Daily Archive: 06/11/2012

Jun 11 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”.

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Paul Krugman: Another Bank Bailout

Oh, wow – another bank bailout, this time in Spain. Who could have predicted that?

The answer, of course, is everybody. In fact, the whole story is starting to feel like a comedy routine: yet again the economy slides, unemployment soars, banks get into trouble, governments rush to the rescue – but somehow it’s only the banks that get rescued, not the unemployed.

Just to be clear, Spanish banks did indeed need a bailout. Spain was clearly on the edge of a “doom loop” – a well-understood process in which concern about banks’ solvency forces the banks to sell assets, which drives down the prices of those assets, which makes people even more worried about solvency. Governments can stop such doom loops with an infusion of cash; in this case, however, the Spanish government’s own solvency is in question, so the cash had to come from a broader European fund.

New York Times Editorial Nuclear Time Warp

Did House Republicans somehow miss the end of the cold war? At a time when, for the sake of both security and fiscal responsibility, the country should be reducing its nuclear arsenal, the House has approved a defense authorization bill for 2013 that threatens to freeze the number of weapons at current levels and, over time, waste billions of dollars on unnecessary purchases and programs.

Thankfully, the bill isn’t likely to become law. But it is worth taking a closer look, both for what it says about Republicans’ misplaced strategic priorities – and about how far President Obama has already gone to appease them.

Richard (RJ) Escow: 40 Million Strong: Underwater Homeowners Can Fight and Win … If They Get Organized

It sounds like hype to say it, but underwater homeowners can change the course of history. It’s not me saying that — it’s the numbers. People who owe more than their homes are worth have the power to become the a powerful new political and economic force.

They’ve got the numbers, they’ve got the votes and — if they can get organized — they’ve got the economic clout. And we can prove it.

This is something I and others have been pondering for a while, and it’s been on my mind again as I look forward to being on a panel at the Take Back the American Dream conference with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Heather McGhee from Demos and MSNBC’s Alex Wagner. It also came up in a conversation we had this weekend on The Breakdown with members of the Home Defenders League, a group that’s looking to organize underwater homeowners.

How powerful are those homeowners? The numbers are staggering.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert Borosage: A Politics for the 99 Percent

This year will feature the most ideologically polarized election since the Reagan-Carter face-off of 1980. A radical-right Republican Party, backed by big-money interests, has made itself the tribune of privilege and will do significant damage if it takes control in Washington. Staving off that outcome depends on mobilizing the Democratic base. Yet President Obama’s agenda is far removed from what is needed to meet the challenges this country faces. Because of this, we believe progressives must expand the limits of the current debate, even as they rally against the threat posed by a Republican victory.

No one should discount the potential destructiveness of a victory for Mitt Romney. The widespread media assumption that he’s really a “Massachusetts moderate” who adopted extreme positions to placate the Republican electorate before resetting his Etch A Sketch would be irrelevant even if it were true. A Romney victory could be accompanied by GOP control of all branches of government, with the party’s right-wing majority in the House driving the agenda. As Grover Norquist argues, “We are not auditioning for fearless leader…. We just need a president to sign this stuff.”

Patrick Cockburn: America is Deluded by Its Drone-Warfare Propaganda

As the US and its allies ponder what to do about Syria, one suggestion advanced by the protagonists of armed intervention is to use unmanned drones to attack Syrian government targets. The proposal is a measure of the extraordinary success of the White House, CIA and Defense Department in selling the drone as a wonder weapon despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The attraction of the drone for President Obama and his administration five months before the presidential election is self-evident. The revelation that he personally selected targets from the top ranks of al-Qa’ida for assassination by remote control shows the President as tough and unrelenting in destroying America’s enemies. The programme is popular at home because the cost appears not to be large and, most importantly, there are no American casualties. The media uncritically buys into claims of the weapon’s effectiveness, conveniently diverting voters’ attention from the US army’s failure to defeat puny opponents in two vastly expensive campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jun 11 2012

On This Day In History June 11

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 image to enlarge

June 11 is the 162nd day of the year (163rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 203 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress selects Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft a declaration of independence.

