04/29/2011 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 32 dead on Syria ‘rage day:’ activists, ministry


1 hr 36 mins ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) – At least 32 people were killed as tens of thousands of protesters rallied for a “day of rage” after Friday prayers, defying warnings of a harsh crackdown, Syrian activists and officials said.

Protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were held in most major towns, witnesses said, in a repeat of pro-democracy rallies which have become the norm after weekly Muslim prayers.

Security sources shot dead at least 16 people in the protest epicentre of Daraa, rights activists said.

This Week In The Dream Antilles

A week of sighs.  And gratitude.  Spring finally arrived in the formerly frozen tundra in which your Bloguero has been confined since the Fall.  There are now daffodils and tulips.  The shagbark is in flower, and the leaves have finally started to unfold.  Among the sounds your Bloguero hears is his own sigh of relief after a very long, very hard winter.  The next sounds will probably include lawn mowers.  And the hatching of the starling chicks in the nest these uninvited birds have built for the fourth year running in your Bloguero’s bathroom vent.  For now, it is enough again to put duct tape on the switch for the fan, and sit idly in the sun and feel its warmth.  Gracias, gracias, gracias, gracias for your Bloguero’s long journey from Winter to Spring.

Others have been far less fortunate.  The Storms in Alabama and other parts of the South have killed hundreds and devastated communities.  And in Ecuador Tungurahua has erupted.  The radiation in Japan continues, though it has slipped off the front pages.  It was a week in which Pachamama again undermined belief in the planet’s immutability and demonstrated her capacity for constant change, ever evolving impermanence.  She is clearly unhappy.  Humankind, however, apparently doesn’t pay attention.  Or seek supplication.  It is far happier with the facile, the grotesque spectacle of an imperial wedding and the Republican sociopathy when confronted with the President’s birth certificate.  It’s no wonder that Pachamama is so unhappy.

Phoebe Snow passed on.  For many, many years she devoted her life to caring for her child.  She and her flutelike voice, sometimes almost a yodel, will be sorely missed.  Thank goodness for Youtube.

A Dangerous Idea transformed your Bloguero’s expressed giddiness at the idea of his metaphorically becoming a human cannonball into dour sobriety.  An English human cannonball was killed when his safety net “failed to engage.”  A sad story.

A Victory Cigar announced your bloguero’s completion of the manuscript for his second novel, Tulum.  What’s it all about?

The book, set in Tulum in Mexico’s Yucatan and in Cuba, is at once a travelogue, a love story, and the story of the unlikely friendship of a Mayan Curandero and a middle aged, gringo expat with a shady past, who ultimately embarks, as an apprentice, on the path of becoming a Shaman. There will be no spoiler here. The book, drawn from the deep cenote of Magical Realism, adopts Carlos Fuentes’s guidance:

A writer should never know the whole story. He imagines one part and asks the reader to finish it. A book should never close. The reader should continue it.

Put another way, your Bloguero’s not telling much.  Not yet.  He’s turning it over to you, the reader.  He’s telling just enough to whet your materialist streak, the part of your internal dialogue that whispers, “You know, I really should buy a copy of that and read it.  Did he say it was his second book?  What was the first one like?”

And your Bloguero noted Shakespeare’s birthday with his favorite quote from the Tempest.  You know the one.  After all, your Bloguero believes, we are all such stuff as dreams are made on.

Your bloguero notes that this Digest is a weekly feature.  Your Bloguero usually posts this Digest on Saturday morning early.  He hopes that you will (again) forgive his putting it up a trifle early.  Your bloguero will be back next week, hopefully on Saturday morning early.

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 Intimidated Fed

Last month more than 14 million Americans were unemployed by the official definition – that is, seeking work but unable to find it. Millions more were stuck in part-time work because they couldn’t find full-time jobs. And we’re not talking about temporary hardship. Long-term unemployment, once rare in this country, has become all too normal: More than four million Americans have been out of work for a year or more.

Given this dismal picture, you might have expected unemployment, and what to do about it, to have been a major focus of Wednesday’s press conference with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. And it should have been. But it wasn’t.

Glen Greenwald: A More Militarized CIA for a More Militarized America

The first four Directors of the CIA (from 1947-1953) were military officers, but since then, there has been a tradition (generally though imperfectly observed) of keeping the agency under civilian rather than military leadership. That’s why George Bush’s 2006 nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to the CIA provoked so many objections from Democrats (and even some Republicans).

The Hayden nomination triggered this comment from the current Democratic Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein: “You can’t have the military control most of the major aspects of intelligence. The CIA is a civilian agency and is meant to be a civilian agency.” The then-top Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, said “she hears concerns from civilian CIA professionals about whether the Defense Department is taking over intelligence operations” and “shares those concerns.” On Meet the Press, Nancy Pelosi cited tensions between the DoD and the CIA and said: “I don’t see how you have a four-star general heading up the CIA.” Then-Sen. Joe Biden worried that the CIA, with a General in charge, will “just be gobbled up by the Defense Department.” Even the current GOP Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, voiced the same concern about Hayden: “We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time.”

