Daily Archive: 09/05/2011

Sep 05 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”.

Robert Reich: The Limping Middle Class

The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.

When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt – which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar?

Glenn Greenwald; The DOJ’s Escalating Criminalization of Speech

Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening.  The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).

What is the “material support” he allegedly gave?  He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit — “a number of terrorist logos.”  That, in turn, led the FBI agent who signed the affidavit to assert that “based on [his] training and experience, it is evident that the video . . . is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT.”  The FBI also claims Ahmad spoke with the son of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading that single YouTube video (and for denying that he did so when asked by the FBI agents who came to his home to interrogate him), he faces 23 years in prison.

Eugene Robinson [Obama and Republicans: Champions of Smog Obama and Republicans: Champions of Smog]

Republicans are trying to sell the false premise that protecting the environment inevitably means sacrificing jobs. President Obama should denounce this snake oil for what it is-rather than appear to accept it.

The GOP presidential candidates are in remarkable agreement on two articles of faith: The human imagination, apparently, is incapable of conjuring any circumstance under which any tax may ever be raised. And the Environmental Protection Agency is a sinister laboratory where Birkenstock-shod evildoers conjure regulations purposefully designed to rob Americans of their God-given jobs.

MIchelle Chen: Georgia’s Celebrated No-Cost Labor Scheme: Cheating the Jobless?

For a typical boss, there’s only one thing better than getting away with not paying your workers: getting the government to supply you with people who will work for free. It’s an employer’s dream that may soon become reality around the country, as President Obama has moved toward incorporating it in his emerging job-creation agenda.

The job-creation flavor of the week is GeorgiaWork$, a job program that has for several years funneled unemployed workers into job slots as “trainees.” Under this half-internship, half-indentured servitude scheme, a worker can earn a $240 weekly stipend on top of regular unemployment benefits for eight weeks, working 24 hours per week. Unlike other job subsidy programs (pdf), which use generally use public dollars to supplement workers’ regular earnings, GeorgiaWork$ allows the state to capitalize on existing unemployment payments while giving a free boost to private employers. Workers, often hired in service sectors like child care and restaurant work, can only hope that their bosses will hire them after their preliminary test run ends.

This system fits well with Obama’s anti-spending, quasi-pro-stimulus double-speak, and his forthcoming jobs plan may include a federal version of Georgia’s virtually free labor system.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: The Last Labor Day?

Let’s get it over with and rename the holiday “Capital Day.” We may still celebrate Labor Day, but our culture has given up on honoring workers as the real creators of wealth and their honest toil-the phrase itself seems antique-as worthy of genuine respect.

Imagine a Republican saying this: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

These heretical thoughts would inspire horror among our friends at Fox News or in the tea party. They’d likely label them as Marxist, socialist or Big Labor propaganda. Too bad for Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, who offered those words in his annual message to Congress in 1861. Will President Obama dare say anything like this in his jobs speech this week?

Danny Schecter: Obama Readies Tepid Jobs Plan While The Right Settles in for Economic Apocalypse

NEW YORK, Labor Day Weekend 2011 – The magic wand is being readied in the White House as the President and his minions finally unwrap the mother of all jobs plans that will be revealed to the rest of us in a speech next Thursday before the cameras and Congress with the gravitas-packed aura of a State of the Union Address.

Attention, collapsing economy: you finally have the big man’s attention. Nearly 70 organizations are pressing the President to take strong action.

Please give him a break. He’s been busy tending to Empire business — waging GWOT warfare on IraqAfghanistanLibyaYemenPakistanSomalia et.al …

Call it the greatest “long war” in American history: an unending and unbelievably expensive intervention justified as necessary to keep us safe.

We can assume that contingency plans for new wars with Syria, Iran and the Republic of Wikileaks are being drafted as we speak.

Sep 05 2011

Why Democrats Will Lose in 2012

Salon.com has a piece up urging Democrats to dump Obama and go with a candidate who will restore their party to its New Deal era politics.  According to the column by Matt Stoller, there are a number of reasons why they should, including:

If would be one thing if Obama were failing because he was too close to party orthodoxy. Yet his failures have come precisely because Obama has not listened to Democratic Party voters. He continued idiotic wars, bailed out banks, ignored luminaries like Paul Krugman, and generally did whatever he could to repudiate the New Deal. The Democratic Party should be the party of pay raises and homes, but under Obama it has become the party of pay cuts and foreclosures. Getting rid of Obama as the head of the party is the first step in reverting to form.

This is an institutional crisis for Democrats. The groups that fund and organize the party — an uneasy alliance of financiers, conservative technology interests, the telecommunications industry, healthcare industries, labor unions, feminists, elite foundations, African-American church networks, academic elites, liberals at groups like MoveOn, the ACLU and the blogosphere — are frustrated, but not one of them has broken from the pack. In remaining silent, they give their assent to the right-wing policy framework that first George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama, cemented in place. It will be nearly impossible to dislodge such a framework without starting within the Democratic Party itself.

