10/16/2013 archive

2013 Senior League Championship: Cardinals @ Dodgers Game 5

The good news for the Dodgers is that shortstop Hanley Ramirez will be playing today despite a busted rib that happened in Game 2 when he was Hit By Pitch.  The bad news is that despite his willingness to play injured he was entirely ineffective in Game 4, striking out 3 times.

Other than that and the fact they kept it reasonably close in Game 4 there’s not much good news at all.  The Cardinals scored first in the 3rd inning off a Single, a Sacrifice, an RBI Double, another Sacrifice, and a 2 Run Homer.  It would turn out to be all the scoring they needed.  The Dodgers pulled within 1 on the 4th with a Leadoff Double, a Walk, an RBI Single, a Sacrifice and another RBI single. Nolasco was pulled for a Pinch Hitter, but that never works.  Things stayed quiet until the 7th when the Cards added an insurance run from a Solo Shot by Robinson, wait for it, Pinch Hitting for Maness.  St. Louis 4 – 2, lead Series 3 – 1.

I’m not always right.

The Dodgers are up against it now.  They face elimination at home tonight and then twice in Busch Stadium.  They’ll be counting on the arm of Zack Greinke (15 – 4, 2.63 ERA R) who’s currently pitching even better than that against Joe Kelly (10 – 5, 2.69 ERA R) who is not.  If the Series extends you’ll see Kershaw and Ryu again who’ve proven no slouches in the post-season.

What they really need is offense in a Series that hasn’t shown much with the Dodgers scoring 7 times in 4 games against St. Louis’ 8.

So Dodgers fans, it hasn’t been a blow out by any means.  I wish you good luck.

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.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: In debt deal, Republicans aren’t surrendering anything

The government remains closed. The unimaginable – default on our national debt – looms, with unknown but foreboding consequence. Tea party Republicans remain willing to undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States in this unnecessary and manufactured crisis. And for some, the impending calamity seems to increase rather than temper their lunacy. At the right-wing Values Voter Summit this week, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) claimed that if Republicans refuse to lift the debt ceiling and the United States defaults, it would be an impeachable offense by the president. Go figure.

In Washington, this folly is measured by poll numbers. Republicans, and particularly the tea party, are “losing” because their public approval numbers have plummeted. Republicans are said to have “surrendered,” since they abandoned their threat to default on U.S. debts unless Democrats agreed to defund or delay Obamacare. Now Senate Republicans are offering to reopen the government and fund it at current levels only until mid-January. Supporters of the deal argue that it would allow for negotiations on a real budget before the next harsh across-the-board sequester cuts kick in, but it means that Republicans will use the threat of the sequester – and the next round of the debt ceiling showdown – to exact longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

Surrender? Any more “victories” like this, and Democrats will end up paying annual tribute to Republican party coffers. If Democrats accept these terms, it will only encourage Republicans to hold the country hostage over and over again.

Karin Higgins: Congress and the President: Just Because You Were Bullied, Don’t Take It Out on Our Seniors

Let’s try to remember a lesson we all should have learned as kids. Just because you were picked on by the neighborhood bully is no excuse to go home and kick the dog or punch your little brother.

Maybe some inside the Beltway need a refresher course. Just because a handful on the right have shut down government and threatened default on the debt that’s no excuse to embrace proposals to slash Medicare and Social Security.

But that is exactly what is on the agenda, the “compromise” reward for those who engineered the lunacy of the last two weeks with the attempt to reverse the results of last November’s election by refusing to fund government services or pay the debt unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded or repealed.

Mary Botari: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson Reach New Heights of Hypocrisy in “Fix the Debt” Ad

The Campaign to Fix the Debt, the $40 million dollar astroturf “supergroup” that CMD exposed on the cover of the Nation magazine, has shifted into high gear in an effort to leverage the debt ceiling crisis into cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Today, the group launched a six figure TV ad buy that reaches new heights of hypocrisy — and that is saying a lot.