Knowing Jefferson’s prowess with a pen, Adams urged him to author the first draft of the document, which was then carefully revised by Adams and Franklin before being given to Congress for review on June 28.

The revolutionary treatise began with reverberating prose:

Draft and adoption

While political maneuvering was setting the stage for an official declaration of independence, a document explaining the decision was being written. On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a “Committee of Five”, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, to draft a declaration. Because the committee left no minutes, there is some uncertainty about how the drafting process proceeded-accounts written many years later by Jefferson and Adams, although frequently cited, are contradictory and not entirely reliable. What is certain is that the committee, after discussing the general outline that the document should follow, decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. Considering Congress’s busy schedule, Jefferson probably had limited time for writing over the next seventeen days, and likely wrote the draft quickly. He then consulted the others, made some changes, and then produced another copy incorporating these alterations. The committee presented this copy to the Congress on June 28, 1776. The title of the document was “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.” Congress ordered that the draft “lie on the table”.

On Monday, July 1, having tabled the draft of the declaration, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, with Benjamin Harrison of Virginia presiding, and resumed debate on Lee’s resolution of independence. John Dickinson made one last effort to delay the decision, arguing that Congress should not declare independence without first securing a foreign alliance and finalizing the Articles of Confederation.[64] John Adams gave a speech in reply to Dickinson, restating the case for an immediate declaration.

Jun 11 2012

Sunday Train: Putting Steel into the Amtrak Long Distance Backbone

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Express HSR is sexy. Indeed, its sexy enough that when Big Oil propagandizes against it, they have to paint it as too expensive or something that America is too incompetent to handle, since the idea of sitting in an actually comfortable rail seat, watching a movie on a laptop or snacking on a sandwich while flying along at two to three times highway speeds, “just like in France or Japan or Spain”, that’s too appealing to convince a big majority of people that it would be anything but nice to have. So they have to con people into thinking of it as an unrealistic pipe dream that the US can do what Spain has been doing for a decade, France for three decades, and Japan for half a century.

Rapid Rail is not as sexy as Express HSR, but at least it is as fast as driving for most drivers on most corridors, and appreciably faster than driving on the corridor with the “best bones”, like either Cleveland / Columbus or Davenport / Des Moines / Iowa wold be at 110mph top passenger speed. And it is much cheaper than Express HSR, with lots of potential corridors that local residents will start lobbying for once the first of the Rapid Passenger Rail services come into service.

But conventional long haul rail? Surely plodding along at 50mph to as slow as 30mph on heavy freight rail corridors is an obsolete holdover from an earlier time?

Well, no. Conventional long haul rail has a 21st century role to play, if the United States should declare Economic Independence and start working to regain the economic freedom that we surrendered to the Big Oil and the oil exporting regions in the 70’s and 80’s.

And so, in this evening’s Sunday Train, we look at the “PRIIA Section 210” plans that Amtrak has developed for the five weakest of its fifteen long distance corridors: the California Zephyr, the Capitol Limited, the Cardinal, the Sunset Limited, and the Texas Eagle.

Jun 11 2012

Citizens United, June 5th, and Money, Money, Money, Money! by Geminijen

“When the madness is directed towards the likes of you and me,

Then our blindness may be lifted and we might begin to see.

For when others are afflicted, with the scourge that has no end,

Then we practice our denial — and the purging, we defend.

So the powers and the peoples of the nations of this Earth

Could be fully in connivance — or denial of the hurt…

And even, in our hubris, in our information age,

We are blinded by our bias — and at petty issues rage.

So the workers were divided and they voted Nazis in,

And so many were the workers, who paid dearly for this sin!

And we see now in Wisconsin, there’s a Walker riding high,

And there’s cash enough from coffers to propagate the lie.”

