04/04/2012 archive

Opening Day


Porky’s Baseball Broadcast

Play Ball.

Democracy Under Water

‘Dictatorship is coming back to the Maldives and democracy is slipping away’

Decca Aitkenhead, The Guardian

Sunday 1 April 2012 13.03 EDT

Nasheed is no stranger to high drama, but even by his own standards the past two months have been quite extraordinary. Born into a middle-class Maldives family in 1967, and educated in England, on graduation Nasheed – known as Anni – returned to a country in the grip of what many regarded as a dictatorship under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Nasheed set up a magazine, began publishing articles accusing the regime of corruption and brutality, and was promptly arrested, imprisoned, held in solitary confinement and tortured. Jailed 16 separate times, he missed the births of his two daughters and became an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, before fleeing into exile in 2003.

But after 30 years in office, in 2008 Gayoom yielded to pressure and held the country’s first democratic elections, which swept “the Mandela of the Maldives” to power. Quickly claimed by David Cameron as “my new best friend”, the young president became an international folk hero, and the face of a nation that, as he warned the UN, will be underwater “before the end of this century” unless the world acts now on climate change.

The Maldives’ transition to democracy was, however, ominously incomplete. According to Nasheed, elements still loyal to Gayoom were undermining reforms, and in response to repeated constitutional crises many opposition MPs and officials were arrested and detained during Nasheed’s administration. In January, frustrated by the judiciary’s attempts to thwart his reforms, Nasheed ordered the arrest of chief justice Abdulla Mohamed. Protesters loyal to the old regime took to the streets, supported by factions within the police, and on 7 February, after weeks of unrest, Nasheed was confronted by armed military officers. “There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I didn’t resign,” he told reporters that evening. It wasn’t a resignation, he says simply, but a coup d’état.

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”.

Maureen Dowd: Men in Black

How dare President Obama brush back the Supreme Court like that?

Has this former constitutional law instructor no respect for our venerable system of checks and balances?

Nah. And why should he?

This court, cosseted behind white marble pillars, out of reach of TV, accountable to no one once they give the last word, is well on its way to becoming one of the most divisive in modern American history.

It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.

Rachel Maddow: How America’s Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane

If no one knows if our security-industrial complex is making us safer, why have we built it? Why are we still building it, at breakneck speed?

In the little town where I live in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, we now have a “Public Safety Complex” around the corner from what used to be our hokey Andy Griffith-esque fire station. In the cascade of post-9/11 Homeland Security money in the first term of the George W. Bush administration, our town’s share of the loot bought us a new fire truck-one that turned out to be a few feet longer than the garage where the town kept our old fire truck. So then we got some more Homeland money to build something big enough to house the new truck. In homage to the origin of the funding, the local auto detailer airbrushed on the side of the new truck a patriotic tableau of a billowing flaglike banner, a really big bald eagle, and the burning World Trade Center towers.

The American taxpayers’ investment in my town’s security didn’t stop at the new safety complex. I can see further fruit of those Homeland dollars just beyond my neighbor’s back fence. While most of us in town depend on well water, there are a few houses that for the past decade or so have been hooked up to a municipal water supply. And when I say “a few,” I mean a few: I think there are seven houses on municipal water. Around the time we got our awesome giant new fire truck, we also got a serious security upgrade to that town water system. Its tiny pump house is about the size of two phone booths and accessible by a dirt driveway behind my neighbor’s back lot. Or at least it used to be. The entire half-acre parcel of land around that pump house is now ringed by an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and fronted with a motion-sensitive electronically controlled motorized gate. On our side of town we call it “Little Guantánamo.” Mostly it’s funny, but there is some neighborly consternation over how frowsy Little Guantánamo gets every summer. Even though it’s town-owned land, access to Little Guantánamo is apparently above the security clearance of the guy paid to mow and brush-hog. Right up to the fence, it’s my neighbors’ land and they keep everything trim and tidy. But inside that fence, the grass gets eye-high. It’s going feral in there.

Joan Walsh: The Root of the Conservative War on Contraception Comes From a Deep-seated Anxiety

The new GOP code word this year is “dependency,” and they’re afraid of it for a few different reasons.

