01/06/2012 archive

This Week In The Dream Antilles


Your Bloguero hints you should buy his new novella

As you can see, your Bloguero has returned. He enjoyed his time away from the incessant yadda yadda and habla bla bla of the Blogosfera. He enjoyed his vacation away from his faithful keyboard. And from the odious task of promoting his latest book. He is now wearing conspicuous relaxation across his forehead. And he is so restored, believe this or don’t, that he’s not even going to complain, not even a little bit, that his return was not met by jazz bands, a parade, people throwing candy and beads and flowers. And pouring him drinks. He returned without any of that hoopla. Well, ok. He’s prepared to wait for that until February 21:

Actually, your Bloguero first returned on January 1, 2012, as originally scheduled. His first posting tried to focus on general gullibility. To your Bloguero, it seemed a trifle too easy, too comfortable to climb back into blogging. Oh well.

Then he wrote about nests that he found abiding in the fields, quoted two wonderful poems, and served up a Haiku.  If the weather in Eastern New York and Western New England were not unseasonably warm, your Bloguero would never have wandered the fields and would have had to climb through deep drifts of snow to find these abandoned nests.  

And your Bloguero got down to Three Kings, also called Epiphany, and the story of the Tres Reyes Magos.  Today, January 6th, is Epiphany. Your Bloguero wishes you Feliz dia de Reyes Magos!

The last post of the week was sad, the death of the author of the Bass Saxophone, Josef Skvorecky.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually, like this post, a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. It’s a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles in the previous week.  Sometimes, of course, it jumps the rails and doesn’t tell you anything about the past week.  Sometimes it gets all distracted and goes completely astray. Not toay. Your Bloguero is thankful that didn’t happen this week.

The most notorious safe haven for terrorists:

The U.S. Constitution.


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”.

Laurence Tribe: Games and Gimmicks in the Senate

ON Wednesday President Obama, using his power to make recess appointments, named Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A few hours later, he used the same power to appoint three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, acting to overcome unprecedented Senate encroachment on his duty to appoint executive officials. The president’s right to do so is clearly stated in the Constitution: the recess appointments clause empowers him to “fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

However, since the twilight years of the George W. Bush administration, the Senate has tried to nullify this power by holding “pro forma” sessions every three days, during what no one doubts would otherwise be an extended recess. In these sham sessions, manifestly serving only to circumvent the recess appointment safety valve, a lone senator gavels the Senate to order, usually for just a few minutes; senators even agree beforehand that no business will be conducted.

Paul Krugman: Bain, Barack and Jobs

America’s recovery from recession has been so slow that it mostly doesn’t seem like a recovery at all, especially on the jobs front. So, in a better world, President Obama would face a challenger offering a serious critique of his job-creation policies, and proposing a serious alternative.

Instead, he’ll almost surely face Mitt Romney.

Mr. Romney claims that Mr. Obama has been a job destroyer, while he was a job-creating businessman. For example, he told Fox News: “This is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is two million jobs that he lost as president.” He went on to declare, of his time at the private equity firm Bain Capital, “I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs.”

But his claims about the Obama record border on dishonesty, and his claims about his own record are well across that border.

David Sirota: 10 American ABCs We May Soon Forget

10 current words and phrases that my kid may never know because they might end up as relics of a lost vernacular, starting with “civil liberties.”

By far, the laziest, most vapid articles annually published during this post-holiday season are lists of the past year’s top 10 words and aphorisms. Admittedly, the sloth of such an endeavor tempts me. But as a new dad obsessed with my 1-year-old son’s future, I think I’ve got a more worthy list to add to the pile-one of current words and phrases that my kid may never know because they might end up as relics of a lost vernacular.

Here are those harrowing 10. I hope I’m wrong but fear I’m not.

New York Times Editorial: A Leaner Pentagon

With his new defense strategy, President Obama has put forward a generally pragmatic vision of how this country will organize and deploy its military in the 21st century, while also addressing its deep fiscal problems.

It is based on the idea that the country must be smarter and more restrained in its use of force – a relief after President George W. Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq. It will mean a significant reduction in the size of the Army and Marine Corps. But it doesn’t minimize the fact that the world is a very dangerous place and says the country must still be ready to fight a major land war – although one lasting for years would require another buildup.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Sweet Victories: Lessons for 2012

As we head into 2012, there are a lot of questions about where the Occupy energy will go from here. I’m confident it will move in powerful directions-fighting unjust foreclosures and evictions, exploring alternative banking, taking on outrageous student debt, countering the corrosive role of corporate money in politics, and allying in new ways with the growing ranks of poor Americans.

