01/02/2013 archive

The House Goes Home Leaving Sandy Victims Behind

Late last night the House of Representatives voted to pass the Senate’s “Fiscal Cliff” bill and, by unanimous consent a few meaningless bills that will go nowhere. What they didn’t do, that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had promised they would, was pass the $60.4 billion Sandy Relief Bill that passed the Senate last week. The reaction from the regions representatives was scathing, especially from Republicans.

“I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds,” Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican, said during an interview on CNN on Wednesday morning. “Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”

And Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican from Staten Island, said the failure to vote was a “betrayal.” He urged that action be taken as soon as possible.

“It’s not about politics,” he said. “It’s about human lives.” [..]

President Obama issued a statement Wednesday calling for an immediate vote.

“When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need,” he said. “I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans.”

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, released a joint statement condemning the decision not to vote on the storm aid bill this week.

“With all that New York and New Jersey and our millions of residents and small businesses have suffered and endured, this continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable,” they said. They added, “This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented.” [.]

“Denying emergency aid to Superstorm Sandy victims is a new low for House Republicans,” said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat. “When our neighbors in other states are knocked down by emergency events, we put partisan politics aside and extend a helping hand to help them get back up. Helping struggling families recover from disasters has never been a partisan issue in Washington and it never should be. New Jersey and New York families have been hurt badly by Sandy and it is shameful that Washington Republicans are adding to their pain by standing in the way of their recovery.” [..]

“Speaker Boehner’s failure to allow vote on Sandy bill is a disgrace,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, issued a blistering statement on Wednesday morning, calling the inaction “indefensible and shameful.” She called on Mr. Boehner to visit damaged neighborhoods on Staten Island and in the Rockaways, but said, “I doubt he has the dignity nor the guts to do it.”

“Speaker Boehner should call his members back for an up-or-down vote today and allow them to vote their consciences,” she said. “Anything less is an insult to New York.”

Outgoing chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who represents part of the area devastated by Sandy, was the most scathing.

“It pains me to say this. The fact is the dismissive attitude that was shown last night toward New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut typifies a strain in the Republican party”

“I can’t imagine that type of indifference, that type of disregard, that cavalier attitude being shown to any other part of the country. We’re talking about real life and death situations here.”

It was in the low 20º F’s here in NYC this morning with wind chill factors near 0º F. There are still thousands living in homes and apartment buildings that have intermittent to no heat, hot water, or electricity. For many food and medical care is still a crisis. The official death toll from the storm is about 143 for the region. The fact is there are many more deaths that can be attributed to the storm, either from accidents or exacerbation of medical conditions from stress or lack of access to medical care or medications. The fears now is that people will die from hypothermia in their own homes that they fear to leave because of vandalism. Most have lost everything and have struggled to keep what is left and rebuild their live, they are afraid to leave and still willing to risk their lives to keep what is left. Yet, the House leadership has left for vacation refusing to do their jobs.

I don’t often agree with Peter King, as a matter of fact I can’t recall ever agreeing with him, but he spoke for me and everyone living here in the region, especially those still struggling to survive.

Tis’ but a scratch!

When last we checked in on Royal Dutch Shell’s “High Tech” Arctic drilling operation they were pretty hosed, eh?  Their containment unit was crushed like a beer can at half its designed operating depth on a clear sunny day in Puget Sound Washington.

Well the weather is not always so nice as that farther north and later in the season and the drilling rig Shell has been using, the Kulluk, and Aiviq the tug moving it to it’s winter quarters in Seattle from Dutch Harbor (famous from Deadliest Catch), ran into some.

Now what some people would call a ‘big storm’ is not so much by comparison to your typical gale, ask anyone who has lived in Maine or Syracuse (6″?  A dusting.  You don’t even get a snow day.).  This one was big enough though, 40′ seas and 70 mph winds.  Kulluk broke her tow and started drifting.  Then when they finally got a line on her again the engines on Aiviq went out, all of them.  Bad diesel they say.

So they called in the Coast Guard which was luckily enough based quite nearby on Kodiak Island instead of a thousand miles away like they would be during actual drilling and they were able to restart Aiviq and with the help of a couple of Cutters start towing again.

Monday, New Year’s Eve, they gave up on that and intentionally grounded Kulluk on the environmentally sensitive but uninhabited Sitkalidak Island near Kodiak Island with the intention of re-floating it and trying again when the weather moderated.

