08/21/2011 archive

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert

Where in Stephen admits that WOI general manager has touched his Emmy.

Negotiations 101: How To Get What You Want

I’ve sat in on many negotiations and I still do, one of the things that I learned immediately is that you always start out asking for the universe. In other words, everything you hope to get the other side to agree on even if you know they won’t. It’s kind of rule #1 for both sides of the table. There are some lessons that the Obama administration could take away from the recent fight over toll increases on the Hudson crossings and trains from New Jersey to New York are managed by the NY/NY Port Authority, which also manages the sea and air ports.

The Port Authority  announced less than a month ago that it would need to increase the tolls and fairs to cover future capital bulding and improvements. What the PA proposed was ginormous:

The increases would include a surcharge of $3 to increase the cash toll for using its bridges and tunnels from $8 to $15.

The authority also proposed raising tolls for autos using E-ZPass on the Port Authority’s crossings from $6 to $10 roundtrip for off-peak travel, and from $8 to $12 in peak hours. It said an additional $2 increase during peak and off-peak hours will be implemented in 2014.

The agency also proposed raising the fare for the PATH trains running from Lower Manhattan to New Jersey from $1.75 to $2.75 in 2011, with the average fare increasing to $2 from $1.30 given the steep 25 percent discount, which will be fully preserved. The 30-day unlimited pass will increase to $89 from $54

Both governors of New York and New Jersey, who must both approve any increases, objected, citing the lack of accountability of the PA and the burden of such increases on commuters and truckers. So what was the end result? After meetings involving the board of directors and the two governors representatives it was decided that the PA would get its increases just not the way they wanted them, in exchange for an audit:

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved raising bridge and tunnel tolls over five years by 56 percent, or $4.50.

The authority board, whose 12 members are appointed by Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey, voted unanimously today for a $1.50 toll increase effective next month for cars using E-ZPass during rush hour. Drivers paying cash will see the fee jump to $12 from $8.

Commuters on PATH trains will see one-way fares rise to $2 in September from the current $1.75, followed by additional 25- cent increases annually. The tolls apply to the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and three bridges connecting New Jersey to Staten Island.


The Port Authority also agreed to the governors’ call for an audit of its finances and to find cost reductions and increased efficiencies. New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli criticized the Port Authority’s spending on overtime earlier this week.

Now here’s the really painful part that is going to hurt New Yorkers the worst:

   Tolls on trucks using E-ZPass will pay an additional $2 per axle in September 2011, and then an additional $2 per axle in December of each year from 2012-’15.

   Tolls on trucks paying cash will have the same increase but will be subject to an additional $3 per axle cash penalty.

You know what that will do to the price goods coming in to the area? Look for everything to start to get real expensive.

One more little thing, so much for the promises of both governors not to raise taxes because this IS an increase in a tax on cars and trucks.

You should be either laughing or crying right about now but this is how it’s done. Ask for the ridiculous and just possibly you’ll get some of it.

So how does is this a lesson for the Obama administration? Simple, ask for the sublime and you can get the ridiculous but you have to stand your ground, and threaten even worse if you don’t get what you want.

One Term Wonder

Obama admits economic liabilities

By Stephen Collinson (AFP)

5 hours ago

Obama’s approval rating on the struggling economy has dipped to 26 percent in a Gallup poll as fears grow of a slump into a second recession and global stock markets plunge, clouding his 2012 reelection prospects.

“You’ve got an unemployment rate that is still too high, an economy that’s not growing fast enough,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News taped during his economic-themed bus tour of three states last week.

“For me to argue, ‘look, we’ve actually made the right decisions, things would have been much worse had we not made those decisions,’ that’s not that satisfying if you don’t have a job right now,” he said.

“And I understand that and I expect to be judged a year from now on whether or not things have continued to get better.”