But there are also tangible-maybe not sexy or systemic-reforms that make a real difference in people’s lives and speak to OWS principles, and would benefit from its energy and activism. In 2011, two victories on paid sick leave offer something to build on as we work towards an economy that is more just and fair. Connecticut became the first state to guarantee this common sense protection for working people; and Seattle joined San Francisco and Washington, DC as the only cities with paid sick leave on the books.

Richard Reeve: America’s 5 Political Parties

It would seem that the United States has a five-party system right now. What was done in Iowa last Tuesday could unravel in New Hampshire, but whatever happens next, the United States is more politically fractured than it has been in decades.

Iowa is the beginning but has never been the bellwether of presidential campaigns. Too white, too rural, only 5.7 percent unemployment, and all that. But hard ideological lines shone through the Iowa results, even if the state had caucuses rather than an all-out primary, which means most of the folks who showed up were not only ordinary American citizens but also activists to some degree.

Big Profits For Big Pharma

From 2000 to 2009, Pharmaceutical companies reaped $690 billion in mergers and only invested 10% of that on research to find cures for 90% of the world’s diseases. The Unites States rank #1 in the amount that is spent on health care but only #37 when it comes to the quality of that care.

Author and medical ethicist, Harriet A. Washington’s recent book “Deadly Monopolies”, delves into the corporate takeover of the medical industry that is affecting the healthcare system and the future of medicine. The book also examines the role of medical patents in slowing U.S. research and inflate drug costs. Ms. Washington joined Dylan Ratigan and his panel to discuss “Big Pharma” and big profits.

Deadly Monopolies

You can read an adapted exert from “Deadly Monopolies” here

One of the diseases and its cure that it touched upon in this discussion is Human African trypanosomiasis HAT, or sleeping sickness. Second stage sleeping sickness is treated with eflornithine, which is given in 4 intravenous infusions daily for 14 days.

A little side story of Eflornithine and the fight that WHO and an NGO waged to get it produced. The drug was originally developed as a cancer treatment by Merrell Dow Research Institute in the late ’70’s. It wasn’t very effective as a cancer treatment but was found to reduce hair growth and, inadvertently, very a effective treatment for HAT. Eventually, it was developed and marketed as a prescription cream, Vaniqa, to treat women with excessive facial hair by the Gillette company.

The drug was registered for the treatment of gambiense HAT in 1990. However, in 1995 Aventis (now Sanofi-Aventis) stopped producing the drug, whose main market was African countries, because it didn’t make a profit. Production for the drug requires a separate facility because the process is very corrosive.

In 2001, Aventis (now Sanofi-Aventis) and the WHO formed a five-year partnership, during which more than 320,000 vials of pentamidine, over 420,000 vials of melarsoprol, and over 200,000 bottles of eflornithine were produced by Sanofi-Aventis, to be given to the WHO and distributed by the association Médecins Sans Frontières in countries where the sleeping sickness is endemic.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières, this only happened after “years of international pressure”, and coinciding with the period when media attention was generated because of the launch of the eflornithine-based product, Vaniqa, geared to prevention of facial-hair in women), while its life-saving formulation was not being produced.

From 2001, when production was restarted, through 2006, 14 million diagnoses were made. This greatly contributed to stemming the spread of sleeping sickness, and to saving nearly 110,000 lives. This changed the epidemiological profile of the disease, meaning that eliminating it altogether can now be envisaged.  

On this Day In History January 6

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.

January 6 is the sixth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 359 days remaining until the end of the year (360 in leap years).

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse’s telegraph system is demonstrated for the first time at the Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, New Jersey. The telegraph, a device which used electric impulses to transmit encoded messages over a wire, would eventually revolutionize long-distance communication, reaching the height of its popularity in the 1920s and 1930s.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born April 27, 1791, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He attended Yale University, where he was interested in art, as well as electricity, still in its infancy at the time. After college, Morse became a painter. In 1832, while sailing home from Europe, he heard about the newly discovered electromagnet and came up with an idea for an electric telegraph. He had no idea that other inventors were already at work on the concept.

Morse spent the next several years developing a prototype and took on two partners, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail, to help him. In 1838, he demonstrated his invention using Morse code, in which dots and dashes represented letters and numbers. In 1843, Morse finally convinced a skeptical Congress to fund the construction of the first telegraph line in the United States, from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. In May 1844, Morse sent the first official telegram over the line, with the message: “What hath God wrought!”

The Reaction Against Ron Paul

Washington is a one party town.

The party of the Aristocrats.  The Elite.  The Nepotists.

For the .1%, by the .01%

“This beautiful capital,” President Clinton said in his first inaugural address, “is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way.” With that, the new president sent a clear challenge to an already suspicious Washington Establishment.

And now, five years later, here was Clinton’s trusted adviser Rahm Emanuel, finishing up a speech at a fund-raiser to fight spina bifida before a gathering that could only be described as Establishment Washington.

