Daily Archive: 03/23/2011

Mar 23 2011

A Tweet From Wasilla

This is what hunting from helicopters teaches you-

Soldier Admits Killing 3 Afghan Civilians

By WILLIAM YARDLEY, The New York Times

Published: March 23, 2011

Specialist Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, is the first of the five soldiers to face a court-martial. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, assault and other charges.

Before the plea offer, Specialist Morlock gave several interviews to investigators, including some on videotape that have been broadcast nationally, in which he described how members of his unit, part of Stryker brigade deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, faked combat situations so they could kill Afghan civilians who he said posed no threat.

(h/t dday)

More from dday

These are not the pictures that President Obama tried to block in 2009, because the incidents from this Army Stryker unit Der Spiegel describes in their story are from 2010. So the change in commanders-in-chief has not occasioned a halt to atrocities and war crimes in Afghanistan.

Mar 23 2011

Evening Edition

I’ll be sitting in for ek hornbeck who is Live Blogging the NCAA Championship Games for the next few days.

  • Air strikes silence Gaddafi guns at besieged city

    By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy

    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Western warplanes silenced Muammar Gaddafi’s artillery and tanks besieging the rebel-held town of Misrata on Wednesday after an American admiral warned that the Libyan leader’s armor was now in the cross-hairs.

    Breathing defiance, Gaddafi earlier said Western powers carrying out air strikes on Libya were “a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history.”

  • Japan nuclear crisis still a serious concern

    By Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Kubota

    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo residents were warned not to give babies tap water because of radiation leaking from a nuclear plant crippled in the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeast Japan in the world’s costliest natural disaster.

    The U.N. atomic agency said there had been some positive developments at the Fukushima nuclear plant 250 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo but the overall situation remained serious. Some countries have started blocking imports of produce from Japan, fearful of radiation contamination.

Mar 23 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”

New York Times Editorial: The Right to Sue Over Wiretapping

Federal authorities have always made it difficult to bring a legal challenge against the government’s warrantless wiretapping enterprise that was set up by the Bush administration in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Because the wiretaps were secret, no one could know for certain if they were being tapped, so the government urged judges to throw out lawsuits for lack of proof of real harm.

That strategy was halted on Monday when a federal appeals court said that civil liberties and journalism groups challenging an eavesdropping law could pursue a suit trying to get the government’s wiretapping declared illegal. In an important ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated a lawsuit that a federal district judge had thrown out in 2009.

The new decision might lead to a significant – and far too long delayed – legal review of the statute.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The cost of Libyan intervention

It will be 17 years next month since the West made the decision not to intervene in the Rwandan genocide, allowing more than 800,000 people to be slaughtered in just 100 days. Seventeen years later, President Obama has ordered military action in concert with the United Nations, to stop a new humanitarian crisis, this time in Libya, after the urging of a handful of aides. Among them were Samantha Power, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her book on the Rwandan genocide, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was part of the team that failed to act in 1994.

According to reports, they advocated intervention to prevent massacres ordered by Moammar Gaddafi in the city of Benghazi and elsewhere. The threat of massacre, by all accounts, appeared to be imminent.

Rwanda’s upcoming anniversary, though, is not the central one that comes to mind. In a grim coincidence of history, President Obama ordered “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” establishing a no-fly zone in Libya, to begin on March 19, exactly eight years after President Bush began his shock and awe campaign in Iraq.

Maureen Dowd: Fight of the Valkyries

They are called the Amazon Warriors, the Lady Hawks, the Valkyries, the Durgas.

There is something positively mythological about a group of strong women swooping down to shake the president out of his delicate sensibilities and show him the way to war. And there is something positively predictable about guys in the White House pushing back against that story line for fear it makes the president look henpecked.

It is not yet clear if the Valkyries will get the credit or the blame on Libya. But everyone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men – the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers – outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi.

How odd to see the diplomats as hawks and the military as doves.

Mar 23 2011

Problem? What Problem?

Tokyo Issues Tap Water Warning for Infants

By DAVID JOLLY and KEVIN DREW

Published: March 23, 2011

Ei Yoshida, head of water purification for the Tokyo water department, said at a televised news conference that infants in Tokyo and surrounding areas should not drink tap water. He said iodine-131 had been detected in water samples at a level of 210 becquerels per liter, about a quart. The recommended limit for infants is 100 becquerels per liter. For adults, the recommended limit is 300 becquerels.



Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the public should avoid additional farm produce from areas near the power station because of contamination, according to Japanese media.

And the solution?  Same as it always is, more corporate welfare.

The economic cost of the disaster has hit the power company, also called Tepco, which is in negotiations with its bankers for loans of as much as about $24 billion, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified.



Additional loans will raise new questions about Tepco’s long-term financial health. The disaster led Moody’s Japan to cut Tepco’s debt rating to A1 from Aa2 and warn that further downgrades were possible. The Fukushima Daiichi station, which was only a few weeks ago listed on the balance sheet as an asset worth billions of dollars, may have to be largely written off.

“Our concern right now is not about whether we’ll be paid back,” the source said. “The important thing is to support the company.”

