10/09/2013 archive

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 thea Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Mitch McConnell’s moneyocracy

For a man who has spent his entire career preaching the gospel of lower taxes, it’s astounding how much Mitch McConnell wants your money.

Sen. McConnell’s zeal is impressive, but not surprising. He’s about to enter the most difficult election of his career – and he’s going to need every last penny. [..]

Today, the Supreme Court hears McCutcheon v. FEC, in which Shaun McCutcheon, a GOP activist and businessman from Alabama, is seeking to overturn the Federal Election Commission’s limit on biennial campaign contributions to federal candidates. But even that’s not good enough for McConnell – he wants the court to throw out campaign contribution limits entirely, and his lawyers have been given time during oral arguments to present this view.

Rebecca Solnit: The Age of Inhuman Scale: On the ‘Bigness’ of Climate Change

Late last week, in the lobby of a particularly unglamorous downtown San Francisco building, a group of passionate but polite activists met with a bureaucrat who stepped forward to hear what they had to say about the fate of the Earth. The activists wanted to save the world.  The particular part of it that might be under their control involved getting the San Francisco Retirement board to divest its half a billion dollars in fossil fuel holdings, one piece of the international divestment movement that arose a year ago.

Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.

The bureaucrat had a hundred reasons why changing course was, well, too much of a change. This public official wanted to operate under ordinary-times rules and the idea that climate change has thrust us into extraordinary times (and that divesting didn’t necessarily entail financial loss or even financial risk) was apparently too much to accept.

Nina Perkowski: No Accident: Why Have 19,142 Died at Europe’s Frontiers?

The recent deaths off the coast of Lampedusa are a gruesome consequence of EU border and immigration control policies that follow the logic of security and restrictionism over human rights and international maritime law

October 3rd, 2013 will go down as one of the deadliest days at the European external borders in decades. 363 people are now thought to have died in one single, tragic incident early that Thursday morning. And while the continuous, everyday deaths of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean are met by silence, the magnitude of this ‘blood bath’ spurred the Italian and international media to report on it widely. [..]

Last week’s catastrophe is the latest in a series of incidents that have left 19,142 people dead over the last 24 years, 13 of whom died only three days earlier close to a Sicilian beach. 19,142 lives are lost – and that includes only reported and documented deaths. Many others, having died and disappeared at sea, will never be part of these statistics. Giusi Nicolini, mayor of Lampedusa, made it explicit: we are witnessing war-like levels of death at Europe’s frontiers. In Pope Francis’ words, ‘this is a disgrace’. It is a disgrace for a political union that proclaims itself as a defender of human rights in the world. And that, at the same time, invests millions of Euros in restrictionist policies and practices that leave migrants and refugees little choice other than relying on smuggling networks, undertaking life-threatening journeys, and entering the European Union ‘illegally’.

Michele Chen: When Federal Contracts Turn Into Corporate Welfare

Where does the corporate bottom line end and the public interest begin? Through the voodoo economics of federal contracting, Washington’s “partnerships” with private corporations have drained the public trust straight into the pockets of top corporate executives. [..]

Federal contractors are currently subject to a very loose limit on the amount of an executive’s salary that can come directly from federal subsidies: about $763,000. Extrapolating from survey data on the top contractor executive salaries fromthe Government Accountability Office, Demos estimates the aggregate share of public money that is ultimately funneled into executive pay at $23.9 billion.

Rose Ann DeMoro: Heroic Fight by Sutter Nurses Shows That Workers Can Fight and Win

In a political and economic climate so heavily influenced by Wall Street, corporate CEOs, and extremists like those who shut down the government in an effort to block even the modest reforms of the Affordable Care Act, it’s sometimes hard to remember that it is still possible for nurses and working people to fight and win.

Well, thank goodness for the 3,000 RNs, and a few hundred techs, who work at Sutter hospitals and facilities in Northern California. They have just delivered an emphatic message to nurses and other workers everywhere. Stand up for yourselves, stand up for the public interest and the public will be with you and you can prevail.

Zoë Carpenter: Domestic Violence Shelters Struggle to Stay Open During Shutdown

Consider the government shutdown an extension of the GOP’s efforts to cut essential services to American women and their families. Now in its eighth day, the government shutdown has already kicked 7,000 children out of Head Start, and endangered 9 million women and children on WIC, including 2,000 newborns in Arkansas that may not receive nutritional formula if the shutdown persists.

Add women fleeing domestic violence and sexual assault to the list of vulnerable populations that the shutdown puts at greater risk. On Friday, a domestic violence program in DC called Survivors and Advocates For Empowerment with an intake center just blocks from the Capitol announced that it needed to raise $19,000 in a week in order to provide shelter, emergency lock changes at victims’ homes, staff for the hotline and court advocates during the shutdown.

On This Day In History October 9

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.

