Daily Archive: 01/17/2012

Jan 17 2012

Occupy This Blog!

As a matter of policy, TheMomCat and I, DocuDharma and The Stars Hollow Gazette, are firmly against SOPA and PIPA and in support of the January 18th Internet Shut Down Direct Action.

Since our sites are hosted by Soapblox and are community blogs that accept and encourage content from regular members just like you we can’t exactly pull the plug, nor do we think it a public service to do so.

It will in any event be difficult or impossible to operate as usual.

What you can expect is a greatly reduced posting schedule from us and that many links, videos, and pictures will be temporarily unavailable.  I urge desperate readers to revisit our back catalog of political prescience, humor, and time wasting bloopers (not so many of those).

Members may wish to create their own fun.  The ‘Recent’ list is always available and we’ll be around to do promotions of timely topics.

We appreciate your support and interest and look forward to your continued participation in our success together.

Jan 17 2012

But, if not…


I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old as I happen to be, and one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause–and you refuse to do it because you are afraid; you refuse to do it because you want to live longer; you’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you’re afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house, and so you refuse to take the stand.

Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90! And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice.

Who are the victims of civil liberties assaults and Endless War?

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 7:29 AM

Part of the debate over the last couple weeks among progressives regarding political priorities, the Obama presidency, the Ron Paul candidacy and the like has entailed a litany of accusations – smears – hurled at those of us who insist on the prioritization of issues of war and civil liberties abuses, and who vocally highlight the ways in which the Democratic Party generally and President Obama specifically have been so awful on these matters. Some Democratic loyalists have explicitly argued that contrasting Obama with Ron Paul on these issues is warped because issues of war and civil liberties are, at best, ancillary concerns, while others have gone so far as to claim that only racial and/or gender bias – white male “privilege” – would cause someone to use the Paul candidacy to highlight how odious Obama has been in these areas.

Leaving aside the fact that (as I detail in the discussion with Pollitt), numerous women and people of color have made the same points about the vital benefits of Paul’s candidacyvoices which these accusers tellingly ignore and silence – these accusations are pure projection. Those who were operating from such privilege would not seek to prioritize issues of war and civil liberties; that’s because it isn’t white progressives and their families who are directly harmed by these heinous policies. The opposite is true: it’s very easy, very tempting, for those driven by this type of “privilege” – for non-Muslims in particular- to decide that these issues are not urgent, that Endless War and civil liberties abuses by a President should not be disqualifying or can be tolerated, precisely because these non-Muslim progressive accusers are not acutely affected by them. The kind of “privilege” these accusers raise would cause one to de-prioritize and accept civil liberties abuses, drone slaughter, indefinite detention and the like (i.e, do what they themselves do), not demand that significant attention be paid to them when assessing political choices.

First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Niemöller

Birmingham Jail

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

(op. cite)

Where you going this morning, my friends, tell the world that you’re going with truth. You’re going with justice, you’re going with goodness, and you will have an eternal companionship. And the world will look at you and they won’t understand you, for your fiery furnace will be around you, but you’ll go on anyhow. But if not, I will not bow, and God grant that we will never bow before the gods of evil.

(h/t welshTerrier2)

Jan 17 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”.

Robert Reich: Free Enterprise on Trial

Mitt Romney is casting the 2012 campaign as “free enterprise on trial” – defining free enterprise as achieving success through “hard work and risking-taking.” Tea-Party favorite Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina says he’s supporting Romney because “we really need someone who understands how risk, taking risk … is the way we create jobs, create choices, expand freedom.” Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue, defending Romney, explains “this economy is about risk. If you don’t take risk, you can’t have success.”

Wait a minute. Who do they think are bearing the risks? Their blather about free enterprise risk-taking has it upside down. The higher you go in the economy, the easier it is to make money without taking any personal financial risk at all. The lower you go, the bigger the risks.

Bill McKibben: Agitators in the Oilsands Debates are Working for Oil Companies

I’ve been visiting Canada all my life, but I’m a little worried about my upcoming trip.

