Daily Archive: 08/29/2011

Aug 29 2011

Flyover Country

I imagine that today one can hardly get away from reports about the aftermath of Irene.  I say I magine it because the most serious effects here in Stars Hollow were losing a chunk of shingles (pretty expensive but not devastating) and cable TV (an annoyance) so I cannot report from first hand knowledge.

It’s easy to forget what happened a mere 6 years ago.

Hurricane Katrina makes landfall

The New York Times

Published: Monday, August 29, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore early Monday and charged toward low-lying New Orleans with 150-mph (240-kph) winds and the threat of an extremely dangerous storm surge.

Katrina turned slightly to the east before slamming ashore early Monday with 145-mph (233-kph) winds, providing some hope that the worst of the storm’s wrath might not be directed at this vulnerable, below-sea-level city.

But National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield warned that New Orleans would be pounded throughout the day Monday and that Katrina’s potential 20-foot ( 6-meter) storm surge was still more than capable of swamping the city.

Has New Orleans recovered?  Not as much as you might hope.  As noted in last night’s Evening Edition

42 6 years later, Lower 9th Ward still bleak

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press

5 hrs ago

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – In New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, the grasses grow taller than people and street after street is scarred by empty decaying houses, the lives that once played out inside their walls hardly imaginable now.

St. Claude Avenue, the once moderately busy commercial thoroughfare, looks like the main street of a railroad town bypassed long ago by the interstate. Most buildings are shuttered, “For Sale” signs stuck on their sides. There aren’t many buyers. And the businesses that are open are mostly corner stores where folks buy pricey cigarettes, liquor and packaged food.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans neighborhood that was hardest hit still looks like a ghost town. Redevelopment has been slow in coming, and the neighborhood has just 5,500 residents – one-third its pre-Katrina population.

And let’s not forget this-

Officers Guilty of Shooting Six in New Orleans

By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON, The New York Times

Published: August 5, 2011

NEW ORLEANS – In a verdict that brought a decisive close to a case that has haunted this city since most of it lay underwater nearly six years ago, five current and former New Orleans police officers were found guilty on all counts by a federal jury on Friday for shooting six citizens, two of whom died, and orchestrating a wide-ranging cover-up in the hours, weeks and years that followed. ing a wide-ranging cover-up in the hours, weeks and years that followed.

The defendants were convicted on 25 counts, including federal civil rights violations in connection with the two deaths, for the violence and deception that began on the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans on Sept. 4, 2005, just days after Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees failed.

“The officers convicted today abused their power and violated the public’s trust during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, exacerbating one of the most devastating times for the people of New Orleans,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said.  “I am hopeful today’s verdict brings justice for the victims and their family members, helps to heal the community and contributes to the restoration of public trust in the New Orleans Police Department.”

Aug 29 2011

Obama Corruption: Cover Up of Banking Fraud

Recent attempts by the Obama administration to persuade New York State Attorney General Eric

Schneiderman to sign off on the 50 state agreement that was being brokered by Iowa AG has resulted in Schneiderman being removed from the panel last week. In the on going power play to get Schneiderman to play ball with an agreement that would allow the banks to get away with a piteous fine and protection from any litigation regarding fraudulent foreclosures, Matt Stoller, formerly of Open Left and former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson, writes a revealing article at Naked Capitalism that examines President Obama and AG Tom Miller dishonesty in the negotiations and their need to squash Schneiderman’s investigations. Stoller argues that all the parties are doing what they think is right not because any of them must but because it is their choice. While it can be said that is somewhat true, there is the matter of law that they have all sworn to uphold. Scheiderman seems to be the one of the few, along with Delaware AG Beau Biden and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is doing just that:

The banking system is really at the heart of our politics, which is why it’s such a great test of one’s political theory of change. I’ve been following the foreclosure fraud story for a few years now, because it’s the tail end of a massive economy-wide fraud scheme that started as early as 2003. The securitization chain failure can’t be put back in the bottle, the housing system it collapsed is simply too big to bail. So elites keep trying to patch this up the way they have everything else. It isn’t working. And their scheme has been obvious and obviously dishonest. Along with Obama (who I criticized as empty as early as 2004, ratcheting this up to dishonest and authoritarian by 2006-2007), I pointed out that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller was engaged in serious bad faith only a few months after the negotiations started.

