Daily Archive: 12/05/2012

Dec 05 2012

Hosed eh?

So you remember the Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum plans to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas this summer?  Plans that were quite controversial because of the lack of any oil spill containment capability and the remoteness of even U.S. Navy and Coast Guard support (not that they’re optimized for that type of mission anyway though I suppose they could nuke the wellhead as was proposed by some during the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon disaster)?

Remember how the flagship of their high tech rapid response was a 35 year old ice breaking barge called the Arctic Challenger that was pretty much useless as an ice breaker because of design flaws even before they plated over the stern push points for the tug boats that provided the only motive power (yep, doesn’t even have its own propellers) so they could use it as a launch point for their super high tech blowout containment unit?

Remember how there were constant safety inspection failures during the refurbishing of this “loser dockside queen” culminating in the complete failure of the containment unit “Saturday, September 16th, in clear, calm, warm summer weather on Puget Sound“?

Well, thanks to KUOW Seattle National Public Radio we now know what happened blow by blow-

Day 5: The test has its worst accident. On that dead-calm Friday night, Mark Fesmire, the head of BSEE’s Alaska office, is on board the Challenger. He’s watching the underwater video feed from the remote-control submarine when, a little after midnight, the video screen suddenly fills with bubbles. The 20-foot-tall containment dome then shoots to the surface. The massive white dome “breached like a whale,” Fesmire e-mails a colleague at BSEE headquarters.

Then the dome sinks more than 120 feet. A safety buoy, basically a giant balloon, catches it before it hits bottom. About 12 hours later, the crew of the Challenger manages to get the dome back to the surface. “As bad as I thought,” Fesmire writes his BSEE colleague. “Basically the top half is crushed like a beer can.”

Like a beer can eh?  Yah don’t say.

I highly recommend clicking on the link, the picture is quite stunning.

Anyway you’ll be happy to know everything is under control.

(h/t EdwardTeller @ Firedog Lake)

Dec 05 2012

What are you buying the 1% for Cliffsmas?

Cliffsmas is coming and I bet you, like most of us, have not figured out just what it is that you are going to wind up giving the 1% this time around.  Fortunately, they want to make it easy for you, they have made a list of their wants and checked it several times now.

Many on Wall Street with the help of nice people like Paul Ryan and a group of Democrats that call themselves “The Third Way,” working with President Obama would like to give your Social Security to the 1% to use as gambling chips on Wall Street.

Then there are the CEO’s from Peter Peterson’s “Fix the Debt Commission,” who want 134 Billion dollars in tax cuts exempting foreign earnings for corporations (along with their usual trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies, bailouts and tax loopholes) for Cliffsmas.

In fact, these Fix the Debt Commission CEO’s are so eager to get this cutting of costs for people other than themselves who want to retire, that less than 60% of their companies offer pensions for their employees and of the ones that do, the CEO’s have underfunded their employee pension funds by more than $100 billion.

There are a bunch of other 1%ers that would prefer the Bowles-Simpson approach of gutting your Social Security payouts over a period of years as President Obama was pushing on the campaign trail and in negotiations with Congressional Republicans over a long period.  In these same negotiations Mr. Obama put cuts to health care for veterans and cuts to Medicare on the table.

The cuts to your benefits that Mr. Obama and the Austerians are promoting for Cliffsmas are far from chump change.  The chained-cpi cut is small at first, but over a period of years is a 9% cut in benefits  over a period of years.  Raising the age of eligibility for retirement age to 70 would cut benefits for the average retiree by 19 percent or about $35,419.

Dec 05 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 Heuvel: Spoiling for a filibuster fight

Perhaps it was inevitable that a parliamentary rule named after pirates would metastasize into an untamed menace.

Throughout its unlikely history, the filibuster has been – depending on the moment – lauded and scorned and even immortalized by Hollywood. A Senate relic, dry as parchment, has gained the sort of colorful reputation normally reserved for troubled starlets (or troubled generals).

Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proposes, as others have in the past, to finally rein in the beast. It won’t be easy. Previous efforts to change the filibuster have failed in the face of opposition from whichever party is in the minority and fearful of losing their right to stand up to-and in the way of-majority will.

But this time might be different, because the 113th Congress will be different.

Ruth Marcus: The shifting line on tax cuts

Memories are short, which is lucky for politicians. Consider the current debate over letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, and the largely forgotten rationale for cutting taxes in the first place.

Hint: It wasn’t because rates were too high. It was because the surplus was too big. [..]

Nearly a dozen years and trillions of dollars in debt since the Bush tax cuts, no one invokes the now-vanished surplus. But proponents argue with equal vigor that rates cannot be allowed to rise.

