05/24/2011 archive

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 Greenwald: Secretary Clinton, Please Call Time on the Keystone Kochs

The fate of a hugely destructive tar sands oil pipeline, from which the Koch brothers will profit, hangs on Hillary Clinton’s decision

The fate of a hugely destructive tar sands oil pipeline, from which the Koch brothers will profit, hangs on Hillary Clinton’s decision

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline deals with what is called “dirty oil” tar sands. Tar sands production carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher that those of conventional oil. The amount of oil Keystone XL would carry is equal to the pollution level of adding six million new cars to our roads. Tar sands mining operations involve a vast drilling infrastructure, open pit mines, and toxic wasteland ponds up to three miles wide. The extraction process involves strip-mining and drilling that injects steam into the ground to melt the tar-like crude oil from the sand and requires a massive amount of energy and water.

Robert Reich: Why We Need to Rein In Government Contractors That Use Taxpayer Money for Political Advantage

President Obama is mulling an executive order to force big government contractors to disclose details of their political spending. Big businesses are already telling their political patrons in Congress to oppose it – and the pressure is building.

The President should issue the executive order immediately. And he should go even further – banning all political activity by companies receiving more than half their revenues from the U.S. government.

Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest contractor, has already got more than $19 billion in federal contracts so far this year. But we know very little about Lockheed Martin’s political spending other than its Political Action Committee contributions. We don’t know how much money it gives to the Aerospace Industries Association to lobby for a bigger defense budget.

John Nichols: PATRIOT Act Extension Scheme Sells out Constitution

U.S. House and Senate leaders have reached a bipartisan backroom deal to push for approval of a four-year extension of the the most controversial components of the USA PATRIOT Act, in a move that rejects calls for responsible reform of the law by civil libertarians on the right and the left.

With prodding from the Obama White House – which has been working for months to secure a long-term extension of the PATRIOT Act — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, there will be a full-court press in coming days to win congressional approval for the extension of PATRIOT Act provisions that are set to expire May 27. But there will be opposition from both sides of the aisle to this bad bipartisanship, The toughest test will come in the House, where a coalition of Tea Party conservatives and united Democratic caucus could upset the rush to approve the extension.

David Krieger: Fukushima Daiichi and Nuclear Weapons

The accident that experts and utility executives claimed could not happen, did happen at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. The accident followed a major earthquake that registered 9.0 on the Richter scale, which in turn triggered a massive tsunami. Thousands of people died from these forces of nature, thousands more are still missing, and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated from their homes due to radiation releases from the damaged nuclear power reactors and spent fuel pools.

It is too early to know the full extent of the radiation releases, how long people will need to remain outside the recently-extended 19-mile evacuation zone, or even to what extent Tokyo, 150 miles from the damaged plant, will suffer serious effects from the radiation releases. If you think that the release of radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan is bad, you’re right; but it would pale in comparison to the effects of the use of nuclear weapons.

Joseba Elola: The #Spanish Revolution

Nobody expected the Real Democracy Now grassroots movement that overshadowed an election campaign to capture the imagination of the world

Last Tuesday, at about 8pm, something magical took place in Puerta del Sol square, in the heart of the nation’s capital. A few dozen protesters remained after Sunday’s mass demonstration in the name of the Real Democracy Now movement despite the drizzling rain, and police efforts to dislodge them in a surprise dawn raid that morning.

Over the next few hours, thousands of young people began to gravitate back towards the square, as word spread by Facebook and Twitter, where they set up a vast camp under tarpaulin sheets, determined to maintain the momentum of Sunday, May 15.

Among them was Jon Aguirre Such. The 26-year-old architecture student and spokesman for Real Democracy Now fought back tears, overjoyed and angry at the same time, as he greeted his returning friends and fellow protesters. This was a dream come true: a generation finally standing up for itself, refusing to pick up the tab for the economic crisis, and expressing outrage at a regional election campaign in which neither of the two main political parties seemed able to offer any real answers.

