05/06/2011 archive

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: Fears and Failure

From G.D.P. to private-sector payrolls, from business surveys to new claims for unemployment insurance, key economic indicators suggest that the recovery may be sputtering.

And it wasn’t much of a recovery to start with. Employment has risen from its low point, but it has grown no faster than the adult population. And the plight of the unemployed continues to worsen: more than six million Americans have been out of work for six months or longer, and more than four million have been jobless for more than a year.

It would be nice if someone in Washington actually cared.

Dean Baker: Why Does Senator McCaskill Want to Bankrupt Our Children?

That is what people should be asking Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill along with her fellow senators who are advocated strict caps on government spending. The idea being pushed by Senator McCaskill, together with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and several other prominent senators, would limit federal spending to 20.6 percent of GDP. It would require difficult-to-obtain super-majorities to exceed this cap. Spending would be cut across a variety of programs if the cap is not reached.

This proposal is hugely deserving of ridicule for a variety of reasons. First, it operates from a blatantly wrong premise — that government spending has grown out of control.

New York Times Editorial: Could It Have Been the Polls?

All but seven House Republicans voted for a budget plan last month that would eliminate Medicare’s guarantee to the elderly. It was always bad policy. But now that the vote has proved to be wildly unpopular, the party is suddenly running in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, Dave Camp, a Republican of Michigan and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was no longer interested in pushing a plan that could not win support among the Democrats who control the Senate. Speaker John Boehner said Mr. Camp was just being realistic. Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, suggested the proposal would probably not be a part of the debt-limit talks that began Thursday because President Obama “excoriated us” for the Medicare plan.

These Republican leaders are trying to make it sound as if they were shocked by the Democratic opposition. In fact, their real surprise was how much bitter resistance the Medicare idea encountered among voters – the ones they claim share their fervent desire to dismantle much of the federal government.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Find True Centrism in the People’s Budget

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) People’s Budget ~ the strongest rebuke to the Robin Hood in reverse “Ryan Budget” that was passed by the best Republican House Citizens United can buy ~ is receiving some well deserved national attention as the budget debate now moves to the Senate.

The Nation immediately recognized the sense and sanity of the progressive plan to create a budget surplus in ten years–through tax fairness, bringing troops home, and investing in job creation, and others are now praising its strengths too.

“The Courageous Progressive Caucus Budget,” writes The Economist.  “Mr. Ryan has been fulsomely praised for his courage. The Progressive Caucus has not. I’m not really sure what ‘courage’ is supposed to mean here, but this seems precisely backwards.”

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman describes the People’s Budget as “the only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget… unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking-[it] is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.”

George Zornick: The GOP Jobs Plan That Wasn’t

It’s been over three months since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and strengthened their caucus in the Senate. The central premise of the GOP midterm campaign was that it could create badly needed jobs-the Republican National Committee drove a bus through the lower 48 states emblazoned with the slogan: “Need a Job? Fire Pelosi!”

Now, after focusing its initial legislative efforts on repealing “ObamaCare,” pushing Tea Party-backed dreams like a balanced budget amendment, and fighting to strip regulatory agencies of their authority, the GOP has finally released a job plan…that consists of a balanced budget amendment, the repeal of Obamacare, and several assaults on regulatory authority.

Eugene Robinson: Torture Is Still Torture

It wasn’t torture that revealed Osama bin Laden’s hiding place. Finding and killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist took years of patient intelligence gathering and dogged detective work, plus a little luck.

Once again, it appears, we’re supposed to be having a “debate” about torture-excuse me, I mean the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, that were authorized and practiced during the Bush administration. In fact, there’s nothing debatable about torture. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, and there’s no way to prove that the evidence it yields could not have been obtained through conventional methods.

Leslie Savan: Torturism, the New Birtherism

Like the death of bin Laden, the death of birtherism was a long time coming, but when it finally came, it was swift and dramatic: President Obama rappelled down to the birther level to release his long-form birth certificate; at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner three days later, Obama and wingman Seth Myers broke down Donald Trump’s extraordinarily well-guarded ego, with jokes; and within hours, simply by announcing that bin Laden was dead, Obama sent Trump’s verkakte ideas to go sleep with the fishes.

If the narcissistic real estate mogul had become a 3-D avatar for the Obama-hating Republican base, you have to wonder where all their resentment and anger, augmented now by humiliation, go now?