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles have long been spokespersons for Fix the Debt. The “folksy” Simpson: “For cryin’ out loud, Erskine, who isn’t fed up with what’s goin’ on in Washington?” The Bowles tsk tsk: “These politicians are playing games jerking our country around from crisis to crisis.”

This is rich from a group that has been hyping a debt and deficit crisis since its launch in July 2012, even though the deficit has been cut in half in recent years. In January 2013 Fix the Debt steering committee member and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen admitted that Fix the Debt’s strategy was to create an “artificial crisis” to achieve a “grand bargain” on Medicare and Social Security.

Heather Mallick: 2013 Resembles 1927, A Terrifying Year

2013 is looking a lot like 1927, a scary year in American history.

I don’t know why you all seem to think it’s 2013. Clearly it is 1927. I just read Bill Bryson’s book on the American summer of that year – the glorious writer has an astonishing knack for narrative even on sedative subjects like baseball – and it fell from my nerveless fingers when I realized what he was trying to convey.

The world is holding 1927 all over again.

This is soul-chilling. I have had this Twilight Zone sensation before and I always restrain myself from asking total strangers if they notice anything funny about people’s hair and the background music. In London it is always next year. In Zara with its nylon dresses and boxy purses, it is still 1965, but in Topshop it’s 1975, just as it is in downtown Edmonton. In Harry Rosen it is the mid-’90s, the last time men were forced to wear suits, and at work, it is always Grade 7 all over again. Retro is in. I go into people’s homes now and wonder why they are trying to recreate my parents’ rec room.

Heidi Moore: In praise of empiricism: a Nobel prize for everyday economics

Fama, Shiller and Hansen are worthy winners for focusing on the messy reality of market behaviour, rather than abstract theories

This summer, I took a look at my retirement account. It was pathetic.

Scattered across a random group of mutual funds – growth, value, tech, emerging markets, what have you – my retirement dollars were all making skimpy profits, even though the market was good. The stockpickers running those funds had one job – to do better than the S&P 500 – and they were clearly failing.

I moved my entire retirement nest egg into an index fund, which essentially just imitates the S&P 500 with no stockpicking or other funny stuff. The result: my little nest egg ballooned by thousands of dollars in just a few months.

I forgot to thank one man for my move: Eugene Fama. The man who won the Nobel memorial award in economics Monday discovered years ago that stockpicking was a fool’s game; you can’t really beat the market. An entire industry of index funds exists because of Fama’s research.

His two co-winners are also men who care what happens in the real world. Economics has a reputation as wonky, nerdy discipline that loves theories that are pure and distant from humanity, like cottony clouds, and hates to get its hands dirty with real-world concerns. This year’s Nobel prize in economics is finally, a victory for the study of human nature.

Rachael Dunlop: Anti-vaccination activists should not be given a say in the media

99% of experts support the view that childhood vaccinations are safe and effective, whilst 1% do not. Why, then, would the mainstream media give any kind of air time to science deniers?

Imagine this scenario: you’re covering a story on circumnavigating the globe so you interview a geographer to get their views, but for the sake of balance you also get a representative from the Flat Earth Society. Seems absurd right?

Sure. But as a scientist, I see this kind of ridiculous “balance” happening all the time in stories concerning science and medicine. And it’s not just bad because it insults my delicate scientifical sensibilities, research now tells us that it can actually be harmful.

Let’s look at vaccination as an example. Assume that 99% of experts support the view that childhood vaccinations are overwhelmingly safe and effective, whilst 1% do not. Why then would the mainstream media run stories where a doctor or scientist offers a qualified, considered, researched, opinion and then turn to a wing nut who’s spent a couple of hours on Dr Google and has decided vaccines are bad, m’kay?

There’s a term to describe giving more time to opposing view points than the evidence actually supports – false balance.

So okay, my “feelpinions” might get hurt, but does it really matter otherwise? Well yes, it turns out it does.

On The Table

Sell outs?  Nope, bought and paid for.


