to a stampede. Where there is a real and identifiable danger, restraint should be shown. Context is everything in the free-speech debate; risk to life is an undeniable caveat. Most other caveats are, however, mere ruses by the powerful to prevent information from reaching the public domain.

It is within these parameters that the furore over Wikileaks and its exposures should be seen. The latest document dump is larger than the Iraq files and potentially more embarrassing, with its State Department assessments of governments and statesmen – from Hamid Karzai to Silvio Berlusconi to Nicolas Sarkozy. Diplomats have launched a frantic round of damage limitation. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during the excruciating conversation between the US ambassador and Downing Street. The Americans are entitled to put their side of the story, to seek to assuage any inconvenience caused.

Robert Reich: National Fiscal Hypocrisy Week

Welcome to National Fiscal Hypocrisy Week.

Today (Monday), Congress takes up a measure delaying by one month a scheduled 23 percent cut in federal reimbursements to doctors. The cut will automatically go into effect unless Congress acts. But of course Congress will act. Doctors threaten to drop Medicare patients if their rates are cut. Congress has delayed scheduled Medicare cuts for years.

The best outcome would be an agreement to contain future health-care costs by allowing Medicare to use its bargaining power with drug companies and medical suppliers to reduce rates; by allowing Americans to buy drugs from Canada; by applying the antitrust laws to health insurers; and by giving the public an option to buy their health care from a government-run public option.

The likelihood of any of this happening over Republican and Democrats-in-name-only (DINO) objections is zero.

Pearl Korn: Deficit Commission Member Rep. Jan Schakowsky Offers a Better Plan

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of the 18 members of the Deficit Commission, has offered her own plan in response to the Commission’s proposals, which she has rejected. Rep. Schakowsky’s major concern is that the Commission’s recommendations to raise the age of enrollment in Social Security and cut Medicare benefits will take a serious toll on the middle class. Indeed, the two “deficit Hawks” chairing the Commission have shown their willingness to privatize Medicare and end Social Security, with an out-of-control Alan Simpson blustering, “Medicare is like a cow with 300 tits that keeps on giving” and casting Americans who receive support from government programs as worthless, undeserving, lazy people with his “lesser people” comment. Of course, Simpson should have been dumped then and there.

Nov 30 2010

So, how’s that bailout thing working?

Ireland Gets $113 Billion Aid as Bondholders Win Bailout-Payment Reprieve

By James G. Neuger and Simon Kennedy, Bloomberg News

Nov 29, 2010 11:42 AM ET

“The notion that a rescue package for Ireland would create a firewall and stop the fear of contagion is clearly discredited,” said Preston Keat, director of research at Eurasia Group, a political consultancy, in London. “Portugal and Spain are already facing pressures in the markets.”



Germany, which built the euro on the principle of budgetary rigor, unleashed the latest phase of the crisis by demanding a “permanent” system as of 2013 that would enable fiscally troubled countries to restructure their debts and cut the value of bond holdings.

The German push ran into criticism from policy makers elsewhere, who called it mistimed, and from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, who warned it would unsettle bondholders. Merkel, who has faced domestic criticism for aiding EU neighbors, yesterday backed away from the pitch for an automatic penalty, agreeing to give the International Monetary Fund a role in determining losses on a case-by-case basis.

Bank bondholders escape again as a protected species of capitalism

JOHN McMANUS, The Irish Times

Monday, November 29, 2010

FOR A brief moment on Friday, it looked as though for the first time in Europe’s handling of the financial crisis the holders of senior bank bonds were going to join the rest of us in the world of moral hazard.

But it now seems that the issue of the senior bond holders in the Irish banks being asked to participate in the fourth bailout of these institutions was effectively shelved on Saturday.



The speed with which even the mere suggestion of burden sharing with Irish bank senior bond holders sent the market into paroxysms indicates that they know the day of reckoning is coming.



The authorities may have blinked first, but a process may have been set in train that will see the abandonment of the position that senior bond holders in European banks are a protected species.

Markets Remain Focused on Debt Crisis

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: November 30, 2010

“Ireland’s bailout package has clearly failed to stop the rot in euro zone markets and if anything it has focused attention on other countries in the periphery especially Portugal but also to Spain, Belgian and Italian government debt,” an analyst at Crédit Agricole, Mitul Kotecha, said.



At the heart of the problem is that the austerity measures these countries need to take to reduce their deficits threaten to backfire by weakening economic growth and hurting state revenues. That is what’s happening in Greece, which has been able to drastically cut its spending but is struggling to raise tax income as economic and corporate activity wilts.

