Daily Archive: 04/26/2011

Apr 26 2011

BREAKING!: Ezra Klein goes hours without a Category Error!

I won’t link Ezra directly because as far as I’m concerned he’s not just a poor writer and below average intellect, he’s also a thoroughgoing Beltway Buttkissing hypocritical “pretend” liberal.

But that won’t stop my pointing out like a broken clock, he’s right for once.

Ezra Klein: Obama is "a moderate Republican of the early 1990s"

by Gaius Publius, Americablog

4/26/2011 01:05:00 PM

(T)his is just the logical endpoint of two years spent arguing over what Barack Obama is – or isn’t. … We’ve obsessed over every answer except the right one: President Obama, if you look closely at his positions, is a moderate Republican of the early 1990s.

First, the “Obama is a Republican” meme is getting mainstreamed. Great news. Time to call it right, in the same way that Krugman is starting to call it right – out loud.

Second, Klein seems to be bending over to praise Republicans; either that, or he’s an admirer himself, and sincerely so. We need to acknowledge that about Klein. (In that sense, this is a “state of the Klein” piece as much as a “state of the Obama” article.)

(h/t lambert)

Apr 26 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”

Dean Baker: The Battle Is Over Money, Not Philosophy

Ever since House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan put out his proposal for voucherizing Medicare we have seen a steady drumbeat of stories telling us that this is a battle over the size and role of government. This is not true. It is a battle over money.

This point is important because there are very few people in this country who are interested in debates over philosophy. Insofar as they do give it any thought, most people will say that they prefer small government over big government. They want to see government play a less intrusive role in our lives.

There are probably less than a hundred people in the entire country who support “big government” as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, most of them write columns in major national papers.

Eugene Robinson: The word most politicians ignore: Jobs

What is it about the word “jobs” that our nation’s leaders fail to understand? How has the most painful economic crisis in decades somehow escaped their notice? Why do they ignore the issues that Americans care most desperately about?

Listening to the debate in Washington, you’d think the nation was absorbed by the compelling saga of deficit reduction. You’d get the impression that in households across America, parents put their children to bed and then stay up half the night sifting through piles of think-tank reports on the kitchen table, trying to calculate whether there will be enough in the Social Security trust fund to pay benefits beyond 2037.

And you’d be wrong. Those parents are looking at a pile of bills on the kitchen table, trying to decide which ones have to be paid now and which can slide. The question isn’t how to manage health care or retirement costs two decades from now. It’s how the family can make it to the end of the month.

Bruce Fein: A Choice Between Honor and Ignominy

Vice President Joe Biden is an honorable man.

It is not that he loves the Constitution less, but that he adores political power more, which explains his tacit endorsement of President Barack Obama’s usurpation of the exclusive congressional power to commence war. In Reid v. Covert, the Supreme Court declared that treaties and laws enacted pursuant to them must comply with the provisions of the Constitution.

Last March 19, President Obama initiated war against Libya without congressional authorization as mandated by Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution (“the War Clause”). Moreover, the president proclaimed that the White House is empowered to unilaterally commence war not only to play Good Samaritan to the Milky Way, but also to advance “regional stability” or the “credibility” of the United Nations Security Council. That unprecedented principle would justify endless presidential wars anywhere, including South Ossetia, Chechnya, Tibet, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kashmir, the South China Sea, etc. Unless repudiated by the political leadership of the United States, the principle will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for invocation by some future self-deified Caligula to justify martial law.

Robert Auerbach: Bernanke’s Press Conferences Will Not Remedy the Fed’s Corrupt and Deceptive Public Records Policies

Chairman Ben Bernanke’s public press conferences are intended to open the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, to needed public sunlight. Bernanke may well dodge any questions on Fed policies, the only policies the Fed has authority to alter. He will be eager to talk about fiscal and budget policy over which the Fed has no direct control except for Fed loans. Some of these loans were forced into public view by the recent Fed audit required under the 2010 Chris Dodd-Barney Frank Act.

What is needed is a complete record of the discussions at the Fed meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee, FOMC (12 members), and its Board of Governors (7 governors when all seats are filled). These unelected officials determine the size of the nation’s money supply and the payment of billions of dollars of interest to private sector banks that currently (4/20/2011) hold $1.486 trillion in reserves at the Fed. Bernanke has said he may raise the rate of interest on these reserves, as he will be forced to do if market interest rates rise.

