11/01/2010 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Priests among 46 Christians killed in Iraq hostage drama

by Khalil Murshadi, AFP

2 hrs 32 mins ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Grieving Catholics in Baghdad marked All Saints Day in mourning on Monday for 46 Christians killed during a hostage drama with Al-Qaeda gunmen that ended in an assault by Iraqi forces backed by US troops.

Throughout the day mourners were seen carrying coffins out of the church and loading them onto vehicles for transfer to the mortuary. Most of the victims were to be buried on Tuesday.

The rescue drama on Sunday night, two months after US forces formally concluded combat operations in Iraq, ended with two priests among at least 46 slain worshippers.

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – Republican Thuggery on Full Display, Part I

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma

Rob Rogers, see reader comments in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Buy this cartoon

This election season has brought out some real ghouls, some, but not all, as a result of the Tea Party.  These monsters are great for cartoonists, but not so great for the voters.  The saddest part is, none of these characters offers a message of hope.  It is all about tearing the other guy down.  I know this kind of negative campaigning happens with every election.  It just seems more frightening this year.

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Ted Sorensen: A Time to Weep

Commencement speech at the New School University in New York on May 21, 2004

This is not a speech. Two weeks ago I set aside the speech I prepared. This is a cry from the heart, a lamentation for the loss of this country’s goodness and therefore its greatness.

Future historians studying the decline and fall of America will mark this as the time the tide began to turn – toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon.

For me the final blow was American guards laughing over the naked, helpless bodies of abused prisoners in Iraq. “There is a time to laugh,” the Bible tells us, “and a time to weep.” Today I weep for the country I love, the country I proudly served, the country to which my four grandparents sailed over a century ago with hopes for a new land of peace and freedom. I cannot remain silent when that country is in the deepest trouble of my lifetime.

I am not talking only about the prison abuse scandal, that stench will someday subside. Nor am I referring only to the Iraq war – that too will pass – nor to any one political leader or party. This is no time for politics as usual, in which no one responsible admits responsibility, no one genuinely apologizes, no one resigns and everyone else is blamed.

The damage done to this country by its own misconduct in the last few months and years, to its very heart and soul, is far greater and longer lasting than any damage that any terrorist could possibly inflict upon us.

The stain on our credibility, our reputation for decency and integrity, will not quickly wash away.

Robert Freeman: If You Want More Debt Vote Republican

One of the most successful deceits of the past thirty years is that Republicans are the party of “fiscal discipline.” In fact, Republicans are the party of fiscal wreckage. Simply put, Republicans love deficits and debt. They have buried the country with them. They expand them with orgiastic fervor every time they get the chance. Until we come to grips with this simple truth we will never gain control of our fiscal destiny.

In 1980 the national debt stood at $1 trillion. Over the prior 204 years, the nation paid for the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the build-out of an entire continent, the First World War, the Great Depression, the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, and the better part of the Cold War. And through all that, we still only borrowed $1 trillion.

But over the next 12 years of relative peace and prosperity, Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would quadruple the national debt, to $4 trillion. They did it by dramatically lowering taxes on the wealthy and furiously expanding government spending. This isn’t even economics, it’s arithmetic: bring in less income while spending more money, and the result is debt. Mountains of it.

Glenn Greenwald: The wretched mind of the American authoritarian

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry.  A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that?  There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic.  In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg — the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader — headlined:  “Why is Assange still alive?”  . . . .

There are multiple common threads here:  the cavalier call for people’s deaths, the demand for ultimate punishments without a shred of due process, the belief that the U.S. is entitled to do whatever it wants anywhere in the world without the slightest constraints, a wholesale rejection of basic Western liberties such as due process and a free press, the desire for the President to act as unconstrained monarch, and a bloodthirsty frenzy that has led all of them to cheerlead for brutal, criminal wars of aggression for a full decade without getting anywhere near the violence they cheer on, etc.  But that’s to be expected.  We lived for eight years under a President who essentially asserted all of those powers and more, and now have a one who has embraced most of them and added some new ones, including the right to order even American citizens, far from any battlefield, assassinated without a shred of due process.  Given that, it would be irrational to expect a citizenry other than the one that is being molded with this mentality.