In other words, party inflexibility has a price. If the economy worsens going into the fall, and the president continues as he has to attempt to cut Social Security, Democrats might be facing a Carter-Reagan scenario. Reagan, at first considered a lightweight candidate, ended up winning a landslide victory that devastated the Democratic Party in 1980. Carter wasn’t the only loss; many significant liberal senators, such as George McGovern, John Culver and Birch Bayh, fell that year.

Stoller nails it by pointing out the extreme inflexibility inherent in the Democrat Party today.  Its leaders have decided that they want it to be the party of Big Business, and they don’t care what base voters think – so long as the Republicans are content to be the party of overt extremists, as opposed to the Democrats’ “covert” extremism, they reason, voters will at the end of the electoral season either shut up and vote for them anyway or else not vote at all.  Either way, that suits Democrat Party leaders just fine, wanting all the perks of power but none of the responsibility.  Stoller continues toward the end of his column by writing:

Obama has basically endorsed every major plank of George Bush’s administration, yet Democrats still grant their approval. What we’re finding out is that Obama’s pathologically pro-establishment and conflict-averse DNA was funded by party insiders and embraced by liberal constituency groups in 2008 for a reason.

Political parties need to be flexible enough to allow for new ideas to come into the process, or else third parties or civil disorder are inevitable. All it would take to provide this flexibility are well-known Democratic elders who understand that rank and file Democrats deserve a choice, and a few political insiders who realize that they can increase their own power by encouraging a robust debate. I don’t think this will happen.

Stoller rightly points out that the disastrous presidency of Grover Cleveland necessitated the removal of him as the Democrats’ candidate in 1896 in favor of William Jennings Bryan, who pressed for many populist reforms and began laying the groundwork for both the Progressive Era of the early 1900s and the New Deal Era of the 1930s and 1940s.  But for that to happen, there had to be widespread acknowledgment within the party that the path being taken could only lead to its ultimate collapse – self preservation instinct had to take over in order for the party to save itself, and in the 1890s, that realization rose and was accepted by party leaders.

Many disaffected Democrats still presume to think that they can take back the party from the corporate interests that have seized it.  But not one of them has dared come up with any serious roster of candidates willing to risk political suicide by running against Obama next year.  Corporate money, and therefore corporate influence, is so entrenched within the Democrat Party that it is now beyond all hope of repair.  Thomas Hartman does offer advice for retaking the Democrat Party from the corporatists, but it’s probably far too late for that.  The party has so alienated and disillusioned voters with its pro-war, anti-labor, anti-civil liberties, pro-corporate, anti-democracy nature that it is now highly unlikely that enough citizens trust that their activism will result in any significant reforms.

A serious effort to build a strong, viable third party organization can send the needed message to Democrat leaders that they can no longer take voters for granted, that we do have alternatives and we will turn to them if Democrats keep refusing to live up to their obligation to represent the public interest.  In 1992, H. Ross Perot’s strong showing of nearly nineteen percent of the vote in that year’s presidential election demonstrates that it is possible within our own era to gain significant votes to fundamentally alter the political landscape.  Progressives, laborers, and traditionally oppressed citizens can and should begin building that third party effort now, while the iron is white hot.  While we are doing that, remaining progressives within Democrat ranks can begin their takeover of the party by gaining precinct committee seats, especially executive committee seats, to obtain more control over the candidate-nominating process.  Sun Tzu admonishes students of warfare not to fight on multiple fronts, but to instead force the enemy to do so, thereby dividing his forces.  In World War II, Nazi Germany lost because it faced the dual military threats of the Allied forces in the West and the Soviet forces in the East, each of which operated in tandem with the other to close in around their mutual enemy and destroy him.  In politics, the same strategies and tactics apply.

Now, Democrat Party loyalists will cry foul, claiming that any attempt to run a primary opponent against Obama or draw voters to third parties will almost certainly result in a Republican victory next year.  But the way their party is doing things now, that result is practically inevitable regardless of what progressives do.  Obama and corporatist Democrats at the top are leading their party off a cliff, and no amount of hope will cause them to deviate from their chosen path.  What’s more, Republican vote-rigging is already well underway with highly restrictive ballot access and voter ID laws to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising their right to vote.  By running as the party of continuation with George W. Bush’s extreme right-wing policies, Obama and his sycophants are guaranteeing a close enough electoral result that Republicans will easily be able to steal 2012, just as they did in 2000-2006.  That they have such enthusiastic help from Democrats themselves makes GOP electoral “victories” all but inevitable.

Sep 05 2011

On This Day In History September 5

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.

September 5 is the 248th day of the year (249th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 117 days remaining until the end of the year..

