Daily Archive: 10/28/2013

Oct 28 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 thea Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: The Big Kludge

The good news about HealthCare.gov, the portal to Obamacare’s health exchange, is that the administration is no longer minimizing its problems. That’s the first step toward fixing the mess – and it will get fixed, although it’s anyone’s guess whether the new promise of a smoothly functioning system by the end of November will be met. We know, after all, that Obamacare is workable, since many states that chose to run their own exchanges are doing quite well.

But while we wait for the geeks to do their stuff, let’s ask a related question: Why did this thing have to be so complicated in the first place?

It’s true that the Affordable Care Act isn’t as complex as opponents make it out to be. Basically, it requires that insurance companies offer the same policies to everyone; it requires that each individual then buy one of these policies (the individual mandate); and it offers subsidies, depending on income, to keep insurance affordable.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: First, Admit the Problem

Here’s the mistake made by President Obama and the Democrats that nobody is talking about: They have been too fearful of confronting our country’s three-year obsession with the wrong problem.

And here is the tea party’s greatest victory: It has made the wrong problem the center of policymaking.

The wrong problem is the deficit. The right problem is sluggish growth and persistent unemployment.

The New York Times Editorial Board: ‘Not One More’

President Obama urged Congress on Thursday to revive immigration reform, which is not dead but not moving, either. He was talking mostly to House Republicans, though he also urged business, labor and religious groups to “keep putting the pressure on all of us to get this done.”

It’s good that Mr. Obama said “us.” It acknowledges his own role in this continuing disaster.

Much of the responsibility to fix what Mr. Obama calls the “broken immigration system” lies within his own administration. He can’t rewrite immigration laws, but he can control how well – or disastrously – they are enforced. He can begin by undoing the damage done by his Homeland Security Department. Mr. Obama has just nominated Jeh Johnson, a former Defense Department general counsel, to replace homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who resigned in July. It’s the perfect opportunity for a fresh start.

Cliff Shecter; Senator Durbin: Don’t sell us short on Social Security

Visiting the issue of Social Security is fraught with misadventure, especially as Midterm elections approach.

To: Majority Whip, Dick Durbin, US Senate

From: Your pal, Cliff

Dear Dick,

I must have been a bit hard of hearing while watching you this past week on FoxNews Sunday-the hard of hearing being the key Fox demographic, after all-but I think I heard you say that Social Security in the United States “is going to run out of money in 20 years,” so you want to “fix it now.” I couldn’t have heard that right, could I have? Let me try “The Google,” as wily former President W. Bush once counseled.

Ok, Dick, I just consulted the transcript, and, sadly, I didn’t hear it wrong. So it seems we need to have a bit of an awkward conversation.

First, my friend (I still like to think of you this way, as you’re usually such a staunch supporter of common-sense positions on key issues), surely you must be aware that you misspoke?

Robert Reich: Obamacare is a Republican Construct (So Why Are They So Upset?)

The Democrat’s version of health insurance would have been cheaper, simpler, and more popular

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will seek to delay a requirement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that all Americans obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty. “With so many unanswered questions and the problems arising around this rollout, it doesn’t make any sense to impose this one percent mandate tax on the American people.”

While Republicans plot new ways to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to forget that for years they’ve been arguing that any comprehensive health insurance system be designed exactly like the one that officially began October 1st, glitches and all.

For as many years Democrats tried to graft healthcare onto Social Security and Medicare, and pay for it through the payroll tax. But Republicans countered that any system must be based on private insurance and paid for with a combination of subsidies for low-income purchasers and a requirement that the younger and healthier sign up.

Kevin Gosztola: The Banal Justification for Directing the US Surveillance State at World Leaders

All countries spy on each other. Countries like Brazil, France, Germany and Mexico would not be so upset that they had been spied on by the United States if it had not been made public by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In fact, countries have learned to look the other way and accept that they are being spied on regularly by American intelligence agencies so there really is no reasonable justification for all this outrage from world leaders.

As The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius declared on CNN, “Everybody does do this kind of thing. The US, through the NSA, does it more aggressively because it’s just better at it. It’s got more capabilities.”

The above has been the typical reaction in the US. It aims to suppress debate or conversation about the operations, which US intelligence is engaged in around the world. It seeks to paint outraged officials as simply jealous. If they could spy on all the world’s people at all levels of society, wouldn’t they be doing it, too?

The nature of this response from officials and commentators, from within a country that has built a massive surveillance state for spying on the entire world of which no other country has matched, is truly imperial.

Oct 28 2013

On This Day In History October 28

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 28 is the 301st day of the year (302nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 64 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1893, Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Pathetique, the last symphony written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is premiered in St. Petersburg. Nine day s later, Tchaikovsky died suddenly at age 53 possibly from cholera but others have theorized that he might have committed suicide. Tchaikovsky was homosexual and often suffered from bouts of depression and doubts about his creative talents throughout his life. At one point while composing the 6th, he tore up the manuscript and discarded it.