Rachel Maddow’s Halloween Election News

Dressed in all black wearing little black cat ears and her orange striped sneakered feet propped up on the desk, Rachel Maddow, with a sense of ironic humor, delivered a general run down of candidates and initiatives that voters will decide on Tuesday.

I will be up and out early tomorrow, once again helping get voters to the polls and explaining the new voting system here in New York. I have the option, as ek does, to vote on The Working Families line. Yet, not all those candidates fit the ideals of Liberal/Progressive that I support. Yeah, I’m pretty left of the left.

Here are two web sites to help you find details on candidates, locations of polling places, relevant local laws and what your rights are when in case your vote is challenged.

Do-It-Yourself Local Voter Guides

and this one to help you find where your polling place is located from Working for America

Look Up Where to Vote

On Voting

It’s not my position to tell you how to vote, or even whether you should or not.  Since I’ve been eligible I’ve only missed once because I had a traffic accident on the way to the polls (and that includes primaries too).

I’m a registered Democrat and I’ve often voted the party line, even to the extent of snooting the Republican Election Commissioner who’s guaranteed a job by virtue of his party affiliation.  On the other hand I supported Lowell Weicker against Joe Lieberman and later as Governor.

This year my enthusiasm for voting is bordering on the negative numbers, and yet I will still drag myself out.

I have the luxury of supporting the Working Families Party to register my dissatisfaction with the corporate whores of Washington, you may find it more difficult to express your disapproval.

While I sympathize I’ll offer no guidance, you should make up your own mind, but I will say that I think that it’s critically important if you are unhappy with the direction of our Republic you find a way to make it clear to our ignorant arrogant elites.

They depend on our votes and eyeballs for their phony baloney jobs.

The Morality of the Market

Monday Business Edition

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman quotes with approval a comment from this post on Irish austerity-

Most people don’t realize that “the markets” are in reality 22-27 year old business school graduates, furiously concocting chaotic trading strategies on excel sheets and reporting to bosses perhaps 5 years senior to them. In addition, they generally possess the mentality and probably intelligence of junior cycle secondary school students. Without knowladge of these basic facts, nothing about the markets makes any sense- and with knowladge, everything does.

How the Banks Put the Economy Underwater

By YVES SMITH, The New York Times

Published: October 30, 2010

The banks and other players in the securitization industry now seem to be looking to Congress to snap its fingers to make the whole problem go away, preferably with a law that relieves them of liability for their bad behavior. But any such legislative fiat would bulldoze regions of state laws on real estate and trusts, not to mention the Uniform Commercial Code. A challenge on constitutional grounds would be inevitable.

Asking for Congress’s help would also require the banks to tacitly admit that they routinely broke their own contracts and made misrepresentations to investors in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Would Congress dare shield them from well-deserved litigation when the banks themselves use every minor customer deviation from incomprehensible contracts as an excuse to charge a fee?

The large banks, no doubt, would resist; they would be forced to write down the mortgage exposures they carry on their books, which some banking experts contend would force them back into the Troubled Asset Relief Program. However, allowing significant principal modifications would stem the flood of foreclosures and reduce uncertainty about the housing market and mortgage securities, giving the authorities time to devise approaches to the messy problems of clouded titles and faulty loan conveyance.

The people who so carefully designed the mortgage securitization process unwittingly devised a costly trap for people who ran roughshod over their handiwork. The trap has closed – and unless the mortgage finance industry agrees to a sensible way out of it, the entire economy will be the victim.

(Nobel Prize Winning) Economist Stiglitz: We need stimulus, not quantitative easing

By Ezra Klein, Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, October 30, 2010; 9:07 PM

The Fed, and the Fed’s advocates, are falling into the same trap that led us into the crisis in the first place. Their view is that the major lever for economic policy is the interest rate and if we just get it right, we can steer this. That didn’t work. It forgot about financial fragility and how the banking system operates. They’re thinking the interest rate is a dial you can set and by setting that dial, you can regulate the economy. In fact, it operates primarily through the banking system, and the banking system is not functioning well. All the literature about how monetary policy operates in normal times is pretty irrelevant to this situation.

