11/01/2011 archive

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: Tales From the Supercommittee

There are only three weeks left for the Congressional supercommittee to come up with a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, and there is no sign that the panel is anywhere close to reaching an agreement. Only one side, in fact, seems to be trying – the Democrats – and it is being far too accommodating, given the fierce obstructionism of the other side, the Republicans.

Last week, Democrats offered a $3.2 trillion compromise – proposing cuts to domestic spending and social-insurance programs that were so large as to be imprudent. Their proposal was instantly rejected by Republicans on the panel. Why? Because the Democrats included $1.3 trillion in new tax revenues, which is exactly $1.3 trillion more than Republicans are willing to accept.

Eugene Robinson: Let Herman Be Gone

Responding to his insurgent campaign’s first crisis, Herman Cain was upbeat and defiant. “To quote my chief of staff and all the people around this country, ‘Let Herman be Herman,'” he said Monday. “And Herman is gonna stay Herman.”

I was afraid of that.

Cain’s policy positions range from the ignorant to the unworkable to the just plain goofy-and yet he is running first or second in most polls for the Republican presidential nomination. He trumpets his utter lack of government experience as a selling point and boasts of not knowing foreign leaders’ names. If through some bizarre series of events he were actually elected president, the result would surely be an unmitigated disaster.

Frank Bruni: Race, Religion and Same-Sex Marriage

Without drawing much attention to it yet, one of the leading groups promoting same-sex marriage has taken an interesting tack, one that implicitly acknowledges the complicated relationship between gay Americans and another minority group not firmly on their side.

Two weeks ago the Human Rights Campaign inaugurated a new effort to move public opinion nationwide by unveiling a video testimonial, being distributed on the Internet for now, in which Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, speaks up for same-sex marriage, not yet legal in New Jersey.

Robert Dreyfuss: NATO in Libya: Is Syria Next?

Now that NATO is closing up shop in Libya, will it turn to Syria?

Right now, the answer is no. But if the fragmented Syrian opposition-bolstered by Turkey, a member of NATO, which is turning increasingly against Syrian President Assad-manages to set up a Benghazi-like enclave either inside Syria or across the border in Turkey, anything goes.

To be sure, there are lots of differences between Libya and Syria. In Libya, an armed opposition backed by wholesale defections from the armed forces, turned a rebellion into a civil war, but so far in Syria the armed forces have mostly stayed loyal to Assad. Libya, a desert with oil wells, was a much easier target than complex, urban Syria, which occupies a vastly more strategic piece of real estate. And, though Russia, China and the Arab League abandoned Muammar Qaddafi, so far it seems unlikely that they’ll do so in Syria.

That hasn’t stopped hawks from suggesting that it’s time to intervene in Syria, too. And some, though not all, of the Syrian opposition is clamoring for military help from the United States and NATO.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Egyptian Military Targets Pro-Democracy Bloggers

Egypt: Press Crackdown, Continued

One of Egypt’s most prominent bloggers and revolutionary activists is behind bars

Alaa Abdel Fattah, 29, was summoned before a military prosecutor on Sunday to face charges of inciting violence, stealing military weaponry and assaulting military personnel during an Oct. 9 military crackdown on a protest of mostly Coptic demonstrators that left at least 27 people dead and hundreds more wounded. The military court ordered Abdel Fattah to be detained for 15 days, pending further investigation, after he declined to answer any questions as a matter of principle.

The case, which has sparked widespread outrage, delineates a struggle that has been steadily growing against the ruling military council in post-Mubarak Egypt.

César Chelala: Executing the Mentally-Ill is a Crime

Christopher Johnson’s execution by the State of Alabama creates serious doubts about the justice of a measure that is widely criticized by human rights advocates throughout the world. According to the group Equal Justice Initiative, the Alabama Supreme Court planned the execution without even engaging in a meaningful review of the case.

Christopher Johnson was convicted of killing his son in 2005. Johnson’s attorneys claimed that he wasn’t guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. However, during the trial, Johnson asked the trial judge for permission to represent himself. Despite ample evidence that Johnson had a long history of mental illness, the judge allowed him to do so. Although during his detention Johnson showed destructive behavior associated with mental illness, the trial judge sentenced Mr. Johnson to death. He was executed on October 21, 2011.