John Nichols: As Congressional GOP Faces Voter Anger at Town Meetings, Senator Urges Hiding Out in DC

Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to GOP proposals to start hacking away at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to cut deficits, Instead, voters favor raising taxes on the wealthy.

How overwhelmingly?

Eighty percent of Americans oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll. Just 18 percent agree with approach approved by most House Republicans.

In contrast, 64 percent of Americans back using tax hikes for the rich to balance budgets, while just 33 percent oppose.

But voters aren’t just telling it to the pollsters. They are telling it to Republican members of the House and Senate.

George Zornick: With Economy as a Hostage, the GOP Presents Extreme Demands

The standoff du jour in Washington is about a vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. Democrats and the White House insist it must be done-as does Wall Street-while fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists are demanding serious concessions, and in some cases, an unconditional “no” vote. As the conversation reaches a crescendo, it’s useful to take a quick look at what the debt ceiling actually is, and what forces are at play in the debate.

When the United States needs to borrow money, the Treasury Department issues bonds in order to pay for the deficit spending. Before 1917, Congress had to approve this borrowing every time it happened, but World War I created a need for more flexibility and lawmakers gave the federal government unchecked borrowing powers, provided the total amount was less than a certain limit.

Congress now needs to approve any borrowing past the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which the United States will reach “no later” than May 16, according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government would have to stop spending-including stopping interest payments on those Treasury bonds, meaning that the United States would effectively default on its debt.

Apr 26 2011

Where is the outrage? It’s Here

All in all I’d rather have been a judge than a miner. And what is more, being a miner, as soon as you are too old and tired and sick and stupid to do the job properly, you have to go. Well, the very opposite applies with the judges. ~~ Peter Cook

Jon Stewart asked where is the outrage over Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan that includes not only ending Medicare with a voucher system but also raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Yes, Medicare, not just Social Security as has been proposed by both Republicans and Democrats, including the White House, as if the one where not enough.

Under current law, you become eligible for Medicare on the day you turn 65. If the Republicans get their way, you wouldn’t become eligible for the new Medicare voucher until the day you turn 67.

The change would happen gradually, with the eligibility age rising two months every year, starting in 2022. And, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not like that many people are between the ages of 65 and 67 anyway. But think for a second about who those people are–and the insurance options they’d have available to them without Medicare.

Remember, the House Republican budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act. That would leave insurance companies free to charge higher premiums, restrict benefits, or deny coverage altogether to individual applicants who have pre-existing conditions. Given the relatively high incidence of conditions like hypertension, arthritis, and vision problems among older Americans, it’s safe to assume many seniors would have trouble finding affordable coverage–if, indeed, they could find coverage at all.

Economist Paul Krugman in his Conscience of a Liberal blog this morning points out that “in our increasingly polarized society, life expectancy is more and more a class-related issue.”

As the Social Security Administration has shown, the gap between life expectancy in the top and bottom halves of the wage distribution has risen sharply:

Photobucket

Since most of the corporate media is controlled by the right wing oligarchs, it’s a little difficult to get the real message out to the people or at least an unbiased reporting of what the Republicans have been plotting. The Murdochs and Redstones have controlled the message but because of shows like Jon’s, Stephen’s, Rachel’s and Keith’s, the real agenda is finally getting out there. Evidence the events in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio where the voters are enraged, we now need to take this to a national level. Witness also the latest DCCC message that call the Republicans out on their lies to constituents about Medicare in this MSNBC’s segment with Cenk Uygur:

Finally, we are starting these corporate puppets being held to account for their lies and hypocrisy. Now, throw all the bums out from top to bottom.

Apr 26 2011

Chernobyl

First I’d like to draw your attention to this excellent 3 part series by Alexandra Odynova of The Moscow Times

From a section of the last piece titled More Disasters Ahead?

The key problem, he (Glushchenko) said, is plant lifetime – which is limited at 25 to 30 years but routinely extended for financial reasons by many countries.

Of the 444 reactors currently in operation worldwide, 178 have exceeded their lifetime. In Russia, 19 out of 32 reactors will be working past their expiration date by 2013, Glushchenko said.

There is no better illustration to his point than the Fukushima plant, which was commissioned in 1971 and also had its official lifetime extended.