Just as badly as predicted.

Nov 30 2010

On This Day in History: November 30

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 30 is the 334th day of the year (335th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 31 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1886, the Folies Bergère in Paris introduces an elaborate revue featuring women in sensational costumes. The highly popular “Place aux Jeunes” established the Folies as the premier nightspot in Paris. In the 1890s, the Folies followed the Parisian taste for striptease and quickly gained a reputation for its spectacular nude shows. The theater spared no expense, staging revues that featured as many as 40 sets, 1,000 costumes, and an off-stage crew of some 200 people.

In 1886, the Folies Bergère went under new management, which, on November 30, staged the first revue-style music hall show. The “Place aux Jeunes,” featuring scantily clad chorus girls, was a tremendous success. The Folies women gradually wore less and less as the 20th century approached, and the show’s costumes and sets became more and more outrageous. Among the performers who got their start at the Folies Bergère were Yvette Guilbert, Maurice Chevalier, and Mistinguett. The African American dancer and singer Joséphine Baker made her Folies debut in 1926, lowered from the ceiling in a flower-covered sphere that opened onstage to reveal her wearing a G-string ornamented with bananas.

The Folies Bergère remained a success throughout the 20th century and still can be seen in Paris today, although the theater now features many mainstream concerts and performances. Among other traditions that date back more than a century, the show’s title always contains 13 letters and includes the word “Folie.”

Located at 32 rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement, it was built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret. It was patterned after the Alhambra music hall in London. The closest métro stations are Cadet and Grands Boulevards.

It opened on 2 May 1869 as the Folies Trévise, with fare including operettas, comic opera, popular songs, and gymnastics. It became the Folies Bergère on 13 September 1872, named after a nearby street, the rue Bergère (the feminine form of “shepherd”).

Édouard Manet‘s 1882 well-known painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère depicts a bar-girl, one of the demimondaines, standing before a mirror.

The painting is filled with contemporaneous details specific to the Folies-Bergère. The distant pair of green feet in the upper left-hand corner belong to a trapeze artist, who is performing above the restaurant’s patrons.

The beer which is depicted, Bass Pale Ale (noted by the red triangle on the label), would have catered not to the tastes of Parisians, but to those of English tourists, suggesting a British clientèle. Manet has signed his name on the label of the bottle at the bottom left, combining the centuries-old practice of self-promotion in art with something more modern, bordering on the product placement concept of the late twentieth century. One interpretation of the painting has been that far from only being a seller of the wares shown on the counter, the woman is herself one of the wares for sale; conveying undertones of prostitution. The man in the background may be a potential client.

But for all its specificity to time and place, it is worth noting that, should the background of this painting indeed be a reflection in a mirror on the wall behind the bar as suggested by some critics, the woman in the reflection would appear directly behind the image of the woman facing forward. Neither are the bottles reflected accurately or in like quantity for it to be a reflection. These details were criticized in the French press when the painting was shown. The assumption is faulty when one considers that the postures of the two women, however, are quite different and the presence of the man to whom the second woman speaks marks the depth of the subject area. Indeed many critics view the faults in the reflection to be fundamental to the painting as they show a double reality and meaning to the work. One interpretation is that the reflection is an interaction earlier in time that results in the subject’s expression in the painting’s present.

Nov 30 2010

Morning Shinbun Tuesday November 30




Tuesday’s Headlines:

Rifts mar Cancun climate conference

USA

U.S. and South Korea Reject Talks With North

NJ must pay $271M to feds for killing tunnel to NY

Europe

Bailout fails to calm markets as costs rise in Spain and Portugal

271 Picasso paintings discovered in Paris

Middle East

Israel accused over ‘cruel’ Gaza blockade

Now we know. America really doesn’t care about injustice in the Middle East.

Asia

WikiLeaks: China weary of North Korea behaving like ‘spoiled child’

Teetering Asian dominoes test Obama

Africa

Mogadishu: Life on the front line in a city laid bare by war

Africa rejects joint stand with EU on climate

Latin America

Haggling with Allies over New Homes for Detainees

Estimate of TARP losses falls to $25 billion

The projected cost of the $700-billion financial bailout fund drops sharply, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

November 30, 2010


Reporting from Washington –

The projected cost of the $700-billion financial bailout fund – initially feared to be a huge hit to taxpayers – continues to drop, with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimating Monday that losses would amount to just $25 billion.