“An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”- Simon Cameron (1799-1889)

Saving us from ourselves

The great neoliberal dream-

Will China’s Gambit to Undermine the Trans-Pacific Partnership Succeed?

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, October 10, 2013

While eyes in the US have remained focused on the budget cliffhanger in Washington, in Bali, two sets of meetings were taking place. The first was the latest set of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The US, led by John Kerry (Obama was supposed to make an appearance but the budget drama kept him away) met with representatives of the 12 nations it is pressing to agree to this deliberately mis-branded “trade deal”. The reason the label is misleading is that trade is already substantially liberalized; the real point of the TPP and its cousin, the pending EU-US trade agreement, is to weaken the power of nations to regulate, which will allow multinationals to lead a race to the bottom on product and environmental safety.

he second meeting in Bali this week was for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). And the two intersected in intriguing ways. Remember, the terms of the TPP are shrouded in secrecy that is utterly inconsistent with the notion of democratic rule. Draft chapters have not been released. In the US, the US Trade Representative has given briefings on the general terms of the pact’s chapters, but as anyone who has worked on contracts or legislation, reading the detailed terms is critical to understanding an agreement, and those are being kept firmly secret.

Not only has the US been pushing remarkably hard on the secrecy front, it’s being remarkably aggressive on timing. It got a commitment from the prospective signatories in Bali for the pact to be finalized by year end, when a State Department briefing immediately afterward met with skeptical questions (if you have time, you really should read the session in full. The obstinacy and disingenuousness of the State Department mouthpiece is way too obvious).

In fairness, the Forbes article points out that one set of issues that was seen as a major stumbling block for Japan, that of five types of agricultural products it wanted held out of the deal, may not be such a problem after all because the Japanese Prime Minister Abe, who talked up the deal this week, looks to be able to play the sellout of domestic farmers so as to disadvantage an LDP rival.

However, the US has been ruffling the potential signatories.

And the State Department Q&A also indicated that Indonesia, which was also hosting the APEC leaders’ meeting, had the US trying to upstage that session.

Now bruised official egos are likely not enough in and of themselves to derail a trade deal. But the Asian nations are also playing a careful balancing act between the current hegemon, the US, and its presumed successor, at least in the region, if not globally, China. Now remember, the whole point of the TPP is that it is an “everybody but China” deal. So what did China do at the APEC summit when Obama was detained in Washington? Step up its efforts to undermine the TPP.

It’s not clear that China’s efforts to throw sand in the TPP gears will work. But the year end timetable looks like a bizarre Administration fantasy (why push for an empty commitment to a deadline that clearly can’t be met?). And the parallel ASEAN trade talks could give countries that wanted to drag their feet on the TPP an excuse to do so (note that one country being reluctant is likely to be insufficient to derail the deal, but two or three could change the equation. Reporters in the State Department briefing were making comparisons to the failed Doha round).

A final factor that could work against the TPP is a continuation of a destabilizing budget battle. As we’ll discuss in our accompanying post today, there was progress of sorts Wednesday, in at least the two sides have agreed to talk. But they aren’t even at the stage of discussing terms, beyond a vague idea of putting the debt ceiling on hold while the two parties work out a bigger budget deal, with deficit cutting measures included. The problem is given the failure to reach a Grand Bargain Great Betrayal last year, I don’t see why there is any reason to believe a six week delay will pave the way for a deal coming together, given the increased hostility between the two camps and the hard core Republican right insisting on throwing Obamacare into the talks. The longer Washington is in disarray, the weaker its position in pushing for a trade deal. As we’ve said before, that may be the one silver lining of the damaging Federal shutdown.

(Yves is running a fundraiser and while things are going well she would certainly appreciate a token of your support.  ek)

11ty Dimensional Chess

Don’t worry, I got this.

