08/22/2011 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 African American support waning for Obama

By Stephanie Griffith, AFP

4 hrs ago

African American support for Barack Obama is softening amid a sense that the president has ignored the economic travails faced by this once rock-solid pillar of his political base.

A Gallup poll last week found Obama’s poll numbers in the African American community down from its once stratospheric 95 percent approval early in his term, to a still-high, but notably lower 81 percent — tying his worst ever showing from earlier this year.

Realclearpolitics.com, which compiles an average of major polls, put the president’s approval rating among all Americans at 43.5 percent.

On The Wrong Side Of The Rule Of Law

Once again the President who campaign on the restoration of the rule of law falls on the wrong side. The New York Times writer, Gretchen Morgensen, revealed in an article that the Obama Justice Department and Housing and Urban Development were putting pressure on New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to drop his investigation into the banking industries foreclosure fraud that led to the economic housing crisis:

Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.

In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.

Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.

But Mr. Donovan and others in the administration have been contacting not only Mr. Schneiderman but his allies, including consumer groups and advocates for borrowers, seeking help to secure the attorney general’s participation in the deal, these people said. One recipient described the calls from Mr. Donovan, but asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

In other words, this is going to take too long and we have an election to finance. Please, do not piss off the banksters, they’re the only ones with money.

Obama administration doesn’t want to help the homeowners or prosecute those who committed this fraud, as David Dayen so bluntly states, they want to “white wash the fraud”:

The White House must think that if they can get Schneiderman, the AG with the most leverage over the talks by virtue of New York’s important position with respect to mortgage securitization, to bend, they can roll the rest as well. The WSJ article says that federal officials have a Labor Day target date for a settlement, and that they’ll continue “outreach” to all AGs. I bet they will.

The banks want at least 40 states signing off on this settlement before they agree to it. I can think of at least 10 AGs right now who wouldn’t agree to the broadest terms. Democrats Madigan, Schneiderman, Delaware’s Beau Biden (the VP’s son, who has joined Schneiderman on his intervention into the Bank of America settlement with investors over mortgage backed securities), Massachusetts’ Martha Coakley and Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto are on the record against a broad liability release in one way or another, and others like Washington’s Rob McKenna (R), Colorado’s John Suthers (R), California’s Kamala Harris, and even Utah’s Mark Shurtleff (R) and Michigan’s Bill Schuette (R) have active investigations or lawsuits on this issue. That’s an incomplete list off the top of my head. And if you add Republican anti-government types who don’t want to see any monetary penalty at all, you might not get to 25 in favor.

Of course this has earned a couple of people the dubious honor of not being named “wankers” but two of the worst people by Dayen and our man of few words, Atrios.

From Dayen the honor goes to Kathryn S. Wylde, board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

   The lawsuit angered Bank of New York Mellon, and as Mr. Schneiderman was leaving the memorial service last week for Hugh Carey, the former New York governor who died Aug. 7, an attendee said Mr. Schneiderman became embroiled in a contentious conversation with Kathryn S. Wylde, a member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who represents the public. Ms. Wylde, who has criticized Mr. Schneiderman for bringing the lawsuit, is also chief executive of the Partnership for New York City. The New York Fed has supported the proposed $8.5 billion settlement {…}

   Characterizing her conversation with Mr. Schneiderman that day as “not unpleasant,” Ms. Wylde said in an interview on Thursday that she had told the attorney general “it is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street – love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible.”

And from Atrios, his honor goes to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan for this gem:

In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks. … In an interview on Friday, Mr. Donovan defended his discussions with the attorney general, saying they were motivated by a desire to speed up help for troubled homeowners. But he said he had not spoken to bank officials or their representatives about trying to persuade Mr. Schneiderman to get on board with the deal.

Remember HAMP? Right. They just want to help.

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”.

George Zornick: Civil Disobedience on Tar Sands Begins Outside the White House

The largest act of civil disobedience by environmentalists in decades began outside the White House this morning, as more than seventy activists were arrested at the north gates during a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, which if approved by the administration would carry 900,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The activists, who sat down at the gates at 11 am holding large banners reading “Climate change is not in our national interest,” were warned three times by US Park Police to move along, and were handcuffed and removed after they refused. More than 2,000 people have pledged to be arrested outside the White House every day until September 3, in daily installments of seventy-five to 100 people.

