07/22/2011 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Eight killed as Syria quells massive protests


4 hrs ago

Syrian security forces killed at least eight civilians on Friday as more than 1.2 million protesters swarmed cities in the north and east to protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, activists said.

Activists had called for Friday’s demonstrations on Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011, a driving force behind more than four months of anti-regime protests, to show support for the flashpoint city of Homs.

More than 50 people have been killed since Saturday in central Homs, activists have said, accusing the regime of sowing sectarian strife among the city’s Christian and Muslim inhabitants.

Congressional Game of Chicken: To The Right of the Right

The rumors and leaks are really coming fast and furious and it looks like Obama ready to sell out any Democratic principles that were left. From Jon Walker at FDL Action:

Reports circulate that President Obama may agree to a massive all cuts debt ceiling package, creating a lot of anger and a sense of betrayal because Obama will fold on his demand that any debt ceiling package contain at least a small amount of new revenue. I can’t understand the amount of anger though because from the moment Obama made this his bizarre line in the sand, chances were he would break his word. Demanding what was basically a symbolic level of loophole closing is such a small and silly hill of sand to fight over, and there was no way Obama was actually going to die on it.


Even the idea that the only thing Obama would go to the mat on here is a symbolic tax increase is almost comical, given his history of not fighting to raise taxes. Obama promised to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, but when it came down do it, he let it slide. In fact, the deal he made to extend them actually included more tax cuts. And now reports are Obama is searching for a way to avoid having this tax fight again in 2012.

It is bizarre to have Obama basically saying “I will “give in” on Social Security cuts but only to achieve my goal of changing how corporations deduct the purchase of a jet.” It just defies credulity to think a small amount of new revenue was ever really his line in the sand.

I’m not surprised Obama broke his word to his supporters again. But I am surprised he would choose to stick his flag on such a small pile of sand knowing he’ll give it up  in the end. I’m also surprised anyone takes Obama’s stances seriously anymore.

It gets worse:

That framework includes spending cuts, plus entitlement changes and increased tax revenues (as part of a tax overhaul) that would come later. But there are two big hurdles left: 1) on the substance, and 2) on soothing egos. On the substance, the most contentious matter is how you “trigger” the provisions to guarantee completing tax and entitlement reform. The Democrats have offered a trigger of letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making $250,000 or more. Republicans, meanwhile, have countered that if those Bush tax cuts are hanging in the balance, they’d offer a trigger of their own to ensure Dem action: scaling back Obama’s health-care law and eliminating the mandate. Bottom line: If entitlement and tax reform is completed on time, then the Bush tax cuts and the health-care law don’t get touched. Also on the substance front, we’re hearing that there’s yet to be an agreement on the scope of the entitlement changes. And never mind the actual individual cuts on the discretionary side. Details, details. The K Street Army is gathering forces if this deal goes through because we haven’t seen this much change in the way government spends and gathers money in a generation.

The rumors of this far right wing deal by Obama and Boehner was leaked just as the Senate Democratic leadership was sitting down with White House budget director Jacob J. Lew, setting off a very contentious meeting. After leaving the meeting Lew said that he “not aware of a deal”. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated, “There has to be a balance. There has to be some revenue and cuts. My caucus agrees with that. I hope that the president sticks with that.” Sen Diane Feinstein bluntly said “no” when asked if she and the White House were on the “same page”.

Obama is even losing the Blue Dogs. This deal to make drastic cuts in our safety net in exchange for a promise of negotiating tax increases later just isn’t working for either House or Senate Democrats and will sink Obama’s reelection.

At a town hall meeting in College Park, MD, President Obama said he would sign on any deal to raise the debt ceiling. It’s a wonder that he has any supporters left.

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 Lesser Depression

These are interesting times – and I mean that in the worst way. Right now we’re looking at not one but two looming crises, either of which could produce a global disaster. In the United States, right-wing fanatics in Congress may block a necessary rise in the debt ceiling, potentially wreaking havoc in world financial markets. Meanwhile, if the plan just agreed to by European heads of state fails to calm markets, we could see falling dominoes all across southern Europe – which would also wreak havoc in world financial markets.