I’m no genius, I just listened to what these people actually said and did. Obama mocks the idea that he is an honest politician, overtly, lying about NAFTA and FISA very early on in power. Miller lied to activists about being willing to put bankers in jail, and then said he was negotiating with banks in secret. It was overt. For Miller, as with Obama, few people really picked up on the lies until recently. Iowa activists who heckled Miller got it, as did Naked Capitalism readers. Now it’s becoming more and more obvious. That’s just how it is, I suppose, people in the establishment are paid to not notice corruption until the harsh glare is too bright.

The crazy thing is that robosigning is apparently still going on. Right now, the “settlement” talks are the equivalent of law enforcement negotiating with a serial killer over whether he’ll get a parking ticket, even as he continually sprays bullets into the neighborhood. Even having these “settlement” talks when the actual crimes haven’t been investigated or a complaint hasn’t been registered should be example enough that this process is rigged as badly as Dodd-Frank. It should not be a surprise that the administration is putting pressure on Eric Schneiderman, that Tom Miller is kicking him out of the club house. That’s who these people are. It’s what they believe in. Just as it should not be a surprise, though it is laudable, that Schneiderman isn’t knuckling under to the administration. I suspect he probably is laughing at the idiocy of Miller’s pressure tactic. I mean, this is a guy going up some of the most powerful entities in the United States: Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America, the New York Fed, etc. And the Iowa Attorney General isn’t going let him on conference calls? Mmmkay.

Stoller doesn’t end there with his indictment of the corruption and sell out to the banks. He call out the failure of Obama’s policy agenda in the wake of the 2010 defeats as a wake up call to Democrats and the party:

From 2006-2008, the Bush administration’s failures crashed down upon conservatives, and they in many ways could not cope. But their intellectual collapse was bailed out by Obama. Faux liberals are seeing their grand experiment in tatters, though right now they can only admit to feeling disappointed because the recognition that they have been swindled is far too painful. And the recognition for many of the professionals is even more difficult, because they must recognize that they have helped swindle many others and acknowledge the debt they have incurred to their victims. The signs of coming betrayal were there, but in the end it all comes down to judging people based on what they do and who they choose as opponents. And this Democratic partisans did not do, choosing instead a comfortable delusional fantasy-land where foreclosures don’t matter and theft enabled by Obama (and Clinton before him) doesn’t matter.

Ouch.

Of course there is always the possibility that a “minor player” such as Schneiderman can be easily taken down with an overblown personal scandal, as was former NY AG and governor, Eliot Spitzer. Schneiderman seems unfazed and unmoved by the threats and accusations that he undermining a bogus settlement with the banks that would help thousands of homeowners. And after the failures of other programs, such as HAMP, who is really going to believe that this is the cure?

The latest development in this on going battle for a realistic Main St rescue came when John O’Brien, Registry of Deeds for Southern Essex County in Massachusetts is requested that Iowa AG Tom Miller step down:

Schneidernan getting kicked off the committee should come as no surprise to anyone following the foreclosure negotiations and is sickeningly similar to Pam Bondi, Florida’s Attorney General firing Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson, who were heading up investigations on a series of mortgage related crimes for over a year.

While Bondi insists that the firings were a result of poor job performance, Miller points more towards attitude and that Schneiderman is somehow not a team player.

snip

This is like Pam Bondi firing the two assistant AGs in Florida,” O’Brien said. “Miller claims that Schneiderman was undermining the negotiations. Why wouldn’t he since the negotiations are far from being in the best interest of homeowners and the general public? This settlement clearly favors the banks and I’m one hundred percent behind Eric Schneiderman. This is an outrage and they are beginning the process of selling the American people down the drain I say Miller should step down and all AGs should be appalled at what has happened.”

Schneiderman’s removal will likely make it easier for state and federal officials to reach an accord with the five banks. However, the potential amount of money they’ll be able to extract will likely decrease.