Jeffrey Kaye: Report: Intelligence Unit Told Before 9/11 to Stop Tracking Bin Laden

A great deal of controversy has arisen about what was known about the movements and location of Osama bin Laden in the wake of his killing by US Special Forces on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Questions about what intelligence agencies knew or didn’t know about al-Qaeda activities go back some years, most prominently in the controversy over the existence of a joint US Special Forces Command and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) data mining effort known as “Able Danger.”

What hasn’t been discussed is a September 2008 Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general (IG) report, summarizing an investigation made in response to an accusation by a Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) whistleblower, which indicated that a senior JFIC commander had halted actions tracking Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. JFIC is tasked with an intelligence mission in support of United States Joint Force Command (USJFCOM).

The report, titled “Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission,” was declassified last year, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists.

Dean Baker: Peter Peterson and the Deficit Ostriches

Last spring, Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson hosted a lavish daylong conference devoted to the budget deficit. One of the highlights was an appearance by President Clinton. Clinton boasted of how he had wanted to cut Social Security back in the mid-90s but congressional leaders from both parties wouldn’t let him.

The cut he had wanted would have reduced the annual cost of living adjustment by 1 percentage point annually. This would have left seniors in their 70s, 80s, and 90s with Social Security benefits today that are about 15 percent lower than their current level. How great would that have been?

Peterson is back with Round II this week, another lavish affair devoted to the deficit. President Clinton will be again be playing a starring role, although it is not clear whether he will still be boasting about his wish to cut Social Security benefits.

NY-26: Election Day: Up Dated: Congratulations Congresswoman-elect Hochul

Voting has started in Western New York House District 26 to replace Craig’s list Republican Christopher Lee. The strongly Republican district is expected to flip to Democratic blue because of the Republican melt down over Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget bill which wold end Medicare and decimate Medicaid. So far the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, has a comfortable lead in the polls over Republican choice Jane Corwin and the 78 year old perennial candidate, Jack Davis, who is running on the Tea Party line. All eyes are on this race since it is likely to be the template for coming elections in the national debate over the Ryan budget despite House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s protests that this is not a referendum on that bill.

Democrats should not get too comfortable and I’m sure they’re not, this can always go the other way. Politico will be watching five factors in this race tonight:

The Davis effect

There’s probably no more critical factor in the race than Jack Davis, the Democrat-turned-tea-party-candidate who’s spent nearly $3 million of his own funds casting himself as an independent-minded outsider who will save the Buffalo area’s blue-collar workers from losing their jobs to China.

Erie County Democrats

Simply put, Hochul needs to rack up a big margin in her home base of Erie County, the district’s population center and the portion of the district in which Democrats have performed most strongly in recent congressional races.

Rural Republicans

Corwin is looking to make up for her expected Erie County deficit with a large turnout in the district’s more GOP-friendly rural counties, such as Wyoming and Livingston, which in previous years provided sizable margins for former GOP Reps. Chris Lee and Tom Reynolds.

The senior set

There’s little question that Democrats have succeeded in focusing the race on the future of Medicare – an issue that’s critical in the minds of senior voters who heavily populate the district and are among those most likely to vote in a special election.

The expectations game

Just as important as any tactical factors will be who finishes ahead in what has emerged as a vigorous spin war. With the race emerging as a preview of the 2012 campaign and the first political litmus test for the Republican budget push, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The polls close at 9 PM. I will be phone banking for Kathy Hochul for most of the day. I’ll up date later as the results come in. Best of luck to Kathy.

Special Election Streaming Video

Up Date 10:45 PM EDT:

Hochul: “We are all future seniors”

Up Date 10:26:

Corwin has conceded to election to Kathy Hochul.

Up Date 10:10 PM EDT: While AP has called the race for Hochul with a 4000+ vote lead, other are saying “not yet”. Two counties Eerie and Orleans results are lagging and there are 6000 absentee ballots that will need to be counted.