But of course this is just Japan, a backwards third world banana republic with a culture of denial-

DAVID SANGER, “NEW YORK TIMES” (on Hardball): Michael and I both lived in Japan at about the same time, and you know, the Japanese, first, often don’t want to talk very directly about bad news, particularly if they think it’s going to cause a panic.

Something like that could never happen here.

Update: dday.

Mar 23 2011

On This Day in History March 23

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.

March 23 is the 82nd day of the year (83rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 283 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry voices American opposition to British policy

During a speech before the second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry responds to the increasingly oppressive British rule over the American colonies by declaring, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Following the signing of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Patrick Henry was appointed governor of Virginia by the Continental Congress.

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786. Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 and is well remembered for his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential exponents of Republicanism, promoters of the American Revolution and Independence, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia who opposed the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States, as well as the freedoms of individuals.

American Revolution

Responding to pleas from Massachusetts that the colonies create committees of correspondence to coordinate their reaction to the British, Henry took the lead in Virginia. In March 1773, along with Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee, Henry led the Virginia House of Burgesses to adopt resolutions providing for a standing committee of correspondents. Each colony set up such committees, and they led to the formation of the First Continental Congress in 1774, to which Henry was elected.

Patrick Henry is best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. The House was undecided on whether to mobilize for military action against the encroaching British military force, and Henry argued in favor of mobilization. Forty-two years later, Henry’s first biographer, William Wirt, working from oral testimony, attempted to reconstruct what Henry said. According to Wirt, Henry ended his speech with words that have since become immortalized:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

The crowd, by Wirt’s account, jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!”. For 160 years Wirt’s account was taken at face value, but in the 1970s historians began to question the authenticity of Wirt’s reconstruction.[8] Historians today observe that Henry was known to have used fear of Indian and slave revolts in promoting military action against the British, and that according to the only written first-hand account of the speech, Henry used some graphic name-calling that failed to appear in Wirt’s heroic rendition.

In August 1775, Henry became colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment. At the outset of the Revolutionary War, Henry led militia against Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in defense of some disputed gunpowder, an event known as the Gunpowder Incident. During the war he served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia and presided over several expeditions against the Cherokee Indians, who were allied with the British.

Henry lived during part of the War at his 10,000-acre Leatherwood Plantation in Henry County, Virginia, where he, his first cousin Ann Winston Carr and her husband Col. George Waller had settled. During the five years Henry lived at Leatherwood, from 1779 to 1784, he owned 75 slaves, and grew tobacco. During this time, he kept in close touch with his friend the explorer Joseph Martin, whom Henry had appointed agent to the Cherokee nation, and with whom Henry sometimes invested in real estate, and for whom the county seat of Henry County was later named.

In early November 1775 Henry and James Madison were elected founding trustees of Hampden-Sydney College, which opened for classes on November 10. He remained a trustee until his death in 1799. Henry was instrumental in achieving passage of the College’s Charter of 1783, an action delayed because of the war. He is probably the author of the Oath of Loyalty to the new Republic included in that charter. Seven of his sons attended the new college.

Mar 23 2011

Wall St. Reform or Not: Dodd-Frank Bill

One of the regulation under the Dodd-Frank bill that was passed by Congress was regulating the derivatives by publicly trading them in exchanges. One of those derivatives, foreign exchange swaps is now on the verge of being exempted from regulation by none other than Wall St,’s best friend, Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner. It is a $4 trillion-a-day market that allows businesses to convert one currency to another currency. It also supports speculation, and facilitates the carry trade, in which investors borrow low-yielding currencies and lend high-yielding currencies, and which  may lead to loss of competitiveness in some countries. It is one of the markets that the Federal Reserves spent trillions of tax dollars propping up during the financial crisis in 2008 because of its speculative practices and lack of regulation.

Now, from Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect, Timmy wants to “blow a hole in Dodd-Frank”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is close to a decision to exempt the $4 trillion-a-day foreign-currency market from key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring greater transparency in the trading of derivatives. In the horse-trading over the final conference version of that legislation last year, both Geithner and financial-industry executives lobbied extensively to give the Treasury secretary the right to create this loophole. As the practical reach of Dodd-Frank is defined by the executive branch, this will be the first major decision to signal whether regulators will act to strengthen or weaken the reforms….

Geithner has already made his own views clear. In testimony before the Senate Agricultural Committee in December 2009, he declared that the foreign-exchange market needed no special regulation. “The FX [foreign exchange] markets are different,” he said. “They are not really derivative in a sense, and they don’t present the same sort of risk, and there is an elaborate framework in place already to limit settlement risk.”

snip

However, previously confidential information recently made public by the Federal Reserve Board reveals that in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the Fed pumped in $5.4 trillion over a three-month period to keep the foreign-currency market from collapsing. The Fed’s peak injection of dollars on any one day occurred on Oct. 22, 2008, when it reached $823 billion, according to a Wall Street watchdog group’s, Better Markets, analysis of the Fed data release….