In late March I’m supposed to come to Vancouver to give a couple of talks. Youth Action Canada invited me to come, to speak to college students from across the country; I’m also planning to do a benefit for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But now I read that Joe Oliver, the country’s natural resources minister, is condemning “environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block” the Northern Gateway pipeline from the oilsands of Alberta to the Pacific.

I think he’s talking about people like me. I’ve spent much of the last year helping rally opposition to the Key-stone XL pipeline from the oilsands to the Gulf of Mexico. I was arrested outside the White House in August, and emceed the demonstration that brought thousands of people to circle the White House in November. When I come to British Columbia, I’ll urge everyone I meet to oppose the Gate-way project. In fact, Youth Action is paying me to come. And the money will end up at 350.org, the international climate change campaign, helping fight projects like Gateway around the world.

Eugene Robinson: A Fair Share of Scrutiny

From all evidence, the issue of economic justice isn’t going away. Break the news gently to Mitt Romney, who seems apoplectic that the whole “rich get richer, poor get poorer” thing is being discussed out loud. In front of the children, for goodness’ sake.

“You know I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms,” he told the “Today” show’s Matt Lauer last week. “But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach.”

Actually, those blasts weren’t comimg from President Obama. That was Romney’s competition for the Republican nomination, sounding like a speakers’ lineup at an Occupy Wall Street rally.

Charles M. Blow: Newt Gingrich and the Art of Racial Politics

I’ll spare you the video. TMC

That’s the way I like to spend my Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: watching Newt Gingrich sneer at Juan Williams, a black man, for having the temerity to ask him if his condescending remarks about the work ethic of poor black people are indeed condescending:

   Juan Williams:  Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also say poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed as at a minimum as insulting to all Americans but particularly to black Americans?

   Newt Gingrich: No, I don’t see that (applause).

Gingrich went on to say that the children would be “getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.”

The first implication here is that elites are liberals, not men like Gingrich – whose net worth The Los Angeles Times has estimated to be $6.7 million, who was a history professor, who was paid $1.6 million dollars by Freddie Mac for “advice,” and who had a half million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s.

If Gingrich isn’t among America’s elite, the word no longer has meaning.

New York Times Editorial: Taxes and Transparency

Barack Obama released his tax records when he ran for president in 2008. So did Richard Nixon in 1968. In fact, so did George Romney in that same campaign.

But, in 2012, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and onetime chief executive of a private equity firm, is still hedging about whether he will do so.

Candidates for the presidency are not legally required to release their tax records, but they generally have for many years now – because American voters have a right to know how the men and women who want to be president make their money.

Barry Lando: Iran, the U.S. and Israel: Blind Man’s Bluff

In a perilous spiral of assassinations, threats and counterthreats, leaders in Washington, Jerusalem and Tehran keep ratcheting up the tension. What is most alarming about the situation is that the principal players and their advisers are engaged in an incredibly dangerous three-way game of blind man’s bluff.

None of them expresses a real understanding of the others-their motives, their concerns or their likely reactions. That’s true even for Israel and the United States: Though the U.S. risks being sucked into any conflict between Israel and Iran, the Obama administration is currently forced to guess what its supposed allies in Israel are planning.

Jan 17 2012

Protesting SOPA, Web Sites Go Dark

Over the weekend the discussion about bills pending in Congress that would change the Internet has started to get some attention. Opposition to Stop Internet Piracy Act, House version and the Senate’s version, Protect the Internet Privacy Act came from the White House in a statement expressing concerns that the bills would stifle innovation and infringe on free speech and lead to “online censorship of lawful activity.” While the White House statement did not say Pres. Obama would veto it, it was a clear condemnation of the flaws critics have pointed to in the bill.

One of the most controversial portions of the House bill that would require Internet service providers to block infringing websites was removed completely by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) secured a promise from Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that the House will not vote unless there is consensus on the bill. A Reddit campaign managed to persuade Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to oppose the bill, for instance.