Of course, like so many Democratic objections to Bush policies, that was then and this is now. Yesterday, President Obama announced — to very little controversy — that he was nominating Gen. David Petraeus to become the next CIA Director. The Petraeus nomination raises all the same concerns as the Hayden nomination did, but even more so: Hayden, after all, had spent his career in military intelligence and Washington bureaucratic circles and thus was a more natural fit for the agency; by contrast, Petraues is a pure military officer and, most of all, a war fighting commander with little background in intelligence. But in the world of the Obama administration, Petraeus’ militarized, warrior orientation is considered an asset for running the CIA, not a liability.

That’s because the CIA, under Obama, is more militarized than ever, as devoted to operationally fighting wars as anything else, including analyzing and gathering intelligence….

Mark Weisbrot: 2016: When China Overtakes the US

After more than a century as the world’s largest economy, the US will need to adjust to its declining global hegemony

Various observers have noted this week that China’s economy will be bigger than that of the United States in 2016. This comes from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) latest projections, which were made in its semi-annual April world economic outlook database. Since 2016 is just a few years away, and it will be the first time in more than a century that the United States will no longer be the world’s largest economy, this development will be the object of some discussion – from various perspectives.

First, let’s consider the economics. China has been the world’s fastest growing economy for more than three decades, growing 17-fold in real (inflation-adjusted) terms since 1980. It is worth emphasising that most of this record growth took place (1980-2000) while the rest of the developing world was doing quite badly by implementing neoliberal policy changes – indiscriminate opening to trade and capital flows, increasingly independent central banks, tighter (and often pro-cyclical) fiscal and monetary policies, and the abandonment of previously successful development strategies.

Ray McGovern: Petraeus: Can He Tell It Straight?

The news that President Barack Obama has picked Gen. David Petraeus to be CIA director raises troubling questions, including whether the commander most associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will tolerate objective analysis of those two conflicts.

What if CIA analysts assess the prospects of success in those two wars as dismal and conclude that the troop “surges” pushed so publicly by Petraeus wasted both the lives of American troops and many billions of taxpayer dollars? Will CIA Director Petraeus welcome such critical analysis or punish it?

The Petraeus appointment also suggests that the President places little value on getting the straight scoop on these key war-related issues. If he did want the kind of intelligence analysis that, at times, could challenge the military, why is he giving the CIA job to a general with a huge incentive to gild the lily regarding the “progress” made under his command?

Jim Hightower: From Democracy to Plutocracy

There’s nothing conservative about Gov. Walker’s autocratic power grab.

In American politics, the past not only sticks with us, but it often provides the best definition of what’s going on in the politics of the present, so it can be useful to revisit some powerful words from our history.

Today’s media and political powers, for example, keep using the word “conservative” to describe current political trends in our democratic republic. Poor choice of words. From the Koch brothers to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from GOP House Speaker John Boehner to such anti-worker governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, an autocratic power grab is underway to enthrone corporate power and moneyed elites to rule unilaterally over our government, economy, and environment. There’s nothing conservative about that.

Rather, a word from America’s past best encapsulates their goal: plutocracy. It’s the direct opposite of democracy, which is government by the many, by all of the people–by us. Plutocracy, on the other hand, is government by the wealthy–by them and for them.

Richard Dreyfuss: Panetta, Petraeus, Allen: Bad News, Good News

There’s good news and bad news in the decision to shift Leon Panetta from CIA to Defense and replace him with General David Petraeus. Let’s start with the bad news first.

Most disappointing are the signals from the White House that the changes represent merely personnel shifts and don’t represent policy changes. Maybe it’s too much to expect President Obama, already preparing for his 2012 re-election bid, to admit that he has to oversee a drastic retooling of his foreign policy, and that putting new people in new positions is a way to start the ball rolling. Certainly, given the upheaval shaking the region from Morocco to Afghanistan and the free-fall decline of American power and influence throughout that part of the world, you’d think that Obama might want to rethink the direction of US policy. But in preparing the world for the appointments of Panetta and Petraeus, the White House is insisting on continuity, not change. Vis-à-vis Afghanistan, in particular, that’s a bad mistake, since Obama seems intent so far on walking a middle course between supporters of a withdrawal from Afghanistan and the stay-the-course hawks who insist that the Taliban and its allies can be defeated militarily. The result of that cautious, typically Obama-led approach is likely to be a gradual pullout of about 30,000 troops over the next eighteen months, a slow, grinding drawdown through the end of 2014, and an intensive effort to maintain US forces there in smaller numbers for years to come.

