05/06/2012 archive

François Hollande Est le Président de France

“Europe is watching us, I am sure that when the result was announced, in many European countries there was relief, hope and the notion that finally austerity can no longer be the only option.

“And this is the mission that is now mine — to give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity, in short, a future. This is what I will say as soon as possible to our European partners and first of all to Germany, in the name of the friendship that links us and in the name of our shared responsibility.”

“We are not just any country on the planet, just any nation in the world, we are France.”

~François Hollande, President-elect of France~

François Hollande is the new President of France defeating Nicholas Sarkozy. With half the votes counted, M. Hollande won a narrow victory with 50.8% to Sarkozy’s 49.2%, as per the French Interior minister. According to exit polls, the vote is closer to 52% for M. Hollande.

Crowds roared at the center-left candidate’s campaign headquarters as the exit poll results came out Sunday evening.

“Many people have been waiting for this moment for many long years. Others, younger, have never known such a time. … I am proud to be capable to bring about hope again,” Hollande said in his victory speech.

Celebratory car horns blared along the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

“It’s a great night, full of joy for so many young people all across the country,” said Thierry Marchal-Beck, president of the Movement of Young Socialists.

Hollande will be the nation’s first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

His victory and the elections in Greece and Germany are sending economic shock waves through Europe:

François Hollande’s election threw down the gauntlet to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who has railroaded the eurozone into agreeing a new “fiskalpakt” treaty enshrining Germany’s austerity doctrine.

The economic doctrine of austerity, to cut the burden of state spending to free up the economy, has ruled supreme with the support all of Europe’s leaders, the European Union and financial markets.

But political leaders were on Sunday night conceding the consensus had been shattered beyond repair.

With Europe’s economies plunging further into recession and as unemployment in the eurozone breaks record levels, voters demands for a new approach had finally become to great to ignore.

The popular backlash to EU imposed austerity to the centrist New Democracy and Socialist parties in Greece threatens the existence of the euro itself.

While in Germany, Chancellor Merkel was sent a message from German voters:

Exit polls by German broadcaster ARD put Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats at 30.5 per cent, just one per cent more than the left-wing Social Democrats.

But the Free Democrats, Mrs Merkel’s ailing coalition ally, scored a lowly 8.5 per cent, meaning that the coalition that has ruled the rural state on the Danish border since 2009 faces the prospect of being unseated.

Experts predict that the Social Democrats will try to cobble a coalition together with the Greens, the third biggest party, in order to take control of the state. [..]

While the Free Democrats appears to have avoided the humiliation of being wiped out all together in Schleswig-Holstein the continuing unpopularity of the party could force Mrs Merkel to search for a new coalition partner come next year’s federal elections.

I don’t think this is a surprise to most Europeans. It should be a clear message to the leaders of countries who are considering only austerity measures as a solution to debt.

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert

The Word – Debt Panels

One of the nation’s largest medical debt collectors sneaks into hospitals to seize patients’ money before treatment.

Greece is the Word

Greek Voters Punish 2 Main Parties for Economic Collapse


Published: May 6, 2012

The parliamentary elections were the first time that Greece’s foreign loan agreement had been put to a democratic test, and the outcome appeared clear: a rejection of the terms of the bailout and a fragmentation of the vote so severe that the front-runner is expected to have extreme difficulty in forming a government, let alone one that can either enforce or renegotiate the terms of the bailout.

In the upper middle-class Psychiko neighborhood in Athens, many supporters of the Socialist party, known here as Pasok, said they had voted for radical-left Syriza for the first time, in protest. “I voted in anger,” said Evangelia Grillaki, 65, a retired florist. “We feel 1,000 percent betrayed. The only people who voted for Pasok are either jerks or vested interests.”

The biggest winner in the elections appeared to be Syriza, a coalition of leftist parties founded in 2004, which included splinter groups from Greece’s more hard-line Communist Party. Its campaign slogan was “They chose without us, we’re moving on without them,” and it appeared to receive the bulk of the Socialist protest vote. Led by Alexis Tsipras, an energetic 38-year-old, the party is in favor of Greece remaining in the euro zone and the European Union but has opposed the loan agreement.