From David Weigel:

9:57: Genesse and Orleans counties are dragging, but look at where the outstanding precincts are. Of the 212 precincts out, 46 are in Erie, where Hochul is winning easy and racking up her margin. Thirty-eight are in Niagra: Also Hochul turf. Only 3 are in Monroe, where Corwin needed to cancel out the Hochul margin from Erie but the candidates are tied. The remaining precincts, 115 of them, are from the GLOW counties. Corwin needs to find a 4,000-vote margin with this map. It’s not happening.

Up Date 10:00 PM EDT: From AP Results:

With 66% precincts reporting: Hochul 48% – Corwin 43%

Up Date 9:50 PM EDT: From Bloomberg via Twitter:

Buffalo NBC reporting Hochul is winning Orleans Co 54%-38% with 84% in; county went for McCain 57-41% http://bit.ly/jEM75Y

Up Date 9:40 PM EDT:

From AP results: Hochul 48% – Corwin 42% with 45% of precincts reporting.

Up Date: 9:25 PM EDT: With just 3% of the precicts reporting Hochul leads by 4%.

From David Weigel At Slate:

9:21: Votes from Erie are trickling in, and Hochul is racking up an 18-point margin. Keep in mind, though, that Jack Davis won this county by 10 points in 2006.

Up Date: 7 PM EDT: From David Dayen  at FDL, the “fun” has already begun before the polls have closed and the first ballot counted which smacks of desperation by Republican Jane Corwin. Let’s hope that the margin is so big that she won’t be able to utilize this delaying tactic

Corwin granted court order barring certification of winner

   Jane L. Corwin this afternoon obtained a court order from State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia barring a certification of a winner in the special 26th Congressional District race pending a show-cause hearing before him later this week […]

   Chris Grant, a spokesman for the Corwin campaign, said the court action “is very typical” in such close elections.

   “We recognize the closeness of the race and we want to make sure that every legal vote is counted fairly and accurately,” Grant said.

   Paul B. Wojtaszek, Buscaglia’s law clerk, said such prospective court actions are permissible under the state’s Election Law when a close vote is borne out by pre-voting polling.


And on a comedic note from David:

(Ian) Murphy is the Green Party candidate for this Congressional seat, but in a stunt, he posed as a campaign worker for Corwin and actually made phone calls on her behalf yesterday. The response shouldn’t be encouraging to the Republican candidate:

   “Hi, sir, my name’s Steve and I’m a volunteer for the Jane Corwin campaign-”

   “Jesus!” a guy screams at me. “You know, I was thinking about voting for Corwin, but this is too much! You people have called me a dozen times in the last two days! I am sick of it!”

   “But Jane Corwin wants to rule over you with an iron fist,” I calmly relay. “Don’t you crave strong leadership?”

   “What?!” he balks. “An ‘iron fist’?”

   “Yes,” I assure him. “These phone calls are just the beginning. When Jane’s in Congress she will do everything in her power to crush you mentally and physically.”

   “Don’t call me again!” he says and slams down the receiver.

I needed a laugh. Everyone that I have called was friendly & cheerful with concerns about a lot of issues, others just hung up.

On This Day In History May 24

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 24 is the 144th day of the year (145th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 221 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, John Hancock is elected president of the Second Continental Congress.

ohn Hancock is best known for his large signature on the Declaration of Independence, which he jested the British could read without spectacles. He was serving as president of Congress upon the declaration’s adoption on July 4, 1776, and, as such, was the first member of the Congress to sign the historic document.

John Hancock graduated from Harvard University in 1754 at age 17 and, with the help of a large inherited fortune, established himself as Boston’s leading merchant. The British customs raid on one of Hancock’s ships, the sloop Liberty, in 1768 incited riots so severe that the British army fled the city of Boston to its barracks in Boston Harbor. Boston merchants promptly agreed to a non-importation agreement to protest the British action. Two years later, it was a scuffle between Patriot protestors and British soldiers on Hancock’s wharf that set the stage for the Boston Massacre.