Johann Hari: Donald Trump Has Revealed the Truth About the Republican Party

Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. They have long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals — and it turns out they were onto something. Every six months, the Republican Party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.

Sarah Palin told cheering rallies that her message to the world was: “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way!” — but that wasn’t enough. So they found Michele Bachmann, who said darkly it was an “interesting coincidence” that swine flu only breaks out under Democratic presidents, claims the message of The Lion King is “I’m better at what I do because I’m gay,” and argues “there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”

The Royal Wedding

ek, you ask, why do you live blog dull things like Formula One, College Basketball, and Le Tour instead of exciting ‘once in a lifetime’ events like the Royal Wedding?

Two Stories from Bentonville

Wal-Mart: Our shoppers are ‘running out of money’

By Parija Kavilanz, senior writer, CNNMoney

April 28, 2011: 2:41 PM ET

“We’re seeing core consumers under a lot of pressure,” (Wal-Mart CEO) Duke said at an event in New York. “There’s no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact.”

Now, with its strategy of low prices all the time back in place, Duke said making Wal-Mart a “one-stop shopping stop” is a critical response to dealing with the rising price of fuel.

Americans don’t have the luxury of driving all over town to do their shopping.

Wal-Mart brings guns back

By Parija Kavilanz, senior writer, CNNMoney

April 28, 2011: 1:24 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Wal-Mart said Thursday that it is bringing guns back to many of its U.S. stores in an effort to lift slumping sales.

Wal-Mart currently sells rifles, shotguns and ammunition in about 1,300 stores in the United States.

Those firearms will now be available at about half of Wal-Mart’s 4,000 stores.

Tip of the hat to Chris in Paris who opines-

Is it asking for too much to have our political leadership implement policies that help the middle class as opposed to the continuing strategy that helps Wall Street?

Le Déluge

Severe storms have swept across the Midwest and Southern United States that have killed over 300 people as massive tornadoes swept through the region. It isn’t just tornadoes that are causing the devastation but the heavy rains have caused flooding that is wiping out entire towns as levees along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers fail.

Mississippi River Floods 2011: Deep South Braces For Surge Of Water Not Seen Since 1927

NEW ORLEANS — A surge of water not seen since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 is forecast in coming days to test the enormous levees lining the Mississippi River on its course through the Deep South, adding another element of danger to a region already raked by deadly tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s governors issued flood warnings Thursday and declared states of emergency. Authorities along the swollen waterway in both states are warning nearby residents to brace for the possibility of any flooding. River boat casinos in Mississippi are closing and levee managers are readying sand bags and supplies – and the manpower to build the defenses – to fight the rising river along hundreds of levees in both states where the river crosses en route to the Gulf of Mexico.

Missouri levee fails; prompting more evacuations

(CNN) — A compromised levee in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, failed Tuesday, forcing authorities to order more evacuations in the region.

The levee failed in at least four locations along a two-mile stretch along the Black River, City Manager Doug Bagby said.

The failure was sending floodwaters from the Black River into a populated but rural area of Butler County, sparing the city of Poplar Bluff, said the city’s deputy police chief, Jeff Rolland.

Authorities were worried about another one to three inches of rain in the forecast.

It was unclear how many people might eventually be affected by the flooding, Butler County Sheriff’s Detective Scott Phelps said. As of midafternoon Tuesday, several hundred homes had been evacuated in the county, he said. The breaks occurred between Poplar Bluff and the community of Qulin, about 12 miles to the southeast.

As reported at Think Progress, “the levee’s failure is a tragic reminder of the sorry state of America’s infrastructure.”

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, nearly ten percent of the levees in the country are expected to fail during a flood event. The Civil Corps. of Engineers gave the U.S. levee system a D- grade in 2009, and estimated that it would take a $50 billion investment to get those levees into adequate shape:

   During the past 50 years there has been tremendous development on lands protected by levees. Coupled with the fact that many levees have not been well maintained, this burgeoning growth has put people and infrastructure at risk-the perceived safety provided by levees has inadvertently increased flood risks by attracting development to the floodplain. Continued population growth and economic development behind levees is considered by many to be the dominant factor in the national flood risk equation, outpacing the effects of increased chance of flood occurrence and the degradation of levee condition.

Projected federal spending on levees in the next five years is expected to be just $1.13 billion, leaving a $48.87 billion shortfall in needed funding (pdf). According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “there are 881 counties – or 28 percent of all counties in the United States – that contain levees or other kinds of flood control and protection systems.” More than half of the U.S. population resides in those counties.

Overall, the U.S. has about $2.2 trillion in unaddressed infrastructure needs (pdf). The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget that was released earlier this month includes $30 billion “as start-up costs for a national infrastructure bank (pdf) that would leverage private financing to help rebuild America’s public capital stock,” and budgets for $1.2 trillion in public investment (pdf) over the next five years.

