11/22/2011 archive


Que lastima.

Egyptian generals to cede power early

By Leila Fadel and Ernesto Londoño, The Washington Post

Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 1:21 PM

CAIRO – Egypt’s military chief announced Tuesday that the embattled armed forces leadership would hand over power to an elected president no later than July 1, 2012 – earlier than previously expected – even as he defiantly defended the military’s handling of mounting opposition protests.

In his first address to the nation since he took power in February, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi appeared angry, accusing protesters of “insulting” the military despite its efforts to govern the nation during a difficult transitional period. He warned  that “any other efforts aimed at hitting us and destroying our spirits and the trust between the armed forces and the people will not be helpful.”

“We never killed a single Egyptian, man or woman,” Tantawi said in his speech. “The Egyptian military believes it is part and parcel of the Egyptian people.”

As his speech ended, many protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square responded in unison with loud chants of “Get out! Get out! We will not leave! He will leave!”

The pledge to hand over power to a civilian leadership was first announced by presidential hopeful Mohammed Salim al-Awaa after a meeting with the ruling generals. The promise marked the biggest concession by the military leadership since anti-government protests began last weekend, mushrooming into a national revolt.

Awaa told the state-run news agency MENA that the generals agreed to halt the bloody clashes that have left at least 33 people dead, try individuals responsible for violence against protesters and release dozens of people arrested in the past four days.

After emergency meetings with civilian political leaders, the military council also said it would accept the resignation of Egypt’s caretaker cabinet and institute a national salvation government, MENA quoted Awaa as saying.

The cabinet, which offered to resign Monday to protest the crackdown by security forces, is still waiting for a written response from the generals, a spokesman said.

Think it can’t happen here?  USA!  USA!

While Obama Campaigns for Extending Cuts to Safety Net Funding, Stein Calls for Liberal Policies

As Barry Obama stumps for extending the payroll tax cut designed to cripple Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in New Hampshire, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is promoting what she calls a Green New Deal to help put Americans back to work fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and finding cleaner, renewable ways to fuel things.

The tenets of her plan include building infrastructure and public transportation, supporting sustainable agriculture, developing clean and renewable energy and restructuring the nation’s manufacturing base.

“There is a strong economic argument that unemployment is more expensive than a plan to deal with unemployment,” Stein said.

The plan’s details have not been worked out, according to Stein, but she said it would be a community-based effort that extends to the local level. Her plan would aim to create 17 million new jobs, and she said that, through a multiplier effect, those 17 million would translate into the 25 million needed to achieve full employment.

And that’s not all.  Unlike Obama, whose record of suppressing civil liberties reads like something out of some other third world dictatorship, Stein is coming out swinging against the assaults by cops against Occupiers.

“The aggressive, needless police actions across the country against Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are an assault on civil liberties and an effort to suppress a much needed movement for economic justice and democracy,” said Stein, a Green Party member and past candidate in Massachusetts elections. “The courageous protesters who have stood up to intimidation by lethal force are standing up for us all.”

In the statement, Stein called upon mayors in occupied cities to “follow the example of Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin of Richmond, Cali., who welcomed the local occupation” and contrasts that with videos and reports from Wall Street, UC Berkley and Occupy Oakland, which she says show public officials are “suppressing rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.”

“The use of police in full riot gear with helicopters buzzing overhead to arrest peaceful and largely sleeping protesters is frightening commentary on the militarization of state and municipal security,” Stein said i nthe statement. “Unprovoked police violence against citizens practicing peaceful civil disobedience – clearly documented on videos gone viral on the Internet – is deeply alarming.”

Small wonder then, that in a mock election held earlier this month in Illinois (the largest in the nation), Stein and the Greens garnered twenty-seven percent of the vote.

The mock primary/caucus process produced three tickets: Democrats nominated Barack Obama for President and Hillary Clinton for Vice-President; Republicans nominated Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan; Greens nominated Jill Stein and Kent Mesplay. Then, at the mock general election, the results were 39% for the Democratic ticket, 33% for the Republican ticket, 27% for the Green ticket, and 1% other.

Libertarians were involved but they chose to work for Ron Paul in the mock Republican convention. Jill Stein spoke on campus, and this obviously helped the Green campaign, because no other actual presidential candidates appeared on campus.

In a race that, no thanks to Obama’s endless and ongoing betrayals of the public interest to curry favor with the top 1%, may be so much closer than it should be, that twenty-seven percent could make the difference.  This isn’t a bad thing by any means; Stein’s candidacy seems to be having an effect already by forcing Obama to adopt policies he ordinarily wouldn’t.  (For example, Hopey McChangerton seemed last week to back off of plans to open up even more public lands to oil drilling.)