Funny how it is that when regular voters are allowed to express their opinion of Bankster Bailouts they overwhelmingly reject them and the Plutocrat Pandering Politicians who are complicit in their criminality.

Fire them all.

On This Day In History May 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.

Click on images to enlarge

May 6 is the 126th day of the year (127th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 239 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1994, English Channel tunnel opens.

In a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age.

The channel tunnel, or “Chunnel,” connects Folkstone, England, with Sangatte, France, 31 miles away.  The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to two-and-a-half hours.

As the world’s longest undersea tunnel, the Chunnel runs under water for 23 miles, with an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed. Each day, about 30,000 people, 6,000 cars and 3,500 trucks journey through the Chunnel on passenger, shuttle and freight trains.

Millions of tons of earth were moved to build the two rail tunnels–one for northbound and one for southbound traffic–and one service tunnel.   Fifteen thousand people were employed at the peak of construction.  Ten people were killed during construction.

Proposals and attempts

In 1802, French mining engineer Albert Mathieu put forward a proposal to tunnel under the English Channel, with illumination from oil lamps, horse-drawn coaches, and an artificial island mid-Channel for changing horses.

In the 1830s, Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thomé de Gamond explored several schemes and, in 1856, he presented a proposal to Napoleon III for a mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris-Nez to Eastwater Point with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank at a cost of 170 million francs, or less than £7 million.

In 1865, a deputation led by George Ward Hunt proposed the idea of a tunnel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, William Ewart Gladstone.

After 1867, William Low and Sir John Clarke Hawkshaw promoted ideas, but none were implemented. An official Anglo-French protocol was established in 1876 for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. In 1881, British railway entrepreneur Sir William Watkin and French Suez Canal contractor Alexandre Lavalley were in the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company that conducted exploratory work on both sides of the Channel. On the English side a 2.13-metre (7 ft) diameter Beaumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-metre (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 m (5,476 ft) from Sangatte. The project was abandoned in May 1882, owing to British political and press campaigns advocating that a tunnel would compromise Britain’s national defences. These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.

In 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George repeatedly brought up the idea of a Channel tunnel as a way of reassuring France about British willingness to defend against another German attack. The French did not take the idea seriously and nothing came of Lloyd George’s proposal.

In 1955, defence arguments were accepted to be irrelevant because of the dominance of air power; thus, both the British and French governments supported technical and geological surveys. Construction work commenced on both sides of the Channel in 1974, a government-funded project using twin tunnels on either side of a service tunnel, with capability for car shuttle wagons. In January 1975, to the dismay of the French partners, the British government cancelled the project. The government had changed to the Labour Party and there was uncertainty about EEC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly tunnel boring machine was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m (980 ft) experimental drive. This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.

In 1979, the “Mouse-hole Project” was suggested when the Conservatives came to power in Britain. The concept was a single-track rail tunnel with a service tunnel, but without shuttle terminals. The British government took no interest in funding the project, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project. In 1981 British and French leaders Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project, and in April 1985 promoters were formally invited to submit scheme proposals. Four submissions were shortlisted:

   a rail proposal based on the 1975 scheme presented by Channel Tunnel Group/France-Manche (CTG/F-M),

   Eurobridge: a 4.5 km (2.8 mi) span suspension bridge with a roadway in an enclosed tube

   Euroroute: a 21 km (13 mi) tunnel between artificial islands approached by bridges, and

   Channel Expressway: large diameter road tunnels with mid-channel ventilation towers.

The cross-Channel ferry industry protested under the name “Flexilink”. In 1975 there was no campaign protesting against a fixed link, with one of the largest ferry operators (Sealink) being state-owned. Flexilink continued rousing opposition throughout 1986 and 1987. Public opinion strongly favoured a drive-through tunnel, but ventilation issues, concerns about accident management, and fear of driver mesmerisation led to the only shortlisted rail submission, CTG/F-M, being awarded the project.

V.P. Biden Supports Gay Marriage, WH Walks It Back

This morning on “Meet the Press“, Vice President Joe Biden had heads literally spinning when he gave his unequivocal endorsement for same sex marriage. Within minutes in the White House press room heads exploded and the walk back began.