That’s a sharp drop from the CBO’s last estimate, in August, of a $66-billion loss for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP. Going back to March, the budget office estimated that the program would cost taxpayers $109 billion.

Nov 30 2010

Prime Time

Welcome back to the usual shoddy, sloppy, sleep deprived workmanship you’ve come to expect normal for a while, though you still have those annoying ek’smas specials to deal with, most of which I will ignore if possible.

Skating.

I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

Later-

Dave is repeating 11/5.  Jon has Judah Friedlander, Stephen Dan Savage.  Alton has a 2 part Loin special.  Conan has George Lopez, Chris Colfer, and Kid Cudi.

BoondocksHome Alone.

“Corona veniat electis.” Victory shall come to the worthy. Today, democracy, liberty, and equality are words to fool the people. No nation can progress with such ideas. They stand in the way of action. Therefore, we frankly abolish them. In the future, each man will serve the interest of the State with absolute obedience. Let him who refuses beware! The rights of citizenship will be taken away from all Jews and other non-Aryans. They are inferior and therefore enemies of the state. It is the duty of all true Aryans to hate and despise them. Henceforth this nation is annexed to the Tomanian Empire, and the people of this nation will obey the laws bestowed upon us by our great leader, the Dictator of Tomania, the conqueror of Osterlich, the future Emperor of the World!

You speak.

I can’t.

You must. It’s our only hope.

Something about Casablamca always makes me want to sing-

Let’s go, children of the Fatherland (Homeland),

The day of glory has arrived!

Against us, tyranny

Has raised the bloodied banner,

Has raised the bloodied banner,

Do you hear, in the countryside,

The howling of those ferocious soldiers?

They are coming right into your arms

To slit the throats of your sons and consorts!

To arms, citizens,

Form your battalions,

Let’s march, let’s march!

That impure blood

May water our furrows!

Nov 29 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 World scrambles to deal with WikiLeaks fallout

by Charles Onians, AFP

2 hrs 44 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – Governments worldwide scrambled Monday to head off damage from a flood of leaked US diplomatic cables revealing secret details and indiscreet asides on some of the world’s most tense international crises.

Despite diplomats’ red faces, officials were quick to criticise the release of the confidential missives, most of which date from 2007 to February this year, and to stress that the leaks would not harm relations.

Highlights include a call by Saudi King Abdullah for the US to “cut off the head” of the Iranian snake over its nuclear programme and leaked memos about a Chinese government bid to hack into Google.

Nov 29 2010

Idiots or Liars?

Pay Freeze Decision Smacks of Too-Cute Political Team Running the Show

By: David Dayen Monday November 29, 2010 12:06 pm

There are two options. One is that Obama necessarily gravitates toward people with really bad economic ideas, and as a result of this advice makes really bad economic decisions. The other, and I would probably say the right, option is that the economic team isn’t really driving the debate, certainly not anymore. The political team thinks in terms of 11-dimensional chess and putting Republicans in a bad spot and all of the things you’d expect out of this federal pay freeze decision. Never mind that this hasn’t worked in the entire history of the Obama Administration. So a politically-minded official saying that unemployment is structural reinforces that we should really get around to those budget cuts which will please centrists in 2012.

There’s a lot of turmoil on the economic team right now, with new people moving in and out. The political team, outside of Rahm Emanuel, has remained basically stable, certainly in terms of worldview. And that worldview (mis)reads polls, and thinks that being the “good guys” who cut worker pay and freeze discretionary spending to “look tough” on the deficit is eminently responsible. It’s also responsible to extend unemployment benefits to people who have no other visible means of support, but that’s out of their hands, and if they fail, ah well. What’s important is to convey responsibility to the elites, who will pat them on the head as they carry out their austerity plans.

Oh, and while raising taxes on or otherwise “punishing” the banksters will instantly result in these “talented” Masters of the Universe going Galt, the same logic doesn’t apply at all to government employees-

"Responsible" Obama Administration Doesn’t Think Federal Employees Facing Pay Cut Will Leave to the Private Sector

By: David Dayen Monday November 29, 2010 11:30 am

On a conference call just now, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and U.S. Chief Performance Officer and the Office of Management and Budget’s Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients defended the White House’s [proposed pay freeze ] for federal employees from the charge that this will drive talented workers out of government as they see no prospects for individual advancement. Seeking a better return on their talent, the theory goes, they would move to the private sector, probably a government contractor, where their services can be “rented” from the government at a higher rate. If the government has the same amount of services to deliver and less skilled know-how at their disposal, they would need to draw upon that from somewhere. So under this scenario, government would end up paying more for the same pool of talent, despite freezing salaries.