Congress and the President are failing America with tax cuts and tax loopholes for the wealthy and billions in subsidies for corporations as they talk about reducing the deficits and spending cuts. Investing in infrastructure is vital to America’s survival. It would create jobs, reducing unemployment and increasing tax revenue.

America is circling the drain, the drain is clogged and now we are drowning.

Update (ek hornbeck):

Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley: Flood Cairo, Illinois To Save Farmland

Huffington Post

04-28-11 05:00 PM

Missouri’s Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley was asked by reporters about the dilemma. “Would you rather have Missouri farmland flooded or Cairo underwater?” Tilley is asked.

Without hesitation, he replies, “Cairo. I’ve been there. Trust me. Cairo.”

Cairo, Illinois (pronounced KAY-roh) was at the turn of the 20th century a bustling trade center. The 2,800-person town is now largely abandoned, two-thirds African-American, and deeply impoverished: nearly 50 percent of children under the age of 18 in Cairo live below the poverty level.

On This Day In History April 29

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.

Click on images to enlarge

April 29 is the 119th day of the year (120th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 246 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1946, Hideki Tojo, wartime premier of Japan, is indicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East of war crimes. In September 1945, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself but was saved by an American physician who gave him a transfusion of American blood. He was eventually hanged by the Americans in 1948 after having been found guilty of war crimes.

Capture, trial, and execution

After Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur issued orders for the arrest of the first forty alleged war criminals, including Tojo. Soon, Tojo’s home in Setagaya was besieged with newsmen and photographers. Inside, a doctor named Suzuki had marked Tojo’s chest with charcoal to indicate the location of his heart. When American military police surrounded the house on 8 September 1945, they heard a muffled shot from inside. Major Paul Kraus and a group of military police burst in, followed by George Jones, a reporter for The New York Times. Tojo had shot himself in the chest with a pistol, but despite shooting directly through the mark, the bullets missed his heart and penetrated his stomach. At 4:29, now disarmed and with blood gushing out of his chest, Tojo began to talk, and two Japanese reporters recorded his words. “I am very sorry it is taking me so long to die,” he murmured. “The Greater East Asia War was justified and righteous. I am very sorry for the nation and all the races of the Greater Asiatic powers. I wait for the righteous judgment of history. I wished to commit suicide but sometimes that fails.”

He was arrested and underwent emergency surgery in a U.S. Army hospital, where he was cared for postoperatively by Captain Roland Ladenson. After recovering from his injuries, Tojo was moved to the Sugamo Prison. While there he received a new set of dentures made by an American dentist. Secretly the phrase Remember Pearl Harbor had been drilled into the teeth in Morse Code.

He was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for war crimes and found guilty of the following crimes:

   count 1 (waging wars of aggression, and war or wars in violation of international law)

   count 27 (waging unprovoked war against the Republic of China)

   count 29 (waging aggressive war against the United States of America)

   count 31 (waging aggressive war against the British Commonwealth of Nations)

   count 32 (waging aggressive war against the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

   count 33 (waging aggressive war against the French Republic)

   count 54 (ordering, authorizing, and permitting inhumane treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) and others)

Hideki Tojo accepted full responsibility in the end for his actions during the war. Here is a passage from his statement, which he made during his war crimes trial:

   It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general, and, needless to say, I am prepared to do so. Consequently, now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessary that I be judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the future peace of the world be assured. Therefore, with respect to my trial, it is my intention to speak frankly, according to my recollection, even though when the vanquished stands before the victor, who has over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to toady and flatter. I mean to pay considerable attention to this in my actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and what is false is false. To shade one’s words in flattery to the point of untruthfulness would falsify the trial and do incalculable harm to the nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this.

He was sentenced to death on 12 November 1948 and executed by hanging on 23 December 1948. In his final statements, he apologized for the atrocities committed by the Japanese military and urged the American military to show compassion toward the Japanese people, who had suffered devastating air attacks and the two atomic bombings.

Six In The Morning

Searchers comb twister debris for victims; death toll nears 300

‘Neighborhoods … basically removed from the map,’ Tuscaloosa mayor says

NBC, msnbc.com and news services

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Survivors and rescuers combed through destroyed towns and neighborhoods on Thursday, looking for belongings and victims after dozens of tornadoes ripped through the South overnight.

The death toll continued to climb in Alabama, and at least 298 people in six states perished in the deadliest outbreak in nearly 40 years.

People in hard-hit Alabama, where at least 210 deaths occurred, walked through flattened, debris-strewn neighborhoods and told of pulling bodies from rubble after the storms passed.

“We have neighborhoods that have been basically removed from the map,” Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox said after surveying his city.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for April 28, 2011-