This Week (7:40)

TAPPER: Lastly, David, I know that you’re well aware that you have a big task ahead of you when it comes to motivating Obama supporters from 2008 and potentially future Obama supporters, rallying the base. Progressive filmmaker Michael Moore had this question that he wanted me to ask you. Quote, “Are you aware of how profoundly disappointed so many of the president’s supporters are? Do you realize that each time the president moves to the right, he picks up no votes and loses many? Or do you cynically believe that because these people have nowhere else to go, they’ll end up voting for Obama?”

How do you respond to liberals like Michael Moore, who want to vote for the president, but are just profoundly disappointed? How do you convince them to turn out in November 2012?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, no one is cynically moving one way or the other. The president is not moving left or right; he’s interested in moving the country forward.

And we’ve got a very, very sharp debate here. And the question is, are we going to take steps in the short run to help stimulate this economy, to help create jobs, to help create growth? And are we going to take the steps in the long run that will protect the investments that can grow our economy and, most importantly, Jake, can create good middle-class jobs in the future on which people can raise their families?

That’s what education is about. That’s what research and development to create new technologies and advance manufacturing is about. That’s what the infrastructure — that’s what roads and bridges and repairs that put people to work now, but also create the opportunity to move — to move our goods across this country.

And all of these things are part and parcel of a strategy that is completely opposed by the other side, who want to go back to the same trickle-down, deregulation. You know, the same mantra we heard in the last decade that led up to this problem we’re hearing again. I think that this is such a profound choice that the president’s supporters and independent voters and people across this country will rally, because the future will be determined by this debate and the path we take.

If you want a Democrat in the White House in 2013, you’d better be working like hell to make sure Obama pulls an LBJ.

He and his team don’t care about winning.

Electoral victory my ass.

(h/t Phoebe Loosinhouse)

On This Day In History August 21

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.

August 21 is the 233rd day of the year (234th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 132 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, Hawaii became our 50th state. Hawaii is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It occupies most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. Hawaii’s natural beauty, warm tropical climate, inviting waters and waves, and active volcanoes  make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Due to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vibrant native culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian Island chain, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight “main islands” are (from the northwest to southeast) Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii. The last is by far the largest and is often called “The Big Island” to avoid confusion with the state as a whole. The archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania.

The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century. In the early 18th century, American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands’ sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid 19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life. In 1840, a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority.

In 1893, a group of American expatriates and sugar planters supported by a division of U.S. Marines deposed Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. One year later, the Republic of Hawaii was established as a U.S. protectorate with Hawaiian-born Sanford B. Dole as president. Many in Congress opposed the formal annexation of Hawaii, and it was not until 1898, following the use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the Spanish-American War, that Hawaii’s strategic importance became evident and formal annexation was approved. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory. During World War II, Hawaii became firmly ensconced in the American national identity following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Admission, or Statehood, Day is an official state holiday. It is the home state of President Barack Obama, the only President from that state and one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The pictures were the very hard to select. The second picture (above) is an aerial view of Diamond Head.

Diamond Head is a dormant volcanic cone on the island of Oahu. It is called Le’ahi by Hawaiians, most likely from lae ‘browridge, promontory’ plus ‘ahi ‘tuna’ because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds.

Then of course there are volcanoes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The first picture on the left is the more famous of the volcanoes, Mauna Loa which is the largest volcano on Earth by volume and area and one of the five volcanoes in that form the islands.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

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”.

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with Christiane Amanpour: ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper is still hosting. He will have separate interviews with former Utah governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod.

The roundtable with George Will, political strategist Donna Brazile, Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, and Liz Claman of FOX Business Network size up the economic outlook and the 2012 field.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Chief White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell sits in for Bob Schieffer; she’ll talk to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), economist Mark Zandi, plus a key voice from each party: former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie, & former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests, Katty Kay, BBC Washington Correspondent, John Heilemann, New York Magazine National Political Correspondent, Rick Stengel, TIME Managing Editor and Helene Cooper, The New York Times White House Correspondent, will discuss:

Is Perry like Reagan, the Westerner who can defeat the establishment Romney and in bad economic times, would Perry’s far right rhetoric get overlooked?