Hancock’s involvement with Samuel Adams and his radical group, the Sons of Liberty, won the wealthy merchant the dubious distinction of being one of only two Patriots-the other being Sam Adams-that the Redcoats marching to Lexington in April 1775 to confiscate Patriot arms were ordered to arrest. When British General Thomas Gage offered amnesty to the colonists holding Boston under siege, he excluded the same two men from his offer.

President of Congress

With the war underway, Hancock made his way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia with the other Massachusetts delegates. On May 24, 1775, he was unanimously elected President of the Continental Congress, succeeding Peyton Randolph after Henry Middleton declined the nomination. Hancock was a good choice for president for several reasons. He was experienced, having often presided over legislative bodies and town meetings in Massachusetts. His wealth and social standing inspired the confidence of moderate delegates, while his association with Boston radicals made him acceptable to other radicals. His position was somewhat ambiguous, because the role of the president was not fully defined, and it was not clear if Randolph had resigned or was on a leave of absence. Like other presidents of Congress, Hancock’s authority was limited to that of a presiding officer. He also had to handle a great deal of official correspondence, and he found it necessary to hire clerks at his own expense to help with the paperwork.

Signing the Declaration

Hancock was president of Congress when the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. He is primarily remembered by Americans for his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration, so much so that “John Hancock” became, in the United States, an informal synonym for signature. According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but this fanciful story did not appear until many years later.

Six In The Morning

Researchers see a pattern in rise of deadly tornadoes

By Brian Vastag and Ed O’Keefe, Tuesday, May 24

The extraordinary Joplin twister – the single deadliest tornado since officials began keeping records in 1950 – was a rare destructive phenomenon known as a “multi-vortex,” hiding two or more cyclones within the wider wind funnel.

Sunday’s storm smashed the southwest Missouri city’s hospital, left nothing but splintered trees where neighborhoods once stood, and killed at least 116, with the death toll expected to rise. The storm injured another 500 and and damaged or destroyed at least 2,000 buildings.

Krugman Decoded

I often find it’s better to read him bottom to top, like stack language or a blog.

The ‘elite’ economists are arrogant morons-

If Greek banks collapse, that might well force Greece out of the euro area – and it’s all too easy to see how it could start financial dominoes falling across much of Europe. So what is the E.C.B. thinking?

My guess is that it’s just not willing to face up to the failure of its fantasies.

What are those fantasies?

European leaders offered emergency loans to nations in crisis, but only in exchange for promises to impose savage austerity programs, mainly consisting of huge spending cuts. Objections that these programs would be self-defeating – not only would they impose large direct pain, but they also would, by worsening the economic slump, reduce revenues – were waved away. Austerity would actually be expansionary, it was claimed, because it would improve confidence.

What are the results?

(T)he confidence fairy hasn’t shown up. Europe’s troubled debtor nations are, as we should have expected, suffering further economic decline thanks to those austerity programs, and confidence is plunging instead of rising. It’s now clear that Greece, Ireland and Portugal can’t and won’t repay their debts in full, although Spain might manage to tough it out.

Realistically, then, Europe needs to prepare for some kind of debt reduction, involving a combination of aid from stronger economies and “haircuts” imposed on private creditors, who will have to accept less than full repayment. Realism, however, appears to be in short supply.

Clinging to a thin reed of hope.

I often complain, with reason, about the state of economic discussion in the United States. And the irresponsibility of certain politicians – like those Republicans claiming that defaulting on U.S. debt would be no big deal – is scary.

But at least in America members of the pain caucus, those who claim that raising interest rates and slashing government spending in the face of mass unemployment will somehow make things better instead of worse, get some pushback from the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration.

“Realism, however, appears to be in short supply.”

State and local governments may cut 450,000 jobs in FY2012


Mon May 23, 4:23 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Around 450,000 people who work for U.S. states, counties, cities, towns and villages could get pink slips in fiscal 2012, sharply up from the 300,000 positions shed this year, a report said on Monday.