Liberals have documented the existence of a bitter Republican campaign against women’s health and freedom, but I don’t think we’ve identified its cause or its full intent. It may be hurting Republicans almost as much as it’s hurting women: New Gallup poll data released Monday found that Obama leads Romney 51 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in 12 swing states. Last month he trailed the Republican by 2 points. The change is due to a sharp shift among women: Obama now leads Romney among women under the age of 50 by 30 points; that lead was 5 points in February.

Some panicked Republicans insist crafty Democrats are the ones playing the culture wars, but we’ve debunked that: Democrats didn’t make the GOP presidential field back “personhood” laws that would criminalize some forms of birth control. They didn’t force the newly elected House GOP to make defunding Planned Parenthood their first legislative goal. And they didn’t propose the Blunt Amendment that would have allowed employers to withhold health insurance coverage not only for contraception, but for any treatment they disapproved of – or make every Republican senator vote for it, except the outgoing Olympia Snowe.

Leslie Savan: GOP Code Confusion

As we get closer to the general election race, the Republican Party is descending into ever deeper confusion over its rhetorical codes and when and how to use them.

This is more than just an awkward pivot from pitching to the base to focusing on the general electorate. It’s a direct result of decades of Republicans fashioning their language to obscure what they really mean-like asserting that “cutting taxes will raise revenues” when the real idea is to shift the tax burden from the rich to the poor. The GOP is so distracted by its multiplicity of phony attack lines that it’s begun to confuse itself.

We’ve all seen how, during the primary debates, the Republican candidates were forced to acquiesce to the notion that, say, booing a soldier on duty in Iraq or shouting down the Golden Rule are, respectively, the patriotic and Christian things to do. But when Perry and Gingrich started attacking Romney from the left as a job-destroying vulture capitalist, they started to seriously step on their own neckties.

Jill Richardson: Forget the Farm Bill: Where We Should Set Our Sights This Year For Real Change

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I don’t care about the 2012 farm bill. Here’s why.

The sustainable food and agriculture movement has a lot of momentum and a lot of opportunities right now, but only limited resources in terms of lobbying power. The movement has a large amount of people who care, but a relatively small amount of money compared to entrenched agriculture interests. It has a few strategically placed sympathetic appointees and elected representatives in the government. But, unfortunately, Dennis Kucinich alone cannot pass the vastly revamped farm bill we need.

But outside of Washington, the ranks of those who care about localizing our food supply and making agriculture more sustainable are growing every day. After all, delicious food is a powerful recruiting tool. The sustainable food movement is not powerless. Not nearly. But the movement can make far more progress if it focuses its energy on more winnable issues. Focusing on the farm bill for the whole of 2012 will use up endless resources and result in relatively little gain.

Lisa Margonelli: A New Green Agenda for Commuters

As gasoline prices passed $3.50 a gallon nationally, the politicking predictably kicked into overdrive. “There’s no reason we can’t get gasoline down to $2 and $2.50 a gallon,” said Newt Gingrich, who in February promised he would accomplish this via an agenda he called “Drill here, drill now, pay less.” Two days later three prominent Democrats, including Representative Ed Markey, called for President Obama to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices.

The huge difference between the thinking of Republicans and Democrats disappears when it comes to gas prices. Both subscribe to the same dubious premise: we can lower prices by increasing supply. But over the past decade, such policies have had little effect on the global oil market. It’s time to change our approach: rather than trying to increase supply in a vain attempt to cut prices, progressives should be embracing policies that will reduce the amount of gasoline we use, thus reducing the impact of prices on household budgets and the national economy

‘Are there no Workhouses?’

How’s that austerity thing working out for you?

School meals are ‘made smaller to save money’

Richard Garner, The Independent

Tuesday 03 April 2012

School meal portions are being shrunk, leaving children to go hungry, teachers and parents have warned. Smaller portion sizes caused by cost-cutting are reported in schools across the country and are of particular concern, given the increase in the number of impoverished pupils who rely on school lunches as their only hot meal of the day. Primary-age children, in particular, are going hungry after being given lunches that are too small, according to teachers.