Zients disputed the notion that this pay freeze will lead to a dissolution of talent. “On recruitment and retention, we believe that people come to government service for range of reasons…. We feel comfortable that we have a strong value proposition and can retain the best and brightest.” Given this, Zients didn’t feel that there would be an expanded reliance on government contracting as a result of this decision. They believe they can wring enough out of federal contracting to save $40 billion dollars, in fact.

And finally, the problem with the economy is NOT THE DEFICIT!  It’s a lack of Aggregate Demand!

Obama Flunks Economics with Pointless Federal Wage Freeze

By: Scarecrow Monday November 29, 2010 8:35 am

(F)or the umpteenth time, this President has repeated discredited Republican gibberish that when households are having to cut back spending during a recession, government should do the same thing.

That’s just wrong. Foolishly wrong. Depressingly (literally), tragically wrong.



With 15 million unemployed and millions more living in job and health insecurity, typical non-wealthy households have no choice but to cut back. So private spending cannot pull the economy out of the ditch as it has in the past. But that is not true of the federal government.

Government spending can pull the economy up from the bottom. And only government has the resources and the power to fill in the gap in aggregate demand to bring the economy and jobs back.

A government with its own currency is not a household. It has different abilities, different ways of affecting the economy and paying for things. It controls the money supply. And it has different responsibilities, including the obligation to pull the economy out of a deep recession, to help create jobs and foster job creation in the private sector. To do this under today’s conditions requires enhanced spending/investments by government, not less. And there has never been a better time for government to act, nor has the cost of acting ever been lower.

It’s counterproductive and stupid for the President of the United States to keep telling Americans the false argument that government needs to tighten its belt when households are tightening theirs. And it’s even worse to falsely claim that by focusing on deficit reduction, the government is “doing everything we can to help boost economic growth and spur job creation.”

As Krugman said

(Y)ou have to wonder what it will take for serious people to realize that punishing the populace for the bankers’ sins is worse than a crime; it’s a mistake.

Nov 29 2010

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”.

Lawrence Lewis (Turkana): The war in Afghanistan enters Joseph Heller territory

Earlier this month, it was reported that one of the largest U.S. government contractors in Afghanistan was being fined nearly $70 million for having “knowingly and systematically overcharged the U.S. government.” But just two months after a whistleblower revealed the Louis Berger Group’s deliberate and systematic overcharging, the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded the company a new joint contract worth $1.4 billion. That seemingly large fine turned out to be but a minor business expense.

The one part of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan that is going very well is the contracting. Not the results of the contracting, the money being made off it. Less than two weeks ago came this news:

U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has ordered a dramatic expansion in contracting. Other than asking a brigadier general to investigate problems with military contracts, so far he’s failed to address their flaws.

   A McClatchy investigation has found that since January 2008, nearly $200 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Afghanistan have failed, face serious delays or resulted in subpar work. Poor recordkeeping made it impossible for McClatchy to determine the value of faulty projects before then. The military tries to recover part of a project’s cost, but in many cases, the funds were already spent.

McClatchy’s investigation also found that the Corps accepts bids that don’t cover such obvious costs as security or the contractor’s profit margin. One might think security costs in Afghanistan would be significant. One might think a contractor’s profit margin should be a factor when considering whether to send said contractor piles of taxpayers’ cash. Remember that whole deficit thing? Apparently, the Corps doesn’t. And, of course, it gets even worse. . . .

It’s hard to verify who is whom. It’s hard to verify where the billions of U.S. tax dollars are going. It’s hard to verify what exactly is supposed to be accomplished by continuing the war. It’s hard to verify the existence of an exit strategy and it’s hard to verify the existence of an exit date.

To be continued.

Joe Conason: Iran’s Best Friends on Capitol Hill

Nuclear weapons treaties are like currency exchange rates-always vitally important to the national interest but often stunningly dull, not to say impenetrable. Yet Washington has suddenly been jolted awake by Republican threats to stall if not kill the Obama administration’s New START treaty.

The irony is that by doing so, they would do little to protect American security while providing moral support to Iran, North Korea and any other rogue regime seeking to arm itself with nukes.

By reducing the bilateral limits on deployed warheads and delivery systems, and by modernizing the verification and monitoring system contained in the original START treaty, the new agreement achieved a breakthrough in arms control and improved U.S. relations with Moscow. The equally important strategic objective, however, was to establish a renewed bilateral commitment to arms control that would strengthen the international effort to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

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