Occupy Wall St. Livestream: Day 46

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com


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

“We put more than a thousand elite bankers in jail”

Pedal Power

   Having lost their gas-powered generators, the protestors at Occupy Wall Street are turning to a more eco-friendly alternative: pedal power.

   Keegan Stephan, a bike mechanic and environmentalist at the Zuccotti Park site of the protest in New York, has been pedaling a stationary bronze Schwinn bicycle to provide energy for the protesters’ encampment….

   How does the contraption work? The bike is connected to a flywheel, which in turn connects to a dynamo, the Times explains. That dynamo creates energy, which flows through a motor and a one-way diode to charge a black battery.

   When fully charged–after about 6 hours of pedaling–the battery might provide power for around 100 hours, Stephan estimated. It’ll be used to power laptops, cellphones, and other devices being used by the protesters. ….

   Then Friday, police confiscated the gas-powered generators that the protesters–some of whom have slept in the park for more than a month–had been using. The Fire Department has said that storing large amounts of fuel in the park violates fire codes [and, pragmatically, they’re not wrong].

   That’s when Stephan’s contraption–joined since Saturday by three other bikes attached to motors that Occupy Boston protestors had shipped down to New York–suddenly came in handy.

What’s the matter with democracy?

The same as it’s always been.  The landed gentry, the aristocrats, the capitalists and 1 tenth of 1 percenters are worried that the unwashed rabble, the sans culottes, the rest of us are going to take away their ill-gotten gains through the sheer power of numbers.

As well they might.

Markets Slide After Surprise Referendum Is Set by Greece


Published: November 1, 2011

The proposed ballot will put Greek austerity measures – and potentially membership in the euro zone – to a popular vote for the first time, risking Mr. Papandreou’s political future and threatening even greater turmoil both among the countries that share the single currency and further afield.

His announcement sent tremors through Europe’s see-sawing markets on Tuesday, with bank stocks taking a particular hammering because of their exposure to Greek debt. At midday, the German DAX index was down by 5.3 per cent while the French CAC 40 had slipped by roughly 4.2 per cent. In Britain, which is not a member of the euro zone but trades heavily with continental Europe, the FTSE 100 index was down by around 3.2 percent.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is expected to speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone during the day on Tuesday to discuss the referendum, which took both leaders by surprise, Agence-France Presse reported. The French president was said to be “dismayed,” according to Le Monde, citing an unnamed confidant of Mr. Sarkozy.

Some analysts said the referendum was an invitation for instability. “When the debate is very passionate and things are tense, holding a referendum could be risky,” said Alexis Papahelas, the editor of the center-right daily Kathimerini.

If the referendum fails, he said, “we have a very big chance that the country would go into a disorderly default.”

A spokesman for the center-right New Democracy Party, Yiannis Michelakis, said a referendum was dangerous. Mr. Papandreou, he said, “has tossed Greece’s future in Europe in the air like a coin.”

“A nation is truly corrupt, when, after having, by degrees lost its character and liberty, it slides from democracy into aristocracy or monarchy; this is the death of the political body by decrepitude.”

On this Day In History November 1

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.

November 1 is the 305th day of the year (306th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 60 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, one of Italian artist Michelangelo’s finest works, is exhibited to the public for the first time.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to repaint the vault, or ceiling, of the Chapel. It was originally painted as golden stars on a blue sky. The work was completed between 1508 and 2 November 1512. He painted the Last Judgment over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, on commission from Pope Paul III Farnese.

Michelangelo was intimidated by the scale of the commission, and made it known from the outset of Julius II’s approach that he would prefer to decline. He felt he was more of a sculptor than a painter, and was suspicious that such a large-scale project was being offered to him by enemies as a set-up for an inevitable fall. For Michelangelo, the project was a distraction from the major marble sculpture that had preoccupied him for the previous few years.To be able to reach the ceiling, Michelangelo needed a support; the first idea was by Julius’ favoured architect Donato Bramante, who wanted to build for him a scaffold to be suspended in the air with ropes. However, Bramante did not successfully complete the task, and the structure he built was flawed. He had perforated the vault in order to lower strings to secure the scaffold. Michelangelo laughed when he saw the structure, and believed it would leave holes in the ceiling once the work was ended. He asked Bramante what was to happen when the painter reached the perforations, but the architect had no answer.