In the ATL survey, teachers warned that private providers, who are often hired to supply school meals, were cutting portion sizes to make their budgets go further and win new contracts. “The younger children pay the same price but get much less than the older ones,” said one reception class teacher in Bradford. “Also, they do not get the choice as this is also saved for the older ones.”

A spokeswoman for the Association for Public Service Excellence, which monitors the school meals service, said the major costs for caterers were staffing and overheads such as kitchens, equipment and energy supplies, and these would be targets for cuts rather than portion sizes. However, she added that government grants for school dinners were no longer ring-fenced and had been incorporated into schools’ overall budgets, thereby making the meals service less secure.

The system has undergone radical change in recent years. Schools can hire private providers to run their service – or do it themselves. Local authorities have catering services but schools are free to decide whether to buy into them or not.

The standards do set out minimum calories for each age group. But Christine Lewis, of the public service union Unison, which represents school dinner staff, said it had “almost been left on faith with the providers to abide by them”. “There is a possibility providers are violating the standards,” she added.

To further complicate matters, academies and free schools are exempt from the nutritional standards.

(h/t Chris in Paris @ Americablog)

On This Day In History April 4

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.

April 4 is the 94th day of the year (95th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 271 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1949,the NATO pact signed

The United States and 11 other nations establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact aimed at containing possible Soviet aggression against Western Europe. NATO stood as the main U.S.-led military alliance against the Soviet Union throughout the duration of the Cold War.

Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly in 1948. There were heated disagreements over the postwar status of Germany, with the Americans insisting on German recovery and eventual rearmament and the Soviets steadfastly opposing such actions. In June 1948, the Soviets blocked all ground travel to the American occupation zone in West Berlin, and only a massive U.S. airlift of food and other necessities sustained the population of the zone until the Soviets relented and lifted the blockade in May 1949. In January 1949, President Harry S. Truman warned in his State of the Union Address that the forces of democracy and communism were locked in a dangerous struggle, and he called for a defensive alliance of nations in the North Atlantic-U.S military in Korea.NATO was the result. In April 1949, representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal joined the United States in signing the NATO agreement. The signatories agreed, “An armed attack against one or more of them… shall be considered an attack against them all.” President Truman welcomed the organization as “a shield against aggression.”

2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

There is absolutely no reason Notre Dame should not win tonight.  They showed against Connecticut that they are willing and able to put other team’s players into foul trouble and Baylor is only half a team.  When Brittney sits they should be able to put it out of reach.

In the grander scheme I think one of the things Soapblox is best suited for is limited time event live blogging.  It’s unfortunate that there is no auto-refresh, but even dK has not been able to duplicate the immediacy of peeder’s Ajax Commenting System.  If there is sufficient volume and activity however this shortcoming is less pronounced.  Some even prefer the relaxed atmosphere where you are not subject to the expectation of instant defense.

The solution to all problems is to write more and often as TheMomCat suggests.  Frequently people complain about the lack of exposure and response, yet careful examination suggests that even at a high traffic site like dK actual page views of member submissions is not much higher than you can achieve here or at DocuDharma.

There are two things I think are a shame, which is that people get discouraged and that they don’t proliferate and promote their work.  I can’t do much to change the perception that comments equate to attention (though it’s not at all true), but I would urge you to consider the effect on your readership and impact of publishing at multiple places over a span of time on the issues you are passionate about.  Each site has its own audience and each posting gives you the opportunity to re-promote.

We’ll continue our coverage of special events here at The Stars Hollow Gazette (my next nightmare is the Summer Olympics) and you are more than welcome to contribute pieces about your particular interests.  It’s really not that hard.

Hype starts at 7:30 pm on ESPN.  Game @ 8:30.

Semifinal Results-

Result Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
59-47 1 *Baylor 39-0 Mid West 1 Stanford 34-2 West
83-75 1 *Notre Dame 33-3 South 1 UConn 31-5 East

Tonight’s Action-

Seed Team Record Region Seed Team Record Region
1 Notre Dame 33-3 South 1 Baylor 39-0 Mid West