And it did, to a more typical 30′ swell and 35 mph breeze which the Coast Guard divers looked at and decided was maybe not as moderate as they needed to survive.

There it sits today, Wednesday, rocking gently back and forth on a sandy beach with no sign of leaking its 143,000 gallons of fuel or 12,000 gallons of lubricants and hydraulic fluid OR getting pounded to razor blades on the rocks depending on whether you believe Shell propoganda or not.

As always EdwardTeller @ Firedog Lake is on top of the story with these posts I highly recommend you read-

But if you prefer corporate media instead of DFH Firebagger bloggers here’s a sample-

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

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Fixing the economy, a new focus for Congress

The Perils of Pauline melodrama over the “fiscal cliff” will drag on as Washington heads toward another “debt ceiling” faceoff that will climax over the next eight weeks or so.

This farce captivates the media, but no one should be fooled. This is largely a debate about how much damage will be done to the economic recovery and who will bear the pain. There is bipartisan consensus that the tax hikes and spending cuts that Congress and the White House piled up to build the so-called fiscal cliff are too painful and will drive the economy into a recession. So the folderol is about what mix of taxes and spending cuts they can agree on that won’t be as harsh.

Largely missing is any discussion of how to fix the economy, to make it work for working people once more. Just sustaining the faltering recovery won’t get it done. We’re still struggling with mass unemployment, declining wages and worsening inequality. Corporate profits now capture an all-time record percentage of the economy; workers’ wages have hit an all-time low. A little constriction, or a lot, won’t do anything to change that reality.

Liz Ševčenko: Guantánamo Bay’s Other Anniversary: 110 Years of a Legal Black Hole

Even if President Obama finally fulfills his promise to close the detention camp, America’s ambiguous Cuban dominion goes on

As the fourth anniversary of Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo approaches, the pressure is on: it’s been far too long, and the moment is now. But why is Guantánamo so hard to close?

Because it’s been an integral part of American politics and policy for over a century. To understand what it takes to close Guantánamo, we should look to how we’ve failed – and succeeded – in closing it before.

Gitmo’s “legal black hole” opened in 1903 with a peculiar lease that affirmed Cuba’s total sovereignty over Guantánamo Bay, but gave the US “complete jurisdiction and control”. This inadvertently created a space where neither nation’s laws clearly applied: a purgatory that’s been used to park people whose legal rights posed political threats. Gitmo’s generations of detainees have been inextricable, if often invisible, parts of America’s deepest conflicts: over immigration, public health, human rights, and national security.

Maureen Dowd: The Man Who Said ‘Nay’

Michael Bennet was supposed to be going off a cliff in Vail.

But instead of his usual New Year’s trip to a ski lodge with his wife and three daughters, the junior senator from Colorado found himself in a strange, unfamiliar place in the middle of the night: breaking with the president and his party to become one of only three Democratic senators and eight senators total to vote against President Obama’s fiscal deal.  [..]

In frantic New Year’s Day deal-making, he voted “nay” at about 2 a.m., and the House passed the bill around 11 p.m. He said he did so because the deal did not have meaningful deficit reduction, explaining: “Going over the cliff is a lousy choice and continuing to ignore the fiscal realities that we face is a lousy choice.”

He said he thinks the president wants serious deficit cuts but is dealing with people “so intransigent I’m not sure they could be brought to an agreement that’s meaningful in the absence of going over the cliff. But it’s a terrible thing to say. People at home are so bone-tired of these outcomes.”

Laurie Penny: Russia’s Ban on US Adoption Isn’t About Children’s Rights

The row between Russian and the US on adoption ruins lives and leaves both countries looking sordid

Russia and the US are squabbling over whose human rights abuses are bigger. After the US signed the Magnitsky Act, which blacklists any Russian deemed to be a human rights violator, Russia has retaliated by barring American couples from adopting Russian children, 60,000 of whom have found new families in the US since 1992. Perhaps this is how the cold war really ends: not with a bang, but a series of petty policy disputes that savage individual lives and leave both countries looking sordid.

The uncomfortable truth is that underneath the posturing, Vladimir Putin has a point. The international adoption trade is a shady business – the perfect micro-example of how America’s concept of itself as a benevolent superpower is so often at odds with reality.