GREGORY: Have your views evolved?

BIDEN: The good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they are marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals. […]

GREGORY: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?

BIDEN: Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that. […] I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far. People fear that is different and now they’re beginning to understand.

h/t Think Progress

Not quite, David. President Obama has yet to say he endorses same sex marriage. Civil Unions, yes; Marriage, no.

What Pam Spaulding said:

Biden’s comments are interesting in that they represent the President’s exact view – that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same civil rights, save the whole bit about the word “marriage.” Talk about threading the political needle.

What John Aravosis said:

Wrong.  Biden talked about the marriages of gays and lesbians being the same as heterosexual marriages.  And Axelrod’s attempt to back away from what the White House apparently sees as the radioactive nature of our civil rights is patently offensive.

Little League

Being ferociously uncoordinated I’ve never been much at team sports and still less at those that require skill.

I’ve always liked baseball though and it looks like it would be fun to play but I wouldn’t know.

When I was quite young I went to the ball fields behind my elementary school to try out for Little League.  I was hopeless of course, but they did take almost everybody and while I couldn’t hit even if the ball were perched on a tee, I could throw after a fashion and might occasionally catch one if it was carefully placed.

Alas my dreams of diamond greatness were not to be.  After failing miserably at everything else they sent me out in the field to see if I could stop grounders (almost) and shag flies.

The coach hit me a towering shot and mirabile dictu it somehow ended up in my glove.

I am convinced to this day that I would have been a bench warmer if I just hadn’t looked so surprised.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: This Sunday’s guests lineup may have me throwing things at the TV: Eric Schneiderman (@agschneiderman), New York attorney general and co-chair of the Mortgage Crisis Unit and Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force; Raj Date, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (@CFPB); Catherine Rampell (@crampell), economics reporter for the The New York Times; Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein), former Wall Street information technologist and member of Occupy the SEC; James Fallows (@jamesfallows), national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of China Airborne; David Frum (@davidfrum), former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and contributing editor for Newsweek/Daily Beast.

The Melissa Harris-Perry Show: No guest list at this time but after Saturday’s rah-rah Obama fest, your time may b better spent listening to some good music or taking a walk.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: Jake Tapper will sit in for George this Sunday. His guests are Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

The roundtable panel guests are ABC News’ George Will, former Obama economic adviser and ABC News consultant Austan Goolsbee, Romney campaign adviser and president of The American Cause Bay Buchanan, radio and television host Tavis Smiley, and Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are former Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MI), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, and former National Security adviser to Pres, Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The political roundtable guests are The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan, The Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson, Mother JonesDavid Corn and CBS News’ John Dickerson.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests are Helene Cooper, The New York Times White House Correspondent; David Ignatius, The Washington Post Columnist; Rick Stengel, TIME Managing Editor; and Katty Kay, BBC Washington Correspondent.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: The MTP guest is Vice President Joe Biden.

On the roundtable panel are Mitt Romney supporter Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); Chief Economist from Mesirow Financial Diane Swonk; and NBC’s Chuck Todd and Tom Brokaw.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Joining Ms. Crowley are former Republican candidate Newt Gingrich; former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA); Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI); National Journal‘s Major Garrett and budget experts Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Alice Rivlin.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Hundreds of pelicans die; stay away from beaches, Peru urges


By Reuters

LIMA, Peru – Peru’s government declared a health alert along its northern coastline on Saturday and urged residents and tourists alike to stay away from long stretches of beach, as it investigates the unexplained deaths of hundreds of dolphins and pelicans.

At least 1,200 birds, mostly pelicans, washed up dead along a stretch of Peru’s northern Pacific coastline in recent weeks, health officials said, after an estimated 800 dolphins died in the same area in recent months.

The Health Ministry recommended staying away from beaches, though stopped short of a ban, and called on health officials to use gloves, masks and other protective gear when collecting dead birds.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Fairtrade: Is it really fair?

Japan nuke-free for first time since ’70

France set for crucial presidential run-off

Hunger intifada? Palestinian prisoners wield new-old tool against Israel.

With Chen Guangcheng news on Twitter, China’s censors lost control