Daily Archive: 12/13/2012

Dec 13 2012

FCC: Merry Christmas, Rupert

The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of handing media mogul Rupert Murdoch a very nice Christmas present. Murdoch, who already owns Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox News Channel, Fox movie studios, 27 local TV stations and more, now wants to purchase the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, that are currently owned by the bankrupt Tribune Company, and a controlling stake in the Yes Network. Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, is about to ease the rules to let him.

We were down this road before during the Bush administration and it was roundly rejected, not only by the public, but by Congress and the courts:

Genachowski’s proposal is essentially indistinguishable from the failed Bush administration policies that millions rallied against in 2003 and 2007. Ninety-nine percent of the public comments received by the FCC opposed lifting these rules when the Republicans tried to do it.

Genachowski’s proposal is nearly identical to the one the Senate voted to overturn with a bipartisan “resolution of disapproval” back in 2008. Among the senators who co-sponsored that rebuke to runaway media concentration were Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

At the time, Obama blasted the FCC for having “failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism,” saying the agency was in “no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation.” Nothing has changed — except which party controls the White House.

The federal courts have repeatedly — and as recently as 2011 — struck down these same rules, noting the FCC’s failure to “consider the effect of its rules on minority and female ownership.” The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to study the impact of any rule changes before changing the rules. The FCC has done nothing of the kind.

Yet, the Obama FCC now wants to hand control of the news in a media outlet to one man.

Bill Moyers addressed this issue with Sen. Bernie Sanders on why big media shouldn’t get bigger.

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled a majority of American media. Now that number is six. And Big Media may get even bigger, thanks to the FCC’s consideration of ending a rule preventing companies from owning a newspaper and radio and TV stations in the same big city. Such a move – which they’ve tried in 2003 and 2007 as well -would give these massive media companies free rein to devour more of the competition, control the public message, and also limit diversity across the media landscape. On this week’s Moyers & Company (check local listings), Senator Bernie Sanders, one of several Senators who have written FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking him to suspend the plan, joins Bill to discuss why Big Media is a threat to democracy and what citizens can do to fight back.

Sanders also expresses his dismay that such a move would come from an Obama appointee. “Why the Obama Administration is doing something that the Bush Administration failed to do is beyond my understanding,” Sanders tells Bill. “And we’re gonna do everything we can to prevent it from happening.”

FCC May Give Murdoch a Very Merry Christmas

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Until now, this hasn’t been the best year for media mogul Rupert Murdoch. For one, none of the Republicans who’d been on the payroll of his Fox News Channel – not Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin – became this year’s GOP nominee for president. [..]

But Murdoch’s luck may be changing. Despite Fox News’ moonlighting as the propaganda ministry of the Republican Party, President Obama’s team may be making it possible for Sir Rupert to increase his power, perversely rewarding the man who did his best to make sure Barack Obama didn’t have a second term. The Federal Communications Commission could be preparing him one big Christmas present, the kind of gift that keeps on giving – unless we all get together and do something about it. [..]

In prior years, the FCC has granted waivers to the rules, but this latest move on their part would be more permanent, allowing a monolithic corporation like News Corp or Disney, Comcast, Viacom, CBS or Time Warner – in any of the top twenty markets – to own newspapers, two TV stations, eight radio stations and even the local Internet provider. [..]

Make your voices heard – write or call Genachowski and the other commissioners – you can find their names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers at the website fcc.gov, or on the “Take Action” page at our website, BillMoyers.com. Write your senators and representatives, too, tell them the FCC must delay this decision and give the public a chance to have its opposition known. We’ve done it before.

Just ask the FCC this basic question: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

Dec 13 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The “Yes, Minister” Theory of the Medicare Age

Aaron Carroll can’t believe that we’re still talking about raising the age for Medicare eligibility; his disbelief is easy to understand. It is, after all, a truly terrible idea, for reasons he details in the linked post; it would inflict vast hardship on the most vulnerable, while saving the federal government remarkably little money, and would actually raise overall health spending, basically because private insurers have much higher administrative costs and much less bargaining power than Medicare, so shifting seniors out of the program ends up costing a lot of money.

Yet the idea just won’t go away. It’s almost surreal. What’s going on here? [..]

When I look at this whole discussion I keep thinking of a line from “Yes, Minister”: “We must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do it.”

And there’s a real possibility that this kind of logic will lead to huge suffering for hundreds of thousands of older Americans.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: When You’ve Lost the VFW on Budget Cuts, You’ve Lost America

The “chained CPI” is an attempt to camouflage deep cuts to Social Security and other benefits, along with tax hikes on middle class wages (but not for high incomes), in a forest of numbers and terminology.