Despite warnings from global nuclear safety bodies, Fukushima continued to operate – until a tsunami hit in March, disabling the emergency generators and putting the reactor on the brink of a meltdown. A handful of “nuclear samurais” are still trying to clean up the disaster, much like Glushchenko and his team did at Chernobyl 25 years ago.

“Liquidators” is what the 600,000 Russians who worked on containing Chernobyl called themselves.  From The Telegraph

Chernobyl’s managers initially tried pumping water into the reactor core but when this proved unsuccessful they turned to dumping boron carbide and a total of 4,000 tons of lead, sand and clay on the facility.

The material was dropped from helicopters, and pilots on the initial flights received abnormal doses of radiation as they hovered in stationary mode over the reactor.

Later they dumped their loads while moving over the reactor, causing additional destruction around the area that may have assisted the spread of the radiation.



In October, a concrete shelter, called a sarcophagus, was completed to prevent further leakage of radiation from reactor number four and allow the other reactors at the Chernobyl plant to continue producing power for Ukraine.

How are things going at our new Chernobyl?

Leaks Probed as Japan Moves to Cool Reactors

By MITSURU OBE, The Wall Street Journal

APRIL 26, 2011, 5:35 A.M. ET

(A)n apparent leakage in the pressure vessel of the No. 1 reactor has left the fuel partially exposed above the level of the cooling water, with a steady supply of fresh water keeping it cool. By filling up the entire containment vessel, Tepco hopes to submerge both the fuel and the pressure vessel in water.



Concerns also have grown about a possible leak in the spent fuel pool of Reactor No. 4, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman of the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The pool holds the most fuel rods among the complex’s six reactor buildings, including both spent and active nuclear fuel.



A week-old operation to drain radioactive water from the complex continues to suffer fresh setbacks. While the operator has focused on dealing with water in Reactor No. 2, seen as the most radioactive in the complex, the flooding situation has slowly deteriorated in Reactors Nos. 3 and 4, where the levels of water in the basements of their respective turbine buildings have increased in the last 10 days.

Radiation contamination also has spread from the turbine building of No. 3 to the Reactor No. 4 turbine building, raising the possibility that water in No. 4 may need to be cleansed of radiation before being stored in one of the makeshift tanks Tepco is planning to build.

Apr 26 2011

On This Day In History April 26

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.

April 26 is the 116th day of the year (117th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 249 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine). An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western Russia and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima I nuclear incident, which is considered far less serious and has caused no direct deaths). The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles, crippling the Soviet economy.

The disaster began during a systems test on 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the town of Pripyat. There was a sudden power output surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a more extreme spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus.

The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive about its procedures.

(Click on image to enlarge) Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident. Thirty one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers. A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. Estimates of the number of deaths potentially resulting from the accident vary enormously: the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest it could reach 4,000; a Greenpeace report puts this figure at 200,000 or more; a Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 excess deaths occurred between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination.

Decommissioning

After the explosion at reactor four, the remaining three reactors at the power plant continued to operate. In 1991, reactor two suffered a major fire, and was subsequently decommissioned. In November 1996, reactor one was shut down, followed by reactor three on December 15, 2000, making good on a promise by Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma that the entire plant would be closed.

Even after the last reactor shutdown, people continue to work at the Chernobyl plant until reactor units 1, 2, and 3 are totally decommissioned, which is expected to take years. The first stage of decommissioning is the removal of the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is placed in deep water cooling ponds. However, storage facilities for this are not suitable for long term containment, and those on site do not have the capacity for all the spent fuel from units 1, 2 and 3. A second facility is planned for construction that will use dry storage technology suitable for long term storage and have the required capacity.

Removal of uncontaminated equipment has begun at unit 1 and this work could be complete by 2020-2022.

The remains of reactor unit 4 will remain radioactive for some time. The isotope responsible for the majority of the external gamma radiation dose at the site is Caesium-137 which has a half-life of about 30 years. It is likely that with no further decontamination work the gamma ray dosage at the site will return to background levels in about three hundred years. However, as most of the alpha emitters are longer lived, the soil and many surfaces in and around the plant are likely to be contaminated with transuranic metals such as plutonium and americium, which have much longer half-lives. It is planned that the reactor buildings will be disassembled as soon as it is radiologically safe to do so.

