Daily Archive: 01/24/2011

Jan 24 2011

Another Game of Congressional Chicken: Filibuster Reform

It doesn’t look like the Senate Democrats have the courage to stand up the the very loud Republican minority and reform filibuster. As reported by Paul Kane in the Washington Post, the Senate has ground to a halt in order to continue to consider the rules changes that were suppose to have come to a vote on January 5th, the first day of the new congressional session.

Amid a long-running dispute over decades-old filibuster rules, Senate leaders have used a parliamentary trick to leave the chamber in a state of suspended animation – in reality adjourned since Jan. 5 but officially considered in a long recess that’s part of the same individual legislative day.

This nearly three-week break has taken place in large part so leadership could hold private negotiations to consider how to deal with a group of Democrats agitating to shake up the foundation of the world’s most deliberative body, right down to challenging the filibuster.

To the dismay of a younger crop of Democrats and some outside liberal activists, there is no chance that rules surrounding the filibuster will be challenged, senior aides on both sides of the aisle say, because party leaders want to protect the right of the Senate’s minority party to sometimes force a supermajority of 60 votes to approve legislation.

However, the rules changes proposed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) don’t propose the end of the need for a 60 vote majority that has permitted the Republican minority to halt nearly all Senate business for the last two years. David Dayen explained what they offered as a compromise to the current situation of announced filibuster by one Senator then wait out the 30 hours and try again:

After 41 Senators or more successfully maintain a filibuster by voting against cloture, they would have to hold the floor and go into a period of extended debate. Without someone filibustering holding the floor, cloture is automatically invoked, and the legislation moves to an eventual up-or-down vote, under this rule change.

This would institute the actual filibuster. The Majority Leader would have the capacity, which Harry Reid says he doesn’t have now, to force the minority to keep talking to block legislation. It becomes a test of wills at this point – whether the minority wants to hold out for days, or whether the majority wants to move to other legislation.

Kane’s article, while otherwise correct, muddles the debate on the rules, which is nothing new for the corporate controlled mainstream media.

Jan 24 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 60 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Tunisia readies cabinet shake-up as army speaks out

by Ines Bel Aiba and Kaouther Larbi, AFP

2 hrs 6 mins ago

TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisia prepared for a major cabinet shake-up on Monday as the head of the army warned thousands of anti-government protesters in the centre of Tunis that a “power vacuum” could lead to a dictatorship.

“Our revolution, your revolution, the revolution of the young, risks being lost … There are forces that are calling for a void, a power vacuum. The void brings terror, which brings dictatorship,” Rachid Ammar told the protesters.

Speaking through a megaphone and surrounded by soldiers, the popular general said the army would act as a “guarantor” for the revolution that ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and would respect the country’s constitution.

Jan 24 2011

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”.

Paul Krugman: The Competition Myth

Meet the new buzzword, same as the old buzzword. In advance of the State of the Union, President Obama has telegraphed his main theme: competitiveness. The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board has been renamed the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And in his Saturday radio address, the president declared that “We can out-compete any other nation on Earth.”

This may be smart politics. Arguably, Mr. Obama has enlisted an old cliché on behalf of a good cause, as a way to sell a much-needed increase in public investment to a public thoroughly indoctrinated in the view that government spending is a bad thing.

But let’s not kid ourselves: talking about “competitiveness” as a goal is fundamentally misleading. At best, it’s a misdiagnosis of our problems. At worst, it could lead to policies based on the false idea that what’s good for corporations is good for America.

About that misdiagnosis: What sense does it make to view our current woes as stemming from lack of competitiveness?

Robert Reich: The State of the Union: What the President Should Say

The President will have to devote a big part of his speech to the economy, but which economy? Corporate profits are up but jobs and wages remain in the doldrums. People with lots of financial assets, or who are deemed “talent” by large corporations, are enjoying a solid recovery. But most Americans continue to struggle.