(excerpted)

Arjun Jalah

Sometimes you would give anything not to be right!  When I started writing this diary three weeks ago, I predicted that Scott Walker would win the recall election for governor in Wisconsin. Walker, with unlimited corporate money, was challenged by a massive people’s movement when he outlawed most collective bargaining rights in what was usually considered a progressive state.  I knew, with the certainty of a cynic that that much money would out-weigh people power.   It was the fight between John Henry and the steel driving machine all over again. Yet, there I was, Tuesday night, praying that the people power would, in the end, win.  Not.  Walker beat Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate 53%-46%, winning by a whopping 6% points. As Ed of the Ed Show so colorfully pointed out, there was no way to put lipstick on that pig. Or as Chris Hedges had said a couple of weeks earlier: “We lost. They won.”

monopoly

Jun 11 2012

Pique the Geek 20120610: More on Fireflies

Last time we had a rather technical discussion about the biology and chemical mechanics of fireflies.  I appreciate all of the comments, and some of them indicated that I should expound a bit.

Most of the comments were concerned with firefly ecology and how to encourage their numbers.  It is true that fireflies seem to be on the decrease insofar as populations go, and there are several reasons for that.

One reason that I am pretty much sure DOES NOT deplete the population is live capture, with or without release.  I have a call in to Sigma-Aldrich to see if they still buy fireflies.  If so, they are supplying lots of material for research whilst doing little harm to the population.

It is HARD to catch enough fireflies to damage the population!  As I get more information about the bounty, if any, on members of the Photinus genus, I shall share.

Jun 11 2012

Lame Ducks Cooking Up A Catfood Christmas for Country

A perfect storm is brewing in the elite backrooms where policy is made and it is beginning to bubble up from the factory floor into the media where their policies are sold.  Prepare the vital organs of your body for a “December Surpise” as some are calling it. The debt ceiling will be reached before the elections, sequestration from the Budget Control Act of 2011 will be going into effect (and huge military contractors are already threatening massive layoffs). The elite rhetoric about the need for austerity will likely be at a fever pitch on the campaign trail and in the media.

It’s going to be a mighty (if completely contrived) crisis.

Fortunately the elites have already got the answer to all of the problems that are being prepared to come to a head.  Never fear, they’ve been working on it for decades.

A “Grand Bargain” will solve everything.  

Jun 11 2012

The Town: A Stupid, Overrated, Crappy Movie:

Hey, folks, I’m in the mood to post this, so here I am.  I recognize the fact that most people really like Ben Affleck’s most recent movie,  The Town, and I would’ve wanted to like it, too, but imho, there’s too much wrong with The Town for me not to look at  this film with  much harsher judgement and a much more critical eye than many, if not most people.  

I admittedly liked Ben Affleck a lot in Good Will Hunting.  He and  Matt Damon also did a great job  working  together in this particular movie.    Good Will Hunting, imo, is a good film that really worked.  However, I think that Ben Affleck fell badly on The Town, and part if it is probably due to the fact that he took on two jobs;  directing and playing the lead character.  

Imho, The Town is an overrated, cheesy piece of junk that’s more like a feature-length made-for TV soap opera than a regular movie, which never, ever should’ve made it into the cinemas at all, in the first place.  Yet, I realize that, in order to get the democratic society that we all long for, different viewpoints have to be aired, no matter how much at odds they may  be with each other.  .

The cast is mediocre at best, the plot and story are overused, the Boston accents, especially on the part of Ben Affleck, are forced and way overdone, and the chemistry between Doug and Claire is non-existent to paltry, at best. One of the most, if not the most bothersome aspects of The Town is the message that it clearly conveys; People don’t have to be accountable for their actions and behaviors;  that it’s okay to steal and rob innocent people of money that they don’t deserve to lose, to terrorize, permanently maim, put innocent bank employees and customers’ lives and safety at risk, to abet an armed felon and wanted fugitive (Doug MacRay, the ringleader)to escape the law by getting involved romantically with him, allow him to buy expensive Tiffany diamond necklaces for one, and make utter dupes of law enforcement people who’ve been assigned to bring guys like Doug MacRay to justice and end their robbery careers once and for all, by lying to the Feds, and tipping an armed felon and wanted fugitive (Doug MacRay) off to them and helping them escape, and that it’s okay to take the law into one’s own hands and to kill a couple of people just because they threatened to do Heaven-knows-what to a girlfriend, or whoever. I think it’s totally wrong.