On the Senate side, PIPA had up unit now blocked by a lone senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR. He has now been joined by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)and Mark Udall (D-CO). Similarly, six Republican Senators, including two co-sponsors — Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (the two co-sponsors) along with  John Cornyn (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) — have asked Aenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D_NV)not to bring the cloture vote he’s promised to bring on the 24th. Sen. Pat Leahy, a key sponsor of the Protect IP Act, has conceded that more study is needed for the provisions that would allow rogue sites to be delisted from the Domain Name Service (basically the Internet’s phone directory). Critics have warned that mucking with DNS could splinter the architecture of the Internet.

On Wednesday beginning at midnight, several major web sites will go dark for 24 hours. Websites Wikpedia, Reddit, Craig’s List and ICanHasCheezburger.com are among the larger sites that will participate. The document-sharing site Scribd, for instance, made a billion pages vanish to protest the bill. Wikipedia users can view proposed designs for “blackout pages,” which may appear in place of normal Wikipedia entries during the protest on January 18.

Photobucket

click on image to enlarge.

In New York City, New York Tech Meetup, a 20,000 member community of people working in the New York Tech Industry are protesting the pending legislation in from of the offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand who are still supporting the bill and urging Sen. Reid to bring the bill to the floor for cloture. One of the largest areas of job growth in NYC has been in the tech industries. New York Tech believes that SOPA, besides threatening freedom of speech, will kill those jobs.

You can physically join the NYC Protest at this site:

Emergency NY Tech Meetup.

When: Wednesday January 18, 2012

Time 12:30-2:00PM

Where: 780 Third Ave (at 49th street) – outside the offices of New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

Jan 17 2012

Go Vikings!

You have to ask yourself, why give free money to Banksters?

Iceland makes fledgling recovery from its economic meltdown

By Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

Published: January 16

Iceland did what the United States chose not to do – allow its biggest banks to fail and force foreign creditors to take a hike. It did what troubled European nations saddled with massive debts and tethered by the euro cannot do – allow its currency to remain weak, causing inflation but making its exports more desirable and its prices more attractive to tourists.



Realizing the peril – and perhaps the fallacy – of trying to rescue the banks, Iceland’s government ultimately let them collapse. “No responsible government takes risks with the future of its people, even when the banking system itself is as stake,” the prime minister said in an unprecedented address to the nation in October 2008.



In the wake of the catastrophe, officials guaranteed deposits of Icelandic citizens but refused to pay off many foreign investors – a controversial move that remains a sore spot here and in Europe. The government created new banks made up of the domestic operations of the failed firms. The old banks, which held foreign assets, are being dismantled and their assets sold, with proceeds going to pay off creditors.



The country’s debt grew to more than 100 percent of GDP in 2011. But even as government officials made budget cuts in an effort to return to a more sustainable path, they deliberately safeguarded its already-generous social safety net, adding and expanding programs targeted to the most vulnerable groups. In part to offset those measures, the country put in place new taxes on the banking system and on wealthy individuals.



Allowing the krona to remain weak has hastened Iceland’s return to stability. The country’s exports, which feature fish and aluminum, were running about 11 percent higher last year, and the tourism industry also showed an 11 percent increase through November. But struggling countries bound together by the euro, such as Greece and Portugal, don’t have the ability to let their currency fluctuate to more favorable levels.

Judging by economic data and by the workaday scenes of life in the capital, the economic engines are turning again. “For a country whose entire financial system collapsed, Iceland is doing remarkably well,” said Julie Kozack, the IMF’s mission chief for Iceland, adding that the country “is not out of the woods yet.”

But wait ek you say, what about all those scary bad no good things the Post reports are the evil consequences of kicking the Bankster’s asses out on the street corner to sell apples like, like, like…

LIKE POOR PEOPLE!

Oh, you mean like-

Iceland has weathered the worst of the financial crisis, but its society has yet to solve the identity crisis that followed in its wake.



