Daily Archive: 01/09/2012

Jan 09 2012

Yup.

The story Washington doesn’t want you to hear.

American People Turn Against Party Identification

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Monday January 9, 2012 10:15 am

In 2005 the disaster of the war in Iraq and the corruption of the Republican Congress starting turning votes away from the GOP and towards the Democratic party. As a result we saw big wins for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 as Americans stopped identifying with Republicans and starting seeing themselves as Democrats.

President Obama’s horrible mismanagement of his first two years in office caused a massive movement away from the Democrats and a small return to the GOP. This produced the big Republican wave of 2010.

Since taking control of the House the Republicans’ awful behavior has driven support for Congress to new lows and turned regular people against the GOP. This drop in support for the GOP, however, hasn’t caused people to start seeing themselves as Democrats again. The American people still feel burned by the Democrats’ failure to deliver for regular people from 2009-2010.

We have a country upset with both parties and the whole political system that is rigged to keep these two failed parties as our only choices. This dynamic is manifested in different ways. In addition to having a record number of people saying their are not aligning with either party, the young populist energy in the country is now flowing into direct political action that isn’t partisan, such as the occupy movement.

Jan 09 2012

Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Oh My

In 2006, the public policy research organization, The Cato Institute, invited some leading liberal Democratic columnists and bloggers to discuss the question if Libertarians should vote Democratic:

In over a half-decade of Republican political dominance, Americans have witnessed a huge expansion in the scope and cost of government, a questionably just and so-far unsuccessful war in Iraq, serious erosions of civil liberty, and a troubling tendency toward an imperial executive. Is it time for the traditional alliance between libertarians and conservatives to finally end? If Republicans in power have failed so utterly to promote libertarian ideals, would libertarians better advance their cause by supporting Democrats at the polls? Of course, the fact that libertarians have been so badly abused by conservatives doesn’t necessarily imply they will find a more welcoming home among liberals. Is the Democratic tent big enough to include small-government free marketeers. Perhaps libertarians have something to gain by supporting to Democrats, but does the Democratic party have anything to gain by courting libertarians?

Markos “Kos” Moulitsas, proprietor of DailyKos, opened the discussion with the lead article, The Case for the Libertarian Democrat:

It was my fealty to the notion of personal liberty that made me a Republican when I came of age in the 1980s. It is my continued fealty to personal liberty that makes me a Democrat today.

The case against the libertarian Republican is so easy to make that I almost feel compelled to stipulate it and move on. It is the case for the libertarian Democrat that has created much discussion and not a small amount of controversy when I first introduced the notion in what was, in reality, a throwaway blog post on Daily Kos on a slow news day in early June 2006.

Moulitsas went on to describe how the article was attacked by Libertarians unwilling to recognize they were losing their “grasp of libertarian principles” but at the same time were “unwilling to cede any ground to a liberal“. The real surprise came from the general reaction:

[O]f Americans who are uncomfortable with Republican/conservative efforts to erode our civil liberties while intruding into our bedrooms and churches; they don’t like unaccountable corporations invading their privacy, holding undue control over their economic fortunes, and despoiling our natural surroundings; yet they also don’t appreciate the nanny state, the over-regulation of small businesses, the knee-jerk distrust of the free market, or the meddlesome intrusions into mundane personal matters.

The discussion in that introduction continues with Moulitsas explaining why he is, in essence, a Libertarian Democrat, how liberal Democrats relate to Libertarians, the Conservatives’ “war on freedom” and why he believed that there was a rise of Libertarian Democrats. He went on to write three more article for that series:

  • A New Breed of Democrats
  • The Internal Democratic Struggle
  • Don’t Wait for Inspiration, Do Something!
  • They are well worth reading and book marking.

    Since then, Mr. Moulitsas has become a prominent voice for the left and has used the Internet to bring liberal/progressive policies into political mainstream and to the attention of what he calls the “traditional” media.  

    Jan 09 2012

    Judge Rakoff and the SEC

    Recently Federal District Court Judge Jed Rackoff rejected the $285 million settlement that Citibank had negotiated with the SEC over $1 billion in mortgage securities fraud that would also have exonerated the bank of guilt. The SEC acceptance of “neither admit nor deny” language that has been considered “boilerplate” in these settlements has now been, not only rejected by the courts, but dropped by the SEC in securities fraud cases:

    The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a fundamental policy shift, said Friday that it would no longer allow defendants to say they neither admit nor deny civil fraud or insider trading charges when, at the same time, they admit to or have been convicted of criminal violations.