The justification shifts, yet the bottom line remains the same.

Bryce Covert: Conservative Birthrate Panic: Our Hope for Better Work/Family Policies?

The ladies aren’t having enough babies and conservatives are sad. That was basically the gist of Ross Douthat’s column this weekend, which riffed off of new birthrate numbers from Pew showing that we’re at a record low. Douthat’s primary concern seems to be the false notion that demography is destiny-that our “demographic edge” means we can pwn all fellow nations and without it, a more fruitful nation is eating our lunch. (If this were true, Niger, which has the world’s highest birthrate, would have enslaved us all. We clock in at a meager 124.) But there is good reason for conservatives and progressives alike to be concerned about a falling birthrate. Many of our public policies, most notably the social safety net, are designed to have one generation support the older one-but that gets mighty top heavy with a declining number of people doing the supporting. As Douthat puts it, “Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs.” That’s real. Nancy Folbre even calculates that a parent who raises a child contributes $200,000 more to net taxes than a nonparent, given what that child will pay when it grows up.

So what can we do about bringing that rate up? Douthat goes off the rails when attributing the decline in births to a cultural “decadence” in which women can’t get beyond themselves to think about the future. But what’s exciting about Douthat’s column is that parts of it expose a place of common interest between liberals and conservatives that could further the feminist project of implementing real work/family policies in America.

Allison Kilkenny: Citizens Protest Looming ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Budget Cuts

For the past several weeks, clusters of citizens have been protesting the opportunistically named “fiscal cliff” budget cut talks. Even though the “fiscal cliff” is really more of a fiscal curb or fiscal slope, conservative lawmakers have seized upon the media-generated panic surrounding the doomsday January 1 cutoff date as an excuse to inflict further cuts and steer the conversation away from ending tax breaks for the one percent.

The push back from citizens began when activists from ACT UP protested the possible inclusion of cuts to AIDS funding during the negotiations. Activists arranged a table and chairs outside Senator John Kerry’s home in Boston as part of a mock Thanksgiving meal during which they put pill bottles on plates instead of food, saying they want Kerry to fight to fully fund AIDS programs during the negotiations.

Michelle Chen: Foodies Get Wobbly

Food supply chain workers adopt the IWW’s radical actions to fight abusive employers.

Once upon a time in the labor movement, a rebellious vanguard emerged at the margins of American industry, braiding together workers on society’s fringes-immigrants, African Americans, women, unskilled laborers-under a broad banner of class struggle.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies, raised hell in the early 20th century with unapologetically militant protests and strikes.

Their vision of a locally rooted, globally oriented anti-capitalist movement was eclipsed by mainstream unions, which had more political muscle. But grassroots direct action is today undergoing a resurgence in the corners of the workforce that have remained isolated from union structures.

Princess Lucaj : Celebration, Sacredness, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

It is the holiday season and in Alaska we have much to be grateful for and much to celebrate. On December 6th we will be celebrating the birthday of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was on this date in 1960 that President Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Range (later named Refuge) “to preserve its unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values”. In 1980, Congress expanded the refuge to encompass more winter habitat of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the refuge purpose to provide for continued subsistence uses was specified.

But the longer history of this special place belongs to the indigenous people of Alaska. The term nan kat in Gwich’in Athabascan translates into ‘on the land’.

It is this land, today referred to as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that is the home to hundreds of species of birds and animals and it is the coastal plain of the Refuge that is the birthplace and nursery grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Each spring, between 40-50,000 calves are born there. It is because of the vadzaih – the caribou – that we as Gwich’in people have been able to maintain our way of life. For thousands of years we depended upon this herd for our sustenance, for clothing, shelter, tools and even games. To this day, the Porcupine Caribou now 170,000 strong continues to feed thousands of Gwich’in men, women, and children living in the remote Arctic villages scattered along the migratory route of the herd in both Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada.

Dec 05 2012

No, This Fiscal Scam Won’t Be Different Than 2011. Stop Deluding Yourselves

Of course that can be easy to do with corporate media hacks parading around as “journalists” basically working to preserve the corrupt machine they feed off of. They’re feeding people revisionist nonsense about the so called fiscal cliff; nonsense like how because of the President was reelected he has more leverage this time. As if Democrats ever use leverage after they win elections like how they kept funding the Iraq war in 2006 after their opposition to the war gave them those mid term victories. Nancy Pelosi also took impeachment of the war criminal GWB off the table so future war crimes could be committed.

And then in 2008 after winning an unprecedented majority in both Houses of Congress, higher than at anytime leading up to that point on the GOP’s end, we were told we didn’t have a mandate for progressive polices despite the fact that the right’s neoconservative Laissez-faire ideology had been fully discredited.

