Daily Archive: 07/02/2012

Jul 02 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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New York Times Editorial: The Radical Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision upholding the Affordable Care Act was a deft turn by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who voted with the court’s four moderate liberals for the first time in a 5-to-4 ruling. Yet, while they upheld the law’s mandate for individuals to buy insurance under Congress’s taxing power, the chief justice joined the four other conservatives to reject that provision under the Constitution’s commerce clause.

That rejection underscores the aggressiveness of the majority’s conservatism and marks a stunning departure from the long-established legal consensus that Congress has broad power to regulate the economy.

Paul Krugman: Europe’s Great Illusion

Over the past few months I’ve read a number of optimistic assessments of the prospects for Europe. Oddly, however, none of these assessments argue that Europe’s German-dictated formula of redemption through suffering has any chance of working. Instead, the case for optimism is that failure – in particular, a breakup of the euro – would be a disaster for everyone, including the Germans, and that in the end this prospect will induce European leaders to do whatever it takes to save the situation.

I hope this argument is right. But every time I read an article along these lines, I find myself thinking about Norman Angell.

Who? Back in 1910 Angell published a famous book titled “The Great Illusion,” arguing that war had become obsolete. Trade and industry, he pointed out, not the exploitation of subject peoples, were the keys to national wealth, so there was nothing to be gained from the vast costs of military conquest.

Joseph E. Stiglitz: How policy has contributed to the great economic divide

The United States is in the midst of a vicious cycle of inequality and recession: Inequality prolongs the downturn, and the downturn exacerbates inequality. Unfortunately, the austerity agenda advocated by conservatives will make matters worse on both counts.

The seriousness of America’s growing problem of inequality was highlighted by Federal Reserve data released this month showing the recession’s devastating effect on the wealth and income of those at the bottom and in the middle. The decline in median wealth, down almost 40 percent in just three years, wiped out two decades of wealth accumulation for most Americans. If the average American had actually shared in the country’s seeming prosperity the past two decades, his wealth, instead of stagnating, would have increased by some three-fourths.

In some ways the data confirmed what was already known, but the numbers still shocked. We knew that house prices – the principal source of saving for most Americans – had declined precipitously and that trillions of dollars in home equity had been wiped out. But unless we understand the link between inequality and economic performance, we risk pursuing policies that will worsen both.

Devon G. Peña: Fear & Loathing in Texas: State Republican Party Seeks to Ban Critical Thinking in Public Schools

Platform Prohibits Teach Higher Order Thinking Skills

What is it about the political rightwing in the Lone Star State? It seems like they are now competing with Arizona to take the lead as the nation’s most anti-education and anti-intellectual state.

Here is the actual language from a position statement in the 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform:

   “Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Where does this Republican fear of critical thinking come from? One would have to surmise it may be derived from two sources: Either (1) they learned some nifty reactionary ideas from the Arizona struggle against HB2281, the law banning the teaching of Chicana/o Studies in public schools, or (2) they understand that Texas public schools are now filled with a majority of minority [sic] students, most of them Mexican-origin, and it may not be a good idea to encourage them to become anything other than servants of the 1% by denying them anything but rote learning and vocational educations.

Robert Sheer: Supreme Court Leaves Romney in the Cold

Mitt Romney is an idiot or, even worse, is pretending to be one. His tantrum of a response on Thursday to the Supreme Court’s health care decision was pure playground: As president I will own the ball, and the game will be played by rules that leave me a winner.

That game has already been called in a decision written by the top-ranking conservative jurist, and shorn of the constitutional objection; Barack Obama’s health care plan now will be judged by its practical outcomes. Romney’s promise that “I will act to repeal Obamacare” from “my first day as president of the United States” is a prescription of destructive gridlock for a program already well under way.

By immediately committing to reverse a health care reform based on the very program he implemented as governor of Massachusetts, Romney has gone to war with himself. Obviously, neither he nor his advisers has yet grasped that the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts has changed the terms of the debate.

Roger Bybee: Dems Paint Romney as “Outsourcer-In-Chief,” But Will Obama’s Trade Deal Blow It?

The Obama administration and Democrats have been busily puncturing Mitt Romney’s record as an experienced “job creator,” with a multi-pronged attack on Romney’s role as a “pioneer” in offshoring jobs while heading up the private-equity fund Bain Capital.

Backed up by an ever-mounting supply of evidence from the New York Times, Boston Globe, and the Washington Post, Obama and the Democrats have shredded Rommey’s arguments that he is the man to restore employment.