    The change is the first time that the S.E.C. has stepped back from its longstanding practice of allowing companies to settle fraud charges by paying a fine without admitting wrongdoing. The new policy will also apply to cases where a company or an individual enters an agreement with criminal authorities to defer prosecution or to not be prosecuted as part of a settlement.

    Robert Khuzami, the director of enforcement at the S.E.C., said the agency would continue to use the “neither admit nor deny” settlement process when the agency alone reached a deal with a company in a case of civil securities law violations. Those types of cases make up a large majority of S.E.C. settlements.

    As David Dayen at FDL so rightly notes, “This is a first step to stopping this travesty of allowing companies to get off the hook and pay their way out of fraud violations without even admitting they did anything wrong. And this never happens without the work of Jed Rakoff.”

    Jan 09 2012

    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”.

    Paul Krugman: America’s Unlevel Field

    Last month President Obama gave a speech invoking the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt on behalf of progressive ideals – and Republicans were not happy. Mitt Romney, in particular, insisted that where Roosevelt believed that “government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities,” Mr. Obama believes that “government should create equal outcomes,” that we should have a society where “everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk.”

    As many people were quick to point out, this portrait of the president as radical redistributionist was pure fiction. What hasn’t been as widely noted, however, is that Mr. Romney’s picture of himself as a believer in a level playing field is just as fictional. Where is the evidence that he or his party cares at all about equality of opportunity?

    Let’s talk for a minute about the actual state of the playing field.

    New York Times Editorial: Haiti’s Slow Recovery

    The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission was one of Haiti’s great hopes after the earthquake, a Haitian-led international partnership that would finally summon the money, will and organizational intelligence to build the country back better than before. But if you visit the commission’s Web site today, on the eve of the second anniversary of the Jan. 12 disaster, this is what you see:

    “Please kindly note that the mandate of the I.H.R.C. expired on October 21, 2011. Pending a decision of the Haitian Parliament regarding the future of the institution, a team is currently dealing with day-to-day business. The (re)submission of project proposals remains closed until further notice.”

    President Michel Martelly has so far failed to get Parliament’s approval to extend the mandate.

    Bill Keller: Just the Ticket

    THE beginning of a new year is a time for resolutions, and Hillary Clinton’s admirers are already busily, lovingly resolving on her behalf. On one sideline, her friends tell me that after a few years of hyperactive globetrotting what she really needs is to put her feet up and dictate another volume of her memoirs while nagging Chelsea to deliver grandchildren. (“She’s tired; she needs some time off,” her husband told ABC.) At the other extreme, a couple of Democratic consultants, Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen, propose to draft her right now as the 2012 Democratic presidential candidate, whether she likes it or not. (“Not only is Mrs. Clinton better positioned to win in 2012 than Mr. Obama, but she is better positioned to govern if she does,” they wrote in The Wall Street Journal.) Other helpful devotees have noticed that Brown University is looking for a new president, or have imagined her creating a clone of the Clinton Global Initiative focused on empowering women. Or maybe Ruth Bader Ginsburg will decide to put her feet up, opening a seat on the Supreme Court.

    The right choice is none of the above. [..]

    The proposal to draft her in place of President Obama this year is preposterous. It exaggerates his vulnerability and discounts Hillary’s loyalty. But the idea that she should replace Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate in 2012 is something else. It has been kicking around on the blogs for more than a year without getting any traction, mainly because it has been authoritatively, emphatically dismissed by Hillary, Biden and Team Obama.

    It’s time to take it seriously.

    Robert Naiman: Judy Miller Alert! The New York Times is Lying About Iran’s Nuclear Program

    It’s deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party’s colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is lying about allegations that said country is developing “weapons of mass destruction.”

    In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 (“Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil “), this paragraph appeared:

       The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined withe a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objectiv, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]

    The claim that there is “a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective” is a lie.

