Daily Archive: 10/24/2011

Oct 24 2011

The Cost Of Victory

WikiLeaks cables and the Iraq War

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Sunday, Oct 23, 2011 7:44 AM

That cable was released by WikiLeaks in May, 2011, and, as McClatchy put it at the time, “provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.” The U.S. then lied and claimed the civilians were killed by the airstrike. Although this incident had been previously documented (.pdf) by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the high-profile release of the cable by WikiLeaks generated substantial attention (and disgust) in Iraq, which made it politically unpalatable for the Iraqi government to grant the legal immunity the Obama adminstration was seeking. Indeed, it was widely reported at the time the cable was released that it made it much more difficult for Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain beyond the deadline under any conditions.

In other words, whoever leaked that cable cast light on a heinous American war crime and, by doing so, likely played some significant role in thwarting an agreement between the Obama and Maliki governments to keep U.S. troops in Iraq and thus helped end this stage of the Iraq war (h/t Trevor Timm). Moreover, whoever leaked these cables – as even virulent WikiLeaks critic Bill Keller repeatedly acknowledged – likely played some significant in helping spark the Arab Spring protests by documenting just how deeply corrupt those U.S.-supported kleptocrats were. And in general, whoever leaked those cables has done more to publicize the corrupt, illegal and deceitful acts of the world’s most powerful factions – and to educate the world about how they behave – than all “watchdog” media outlets combined (indeed, the amount of news reports on a wide array of topics featuring WikiLeaks cables as the primary source is staggering). In sum, whoever leaked those cables is responsible for one of the most consequential, beneficial and noble acts of this generation.

WikiLeaks suspends publishing to fight financial blockade

Julian Assange says banking bans have destroyed 95% of whistleblowing site’s revenues

Esther Addley and Jason Deans, The Guardian

Monday 24 October 2011 08.42 EDT

Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, has announced that the whistleblowing website is suspending publishing operations in order to focus on fighting a financial blockade and raise new funds.



The website, behind the publication of hundreds of thousands of controversial US embassy cables in late 2010 in partnership with newspapers including the Guardian and New York Times, revealed that it was running on cash reserves after “an arbitrary and unlawful financial blockade” by the Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union.

WikiLeaks said in a statement: “The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency.

“The US government itself found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade. But the blockade of WikiLeaks by politicised US finance companies continues regardless.”

Assange said donations to WikiLeaks were running at €100,000 a month in 2010, but had dropped to a monthly figure of €6,000 to €7,000 this year.

Oct 24 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”.

New York Times Editorial: No Holiday

Big business has clearly decided that the economic crisis is too important to waste. While Washington debates how to create jobs and cut the budget deficit, major corporations – read major campaign contributors – are pushing Congress for an enormous tax cut on corporate profits. Lawmakers seem all too eager to grant their wish.

snip

These days, corporations are flush with $2 trillion in cash that is not being used for hiring. As long as the economy is weak and consumers aren’t spending, tax cuts will add to the cash pile, not create jobs. A tax holiday also would add to the deficit, in part because companies rush to bring money home, rather than repatriating the earnings over time at the usual rate. According to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, another tax holiday at 5.25 percent would increase the deficit by nearly $80 billion over 10 years; a rate of 10.5 percent would cost $42 billion.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: Perry, Cain and Flat Earth Government

It’s one of the strangest things in our politics: The only “big” ideas Republicans and conservatives seem to offer these days revolve around novel and sometimes bizarre ways of cutting taxes on rich people.

Given all the attention that Herman Cain’s nonsensical and regressive “9-9-9 tax plan” has received, the Republican debates should have as their soundtrack that old Beatles song that droned on about the number nine.

Now, Texas Gov. Rick Perry hopes to pump up his campaign with a supposedly bold proposal to institute a flat tax, which would also deliver more money to the well-off. Perry plans to outline his proposal this week, but has already touted it as a surefire way of “scrapping the 3 million words of the current tax code.”

Dean Baker: New York Times Editorializes on Budget Policy in Pension Article

The New York Times used an article on Rhode Island’s pension system to denounce “the nation’s profligate ways,” which it warns will catch up with us. Newspapers are supposed to leave such editorializing to the opinion pages.