“There are a lot of people in America who look at what we do here in Washington with nothing but cynicism,” said Emanuel. “Heck, there are a lot of people in Washington who look at us with nothing but cynicism.” But, he went on, “there are good people here. Decent people on both sides of the political aisle and on both sides of the reporter’s notebook.”

Emanuel, unlike the president, had become part of the Washington Establishment. “This is one of those extraordinary moments,” he said at the fund-raiser, “when we come together as a community here in Washington — setting aside personal, political and professional differences.”

Actually, it wasn’t extraordinary. When Establishment Washingtonians of all persuasions gather to support their own, they are not unlike any other small community in the country.

On this evening, the roster included Cabinet members Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala, Republicans Sen. John McCain and Rep. Bob Livingston, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, PBS’s Jim Lehrer and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, all behaving like the pals that they are. On display was a side of Washington that most people in this country never see. For all their apparent public differences, the people in the room that night were coming together with genuine affection and emotion to support their friends — the Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt and his wife, CNN’s Judy Woodruff, whose son Jeffrey has spina bifida.

But this particular community happens to be in the nation’s capital. And the people in it are the so-called Beltway Insiders — the high-level members of Congress, policymakers, lawyers, military brass, diplomats and journalists who have a proprietary interest in Washington and identify with it.

They call the capital city their “town.”


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

(h/t digby)

Too much unintentional truth for you?  I didn’t write it.

I do say this-

There is nothing more inflamatory or controversial you can do than point out that the essential structure of the elites is to perpetuate their own power through monopolies enforced by the power of the state.

I sense a disturbance…

The Confines of US Elections & the Scorn a Person Can Face for Challenging Them

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Thursday January 5, 2012 8:43 pm

Various “progressive voices” that agree or sympathize with GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul’s positions on wars, foreign policy and civil liberties have spoken in favor of the possible impact Paul could have on debate in this country during the 2012 Election. Those individuals have been quickly met with fervent disapproval from liberals who have reflexively suggested that any comments that could be considered supportive of Paul essentially mean one is “endorsing” Paul, urging people to support someone who opposes reproductive rights for women, arguing there are only marginal differences between Paul and President Barack Obama and that Paul just might be their secret political hero.

First, let’s establish the following: (1) I am not a supporter of Ron Paul’s campaign and I have no intention of donating money to the campaign (2) I sympathize with many of the positions that have compelled “progressive voices” to value his presence in the 2012 Election (3) I respect Paul’s right to run in the election and do consider him to be a serious candidate and (4) I fully expect liberals to reflexively point to Paul’s ultra-conservative positions, which lead him to support policies that particularly hurt women, minorities and even gays and doing so will only reinforce the points that I am making here.

C’thulhu fhtagn

Reason magazine frames the dilemma progressives are confronted with best: “What to say about a presidential candidate who wants to end foreign and domestic wars and protect civil liberties against the imperial presidency?”

For many progressives, this was what they were dedicated to as activists when President George W. Bush was president. They engaged in activism against the Iraq and Afghanistan War. They were opposed to more wars in countries like Pakistan or Iran and fought hard especially in 2006 to show that the Bush Administration might be going to war with Iran. They protested Bush’s use of torture and called for Guantanamo Bay to be shut down. They opposed Bush’s use of warrantless wiretapping and the expansion of surveillance state in America. They were opposed to the imperial presidency of Bush and were even moved to call for the impeachment of Cheney and Bush for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I am certain many progressives hoped Obama would clearly be on the other side of many of these issues. But, as his campaign for re-election kicks into high gear, this is the reality, a part of the “new normal” as ACLU referred to it. President Barack Obama has shielded officials who committed crimes during the Bush administration from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; invoked state secrets to prevent transparency; denied detainees habeas corpus and signed a National Defense Authorization Act that grants the military extraordinary powers to detain US citizens indefinitely without trial; continued to hold detainees at prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram in Afghanistan (in addition to black prison sites that likely still exist); employed navy ships to hold prisoners that can no longer be sent to Guantanamo because there will be public outrage; asserted an authority to target and kill US civilians and bypass due process; and forced detainees into military commissions or “kangaroo courts” that are essentially Kafkaesque proceedings where it is nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

Obama has gone after whistleblowers and stalled efforts to make government more transparent. He has expanded the use of drone warfare and used it in a way that has had a destabilizing impact in Pakistan. He has gone along with President George W. Bush’s plans for the Iraq War and had there not been a cable released by WikiLeaks that upset the Iraqi government because it detailed a massacre of Iraqi civilians carried out by US soldiers, which the US government had refused to investigate, the US might not have said it would withdraw all its soldiers by the end of 2011.

