Daily Archive: 04/12/2013

Apr 12 2013

Admiral Zhao

Fire Nation- Yay!

Apr 12 2013

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

Joseph Brings Plenty: Save Wounded Knee

WOUNDED KNEE, S.D.  THE Lakota Sioux word “takini” means “to die and come back” but is usually translated more simply as “survivor.” It is a sacred word long associated with the killing of scores of unarmed Lakota men, women and children by soldiers of the United States Army’s Seventh Cavalry in the winter of 1890.

Wounded Knee was the so-called final battle of America’s war on its Native peoples. But what happened was hardly a battle. It was a massacre. [..]

Now, our heritage is in danger of becoming a real-estate transaction, another parcel of what once was our land auctioned off to the highest bidder. The cries of our murdered people still echo off the barren hills – the cries we remember in our hearts every day of our lives. But they may finally be drowned out by bulldozers and the ka-ching of commerce.

Paul Krugman: Lust for Gold

News flash: Recent declines in the price of gold, which is off about 17 percent from its peak, show that this price can go down as well as up. You may consider this an obvious point, but, as an article in The Times on Thursday reports, it has come as a rude shock to many small gold investors, who imagined that they were buying the safest of all assets.

And thereby hangs a tale. One of the central facts about modern America is that everything is political; on the right, in particular, people choose their views about everything, from environmental science to gun safety, to suit their political prejudices. And the remarkable recent rise of “goldbuggism,” in the teeth of all the evidence, shows that this politicization can influence investments as well as voting.

Jeff Faux: Where’s the Change?

Democrats keep telling their growing coalition to wait and the economic policies they’ve been hoping for will come. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s agenda can’t back up that promise.

The Democratic Party’s long-term prospects have dramatically improved since the November election. They will control the White House for another four years. The Republicans, who lost the total vote for the House of Representatives, remain captive of an unpopular reactionary right wing. The “Obama Coalition” of minorities and single women is growing faster than the GOP’s white male base. If demography is destiny, Democrats-and the progressive interests that they are supposed represent in the two-party system-are the wave of the future.

But the American dream is about upward mobility. Ultimately, “The economy, Stupid” trumps identity politics. If the Democrats are not the champions of expanding jobs and incomes for the majority of voters who work for a living-whatever their gender, color, or sexual orientation-their claim to being the natural majority party will amount to little.

Bruce A. Dixon: Is This Barack Obama’s 2nd Term? Is it Bill Clinton’s 3rd? Or Is It Ronald Reagan’s 9th?

The answer is yes to all three. Ronald Reagan hasn’t darkened the White House door in decades. But his policy objectives have been what every president, Democrat and Republican have pursued relentlessly ever since. Barack Obama is only the latest and most successful of Reagan’s disciples.

Like the present era, the Reagan presidency marked a series of decisive rightward turns for US empire at home and abroad. [..]

One could also argue, since we are in the grips of the greatest depression, although we don’t call them that any more, since the 1930s, and Obama’s economic policies bear more in common to Herbert Hoover than to Franklin Roosevelt, that we’re living through Herbert Hoover’s third term as well. But we’ll save that for another day.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 9 ‘Chained CPI’ Facts They Don’t Want You to Know

The “chained CPI” proposal in President Obama’s budget continues to draw much-deserved fire, which is only likely to increase as more information about it becomes known.

Here are nine embarrassing facts about the chained CPI which the White House and its defenders would prefer to see overlooked: [..]

The bottom line? The chained CPI is the wrong answer to the wrong problem at the wrong time. It’s time for the White House to recognize that and move on. In the meantime Democrats need to walk away from it fast, before they pay a high price for it at the polls.

Jim Hightower: Fracking Free Speech

Welcome to Sanford, New York. It’s a pleasant place of 2,800 citizens on the New York-Pennsylvania border. Unfortunately, the pleasantness has been interrupted by a major squabble over whether or not to allow big companies to extract natural gas by fracturing the huge Marcellus Shale formation that underlies the region.[..]

