Daily Archive: 01/14/2014

Jan 14 2014

The Way We Were

Cindy Sheehan:

I remember those utopian years of 2008-2010 when the Democraps had complete control of the Federal Government. Remember those years when we got single-payer healthcare; wars were ended; the prisons were emptied; Monsanto was destroyed; education was improved; the environment was protected; big oil was put on trial and clean, renewable forms of energy were promoted and racism ended. Gods, how I long for those halcyon days of yesteryear!

Jan 14 2014

Appeals Court Neutralizes Net Neutrality

U.S. Appeals Court Deals Major Blow To Net Neutrality

By Reuters

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government’s latest effort to require internet providers to treat all traffic the same and give consumers equal access to lawful content, a policy that supporters call net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit brought by Verizon Communications Inc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in its ruling. [..]

During the oral argument in September, Verizon’s lawyer said the regulations violated the company’s right to free speech and stripped control of what its networks transmit and how.

The eventual outcome of the dispute may determine whether internet providers can restrict some content by, for instance, blocking or slowing down access to particular sites or charging websites to deliver their content faster.

As Expected, Court Strikes Down FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules: Now What?

By Mike Masnick, Techdirt

Basically, this is exactly what lots of us said at the start of this whole process. I’ve seen a bunch of reports overreacting to this today, from people saying that it’s “the death of the internet.” It’s not. There are problems on both sides here. The telcos absolutely do want to abuse things to effectively double charge both sides. And that could clearly create significant issues with the basic end-to-end nature of the internet.

However, on the flip side, we should be equally concerned about the FCC overstepping its bounds and mandate in regulating the internet. Because that opens up the opportunity for the FCC to regulate all sorts of aspects of the internet in dangerous ways. So, this ruling is both good and bad. It stops the FCC from overstepping its bounds… but opens up the opportunity for the telcos to sweep in and try to upset the basic concepts of the internet. It’s what happens now that becomes interesting. The court does leave open the possibility that the FCC could use other aspects of its mandate to establish net neutrality rules — where it has a much more firm legal footing. In other words, the court is telling the FCC basically: you can establish net neutrality rules if you do it correctly.

Circuit Court Of Appeals Strikes Down FCC’s Open Internet Order, Net Neutrality Threatened

By Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch

Media watchdog and advocacy agency Free Press released the following statement about the decision via President and CEO Craig Aaron, condemning it while also acknowledging that the Open Internet Order probably wasn’t the best possible solution for enforcing net neutrality:

   We’re disappointed that the court came to this conclusion. Its ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies – and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will.

   The compromised Open Internet Order struck down today left much to be desired, but it was a step toward maintaining Internet users’ freedom to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and communicate freely online. Now, just as Verizon promised it would in court, the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV. They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.

   The FCC – under the leadership of former Chairman Julius Genachowski – made a grave mistake when it failed to ground its open Internet rules on solid legal footing. Internet users will pay dearly for the previous chairman’s lack of political will. That’s why we need to fix the problems the agency could have avoided in the first place.

   New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently stated that the FCC must have the ability to protect broadband users and preserve the Internet’s fundamental open architecture. In order to do that, he must act quickly to restore reassert the FCC’s clear authority over our nation’s communications infrastructure. The agency must follow its statutory mandate to make broadband communications networks open, accessible, reliable and affordable for everyone.

   We look forward to working with Chairman Wheeler and the rest of the Commission to protect and preserve real Net Neutrality.

Take Action: Sign the Petition from Netroots Action

A federal appeals court just sided with Verizon and against you, against us, against the Internet.

If this ruling stands, the Internet as we know it will die.

Forget free and open access. Picture a system like cable TV with corporations charging for different levels of access, and blocking access to information they don’t favor!

The Internet is our tool for circumventing the corporate media, for reaching each other with a bit of truth and accuracy, for organizing each other into collective action. We cannot let this one go.

Sign this petition to the FCC, Congress, and the White House now!

Jan 14 2014

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

Dean Baker: Medical Travel: If Bill Gates Wanted to Do Something Good for the World

Everyone knows Bill Gates, the man who got incredibly rich by gaining a near monopoly in the computer operating system market. In the last decade Gates has devoted much of his money to the foundation he created for the ostensible purpose of helping humanity.

Whatever the merits of his foundation’s programs, he is missing out on an enormous opportunity to do good for the United States and the world. As has been often documented, health care costs in the United States are hugely out of line with health care costs elsewhere in the world. There is a huge gap with costs in the developing world, but the ratio of costs for most items and procedures is more than two to one even in comparison with other wealthy countries.

And, this gap is not explained by better care in the United States. We actually have worse outcomes compared with most other wealthy countries.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: No, Congress, You Shouldn’t ‘Pay For’ Extending Unemployment Insurance

Despite record-high levels of unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — Republicans are refusing to permit any extension of unemployment insurance benefits unless it’s “paid for” with money taken from other government programs. They’ve never demanded that of Republican administrations. [..]

Even worse, Senate Democrats have proposed something Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik called a “flinthearted idea“: to pay for the extension by cutting Social Security benefits for the disabled. That sort of thing used to be considered too ruthless even for Republicans. Now it’s the “liberal” party’s proposal.