American Banker posted the 27 term sheet of the negotiations presented to the banks with major servicing operations by the AGs and Federal Banking Regulators.

The deal completely handcuffs state attorneys general whose constituents are suffering serious economic damage as a result of the foreclosure fiasco and fraud by the banks and servicers.

When the investigation into robo-signing and fraud, Tom Miller had a brief moment of righteous advocacy until he received $261,445 in campaign contributions from out-of-state law firms and donors from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector shortly after he announced he was seeking criminal charges and retribution from the banks for mortgage fraud — that’s 88 times what he has received in the past decade.

Nice pay off, Tom. Now, I wonder what Barack’s campaign is getting?

Aug 29 2011

Category Error- Trumka

“Barack Obama’s a friend,” he said, “and when you place him in the context of those who are running against him right now, he is a giant.”

(h/t Art Pronin @ Taylor Marsh)

In context, the lesser of two evils is still evil.  Without making politicians and other elites pay for their failures there is no incentive for them to change behavior.

Economics calls this Moral Hazard.

Aug 29 2011

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: Republicans Against Science

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. – namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

New York Times Editorial: The Nation’s Cruelest Immigration Law

The Alabama Legislature opened its session on March 1 on a note of humility and compassion. In the Senate, a Christian pastor asked God to grant members “wisdom and discernment” to do what is right. “Not what’s right in their own eyes,” he said, “but what’s right according to your word.” Soon after, both houses passed, and the governor signed, the country’s cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, is so inhumane that four Alabama church leaders – an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop – have sued to block it, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. It is a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.

John NIchols: The Chapter That Went Missing From Dick Cheney’s Book

Dick Cheney’s hyper-hyped autobiography is short on revelations (it turns out that the “secret undisclosed location” was his house) but long, very long, on excuse making when it comes to the wars of whim into which he steered the United States. The former vice president is still sure there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, dismissing any talk of apologizing for his own weapons of mass deception pontificating in the run-up to the Iraq War. In fact, Cheney remains enthusiastic about every aspect of the wars of whim he steered the country into as Ronald Reagan’s chief congressional ally during the Iran-Contra scandal, George H.W. Bush’s hapless secretary of defense and George W. Bush’s neoconman prince regent, But where’s the chapter on Cheney’s heroic service in Vietnam? Of, that’s right, he had “other priorities” than responding to draft notices.

Try as readers may to find the tale of Cheney’s Vietnam service or, to be more precise, his meticulous avoidance of service, they just won’t find that In My Times offers much in the way of revelation about Cheney’s times.

Cheney has always positioned himself as an arch militarist. But when he had a chance to get on the frontlines, he instead deferments. A lot of them

MIchelle Chen: Migrants in Limbo as Libyan Revolution Reaches Endgame

As the Libyan uprising reaches its climax, gun battles flare, bodies pile up in hospitals, and the capital is paralyzed in fear. And somewhere in the revolutionary endgame, outsiders who have no part in either side of the upheaval find their lives hanging in the balance. Masses of migrant workers, part of a stream of cheap labor that poured in from Asia and Africa during Libya’s boom years, helped build Gaddafi’s oil empire, witnessed its rapid demise and could end up helping rebuild the country from ruins.

Following the rebels’ entry into the capital, the International Organization for Migration has been working to ferry out migrants stranded in Tripoli, though it reported being stalled for a few days due to security concerns. The IOM reported Friday it had picked up a group that included “Egyptians, Filipinos, Canadians, Algerians, Moroccans and an Italian.” But many more migrants remain besieged, and the IOM has sent another boat to retrieve more workers, including possibly those living on the outskirts of Tripoli, where many of the workers from sub-Saharan Africa are concentrated.