The Mandate Manipulation Machine Enters Stage Right

As I predicted a while back, the Partisan-Industrial Complex in Washington, D.C. has deployed its quadrennial Mandate Manipulation Machine to make sure that the 65 million Americans who voted for Barack Obama remember that America giving more than 340 electoral votes to an African American billed as a Islamic Marxist terrorist means there is no mandate for real change in this, a country obviously more conservative than ever.

A cursory glance at the newspapers today shows the media teeming with stories quoting incoming Obama administration officials, Democratic Party leaders and spokespeople for corporate front groups insisting that actually, no real change can be made, and what small-bore changes can happen, will have to happen in the very distant future, not soon. My favorite was the one-two punch from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean. Upon hearing of his bigger senate majority, Reid said on Tuesday, “This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology.

And of course we now know that was Democrats’ way of telling us they would waste the crisis that elected them, keep TBTF, not prosecute anyone who caused the crash, dump the EFCA, enact Dolecare instead of a public option or Medicare Buy In, and go half ass on all qualitative legislation. This is what actually led up to the mid term losses in 2010. And keep in mind this 2012 election victory doesn’t even compare to the victory in 2008.

And yet they tell us we will see a new reinvigorated President and Congress. They tell us they are confident this time. They tell us that this time Democrats know they have a mandate for progress so things will be different than when the debt ceiling debacle made fools of them all. No, this is actually what the White House is telling us; the same thing as after the 2008 election victory now in 2012.

Axelrod: Talk of mandate ‘foolish, generally untrue’

Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod downplayed talk of an election mandate on the “fiscal cliff” on Thursday.

Axelrod said presidents always talk after an election about a mandate, but he called such talk “foolish.” President Obama and congressional Republicans are bracing for talks on tax hikes and spending cuts that are now set to be implemented in January.

“Everyone’s going to have to come to the table in the spirit of getting things done, but on this issue of particularly the fiscal cliff – presidents always say, ‘I have a mandate’; that’s a foolish word and generally untrue,” Axelrod told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday.

Dec 05 2012

On This Day In History December 5

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.

December 5 is the 339th day of the year (340th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 26 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1933, The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32 p.m. EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for national liquor abstinence. Several states outlawed the manufacture or sale of alcohol within their own borders. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. On January 29, 1919, the 18th Amendment achieved the necessary three-fourths majority of state ratification. Prohibition essentially began in June of that year, but the amendment did not officially take effect until January 29, 1920.

The proponents of Prohibition had believed that banning alcoholic beverages would reduce or even eliminate many social problems, particularly drunkenness, crime, mental illness, and poverty, and would eventually lead to reductions in taxes. However, during Prohibition, people continued to produce and drink alcohol, and bootlegging helped foster a massive industry completely under the control of organized crime. Prohibitionists argued that Prohibition would be more effective if enforcement were increased. However, increased efforts to enforce Prohibition simply resulted in the government spending more money, rather than less. Journalist H.L. Mencken asserted in 1925 that respect for law diminished rather than increased during Prohibition, and drunkenness, crime, insanity, and resentment towards the federal government had all increased.

During this period, support for Prohibition diminished among voters and politicians. John D. Rockefeller Jr., a lifelong nondrinker who had contributed much money to the Prohibitionist Anti-Saloon League, eventually announced his support for repeal because of the widespread problems he believed Prohibition had caused. Influential leaders, such as the du Pont brothers, led the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, whose name clearly asserted its intentions.

Women as a bloc of voters and activists became pivotal in the effort to repeal, as many concluded that the effects of Prohibition were morally corrupting families, women, and children. (By then, women had become even more politically powerful due to ratification of the Constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage.) Activist Pauline Sabin argued that repeal would protect families from the corruption, violent crime, and underground drinking that resulted from Prohibition. In 1929 Sabin founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), which came to be partly composed of and supported by former Prohibitionists; its membership was estimated at 1.5 million by 1931.

The number of repeal organizations and demand for repeal both increased. In 1932, the Democratic Party’s platform included a plank for the repeal of Prohibition, and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt ran for President of the United States promising repeal of federal laws of Prohibition.

Dec 05 2012

Congressional Game of Chicken: Fixing Filibuster, Part III

Ready or not, here it comes, filibuster reform. Or so says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

WASHINGTON — Keeping with his post-election pledge to reform the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday proffered that changes to the rules of the upper chamber will be made, leaving it up to Republicans if they would like to participate. [..]