    Eugene Robinson: Hawk in a Clown-Car Field

    Before there was the tea party to define the phrase “far-right fringe,” there was Rick Santorum. He’s a nice-guy zealot who should never be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office.

    It’s understandable that progressives would be tempted to cheer Santorum’s sudden rise as a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. The likely nominee, Mitt Romney, would love to be able to modulate his rhetoric and begin running a more centrist campaign that could appeal to independents in November. But if Santorum continues to pose a threat, Romney will likely have to move even further right-ceding valuable political ground to President Obama.

    And if Santorum somehow manages to win the nomination, he will be easier for Obama to beat than Romney. I mean, Obama beats him easily. Doesn’t he?

    But I know there’s no such thing as an airtight guarantee, and that’s why those welcoming the Santorum surge for Machiavellian reasons should be careful what they wish for.

    E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Stuck in the Bloody Primaries

    WINDHAM, N.H.-It isn’t every day that political candidates are asked whether the 10th Amendment allows states to nullify federal laws, but that was precisely the question Rick Santorum faced at a forum here a few days ago organized by a libertarian-leaning group.

    To his credit, Santorum did not pander to the nullifier. “We had a Civil War about nullification,” Santorum said with a smile. “I’m not sure I want to go there.”

    But Santorum’s experience raises a larger question about this year’s Republican primary contest: Rather than strengthening the party for the coming battle against President Obama, will it instead leave it more marginalized from the views of swing voters? Have the party’s candidates, particularly Mitt Romney, had to spend too much time and energy wooing voters far to the right of the mainstream?

    Jan 09 2012

    Bloomberg!

    Making it safe for Billionaires to ride the Subway again.

    Relax, if You Want, but Don’t Put Your Feet Up

    By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN and CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY, The New York Times

    Published: January 6, 2012

    It is perhaps the most minor crime New Yorkers are routinely arrested for: sitting improperly on a subway seat. Seven years ago, rule 1050(7)(J) of the city’s transit code criminalized what was once simply bad etiquette: passengers putting their feet on a subway seat. They also cannot take up more than one seat if it interferes with other passengers’ comfort, nor can they block movement on a subway by doing something like standing too close to the doors.



    Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman, said enforcement of subway regulations had made the transit system much safer.

    “One of the reasons that crime on the subways has plummeted from almost 50 crimes a day in 1990 to only seven now is because the N.Y.P.D. enforces violations large and small, often encountering armed or wanted felons engaged in relatively minor offenses, like putting their feet up, smoking on a platform, walking or riding between cars, or fare beating,” Mr. Browne said.

    Jan 09 2012

    On this Day In History January 9

    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 9 is the ninth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 356 days remaining until the end of the year (357 in leap years).

    On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

    Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. Mermaids are closely linked to sirens, another folkloric figure, part-woman, part-bird, who live on islands and sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths.

    West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout.

    Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within the United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common. West Indian manatees can also be found in the coastal and inland waterways of Central America and along the northern coast of South America, although distribution in these areas may be discontinuous.

    Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous.

    West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. As with all wild animal populations, a certain percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes of death such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases. A high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. Most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft.

    Jan 09 2012

    Constitutional Game of Chicken: Presidential Signing Statements

    Bill Moyers’ Journal: Presidential Signing Statements

    Defend the Constitution!

    Obama’s Signing Statement on NDAA: I have the power to detain Americans… but I won’t

    ABA: Presidential Signing Statements are ‘Contrary to the Rule of Law’

    Signing Statement on NDAA

    The Worst Part of the Signing Statement: Section 1024

    Jan 09 2012

    Pique the Geek 20120108: Aluminum Part II of II

    Last week we discussed the production and uses of aluminum, and that piece got a lot of comment traffic and made the Kos Recommended List, which I value greatly.  Some of the comments asked questions and made me decide to write a follow up piece, because some of the questions were excellent in their own right, and some of them also caused me to think a bit further about our use of this material.

    Tonight we shall concentrate on a few more uses of aluminum, why it is so unique, and less environmentally damaging ways to produce it.  It turns out that there is an experimental process to refine aluminum that does not produce nearly as much carbon dioxide as the Hall-Héroult process, and might be more energy efficient as well.

    There is no time like the present, so let us get started!  That is unless you have an objection.