October 9 is the 282nd day of the year (283rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 83 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1967, socialist revolutionary and guerilla leader Che Guevara, age 39, is killed by the Bolivian army. The U.S.-military-backed Bolivian forces captured Guevara on October 8 while battling his band of guerillas in Bolivia and assassinated him the following day. His hands were cut off as proof of death and his body was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1997, Guevara’s remains were found and sent back to Cuba, where they were reburied in a ceremony attended by President Fidel Castro and thousands of Cubans.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as El Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat, military theorist, and major figure of the Cuban Revolution. Since his death, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol and global insignia within popular culture.

As a medical student, Guevara traveled throughout Latin America and was transformed by the endemic poverty he witnessed. His experiences and observations during these trips led him to conclude that the region’s ingrained economic inequalities were an intrinsic result of capitalism, monopolism, neocolonialism, and imperialism, with the only remedy being world revolution. This belief prompted his involvement in Guatemala’s social reforms under President Jacobo Arbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow solidified Guevara’s radical ideology. Later, while living in Mexico City, he met Raul and Fidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and travelled to Cuba aboard the yacht, Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the successful two year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.

Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included instituting agrarian reform as minister of industries, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba’s armed forces, reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. Such positions allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful motorcycle journey across South America. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution abroad, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed.

Guevara remains both a revered and reviled historical figure, polarized in the collective imagination in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs, and films. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him entitled “Guerrillero Heroico”, was declared “the most famous photograph in the world.”

You Get What You Pay For

((Note- In addition to a transcript, this link auto-plays)

Government Close Down – Another Grand Betrayal in the Works?

The Real News

October 7, 2013

William K. Black-

(T)he Koch brothers don’t care about the Republican Party. They don’t care about the United States of America. And they are incredibly wealthy. They are pure ideologues, in very large part.

What they do care about is making sure there’s no effective regulation, no effective environmental laws, no effective prosecutions of elite businesses. And they believe that this kind of power, which after all has taken offline, for example, a number of the regulatory agencies–and, you know, the EPA has lost all kinds of folks and such–they, the Koch brothers, love all of this. And what they mostly love is that they have demonstrated that they can take over one of the two major parties in the United States of America and use it for what is obviously an improper means, right, that we will extort you to get rid of legislation that was validly passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States. And this is, from their purpose, a demonstration of raw power that is supposed to make people fear them in the future. That’s what the Koch brothers get out of it.

Nice Guys Part Deux

James Clapper Thinks That NSA Employees Will Sell Out Our Nation After A Few Days Without A Paycheck

by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt

Tue, Oct 8th 2013 7:45am

According to James Clapper, nearly 70% of the intelligence workforce has been furloughed. The recently-passed Pay Our Military Act should put most of those civilian contractors back to work, but early last week, Clapper was very, very concerned about the damaging effects a layoff could have.

Clapper expounded on how exactly a shutdown would harm national security. It’s not so much that the massive servers might be powered down temporarily or that it might not be able to write checks to telcos and tech companies for backdoor rentals. No, the real problem is that a single missed paycheck is all that stands between any NSA contractor and complete subversion by foreign agencies.

According to Clapper, our national security is reliant on uninterrupted payments to a mercenary group of extortionate contractors. A few missed paychecks is a risk this country simply can’t take, not if we’re going to stay ahead of the terrorists.

This sort of statement from Clapper has to do wonders for troop morale. “Hey, guys! The boss says we’re all just opportunistic jerks with no loyalty and the willingness to sell out an entire nation if Uncle Sam doesn’t keep topping off the bank account.”

This paints a very different picture of the average intelligence analyst than the comparatively glowing portrait former NSA director Michael Hayden whipped up for a CNN interviewer while dodging the "ability" question.

According to Clapper, the American population values a continued paycheck more than it values loyalty and would gladly sell out its employer (and nation) rather than consider other options like short-term unemployment, job hunting or cutting expenses. If that’s how Clapper views the civilians the NSA employees, the biggest surprise is that, so far, only Snowden has skipped town with a few hard drives’ worth of documents.

Hayden, on the other hand, seems to feel NSA analysts are just Americans with bigger, faster computers and a frighteningly in-depth search engine. They’re people just like us, who would never, ever consider exceeding their “authorization,” no matter what amazing “abilities” the system provides.

Couldn’t happen to nicer guys.

NSA Center for Spy Data Suffers Electrical Failures

By Chris Strohm, Bloomberg News

Oct 8, 2013 12:00 AM ET

A $1.2 billion data center being built in Utah for the National Security Agency to house U.S. intelligence secrets has been plagued by electrical failures, according to an agency official.

The causes of the center’s problems, which include 10 electrical meltdowns in the past 13 months, have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery and delayed the its opening by a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Giant NSA Data Center Won’t Stop Blowing Up

By Adam Martin, New York Magazine

10/8/13 at 12:29 AM

The N.S.A.’s enormous new data storage center in Bluffdale, Utah, will eventually blow up (in the cell phone sense of the phrase) with quantities of data thought to be thousands of times larger than the printed collection of the Library of Congress. But first, its builders must figure out how to stop the machines inside from literally blowing up in electrical surges. … “One project official described the electrical troubles-so-called arc fault failures-as ‘a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box.’ These failures create fiery explosions, melt metal and cause circuits to fail, the official said.” Each arc failure, the most recent of which happened Sept. 25, has caused up to $100,000 in damage, according to The Journal. And the site’s builders and managers can’t agree on exactly what’s causing them or how to fix it.