However, as OnEarth magazine reports, Sanford’s town board is eager to allow oil and gas outfits to frack away. The board even leased land to one corporation that wants to drill inside the town. Last fall, Sanford officials went further, imperiously imposing a gag order on their own citizens. It seems that opponents of the profiteering frack rush were using the board’s public comment session to…well, to comment publicly.

Irritated, the board decreed that any topic could be discussed at its meetings – except fracking.

Apr 12 2013

On This Day In History April 12

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.

April 12 is the 102nd day of the year (103rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 263 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”

After his historic feat was announced, the attractive and unassuming Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Monuments were raised to him across the Soviet Union and streets renamed in his honor.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7. By that time, the Soviet Union had already made another leap ahead in the “space race” with the August 1961 flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in Vostok 2. Titov made 17 orbits and spent more than 25 hours in space.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s Flight into space.

Fifty years later, relive the world’s first space odyssey

‘Moon Shot’ recounts cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s history-making orbital trip in 1961.

MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle recaps Yuri Gagarin’s historic space mission, as shown in a Soviet documentary video.

Apr 12 2013

Good News in Arctic Oil Drilling!

When we started 2012 there were 3 Oil Companies with licenses to drill in the Alaskan Arctic- Statoil (Norwegian), Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips.

Last fall Statoil announced it was not going to start Arctic activity before 2015, well before the scope and depth of the Shell failure became apparent.  Woefully ill-prepared Shell was forced to withdraw after they wrecked all their equipment (to the tune of $4.5 Billion and counting) and send it to South Korea for repair.

This week ConocoPhillips announced that it will not start operations until 2014 at the earliest either.

All these companies cite ‘regulatory uncertainty’ as the reason.  This means they are uncertain whether they will be regulated at all or be able to create Deepwater blowout whenever they want.

ConocoPhillips Suspends Its Arctic Drilling Plans

By CLIFFORD KRAUSS, The New York Times

Published: April 10, 2013

The decision had been expected after last month’s announcement by the Interior Department that Shell Oil Company would have to provide a detailed plan addressing numerous safety issues before it could resume its drilling operations in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Shell was forced to remove its two drilling rigs from the area and send them to Asia for repairs after a series of ship groundings, weather delays and environmental and safety violations during the 2012 drilling season. Shell, which has spent more than $4.5 billion on its exploration program, also called off its drilling program for this year.



“Companies can’t be expected to invest billions of dollars without some assurance that federal regulators are not going to change the rules on them almost continuously,” she (Senator Lisa Murkowski R Alaska) said. “The administration has created an unacceptable level of uncertainty when it comes to the rules of offshore exploration that must be fixed.”



The Interior Department’s review, completed in early March, concluded that Shell had failed in a broad range of operational and safety tasks, including the towing of one of the two drilling rigs, which ran aground on an Alaskan island on New Year’s Eve. David Lawrence, the executive vice president who was in charge of the Alaska drilling program, recently left the company. The company said that the departure was “by mutual consent.”

ConocoPhillips joins hiatus in offshore Arctic operations

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

April 10, 2013, 1:19 p.m.

Statoil announced last fall that it was postponing its Arctic debut until at least 2015, and company spokesman Ola Morten Aanestad said even that is not a firm commitment. “The earliest possibility would be 2015, but we have not decided that it will be drilled in 2015,” he told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.



ConocoPhillips had planned to drill one well, and possibly two, in its Devil’s Paw prospect about 120 miles west of the village of Wainwright, significantly farther offshore than Shell’s operations in 2012.



One issue undoubtedly delaying federal approval of ConocoPhillips’ drilling plans was the company’s intention to use for the first time in the Arctic a jack-up drilling rig, which, unlike the floating rigs Shell employed, would attach to the ocean floor.

Questions have been raised about whether the company would be able to operate safely in the event of swiftly arriving ice packs, as happened during the opening days of Shell’s season in 2012, when its rig was forced to sail away from an advancing ice floe.

Sources familiar with talks between the federal government and  ConocoPhillips  said there were also questions about how the company would comply with requirements that it be able to drill a relief well in the event of a blowout that couldn’t otherwise be contained.