Obama’s Credibility Problem

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Wednesday October 9, 2013 10:38 am

During health care reform, instead of saying he actively opposed the public option and direct drug price negotiations because he cut a deal with the drug lobby, Obama tried to pretend these were in fact big concessions to Republicans. This ended up causing Obama to waste months trying to get any Republicans on board to make this excuse work. When no Republicans agreed to go along Obama ended up look like a terrible negotiator for still giving up “big concessions” – without getting any votes.

When the Bush tax cut deal was reached, Obama again thought it would be clever to needlessly “fold” and only accept an tax on incomes over $400,000. In reality what Obama has always wanted most was a grand bargain. If he fought harder and got a full repeal on the Bush tax cuts for the rich, there would probably be nothing for congressional Democrats to get from a grand bargain. That would have ended up being a long term “lose” from Obama’s perspective. So he chose to look weak and leave some revenue on the table. That way there could be something he could “get” from Republican in his next grand bargain push.

During the last debt ceiling fight Obama thought a fake crisis would cause all sides to agree to a grand bargain so Obama pretended to be weak. He invited this Republican hostage taking tactic by saying he was open to negotiations. Now Republicans think he is weak on the debt ceiling, instead of realizing he was just trying to play everyone the last time.

After watching Obama constantly feigning weakness to do things to justify pursuing policies he know his Democratic base would oppose, I find it funny that no one in Washington ever knows when Obama is being sincere. So when Obama finally actually takes a firm position Republicans don’t trust him. Rep. Paul Ryan straight up said, “no one believes that.”

You know, human nature hasn’t changed much in 2,500 years.

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”

The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” said the villagers, “when there’s no wolf!” They went grumbling back down the hill.

Later, the boy sang out again, “Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!” To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘wolf’ when there is NO wolf!”

But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more.

Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”

But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn’t returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.

“There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, “Wolf!” Why didn’t you come?”

An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.

“We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the youth, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!”

On This Day In History October 16

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 16 is the 289th day of the year (290th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 76 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic at 46 Amboy St. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States.

It was raided 9 days later by the police. She served 30 days in prison. An initial appeal was rejected but in 1918 an opinion written by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals allowed doctors to prescribe contraception.

This was the beginning of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921,  which changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. in 1942. Since then, it has grown to 850 clinic locations in the United States, with a total budget of approximately US$1 billion, and provides an array of services to over three million people.

Dealing with sexuality, the organization is often a center of controversy in the United States. The organization’s status as the country’s leading provider of surgical abortions has put it in the forefront of national debate over the issue. Planned Parenthood has also been a party in numerous Supreme Court cases.

In scanning through the articles on Margaret Sanger, I found this bit of trivia quite amusing

In 1926, Sanger gave a lecture on birth control to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. She described it as “one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing,” and added that she had to use only “the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.” Sanger’s talk was well-received by the group and as a result “a dozen invitations to similar groups were proffered.”

The NSA: Bigger Is Not Better

In the case of the NSA’s scooping up and storing all that private data, they ran into a glitch, too much information makes the job of surveillance harder

The volume of NSA contacts collection is so high that it has occasionally threatened to overwhelm storage repositories, forcing the agency to halt its intake with “emergency detasking” orders. Three NSA documents describe short-term efforts to build an “across-the-board technology throttle for truly heinous data” and longer-term efforts to filter out information that the NSA does not need.

Spam has proven to be a significant problem for NSA – clogging databases with data that holds no foreign intelligence value. The majority of all e-mails, one NSA document says, “are SPAM from ‘fake’ addresses and never ‘delivered’ to targets.”

In fall 2011, according to an NSA presentation, the Yahoo account of an Iranian target was “hacked by an unknown actor,” who used it to send spam. The Iranian had “a number of Yahoo groups in his/her contact list, some with many hundreds or thousands of members.”

The cascading effects of repeated spam messages, compounded by the automatic addition of the Iranian’s contacts to other people’s address books, led to a massive spike in the volume of traffic collected by the Australian intelligence service on the NSA’s behalf.

After nine days of data-bombing, the Iranian’s contact book and contact books for several people within it were “emergency detasked.”

LOL. The NSA has a spam problem.

