Daily Archive: 05/31/2011

May 31 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 Truth About the American Economy

The U.S. economy continues to stagnate. It’s growing at the rate of 1.8 percent, which is barely growing at all. Consumer spending is down. Home prices are down. Jobs and wages are going nowhere.

It’s vital that we understand the truth about the American economy.

How did we go from the Great Depression to 30 years of Great Prosperity? And from there, to 30 years of stagnant incomes and widening inequality, culminating in the Great Recession? And from the Great Recession into such an anemic recovery?

New York Times Editorail: The Numbers Are Grim

A month ago, when an initial gauge of first-quarter economic growth came in surprisingly weak, many policy makers and economists expected the bad news to prove fleeting. But when revised data were released last week, the growth estimate remained stuck at an annual rate of 1.8 percent, compared with 3.1 percent at the end of last year.

More troubling in the latest figures, consumer spending – the largest component of the economy – was especially slow. Stagnant wages and higher prices for gas and food are squeezing family budgets, while falling home equity hurts consumer confidence. That suggests more bad news to come.

David Bromwich: Obama, Bush, and the Patriot Act

Minutes before midnight on May 26, President Obama, in Paris, by a species of teleportable pen signed into law a four-year extension of the Patriot Act: the central domestic support of the security apparatus devised by the Bush administration, after the bombings of 11 September 2001 and the ‘anthrax letters’ a week later. The first Patriot Act passed the senate on 25 October 2001, by a vote of 98-1 — the opposing vote coming from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. In the years that followed, a minority view developed, which said that the Patriot Act ‘went too far’; but its steadiest opponents have come from outside the mainstream media: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute, and libertarian columnists, such as Glenn Greenwald and Nat Hentoff.

In the last few days, two senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, took up the mantle of Senator Feingold (who lost his bid for re-election in the anti-Obama midterm disaster of 2010). Both spoke against a government interpretation of the new Patriot Act, which has not yet been shared with the American people.

The senate as a whole voted (this time 72-23) to renew a law that citizens have had no opportunity to understand, as Wyden and Udall present it, and that few members of Congress have looked into, even to the limited extent allowed. The Patriot Act controls secret investigations. The government, however, according to Wyden, has a private understanding of the law. This interpretation has been classified. So the meaning of a law about secrets is hidden because the government’s view of the law is itself a secret.

Anthony Gregory : Obama’s War Policy More and More Like Bush’s

After more than two years, President Obama’s national security policy looks all too familiar: like President Bush’s policy. You remember the Bush doctrine? Its most prominent tenet was the policy of preventive war — using the U.S. military to eliminate potentially dangerous enemies, rather than using military force only when the United States is clearly threatened.

Generally speaking, the Bush administration argued that deposing unfriendly regimes and promoting democracy both militarily and diplomatically were in America’s long-term best interests. President Obama not only has embraced this approach, stressing it again in his May 19 speech on the Middle East, he’s gone further: increasing military spending, expanding the war in Afghanistan, handing off more of the mission to contractors and mercenaries, and bombing Libya without anything resembling a threat to the United States or even a nod from Congress — in violation of the War Powers Act.

Glen Ford: The Corporate Dream: Teachers as Temps

As Democrats hustle to shovel a billion dollars into President Obama’s campaign coffers – making promises to rich people and their corporations every step of the way – America’s billionaires are spending even more money to seize control of the nation’s public schools. Although super-wealthy capitalists like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, fellow computer mogul Michael Dell, real estate magnate Eli Broad, and the rapacious owners of Wal-Mart, the Walton Family, would like people to think of them as philanthropists, they are nothing more than down-and-dirty investors who hope to reap much more than they sow. This mega-buck mafia’s goal is to gain access to the $600 billion per year that taxpayers pump into public schools, and then to profit in perpetuity by shaping the nation’s educational system to their corporate needs. The corporate education project has nothing to do with growing new generations of smarter, socially aware, independent-thinking citizens, but is designed to raid public treasuries through wholesale contracting-out of public schooling.

Teachers are the biggest obstacle in the way of the corporate educational coup, which is why the billionaires, eagerly assisted by their servants in the Obama administration, have made demonization and eventual destruction of teachers unions their top priority. Corporations hate collective bargaining, or working people’s power of any kind, but their vision goes way beyond simply neutralizing teachers unions. The billionaires, and the politicians they have purchased, want nothing less than to destroy teaching as a profession. Plutocrats like Bill Gates and politicians like Barack Obama may make noises about respecting teachers’ life-long commitment to learning, but their actions prove the opposite. At every opportunity, whenever a real or manufactured educational crisis presents itself, the corporate gang champions charter schools and imports platoons of young, mostly white, inexperienced rookies from programs like Teach for America. Most of these neophytes have no intention of making teaching a career, so they accept low wages, turnover is high, and they have no long term interest in any particular school, or school system, or the profession in general. They are temporary teachers – which is precisely the point.

Chris  Hedges: The Sky Really Is Falling

The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with equal parts of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt. Our only salvation-the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry-is ignored by both groups. And we will be led, unless we build popular resistance movements and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, toward collective self-annihilation by dimwitted Pied Pipers and fools.

