Daily Archive: 12/16/2010

Dec 16 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 60 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Armed clashes as Ivory Coast stand-off turns bloody

by Evelyne Aka, AFP

1 hr 44 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Bloody clashes erupted in Abidjan and central Ivory Coast on Thursday, leaving at least 11 dead and many more hurt, as the stand-off between two self-declared presidents spread to the streets.

Supporters of Alassane Ouattara had intended to march on the headquarters of state television, held by his rival the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, but fighting broke out when they were faced with heavily-armed security forces.

Former rebels loyal to Ouattara’s choice for prime minister, Guillaume Soro, fought fierce gunbattles with Gbagbo’s government security forces in Abidjan and in the central town of Tiebissou on the 2003 civil war ceasefire line.

Dec 16 2010

It Rained Debris: Remembering 50 Years Ago

I was on my way to class at my high school, shortly after 10 AM. It was a cold, nasty NYC day and was snowing lightly.

I was at Clawson St. and New Dorp Lane waiting to cross and looking up at the gray sky. I saw a bright flash and a few minutes later the sky was raining debris and bodies. There was a loud screeching noise and a thunderous explosion. A lady from one of the houses saw me frozen by the tree on her front lawn and pulled me into her house. She was frantically calling for help. There were sirens everywhere.

For a about an hour I sat in this lady’s kitchen, drinking hot cocoa she had made me, listening to the radio and the sirens that went on forever. The debris had stopped falling and we went outside and there was an icy light rain. There was stuff everywhere, plane parts, clothing. I didn’t look too close.

The lady asked if she could call my parents to come and get me but I knew no one was home. I was going to go to class but since my teachers were already used to my absences, I decided to walk towards all the sirens. I headed towards Miller Field, which was a tiny air field then part of the active Army base at Ft. Wadsworth and were all the crash activity was. It was amazingly easy to get near. I suppose the police were really stretched thin. The Intersection of New Dorp Lane and Hylan Bl. was blocked off but it wasn’t hard to cut through side streets and yards to get close.

What I saw will stick in my mind forever, as it did last night, on the 50th anniversary of the terrible plane collision over Staten Island that took the lives of 134 people. The second plane crashed in a densely populated section of Park Slope, Brooklyn at 7th Ave, and Sterling St that killed 6 people on the ground, destroyed a church and 10 other buildings, heavily damaging several others. The church was the Pillar of Fire. The fires burned for three days.

There was one survivor at the Brooklyn site, an 11 year old boy, Stephen Lambert Baltz. He was coming from Chicago to visit his mother and sister for the holidays. He died the next day. He would be 60 now.

There are no markers or memorials at either crash site. The Park Slope neighborhood has been rebuilt. There is an apartment building where the church was. At Miller Field, which is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Park, most of thee original buildings and hangers, where the bodies and some of the plane parts were taken, are gone. There is a new high school at the end of the field that replaced the school where I was headed that day but no markers or reminders of that horrendous scene.

As I walked away and back towards home, I started noticing the debris, something I hadn’t done in my curiosity to get to the site. There were packages and boxes mixed in with unidentifiable plane parts. I don’t remember seeing any bodies other than the ones I had seen at Miller Field. It was dark when I got home and I remember how warm the house felt and how cold and hungry I was. My grandmother had dinner started but I grabbed a cookie and some milk anyway because my stomach was in a knot. It was easy to do because my grand mother was very hard of hearing and most of the time didn’t care much for what I did. Usually, no one ever asked me about my day, except that night my Aunt, who  worked in downtown Brooklyn, mentioned the chaos and how it made her miss her usual ferry. I said that I knew about it and that was when my Dad asked if I was OK. Not if I had seen anything, but just if I was OK. I said I was but that I was tired because I walked home, there was no bus and it was faster. Dad looked at me and said, “three miles”. I’m not sure if it was a statement or just rhetorical question, that was Dad’s way. I went up to my room and did some reading, listening to the radio, WABC, for awhile. I can’t remember if I slept. I know I was warm but still felt the cold.

On my way to school the next day, I passed a Catholic Church, Our Lady Queen of Peace. I was raised Jewish and by 13 I was pretty much agnostic, but my grandmother was Catholic. There were lots of people inside praying. I lit a candle, dropped a dime in the collection box and said the Sh’ma.  

It’s 50 years and I have seen far worse since then in my line of work but that day, today, was yesterday, forever. Blessed Be.

Dec 16 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”.

Ari Berman: Senate Priority #1: Fix the Filibuster

Last night, Rachel Maddow ran a very interesting segment on the broken nature of the US Senate, which I’m posting below.

We’ve become accustomed to reading headlines like “DADT Repeal Fails in Senate, 57 to 40,” but that doesn’t make them any less surreal. Only in the Senate does winning by 17 votes constitute defeat. That’s because Republicans now require that every piece of legislation in the body receive 60 votes before it even comes up for a formal vote, let alone becomes law. The incessant misuse of the filibuster has turned the Senate into an increasingly dysfunctional body where, quite frankly, it’s miraculous that anything ever gets done.

John Nichols: After Overwhelming House Vote Against Bigotry, Will Senate Finish the Job of Ending DADT?