Sen. Maria Cantwell, one of the most effective advocates for strong derivatives regulation during the Dodd-Frank debates, says, “I can’t believe the first decision the administration would make to carry out Dodd-Frank would be an anti-transparency decision. The idea that the foreign-exchange markets are not at risk is preposterous — we now know that they required multitrillion-dollar bailouts. Anytime you have a lack of transparency, there is potential for abuse.”

snip

Abuse of derivatives was at the absolute center of the financial meltdown. The collateralized debt obligations that were built on pyramids of sketchy mortgages whose value collapsed were, of course, derivatives. The mortgages themselves had been converted into highly leveraged, artificial securities — the essence of a derivative. So were the credit-default swaps that took down American International Group. With a derivative, a tiny amount of capital can control a much larger financial bet, and until the Dodd-Frank reforms, the derivatives were constructed and traded privately, with no regulator scrutiny. If such bets go wrong, massive losses ensue. And in a generalized loss of confidence, even well-capitalized institutions fail to accept each other’s credits.

(all emphasis mine)

In other words, it is business as usual that got us into the financial mess were are now trying to dig out from under. Nice work, Barack

Mar 23 2011

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: The Aftermath

Some of the most important changes that resulted from the tragic deaths at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire were the reforms to work place health and safety conditions. Modern buildings now must conform to fire safety and occupancy standards. The Asch building  loft were 500 women labored at overcrowded worktables did not have a sprinkler system, the exits were inadequate and locked, the passages were narrow and blocked and the fire escapes were unsafe. The fire compelled New York City to create the Bureau of Fire Prevention, which required stairwells, fire alarms, extinguishers and hoses be installed in all buildings and regularly conducts building inspection to insure compliance. The Bureau also determines maximum occupancy. The year after the fire the NY the legislature passed eight bills addressing workplace sanitation, injury on the job, rest periods and child labor. In 1913, the Factory Investigating Commission recommended that 25 new bills be passed mandating fireproof stairways and the safe construction of fire escapes, that doorways be a certain number of feet wide, and that older multi-storied buildings be inspected. In 1916, smoking was also outlawed in factories.

Frances Perkins, who would later become Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s Secretary of Labor, witnessed the women jumping from the windows that day. She would later comment that it was “the day the New Deal began.” In the ’30s, the New Deal included many of these provisions on the federal level. In 1933, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act which also protected collective bargaining rights for unions.

These are just a few of the safety rules that resulted from that terrible day:

  1. The law was instituted requiring employers to provide sprinklers for workplaces with more than 50 people.
  2. Regulations require that enough exit stairways to accommodate all building occupants and direct passageways to those exits that are of minimum width. Additionally, all exit doors shall remain unlocked, requiring no special knowledge or tools to open.
  3. Maximum occupancy regulations established occupant loads for building rooms under all probable conditions to prevent dangerous overcrowding.
  4. Regulations for exits and openings created minimum 32in pathways and doors that open in the direction of travel, reducing the bottle neck effect that wasted precious minutes.
  5. Fire drills for offices, apartment buildings, schools and health facilities train workers and occupants regularly for exit procedures, using audible alarms, visible exit signs, and off site gathering spots.
  6. Organizers pushed for, and won, egress regulations for the workplace, creating continuous passageways, aisles and corridors for direct access to every available exit.

These reforms have resulted in a smaller risk of fires in the work place but the the fight for safer working conditions continues on other fronts

Occupational Fatalities 2008-2009

Photobucket


(click on image to enlarge)

Because of these reforms deaths from fires in the work place were drastically reduced. Unions now are focusing on other factors that affect work place safety. Now in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, Republican dominated state legislatures are trying to end workers right to collective bargaining as an excuse to reduce state budgets while giving tax breaks to their corporate masters who financed their elections. Citizens are fighting back in court and at the ballot box with recalls and referendums. We must never forget what the 146 victims of Triangle represent. Ever.

Sources for this diary:

SEIU.org

WNYC News

Wikipedia.org

Mar 23 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for March 22, 2011-

DocuDharma

Mar 23 2011

Working with Your Hands 20110322: Welding

My good friend wanted his trailer to have some metal over the sides of it to use to tie down his riding lawnmowers, his ATV, and his large pull behind mower.  He has several acres to mow, at his farm and here at his house.

Yesterday we went to the hardware store and got supplies, went to his farm to pick up the trailer, and to the welding supply firm to get material.  We welded a little last night, and finished it today.

Welding is almost like art.  One takes a design, and makes it into a fusion of art and utility.  Dad taught me how to weld.

Mar 23 2011

from firefly-dreaming 22.3.11

Essays Featured Tuesday the 22nd of March~

Veruca Salt kicks off the day in Late Night Karaoke, mishima DJs

Six Brilliant Articles! from Six Different Places!! on Six Different Topics!!!

                Six Days a Week!!!    at Six in the Morning!!!!

puzzled shares the delightful Regretsy in Tuesday Open Thoughts

Gha!

Words for the Working Person by Wendys Wink republished with permission by  RiaD

A new series from Timbuk3: The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time!

Tonight #99