We can only hope that the politicians huddled in Washington and Brussels succeed in averting these threats. But here’s the thing: Even if we manage to avoid immediate catastrophe, the deals being struck on both sides of the Atlantic are almost guaranteed to make the broader economic slump worse.

Glenn Greenwald: Barack Obama is Gutting the Core Principles of the Democratic Party

The president’s attacks on America’s social safety net are destroying the soul of the Democratic party’s platform

In 2005, American liberals achieved one of their most significant political victories of the last decade. It occurred with the resounding rejection of George W Bush’s campaign to privatise social security. . . . . .

But in 2009, clear signs emerged that President Obama was eager to achieve what his right-predecessor could not: cut social security. Before he was even inaugurated, Obama echoed the right’s manipulative rhetorical tactic: that (along with Medicare) the programme was in crisis and producing “red ink as far as the eye can see.” President-elect Obama thus vowed that these crown jewels of his party since the New Deal would be, as Politico reported, a “central part” of his efforts to reduce the deficit.

The next month, his top economic adviser, the Wall Street-friendly Larry Summers, also vowed specific benefit cuts to Time magazine. He then stacked his “deficit commission” with long-time advocates of social security cuts.

Many progressives, ebullient over the election of a Democratic president, chose to ignore these preliminary signs, unwilling to believe that their own party’s leader was as devoted as he claimed to attacking the social safety net. But some were more realistic. The popular liberal blogger and economist Duncan “Atrios” Black, who was one of the leaders of the campaign against Bush’s privatisation scheme, vowed in response to these early reports:

   The left … will create an epic 360-degree shitstorm if Obama and the Dems decide that cutting social security benefits is a good idea.

Fast forward to 2011: it is now beyond dispute that President Obama not only favours, but is the leading force in Washington pushing for, serious benefit cuts to both social security and Medicare.

Amanda Marcotte and Jesse Taylor: How States Could Ban Abortion With ‘Roe’ Still Standing

For decades, the debate over abortion rights has centered on a single court decision, Roe v. Wade, and the possibility of its overturn. Overturning Roe has become the holy grail of the antichoice movement, and many states have “trigger laws” on the books that would ban abortion immediately should the Supreme Court overturn Roe. Unfortunately for antichoicers, the justices resist overturning precedent; more importantly, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote on any abortion case before the court, upheld Roe on the basis of precedent in 1992. However, the recent surge in state legislation against abortion demonstrates that antichoice activists have figured out a new strategy: eliminating legal abortion without directly overturning Roe.

The Supreme Court granting states the power to ban abortion with Roe still standing seemed outlandish even just a few years ago, but the appointment of John Roberts as chief justice shifted the equation. Roberts specializes in decisions that reverse the spirit of precedent while leaving intact the letter of it, like when he squashed large chunks of Brown v. the Board of Education while claiming to uphold it. To make it legal to ban abortion in the states, all the Court needs is a law that eliminates legal abortion while dodging the logic of Roe v. Wade.

George Zornick: [Gang of Pain: Who Suffers Under the Bipartisan Deficit Reduction Scheme]

President Obama endorsed the Senate’s Gang of Six deficit reduction plan Tuesday, saying that the proposal “is broadly consistent with the approach that I’ve urged” and “makes sure that nobody is disproportionately hurt from us making progress on the debt and deficits.”

However, an examination of the plan’s specifics reveals that corporations and wealthy Americans won’t feel much pain at all-in many cases, just the opposite. The plan slashes taxes and could bring the top personal income rate down as low as 23 percent-meaning CEOs like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein could see their after-tax income increase by as much as $3 million, according to Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The corporate tax rate would be reduced from 35 percent to between 23 and 29 percent under the proposal. (Supposedly enough loopholes would be closed to keep total revenue from corporate taxes the same. Even in that scenario, corporations won’t pay an extra penny). Military spending also remains virtually untouched.

Eugene Robinson: The Limits of Compromise

Before we make political partisanship a felony, punishable by endless lectures from weather-vane senators and allegedly “wise” commentators, let’s remember that some choices are real, consequential and mutually exclusive.