Those who concede that the planet is warming but insist we can learn to live with it are perhaps more dangerous than the buffoons who decide to shut their eyes. It is horrifying enough that the House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” But it is not much of an alternative to trust those who insist we can cope with the effects while continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Eugene Robinson: The GOP’s self-destruction derby

My advice to Sarah Palin, not that she would take it, is that she’d better be careful. If she keeps pretending to run for the presidential nomination, people might take her seriously.

The former half-term Alaska governor’s “One Nation” bus tour has made the Republican establishment nervous. If her aim is just to get back in the news, reinflate the Palin brand and boost her speaking fees, then party leaders have every reason to be pleased. In the unlikely event that she’s actually running, they have every reason to order another Scotch.What the GOP should worry about is the intoxication that adoring crowds often induce in politicians. Palin might board the bus intending to pull a Trump and disembark convinced that now, more than ever, the nation requires her service. The hosannas ringing in her ears might deafen her to voices of reason.

May 31 2011

On This Day In History May 31

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 image to enlarge

May 31 is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 214 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1859, Big Ben goes into operation in London

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen’s Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on this day in 1859.

After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster–the headquarters of the British Parliament–in October 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.

Denison’s design, built by the company E.J. Dent & Co., was completed in 1854; five years later, St. Stephen’s Tower itself was finished. Weighing in at more than 13 tons, its massive bell was dragged to the tower through the streets of London by a team of 16 horses, to the cheers of onlookers. Once it was installed, Big Ben struck its first chimes on May 31, 1859. Just two months later, however, the heavy striker designed by Denison cracked the bell. Three more years passed before a lighter hammer was added and the clock went into service again. The bell was rotated so that the hammer would strike another surface, but the crack was never repaired.

Great Bell

The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. The bell is better known by the nickname Big Ben.

The original bell was a 16.3-tonne (16 ton) hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons. The bell was named in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall, and his name is inscribed on it. However, another theory for the origin of the name is that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. It is thought that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria, but that an MP suggested the nickname during a Parliamentary debate; the comment is not recorded in Hansard.

Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard. Cast in 1856, the first bell was transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. Unfortunately, it cracked beyond repair while being tested and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13.76-tonne (13 1/2 ton) bell. This was pulled 200 ft up to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours. It is 2.2 metres tall and 2.9 metres wide. This new bell first chimed in July 1859. In September it too cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service. According to the foundry’s manager, George Mears, Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it was reinstalled. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place. Big Ben has chimed with an odd twang ever since and is still in use today complete with the crack. At the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until “Great Paul”, a 17 tonne (16 3/4 ton) bell currently hung in St Paul’s Cathedral, was cast in 1881.

May 31 2011

Six In The Morning

Karzai: NATO risks being seen as ‘occupying force’

Afghan president says he will no longer allow airstrikes on homes

msnbc.com news services

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan President Hamid Karzai angrily warned NATO forces fighting in his country that they risk becoming seen as an “occupying force” if they do not stop attacking Afghan homes with air strikes as they hunt insurgents.

Karzai said he would no longer allow NATO airstrikes on houses because they have caused too many civilian casualties.

A recent strike that mistakenly killed a group of children and women would be the last, he added.




Tuesday’s Headlines:

Food prices to double by 2030, Oxfam warns

Serbia ‘certain’ to reject plea for Mladic trial to be halted

Yemeni ceasefire deal ends

Gaddafi calls for truce, but on his own terms

TEPCO waited 12 hours to announce pump failure at No. 5 reactor

May 31 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 30, 2011-

DocuDharma

May 31 2011

Memorial Day Parade

In Stars Hollow I live on a 5 street cul-de-sac backed by a protected watershed.  For one day each year, for 2 or 3 hours, we’re entirely cut off from civilization by the Memorial Day Parade.  You can tell it’s coming because they take down the eksmas decorations and put up flags on the phone poles (which we leave until July 4th because we’re thrifty like that).

It’s actually a really big neighborhood holiday, you can’t go anywhere because the streets are blocked and everyone congregates along the parade route and gets a chance to gossip about how the kids are doing.

From the time I was an Indian Guide until I graduated Marching Band I was a part of the show, stepping the 2 mile route from the marshaling area to the Town Hall reviewing stand.  For many years I grieved that my neighborhood seemed to be slighted in the musical department as drum majors preserved their performances.

So, once I was beyond caring or retribution, I sidled down the street a bit and at the appropriate moment used my regulation Lifeguard issue Acme Thunderer to give the 4 rhythmic blasts that triggered a roll off in my former compatriots.  The results were quite satisfactory.

Not that I’m advocating low tech hacking or civil disobedience.

May 31 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 52 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 CO2 emissions highest ever in 2010: IEA

AFP

Mon May 30, 12:37 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – Carbon dioxide emitted by energy use hit a record high last year, dimming prospects for limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Monday.

Breaching the 2.0 C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold sharply increases risk of severe climate impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, scientists have warned.

“Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history,” the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website.