“There’s no reason the government should be operating with these clearly failed standards and oversight, and Conoco’s decision really provides more room to move forward and make operations safe. We really need to make sure that accidents, mishaps and disasters stop,” Christopher Krenz, Arctic program manager for Oceana, said in an interview.

In a big blow to Arctic exploration, Conoco’s offshore-drilling program on hold

Alex DeMarban, Alaska Dispatch

April 10, 2013

The announcement means there may be little oil activity on Alaska’s outer-continental shelf this summer, in part because other companies, including Norwegian oil giant Statoil, have followed the lead of Shell and Conoco.



The report followed Shell’s blunder-filled inaugural season of Arctic exploration, capped by the grounding of the Kulluk drill rig near Kodiak during a powerful winter storm.



The Alaska Wilderness League said industry and the government need time to figure out the next steps, because the risks of drilling in the undeveloped Arctic are extreme.  

“This pause is a real opportunity for President Obama to revisit his position on Arctic Ocean drilling,” said executive director Cindy Shogan. “With no infrastructure or ability to clean up an oil spill in ice, and Shell’s extensive laundry lists of mishaps and failures, it is a no brainer to suspend drilling in the Arctic. If President Obama truly wants to address his climate change legacy, saying no to Arctic Ocean drilling would be a huge first step.”

She added: “Today’s announcement from ConocoPhillips is further proof that no oil company is ready to drill in the harsh and unpredictable environment of the Arctic Ocean.”

Apr 12 2013

And I quote-

You think I am unaware that Republicans control

by Meteor Blades, Daily Kos

Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:15:21 AM PDT

the House of Representatives? Some of us warned in the early summer of 2010 that we were hearing ominous grumbling in our early precinct work (I was doing mine in northeast Los Angeles). We were hearing a distinct lack of enthusiasm from independents and many Democrats. And our effort to move this lack in a more positive direction was being resisted. When this message was conveyed here, the assertion of a lack of enthusiasm was pooh-poohed or even considered sabotage. Only in late September and early October did it become clear to everyone that we were headed for a “shellacking,” a term I used well before the election to describer where we were headed (a term President Obama used afterward). What did we get for our warnings? The accusaton that it was the messengers who had caused the bad outcome.

My point in the previous comment is that somebody who presents a budget that includes a cut in the most successful social program in the nation with the idea that this will somehow energize the base in the next election should get new advisers.

To be charitable, this is a gigantic mistake. It has no value as some twisty-turny strategy to “punk” Republicans. It punks us and our party. Going door-to-door in the next campaign season and telling people that the Republicans weren’t even willing to accept proposed Democratic cuts in Social Security so it proves they are unreasonable and should be voted out is not a winning strategy, it’s a foolish one. Indeed, it’s recipe for a lot of slammed doors and phone hang-ups on the campaign trail and lowered turnout for our side when the votes are counted. The “strategy” of showing Republicans to be unreasonable by making offers that shouldn’t be made is not explainable on the phone or doorstep or Facebook because it makes no f’n sense. It doesn’t just piss off us usual suspects in the left-most wing of the party but pretty everyone across the Democratic spectrum who is, knows, or will become, a senior.

The derangement is on the part of those who think this budget move constitutes smart politics. It doesn’t matter what else is in the budget-and there is quite a lot of good stuff, to be sure-when the optics and the reality of the social cuts are what will be focused on by every senior and everybody not in the top economic tier who has a senior in the family or will someday be a senior themselves, which is quite a lot of people.