Simon Balto: Hurricane Katrina, Martin Luther King, and the Violence of US Racial History

Had Hurricane Irene not intervened on events in Washington, this weekend would have seen an expected quarter of a million people on hand in D.C. to witness the official dedication of the memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. In a nod to civil rights history, planners of the dedication ceremony purposefully scheduled it for this Sunday, August 28, in order that it would coincide with the forty-eighth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. The looming threat of the storm unfortunately forced the postponement of the event, which will now be held sometime a bit later this fall, but the scheduled date of the event and the organizers’ efforts to entwine the past and the present are nevertheless significant. Within the context of U.S. racial history, the ceremony promised to be of epic symbolic proportions, with Barack Obama-the nation’s first black president and, for many, the ostensible realization of King’s integrationist dreams-providing remarks on the legacies and meanings of King and his fellow civil rights crusaders. Obama-as-the-fulfillment-of-King’s-dream is, of course, an erroneous and reductive formulation, as if the latter’s visions were either so racially provincial or electorally minded as to be satiated by the image of a black man holding the country’s highest office. Obama’s election represents progress, to be sure, but of a bounded sort that does little in and of itself to realize King’s visions of the possible. Indeed, what King fought for, with mounting urgency and an increasingly global and capacious rendering of the “beloved community,” was the revaluation and restructuring of political and social values and priorities. The point was not to see a black man elected to the presidency; it was to fundamentally reconfigure the nature of an increasingly reckless, intransigent, and immoral power structure in the United States.

Ted Rall: 9/11: Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid and Vulnerable

They say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn’t learn anything.

Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment.

The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart-but we blew it.

First and foremost the attacks gave the United States a rare opportunity to reset its international reputation. Even countries known for anti-Americanism offered their support. “We are all Americans,” ran the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde.

The century of U.S. foreign policy that led to 9/11-supporting dictators, crushing democratic movements, spreading gangster capitalism at the point of a thousand nukes-should and could have been put on hold and reassessed in the wake of 9/11.

It wasn’t time to act. It was time to think.

Paul Vallely: There is No Moral Case for Tax Havens

They are the epitome of unfairness and injustice, leaving ordinary citizens to foot the bill for multinational corporations

There is a building in the Cayman Islands that is home to 12,000 corporations. It must be a very big building. Or a very big tax scam. Tax havens are in the spotlight since the Chancellor, George Osborne, did a deal the other day with the Swiss authorities to slap a levy on secret bank accounts held there by British citizens. Opinions are divided on the move, which could net the Treasury £5bn, but which tacitly legitimizes bank accounts kept secret from the Inland Revenue. It is a de facto amnesty for those guilty of tax evasion crimes. And they will pay less than they would if they declared their income to the British taxman.

Are there any legitimate reasons why anyone would want to have a secret bank account – and pay a premium to maintain their anonymity – or move their money to one of the pink dots on the map which are the final remnants of the British empire: the Caymans, Bermuda, the Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands?

The moral case against is clear enough. Tax havens epitomize unfairness, cheating and injustice. They replace the old morality embodied in the Golden Rule of reciprocity – that we should do as we would be done by – with a new version that insists that those who have the gold make the rules.

Aug 29 2011

On This Day In History August 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 29 is the 241st day of the year (242nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 124 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1533, the 300 year old Inca civilization ended when Francisco Pizarro’s conquistadors strangled the last Inca Emperor, Atahuallpa.

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the Inca built a dazzling empire that governed a population of 12 million people. Although they had no writing system, they had an elaborate government, great public works, and a brilliant agricultural system. In the five years before the Spanish arrival, a devastating war of succession gripped the empire. In 1532, Atahuallpa’s army defeated the forces of his half-brother HuÁscar in a battle near Cuzco. Atahuallpa was consolidating his rule when Pizarro and his 180 soldiers appeared.

In 1531, Pizarro sailed down to Peru, landing at Tumbes. He led his army up the Andes Mountains and on November 15, 1532, reached the Inca town of Cajamarca, where Atahuallpa was enjoying the hot springs in preparation for his march on Cuzco, the capital of his brother’s kingdom. Pizarro invited Atahuallpa to attend a feast in his honor, and the emperor accepted. Having just won one of the largest battles in Inca history, and with an army of 30,000 men at his disposal, Atahuallpa thought he had nothing to fear from the bearded white stranger and his 180 men. Pizarro, however, planned an ambush, setting up his artillery at the square of Cajamarca.