The matter was taken before the Pope, who ordered Michelangelo to build a scaffold of his own. Michelangelo created a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall, high up near the top of the windows. He stood on this scaffolding while he painted.

Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling he painted the ancestors of Christ. Above this he alternated male and female prophets, with Jonah over the altar. On the highest section, Michelangelo painted nine stories from the Book of Genesis. He was originally commissioned to paint only 12 figures, the Apostles. He turned down the commission because he saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. The Pope offered to allow Michelangelo to paint biblical scenes of his own choice as a compromise. After the work was finished, there were more than 300. His figures showed the creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood.

Samhain Blessings

The Wheel Is Ever Turning

The Gate$ Of The 1%

The Great Teacher Bashing Baloney Tour continues tomorrow night in Seattle, Tues., 1 Nov. at our downtown public library.


The teacher bashing onslaught soared to new heights in September 2010 with the release of Since “Waiting For Stuporman”. I was privelaged to watch the the acclaim of this propaganda from the classroom experts of Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and Oprah over a year ago.

I enjoy leafleting against these Teacher Bashing Baloney Tours put on by the toadies of the 1%, and I enjoy telling people I’m leafletting because I’m predujiced –

I’ve been teaching high school math for over 6 years now,

I actually worked at Microsoft as a low level support serf for 5 years,

I was a chef for 15 years, and spent 5 of those years cooking in fine dining in Boston (the Boston Four Seasons Hotel from ’85 to ’87)

I KNOW what high priced CON$sultant$ look like,

I KNOW how little they help my kids learn math, AND

I know how little they help kids at our school, AND

I know how little they help any kids in our district,

I’m prejudiced against well paid managers, AND

I’m prejudiced against well paid CON$ultant$

because as members of the 1% and as agents of the 1%,

their greatest skills are blaming us working stiffs for problems we didn’t create –

Below is my Leaflet –  

The Apolitical Quest For Justice

Who would have ever thought that these two would ever be on the same page.

Did You Hear the One About the Bankers?

by Thomas L. Friedman

Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery. One consumer group using information from Opensecrets.org calculates that the financial services industry, including real estate, spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined. Why are there 61 members on the House Committee on Financial Services? So many congressmen want to be in a position to sell votes to Wall Street.

We can’t afford this any longer. We need to focus on four reforms that don’t require new bureaucracies to implement. 1) If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big and needs to be broken up. We can’t risk another trillion-dollar bailout. 2) If your bank’s deposits are federally insured by U.S. taxpayers, you can’t do any proprietary trading with those deposits – period. 3) Derivatives have to be traded on transparent exchanges where we can see if another A.I.G. is building up enormous risk. 4) Finally, an idea from the blogosphere: U.S. congressmen should have to dress like Nascar drivers and wear the logos of all the banks, investment banks, insurance companies and real estate firms that they’re taking money from. The public needs to know.

Capitalism and free markets are the best engines for generating growth and relieving poverty – provided they are balanced with meaningful transparency, regulation and oversight. We lost that balance in the last decade. If we don’t get it back – and there is now a tidal wave of money resisting that – we will have another crisis. And, if that happens, the cry for justice could turn ugly. Free advice to the financial services industry: Stick to being bulls. Stop being pigs.

Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating

by Matt Taibbi

Can anyone imagine a common thief being caught by police and sentenced to pay back half of what he took? Just one low-ranking individual in that case was charged (case pending), and no individual had to reach into his pocket to help cover the fine. The settlement Goldman paid to to the government was about 1/24th of what Goldman received from the government just in the AIG bailout. And that was the toughest “punishment” the government dished out to a bank in the wake of 2008.

The point being: we have a massive police force in America that outside of lower Manhattan prosecutes crime and imprisons citizens with record-setting, factory-level efficiency, eclipsing the incarceration rates of most of history’s more notorious police states and communist countries.

But the bankers on Wall Street don’t live in that heavily-policed country. There are maybe 1000 SEC agents policing that sector of the economy, plus a handful of FBI agents. There are nearly that many police officers stationed around the polite crowd at Zucotti park.

These inequities are what drive the OWS protests. People don’t want handouts. It’s not a class uprising and they don’t want civil war — they want just the opposite. They want everyone to live in the same country, and live by the same rules. It’s amazing that some people think that that’s asking a lot.

Wonders will never cease