In fact there is good reason to believe that the nation’s obsession with frugality is now catching up with us. The country lost close to $1.4 trillion in annual demand due to the collapse of the housing bubble. In the short term this can only be replaced by larger government deficits. However, because politicians in Washington do not want larger deficits, the economy is operating at close 6 percent below its potential GDP and millions of workers are needlessly unemployed or underemployed. Since there is very limited support for the unemployed in the United States, this situation is a disaster for the millions of people facing it.

The article also gets some of the facts on state and local pensions wrong.

Ray McGovern: The Military Industrial Complex at 50: Activism

You are herecontent / Ray McGovern on Activism and the Military Industrial Complex

Ray McGovern on Activism and the Military Industrial Complex

By davidswanson – Posted on 24 October 2011

The Military Industrial Complex at 50: Activism

By Ray McGovern, for MIC50.org

The past 50 years have shown that President Eisenhower was spot on, as we would say today, about the Military Industrial Complex and what to expect if Americans were not vigilant, which, of course, we have not been – until maybe now.

An endless train of outrages and indignities can be traced to the inordinate influence of the MIC.  And a truly formidable challenge awaits those of us determined not to let our democracy be taken away from us by the greed of a small minority.

So here we are, cooped up, by choice, indoors, talking about these dismal matters on a glorious late-summer afternoon.  Don’t know about you, but I found myself sorely tempted to channel today’s activism into a brisk swim in that beautiful little lake just outside.

Joe Conason: What Romney’s Religion Reveals About His Politics

Recent expressions of political and religious prejudice against Mormons and the Church of Latter-day Saints have offered Mitt Romney a chance to play the bullied underdog-and to explain, as he did with clarity and dignity during the Vegas debate, the meaning of the constitutional prohibition against any religious test for public office.

That won’t discourage Baptist conservatives or atheist entertainers like Bill Maher from making fun of Mormons and their faith, whose history and tenets certainly sound strange to outsiders.

But is there any real reason to be troubled by Romney’s religion? What does the career of the former Massachusetts governor tell us about the ideology of the LDS church-and what his personal beliefs may portend if he becomes the first Mormon in the Oval Office?

John Nichols: Big Money, Bad Media, Secret Agendas: Welcome to America’s Wildest School Board Race

School board elections are supposed to be quintessential America contests. Moms and Main Street small-business owners and retired teachers campaign by knocking on doors, writing letters to the editor and debating at elementary schools. Then friends and neighbors troop to the polls and make their choices.

But what happens when all the pathologies of national politics-over-the-top spending by wealthy elites and corporate interests, partisan consultants jetting in to shape big-lie messaging, media outlets that cover spin rather than substance-are visited on a local school board contest?

Oct 24 2011

Sarbanes – Oxley Under Attack By Obama

President Obama and Washington still don’t get it. The Obama administration and Congress either don’t understand or are choosing to ignore the message from Occupy Wall St. Matt Taibbi exams two “disgusting developments” that have taken place since the demonstrations started. One was the shifting a huge collection of Merrill Lynch derivatives contracts onto Bank of America’s own federally-insured balance sheet. The second is Obama apparently expressing willingness to junk big chunks of Sarbanes-Oxley in exchange for support for his jobs program

Sarbanes-Oxley is an anti-trust law which was passed by Congress in 2002 in the wake of the accounting scandals of Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems and WorldCom. These scandals, which cost investors billions of dollars when the share prices of affected companies collapsed, shook public confidence in the nation’s securities markets. Now Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which is made up of 27-members, mostly of corporate executives, along with a handful of investors, labor leaders and academics, would like to lift some of these regulations on the pretext that it would create jobs:

Watering down Sarbanes-Oxley has long been a goal of corporate America, despite studies by the Securities and Exchange Commission showing that the law has reduced errors and fraud, and that changes to the law have made it easier for companies to comply.

As for the supposed barriers to investment, history is rife with companies that cooked their books to lure investors and created jobs in the short run, before imploding and causing mass joblessness.

Anything-goes markets are great for investors who get out before the jig is up, or who get bailed out when their bets go bad. They are a raw deal for everyone else.

Specifically, the report calls for compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley to be made voluntary for public companies worth less than $1 billion.