“There are discussions going on now [over filibuster reform], but I want to tell everybody here. I’m happy I’ve had a number of Republicans come to me, a few Democrats,” Reid told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press availability. “We’re going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. I hope we can get something that the Republicans will work with us on.”

“But it won’t be a handshake,” he added. “We tried that last time. It didn’t work.” [..]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly slammed Democratic efforts to reform the filibuster, was unmoved by Reid’s statement.

“Well, there is growing Democratic unease with breaking the rules to change the rules,” McConnell said later Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think it will be very difficult for that to come about. I think it will be bad for the Senate.”

McConnell added that in accordance with Senate rules, such an effort would require a 67-vote majority, and that Reid’s approach to make the changes with a simple 51-vote majority — a procedure that has been labeled a “nuclear option” by its opponents — would be “bad for the institution, bad for the country.”

It’s only breaking the rules if the other side does it. Otherwise it is perfectly within the rules on the first day of the new congress.

Sal Gentile, a staff member for MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, writes:

If President Obama wants to get anything done in his second term, Democrats in the Senate will have to overcome one major obstacle: the filibuster.

In the last four years, Republicans have used the filibuster to prevent landmark pieces of legislation-such as the DREAM Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and additional measures to stimulate the economy-from even reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote. Republicans have shattered previous records for filibuster use, and the share of bills introduced in the Senate that have been passed has reached an all-time low. [..]

The filibuster has mutated over the years from a quirk of the Senate rules and an obscure procedural instrument-known mostly for so-called “lone wolf” filibusters like the one from the iconic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – to a routine impediment to legislative progress, a bludgeon used by the Republican minority to quash virtually any attempt by Democrats to govern. [..]

The proposed changes, which have the strong backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and nearly 51 Democratic senators, are also broadly endorsed by a wide range of Constitutional scholars and the public at large. A new Huffington Post/YouGov poll released Friday found that 65% of Americans favor tweaking the rules to require senators to debate a bill on the floor if they wish to block it from proceeding.

Even the man responsible for enforcing and administering the rules of the Senate endorsed some of the changes. In an interview on Up w/ Chris Hayes Saturday, Alan Frumin, who served as the parliamentarian of the Senate for nearly two decades until he retired last year, said he supported changes that would forbid senators from filibustering bills before they reach the floor for debate. Frumin also said he favored changes that would bar senators from blocking bills once those bills have passed the Senate and are ready to move to a conference committee with the House. [..]

The filibuster is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, and many of the Founders argued forcefully against proposals that would have required more than 51 votes to pass legislation in the Senate. In 1788, for example, James Madison, known as the ‘Father of the Constitution,” wrote in Federalist No. 58 that requiring a supermajority in the Senate would “reverse” the “fundamental principle of free government.” Such a policy would empower special interests and make government “oligarchic,” Madison said.

“An interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices,” Madison wrote, rather prophetically. “Or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a leading advocate of filibuster reform, joined Up host, Chris Hayes for a discussion on the prospects of filibuster reform in the Senate. Adding the views are panel guests Alan Frumin, former Senate Parliamentarian and author of  “Riddicks Senate Procedure;” Akhil Amar, Yale Law School professor and author of “America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By;” Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, MSNBC contributor, senior analyst at Latino Decisions and fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin; and Richard Arenberg, co-author of “Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate.”

Busting the Filibuster

Dec 05 2012

Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Petraeus

Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Petraeus

Fox News chief’s failed attempt to enlist Petraeus as presidential candidate

By Bob Woodward, The Washington Post

December 3, 2012

So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.



The Washington Post has obtained a digital recording from the meeting, which took place in Petraeus’s office in Kabul.



McFarland mentioned her conversation with Petraeus in a FoxNews.com piece on April 27, 2011. “Our discussion was off the record, and to respect that I will not quote the general,” she wrote. By that time, it was clear that Petraeus would be nominated as CIA director. “I can’t help thinking that the Obama administration has done something a bit underhanded but politically shrewd by tapping Petraeus for the CIA,” she added, because it would remove him as a “potential rival” in the presidential contest.

On Monday, Ailes, 72, said there was “zero chance” he would leave Fox to reenter politics for Petraeus or anyone else. “The money is too good,” he said, declining to say how much he earned, although reliable reports have pegged the amount at roughly $20 million per year under a new four-year contract.

“I left politics in 1988 because I hated it,” Ailes said. “My main interest is seeing my 12-year-old’s basketball games.”

Heh.  Just another Beat Sweetener.

(I)t’s impossible to tell the difference between the tone of a reporter who we now know was literally sucking the dick of her subject and the tone of just about any other modern American reporter who is given access to a powerful person for a biography or feature-length profile.

Matt Taibbi