Fran Quigley: How Human Rights Can Save Haiti

Last month, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a new initiative to address the cholera epidemic in Haiti. The plan includes a variety of measures, most notably the building of desperately-needed water and sanitation infrastructure.

This is not yet cause for celebration. The UN and the international community have so far committed to pay only a fraction of the estimated $2.2 billion cost of the program. And the 10-year plan lacks an appropriate sense of urgency, with many more Haitians sure to die needlessly while it is being carried out.

But the announcement is definitely promising news, because it shows that the United Nations is responding to the pressure of a relentless global human rights campaign. Multiple experts, including a member of an investigatory panel appointed by the UN itself, have concluded that the cholera outbreak was triggered by the UN’s own reckless disregard for the health and safety of the Haitian people. Those investigations establish that, in October, 2010, untreated human waste from cholera-infected UN troops was dumped into a tributary of Haiti’s main waterway, leading to a gruesome wave of chaos and death that claimed 7,800 lives and sickened 600,000 more.

It’s Not 11th Dimensional Chess. The President Wants Working People to Clean Up His Mess

Once we realize there is no fiscal cliff and the whole premise is a myth, you think about why it was created. It was created so we can mop up after the 1% which owns all three branches of government including the President. Obama didn’t add a raise in the debt ceiling to the Obama Bush tax cut deal he made in 2010 which created this political mess we are in right now.

Yet the poor and middle class are supposed to “stop whining and complaining” and just mop it up as if it’s one of the menial 60% of low wage jobs created that were part of this “recovery” where 93% of the income it went to the top 1%? I don’t think that’s fair. He needs to ask his Wall St buddies in his Treasury Department to share sacrifice. We have sacrificed enough in the name of the fantasy evil deficits from the land of Mordor causing fantasy default. Think about this when Nancy Pelosi was lying to you about this sellout ultimately helping the middle class last night.

From blatant robbery to money laundering, here are the biggest scandals of 2012 banking history.

#9. Middle-Class Wealth declines by 35 percent

On July 18, 2012, the U.S. Bureau of the Census made it official: The middle-class is getting poorer. The median family — that family exactly at the mid-point of the wealth ladder  — saw its net worth collapse. (Net worth is all assets minus all liabilities.) In 2005, the median family’s wealth was valued at $102,844 (in inflation adjusted dollars.)  By 2010, the latest Census figures showed a drop of 35 percent to $66,740.

And we’re supposed to celebrate this?  

On This Day In History January 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.

January 2 is the second day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 363 days remaining until the end of the year (364 in leap years).


On this day in 1962, the folk group The Weavers are banned by NBC after refusing to sign a loyalty oath.

The Weavers, one of the most significant popular-music groups of the postwar era, saw their career nearly destroyed during the Red Scare of the early 1950s. Even with anti-communist fervor in decline by the early 1960s, the Weavers’ leftist politics were used against them as late as January 2, 1962, when the group’s appearance on The Jack Paar Show was cancelled over their refusal to sign an oath of political loyalty.

The importance of the Weavers to the folk revival of the late 1950s cannot be overstated. Without the group that Pete Seeger founded with Lee Hays in Greenwich Village in 1948, there would likely be no Bob Dylan, not to mention no Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary. The Weavers helped spark a tremendous resurgence in interest in American folk traditions and folk songs when they burst onto the popular scene with “Goodnight Irene,” a #1 record for 13 weeks in the summer and fall of 1950. The Weavers sold millions of copies of innocent, beautiful and utterly apolitical records like “Midnight Special” and “On Top of Old Smoky” that year.


Live Stream: House Vote on Fiscal Cliff Bill

21:28 EST: There will be 30 minutes of debate before the vote

22:41 EST: Vote on “Fiscal Cliff” bill starts now. 217 needed to pass.

23:02 EST: Bill passes 267- 167.

23:05 EST: Pres. Obama to address the nation from the East Room Briefing Room at 23:15 EST.

Orange Bowl

That’s what you make by cutting an orange in half and scooping out the edible part so you can put fruit salad in it right?

Oh, you are so old school.

It used to mean something, now the parade isn’t even on TV (though they still drive around some of the floats at halftime).  This year’s competitors are Florida State vs. Northern Illinois.

Go Huskies!  Or maybe not, too much New Year.