Another Warning for Third Way Democrats

Not that anyone noticed much, but last night Britain held local elections.  Guess who took a “Shellacking”?

Ed Miliband: Voters have withdrawn permission for Clegg to back Tory policies

Labour leader says people do not want ‘relaunch of coalition’ as desperate night for Lib Dems leaves them with only 15% of vote in local elections

Polly Curtis, Whitehall correspondent, guardian.co.uk

Friday 6 May 2011 13.21 BST

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, indicated that the coalition had lost its mandate to govern after the Liberal Democrats suffered a disastrous night in the local elections, seeing their vote collapse across the north of England, Scotland and Wales.

Miliband told reporters in Gravesham, a key council in the south won by Labour: “The Conservative party does not have a majority in parliament and has only been able to govern because of the Liberal Democrats’ willing participation in a Tory-led government.

“People who once voted Liberal Democrat have withdrawn permission for Nick Clegg to back Tory policies on the NHS, on living standards and cuts that go too far, too fast.

“People do not want a relaunch of the coalition but real change. David Cameron and Nick Clegg must listen to the people.”

But will they listen?

Coalition ministers insisted the Lib Dem-Conservative government would refocus on its work – next week Clegg and David Cameron will launch a coalition document marking its achievements in the year since it was formed.

Coalition ministers vowed to plough on with their plans after a desperate night for the Lib Dems left them with just 15% of the local election vote – their lowest for nearly three decades – and came ahead of the AV referendum result, which they have acknowledged is almost certain to go against them.

The American people have voted for change in the last 3 elections- 2006, 2008, and 2010.

And we’ll keep on voting until we get some.

On This Day In History May 6

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

May 6 is the 126th day of the year (127th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 239 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1994, English Channel tunnel opens.

In a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age.

The channel tunnel, or “Chunnel,” connects Folkstone, England, with Sangatte, France, 31 miles away.  The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to two-and-a-half hours.

As the world’s longest undersea tunnel, the Chunnel runs under water for 23 miles, with an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed. Each day, about 30,000 people, 6,000 cars and 3,500 trucks journey through the Chunnel on passenger, shuttle and freight trains.

Millions of tons of earth were moved to build the two rail tunnels–one for northbound and one for southbound traffic–and one service tunnel.   Fifteen thousand people were employed at the peak of construction.  Ten people were killed during construction.

Proposals and attempts

In 1802, French mining engineer Albert Mathieu put forward a proposal to tunnel under the English Channel, with illumination from oil lamps, horse-drawn coaches, and an artificial island mid-Channel for changing horses.

In the 1830s, Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thomé de Gamond explored several schemes and, in 1856, he presented a proposal to Napoleon III for a mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris-Nez to Eastwater Point with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank at a cost of 170 million francs, or less than £7 million.

In 1865, a deputation led by George Ward Hunt proposed the idea of a tunnel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, William Ewart Gladstone.

After 1867, William Low and Sir John Clarke Hawkshaw promoted ideas, but none were implemented. An official Anglo-French protocol was established in 1876 for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. In 1881, British railway entrepreneur Sir William Watkin and French Suez Canal contractor Alexandre Lavalley were in the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company that conducted exploratory work on both sides of the Channel. On the English side a 2.13-metre (7 ft) diameter Beaumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-metre (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 m (5,476 ft) from Sangatte. The project was abandoned in May 1882, owing to British political and press campaigns advocating that a tunnel would compromise Britain’s national defences. These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.

In 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George repeatedly brought up the idea of a Channel tunnel as a way of reassuring France about British willingness to defend against another German attack. The French did not take the idea seriously and nothing came of Lloyd George’s proposal.

In 1955, defence arguments were accepted to be irrelevant because of the dominance of air power; thus, both the British and French governments supported technical and geological surveys. Construction work commenced on both sides of the Channel in 1974, a government-funded project using twin tunnels on either side of a service tunnel, with capability for car shuttle wagons. In January 1975, to the dismay of the French partners, the British government cancelled the project. The government had changed to the Labour Party and there was uncertainty about EEC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly tunnel boring machine was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m (980 ft) experimental drive. This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.