In order for the public to understand what must be done, the President has to be clear about what has happened and why. Corporations are profiting from sales of their foreign operations, especially in China and India. Here at home, they’re catering to rich Americans. But an important key to their profits is their reduced costs, especially payrolls. The result has been fewer jobs and lower pay.

Glenn Greenwald: America’s Treatment of Detainees

Amnesty International has written a letter (pdf) to Defense Secretary Robert Gates objecting to the conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention, which was first reported here.  The group denounces the oppressive conditions under which Manning is being held as “unnecessarily harsh and punitive,” and further states they “appear to breach the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”  The letter describes Manning’s treatment as particularly egregious “in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence.

The letter follows a report from Manning’s lawyer, former Lt. Col. David Coombs, that the conditions of his detention temporarily worsened in the past week, prompting a formal complaint under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Amnesty’s letter also follows a report that the U.N.’s leading official on torture is formally investigating the conditions of Manning’s detention, a fact confirmed two weeks ago by The New York Times  (“the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, [] said he had submitted a formal inquiry about the soldier’s treatment to the State Department”).  

Of course, caring what Amnesty International or the U.N. have to say about the conditions of America’s detainees is so very 2004.  Now, such a concern is — to borrow a phrase from Alberto Gonazles — a quaint and obsolete relic of the past.

Jan 24 2011

Monday Business Edition

Much News now.  Editorial later.

From Yahoo News Business

1 Elites to tackle ‘fundamentally changed’ world at Davos

by Hui Min Neo, AFP

Sun Jan 23, 9:15 pm ET

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – The eurozone’s debt battle and the power shift towards emerging giants like China and India will be at the heart of discussions on a “fundamentally changed world” at this week’s Davos meeting of global elites.

“The world has fundamentally changed,” said Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum which organises the annual meeting at the Alpine resort.

“One of the most important factors of the new reality is the shift of geopolitical and geoeconomic power from north to south, from west to east.

Jan 24 2011

On This Day in History January 24

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.

January 24 is the 24th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 341 days remaining until the end of the year (342 in leap years).

On this day in 1848, A millwright named James Marshall discovers gold along the banks of Sutter’s Creek in California, forever changing the course of history in the American West.

The California Gold Rush began at Sutter’s Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River. Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” With the news of gold, local residents in California were among the first to head for the goldfields.

At the time gold was discovered, California was part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, which was ceded to the U.S. after the end of the Mexican-American War with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848.

On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report the discovery of gold. On December 5, 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress. Soon, waves of immigrants from around the world, later called the “forty-niners”, invaded the Gold Country of California or “Mother Lode”. As Sutter had feared, he was ruined; his workers left in search of gold, and squatters took over his land and stole his crops and cattle.

San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned about the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses whose owners joined the Gold Rush, but then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco exploded from perhaps 1,00 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850. The sudden massive influx into a remote area overwhelmed the infrastructure. Miners lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.[13] Wherever gold was discovered, hundreds of miners would collaborate to put up a camp and stake their claims. With names like Rough and Ready and Hangtown, each camp often had its own saloon and gambling house.

Jan 24 2011

Six In The Morning

The American Tax Payer Screwed Once Again    

Mortgage Giants Leave Legal Bills to the Taxpayers

Since the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taxpayers have spent more than $160 million defending the mortgage finance companies and their former top executives in civil lawsuits accusing them of fraud. The cost was a closely guarded secret until last week, when the companies and their regulator produced an accounting at the request of Congress.

The bulk of those expenditures – $132 million – went to defend Fannie Mae and its officials in various securities suits and government investigations into accounting irregularities that occurred years before the subprime lending crisis erupted. The legal payments show no sign of abating.

Jan 24 2011

Pique the Geek 20110123: The Physics of Cooking

I was originally going to write about the ballistics responsible for sparing the life of Representative Giffords tonight, but decided that some might feel that to be offensive.  Please indicate in comments whether or not you think that this would be an acceptable topic.  The piece is very interesting (the draft is in the can), but I leave it to my readers to determine whether it should see the light of day.

