Daily Archive: 05/19/2011

May 19 2011

And Then There Were Five . .

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), he of the Sen. Ensign “put your pants on” club, has departed in a huff from the latest government attempt to come to a budget agreement on the backs of those who can least afford it. Coburn walked out when Dick Durbin refused to accept Coburn’s demand for $130 billion in Medicare benefit cuts for current beneficiaries on top of the $400 billion in savings already on the table. That half a billion is on top of the cuts already passed in the Obamacare bill. If enacted, these cuts would dismantle Medicare.

From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

The “Gang of Six” talks on deficit reduction broke down after Senators Dick Durbin and Tom Coburn got locked in a heated yelling match over Coburn’s demand for extremely deep cuts in Medicare that Durbin thought would “destroy” the popular program, a Senate aide familiar with the talks tells me.

The episode could prove at least somewhat reassuring to liberals who have worried that Durbin is open to a “grand bargain” that would include serious cuts in the popular program, which would undercut Dem efforts to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans on the issue. Durbin has insisted he’s at the “Gang of Six” table mainly to protect liberal priorities.

The episode also is a reminder of how much Republicans will insist on in Dem concessions as conditions for any deal.

Coburn apparently has been bringing up new issues at every meeting, or demanding to reconsider old ones and asking for sharper cuts to Social Security than had been previously agreed to even as the group appeared to be reaching a consensus. On Monday he threw the gauntlet down, like the loyal corporate puppet that he is, and when he couldn’t get his way, took his ball and went home to C Street. I give Durban some small iota of credit for not caving but considering the recommendations that will come from this right wing/blue dog packed “gang”, that is damning praise.

May 19 2011

Remember this?

Are we through yet? Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:15:47 AM EDT

Evidently the answer is no, we’re not through yet.

35 killed in Taliban attack on road workers

By Ben Farmer, Kabul, The Telegraph

4:40PM BST 19 May 2011

Up to 100 attackers then opened fire with AK-47s, heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades from surrounding hills, prompting a battle with guards lasting more than two hours.

By dawn on Thursday, when the attackers left the camp after burning or stealing several vehicles, 25 staff were also missing and 12 were injured, according to a senior manager at the company.



Noorullah Bidar, director of the company, said: “They [the Taliban] destroyed a lot of our equipment including vehicles and equipment used for road construction … we don’t know why they attacked us … they are doing this to prevent reconstruction in Afghanistan.”

36 killed in attack on work crew in Afghanistan

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times

May 19, 2011, 8:48 a.m.

The Taliban and other insurgents sometimes target work crews on infrastructure projects, regarding the building companies as collaborators with the central government and foreign forces. But most such projects have substantial security contingents, and it is unusual for militants to be able to kill so many in a single strike.



The construction company’s owner, Noorullah Bidar, one of 20 people injured in the attack, said from his hospital bed that all those slain in the predawn attack in Paktia province were Afghan nationals.

Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the dead included laborers, technical personnel and security guards. Eight assailants died in the attack as well, he said.

Update:

At Least 35 Killed in Attack on Afghan Road Crew

By RAY RIVERA and SANGAR RAHIMI, The New York Times

Published: May 19, 2011

The crew attacked Thursday was working on a road not far from the Gardez-Khost Highway, a 64-mile project that has been one of the most troubled and costly transportation projects in Afghanistan.

Since work on the highway began in 2007, there have been at least 364 attacks on the highway, resulting in the deaths of 19 people, almost all of them local Afghan workers. The highway project, which has been financed by the United States Agency for International Development, has come to symbolize the pitfalls of corruption and danger of trying to push development in areas strongly lacking in security. It has cost about $121 million so far, with the final price tag expected to reach $176 million, or about $2.8 million a mile.

Construction contractors trying to build in many of these volatile areas have been accused of paying off local insurgent groups, including the Haqqani network, to allow work to continue, in turn helping to finance the insurgency. Some security outfits have also been accused of themselves facilitating attacks in order to extort more money for security.

May 19 2011

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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”.

Robert Reich: The Great Switch by the Super Rich

Forty years ago, wealthy Americans financed the U.S. government mainly through their tax payments. Today wealthy Americans finance the government mainly by lending it money. While foreigners own most of our national debt, over 40 percent is owned by Americans – mostly the very wealthy.

This great switch by the super rich – from paying the government taxes to lending the government money – has gone almost unnoticed. But it’s critical for understanding the budget predicament we’re now in. And for getting out of it.