Kevin Gosztola: US Park Police Seek to Intimidate Oil Pipeline Protesters

A major two-week action involving daily sit-ins at the White House against the granting of a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline began Saturday. Just over seventy people were arrested. The action continues today, as over thirty plan to engage in civil disobedience at the White House again.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, Gus Speth, Lt. Dan Choi, Jane Hamsher and many other fine activists came together at 10:30 am on Saturday morning. They all participated in a rally in Lafayette Park. Following the rally, a carefully orchestrated civil disobedience action took place with more than seventy people lining up in front of the White House.

Robert Deyfuss: The Fall of Qaddafi

Libya, a tiny country of deserts with some oil wells, was never a particularly important country, strategically, unless you’re an historian of the Roman Empire, when Libya was the empire’s breadbasket, or of Italian imperialism. In 1969, when Muammar Qaddafi and Abdul Salam Jalloud-who, it seems, recently defected in advance of the deluge-seized power, they were less-than-well-schooled copies of the then-fading Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, who was Qaddafi’s inspiration. Unfortunately, Qaddafi took power as an Arab nationalist at the end of nationalism’s heyday, and never quite figured out to reinvent himself. For a time, he tried to portray himself as the harbinger of the Third Way, halfway between capitalism and communism, but if that inspired anyone at all, it was Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, who then tried to invent their own version of the Third Way.

And now Qaddafi is gone. A leader who was probably mentally deranged during most or all of his reign, given to mood swings and paranoid outbursts, is no more. That can’t be bad, as far as the long-suffering population of Libya is concerned.

New York Times Editorial: Homeowners Need Help

Neither Congress, nor federal regulators, nor state or federal prosecutors have yet to conduct a thorough investigation into the mortgage bubble and financial bust. We welcomed the news that the Justice Department is investigating allegations that Standard & Poor’s purposely overrated toxic mortgage securities in the years before the bust. We hope the investigative circle will widen.

But a lot more needs to be done to address the continuing damage from the mortgage debacle.

Tens of millions of Americans are being crushed by the overhang of mortgage debt. And Congress and the White House have yet to figure out that the economy will not recover until housing recovers – and that won’t happen without a robust effort to curb foreclosures by modifying troubled mortgage loans.

Mazher Ali: Let’s ‘Make Them’ End the Great Recession

We can no longer allow a hopelessly unreasonable minority in a severely corrupted system to dictate the terms of our economy.

Did you breathe a sigh of relief when President Barack Obama signed the debt deal into law earlier this month? If not, you weren’t the only one.

Raising the national debt ceiling may have forestalled an immediate U.S. default and credit collapse, but the deal will do absolutely nothing to address the real problems of our time: stubbornly high unemployment and a suffocating economy. Recovering from this Great Recession and achieving longer-term stability require a broad, informed, and unified movement to battle the corporate-backed powers that are waging economic war on working Americans.

Karen Greenberg: Crisis of Confidence: How Washington Lost Faith in America’s Courts

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the unexpected extent of the damage Americans have done to themselves and their institutions is coming into better focus.  The event that “changed everything” did turn out to change Washington in ways more startling than most people realize.  On terrorism and national security, to take an obvious (if seldom commented upon) example, the confidence of the U.S. government seems to have been severely, perhaps irreparably, shaken when it comes to that basic and essential American institution: the courts.

If, in fact, we are a “nation of laws,” you wouldn’t know it from Washington’s actions over the past few years. Nothing spoke more strikingly to that loss of faith, to our country’s increasing incapacity for meeting violence with the law, than the widely hailed decision to kill rather than capture Osama bin Laden.

Beth Wellington: The Myth of Mountaintop Removal Mining

Big Coal says it’s a tough choice: we can have prosperity and jobs or a pristine environment, but not both. That’s a Big Lie

CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien’s recent piece on mountaintop removal (MTR) in the Appalachian mountains has the troubling title, “Steady job or healthy environment: what [sic] would you choose?”

How about we choose both?

In any case, MTR does not, despite industry claims, deliver employment to offset its environmental damage. It’s simply a win-win for Big Coal and its political supporters, and a lose-lose for ordinary people who live in mining areas. Whatever the industry would have you believe, basing an economy on coal is not a sustainable development plan. A study by the Appalachian Regional Commission noted the effects of mining on employment in Central Appalachia:

“As employment in Central Appalachia’s mining sector has declined over time…many counties that were already typically experiencing relatively poor and tenuous economic circumstances…have been unable to successfully adapt to changing economic conditions.”

On This Day In History August 23

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 23 is the 235th day of the year (236th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 130 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1902, pioneering cookbook author Fannie Farmer, who changed the way Americans prepare food by advocating the use of standardized measurements in recipes, opens Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. In addition to teaching women about cooking, Farmer later educated medical professionals about the importance of proper nutrition for the sick.