The crisis scarred Iceland’s national psyche, and citizens are wrestling with profound questions, not only about how to return to better financial footing but also about what kind of society should emerge.

Well-

Inflation has fallen. Consumers are spending more money. There are new investments in geothermal energy, and the fishing waters remain plentiful. Hammers and power saws have become a familiar sound again in Reykjavik. Fewer Range Rovers clog the streets, but there’s no lack of Audis and Mercedes or BMWs.

But ek- SCARRING THE NATIONAL PSYCHE!

Businessmen came and went from Reykjavik in private jets. They bought showy yachts and multimillion-dollar vacation homes. Bankers became a popular and swaggering breed; after all, they were handing out a slew of high-paying jobs and providing a fortune in tax revenue.

“You had to be crazy not to want to become a banker,” said Heimir Hannesson, a student council member at the University of Iceland. “You went to college, studied business. You became a millionaire overnight. That was the dream. And for a few years, it was the reality.”



“What we had before was some sort of irrational exuberance. That has left, and maybe that’s a good thing,” said Gylfi Magnusson, an Icelandic economist who served as minister of economic affairs after the crash.



“The smaller the country gets, the bigger the national pride, the bigger the soul. Here we are on a tiny island, with nothing but our pride,” said Hannesson, the student council member.



“The modern-day financial Vikings, I think we feel scarred by the reputation they gave us,” he said. “Especially among the younger population, there’s a desire to do things better and more honorably.”

Jan 17 2012

On this Day In History January 17

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 17 is the 17th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 348 days remaining until the end of the year (349 in leap years).

On this day in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his farewell address to the nation warning the American people to keep a careful eye on what he calls the “military-industrial complex” that has developed in the post-World War II years.

A fiscal conservative, Eisenhower had been concerned about the growing size and cost of the American defense establishment since he became president in 1953. In his last presidential address to the American people, he expressed those concerns in terms that frankly shocked some of his listeners.

Eisenhower began by describing the changing nature of the American defense establishment since World War II. No longer could the U.S. afford the “emergency improvisation” that characterized its preparations for war against Germany and Japan. Instead, the United States was “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry” and a huge military force. He admitted that the Cold War made clear the “imperative need for this development,” but he was gravely concerned about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.” In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

Military-industrial complex (MIC) is a concept commonly used to refer to policy relationships between governments, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them. These relationships include political approval for research, development, production, use, and support for military training, weapons, equipment, and facilities within the national defense and security policy. It is a type of iron triangle.

The term is most often played in reference to the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address speech of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure.

It is sometimes used more broadly to include the entire network of contracts and flows of money and resources among individuals as well as institutions of the defense contractors, The Pentagon, and the Congress and executive branch. This sector is intrinsically prone to principal-agent problem, moral hazard, and rent seeking. Cases of political corruption have also surfaced with regularity.

A similar thesis was originally expressed by Daniel Guerin, in his 1936 book Fascism and Big Business, about the fascist government support to heavy industry. It can be defined as, “an informal and changing coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral, and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs”.

Jan 17 2012

Republican Debate Open Thread

Sometimes people say to me (in varying tones of accusation)- ‘ek, you don’t seem to focus much on Republicans.’

That’s because the Republican Party is a fringe group of insane, racist, Randians.

Their ideas and policies are no more worthy of consideration in rational political discourse than the lead addled ravings of a Caligulan Courtier.

Except, of course, in Washington D.C. which speaks more volumes about their bootlicking insularity than there are in the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

With Huntsman’s departure the only lips on that stage tonight, including the audience, moderators, and questioners, that might breathe a word of truth, fact, or relevance are Ron Paul’s.

Does that scare you?  Let me say it again then- RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul, RonPaul.

What should scare you is that only a wacky, racist, Bircher operates in the same world of reality that you and I and the other 99.9% of us belong to and for that he is reviled and ignored by an establishment elite with a 30 year record of abject failure.

The debate is on Faux Noise.  If you feel compelled you can comment below.