Daily Archive: 11/14/2012

Nov 14 2012

A Terrorist on Every Food Cart

If you were thought that the New York City Fire Department only put out fires and rescued stranded kitties from trees, you’d be very wrong. They have now been enlisted by the Department of Homeland Security to help fight that nebulous war on terror. The web site Tech Dirt has the sadly amusing details of the FDNY’s power point program to find a terrorist threat in food trucks that are scattered throughout NYC:

If You Eat Something, Say Something: DHS Sounds The Alarm On The ‘Terrorist Implications’ Of Food Trucks

from the basically-any-form-of-transportation-is-a-threat—-start-walking,-citizen dept

It’s interesting (or maybe just kind of sad) that various government agencies see possible terrorists everywhere but rarely, if ever, catch one. Despite the large number of personnel being thrown at the problem (along with lots of money), actual terrorists seem to be in limited supply.

But these agencies haven’t let their lack of success temper their vision of a nation under constant imminent attack. Public Intelligence recently posted a Powerpoint presentation from the NYC fire department (FDNY) discussing the unique safety issues mobile food trucks present. Along with some actual concerns (many food trucks use propane and/or gasoline-powered generators to cook; some gasp aren’t properly licensed food vendors), the presenter decided to toss in some DHS speculation on yet another way terrorists might be killing us in the near future.

That’s right. Instead of serving up a quick hot meal, these food trucks will be serving up death, and lots of it! Under the heading “Terrorist Implications,” the FDNY lists the exact reasons we should be concerned, most of which begin with the word “high.”

FDNY Terrorist Food Trucks 1

While any terrorist organization worth its twisted ideology would do well to nail down as much of this list as possible, so would any vendor who wished to stay in business.

Seriously folks, according to our crazies in Congress lead by the fear monger in chief, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), because we haven’t been attacked means we’re due for one. That’s like trying to predict an earthquake, you can’t and attempts by using fusion centers has been complete failure that produced no useful intelligence and violated civil liberties. But that doesn’t stop them.

The Tech Dirt article goes on pointing out more bizarreness of the FDNY presentation:

The next slide continues to lay out the “Terrorism Implications,” this time reminding first responders that food trucks have large quantities of deadly liquids (propane, gasoline) and are “easily concealed” (which I assume refers to the potential explosives, rather than the truck itself… but you can never be TOO sure). Also, food bombers will usually be in the proximity of “crowds” (gasp!) and “sidewalks” (wha…?).

FDNY Terrorist Food Trucks 2

The DHS’ unfocused “terrorvision” continues to see a threat in every situation and the department seems to be busying itself crafting a response to every conceivable “threat.” The problem with this “method” is that it turns any slight variation of “everyday activity” into something suspicious. The number of “terrorist implications” grows exponentially while the number of solutions remains the same. This Powerpoint is another example of good, old-fashioned fear mongering, utilizing public servants to spread the message.

At no point does this presentation offer anything resembling preemptive action or deterrents. All it does is paint a picture of food trucks as potential threats before concluding with, of all things, common sense safety tips aimed at dealing with food truck fires. The final slide paints the picture in the clearest terms, letting the viewer know exactly whose agenda is being pushed:

   Prepared by {..}

   FDNY Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness

The priorities are all screwed up. Terrorism is the first concern. Everything else is secondary. Considering this is an FDNY presentation, you’d think that “Disaster Preparedness” would be the priority. After all, they are the first response. But instead that honor goes to the vague menace of terrorism, a constant battle with no winners and, for the most part, no combatants. Every day without a terrorist act is a “win” that perpetuates the “need” for more counter-terrorist “efforts.”

Even the logo is over the top;

FDNY Terrorsim Logo

Here is the entire “side show”:

FDNY-FoodTrucks

I suppose FDNY got a lot of money to do this.

Nov 14 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Huevel: Grand Bargain Is the Wrong Solution

Americans, listening to the intensifying debate about the fiscal showdown in Washington, must think they’ve entered an “Alice in Wonderland” world. The lame duck Congress only returns to Washington this week, but already the lame is drowning out the logical.

Americans have just voted to reelect the president with clear priorities. They want Washington to get to work creating jobs and economic growth. They expect the president to raise taxes on the richest two percent in order to invest in areas vital to our future, as he pledged repeatedly across the country. They didn’t hear much about the so-called “fiscal cliff” in the election campaign, but their opinions on what is acceptable in any grand bargain are very clear.

In the election eve poll done by the Democracy Corps for the Campaign for America’s Future (disclosure: I serve on the board of the Campaign’s sister institution, the Institute for America’s Future), voters were asked what would be unacceptable in a large deal to reduce deficits. Seventy-nine percent found cuts to Medicare benefits unacceptable; 62 percent found cuts to Social Security unacceptable. And a stunning three in four found across the board domestic cuts that didn’t protect programs for “infants, poor children, schools and college aid” unacceptable.