Tibet celebrates 60th anniversary of peaceful liberation



On May 23rd, 1951, representatives of both the central government and the former local government of Tibet signed a 17-Article Agreement in Beijing, marking the region’s peaceful liberation. It fundamentally expelled imperialist forces, safeguarded the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, cracked down on various secessionist forces and maintained national unification and ethnic unity.

China Focus: Tibet marks 60th anniversary of peaceful liberation



“It’s a historic date for all the Tibetans,” said Qiangba Puncog, chairman of Tibet’s regional legislature, while addressing the crowd. “Tibet’s peaceful liberation laid a solid foundation for the subsequent democratic reform, building of socialism and the modernization drive.”

The number of serfs and slaves accounted for 95 percent of the Tibetan population in 1951. The lords, including the Dalai Lama’s relatives, owned all the land, forests, rivers and slaves. The lords could torture and even kill the serfs and slaves freely, though all were devout Buddhists.

“Rumors had it that the PLA were cannibals — some of them wore face masks that kept them from eating humans alive,” said Tseten Dorje, 76. Those frightening cannibals, he said, turned out to be friendly and even offered candies and biscuits to the children.

Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme himself wrote in an article entitled “Return to the warm embrace of the Motherland” published in 1981: “We held earnest and friendly negotiations on the basis of equality and consultation…and correctly resolved all complicated issues according to the policy of the Chinese Communist Party on resolving issues related to domestic ethnic groups and in line with the special conditions in Tibet.”

Witnessing "arrival of dawn" — memories of Tibet’s peaceful liberation in 1951

by Xinhua writers Yuan Ye, Bai Xu, Li Keyong


In January 1950, merely three months after the establishment of the PRC, Mao Zedong and the Central Military Commission made the decision to liberate Tibet, a move resisted by Tibet’s aristocrats who intended to seek support from Britain and the United States.

From the very beginning the central government made clear that “every effort must be made to realize negotiations with the local Tibetan government” for a peaceful liberation, said Qie Jinwu, a former high-ranking officer at the 18th Corps.

But the envoys sent to Lhasa for peace talks were all turned away. One of them, highly respected living Buddha Gedar Tulku, was even poisoned to death in Qamdo.

“We’ve made every effort. Even the purpose of Qamdo Battle in October 1950 was to urge the Kasha to come to the negotiation table,” said Qie, now 91.

The battle in the eastern Tibet town, in which the PLA defeated the Tibetan regional government’s army, quickly shook the Tibetan rulers’ confidence to resist.

But after his exile to India in 1959, the Dalai Lama insisted the agreement had been signed under duress.

Phundre said he did not agree with the “duress” claim because both sides were allowed to debate, sometimes fiercely, for the final version of the agreement.

In September 1950, a small fight broke out between a detachment of the 18th Corps and a dozen Tibetan soldiers in Dorje Chosphel’s home village of Kamthok, Jomda County.

“Bullets flew over my head, yet I managed to pick up a cartridge case out of curiosity,” said the now 79-year-old man. The Tibetan soldiers were soon defeated and fled.

“The successful entry of the 18th Corps is the result of a complete and earnest implementation of the central government’s policies toward Tibet and accordingly, the sincere support from the people,” said Ngawang Tenzin.

In the course of entering Tibet’s plateau region, known as “the world’ s roof,” more than 3,000 PLA soldiers died of high altitude sickness, hunger, or accidents while building roads.

Now even the most remote village in Tibet could be connected with the outside world with satellite TV and mobile phones.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 23, 2011-


Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 48 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Greece speeds up asset sales to beat debt crisis

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Mon May 23, 2:13 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Under pressure from EU peers and the markets, Greece on Monday pledged to speed up a halting privatisation drive to reduce its crushing debt load and head off a second eurozone crisis.

After a marathon cabinet meeting, the Socialist government of George Papandreou announced an extra 1.6 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in savings this year and an “immediate” sale of lucrative state assets.

These include OTE, the Balkans’ largest telecoms operator, and the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki which rank among the busiest in the Mediterranean in terms of tourism and trade.