Meanwhile, the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander has had to admit to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he lied back in June about those 54 terrorists plots he claimed were “thwarted” by the agency’s phone surveillance program.

Alexander admitted that only 13 of the 54 cases were connected to the United States. He also told the committee that only one or two suspected plots were identified as a result of bulk phone record collection.

Leahy was not happy. “We’re told we have to (conduct mass phone surveillance) to protect us, and the statistics are rolled out that they’re not accurate,” he said. “It doesn’t have the credibility here in the Congress, it doesn’t have the credibility with this chairman and it doesn’t have the credibility with the country.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, in an op-ed behind a paywall, the committee chair, Sen Dianne Feinstein trotted out the old “9/11 be very afraid” canard and repeated the debunked Alexander lie.

Consider the case of 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was being watched by the CIA while he was in Malaysia. U.S. intelligence agencies failed to connect the dots before the attack to recognize that al-Mihdhar had flown with (future) hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi to Los Angeles in January 2000.

Intelligence officials knew about an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen with ties to al-Mihdhar as well as the safe house’s telephone number, but they had no way of knowing if anyone inside the U.S. was in contact with that phone number in Yemen. Only after 9/11 did we learn that al-Mihdhar, while living in San Diego, had called the safe house. [..]

Working in combination, the call-records database and other NSA programs have aided efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorism in the U.S. approximately a dozen times in recent years, according to the NSA. This summer, the agency disclosed that 54 terrorist events have been interrupted-including plots stopped and arrests made for support to terrorism. Thirteen events were in the U.S. homeland and nine involved U.S. persons or facilities overseas. Twenty-five were in Europe, five in Africa and 11 in Asia.

Can everyone say say Richard Clark.

At Techdirt, Mike Masnick points out none of what Sen. Feinstein said is true:

First off, as has been explained over and over again, the intelligence community already had certain tools in place to discover such phone calls. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t have the information — they did. It was that they failed to “connect the dots.” In other words, they had too much information which obscured the important information they needed. [..]

Note the all important “and other NSA programs” language here. Also the use of “terrorist events” not plots. And, remember, those “thirteen events… in the U.S. homeland,” have since been whittled down to only one that actually relied on the call records program that she’s defending — and that wasn’t a terrorist plot but a cab driver in San Diego sending some cash to a Somali group judged to be a terrorist organization.

So, we have elected representatives and high paid appointees blatantly lying and getting away with it to protect their turf with no one is holding them accountable,

2013 Senior League Championship: Cardinals @ Dodgers Game 4

If you’re a Dodgers fan you’ve got to be feeling a little happier about your prospects tonight.  As for me my biggest real problem with them is I don’t have a cute video I can use like Squirrels in my Pants the way I do for the Cardinals.

Now if you’re a Cardinals fan on the other hand you can’t be well pleased with last night’s game.  Wainwright didn’t pitch like a stopper (for those unfamiliar with the term a stopper is a guy who stops losing streaks by pitching shut outs and one runs) and Ryu did.  In the 4th Wainwright delivered up a Leadoff Double followed by a Sacrifice and an RBI Double.  Another Sacrifice and an RBI Triple and it’s 2 – 0 Dodgers.

They pulled Wainwright in the 8th for a pinch hitter (have I mentioned they never work?) and the Dodgers added insurance off the Bullpen with three 1 Out Singles in succession scoring a Run before Choate was able to shut down the rally.  Dodgers 3 – 0, trail in the Series 2 – 1.

Tonight once again the Cardinals have a chance to force 3 elimination games on the Dodgers.  The L.A. boys will be sticking with Ricky Nolasco (13 – 11, 3.70 ERA R) after flirting with the concept of sending out Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw on short rest.  The Cardinals will counter with Lance Lynn (15 – 10, 3.97 ERA R) who’s main claim to post-season fame is the 2 innings (with W) he worked in the Cards 13 inning Game 1 victory.

Hmm, maybe I do have a cute video for the Dodgers after all.