Robert Scheer: One Lawman With the Guts to Go After Wall Street

The fix was in to let the Wall Street scoundrels off the hook for the enormous damage they caused in creating the Great Recession. All of the leading politicians and officials, federal and state, Republican and Democrat, were on board to complete the job of saving the banks while ignoring their victims … until last week when the attorney general of New York refused to go along.

Eric Schneiderman will probably fail, as did his predecessors in that job; the honest sheriff doesn’t last long in a town that houses the Wall Street casino. But decent folks should be cheering him on. Despite a mountain of evidence of robo-signed mortgage contracts, deceitful mortgage-based securities and fraudulent foreclosures, the banks were going to be able to cut their potential losses to what was, for them, a minuscule amount.

In a deal that had the blessing of the White House and many federal regulators and state attorneys general-a settlement probably for not much more than the $5 billion pittance the top financial institutions found acceptable-the banks would be freed of any further claims by federal and state officials over their shady mortgage packaging and servicing practices and deceptive foreclosure proceedings.

Amanda Marcotte: The War on Contraception Goes Viral

As those of us who’ve been following the anti-choice movement for years can attest, the biggest stumbling block for them has been finding a way to make a move towards restricting access to contraception while still trying to keep something like a decent reputation with the public. Attacking sexual liberation and women’s rights has always been at the heart of the anti-choice movement, but in order to sell such a radical agenda as mainstream, they’ve had to make sentimental and often bad faith claims about simply wanting to protect fetal life. While making frowny faces in the direction of pregnant women who want to terminate has been an effective strategy for restricting abortion rights, however, it has its limits when it comes to attacking women’s ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

May 19 2011

The Flipping of NY-26

Oh those family values Tea Partying Republicans. Last February newly elected US House Rep. Christopher Lee (R NY-26) posted bare chested photos of himself on Craig’s List and claimed to  be a 39 year old divorced lobbyist. A couple of problems emerged for him since he is in his 40’s and married with a child, so he tendered his immediate resignation from the House on Feb.9, leaving the seat open for a special election. Historically, the district in Western New York has been solidly Republican but, as fortune would have it, that may just that, history.

Since the vote in this House on straight party lines for the Ryan budget plan that would scrap Medicare and decimate Medicaid, the district may now flip to blue. There is a three way race that has pretty much become a two way with the Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, siphoning votes from the Republican, Jane Corwin, which has given the edge to the Democrat, Kathy Hochul. Despite the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee flooding the district with money, advertising and big name supporters, Corwin can’t shake the spectrum of the “grandma off the bridge” image of killing Medicare. Hochul has been on the offensive hitting all the hot buttons, like foreign aid which many voters think is much higher than it is while Corwin is back pedaling making blatantly false claims about Hochul in her latest campaign ad.

And where, you ask, is Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis? “Spoiler” Davis, who is running on the Tea Party line, has caused a split in among the regional and national Tea Party groups with the national group backing Corwin. He wasn’t at last night’s final debate but has been lurking on the sidelines since gaining national attention last week after a video of a scuffle with Corwin’s youthful chief-of-staff, Mike Mallia. The confrontation between Davis, 78, and the much younger man started out as a verbal confrontation that ended when Davis shoved backed. A short clip of the video was released by the Republicans but Davis claimed that he only pushed the camera out of his face and charged he was being harassed. It has gotten even more amusing when Corwin was confronted and disclaimed any knowledge of her aide’s activities. The aid has since resigned, making claims on the internet that he is being “hunted by militiamen” and fears for his life since the incident with Davis who is a veteran. Needless to say this backfired badly for Corwin and pushed Hochul ahead in the polls.

David Weigel of Slate has been following this race closely reported today that independent spending on this campaign has past seven figures with $1.5 million being poured into TV ads from unions and PAC’s. The election is May 24, so expect things to get hot and heavy as the Republicans struggle to hold the district.

May 19 2011

On This Day In History May 19

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.

May 19 is the 139th day of the year (140th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 226 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1935, T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, dies from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident near his home in Dorset, England.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916-18. The extraordinary breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, a title popularised by the 1962 film based on his First World War activities.