I’m not talking about the kind of scorched-earth partisanship that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell espouses-the notion that Republicans should favor anything that’s politically harmful to Democrats, never mind what the impact on the country might be. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” McConnell said last year, displaying a candor that is all too rare in Washington.

I’m talking about partisanship based on issues, policy options and incompatible philosophies about the nature and purpose of government. Powerful forces are pulling the nation in opposite directions. The danger of too much compromise is that we end up not moving at all.

David Sirota: The Terrorist Threat We’re Ignoring

According to the U.S. government, the list of known bogeymen working to compromise American national security is long, and getting longer by the day. By my back-of-the-envelope count, we have shoe bombers, underwear bombers, dirty bombers and car bombers. Now, we are being told to fear “implant bombers” who will surgically attach explosives to their innards.

All of these threats are, indeed, scary. But the fear of individual attacks has diverted attention from a more systemic threat of terrorists or foreign governments exploiting our economy’s penchant for job-offshoring. How? By using our corresponding reliance on imports to stitch security-compromising technology into our society’s central IT nervous system.

Sounds farfetched, right? That’s what I thought, until I read a recent article in Fast Company. Covering a little-noticed congressional hearing, the magazine reported that a top Department of Homeland Security official “admitted on the record that electronics sold in the U.S. are being preloaded with spyware, malware, and security-compromising components.”

Bernie Sanders: Congrats to the Gang of Six, the Powerful, the Wealthy, and Multinational Corporations

If there was ever a time in the modern history of America that the American people should become engaged in what’s going on here in Washington, now is that time. Decisions are being made that will impact not only our generation but the lives of our children and our grandchildren for decades to come, and I fear very much that the decisions being contemplated are not good decisions, are not fair decisions.

There is increased understanding that that defaulting for the first time in our history on our debts would be a disaster for the American economy and for the world’s economy. We should not do that.

There also is increased discussion about long-term deficit reduction and how we address the crisis which we face today of a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and a $14 trillion-plus national debt.

One of the long-term deficit reduction plans came from the so-called Gang of Six. We do not know all of the details of that proposal. In fact, we never will know because a lot of the decisions are booted to committees to work out the details.

This Week In The Steamy Dream Antilles

This was quite a bizarre week.  And this will be a short digest.  Your Bloguero was obsessed all week long with the California Prison Hunger Strike.  Five essays.   One every day.  Monday through Friday.  And because your Bloguero was convinced that the Trad Media TM weren’t giving the story any real coverage and that what there was, was simple stenography of the official half truths and maliciousness of prison officials, your Bloguero decided these essays should be cross-posted at various blogs.  Good idea.  Hard to carry out.  Your Bloguero found himself involuntarily drowning in the fabled ocean of Java and html errors.  Repeatedly.  Let’s face it.  Your Bloguero can tickle the keyboard, and maybe he can write the essays, but alas and alack, when that dreaded red warning jumps up when he hits “publish,” he freaks out.  And curses.  And gets impatient.  And frustrated.  And does not know how to fix the problem so the essay will actually publish.  And so, it has been a week both of frenzied hammering away at the keyboard and the soaring agitation and frustration the red warnings elicit.

This could be crazy making anywhere.  And it probably is.  But because he is back from Mexico and is again in Upstate New York, the heat and humidity have fueled both the intensity and duration of your Bloguero’s massive freak outs.  Let’s not mention his impatience.  Or his irritation.  Or his reactions to the comments your Bloguero took umbrage at.  Or the epithets he muttered (but did not type).

Thank goodness that the hunger strike has now ended peacefully so your Bloguero can now attempt to re-establish his so often lost equanimity.

Here are the essays supporting the prison hunger strikers:

Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, and Monday.

Was there anything else in the Dream Antilles other than your Bloguero’s obsession?  In what seems like a million years ago, your Bloguero actually wrote a piece on Sunday about Hoaracio Castellanos Moya’s book She-Devil in The Mirror.  Moya is a wonderful writer, and this book is an unusual description of the pervasive corruption in post Revolution El Salvador, told by a very distinctive and unusual narrator.  An interesting book that should be wider known.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Humor him. Or, even easier, just click the “Encouragement jar”. Your Bloguero likes to know that you’re visiting.