Oh, and why is it okay for good-girl Claire to receive stolen goods and spend  that ill-gotten money on the renovation of a seedy hockey rink and dedicate it to her criminal boyfriend’s mother who she never knew, instead of arranging to turn it into the police anonymously?

Hey…come on!  Doug put the romance moves on Claire when he met her, in order to shut her up and warn her oh, so subtely not to talk to the Feds or else! One’s supposed to think that Doug really loves Claire and is attrracted to her by her winsome personality, but nothing could be further from the truth, imo. He found Claire attractive, in that she was clearly vulnerable after being traumatized by him and his guys after they held up her bank at gunpoint, and therefore quite gullible and open to exploitation. Almost as soon as Doug got what he wanted out of Claire (a promise not to go to the cops or the Feds), he left the money in her garden and skipped town for Florida, because he was on the lam from the law and couldn’t elope with Claire and exploit her as a bargaining chip, the way he’d wanted to do.   Yet, there’s another reason why Doug left Claire behind when he skipped town for Florida instead of taking her with him;  Doug’s days of hiding out down in Florida in a house overlooking a bayou were numbered,  that sooner or later he’d be hunted down and caught, perhaps violently, by the Feds, and at some level, both he and Claire  must’ve known that.  It was especially obvious when FBI Agt. Frawley said to Claire  “You know the FBI is a national organization”, and then requested that the descriptions and photos of Doug MacRay be circulated.  Isn’t it funny how the vast majority of people, either naively or in willful ignorance, miss all of the above!

It’s funny how most people don’t realize that Doug was a sociopath who totally exploited the women in his life; Krista for sex, and he left her with nothing, even though he knew she had a young child to take care of (who might or might not be Doug’s), and Claire, who he thought he could elope to Florida with, but could not, after having charmed her into trusting him and then worming his way into her heart so that she’d shut up and not talk to the Feds. One is supposed to sympathize with both Doug and Claire, but, in reality, neither of them deserved any sympathy.

Imho, when the Feds had Claire and Doug meet at her Charlestown condo in a last-ditch effort to nab Doug MacRay and send him off to a Federal penitentiary for his crimes, the Feds should’ve made Claire keep her big fat trap shut, not call Doug or answer any of his phone calls, and let them do their job of arresting Doug and bringing him to prison for his crimes.

Doug deserved to end up in a federal penitentiary for his crimes, and Claire deserved to be criminally prosecuted herself, or at least put on some sort of probation for abetting Doug and for receiving stolen goods (Doug’s illl-gotten heist money).

I’m sorry, folks, but I cannot bring myself to be sympathetic to either Doug or Claire, who, imho, turned out to be the most dislikable, and annoying characters in The Town.  I also think the fact that Claire quit her job as a bank manager after the robbery without telling anybody, including the Feds, is also rather suspicious.   What most people don’t realize is that Doug is an armed felon and wanted fugitive who’s on the lam from the law, so he’s not going to Florida on vacation. Happily, there’s no way that he and Claire will ever meet again, which is what the final “I’ll see you again, this side or the other” sentence in Doug’s “goodbye, I’ll always love you” letter to Claire before he skipped town for Florida means,  but the fact that Claire didn’t turn to Frawley for help after learning the truth about Doug and reallizing that she was in over her head, is beyond stupid, and wrong.  

The fact that Doug and Jem beat the crap out of two Dominicans from a housing project who’d supposedly thrown bottles at Claire when she’d been stupid enough to walk by herself through a housing project (no woman in her right mind would do that, at any time of night or day) and permanently cripple them, especially since they didn’t even tell the two Dominicans why they are beating him up,  shows that underneath that smooth, sweet-talking, gentle veneer of his,  Doug, as well as Jem, is a man of  unprovoked violence, and more like his incarcerated father (who, btw, is serving several life sentences in MCI-Cedar Junction for bank robbery and murder) than he would’ve liked to admit. My, my…Lady Claire must’ve felt flattered that two armed felons who were also wanted fugitives from the law came to her defense! Pretty sickening, this whole thing.