Naomi Klein: Hurricane Sandy and Disaster Capitalism

Less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the United States, Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blamed New Yorkers’ resistance to big-box stores for the misery they were about to endure. Writing on Forbes.com, he explained that the city’s refusal to embrace Walmart will likely make the recovery much harder: “Mom-and-pop stores simply can’t do what big stores can in these circumstances,” he wrote.

And the preemptive scapegoating didn’t stop there. He also warned that if the pace of reconstruction turned out to be sluggish (as it so often is) then “pro-union rules such as the Davis-Bacon Act” would be to blame, a reference to the statute that requires workers on public-works projects to be paid not the minimum wage, but the prevailing wage in the region.

The same day, Frank Rapoport, a lawyer representing several billion-dollar construction and real estate contractors, jumped in to suggest that many of those public works projects shouldn’t be public at all. Instead, cash-strapped governments should turn to “public private partnerships,” known as “P3s.” That means roads, bridges and tunnels being rebuilt by private companies, which, for instance, could install tolls and keep the profits.

Joan Walsh: The Real Petraeus Scandal

Worse than the Petraeus affair? How a cyber-harassment complaint triggered a dragnet that toppled a CIA director

It’s hard to stay focused on what really matters in the unfolding David Petraeus story, but there’s one issue that every juicy new tidbit only underscores: the way a strange complaint to a lone FBI agent led to an electronic dragnet that toppled the CIA director and may yet bring down the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

I’ll admit to rubbernecking at each crazy new detail that emerges – the unnamed FBI agent who trigged the Petraeus probe had earlier sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley, the woman who asked for his help with anonymous harassing emails? Petraeus and Allen intervened in a child custody case on behalf of Kelley’s sister? Kelley, who is of Lebanese Catholic descent, is “a self-appointed go between” with Lebanese and other Mideastern officials? She once cooked alligator on the Food Network?

But the real scandal is the way a complaint about cyber-stalking from a Tampa socialite unleashed the power of the modern surveillance state on Petraeus’ biographer and paramour, Paula Broadwell – and ultimately, ironically or not, on the top spook himself.

Rebecca Solnit: The fourth horseman of the apocalypse: Hurricane Sandy rides in

Hurricane Sandy did what no activist could have done adequately: Put climate change back on the agenda.

The first horseman was named al-Qaeda in Manhattan, and it came as a message on September 11, 2001: Our meddling in the Middle East had sown rage and funded madness. We had meddled because of imperial ambition and because of oil, the black gold that fuelled most of our machines and our largest corporations and too many of our politicians.

The second horseman came not quite four years later. It was named Katrina, and this one too delivered a warning. Katrina’s message was that we needed to face the dangers we had turned our back on when the country became obsessed with terrorism: Failing infrastructure, institutional rot, racial divides and poverty. And larger than any of these was the climate – the heating oceans breeding stronger storms, melting the ice and raising the sea level, breaking the patterns of the weather we had always had into sharp shards: Burning and dying forests, floods, droughts, heat waves in January, freak blizzards, sudden oscillations, acidifying oceans.

The third horseman came in October of 2008: It was named Wall Street, and when that horseman stumbled and collapsed, we were reminded that it had always been a predator, and all that had changed was the scale – of deregulation, of greed, of recklessness, of amorality about homes and lives being casually trashed to profit the already wealthy. And the fourth horseman has arrived on schedule.

We called it Sandy, and it came to tell us we should have listened harder when the first, second and third disasters showed up. [..]

Mary F. Mulcahy: Planning for the inevitable: Taking time for end-of-life decisions

Advance care planning is crucial for preparing for the inevitable.

Americans are embedded in a death-defying culture. Extreme sports earn accolades in real life and on video screens as cosmetics promise age-defying results. But in reality, death is inevitable.  

Hurricane Sandy hitting the Northeastern United States recently claimed the lives of 110 people unexpectedly and within a very short time. About 600,000 people die of heart disease and 570,000 people die of cancer in the United States every year.

Everyone who is born will ultimately die. Who are these people? They are the family breadwinners, parents, caregivers, children, community leaders, schoolteachers and activists. They are young, old, ill, well, they are you and me.

Whether it comes about suddenly without warning as in the recent hurricane or after a chronic, progressive illness, every day, families are struck by the loss of a loved one and as a result, their lives change directions.  

Yet, while we may prepare for financial security for our family, we often fail to prepare for medical treatment choices – leaving our loved ones to make decisions that they may be ill-equipped to make.  