Yet recent leaks reveal that the Obama administration has been secretly negotiating with Pacific Rim nations the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, based on the job-destroying NAFTA model. Obama-as with his trade deals last year with South Korea, Panama, and human-rights pariah Colombia-is once more falling into line behind CEOs in promoting what he as a candidate fiercely denounced in 2008 as “trade deals like NAFTA and China [that] have been signed with plenty of protections for corporations and their profits, but none for our environment or our workers who’ve seen factories shut their doors and millions of jobs disappear.

Jul 02 2012

On This Day In History July 2

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.

July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 182 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the midpoint of a common year. This is because there are 182 days before and 182 days after (median of the year) in common years, and 183 before and 182 after in leap years. The exact time in the middle of the year is at noon, or 12:00. In the UK and other countries that use “Summer Time” the actual exact time of the mid point in a common year is at (1.00 pm) 13:00 this is when 182 days and 12 hours have elapsed and there are 182 days and 12 hours remaining. This is due to Summer Time having advanced the time by one hour. It falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in common years.

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House.

In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The 10 years that followed saw great strides for the African-American civil rights movement, as non-violent demonstrations won thousands of supporters to the cause. Memorable landmarks in the struggle included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955–sparked by the refusal of Alabama resident Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a city bus to a white woman–and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech at a rally of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Jul 02 2012

2012 Le Tour – Stage 2

Visé – Tournai (129 miles)

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, if you’re rooting for one of the 135 riders that are now more than a minute down you have my official permission to panic.  Given the tight bunching and mass timing during the flatter stages it will be hard to make that up.

This one is Kansas flat.

You may think Menchov and Gilbert put on moves yesterday, but what happened is that Lancaster and Gretsch fell back.

Now there’s always the possibility of flaming chunks of twisted metal to keep you amused as well as the spectacular scenery.  One category 4 climb and a point award.  It should be routine and restful except that it’s rare for there not to be some early breakdowns.

Sprinters will be featured and everyone will be looking at Cavendish for a good finish.

General Classification

Place Rider Team Time/Delta
1 CANCELLARA Fabian RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 05:05:32
2 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING +00:07
3 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP +00:07
4 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM +00:10
5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING +00:11
6 MENCHOV Denis KATUSHA TEAM +00:13
7 GILBERT Philippe BMC RACING TEAM +00:13
8 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM +00:17
9 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE +00:18
10 HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA +00:18

Coverage is customarily on Vs. (NBC Sports) starting at 8 am with repeats at noon, 8, and midnight.  There will be some streaming evidently, but not all of it is free.

Sites of Interest-

The Stars Hollow Gazette Tags-

Pretty tables-

Jul 02 2012

Pique the Geek 20120701: Fireworks Safety

This time of year I generally write about fireworks since they are integral to the celebration of Independence Day.  I have written some rather technical pieces in the past, so this time I thought that it might be a good idea to write about some safety factors that users of consumer fireworks should observe.  Even though consumer fireworks are designed to minimize risk of injury, there is a finite probability that accidents and injuries will occur.

Many of you know how much I enjoy the music of The Who, and I shall work them into this piece.  It happens to involve one of the most treacherous pyrotechnic composition, flash powder.  In a former life, I was a professional pyrotechnician, and I am still scared of flash powder.

Many accidents involving consumer fireworks are either personal injuries caused by negligence (often alcohol fueled), ignorance, or bravado (also often alcohol fueled).  Many other accidents involving these products have to do with unintentional fires cause by firework use, storage, or transport.

Jul 02 2012

Sunday Train: Is State Sen. Simitian aiming to kill High Speed Rail in California?

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

This coming week is supposed to contain an important symbolic Independence Day: the day when the California State Senate votes whether or not to proceed with one strategic element of Energy Independent Transport for the State of California, or whether to gamble the state’s future on petroleum.

It is, of course, a very sure thing as a gamble ~ on the losing side. They aren’t making more, and the butane from natural gas liquids and energy inefficient production of ethanol from corn starch that has been used to juke the states on US “liquid fuel production” doesn’t change the fact that we still depend on petroleum imports for over half of our petroleum consumption. We deplete more and more low production cost petroleum every year, shifting our consumption to higher cost petroleum.

And even if we had the petroleum that Pollyannas would like to wish into existence, we can’t afford to burn it all at an accelerating rate, due to the CO2 emissions that will result.

State Senator Simitian does not seem to see it that way, as he appears set to vote kill the effort to allow the California High Speed Rail project to break ground next year.

Now, in an wonderful display of political pretzel logic, State Senator Simitian threatens to kill the HSR project will declaring his strong support of it: it will all be someone else’s fault if he votes to refuse to break ground next year.