(A) statement from the joint venture of construction contractors said “the causes of those problems have been determined and a permanent fix is being implemented.” But a report by an investigative “Tiger Team” in the Army Corps of Engineers said the fix was inadequate. “We did not find any indication that the proposed equipment modification measures will be effective in preventing future incidents.” It said the causes of eight of the meltdowns hadn’t been determined.

So far, the Tiger Team is unconvinced the contractors know how to fix this, writing that the problems “are not yet sufficiently understood to ensure that [the NSA] can expect to avoid these incidents in the future.” When it’s finally up and running, the data storage center is expected to be bigger than anything operated even by Google (though its exact size is classified). Until then, it’s more like a zettabyte-sized headache.

Obama to Nominate Yellen to the Fed Chair

In the midst of the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling crisis, it was announced from the usual anonymous White House sources, that President Barack Obama will name the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, Janet Yellen, as his nominee to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The announcement by president Barack Obama is scheduled for 3pm EST on Wednesday, the White House said. Both Yellen and the current Fed chair, Ben Bernanke, are expected to attend.

The nomination ends a long public debate about Obama’s choice for Fed chairman. Yellen has long been seen as the frontrunner to succeed Bernanke, who is set to step down early next year. But she faced stiff opposition from former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers who had strong support within the Obama administration. If approved by the Senate, she would be the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.

The president was left with few choices after his “favorite” and “best bud’ Larry Summers was forced to withdraw because of fierce criticism from just about everyone, including Wall Street, except White House insiders. Larry was just not going to happen.

That said, while Ms. Yellen is going to be the first female head of the Federal Reserve (another glass ceiling broken), she is hardly that different policy-wise from Summers.

What We Really Should be Yellin About When it Comes to Who Runs the Fed

by priceman

Effective regulation, and on that note, it is a positive thing that the Summers of our discontent can finally be laid to rest. After all the damage Larry Summers has caused in being one of the architects of this crisis, from boxing in Brooksley Born and ignoring her warnings with regard to derivatives which brought down Long Term Capital Management during the Clinton administration, to his sexism among everything else. He has now thankfully taken himself out consideration for the job.

It’s a good thing he did. Rather than fighting for something or someone that helps people suffering from this economic crisis, President Obama strongly recommended and fought for Larry Summers to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a guy who lost a billion dollars as President of Harvard betting on interest rates. Yeah, let that sink in for awhile.

It’s really not OK. This is why making excuses for everything the President does, as too many Democrats do without thinking of the damage, is dangerous, immoral, and unprincipled. Now it looks like the front runner to replace Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve is going to be Vice Chairwoman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and once President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Janet Yellin. Unlike Larry Summers, she at least saw the crisis coming as early as 2005.

Be Careful What You Ask For

The progressive Democrats of the Senate got Larry Summers to withdraw from consideration for chair of the Federal Reserve over the weekend. So now they’re yellin’ for Yellen. Well, folks Janet Yellen the current vice chair of the Federal Reserve is just the distaff version of Larry minus the misogyny.

Huffington Post’s senior political economy reporter Zach Carter gives a rundown of Ms. Yellen’s policy history before and during her tenure as chair of Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration. During that time she backed the repeal of the landmark Glass-Steagall bank reform, supported the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement and pressured the government to develop a new statistical metric intended to lower payments to senior citizens on Social Security. Yes, dears, that last one would be an earlier version of the Chained CPI.

2013 Junior League Division Series: Red Sox @ Rays Game 4

Well, there goes my prediction of Sox in 3.  It was a squeaker that shouldn’t have come down to a 2 Out Walk Off Solo Shot by Jose Lobaton.  The Rays shouldn’t even have been flirting with extra innings.

The big blow was the Longoria 3 Run Homer in the 5th.  Then they got ahead in the 8th, making Morales pay for a Leadoff Walk.  The Sox tied it up in the 9th but could have taken the lead with an insurance run if they hadn’t left Ellsbury stranded at 3rd after a spectacular steal with a Carp pinch hit KO.  Pinch Hitters never come through, ever.

Tonight Jake Peavy (12 – 5, 4.17 ERA R) takes the field against Jeremy Hellickson (12 – 10, 5.17 ERA R).  Now it seems that everyone in Stars Hollow is a rabid Red Sox fan except me and that’s because I’m mostly indifferent to teams that play Rounders instead of Baseball.  I would caution my friends not to get too excited about that full point of ERA advantage.  Peavy has a much better team behind him and that can make even a bad Pitcher look good.

I confidently predict we shall visit the Green Monster and worship the Great God Citgo again, the only question is whether it will be Thursday @ 5:30 pm ET or in the League Championship.