Lawrence was born illegitimately in Tremadog, Wales in August 1888 to Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner, a governess, who was herself illegitimate. Chapman left his wife to live with Sarah Junner, and they called themselves Mr and Mrs Lawrence. In the summer of 1896 the Lawrences moved to Oxford, where from 1907 to 1910 young Lawrence studied history at Jesus College, graduating with First Class Honours. He became a practising archaeologist in the Middle East, working with David George Hogarth and Leonard Woolley on various excavations. In January 1914, following the outbreak of the First World War, Lawrence was co-opted by the British military to undertake a military survey of the Negev Desert while doing archaeological research.

Lawrence’s public image was due in part to American journalist Lowell Thomas‘ sensationalised reportage of the revolt as well as to Lawrence’s autobiographical account Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922).

Arab revolt

At the outbreak of the First World War Lawrence was a university post-graduate researcher who had for years travelled extensively within the Ottoman Empire provinces of the Levant (Transjordan  and Palestine) and Mesopotamia (Syria and Iraq) under his own name. As such he became known to the Turkish Interior Ministry authorities and their German technical advisors. Lawrence came into contact with the Ottoman-German technical advisers, travelling over the German-designed, built, and financed railways during the course of his researches.

Even if Lawrence had not volunteered, the British would probably have recruited him for his first-hand knowledge of Syria, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. He was eventually posted to Cairo on the Intelligence Staff of the GOC Middle East.

Contrary to later myth, it was neither Lawrence nor the Army that conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, but rather the Arab Bureau of Britain’s Foreign Office. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded tribes and regional challengers to the Turkish government’s centralised rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Arab Bureau had recognised the strategic value of what is today called the “asymmetry” of such conflict. The Ottoman authorities would have to devote from a hundred to a thousand times the resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion compared to the Allies’ cost of sponsoring it.

At that point in the Foreign Office’s thinking they were not considering the region as candidate territories for incorporation in the British Empire, but only as an extension of the range of British Imperial influence, and the weakening and destruction of a German ally, the Ottoman Empire.

During the war, Lawrence fought with Arab irregular troops under the command of Emir Faisal, a son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca, in extended guerrilla operations against the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire. He persuaded the Arabs not to make a frontal assault on the Ottoman stronghold in Medina but allowed the Turkish army to tie up troops in the city garrison. The Arabs were then free to direct most of their attention to the Turks’ weak point, the Hejaz railway that supplied the garrison. This vastly expanded the battlefield and tied up even more Ottoman troops, who were then forced to protect the railway and repair the constant damage.

The capture of Aqaba

In 1917, Lawrence arranged a joint action with the Arab irregulars and forces under Auda Abu Tayi (until then in the employ of the Ottomans) against the strategically located but lightly defended town of Aqaba. On 6 July, after a surprise overland attack, Aqaba fell to Lawrence and the Arab forces. After Aqaba, Lawrence was promoted to major. Fortunately for Lawrence, the new commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Sir Edmund Allenby, agreed to his strategy for the revolt, stating after the war:

   “I gave him a free hand. His cooperation was marked by the utmost loyalty, and I never had anything but praise for his work, which, indeed, was invaluable throughout the campaign.”

Lawrence now held a powerful position, as an adviser to Faisal and a person who had Allenby’s confidence.

The Fall of Damascus

The following year, Lawrence was involved in the capture of Damascus in the final weeks of the war and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1918. In newly liberated Damascus-which he had envisioned as the capital of an Arab state-Lawrence was instrumental in establishing a provisional Arab government under Faisal. Faisal’s rule as king, however, came to an abrupt end in 1920, after the battle of Maysaloun, when the French Forces of General Gouraud under the command of General Mariano Goybet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M… entered Damascus, breaking Lawrence’s dream of an independent Arabia.

As was his habit when traveling before the war, Lawrence adopted many local customs and traditions (many photographs show him in the desert wearing white Arab dishdasha and riding camels).

During the closing years of the war he sought, with mixed success, to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain contradicted the promises of independence he had made to the Arabs and frustrated his work.

In 1918 he co-operated with war correspondent Lowell Thomas for a short period. During this time Thomas and his cameraman Harry Chase shot a great deal of film and many photographs, which Thomas used in a highly lucrative film that toured the world after the war.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Lawrence’s major work is Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an account of his war experiences. In 1919 he had been elected to a seven-year research fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, providing him with support while he worked on the book. In addition to being a memoir of his experiences during the war, certain parts also serve as essays on military strategy, Arabian culture and geography, and other topics. Lawrence re-wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom three times; once “blind” after he lost the manuscript while changing trains at Reading railway station.