The biggest problem of the 2012 election won’t just be the ongoing right-wing policies that have turned America into a fascist police state, but the exclusion of any left-wing voices from the national dialog.  But if Jill Stein keeps up her campaign and manages to resonate with more voters, this could change.

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: The Supercommittee Collapses

The smoke from the smoldering failure known as the deficit “supercommittee” spread heavily across Capitol Hill on Monday, allowing Republicans to obscure the simple truth about the failure to reach an agreement. The only reason the committee failed was because Republicans refused to raise taxes on the rich, and, in fact, wanted to cut them even below their current bargain-basement level.

Republicans in Washington claimed Democrats refused to budge on entitlements. John Boehner, the House speaker, and Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, as if by rote, issued statements saying it was all President Obama’s fault. But, had a single Republican on the panel endorsed even a modest increase in upper-income tax rates, Republicans could have won trillions in cuts from entitlements and discretionary spending. (Certainly far beyond anything we would endorse.)

Eugene Robinson: ‘Super Committee’ Fails to Overcome Republican Dogma

No, the sun didn’t rise in the west this morning. No, Republicans on the congressional “super committee” didn’t offer meaningful concessions on raising new tax revenue. And no, “both sides” are not equally responsible for the failure to compromise.

As usual, the two parties began with vastly different ideas of what it means to negotiate. Democrats envisioned meeting somewhere in the middle, while Republicans anticipated not moving an inch. This isn’t just my spin, it’s a matter of public record: Before the 12-member super committee ever met, House Speaker John Boehner warned that it had better not agree to any new tax revenue.

Think about this for a minute. The whole point of the subcommittee exercise was to begin reducing the ballooning national debt, now more than $15 trillion. Closing such a big gap with spending cuts is possible only in the parallel universe inhabited by GOP ideologues, a place where the laws of arithmetic do not apply.

Dave Johnson: Privatization Nightmare: 5 Public Services That Should Never Be Handed Over to Greedy Corporations

Who gains – and who loses – when public assets and jobs are turned over to the private sector?

The corporate right endlessly promotes “privatization” of public assets and public jobs as a cash-raising or cost-saving measure. Privatization is when the public turns over assets like airports, roads or buildings, or contracts out a public function like trash collection to a private company. Many cities contract out their trash collection. To raise cash Arizona even sold its state capital building and leased it back.

The justification for privatization is the old argument that private companies do everything better and more “efficiently” than government, and will find ways to cut costs. Over and over we hear that companies do everything for less cost than government. But it never seems to sink in that private companies don’t do things unless the people at the top can make a bundle of cash; if the CEO isn’t making millions, that CEO will move the company on to something else. When government does something they don’t have to pay millions to someone at the top.

Wendell Potter: The Health Care Industry’s Stranglehold on Congress

One of the reasons why Congress has been largely unable to make the American health care system more efficient and equitable is because of the stranglehold lobbyists for special interests have on the institution.

Whenever lawmakers consider any kind of meaningful reform, the proposed remedies inevitably create winners and losers. Physicians’ incomes most likely will be affected in some way, as will the profits of all the other major players: the hospitals, the drug companies, the medical device manufacturers, and the insurers, just to name a few. The list is long, and the platoons of highly paid and well-connected lobbyists who represent their interests comprise a large private army that conquered Capitol Hill years ago.

One has to wonder, then, how in the world Congress was able to include a provision in last year’s health care reform law to establish an independent board that would strip Congress of some of the authority it currently has – but rarely is able to exercise – over the Medicare program.

Robert Dreyfuss: Is Egypt Syria?

Egypt, whose revolution in February, was a landmark of the Arab Spring, is looking more and more like, well, Syria.

Nearly two dozen people have been killed and 1,500 wounded in several days of clashes between Egyptian security forces and protesters, not in Tahrir Square but elsewhere in Cairo, along with Alexandria, Suez, and other Egyptian cities.

From Cairo, the Times reports today:

   Battles raged throughout the night, with gunfire echoing through streets choked with tear gas and illuminated by scattered fires. Three bodies wrapped in blankets were seen being carried away and witnesses said the bodies were those of protesters hit by live ammunition.

Egypt, meet Syria. It’s staggeringly ironic that the Cairo-based Arab League is taking action to expel and sanction Syria, while right under its nose the Egyptian military is slaughtering demonstrators. (Not to mention the fact that the Arab League is dominated by the ultra-reactionary autocracies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who’ve been deeply involved in helping to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Syria’s Bashar Assad while propping up the ruling military council in Egypt.)