That would relieve some 6,000 companies — or 75 percent of all publicly traded companies — from various requirements, including the rule that corporate boards have independent audit committees, that corporate executives attest to the accuracy of the company’s financial statements, and that bonuses based on fraudulent statements be subject to clawback.

The view of this proposal from Canada:

It has come to this, then: In the all-consuming desire to do something, nearly anything, to promote job creation, Mr. Obama seems willing to gut one of the most significant investor protections of our time. If the anti-Sarbanes Oxley proposal succeeds, it is the Americans – and Canadians – who invest in U.S. stocks who will lose.

Sarbanes-Oxley, among many things, required the chief executive officer and chief financial officer publicly sign off on the accuracy of company financial reports and, with its “404” provisions, forced companies to document the internal controls used to produce accurate financial statements. Separately, the “Spitzer Decree” tried to improve the quality of analyst research by cutting the link between it and deal fees. And the Fair Disclosure Act set up rules to keep companies from whispering material information to favoured investors.

The Jobs Council is taking aim at all of it, suggesting rules be “right-sized” to exempt all but the largest companies. “Well-intentioned regulations aimed at protecting the public from the misrepresentations of a small number of large companies have unintentionally placed significant burdens on the large number of smaller companies,” the Jobs Council said in its interim report.

Unfortunately, the Jobs Council misunderstands or misrepresents the history of Sarbanes-Oxley and proposes a sledgehammer solution that fails to kill the fly, while smashing investors in the chops.

While Enron and WorldCom provided the political impetus to get Sarbanes-Oxley passed, there were sound intellectual underpinnings to the 404 provisions, which required companies to spend significant sums on improving internal controls. U.S. companies, absent regulation, simply weren’t spending the time or money required to do the best possible job of producing accurate financial statements.

Smaller companies, particularly those who recently went public, often were the worst offenders; they are now the companies the Jobs Council most wants to spare from the provisions.

Taibbi:

If the financial crisis proved anything, it’s that Wall Street companies in particular have been serial offenders in the area of dishonest accounting and book-cooking. Sarbanes-Oxley is obviously no panacea, but removing it in exchange for a temporary, election-year job boost is exactly the kind of myopic, absurdly irresponsible shit that got us into this mess in the first place. For Obama to pull this in the middle of these protests is crazy.

If anyone thought OWS has already done its job, and Washington has gotten the message already, think again. They’re not going to change until the protesters force them to change, it seems.

Oct 24 2011

Occupy Wall St. Livestream: Day 38

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com

OccupyWallStreet

The resistance continues at Liberty Square, with free pizza 😉

“I don’t know how to fix this but I know it’s wrong.” ~ Unknown Author

Occupy Wall Street NYC now has a web site for its General Assembly  with up dates and information. Very informative and user friendly. It has information about events, a bulletin board, groups and minutes of the GA meetings.

NYC General Assembly #OccupyWallStreet

Occupy Wall Street: Naomi Wolf calls attention to the disturbing involvement of Homeland Security in her arrest

Naomi Wolf, political activist and author of “Give Me Liberty,” calls attention to the enormous power that the federal government can wield to prevent constitutionally guaranteed rights. “History shows they start with the Other and it gets closer and closer and closer and someday they come for you.”

The First Amendment and the Obligation to Peacefully Disrupt in a Free Society

by Naomi Wolf

Mayor Bloomberg is planning Draconian new measures to crack down on what he calls the “disruption” caused by the protesters at Zuccotti Park, and he is citing neighbors’ complaints about noise and mess. This set of talking points, and this strategy, is being geared up as well by administrations of municipalities around the nation in response to the endurance and growing influence of the Occupation protest sites. But the idea that any administration has the unmediated option of “striking a balance,” in Bloomberg’s words, that it likes, and closing down peaceful and lawful disruption of business as usual as it sees fit is a grave misunderstanding — or, more likely, deliberate misrepresentation — of our legal social contract as American citizens.