Know who’s expert at camouflage? Veterans. And a whole lot of their organizations hate the “chained CPI.” [..]

A wide range of organizations representing the nation’s veterans signed a joint letter to leaders in Congress which said “we are writing to express our opposition to changing the formula used to calculate the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) because of the harmful effects it will have on veterans and Social Security benefits.”

The organizations signing on to the letter (18 in all) spanned generations, with the Vietnam Veterans of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. It includes former enlisted personnel as well as the Military Officers Association of America. Gold Star Wives, an organization of widows and widowers whose spouses died while on active duty, was represented. And so was the VFW, or Veterans of Foreign Wars, an organization that had traditionally been staunchly conservative.

Here’s a thought for politicians who might be considering the “chained CPI”: When you’ve lost the VFW, you’ve lost America.

Dean Baker; The Bowles and Simpson Traveling Circus

Not surprisingly, the wealthy people who have benefitted from the policies that have redistributed income upward, for example NAFTA-type trade deals, Wall Street bailouts, and anti-union labor policies, don’t want the public talking about them. This is why we have the Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson speaking tour.

For those who somehow have missed it, Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson were the co-chairs of President Obama’s 2010 deficit commission. While they were unable to produce a report that had the support necessary to win approval from the commission, they have made a career out of promoting their own proposal which they misleadingly imply was a report of the commission.

According to the New York Times, Bowles and Simpson get $40,000 a piece for speaking engagements where they push their agenda. This price tag tells us everything we need to know about what is going on here.

Robert Reich: Why the Fed’s Job Program Will Fail

For the first time, the Federal Reserve has explicitly linked interest rates to unemployment.

Rates will remain near zero “at least as long” as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and if inflation is projected to be no more than 2.5 percent, said the Federal Open Market Committee in a statement Wednesday. [..]

These are refreshing words at a time when Congress and the White House seem more concerned about reducing the federal budget deficit than generating more jobs.

But the sad fact is near-zero interest rates won’t do much for jobs because banks aren’t allowing many people to take advantage of them. If you’ve tried lately to refinance your home or get a home equity loan you know what I mean.

Banks don’t need to lend to homeowners. They can get a higher return on the almost-free money they borrow from the Fed by betting on derivatives in the vast casino called the global capital market.

Miriam Pemberton: Defense Budget: Ripe for Reductions

The pending budget deal must include long-overdue military spending cuts.

Here we are on brink of a major historical moment. We’re beginning to wind down the longest period of war in our history. And we’re about to turn around a 13-year-long surge in Pentagon spending. [..]

And we can afford to do that because, we’re not broke. Our budget priorities just need fixing. In a recent report, my Institute for Policy Studies colleagues and I propose a framework for doing so. Our proposal includes $198 billion in yearly military cuts – from spending on things like wars we shouldn’t fight and weapon systems and overseas bases we don’t need.

These steps would get us that 30 percent contraction, which would bring this new century’s defense downsizing in line with the ones of the previous century. It’s an essential step toward building the sustainable jobs base we need.

George Zornick: Emerging Fiscal Cliff Deal Spares Corporations, but Not the Safety Net

The Wall Street Journal has news of some actual developments in the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations: this morning, it reported that President Obama will add corporate tax reform to his offer to House Republicans, in an effort to bring them along and invite a buy-in from the pesky CEOs crowding up the airwaves during most of this saga.

The Journal says “The White House’s corporate-tax suggestion wasn’t specific” but that “White House officials, in making the suggestion, cited a corporate-tax plan the administration unveiled in February.” The plan the White House outlined earlier this year, if you don’t recall, was to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent while closing corporate tax loopholes to a degree that enough revenue is raised to offset the rate reduction.

So you can immediately see the first problem with Obama’s proposal-since it’s revenue-neutral, it asks corporate America to contribute nothing to a final deficit reduction passage.

Dec 13 2012

Temporary Halt to Keystone XL South

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline Temporarily Halted in Texas

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Business Week

December 11, 2012

Michael Bishop, who granted TransCanada an easement across his property in Nacogdoches County, obtained a temporary restraining order from Texas County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz on Dec. 7. The order blocks the company from working on Bishop’s property for two weeks while allowing work on other sections of the pipeline to proceed.



Bishop, a 64-year-old chemist who owns a biofuels company, claims the Keystone pipeline is only permitted to carry crude oil that is liquid under normal atmospheric temperatures and pressure. Bitumen is “solid at atmospheric temperature and pressure and must be diluted for transport via pipeline,” he said in his complaint.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service ruled last year that crude oil isn’t the same as tar sands, and that “tar sands oil” isn’t subject to the U.S. excise tax on petroleum, Bishop said in his complaint. He said TransCanada has “intentionally misled and misrepresented” the nature of its product to regulators, landowners and the public in order to obtain permits and eminent domain rights to push its project through.