George Zornick: Supercommittee Was About the Bush Tax Cuts-And That Battle Isn’t Over

At one of the first super-committee meetings, back in September, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf sketched the problem at hand: “Given the aging of the population and rising costs for healthcare, attaining a sustainable Federal budget will require the United States to deviate from the policies of the past 40 years in at least one of the following ways,” he said. “Raise federal revenues significantly above their average share of GDP, make major changes in the sorts of benefits provided for Americans when they become older, or substantially reduce the role of the rest of the Federal Government relative to the size of the economy.”

In short, Elmendorf said the federal government can’t keep doing what it’s doing with revenues so low. So either raise taxes, or get ready for some deep and painful cuts. The likes of Grover Norquist, who has bedeviled the committee, would clearly prefer the latter result-he reaffirmed on 60 Minutes this weekend that he’d be fine with a federal government in 2011 that looks like the federal government of 1911.

Republicans set off on finding some way to both preserve low tax rates and cut as much as they could in order to help pay for it. This whole super-committee charade was never about deficit reduction for Republicans, but protecting low taxes, particularly for the very wealthy-that became abundantly clear when their final offer involved a permanent extension of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts.

“It’s a food product.”

Pregnant #OccupySeattle Protester Miscarries After Being Kicked, Pepper Sprayed

By David, Crooks and Liars

November 22, 2011 08:00 AM

Jennifer Fox, 19, told The Stranger that she had been with the Occupy protests since they started in Westlake Park. She said she was homeless and three months pregnant, but felt the need to join activists during their march last Tuesday.

“I was standing in the middle of the crowd when the police started moving in,” Fox recalled. “I was screaming, ‘I am pregnant, I am pregnant. Let me through. I am trying to get out.'”

She claimed that police hit her in the stomach twice before pepper spraying her. One officer struck her with his foot and another pushed his bicycle into her. It wasn’t clear if either of those incidents were intentional.

“Right before I turned, both cops lifted their pepper spray and sprayed me. My eyes puffed up and my eyes swelled shut,” Fox said.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer Joshua Trujillo snapped a picture of Fox in apparent agony as another activist carried her to an ambulance.

While doctors at Harborview Medical Center didn’t see any problems at the time, things took a turn for the worst Sunday.

“Everything was going okay until yesterday, when I started getting sick, cramps started, and I felt like I was going to pass out,” she explained.

When Fox arrived at the hospital, doctors told her that the baby had no heartbeat.

“They diagnosed that I was having a miscarriage. They said the damage was from the kick and that the pepper spray got to it [the fetus], too,” she said.

“I was worried about it [when I joined the protests], but I didn’t know it would be this bad. I didn’t know that a cop would murder a baby that’s not born yet… I am trying to get lawyers.”

Yup.  Culture of Life.  Fetuses are people too, except when Corporate ‘People’ use their Police to kill them.

Dirty Fucking Hippy.

On this Day In History November 22

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 22 is the 326th day of the year (327th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 39 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1990, Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in British history, announces her resignation after 11 years in Britain’s top office.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS (born 13 October 1925) served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. Thatcher is the only woman to have held either post.

Born in Grantham in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, Thatcher went to school at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School in Grantham, where she was head girl in 1942-43. She read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford and later trained as a barrister. She won a seat in the 1959 general election, becoming the MP for Finchley as a Conservative. When Edward Heath formed a government in 1970, he appointed Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science. Four years later, she backed Keith Joseph in his bid to become Conservative Party leader but he was forced to drop out of the election. In 1975 Thatcher entered the contest herself and became leader of the Conservative Party. At the 1979 general election she became Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

In her foreword to the 1979 Conservative manifesto, Thatcher wrote of “a feeling of helplessness, that a once great nation has somehow fallen behind.” She entered 10 Downing Street determined to reverse what she perceived as a precipitate national decline. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, and the selling off and closing down of state owned companies and withdrawing subsidy to others. Amid a recession and high unemployment, Thatcher’s popularity declined, though economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support and she was re-elected in 1983. She took a hard line against trade unions, survived the Brighton hotel bombing assassination attempt and opposed the Soviet Union (her tough-talking rhetoric gained her the nickname the “Iron Lady”); she was re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1987. The following years would prove difficult, as her Poll tax plan was largely unpopular, and her views regarding the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister in November 1990 after Michael Heseltine’s challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party.

Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister was the longest since that of Lord Salisbury and the longest continuous period in office since Lord Liverpool in the early 19th century. She was the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom, and the first of only four women to hold any of the four great offices of state. She holds a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitles her to sit in the House of Lords.