Some kinds of disruption in a free republic are not “optional extras” if the First Amendment governs the land, as it does ours, and are certainly not subject to the whims of mayors or local police, or even DHS. Just as protesters don’t have a blanket right to do everything they want, there is absolutely no blanket right of mayors or even of other citizens to be free from the effect of certain kinds of disruption resulting from their fellow citizens exercising First Amendment rights. That notion, presented right now by Bloomberg and other vested interests, of a “disruption-free” social contract is pure invention — just like the flat-out fabrication of the nonexistent permit cited in my own detention outside the Huffington Post Game Changers event this last Tuesday, when police told me, without the event organizers’ knowledge and contrary to their intentions, that a private entity had “control of the sidewalks” for several hours. (In fact, the permit in question — a red carpet event permit! — actually guarantees citizens’ rights to walk and even engage in political assembly on the streets if they do not block pedestrian traffic, as the OWS protesters were not.)

Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainright Jamming at #OWS-NYC

Oct 24 2011

On This Day In History October 24

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.

October 24 is the 297th day of the year (298th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 68 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Desiring to secure her later years financially, she decided she would be the first person to ride Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor used a custom-made barrel for her trip, constructed of oak and iron and padded with a mattress. Several delays occurred in the launching of the barrel, particularly because no one wanted to be part of a potential suicide. Two days before Taylor’s own attempt, a domestic cat was sent over the Horseshoe Falls in her barrel to test its strength. Contrary to rumors at the time, the cat survived the plunge unharmed and later was posed with Taylor in photographs.

On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, the barrel was put over the side of a rowboat, and Taylor climbed in, along with her lucky heart-shaped pillow. After screwing down the lid, friends used a bicycle tire pump to compress the air in the barrel. The hole used for this was plugged with a cork, and Taylor was set adrift near the American shore, south of Goat Island.

The Niagara River currents carried the barrel toward the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, which has since been the site for all daredevil stunting at Niagara Falls. Rescuers reached her barrel shortly after the plunge. Taylor was discovered to be alive and relatively uninjured, save for a small gash on her head. The trip itself took less than twenty minutes, but it was some time before the barrel was actually opened. After the journey, Annie Taylor told the press:

If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.

She briefly earned money speaking about her experience, but was never able to build much wealth. Her manager, Frank M. Russell, decamped with her barrel, and most of her savings were used towards private detectives hired to find it. It was eventually located in Chicago, only to permanently disappear some time later.

Annie Taylor died on April 29, 1921, aged 82, at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, New York. She is interred in the “Stunters Section” of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.

Oct 24 2011

Pique the Geek 20111023: All about Zebras

I know that this is sort of a subject about which I do not write often, since I am, for the life sciences, more botanist than zoologist.  But this topic was by special request from a friend, that friend indicating that zebras are her or his favorite animal.  So Zebras it is.

Actually, as I began doing research on them, I also became fascinated with them as well.  Not only are they extremely handsome animals, they have an extremely complex diversification into diverse subspecies, something that I vaguely knew but was very interested to learn more about as the research continued.

Zebras are uniquely African, except of course for those that have been taken away from there.  They are very much allied with horses and asses, but with some twists.  One of the most interesting thing is that the accepted scientific name for them is likely erroneous, but that comes later.

Oct 24 2011

2011 World Series- Cardinals at Rangers Game 4

Oh I am so totally putting up the Rally Squirrel, not because I’m superstitious mind you, but so you have something to watch instead of W throwing out the first pitch.

I can hardly complain about last night’s results and all of a sudden those sport pundit statistics that were trending against the Cardinals are working in their favor.  The Rangers now look sorry and sad and are playing against zombie Mr. October or as I like to call it- The Pujols Problem.

He’ll never get another pitch to swing at unless it’s a mistake and it’s too bad for the Rangers he also runs and fields and is setting the table for good bats.

Now will the Rangers win another game?  I fully expect it and tonight may be their best opportunity.  Derek Holland is marginally better on paper than Edwin Jackson, but it boggles my mind that they’re not putting up Wilson and Carpenter on 3 days rest so they’re available for a game 6 or 7.  Maybe for the Rangers this makes sense since if they lose tonight they face elimination tomorrow.

Both Bullpens are tired and need what are called ‘quality’ starts where pitchers, if not exactly successful, at least eat up some innings.  The constantly wrong commentariat are looking for a repeat of yesterday’s slug fest, so I confidently predict a pitcher’s duel.

If the Cardinals do not win tonight, or even tomorrow, their fans (and you should certainly be rooting against the Rangers at a minimum) ought not be discouraged.  Last night’s victory ensures a return to Busch Stadium and the Rangers are at a serious disadvantage there.