(T)he reason the private market for mortgages has dried up is that everybody knows the moment the government withdraws from the mortgage market, the effect will be that there will be a capital loss on the mortgages – and the same thing goes for our long-term bonds. Now we don’t use mark-to-market accounting, so we’ll pretend they don’t occur, but they will have occurred. We’ll have experienced a loss. The third point is that to avoid recognizing the loss, the Fed is likely to do silly things, like rather than buying and selling government bonds, they’ll pay interest on deposits banks make to the Federal Reserve in order to absorb the liquidity.

There are two problems with this. First, it’s costly, as we’re now paying interest when we didn’t before. Second, we don’t know how well this will work. And because it’s uncertain, you might say that the financial markets, recognizing we’re going into uncharted territory, will request a risk premium. That’ll hurt the U.S. Treasury and would be bad for the economy. So this is not costless. If it were the only instrument, you might say we have no choice. But it’s not. Fiscal policy is a choice, or it should be a choice. By putting fiscal policy off the table, we’re moving down the cost-benefit curve to something much riskier and much less cost-effective.

Mugged by the Moralizers

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: October 31, 2010

So what should we be doing? First, governments should be spending while the private sector won’t, so that debtors can pay down their debts without perpetuating a global slump. Second, governments should be promoting widespread debt relief: reducing obligations to levels the debtors can handle is the fastest way to eliminate that debt overhang.

But the moralizers will have none of it. They denounce deficit spending, declaring that you can’t solve debt problems with more debt. They denounce debt relief, calling it a reward for the undeserving.

And if you point out that their arguments don’t add up, they fly into a rage. Try to explain that when debtors spend less, the economy will be depressed unless somebody else spends more, and they call you a socialist. Try to explain why mortgage relief is better for America than foreclosing on homes that must be sold at a huge loss, and they start ranting like Mr. Santelli. No question about it: the moralizers are filled with a passionate intensity.

And those who should know better lack all conviction.

John Boehner, the House minority leader, was widely mocked last year when he declared that “It’s time for government to tighten their belts” – in the face of depressed private spending, the government should spend more, not less. But since then President Obama has repeatedly used the same metaphor, promising to match private belt-tightening with public belt-tightening. Does he lack the courage to challenge popular misconceptions, or is this just intellectual laziness? Either way, if the president won’t defend the logic of his own policies, who will?

Business News below.

On This Day in History: November 1

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

November 1 is the 305th day of the year (306th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 60 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, one of Italian artist Michelangelo’s finest works, is exhibited to the public for the first time.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to repaint the vault, or ceiling, of the Chapel. It was originally painted as golden stars on a blue sky. The work was completed between 1508 and 2 November 1512. He painted the Last Judgment over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, on commission from Pope Paul III Farnese.

Michelangelo was intimidated by the scale of the commission, and made it known from the outset of Julius II’s approach that he would prefer to decline. He felt he was more of a sculptor than a painter, and was suspicious that such a large-scale project was being offered to him by enemies as a set-up for an inevitable fall. For Michelangelo, the project was a distraction from the major marble sculpture that had preoccupied him for the previous few years.To be able to reach the ceiling, Michelangelo needed a support; the first idea was by Julius’ favoured architect Donato Bramante, who wanted to build for him a scaffold to be suspended in the air with ropes. However, Bramante did not successfully complete the task, and the structure he built was flawed. He had perforated the vault in order to lower strings to secure the scaffold. Michelangelo laughed when he saw the structure, and believed it would leave holes in the ceiling once the work was ended. He asked Bramante what was to happen when the painter reached the perforations, but the architect had no answer.

The matter was taken before the Pope, who ordered Michelangelo to build a scaffold of his own. Michelangelo created a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall, high up near the top of the windows. He stood on this scaffolding while he painted.

Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling he painted the ancestors of Christ. Above this he alternated male and female prophets, with Jonah over the altar. On the highest section, Michelangelo painted nine stories from the Book of Genesis. He was originally commissioned to paint only 12 figures, the Apostles. He turned down the commission because he saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. The Pope offered to allow Michelangelo to paint biblical scenes of his own choice as a compromise. After the work was finished, there were more than 300. His figures showed the creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood.

Morning Shinbun Monday November 1

Monday’s Headlines:

Spooky stuff from NASA


Federal Reserve’s, Bernanke’s credibility on line with new move to boost economy

Conservative Donors Lay a Base for 2012 Elections


Priest abuse victims protest at Vatican

One in four voters support Austria’s freedom party

Middle East

Investigation falters as female bomber suspect is released

Hostages killed as Iraqi police storm Catholic church


Burma’s regime prepares for victory despite poll boycott call

With wealth comes fat, China finds

Latin America

Rousseff wins Brazil election

Stimulus bill plays a larger role in campaigns than in some voters’ lives

Many voters can’t see any direct benefit from the federal money, even when they live near a marquee infrastructure project. They see a static economy but differ on what that means for candidates.

By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times

November 1, 2010

Reporting from Concord, Calif. – The upcoming election was far from cabinetmaker Kevin Rodriguez’ mind as he and his 5-year-old son watched a Halloween parade last week in a downtown plaza of this East Bay community.

Over the last two years as the nation slid into recession, the 46-year-old independent voter lost his business and was forced to sell his house. He has scraped together a living from side jobs, savings and unemployment benefits, which are about to run out. He even contemplated the once-unthinkable: applying for food stamps.

Pique the Geek 20101031: Nickel, an Important Element

Most of us think of nickel as the well-known United States five cent piece.  Actually, this coin is really 75% copper and only 25% nickel.  This alloy is ideal for coinage, since it is essentially noncorrosive and hard enough to resist wear in handling.  But that is only a minor use for this remarkable metal.  By the way, the U.S. five cent piece is not the first U.S. coin to be called that.  More on that later.

You handle nickel every day much more than you know.  It is present in many things that we use all of time, but it is rarely recognized.  Please come with me on an examination of a truly wonderful and useful material.

Prime Time

Ok, so the Rangers actually won a game and tonight we’re going to have to find something to watch other than Bush pere et filles throwing up out the ceremonial first pitch which you know Faux and Fiends will drag out as long as they can.  We’ll talk more about that later.

In the mean time the Giants are still in the catbird seat, they don’t have to win a single game in Arlington so it’s all gravy.  Both teams have decided to pitch their Aces only twice, not on short rest (a big mistake I think), so tonight’s matchup is Bumgarner and Hunter.  They are, at best, the fourth best pitchers on each team.  I maintain my prediction of a Pitchers’ Duel because it doesn’t cost me anything except my pride and surely one will turn up some time.  Besides, I don’t want to raise your expectations of excitement.  Baseball is a game of patience and one of the things that makes the games longer during the Playoffs is that the batters start doing what they should be doing all season- taking more pitches.

So don’t worry about answering your door for the Trick or Treaters, you probably won’t be missing anything important.

Oh, things you can watch while the Bushes are on camera, there are the Steelers @ the Who Dats and The Amazing Race, also-


I always figured it was talent made a man big, you know, if I was the best at something. I mean, we’re the guys they come to see. Without us, there ain’t a ballgame. Yeah, but look at who’s holding the money and look at who’s facing a jail cell. Talent don’t mean nothing. And where’s Comiskey and Sullivan, Attell, Rothstein? Out in the back room cutting up profits, that’s where. That’s the damn conspiracy.

Look, champ. I know guys like that. I grew up with them. I was the fat kid they wouldn’t let play. “Sit down, fat boy”. That’s what they’d say “Sit down, maybe you’ll learn something.” Well, I learned something alright. Pretty soon, I owned the game, and those guys I grew up with come to me with their hats in their hands. Tell me, champ, all those years of puggin’, how much money did you make?

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