After the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow the openly gay and lesbian Americans serve in the military, it fell to Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank to bang the gavel that closed the vote.

Then Frank had a message for Senate Republicans: It is “delusional” to claim that there has not been enough debate about gays and lesbians serving in the military.

Responding to Republican demands that the Senate vote be delayed until further hearings, committee reviews and debates can be held, Frank noted that the repeal measure had already been approved by by the full House and the Senate Armed Services Committee and said the Congress has followed the proper order of business.

“We’ve gone through triple regular order,” said Frank, after the 250-175 vote.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: Labels Aren’t the Problem

The “No Labels” group that held its inaugural meeting this week in the name of the political center fills me with passionate ambivalence. My attitude is moderately supportive and moderately critical-accented by a moderate touch of cynicism.

Who can disagree with a call to put aside “petty partisanship” and embrace “practical solutions”? Let’s cheer the group’s insistence on “fact-based discussions.” Too much political talk these days is utterly disconnected from what’s actually true. Fact-based always beats fantasy-based.

. . . . . so what’s my problem with these neo-restive-majority types?

The basic difficulty arises from a false equivalence they make between our current “left” and our current “right.” The truth is that the American right is much farther from anything that can fairly be described as “the center” than is the left.

Dec 16 2010

Bail For Julian Assange Upheld By British High Court

Following yesterdays report from the UK Guardian that “The decision to have Julian Assange sent to a London jail and kept there was taken by the British authorities and not by prosecutors in Sweden, as previously thought.” and that Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service would go to the high court today to seek the reversal of the City of Westminster magistrates court decision to free the WikiLeaks founder on bail…

The Guardian reports this morning that:


Britain’s high court today decided to grant bail to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape.

Justice Duncan Ouseley agreed with a decision by the City of Westminister earlier in the week to release Assange on strict conditions: £200,000 cash deposit, with a further £40,000 guaranteed in two sureties of £20,000 and strict conditions on his movement.



Bail conditions set by Riddle stipulate that Assange must stay at a country house in Suffolk owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline club in west London, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag.

There is no mention in the Guardian’s piece this morning as to whether Assange has actually been physically released yet.

Meanwhile, as Daniel Tencer notes this morning at RawStory, the US witch hunt continues as  “The Justice Department is looking at contact between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the alleged source of the leaked State Department cables, PFC Bradley Manning, in order to build a criminal conspiracy case against Assange, a news report says.”

Dec 16 2010

On This Day in History: December 16

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.

December 16 is the 350th day of the year (351st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 15 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships moored in Boston Harbor and dump 342 chests of tea into the water.

The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea coming into the colonies. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and other political protests often refer to it.

The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. He apparently did not expect that the protestors would choose to destroy the tea rather than concede the authority of a legislature in which they were not directly represented.

The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution. Parliament responded in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, which, among other provisions, closed Boston’s commerce until the British East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. Colonists in turn responded to the Coercive Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress, which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them. The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775.

Dec 16 2010

Morning Shinbun Thursday December 16




Thursday’s Headlines:

Arctic’s vanishing sea ice presents polar bear with a new danger – grizzlies

USA

U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks

Administration’s next big Afghan battle: How many troops to withdraw

Europe

EU strategy in defence of euro risky for markets

Bulgarian row over diplomats with Soviet past

Middle East

Qatar Has High Hopes for 2022 World Cup

Middle East peace process: Dead but not buried

Asia

The tragedy that shames Australia

US double talk on Myanmar nukes

Africa

Call for calm as senior politicians accused of crimes against humanity

Human rights council: ‘Scars of apartheid remain’

Latin America

Chavez foes, US condemn plan for decree powers

U.S. rethinks strategy for an unthinkable attack

Administration’s problem: How to spread advice without causing alarm?

By WILLIAM J. BROAD  

Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses indicating that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

Dec 16 2010

Centrism

Bipartisanship vs. Democracy: The President and the Third Way Fallacy

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Huffington Post

Posted: December 15, 2010 11:49 AM

Today the country’s real center — the commonly-held set of goals and aspirations shared by Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike — has never been farther from the narrow right-leaning viewpoint that’s still being peddled as a “centrism.” If the White House and other Democrats buy into that illusion, as they seem to be doing, they’ll lose the country.



I feel safe in predicting that “No Labels” will revolutionize American politics every bit as much as Unity08 did. That is, it’s going to be announced with great fanfare — fanfare that’s generated by the highly-paid efforts of Washington publicists. It will then be received enthusiastically by the David Broder crowd, and nobody else. Within six months it will have been forgotten by the few people who had ever even heard of it in the first place.

“No Labels” is the latest reflection of a deep-seated yearning among Washington insiders: the yearning to fuse the leadership of both parties into a unitary political order, one that can dispense with bothersome chores like justifying your actions to the public. Washington “centrists” are the One Worlders of American politics, dreaming of a Utopia governed by a Council of Elders.



There’s a real bipartisan consensus in the nation — to protect Social Security, tax the wealthy, preserve Medicare, improve banking regulations, and ban big bonuses at banks which were rescued by the taxpayers. The ersatz ‘centrism’ being peddled in Washington is on the wrong side of every single issue. It would turn the leadership of the country over to people on the red, rightmost side of the chart, restricting the debate to the best way of implementing these unpopular positions.