On this day in 1882, the first Labor Day was celebrated in NYC with a parade of 10,000 workers. The Parade started at City Hall, winding past the reviewing stands at Union Square and then uptown where it ended at 42nd St where the marcher’s and their families celebrated with a picnic, concert and speeches. The march was organized by New York’s Central Labor Union and while there has been debate as to who originated the idea, credit is given to Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.

It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland  put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date was chosen as Cleveland was concerned that aligning an American labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.

Sep 05 2011

Solidarity Forever

Solidarity Forever

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run

There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun


Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one

For the Union makes us strong

Chorus

Solidarity forever, solidarity forever

Solidarity forever

For the Union makes us strong

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite

Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?

Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?

For the union makes us strong

It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade

Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid

Now we stand outcast and starving ‘mid the wonders we have made

But the union makes us strong

All the world  that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone

We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone

It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own

While the union makes us strong

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn

But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn

We can break their haughty power gain our freedom when we learn

That the Union makes us strong

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old

For the Union makes us strong

Chorus

Solidarity forever, solidarity forever

Solidarity forever

For the Union makes us strong

Sep 05 2011

Holding The Banks Accountable

President Obama’s jettisoning the EPA regulations dominated the Friday news dump. What was buried in the usual media hullabaloo was this:

FHFA Sues 17 Firms to Recover Losses toFannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Apparently the FHFA has found something that this White House hasn’t, the courage to hold the banks accountable for the losses from the sale of mortgage backed securities (MBS) to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The suit surpasses the $20 billion settlement that the 50 state AG settlement is reportedly attempting to extract from the banks for a liability release over ALL issues in foreclosure fraud.

The lawsuits cover $105 billion worth of securities, and FHFA wants returns on some portion of the losses taken on the securities, which they attribute to illegal actions by the banks when they sold the MBS (specifically, misrepresentations about the underlying loans). Earlier reports said that the losses for Fannie and Freddie on private-label MBS came to around $30 billion, so that’s probably around what they will ask for. The LA Times story puts it at $41 billion in losses. Whatever the number, this is more than the 50 state AG settlement is reportedly attempting to extract from the banks for a liability release over ALL issues in foreclosure fraud. And this is just a representations and warrants case.

This may derail the 50 state AG attempts at an agreement that absolves banks from any liability:

The biggest banks are already negotiating with the attorneys general of all 50 states to address mortgage abuses. They are looking for a comprehensive settlement that will protect them from future litigation and limit their potential mortgage litigation losses.

“This new litigation could disrupt the AG settlement,” said Anthony Sanders, finance professor at George Mason University and a former mortgage bond strategist.

Banks may be more reluctant to agree to a settlement if they know litigation from other government players could still wallop their capital, he said.

As David Dayen so astutely observes:

. . . . FHFA is just a canary in the coalmine for the losses and the liability that these banks are holding because of their actions in mortgage origination, securitization, and servicing. You cannot have a banking sector with this many liabilities and expect a robust, well-functioning economy. This action is necessary for the rule of law as well as for the health of the nation.

(emphasis mine)

Even better would be some of the people involved being held responsible and sent to prison.

Sep 05 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Featured Essays-

DocuDharma

Sep 05 2011

Pique the Geek 20110904: Anesthetics Part III

Sorry to be late tonight.  I was occupied earlier this afternoon than I had planned and got a late start.  However, I wanted to produce a quality piece even though it did not post exactly at 9:00.

This the last part in our three piece series on anesthetics.  We have covered general anesthetics of the inhalation type and of the IV type, and now will discuss local anesthetics.  The primary difference betwixt general and local anesthesia is that in general anesthesia the patient is generally unconscious or at least highly sedated, whilst in local anesthesia the awareness of the patient is generally not impaired, although sometime they are sedated by other agents.

The term “local” is not as descriptive as one might think.  While it is true that very small areas can be anesthetized, often much larger areas are.  By the way, it is likely that local anesthesia is much more ancient than general anesthesia, for reasons to be explained later.

Sep 05 2011

The Abbreviated Evening Edition

Once again, apologies for lateness and the very abbreviated news. Since this is an American Holiday weekend and many of us are planning family outing, attending barbecues and celebrating Summer’s last big weekend before beaches and pools close, I won’t bore you with too many details. So here are the top stories that, at least I think deserve some attention.

New Orleans holding up under Tropical Storm Lee

by Kathy Finn

(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Lee moved slowly across southern Louisiana on Sunday as New Orleans’ flood defenses appeared to pass one of their biggest tests since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

The National Hurricane Center said Lee’s center was about 110 miles west-northwest of New Orleans, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph at around 5 p.m. EDT, and tropical storm-force winds extending 275 miles. The storm was moving at 5 mph.

Winds were expected to weaken gradually in the next couple of days and up to 20 inches of rain was expected to fall on southeast Louisiana, the Miami-based center said.