Imagine having to debate Paul on wars, on possible war with Iran, on drone warfare, on the expansion of the surveillance state and the PATRIOT Act, on the war on drugs, on transparency, whistleblowing and WikiLeaks, etc. Then, imagine President Obama having to find a way to neutralize and marginalize Paul’s positions. In the general election, there would inevitably be a wide space opened up for debate on foreign policy and civil liberties that would not be unlike the space for debate that Occupy Wall Street has opened up on economic inequality and injustice in America.

Additionally, Paul’s progressive critics, who are righteous in their opposition to him, would be able to watch President Obama challenge Paul on the very issues that lead them to chastise progressives who say anything that could be construed as supportive of Paul. President Obama could challenge him on reproductive rights, government regulation, marriage equality, health care, taxes and the role of the federal government in providing welfare to citizens.

This may all sound like a fairy tale that will never happen, but the point is not whether it is realistic or not. The point is that if Obama’s had to run against Paul he would have to answer questions on some very important issues, which he has had a dismal record on in his first term as president.

Hmmm…  Imagine that.

Democratic Party priorities

Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Thursday, Jan 5, 2012 5:50 AM Eastern Standard Time

For those who are extremely dissatisfied with the status quo in American political life and are seeking ways to change it, supporting one of the two major-party candidates in the 2012 presidential campaign as the principal form of activism offers no solution. That’s not an endorsement for resignation, apathy, non-voting, voting for a third party, or anything else. It’s just a simple statement of fact: on many issues that progressives themselves have long claimed are of critical, overarching importance (not all, but many), there will be virtually no debate in the election because there are virtually no differences between the two candidates and the two parties on those questions. In the face of that fact, there are two choices: (1) simply accept it (and thus bolster it) on the basis that the only political priority that matters is keeping the Democratic Party and Barack Obama empowered; or (2) searching for ways to change the terms of the debate so that critical views that are now excluded by bipartisan consensus instead end up being heard.

(L)abeling people “crazy” as a means of dismissing their views – basically depicting political disagreement as a mental illness – is one of the oldest and stalest means of discrediting people who dissent; it’s basically the prime weapon used to enforce mainstream orthodoxy and punish dissidents. Taken to its most extreme and odious conclusion, the Soviet Union institutionalized anyone challenging Communist orthodoxy in mental hospitals, and China now does the same. Charles Krauthammer continuously abused his psychiatric license to diagnose Bush critics as suffering from mental illnesses and to delegitimize (progressive) criticisms of Bush as a form of insanity; to accomplish this, he even purported to identify a new disease, Bush Derangement Syndrome, which is the exact phrase (with “Obama” symbolically replacing “Bush”) that has now seamlessly been adopted and applied to critics of the current President by some of the most rabid Obama defenders.

If you don’t really care about these issues – war, empire, the denial of due process, suffocating secrecy, ongoing killing of foreign civilians, oligarchical manipulation of the Fed and other government policies, militarized foreign policy and police practices, etc. –  then it’s easy to blithely dismiss the need to find some way to challenge the bipartisan consensus on those issues.

(D)espite vocally feigning grave concern about these issues during the Bush years, they are not a priority for many progressives precisely because they no longer provide any means of obtaining partisan advantage. How can you pretend to vehemently oppose the slaughter of foreign civilians, the deprivation of due process, a posture of Endless War, radical secrecy, etc., when the President behind whom you’re faithfully marching is an aggressive advocate and implementer of those very policies? It’s certainly possible – based on lesser-of-two-evils rationale – to vote for a President who does these things while simultaneously opposing those policies. But for those who insist that all political salvation lies exclusively within the Democratic Party: the only course of action to reconcile these conflicts is to de-prioritize them, to decide they no longer really matter, and thus remain content with a President and a Party who does these things with such abandon.

I actually don’t believe that the progressive reaction to this discussion is about Ron Paul. The same anger would be provoked by favorably comparing any political figure outside of the Democratic Party to President Obama on important issues, especially in an election year (I can guarantee that the same reaction would be triggered by pointing to the benefits of, say, Gary Johnson, who just scored the highest on the ACLU’s Civil Liberties report card). That, as I suggested in my first article, is viewed as the supreme sin, the one that must trigger oceans of denunciation and attack in order to deter similar acts of heresy.

The point is not to delegitimize the viewing of at Ron Paul’s candidacy as providing an important antidote to some of President Obama’s grave moral and political failings. The real point is to delegitimze any effort to turn elsewhere away from President Obama or to do anything to point out that he suffers grave moral and political failings at all (here is the scorn Drum heaped on the Democratic presidential candidates in 2008 who challenged many of these same policies). The mission here is to enforce partisan loyalty: criticize all you want, but stay loyally in the fold. Even as a means to expand and improve the range of debate, suggesting that someone may be comparatively superior to President Obama on vital issues – especially when that someone is not a loyal member of the Democratic Party – is the real sin.