On November 16, Atahuallpa arrived at the meeting place with an escort of several thousand men, all apparently unarmed. Pizarro sent out a priest to exhort the emperor to accept the sovereignty of Christianity and Emperor Charles V., and Atahuallpa refused, flinging a Bible handed to him to the ground in disgust. Pizarro immediately ordered an attack. Buckling under an assault by the terrifying Spanish artillery, guns, and cavalry (all of which were alien to the Incas), thousands of Incas were slaughtered, and the emperor was captured.

Atahuallpa offered to fill a room with treasure as ransom for his release, and Pizarro accepted. Eventually, some 24 tons of gold and silver were brought to the Spanish from throughout the Inca empire. Although Atahuallpa had provided the richest ransom in the history of the world, Pizarro treacherously put him on trial for plotting to overthrow the Spanish, for having his half-brother HuÁscar murdered, and for several other lesser charges. A Spanish tribunal convicted Atahuallpa and sentenced him to die. On August 29, 1533, the emperor was tied to a stake and offered the choice of being burned alive or strangled by garrote if he converted to Christianity. In the hope of preserving his body for mummification, Atahuallpa chose the latter, and an iron collar was tightened around his neck until he died.

Aug 29 2011

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Aug 29 2011

Driving With Sharks

This picture was taken in Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Irene ravaged the island. Yes, that’s a shark swimming down the street next to a car, and this is exactly why authorities in NYC are warning people not to go swimming in flood waters after a hurricane. Sharks go where fish go, and fish go where water goes, and if that water (and those subsequent fish) happen to be right outside your front door, then guess where that freakin’ shark’s going to be?! For more post-hurricane survival advice from someone who’s never been in a hurricane

Photobucket

Hope everyone weathered the storm unscathed.

Aug 29 2011

Pique the Geek 20110828: Anesthetics Part the Second

Last week we started this three part series with inhalation anesthetics, and here is a link.  This week we shall discuss injected anesthetics, and finally shall finish up the series next week with local ones.

We should once again stress the difference betwixt anesthetics and analgesics.  In general (this rule is not 100%, but darned close), anesthetics render the patient unconscious so that surgical procedures can be performed with no physical pain during the procedure.  In addition, many anesthetics cause muscle relaxation which makes surgical procedures less traumatic.

Analgesics, on the other hand, are not designed to render the patient unconscious, but rater to moderate the sensation of pain caused by many reasons.  A few analgesics can be used as anesthetics, but in general depress the medulla such that respiratory difficulties often result.  

Aug 29 2011

Sunday Train: Four Transport Alternatives to Canadian Tar Sands

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independent

There has recently been a flurry of activism regarding regulatory approval of the “XL Pipeline” in support of bitumen production from Canadian Tar Sands. This is an issue that has attracted substantial attention from a variety of bloggers ~ the XL Pipeline tag alone at dkos has 64 entries ~ and since Tar Sands are billed as a Crude Oil substitute, and about 70% of US Petroleum consumption goes to transport, I thought it was time for the Sunday Train to look at the issue.

As the proponents of bitumen production from Tar Sands are selling it as a Crude Oil Substitute, I thought that what I would do would be to see what alternatives there are out there.

But the XL Pipeline itself is a bit small of a target to aim at, so the question I am looking at is, what alternatives would there be to entire potential output of Canadian Tar Sands bitumen? Hence, four transport alternatives to Canadian Tar Sands.

Note: this is a slightly modified version of the essay, after a commentator at Daily Kos pointed out that I had misread the source on the Tar Sands Energy Return on Investment

Aug 29 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Germany celebrates 125 years of the automobile

By Estelle Peard, AFP

15 hrs ago

Germany is celebrating this year the birth of the automobile, with a patent applied for by Carl Benz 125 years ago for a motorized tricycle, in hopes of drawing tourists smitten by cars.

The national tourism office has made the auto industry a highlight of its annual programme for the first time and the southwestern region of Baden-Wuerttemburg alone has organised 200 events from May through September.

Anyone travelling to the regional capital Stuttgart will not miss the Mercedes star that sits above the main train station or the posters that advertise the local auto museum.