Nov 14 2012

On This Day In History November 14

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.

November 14 is the 318th day of the year (319th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 47 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1851, the novel Moby Dick is published. Moby Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, is published by Harper & Brothers in New York. Moby Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.

Moby-Dick is widely considered to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab’s boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

In Moby-Dick, Melville employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. Through the main character’s journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his place in the universe. The narrator’s reflections, along with his descriptions of a sailor’s life aboard a whaling ship, are woven into the narrative along with Shakespearean literary devices such as stage directions, extended soliloquies and asides. The book portrays insecurity that is still seen today when it comes to non-human beings along with the belief that these beings understand and act like humans. The story is based on the actual events around the whaleship Essex, which was attacked by a sperm whale while at sea and sank.

Moby Dick has been classified as American Romanticism. It was first published by Richard Bentley in London on October 18, 1851, in an expurgated three-volume edition titled The Whale, and weeks later as a single volume, by New York City publisher Harper and Brothers as Moby Dick; or, The Whale on November 14, 1851. Although the book initially received mixed reviews, Moby Dick is now considered part of the Western canon.

Nov 14 2012

West and Smiley: Obama is Not a Progressive

Tavis Smiley, Cornel West on the 2012 Election & Why Calling Obama “Progressive” Ignores His Record

As the most expensive presidential election in U.S. history comes to an end, broadcaster Tavis Smiley and professor, activist Dr. Cornel West join us to discuss President Obama’s re-election and their hopes for a national political agenda in and outside of the White House during Obama’s second term. At a time when one in six Americans is poor, the price tag for combined spending by federal candidates – along with their parties and outside groups like super PACs – totaled more than $6 billion. Together, West and Smiley have written the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Both Tavis and Smiley single out prominent progressives whom they accuse of overlooking Obama’s actual record. “We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president,” Smiley says. “And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. … To me, the most progressive means that you’re taking some serious risk. And I just don’t see the example of that.” West says that some prominent supporters of Obama “want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way.”

Transcript can be read here

Obama is a ‘Republican in Blackface’

“In a recent interview on Democracy Now!, ex-Princeton professor and frequent Obama critic Dr. Cornel West lashed out against the president as well as pundits Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry and Rev. Al Sharpton.

West called Obama a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and said Dyson, Harris-Perry and Sharpton were all “for sale.”

West, along with TV personality Tavis Smiley, has been one of President Barack Obama’s loudest and harshest African-American critics. Although West endorsed and campaigned for Obama during the 2008 campaign, he has since complained that the first black president turned his back on impoverished Americans.”

Cenk Uygur and Jayar Jackson discuss West’s comments and racial attitudes toward Obama in general. Is there a way he should act as both the president and a leader for the black community? How would he manage that?

Nov 14 2012

The Myth of the “Fiscal Cliff”

No one actually cares about the deficit

Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes,  discusses the stand-off between President Obama and House Republicans over the “fiscal cliff,” the name given to the combination of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the sequestration cuts mandated by last year’s debt ceiling agreement. Chris’ “filibuster” in the first segment is a “Cliff Note” summation of the debate about the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Chris is joined for a comprehensive, and somewhat wonky, discussion with Hakeem Jeffries, newly elected Congressman representing the 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York State Assemblyman; Teresa Ghilarducci (@tghilarducci), labor economist and director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New Schoo; Edward Conard, former partner at Bain Capital from 1993-2007 and author of “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About The Economy Is Wrong;” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown; and Molly Ball (@mollyesque), national political reporter for The Atlantic.

I found this article  about the debt/deficit/”fiscal cliff” from letdgetitdone quite interesting. It presents a very compelling argument, point by point, why this entire discussion about a “fiscal cliff” is a myth. He concludes his argument:

So, current claims that we have a fiscal crisis, must debate the debt, must fix the debt, and must immediately embark on a long-term deficit reduction program to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio under control, all misconceive the fiscal situation because they are based on the idea that fiscal responsibility is about developing a plan to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio “under control,” when it is really about using Government spending to achieve outputs that fulfill “public purpose.” There is no fiscal crisis that will require “a Grand Bargain” and cuts to popular discretionary spending and entitlement programs. It is a phoney issue.

The only real crisis is a crisis of a failing economy and growing economic inequality in which only the needs of the few are served. MMT policies can help to bring an end to that crisis; but not if progressives, and others continue to believe in false ideas about fiscal sustainability and responsibility, and the similarity of their Government to a household. To begin to solve our problems, we need to reject the neoliberal narrative and embrace the MMT narrative about the meaning of fiscal responsibility. That will lead us to fiscal policies that achieve public purpose and away from policies that prolong economic stagnation and the ravages of austerity.