Meet the Press with David Gregory: Obama for America Campaign adviser, Robert Gibbs and former President Bush budget director, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) are guests in separate interviews.

The roundtable with former Tennessee congressman, Harold Ford, Jr. (D); columnist for the Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan; columnist for the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne; and host of CNBC’s Closing Bell, Maria Bartiromo, will discuss developments and analysis of the Republican field and the political landscape.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod sits down for another interview. Governors Bob McDonnell (R) of Virginia and Martin O’Malley (D) of Maryland, chairs of their party’s governors associations will discuss how they are handling the economic downturn in their states. Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland discusses job in black communities. U.S. economic editor of The Economist Greg Ip and Editor of Thomson Reuters Digital Chrystia Freeland discuss the stock marker.

Eugene Robinson: Where’s the Syria Plan?

Washington – It’s hard to argue with President Obama’s call for Bashar al-Assad, the bloodthirsty Syrian dictator, to step down. But it’s also hard to discern any logic or consistency in the administration’s handling of the ongoing tumult in the Arab world.

It is obvious that Assad, like Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, has no intention of surrendering power voluntarily. It is also clear that Assad’s savagery is a match for Gaddafi’s. Both used armored columns to put down peaceful protests. Both ordered assassinations and arrests. Both used naval vessels to shell cities that had become hotbeds of unrest.

So do we give Assad the Gaddafi treatment? Does Obama follow up his statement with a barrage of cruise missiles? Do we involve ourselves in yet another Middle Eastern war?

William Rivers Pitt: The Unacceptables

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure. ~ Mark Twain

And so begins again the Herculean task of wrapping my poor, abused mind around yet another crop of Faustian caricatures lined up to scrap and scrape for the Republican presidential nomination. They seem to get worse every year, but this time around, there are definitely a lot more bananas in the bunch.

Let’s see. We have Newt Gingrich, who pointedly continues to declare that he remains a viable candidate, despite having blown four tires and an engine immediately after leaving the starting line. We have Rick Santorum, whose name, when Googled, is given a whole new definition that appears at the top of the search engine list (presumably despite the best efforts of Mr. Santorum’s campaign and supporters). There is Ron Paul, whose much-ballyhooed libertarianism fails to encompass his desire to give the Federal government whole and complete control of a woman’s reproductive process.  There is Jon Huntsman, who seems like a fairly balanced guy (he has openly declared his belief in evolution and global warming), which means he is utterly doomed in the GOP primary chase. There’s Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Thaddeus McCotter, and Buddy Roemer, too…and if you said “Who?” to any or all of those names, you’re far from alone.

Edward B. Barbier: Economics is Always the First Casualty of Politics

Both the past wild week of debt negotiations in Congress as well as the debt downgrade of the US by Standard & Poor represents once again the Barbier dictum: Economics is always the first casualty of politics.

In my opinion, the Obama Administration made a fundamental mistake earlier this year in not endorsing the Bowles-Simpson plan on deficit reduction that called for a combination of revenue increases, spending cuts and entitlement and tax reforms as the basis of a plan for deficit reduction over the medium term, while at the same time arguing that there is the need for continued government spending on selected infrastructure and investment opportunities in the short term while continuing to be in recession.  From the beginning of the 2008-9 recession, such short-term government spending needed to be supported by a number of economic incentives and policies to stimulate private sector investment, too.  However, as long as the US economy remains in a recession with lack of consumer or private investment spending, public sector spending in the short term is necessary.  But by adopting the Bowles-Simpson plan immediately, the Obama Administration would have signaled to the markets and the rating agencies that tackling US deficits and debt in the medium and long term, once economic recovery had started in earnest, would be the main priority.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Operation Mermaid: ‘Rebels in Tripoli have risen up’

Fighting reported in capital; Gadhafi’s former No. 2 urges government troops to join the opposition

 NBC, msnbc.com and news services

TRIPOLI, Libya – Explosions and gunfire rocked Tripoli through the night as opponents of Moammar Gadhafi rose up in the capital, declaring a final push to topple the Libyan leader after a six-month war reached the city’s outskirts.