“It is also a fact that the firm used coercion and intimidating tactics to obtain the property in question and that acting on the validity of their claim, I settled under duress,” Bishop said in an affidavit filed with his request for a restraining order.

Bishop said in a phone interview today that TransCanada didn’t try to negotiate with him before survey crews trespassed on his 20-acre property near Nacogdoches, located about 100 miles northeast (161 kilometers) of Houston, a year ago.

Judge temporarily halts Keystone XL pipeline in Texas

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

December 11, 2012, 11:38 a.m.

The decision came after Michael Bishop, 64, a retired paramedic and chemist in East Texas, filed a lawsuit arguing that TransCanada lied to him and other landowners, promising that the Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil, not tar sands oil.

“What they’re calling tar sands oil is not oil by anyone’s definition,” Bishop told The Times, adding that he’s worried the pipeline’s proposed contents might contaminate his land. “I’m very concerned about a leak. They need to pull the permit, go back and re-register this on the federal level as a hazardous-material pipeline and see if they can get it permitted then.”



Environmentalists have converged on East Texas to protest the pipeline’s construction, arguing that if it leaks or spills, tar sands oil could cause dangerous contamination. Groups such as Tar Sands Blockade have protested at construction sites and highlighted the cases of landowners, including Bishop and Eleanor Fairchild, an East Texas great-grandmother arrested after a protest with actress Daryl Hannah on her property in October.



President Obama encouraged construction of a portion of the pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas, but rejected a presidential permit for construction earlier this year, suggesting that the company reroute the pipeline to avoid areas in Nebraska that environmentalists argue should be protected. Howard said the company has proposed a new route for that portion of the pipeline and was awaiting approval from state officials.



Bishop, a libertarian former Marine, initially fought the company’s attempt to condemn his land — 20 acres in the town of Douglass, about 160 miles north of Houston — but eventually settled with the company a month ago because he could not afford the hefty lawyers’ fees of more than $10,000.

He said he contacted environmental groups, but no one would help him bring a lawsuit against the company. So he bought a law book and decided to proceed by himself, filing suit in Austin against the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that oversees pipelines. He argued that it failed to properly investigate the Keystone XL pipeline and protect groundwater, public health and safety.

Dec 13 2012

On This Day In History December 13

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.a

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 13 is the 347th day of the year (348th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 18 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1642, Abel Tasman discovers New Zealand.

New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (the North Island and the South Island), and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. The indigenous Maori language name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing but in free association); Tokelau; and the Ross Dependency (New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica).

The majority of Zealand’s population is of European descent; the indigenous Maori are the largest minority. Asians and non-Maori Polynesians are also significant minority groups, especially in urban areas. The most commonly spoken language is English.

New Zealand is a developed country that ranks highly in international comparisons on many topics, including lack of corruption, high educational attainment and economic freedom. Its cities also consistently rank among the world’s most liveable.

Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the country’s head of state and is represented by a Governor-General, and executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet of New Zealand.

Polynesian settlers

New Zealand is one of the most recently settled major landmasses. The first known settlers were Eastern Polynesians who, according to most researchers, arrived by canoe in about AD 1250-1300. Some researchers have suggested an earlier wave of arrivals dating to as early as AD 50-150; these people then either died out or left the islands. Over the following centuries these settlers developed into a distinct culture now known as Maori. The population was divided into iwi (tribes) and hapu (subtribes) which would cooperate, compete and sometimes fight with each other. At some point a group of Maori migrated to the Chatham Islands where they developed their distinct Moriori culture.

European explorers

The first Europeans known to have reached New Zealand were Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman and his crew in 1642. Maori killed four of the crew and no Europeans returned to New Zealand until British explorer James Cook’s voyage of 1768-71. Cook reached New Zealand in 1769 and mapped almost the entire coastline. Following Cook, New Zealand was visited by numerous European and North American whaling, sealing and trading ships. They traded European food and goods, especially metal tools and weapons, for Maori timber, food, artefacts and water. On occasion, Europeans traded goods for sex.

The potato and the musket transformed Maori agriculture and warfare, beginning in the frequently visited north then spreading southwards. The resulting Musket Wars encompassed over 600 battles between 1801 and 1840, killing 30,000-40,000 Maori, although introduced diseases would play an even greater role in the Maori population’s decline to around 40% of its pre-contact level during the 19th century. From the early 19th century, Christian missionaries began to settle New Zealand, eventually converting most of the Maori population, although their initial inroads were mainly among the more disaffected elements of society.

 

Dec 13 2012

Who never will be missed.