California Prison Hunger Strike Ends Peacefully


(Note: This is my fifth and final essay in support of the California prisoners on hunger strike.  The first is here.  The second is here.  OPOL’s wonderful treatment of the situation is here.  The third is here.  Yesterday’s is here.

SF Gate reports that after three full weeks the California Prisoners’ Hunger Strike has come peacefully to an end.  Prisoners across California are now eating:

Le Tour- Stage 19

Modane Valfréjus to Alpe-d’Huez 69 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

As it turns out BruceMcF was quite right to suspect that yesterday the Mad Manx, Mark Cavendish, 4 Stage winner and leader in the points competition by a comfortable 35 would come under tremendous pressure to finish inside the time limit (which yesterday was 33:07) or be dropped from the Tour.

Well he didn’t do that, and was part of a group of 88 riders that finished 35:50 back.

But there is safety in numbers and as one can imagine the Tour organizers were kind of embarrassed at the prospect of losing about half the field, including some other high recognition sprinters like Gilbert and Hushovd, so instead they used a loophole in the rules designed for after a spectacular Peloton splitting crash and fined the all the riders in the group 20 points instead.

This did a bit of reshuffling of the sprinter standings from Wednesday to Thursday and instead of a commanding 35 point lead the Mad Manx has a margin of but a bare 15 and is headed to another day in the mountains.

At the front Andy Schleck put on quite a show with an early break away after the Casse Déserte that he maintained all the way up the Galibier and gained more than 4 Minutes over Alberto Contador who has defeated him for the past two years.  While the shuffling in the GC was not quite as dramatic there were still a few changes-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 79h 34′ 06″
2 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 79h 34′ 21″ + 00′ 15″
3 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 79h 35′ 14″ + 01′ 08″
4 Cadel Evans BMC 79h 35′ 18″ + 01′ 12″
5 Damiano Cunego Lampre 79h 37′ 52″ + 03′ 46″
6 Ivan Basso Cannondale 79h 37′ 52″ + 03′ 46″
7 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 79h 38′ 50″ + 04′ 44″
8 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 79h 39′ 26″ + 05′ 20″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 79h 41′ 14″ + 07′ 08″
10 Jean-Christophe Peraud AG2R 79h 43′ 33″ + 09′ 27″

The most important thing is the deltas, the time margin between competitors, because after today it will be very difficult to make up more than a minute, maybe 2, in the Individual Time Trials without a major mistake or a disasterous crash.  The route tomorrow is relatively flat and short, only 27 miles.

Today’s Stage is the last in the Alps and contains 1 category 1 and 2 Unclassified climbs finishing uphill on the Alpe d’Huez.  It’s fairly short so you can expect climbing attacks early.

At about 56 miles there is a descent that looks in the profile like you’re dropping straight off a cliff.  They exaggerate the scale so the elevation changes are more visible but it is still a high speed and twisty bit and people, especially if they are tired and anxious, might make mistakes.

If there are any sprinters left, their checkpoint will be after that.

Tomorrow is a very busy day for me as I’ll also have Formula One Qualfying at Nurburgring at 8 am, the same time as Le Tour.  Today’s Vs. coverage starts at 8 am.

On This Day In History July 22

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

July 22 is the 203rd day of the year (204th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 162 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1933, Wiley Post becomes the first person to fly solo around the world traveling 15,596 miles in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes.

Like many pilots at the time, Post disliked the fact that the speed record for flying around the world was not held by a fixed-wing aircraft, but by the Graf Zeppelin, piloted by Hugo Eckener in 1929 with a time of 21 days. On June 23, 1931, Post and his navigator, Harold Gatty, left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York in the Winnie Mae with a flight plan that would take them around the world, stopping at Harbour Grace, Flintshire, Hanover twice, Berlin, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Blagoveshchensk, Khabarovsk, Nome where his airscrew had to be repaired, Fairbanks where the airscrew was replaced, Edmonton, and Cleveland before returning to Roosevelt Field. They arrived back on July 1, after traveling 15,474 miles in the record time of 8 days and 15 hours and 51 minutes. The reception they received rivaled Lindbergh’s everywhere they went. They had lunch at the White House on July 6, rode in a ticker-tape parade the next day in New York City, and were honored at a banquet given by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America at the Hotel Astor. After the flight, Post acquired the Winnie Mae from F.C. Hall, and he and Gatty published an account of their journey titled, Around the World in Eight Days, with an introduction by Will Rogers.