Farmer was born March 23, 1857, and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. Her family believed in education for women and Farmer attended Medford High School; however, as a teenager she suffered a paralytic stroke that turned her into a homebound invalid for a period of years. As a result, she was unable to complete high school or attend college and her illness left her with a permanent limp. When she was in her early 30s, Farmer attended the Boston Cooking School. Founded in 1879, the school promoted a scientific approach to food preparation and trained women to become cooking teachers at a time when their employment opportunities were limited. Farmer graduated from the program in 1889 and in 1891 became the school’s principal. In 1896, she published her first cookbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which included a wide range of straightforward recipes along with information on cooking and sanitation techniques, household management and nutrition. Farmer’s book became a bestseller and revolutionized American cooking through its use of precise measurements, a novel culinary concept at the time.

Cookbook fame

Fannie published her most well-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement. A follow-up to an earlier version called Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884, the book under Farmer’s direction eventually contained 1,849 recipes, from milk toast to Zigaras à la Russe. Farmer also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information.

The book’s publisher (Little, Brown & Company) did not predict good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author’s expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer cookbook”, and it is still available in print over 100 years later.

Farmer provided scientific explanations of the chemical processes that occur in food during cooking, and also helped to standardize the system of measurements used in cooking in the USA. Before the Cookbook’s publication, other American recipes frequently called for amounts such as “a piece of butter the size of an egg” or “a teacup of milk.” Farmer’s systematic discussion of measurement – “A cupful is measured level … A tablespoonful is measured level. A teaspoonful is measured level.” – led to her being named “the mother of level measurements.”

I still have my copy.

“Make sure everyone writes about this!”

A watershed moment for Obama on climate change

By Bill McKibben, The Washington Post

Published: August 16

The issue is simple: We want the president to block construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico. We have, not surprisingly, concerns about potential spills and environmental degradation from construction of the pipeline. But those tar sands are also the second-largest pool of carbon in the atmosphere, behind only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. If we tap into them in a big way, NASA climatologist James Hansen explained in a paper issued this summer, the emissions would mean it’s “essentially game over” for the climate. That’s why the executive directors of many environmental groups and 20 of the country’s leading climate scientists wrote letters asking people to head to Washington for the demonstrations. In scientific terms, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get.

(F)or once, the president will get to make an important call all by himself. He has to sign a certificate of national interest before the border-crossing pipeline can be built. Under the relevant statutes, Congress is not involved, so he doesn’t need to stand up to the global-warming deniers calling the shots in the House.

(T)he final call rests with Barack Obama, who said the night that he clinched the Democratic nomination in June 2008 that his ascension would mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Now he gets a chance to prove that he meant it. In basketball terms, he’s alone at the top of the key – will he take the 20-foot jumper or pass the ball? It’s a rare, character-defining moment. Obama can’t escape it simply by saying that someone else will burn the oil if we don’t. Alberta is remote, and its only other possible pipeline route – to the Pacific and hence Asia – is tangled in litigation. That’s why the province’s energy minister told Canada’s Globe and Mail last month that without the Keystone pipeline Alberta would be “landlocked in bitumen,” the technical name for the heavy, gooey tar that is its chief export. Critics may argue otherwise, but Obama’s call is key; without it, that oil will stay in the ground for at least a while longer. Long enough, perhaps, that the planet will come fully to its senses about climate change.

It’s hard to predict what will happen. Earlier this summer Al Gore tossed up his hands in despair: “President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” Gore said. “He has not defended the science against the ongoing withering and dishonest attacks.” Yet it’s hard to give up on the image of the skinny senator from Illinois and the young people who were his most fervent supporters – young people who, according to pollsters, wanted a climate bill by a 5-to-1 margin. That didn’t happen, of course; for now, the Keystone pipeline is the best proxy we have for real presidential commitment to the global warming fight.

The Dirt On Oil Sands

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…

Oil sands production harms human health in at least two ways: when extracted, and when processed and refined from bitumen into gasoline. As described above extraction pollutes water resources. Communities downstream, in some cases hundreds of kilometers downstream, have been impacted: directly, with elevated cancer rates; and indirectly, with their subsistence economy endangered by polluted fisheries.

The spread of refineries processing tar sands oil is a problem because the synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxics than conventional oil. Communities adjacent to tar sands oil refineries face increased carbon dioxide emissions, and increased exposure to heavy metals, and sulfurs.