Joe Lieberman’s sad send-off

By Dana Milbank, Washington Post

Dec 13, 2012 01:53 AM EST

As Lieberman plodded through his speech, thanking everybody from his wife to the Capitol maintenance crews, a few longtime friends trickled in.

In came John Kerry (Mass.), who bested him in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries and then, like many Senate Democrats, endorsed Ned Lamont, who tried to oust Lieberman from his Senate seat in 2006.

In came Susan Collins (Maine), Lieberman’s Republican counterpart on the Homeland Security Committee, whom Lieberman supported over a Democrat in her 2008 reelection.

In came GOP iconoclast John McCain (Ariz.), who was close to naming Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate in 2008 – which would have made Lieberman the first man on both a Democratic and a Republican national ticket.



And so it was a man with few political allies who bid the chamber farewell. “I regret to say as I leave the Senate that the greatest obstacle that I see standing between us and the brighter American future we all want is right here in Washington,” he said.

BuhBye.

You too Dana.

Dec 13 2012

Falalalalalalalaheh

Merry ek’smas.

Some think I’m an unrelievedly gloomy storm crow, an albatross if you will who never shows his face except to taunt from behind a mask.

Well, that’s very true.

Still even I occasionally run across something that reminds me I really ought to get my clothes out of the dryer.

Sea Shepherd buys anti-whaling ship from Japan

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian

Tuesday 11 December 2012

“We have four ships, one helicopter, drones and more than 120 volunteer crew from around the world ready to defend majestic whales from the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet,” said Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson.



To compound Japan’s embarrassment, the 184ft vessel was previously moored in Shimonoseki, home to the country’s Antarctic whaling fleet, after being retired by the meteorological agency in 2010.

In its past incarnation as the Seifu Maru, the ice-strengthened vessel’s duties included gathering data on ocean currents for Japan’s north Pacific whaling fleet, according to Sea Shepherd.

Paul Watson is a bail jumping fugitive arrested in Germany and wanted by INTERPOL for endangering whalers.

In February, the whaling fleet was called back to port early with just one-fifth of its planned catch following clashes with activists.

The Sam Simon’s skipper, Lockhart MacLean, said he hoped to intercept the whaling fleet’s factory ship before a single whale was killed. “The goal is to find the factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and to pin the bow of this ship on the stern of that factory ship throughout the duration of the campaign, and send them home without any whales killed,” he told Reuters.

“We’re confident we can seriously impact their whale quota. This year all four of their harpoon ships are going to be tied up by our four ships, and the goal is that no harpooning can be done.”



A clause in the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling allows Japan to kill almost 1,000 whales each year for what it calls “scientific research”.

The meat is sold to restaurants and supermarkets, although the public’s waning appetite for the delicacy has created a huge stockpile of unsold produce.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

Whose beard with age is hoar,

Is gone; and now the Wedding-Guest

Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man

He rose the morrow morn.

Dec 13 2012

Falalalala lalalala

Merry ek’smas.

Some think I’m an unrelievedly gloomy storm crow, an albatross if you will who never shows his face except to taunt from behind a mask.

Well, that’s very true.

Still even I occasionally run across something that reminds me I really ought to get my clothes out of the dryer.

Sea Shepherd buys anti-whaling ship from Japan

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian

Tuesday 11 December 2012

“We have four ships, one helicopter, drones and more than 120 volunteer crew from around the world ready to defend majestic whales from the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet,” said Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson.



To compound Japan’s embarrassment, the 184ft vessel was previously moored in Shimonoseki, home to the country’s Antarctic whaling fleet, after being retired by the meteorological agency in 2010.

In its past incarnation as the Seifu Maru, the ice-strengthened vessel’s duties included gathering data on ocean currents for Japan’s north Pacific whaling fleet, according to Sea Shepherd.

Paul Watson is a bail jumping fugitive arrested in Germany and wanted by INTERPOL for endangering whalers.

In February, the whaling fleet was called back to port early with just one-fifth of its planned catch following clashes with activists.

The Sam Simon’s skipper, Lockhart MacLean, said he hoped to intercept the whaling fleet’s factory ship before a single whale was killed. “The goal is to find the factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and to pin the bow of this ship on the stern of that factory ship throughout the duration of the campaign, and send them home without any whales killed,” he told Reuters.

“We’re confident we can seriously impact their whale quota. This year all four of their harpoon ships are going to be tied up by our four ships, and the goal is that no harpooning can be done.”



A clause in the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling allows Japan to kill almost 1,000 whales each year for what it calls “scientific research”.

The meat is sold to restaurants and supermarkets, although the public’s waning appetite for the delicacy has created a huge stockpile of unsold produce.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

Whose beard with age is hoar,

Is gone; and now the Wedding-Guest

Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man

He rose the morrow morn.