Tahrir Square

24 dead in 3 days of Cairo anti-military protests

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

34 minutes ago

The night before saw an escalation of the fighting as police launched a heavy assault that tried and failed to clear protesters from the square. In a show of the ferocity of the assault, the death toll leaped from Sunday evening until Monday morning. A constant stream of injured protesters – bloodied from rubber bullets or overcome by gas – were brought into makeshift clinics set out on sidewalks around the square where volunteer doctors scrambled from patient to patient.

(T)he vote has been overshadowed by mounting anger at the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to hold power even after the vote. Activists accuse the generals of acting increasingly in the same autocratic way as Mubarak’s regime and fear that they will dominate the coming government, just as they have the current interim one they appointed months ago.

“What does it mean, transfer power in 2013? It means simply that he wants to hold on to his seat,” said a young protester, Mohammed Sayyed, referring to the head of the Supreme Council, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi.

“I will keep coming back until they kill me,” he said. “The people are frustrated. Nothing changed for the better.”

CLGC Memo (.pdf)

Video continues after commercial break.  You have to pause manually.

U.C. Davis Calls for Investigation After Pepper Spraying

By BRIAN STELTER, The New York Times

November 19, 2011, 7:44 pm

In one of the videos, the officer steps over a line of seated protesters, holds the pepper spray bottle in the air, then sprays it in the protesters’ faces in a coordinated fashion as eyewitnesses gasp and shout, “Shame on you.” Most of the protesters remain seated; police officers then forcibly remove and arrest them.

In a video taken from another direction, two officers can be seen dousing protesters with pepper spray at the same time. Though not visible in the videos, the operator of the Facebook page for the Occupy U.C. Davis organization claimed that one police officer “shoved a pepper spray gun down a student’s throat and pulled the trigger.” On Saturday afternoon, the Facebook page announced that protesters would be working with attorneys to pursue legal action.

A spokesperson for the U.C. Davis police did not respond to a request for comment Saturday. Annette Spicuzza, the U.C. Davis police chief, told The Sacramento Bee that the officers used pepper spray on Friday because the police were surrounded by students. “There was no way out of that circle,” she told the newspaper. “They were cutting the officers off from their support. It’s a very volatile situation.”

The videos, however, show officers freely moving about and show students behaving peacefully. The university reported no instances of violence by any protesters.

Eyewitnesses uploaded their recordings late Friday. In a statement on Saturday that acknowledged the role of the eyewitnesses in raising awareness about the police’s behavior, the university’s chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, said she was saddened by “the events.”

What’s Cooking: What to Drink with the Turkey

Republished from November 24, 2010 for obvious timely reasons.

Now that we are done with cooking directions for the big day, time to pick the beverage that will not just accompany this spectacular meal but compliment the main course, the sides and deserts.

My usual choices for the wine is to have choices, serving both reds and whites. Cabernets and Sauvignon Blanc can be respectively too heavy and too acidic while the Chardonnays can be too oaky.

Don’t be afraid to ask the your wine merchant for suggestions. There are many very fine wines for those on a budget. Here are some of my suggestions:

Beaujolais Nouveau is the “first wine of the harvest” and the 2010 has just been released, This is a very “young” wine that spends little time in the cask between picking  and bottling. It is traditionally released on November 21 with great fan fare among wine around the world. It is light and fruity, should be served chilled. It goes well with not just the turkey but  everything from the appetizer cheese course to sweet potatoes and dressing to that pesky once a year veggie, Brussel Sprouts, not an easy feat. It is also inexpensive at less than $10 a bottle, the magnum is usually even more economical.

Pinot Noir is another good choice but not easy to find one that has some flavor and can be a little “pricey”, although there good ones in the $10 range.

For the whites there are two that I choose from Pinot Grigio or a slightly sweeter Riesling.

Pinot Grigio or Pinto Gris is a young fruity wine and depending on the region can be full bodied and “floral” to lighter, “spritszy” and a little acidic. I suggest the former and fond that the Pinot from Barefoot Cellars fits the bill and the pocketbook.

Riesling can be found in the German section and look for a Gewurztraminer or a slightly sweeter Spätlese.

The there is beer for those who prefer some foam and fizz. These are the suggestions from the Brewers Association:

   * Traditional Turkey – Amber ale or a lager like Oktoberfest, brown ale or a strong golden ale like triple

   * Smoked Turkey – a hoppy brown ale, Scotch ale or porter

   * Pumpkin pie – Spiced ale, winter warmer or old ale