Prevent A Tar Sands Disaster

By Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Yes! Magazine

20 August, 2011

Locked up in sand, clay, and bitumen, tar sands oil is one of the hardest to mine and refine and is also one of the dirtiest: extracting it creates three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Mining the tar sands means not only deforestation but also the creation of massive lagoons filled with toxic wastewater. These ponds are leaking 11 million liters of toxic water each day and by 2012 are expected to leak 72 million liters a day.

Oil giant TransCanada hopes to expand the project even further by building a pipeline that will pump dirty oil from northern Alberta, across the headwaters of major rivers, and down to the Gulf of Mexico where special refineries exist to handle the lower-grade oil. The pipeline, named Keystone XL, is expected to actually raise gas prices in the states it crosses because the refined oil will have to be shipped back up from the Gulf. This rise will be the equivalent of a “$4-billion-a-year tax on oil we already get from Canada, with all the money going from American wallets and pocketbooks to oil companies,” said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation, in testimony before the House Energy Commerce Committee.

Tar Sands Action: Are You Discouraged, or a Flaming Firebagger?

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Sunday August 21, 2011 1:32 pm

I am happy that we were able to protest in front of the White House and that whatever happened as a consequence, it was probably going to be a matter of inconvenience more than anything else.  I’m not sure how much longer that will be true.  The growing economic despair of many Americans will only get worse with the austerity measures being pushed on us, and there are signs that both the surveillance state and the police state are preparing to respond with force.  It is unquestionable that this White House has only accelerated the rapidly advancing criminalization of free speech.

The decision to allow  the construction of the pipeline rests with the President alone.  He cannot blame Congressional gridlock or partisan intransigence.  The pressure on him to allow its construction is no doubt fierce – the oil companies will claim that it will create jobs and balance our trade deficit.  Yet whatever money goes back into the economy in the form of jobs will once again be extracted from the wallets of taxpayers, because that’s what the oil companies are good at orchestrating.  And any reduction in the trade deficit will be achieved at the cost of cracking open the largest known deposit of carbon on earth, second only to Saudi Arabia.

My final point is this– sticks and stones can break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.  If you think you can insult me by calling me a “Firebagger” or any other name you are sadly mistaken.  I just don’t care about your opinion of me that much.

I freely admit to every vice unless you have something novel you’d care to share.

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Sunday Train: A Streetcar Named BRT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Yonah Freemark at his site The Transport Politic discusses Chicago “BRT” proposals. “BRT” is the transit professional and transit blogger three letter abbreviation for “Bus Rapid Transit.

See, sometimes spelling out the abbreviation doesn’t do that much good on its own. The idea of “Bus Rapid Transit” is to implement a range of features we normally associate with rail based “rapid transit” for specific bus routes, which then can offer some of the benefits of rapid transit that is not normally available to bus riders.

The BRT category is a fuzzy one, ranging from slapping a paint job on the buses and installing bus stops with better seating and “next bus” indicators to dedicated lanes, signal priority, and purchase of tickets at the stop. What the Chicago Transit Authority has proposed is three routes on the “BRT-lite” side, but as Yonah covers, the business leaders on the Metropolitan Planning Council have proposed a much more expansive system (see map).

While the My-Mode-Uber-Alles types will line up for or against the BRT proposal based on whether buses are “their” mode or “a rival mode”, in the real world there is no fundamental conflict between BRT and streetcars. Indeed, it makes much more sense for streetcars to share a lane with BRT than for streetcars to run mixed in traffic with automobiles.

Pique the Geek 20110821: Anesthetics

Anesthetics are as essential to modern surgery as are sterile fields and antiseptics.  There are a couple of reasons for that, the most obvious being that the patient most likely could not survive the shock and pain of any but the least invasive procedure with out them.  Interestingly, the use of anesthetics in the modern sense is quite recent, dating only from the mid 1800s.

There are two major divisions of anesthetics, general anesthetics and local ones.  General ones cause a more or less complete loss of sensation and consciousness, whilst local ones cause a loss of sensation for only a relatively small part of the body and leave the patient conscious.  In addition, general anesthetics fall into two wide classes, inhalation ones and intravenous ones.  We shall discuss, in general terms, inhalation general anesthetics tonight.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Obama admits economic liabilities

By Stephen Collinson, AFP

5 mins ago

US President Barack Obama admitted many Americans were not satisfied with his record on the economy, as long-serving aides Sunday launched a fightback against Republicans.

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.