The topic tonight is the physics behind cooking, in the meaning that how heat is added to food makes a huge difference in the rate of cooking, the taste of the final product, and even its texture.

Jan 24 2011

Human Rights: A Quaint & Obsolete Relic Up Dated

Bradley Manning’s detention conditions got worse this week. He is now being held in total isolation in the brig at the Quantico, VA Marine Base. As has been reported by his friend David House, the only visitor he is allowed besides his lawyer, Manning’s mental and physical condition has been deteriorating steadily during his seven month long detention. Manning has no history violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offense.

Last Friday Jane Hamsher reported on Manning’s detention and a complaint that has been filed protesting his abuse:

For over five months, Bradley Manning has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch at the Quantico Brig against the recommendations of three forensic psychiatrists. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has filed an Article 138 Complaint under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, asserting that this represents an abuse of Brig Commander James Averhart’s discretion.

Coombs’ complaint was filed after the Brig Commander placed Manning under “suicide risk” and MAX custody earlier this week, which made his conditions dramatically worse. Glenn Greenwald broke the story about the inhumane conditions of Manning’s pre-trial confinement last month, shortly before the New York Times reported that the Justice Department strategy regarding Wikileaks was to “persuade” Manning to testify against Julain Assange.. . . . .

Bradley Manning has not been convicted of anything. Abusing his mental health classification while attempting to “persuade” him to testify against Julian Assange has alarming echoes of the techniques used to elicit false confessions from terrorist suspects.  It should alarm everyone that we could be watching pre-trial coersion becoming acceptable American shores.  If so, we can all wave goodbye to “innocent until proven guilty.”

Today Jane, accompanied by David House, went to Quantico to visit Manning and deliver a protest petition to brig officials. Instead they were detained at the gate and harassed by the MP’s who readily admitted they were ordered to do so.

Between 1:00 – 1:30 MPs took their IDs and made them sign a form that they could not deviate to the brig or else they would be considered trespassing. At this time, one of the MPs asked for Hamsher’s auto insurance card. MP Gunnery Sgt. Foster informed Hamsher that her car would be towed after declining to accept a digital copy of Hamsher’s insurance card. House and Hamsher offered to drive off the base but were denied, despite being detained only ten feet inside the base’s perimeter. The MPs then took the Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses of House and Hamsher.

Around 1:40 the tow truck arrived and MPs instructed House and Hamsher to leave their vehicle, informing them that their vehicle would be searched. At 2:00 pm House observed military officers arriving and entering the MP outpost which oversaw their detainment. House expressed concern that he would miss Manning’s visiting hours but was told that he could neither exit nor move forward to the base. No explanation for House and Hamsher’s detainment was provided until, and they were held until 2:50 when they were informed they could leave the base. They were detained for two hours up until Manning’s visitation time period expired at 3:00 pm.

House and Jane have visited Manning in the past but not since Amnesty International filed a complaint to Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for an investigation into the conditions of Manning’s confinement. The Amnesty International complaint came on the heals of the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, submitting a formal inquiry about the conditions of Manning’s detention. House was banned today from seeing Manning. One of the question now is will he be banned in the future because of his reports on Manning’s condition under these harsh conditions.

I look around at the reports about the resumption of the military commissions at Guantanamo and the new policies on the use of Miranda in terrorist interrogations and I wonder is this still the United States? What happened to our principles of justice, not that they ever favored the underprivileged? Is this country turning into the new Soviet Russia?

Jan 24 2011

Prime Time

Faux is taking a run at Steelers/Jets with new episodes of Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers (Coach McGuirk), and Cleveland.

I have something to show you all! Those of you with weak stomachs should leave now! What you are about to see is a nightmare, inexplicably torn from the pages of Kafka!

Holy crap! What happened?

Apparently this is the reward I get for years of screwing with super-science. In short, I pissed in God’s eye – and He blinked.

I love those moments.  I like to wave at them as they pass by.

The Venture BrothersIce Station Impossible, Midlife Chrysalis


Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Because I choose to.