In 1979, the “Mouse-hole Project” was suggested when the Conservatives came to power in Britain. The concept was a single-track rail tunnel with a service tunnel, but without shuttle terminals. The British government took no interest in funding the project, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project. In 1981 British and French leaders Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project, and in April 1985 promoters were formally invited to submit scheme proposals. Four submissions were shortlisted:

   a rail proposal based on the 1975 scheme presented by Channel Tunnel Group/France-Manche (CTG/F-M),

   Eurobridge: a 4.5 km (2.8 mi) span suspension bridge with a roadway in an enclosed tube

   Euroroute: a 21 km (13 mi) tunnel between artificial islands approached by bridges, and

   Channel Expressway: large diameter road tunnels with mid-channel ventilation towers.

The cross-Channel ferry industry protested under the name “Flexilink”. In 1975 there was no campaign protesting against a fixed link, with one of the largest ferry operators (Sealink) being state-owned. Flexilink continued rousing opposition throughout 1986 and 1987. Public opinion strongly favoured a drive-through tunnel, but ventilation issues, concerns about accident management, and fear of driver mesmerisation led to the only shortlisted rail submission, CTG/F-M, being awarded the project.

Six In The Morning

In Libya, a long-dead hero rises again in east

Omar Mukhtar, a resistance fighter executed by Italian occupiers 80 years ago, has become the spiritual leader of the Libyan revolution.

By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

May 6, 2011

Reporting from Benghazi, Libya- In eastern Libya, the spectral image of an elderly, bearded man in a skullcap or Bedouin cloak is everywhere – on bumper stickers and posters, military vehicles and checkpoints, even press IDs issued by the rebel government here.

“He is the godfather of all of us,” said Salim Ismael, a retired army officer now training rebel recruits. “He is our inspiration, the spiritual leader of the Libyan revolution.”

The figure is Omar Mukhtar, a 20th century resistance hero executed by Italian occupiers 80 years ago – and, improbably enough, depicted in a 1981 Hollywood all-star epic, “The Lion of the Desert,” starring Anthony Quinn as Mukhtar. A box-office flop, the film has a devoted cult following here.

GOP Strategy: Give Oil Companies More Tax Cuts

Americans are struggling to make ends meet, can’t find jobs and are making less money than they did in 1997. What is the House GOP solution? Tax cuts and subsidies for drilling to oil companies that are the most profitable.

Today, the Republicans in the House of Representatives celebrated this massive redistribution of wealth from American families to oil executives. With the support of 7 oil-patch Democrats, 234 Republicans voted to block a bill to eliminate a $1.8 billion annual subsidy that treats oil drilling as “domestic manufacturing”:

   House Republicans rejected an effort by Democrats Thursday to use a procedural maneuver to force a vote on a bill to repeal a key oil industry tax break.

As they did in March, House Republicans voted unanimously to defend these wasteful, unaffordable and unfair oil subsidies, even though several members told their constituents they want to end them.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 5, 2011-


First Republican Presidential Debate Open Thread

It’s awfully hard to get excited about an event that AP will not cover at all and Reuters will pay scant attention because of restrictions that Faux Noise and the Republican Party have placed on it to avoid making their candidates look stupid.

Sorry, that Taggart Transcontinental has already left the station.

Still, at 9 pm ET in the grossly misnamed (at least on this occasion) Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, the 5 dimmest bulbs in the half candlepower constellation that is the Republican field this cycle- former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, Representative Ron Paul, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, will take the stage.

It would be a lot more fun pointing and laughing if it weren’t for the fact we already have a Republican President.

I’ll be watching Stanley Cup action (Canucks @ Predators), King of the Hill, or napping, all of which are far more restful on the eyeballs, but if you care to comment there’s a space for that below.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Hundreds of millions pledged for Libya rebels

by Francoise Kadri and Christophe Schmidt, AFP

26 mins ago

ROME (AFP) – International donors pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for Libya’s rebels on Thursday and promised to overcome legal problems to free up more aid using frozen regime assets worth tens of billions.

Leaders of the rebellion against Moamer Kadhafi said the pledges — mainly from Kuwait and Qatar — were “a good start” and outlined plans for a new constitution and elections within eight months if the Libyan strongman quits.

A fund agreed Thursday will initially receive international donations, while the blocked assets — estimated to be worth 60 billion dollars (40 billion euros) in Europe and the United States — will be used to finance it at a later date.