Apr 26 2011

Six In The Morning

Mohammed says he beheaded U.S. reporter despite warnings  

Chilling portraits of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind, and other Guantanamo detainees emerge in the latest release of classified material from WikiLeaks.

Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington- A senior Al Qaeda military commander strongly warned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed not to kill Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, cautioning him “it would not be wise to murder Pearl” and that he should “be returned back to one of the previous groups who held him, or freed.”

But Mohammed told his U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay that he cut off Pearl’s head anyway, according to U.S. military documents posted on the Internet on Monday by WikiLeaks.

Apr 26 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for April 25, 2011-

DocuDharma

Apr 26 2011

What’s Cooking: Ham Bone

The holiday is over, besides the candy, you most likely have a refrigerator full of leftovers and one of them may be a ham bone. Don’t throw it out just yet, there is still another use for it, soup. Served with a salad and a hearty bread, these soups make a hearty, nutritional meal meal that is also budget conscious. Accompanied by a good beer, this is real comfort food on a chilly Spring evening.

One soup recipe that uses a ham bone has been served in the US Senate for over 100 years. The current version does not include potatoes but I like tradition in this case. I also would add a cheese clothe sachet of bay leaf, parsley, peppercorn and thyme for flavor. I also use chicken broth in place of the water. You can play with your own seasoning to taste.

United States Senate Bean Soup

1 lb. dry navy beans

1 ham bone with meat

Soak beans overnight in 3 quarts water. Drain. In a large soup pot put ham bone and beans. Add 2 quarts cold water and simmer for 2 hours. Add:

4 cups mashed potatoes, minimum (more makes soup thicker)

3 medium onions, chopped

2 garlic buds, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp. salt (optional)

1/4 tsp. pepper

Simmer all for 1 hour more.

And then there is the real traditional that has been around forever. There are numerous versions of this recipe, this one uses ham hocks but the left over ham bone can be substituted.

Split Pea Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

Ingedients:

  2 meaty ham hocks (1 3/4 lb total)

   16 cups water

   4 large carrots

   1 large onion, chopped

   2 celery ribs, chopped

   5 tablespoons olive oil

   1 lb dried split peas (2 1/4 cups), picked over and rinsed

   1 teaspoon table salt

   1/4 teaspoon black pepper

   5 cups 1/2-inch cubes pumpernickel bread (from a 1 1/4-lb loaf)

   1 teaspoon kosher salt

   1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)

Preparation:

Simmer ham hocks in 16 cups water in a deep 6-quart pot, uncovered, until meat is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Transfer ham hocks to a cutting board and measure broth: If it measures more than 12 cups, continue boiling until reduced; if less, add enough water to total 12 cups. When hocks are cool enough to handle, discard skin and cut meat into 1/4-inch pieces (reserve bones).

Chop 2 carrots and cook along with onion and celery in 2 tablespoons oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add split peas, table salt, pepper, ham hock broth, and reserved bones and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are falling apart and soup is slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 hours.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

While soup simmers, toss bread with remaining 3 tablespoons oil and kosher salt in a large bowl, then spread in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool croutons in pan on a rack.

Halve remaining 2 carrots lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Remove bones from soup with a slotted spoon and discard. Add carrots and ham pieces to soup and simmer, uncovered, until carrots are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add frozen peas and simmer, uncovered, stirring, until just heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Serve soup with croutons.

Cooks’ notes:

· Croutons can be made 3 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

· Soup is best when made, without frozen peas, 1 day ahead (to give flavors time to develop). Cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered. Reheat and, if necessary, thin with water. Stir in frozen peas while reheating.

Apr 26 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Nearly 500 Taliban flee in daring Afghan jailbreak

by Mamoon Durrani, AFP

Mon Apr 25, 10:43 am ET

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – Almost 500 Taliban fighters and commanders escaped from a prison in an audacious jailbreak in southern Afghanistan which the government admitted Monday was a security “disaster”.

The Taliban said it sprung the inmates out of the prison in Kandahar through a one-kilometre tunnel that took five months to dig, and claimed all those who escaped belonged to the militia, including over 100 commanders.

The daring breakout in the Taliban’s heartland, the second from the prison in three years, threatens to undermine recent gains claimed by NATO forces in the area after a US-led troop surge, just as the annual fighting season begins.

Yup, sure are winning now.