His Lockheed Vega aircraft, the Winnie Mae is on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and his pressure suit is being prepared for display at the same location. On August 15, 1935, Post and American  humorist Will Rogers were killed when Post’s aircraft crashed on takeoff from a lagoon near Point Barrow, in Alaska.

Schumer Pushes For A Corporate Tax Holiday

A corporate tax holiday? Does Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) seriously think that by cutting the tax rate on overseas profits for US Multinationals from 35% to 5,25% it will encourage these companies to create jobs here? That is what Schumer, our elected Wall St. lobbyist, is pushing despite the fact that the last time this was done in 2005, most of the money went to shareholders and executives (pdf) in the form of dividends and stock buy backs. We all know how many jobs were created, zero. Indeed, the companies that profited the most actually laid off more workers and cut back production in the US. We all know how many jobs were created, zero. Indeed, the companies that profited the most actually laid off more workers and cut back production in the US. As to increased revenue, short term it might bring $50 billion into the Treasury but over a ten year period there would be an $80 billion loss.

In his Rolling Stone blog, Matt Taibbi explains how this is just another “con” by corporation lobbyists:

Here’s how it works: the tax laws say that companies can avoid paying taxes as long as they keep their profits overseas. Whenever that money comes back to the U.S., the companies have to pay taxes on it.

Think of it as a gigantic global IRA. Companies that put their profits in the offshore IRA can leave them there indefinitely with no tax consequence. Then, when they cash out, they pay the tax.

Only there’s a catch. In 2004, the corporate lobby got together and major employers like Cisco and Apple and GE begged congress to give them a “one-time” tax holiday, arguing that they would use the savings to create jobs. Congress, shamefully, relented, and a tax holiday was declared. Now companies paid about 5 percent in taxes, instead of 35-40 percent.

Money streamed back into America. But the companies did not use the savings to create jobs. Instead, they mostly just turned it into executive bonuses and ate the extra cash. Some of those companies promising waves of new hires have already committed to massive layoffs..

According to Forbes, Chuck Schumer has garnered the blessings of some “left” Democrats by pairing it with a job creating infrastructure program. Former SEIU president Andy Stern and Sen. Kay Hagen (D-NC), who voiced her support at a Third Way breakfast, have endorsed the idea and the multi-nationals have already sent out their dogs to push it:

While the repatriation holiday alone is a non-starter for most Democrats, pairing it with an infrastructure program could marshal labor support. It’s an approach backed by former Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern, who’s emerged as the most vocal proponent of the tax holiday on the left.


The team of corporate heavyweights behind the lobbying push for the holiday — including Apple (AAPL), Cisco (CSCO), Duke Energy (DUK), Google (GOOG), Kodak (EK), Microsoft (MSFT), Pfizer (PFE), and Oracle (ORCL) – has shown some success softening up Democratic opposition recently. Last week, the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way hosted a breakfast on the topic that featured Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). “A repatriation holiday can encourage economic activity at a fraction of the cost of recent fiscal policy,” Hagan said in her prepared remarks.

My head hurts.

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Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 End of an era for US spaceflight as Atlantis lands

By Jean-Louis Santini, AFP

3 hrs ago

The shuttle Atlantis cruised home for a final time Thursday, ending its last mission to the International Space Station and closing a 30-year chapter in American space exploration.

Under cover of darkness, the shuttle glided seamlessly to a predawn landing at Kennedy Space Center at 5:57 am (0957 GMT), marking the formal retirement of the shuttle program and leaving Russia as the world’s only taxi to the ISS.

“Mission complete, Houston,” shuttle commander Chris Ferguson said as the black and white orbiter, emblazoned with an American flag, rolled to a stop.