Apr 12 2013

Stop CISPA: Bill Headed For Vote

Stop CISPA Last month the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was resurrected in the House by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

Following a closed-door meeting, the bill was voted out of the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 18-to-2 and privacy experts are up in arms over the lack of privacy protection that were stripped from the bill. Only two Democrats voted against the bi;;, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Stopping short of a veto threat, the White House said it was unlikely to support the bill

by Leigh Beadon, Techdirt

Here’s the full text of the statement from {Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman):

“We continue to believe that information sharing improvements are essential to effective legislation, but they must include privacy and civil liberties protections, reinforce the roles of civilian and intelligence agencies, and include targeted liability protections. The Administration seeks to build upon the productive dialogue with Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger over the last several months, and the Administration looks forward to continuing to work with them to ensure that any cybersecurity legislation reflects these principles. Further,

we believe the adopted committee amendments reflect a good faith-effort to incorporate some of the Administration’s important substantive concerns, but we do not believe these changes have addressed some outstanding fundamental priorities

.”

Where have we heard this before? FISA? The Patriot Act?

CISPA Amendment Proves Everyone’s Fears Were Justified While Failing To Assuage Them

Just this week, Rep. Rogers flatly stated this is not a surveillance bill. Still, in an attempt to placate the opposition, they backed an amendment (pdf and embedded below) from Rep. Hines replacing that paragraph, which passed in the markup phase. Here’s the new text:

   PRIVACY AND CIVIL LIBERTIES.-

   (A) POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.-The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, shall establish and periodically review policies and procedures governing the receipt, retention, use, and disclosure of non-publicly available cyber threat information shared with the Federal Government in accordance with paragraph (1). Such policies and procedures shall, consistent with the need to protect systems and networks from cyber threats and mitigate cyber threats in a timely manner-

   (i) minimize the impact on privacy and civil liberties;

   (ii) reasonably limit the receipt, retention, use, and disclosure of cyber threat information associated with specific persons that is not necessary to protect systems or networks from cyber threats or mitigate cyber threats in a timely manner;

   (iii) include requirements to safeguard non-publicly available cyber threat information that may be used to identify specific persons from unauthorized access or acquisition;

   (iv) protect the confidentiality of cyber threat information associated with specific persons to the greatest extent practicable; and

   (v) not delay or impede the flow of cyber threat information necessary to defend against or mitigate a cyber threat.

It seems to me they are hoping that by making the section longer and more complicated, people will miss the fact that very little has changed. But what’s truly astonishing is that this new text reads like a confession that CISPA does involve all the stuff that they’ve been insisting it has nothing to do with.

The big thing, of course, is that this oversight now involves civilian agencies, which is really the only meaningful change – and its impact has been rather minimized. Rather than putting the DHS or another agency in between the public and military agencies like the NSA, they’ve simply given them some input – and it’s hard to say how meaningful that input will be.

The Privacy Risks of CISPA

by Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Reports of significant data breaches make headlines ever more frequently, but lost in the cloak and dagger stories of cyberespionage is the impact proposed cybersecurity programs can have on privacy. The same Internet that terrorists, spies and criminals exploit for nefarious purposes is the same Internet we all use daily for intensely private but totally innocuous purposes.

Unfortunately, in their pursuit to protect America’s critical infrastructure and trade secrets, some lawmakers are pushing a dangerous bill that would threaten Americans’ privacy while immunizing companies from any liability should that cyberinformation-sharing cause harm. [..]

Here’s what needs to happen. First, CISPA needs to be amended to clarify that civilians are in charge of information collection for cybersecurity purposes, period. Anything short of that is a fundamental failure. Second, the bill needs to narrow the definition of what can be shared specifically to say that companies can only share information necessary to address cyberthreats after making reasonable efforts to strip personally identifiable information. Industry witnesses before the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees testified this year that this is workable, and such information isn’t even necessary to combat cyberthreats. Third, after sharing, CISPA information should be used only by government and corporate actors for cybersecurity purposes. As a corollary to that, there should be strict and aggressive minimization procedures to protect any sensitive data that slips through.

The ACLU and the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) have banded together to Stop CISPA. The petitions with over 100,000 signatures has been delivered to the White House. Now we need to get to the phones.

The White House switchboard is 202-456-1414.

The comments line is 202-456-1111.

Numbers for the Senate are here.

Numbers for the House are here.

The late internet activist Aaron Swartz called CISPA the “The Patriot Act of the Internet”. Call the White House and your representatives to protect your privacy rights.