No wonder 70% of people surveyed are “somewhat” or “deeply dissatisfied” with the way Washington works. The political consensus doesn’t represent them, and these “solutions” would merely institutionalize that lack of representiation.



We saw the electoral fruits of the Third Way fallacy in November’s election. Democrats who embraced it were seen as representing nothing in particular, so they were judged by the status quo — a status quo that was made worse by “centrist” policies. Now we’re seeing an ever-widening gap between the public’s wishes and a Republican/Democratic/media elite that refuses to accept or acknowledge them. That’s a recipe for bad policy, and politically it’s a one way ticket for the Democratic Party to receive the Mother of All Shellackin’s in 2012.

Dec 16 2010

Boo Who?

There are a lot of sad things in this piece, but also some fundamental misconceptions one of which is that while this austerity asshole City Manager is allowed to cry poverty in order to break the police and fire unions.

Michigan has offered Hamtramck a variety of loans to keep it solvent, but Cooper has said he doesn’t want the city to take on more debt. It’s already paying $600,000 a year on bonds issued during another financial crisis a decade ago.

But with pressure building, City Hall was awash in speculation this week that Cooper would finally bend and accept a loan from the state. Still, even that would only postpone a day of reckoning, the city manager asserted.



For now, the well-meaning citizens of Hamtramck — police officers, firefighters, tree trimmers and trash collectors — are effectively draining the city’s finances, with nothing short of a potential collapse in sight.

You see, you’re just bloodsucking ticks on the tit of capitalism.

Dec 16 2010

Prime Time

Ugh.  Even worse than usual.  A good night to write diaries.

Are they slow-moving, chief?

Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.

Chief, if I were surrounded by eight or ten of these things, would I stand a chance with them?

Well, there’s no problem. If you have a gun, shoot ’em in the head. That’s a sure way to kill ’em. If you don’t, get yourself a club or a torch. Beat ’em or burn ’em. They go up pretty easy.

Later-

Dave hosts Tom Dreesen and Ronnie Spector.  Jon has Paul Rudd, Stephen Laird Hamilton.  Conan hosts Amy Adams, Roger Waters, and Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros.

BoondocksSmokin’ With Cigarettes

Chief, do you think that we will be able to defeat these things?

Well, we killed nineteen of them today right in this area. The last three, we caught them trying to claw they’re way into an abandoned shed. They must of thought someone was in there, but there wasn’t though. We heard them making all kind of noises so we came over, beat ’em off and blasted them down.

Dec 16 2010

Another Game of Constitutional Chicken: Filbuster

I have said this a number of times, the filibuster as it is currently being used to obstruct the Senate is unconstitutional. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and cannot be abrogated by the Senate merely making a rule. The Vice President presides over the Senate and has a duty to make rulings on order and procedure when the Senate is in session. The Constitution provides for “one-person-one-vote” and “majority rules”, there is no mention of “filibuster”.

It is amazingly simple:

  1. During debate, a Republican Senator engages in a standard obstruction tactic, such as a hold, actual filibuster, or proposing numerous, non-germane Amendments.

  2. The Vice President, as Presiding Officer, rules that Senator’s hold, filibuster or spuriousamendments out of order.

  3. The Senator who holds the floor, and had attempted the hold (filibuster, or amendments), could then appeal the decision of the Presiding Officer to the Senate as a whole.

  4. A simple majority (51) can then vote to uphold the ruling of the Presiding Officer that the hold (filibuster or amendments) were out of order.

 

This mechanism is not without precedent:

In 1975 the filibuster issue was revived by post-Watergate Democrats frustrated in their efforts to enact popular reform legislation like campaign finance laws. Senator James Allen of Alabama, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and a skillful parliamentary player, blocked them with a series of filibusters. Liberals were fed up with his delaying tactics. Senator Walter Mondale pushed a campaign to reduce the threshold from sixty-seven votes to a simple majority of fifty-one. In a parliamentary sleight of hand, the liberals broke Allen’s filibuster by a majority vote, thus evading the sixty-seven-vote rule. (Senate rules say you can’t change the rules without a cloture vote, but the Constitution says the Senate sets its own rules. As a practical matter, that means the majority can prevail whenever it decides to force the issue.) In 1975 the presiding officer during the debate, Vice President Rockefeller, first ruled with the liberals on a motion to declare Senator Allen out of order. When Allen appealed the “ruling of the chair” to the full Senate, the majority voted him down. Nervous Senate leaders, aware they were losing the precedent, offered a compromise. Henceforth, the cloture rule would require only sixty votes to stop a filibuster.

When the Republicans held the Senate majority during the previous administration, then Vice President Dick Cheney threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” ending filibuster if the Democrats continued to filibuster President Bush’s nominees. The Democrats backed off. So why hasn’t President Obama done just that? This is just another game of ‘Constitutional chicken” to excuse the President’s failure to get a liberal/progressive agenda passed.

It is high time the Vice President Biden took his seat and gaveled filibuster out of order.