Tchaikovsky dedicated the Pathetique to Vladimir “Bob” Davydov, his nephew While the relationship was apparently never consummated, Davydov was reportedly one of the great loves of Tchaikovsky’s life.

The theme in this first movement is most familiar since it has been frequently used in movies and songs.

The second theme of the first movement formed the basis of a popular song in the 1940s, “(This is) The Story of a Starry Night” (by Mann Curtis, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston) which was popularized by Glenn Miller. This same theme is the music behind “Where,” a 1959 hit for Tony Williams and the Platters as well as “In Time,” by Steve Lawrence in 1961. All three of these songs have completely different lyrics.

British progressive rock band The Nice covered Symphony No. 6 on their album Five Bridges.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony has proved a popular choice with filmmakers, with extracts featuring in (amongst others) Now, Voyager, the 1997 version of Anna Karenina, Minority Report, Sweet Bird of Youth,Soylent Green and The Aviator.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony has also been featured during the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, being danced by Russia’s national ballet team.

Oct 28 2013

Seven Seconds to Save the Social Safety Net

7 Reasons to Take 7 Seconds to Save Social Security and Medicare

by Richard (RJ) Eskow, The Huffington Post

A broad coalition of organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, is joining Sen. Bernie Sanders in a petition drive to resist cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It only takes a few moments to sign; it’s that easy. [..]

The threat is very real, and these cuts could take place with very little warning. On a personal note: I signed. I did it because a lot of people would suffer needlessly by the kind of deal they’re cooking up. I did it because I think it’s wrong to allow the privileged and powerful to overrule the will of the people. And frankly, I did it because I’m scared. This deal could be done before most Americans even see it coming.

It’s fast and easy to sign this petition. It only took me seven seconds. Here are seven reasons why you should. [..]

1. Republicans are still demanding “entitlement cuts.”

[..]

2. Some of these cuts are in the President’s budget.

[..]

3. The “chained CPI” is a deep cut to Social Security benefits.

[..]

4. The chained CPI isn’t fair, either.

[..]

5. The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are both inhumane and cumbersome.

[..]

6. Millennials are already getting a raw deal. This would make it worse.

[..]

7. In a democracy, the people — not corporations are billionaires — are supposed to decide.

Take Action: Defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and our coalition partners in demanding, “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”

Bernie is serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months — and where a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, Bernie is fighting every day to protect our earned benefits. Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and a diverse coalition of thousands of fellow progressives now and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Add your name today!

He’s right, depending on how fast you can type and press enter, just seven seconds. So it for yourself and future generations.

Oct 28 2013

2013 Major League Baseball Championship Game 4: Red Sox @ Cardinals

You want text with that?

Oct 28 2013

Sunday Train: Steel Interstate Revolution

The Steel Interstate is a proposal to pursue dramatic gains in the energy efficiency of long haul freight transport in the United States, resulting in:

  • Substantial reductions in Petroleum Imports;
  • Substantial reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions;
  • Substantially improved protection from Petroleum Supply interruptions;
  • Improved productivity for North American manufacturing; and
  • Substantial reductions in damage to the existing Asphalt Interstate System

How can it promise all of this? By mining gross inefficiency. The United States has one of the most energy inefficient systems of moving freight long distances available under current technology, and we combine that with an economy that relies heavily on moving freight long distances.

Some of the specific sources of energy efficiency are:

  • Moving cargoes in linked electric freight trains offers less air resistance than moving cargoes in individual trucks, because the freight car ahead provides a slipstream for the freight car immediately behind;
  • Steel wheel on steel rail has less rolling resistance than rubber tire on asphalt road;
  • Electric motors are more efficient than diesel or gasoline internal combustion engines; and
  • When braking, electric trains can put a load on their electric motors and generate power, feeding it back onto the line

Overall, long haul electric freight is around 15 times more energy efficient than long haul diesel semi freight. I tend to express this as over ten times the energy efficiency, to allow leeway for possibly longer routings when taking advantage of the Steel Interstate.

Long haul electric freight trains are also more space efficient than long haul truck transport. Freight demands that would require multiple lanes each way just for truck traffic can be readily accommodated on a two track mainline route. This can be done while accommodating a mix of 60mph heavy freight and 100mph fast container freight by including regular extended sections of passing track: the difference between passing track and sidings is that on-schedule faster and slower trains using the passing track remain in motion, rather than one sitting still in a siding waiting for the other to pass.

Finally, the operating cost per ton-mile for electric freight for both 60mph heavy freight and 90mph fast freight is enough lower than the operating cost of long haul trucking that the government can fund a National Steel Interstate with interest subsidies alone, with Access Fees and User Fees refunding the original capital cost of the system ~ initially, funding expansion of the system, and finally funding retiring the bonds.