“The zero hour has started,” said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the rebel leadership council. “The rebels in Tripoli have risen up.”

However, a defiant Gadhafi said an assault by “rats” had been repelled.

“Those rats … were attacked by the masses tonight and we eliminated them,” Gadhafi said in an audio message broadcast over state television early Sunday.

Intense gunfire erupted after nightfall. Reuters journalists in the center of the capital, a metropolis of 2 million people, said it subsided somewhat after several hours. Fighting was reported early Sunday in several neighborhoods.

NATO aircraft made heavy bombing runs after nightfall, The Associated Press reported.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Food aid reaches only one in five of Somalia’s starving

The hilltop Spanish town overshadowed by a debt mountain

Bahrain government fires hundreds of employees for political views

South Korea churches’ beacons an eyesore to some

U.S. scholars say their book on China led to travel ban

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for August 20, 2011-


Censored News: Tars Sand Protest at the White House

There was a protest in front of the White House today that got minimal coverage from the traditional media and its’ going to continue for the next two weeks. If you only get your news from the usual suspects, you would have missed any mention of it if you blinked. So what was the cause that over 65 people were willing to get arrested over? It was this, Keystone Pipeline Project. So what’s the fuss? The oil that will be pumped through this pipeline is the dirtiest oil in the world:

Alberta’s oil sands are America’s number one source of foreign oil The oil sands produce the world’s most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming.

Oil sands and greenhouse gas pollution

   Oil Sands projects are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada.

   Production of oil from tar sands bitumen produces between 3 and 5 times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil production.

   By 2015, the oil sands could emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).

Oil sands extraction pollutes water

Oil sands extraction uses significant amounts of water (2-4.5 barrels per barrel of oil produced), which ends up in toxic tailings lagoons that have never been successfully reclaimed. An analysis using industry data estimated that these lagoons already leak over a billion gallons of contaminated water into the environment each year.

Oil sands production uses huge amounts of energy

The term “oil sands” or “tar sands” oil refers to thick oil called bitumen that is mixed in with sand, clay, and water. Intensive energy is required to process the sands into crude oil.

Oil sands operations currently use about 0.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. By 2012, that level could rise to 2 billion cubic feet a day – more than the nominal capacity of the

proposed Mackenzie Gas Project. At the NWT-Alberta border, the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline would connect to a TransCanada pipeline, which would carry the gas onward to feed oil extraction in Alberta’s oil sands. The Mackenzie Gas Pipeline will likely fuel accelerated oil sands development, not provide fuel to heat homes in Canada and the U.S.

Who profits? Who else, the Koch brothers and other oil barons and perhaps even China.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, the organizer of the Tar Sands Action two week protest, was among those who was arrested today but this will not end, as over 1500 have signed up to keep this going for the next two weeks and as expected he was along with Lt. Dan Choi, Jane Hamsher and Scarecrow of FDL. Jane attempted to livestream the protest but was arrested early on and her camera equipment was confiscated. It was apparently ladies first, how considerate.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supports the protest and offers his support:

We can support the protests by writing the White House and representatives and sign the petition to Stop the Pipeline

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Pentagon plays down comments on US role in Iraq

By Dan De Luce, AFP

9 hrs ago

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested that Iraq had agreed to keep American troops in the country beyond a 2011 deadline, but Baghdad insisted the issue was still under negotiation.

In an interview with two US newspapers published Friday, Panetta said the Iraqis appeared to have made up their mind to extend the presence of American troops beyond the year-end withdrawal deadline.

“My view is that they finally did say, ‘Yes,'” Panetta told Stars and Stripes and the Military Times.