The list of his alleged “embellishments” in Seven Pillars is long, though many such allegations have been disproved with time, most definitively in Jeremy Wilson‘s authorised biography. However Lawrence’s own notebooks refute his claim to have crossed the Sinai Peninsula from Aqaba to the Suez Canal in just 49 hours without any sleep. In reality this famous camel ride lasted for more than 70 hours and was interrupted by two long breaks for sleeping which Lawrence omitted when he wrote his book.

Lawrence acknowledged having been helped in the editing of the book by George Bernard Shaw. In the preface to Seven Pillars, Lawrence offered his “thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw for countless suggestions of great value and diversity: and for all the present semicolons.”

The first public edition was published in 1926 as a high-priced private subscription edition, printed in London by Roy Manning Pike and Herbert John Hodgson, with illustrations by Eric Kennington, Augustus John, Paul Nash, Blair Hughes-Stanton and his wife Gertrude Hermes. Lawrence was afraid that the public would think that he would make a substantial income from the book, and he stated that it was written as a result of his war service. He vowed not to take any money from it, and indeed he did not, as the sale price was one third of the production costs. This left Lawrence in substantial debt.

Death

At the age of 46, two months after leaving the service, Lawrence was fatally injured in an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham. A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars. He died six days later on 19 May 1935. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road.

The circumstances of Lawrence’s death had far-reaching consequences. One of the doctors attending him was the neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns. He was profoundly affected by the incident, and consequently began a long study of what he saw as the unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle dispatch riders through head injuries. His research led to the use of crash helmets by both military and civilian motorcyclists.

Moreton Estate, which borders Bovington Camp, was owned by family cousins, the Frampton family. Lawrence had rented and later bought Clouds Hill from the Framptons. He had been a frequent visitor to their home, Okers Wood House, and had for years corresponded with Louisa Frampton. On Lawrence’s death, his mother arranged with the Framptons for him to be buried in their family plot at Moreton Church. His coffin was transported on the Frampton estate’s bier. Mourners included Winston and Clementine Churchill and Lawrence’s youngest brother, Arnold.

A bust of Lawrence was placed in the crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral and a stone effigy by Eric Kennington remains in the Anglo-Saxon church of St Martin, Wareham

May 19 2011

Six In The Morning

U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant



By MATTHEW L. WALD

Published: May 18, 2011


WASHINGTON – Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem.Anthony Sarrack, one of the two engineers, notified staff members at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the design of venting systems was seriously flawed at his reactor and others in the United States similar to the ones in Japan. He later left the industry in frustration because managers and regulators did not agree.

May 19 2011

Playing in Sand on the Economy

This video of an interview with Dean Baker, co-director for the Center for Economic Policy and Research, discussing the debt ceiling and holding the federal budget hostage is a good discussion of what could happen if the debt ceiling is not raised. Baker  clearly in the side of raising the debt ceiling but if it comes down to a choice of default and Social Security, he would choose saving Social Security.

There are those who are convinced that the GOP will not allow a default to happen and there has been a lot of pressure from Wall St and banking lobbyists to not play games with this. There is a lot of mistrust that Obama is playing some game that will end up slicing deeply into Social Security and Medicare to make it look as though he had no choice. He does have a choice to insist on a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling and take Social Security and Medicare off the bargaining table. If he doesn’t, as Paul Krugman said, “he might as well move out of the White House, and hand the keys over to the Tea Party.”

May 19 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 18, 2011-

DocuDharma

May 19 2011

My Little Town 20110518: Jack Meyers

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile of so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

I never write about living people except with their express permission, but since he is long gone, he is fair game.  Previously I have written about a wonderful teacher that I had in Hackett, Elwood Brockman.  Tonight I shall write about probably the worst teacher that I ever had, Jack Meyers.

May 19 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 25 die in Afghan anti-NATO protest and suicide blast

by Gul Rahim, AFP

Wed May 18, 11:22 am ET

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (AFP) – A NATO raid sparked violent protests that left 12 dead while a suicide bomber killed 13 people in Afghanistan on Wednesday in one of the country’s bloodiest days for weeks.

Those killed in the protests in Taloqan, capital of the northeastern province of Takhar, were mainly civilians, while police trainers and cadets died when a bomber drove his car into a police bus near Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan.

The NATO raid that led to the demonstrations in usually peaceful Takhar saw President Hamid Karzai demanding an explanation of what happened from the US commander of troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.