The Democrats’ offer perpetuates the misguided obsession with “pay-fors.” It also stigmatizes the recipients of government benefits, another preferred Republican theme, in this case by exaggerating the impact of “double dipping” between government programs.

Leo W. Gerard: Fast Track to Poverty

That giant sucking sound predicted by Ross Perot commenced 20 years ago last week. It is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) vacuuming up U.S. jobs and depositing them in Mexico.

Independent presidential candidate Perot was right. NAFTA swept U.S. industry south of the border. It made Wall Street happy. It made multi-national corporations obscenely profitable. But it destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of American workers.

NAFTA’s backers promised it would create American jobs, just as promoters of the Korean and Chinese trade arrangements said they would and advocates of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal contend it will. They were — and still are — brutally wrong. NAFTA, the Korean deal and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization killed American jobs. They lowered wages. They diminished what America cherishes: opportunity. They contributed to the very ill that President Obama is crusading against: income inequality. There is no evidence the TPP would be any different. American workers need a new trade philosophy, one that protects them and puts people first, not corporations.

Andrew Bacevich: The Misuse of American Might, and the Price It Pays

The United States no longer knows how to win wars, but it continues to start them.

The U.S. military is like the highly skilled, gadget-toting contractor who promises to give your kitchen a nifty makeover in no time whatsoever. Here’s the guy you can count on to get the job done. Just look at those references! Yet by the time he drives off months later, the kitchen’s a shambles and you’re stuck with a bill several times larger than the initial estimate. Turns out the job was more complicated than it seemed. But what say we take a crack at remodeling the master bath?

That pretty much summarizes the American experience with war since the end of the Cold War. By common consent, when it comes to skills and gadgets, U.S. forces are in a league of their own. Yet when it comes to finishing the job on schedule and on budget, their performance has been woeful. [..]

How can we explain this yawning gap between intention and outcomes? Fundamentally, a pronounced infatuation with armed might has led senior civilian officials, regardless of party, and senior military leaders, regardless of service, to misunderstand and misapply the military instrument. Force is good for some things, preeminently for defending what is already yours. Not content to defend, however, the United States in recent decades has sought to use force to extend its influence, control and values.

Ralph Nader: Medical Price Gouging and Waste Are Skyrocketing

An epidemic of sky-rocketing medical costs has afflicted our country and grown to obscene proportions. Medical bills are bloated with waste, redundancy, profiteering, fraud and outrageous over-billing. Much is wrong with the process of pricing and providing health care.

The latest in this medical cost saga comes from new data released last week by National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest nurse’s organization. In a news release, NNU revealed that fourteen hospitals in the United States are charging more than ten times their costs for treatment. Specifically, for every $100 one of these hospitals spends, the charge on the corresponding bill is nearly $1,200. [..]

Enacting a single payer, full Medicare-for-all system is the only chance the United States has of unwinding itself from the spider web of waste, harm, and bloat that currently comprise its highly flawed health insurance and health care systems. It’s time to cut out the corporate profiteers and purveyors of waste and fraud and introduce a system that works for everybody.

Norman Solomon: Why the Washington Post’s New Ties to the CIA Are So Ominous

A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos — who’s now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon’s CEO and main stakeholder.

The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million “cloud” computing deal with the CIA.

The situation is unprecedented. But in an email exchange early this month, Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron told me that the newspaper doesn’t need to routinely inform readers of the CIA-Amazon-Bezos ties when reporting on the CIA. He wrote that such in-story acknowledgment would be “far outside the norm of disclosures about potential conflicts of interest at media organizations.”

Jan 14 2014

On This Day In History January 14

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 14 is the 14th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 351 days remaining until the end of the year (352 in leap years).

It is celebrated as New Year’s Day (at least in the 20th & 21st centuries) by countries still following the Julian calendar.

On this day in 1761, the Third Battle of Panipat is fought in India between the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durrani and the Marhatas. The Afghan victory changes the course of Indian History.

The Third Battle of Panipat took place at Panipat (Haryana State, India), about 60 miles (95.5 km) north of Delhi. The battle pitted the French-supplied artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the heavy cavalry and mounted artillery(zamburak and jizail) of the Afghans led by Ahmad Shah Durrani, an ethnic Pashtun, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali. The battle is considered one of the largest battles fought in the 18th century.

The decline of the Mughal Empire had led to territorial gains for the Maratha Confederacy. Ahmad Shah Abdali, amongst others, was unwilling to allow the Marathas’ gains to go unchecked. In 1759, he raised an army from the Pashtun tribes and made several gains against the smaller garrisons. The Marathas, under the command of Sadashivrao Bhau, responded by gathering an army of between 70,000-100,000 people with which they ransacked the Mughal capital of Delhi. There followed a series of skirmishes along the banks of the river Yamuna at Karnal and Kunjpura which eventually turned into a two-month-long siege led by Abdali against the Marathas.

The specific site of the battle itself is disputed by historians but most consider it to have occurred somewhere near modern day Kaalaa Aamb and Sanauli Road. The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 men. Protracted skirmishes occurred, with losses and gains on both sides. The forces led by Ahmad Shah Durrani came out victorious after destroying several Maratha flanks. The extent of the losses on both sides is heavily disputed by historians, but it is believed that between 60,000-70,000 were killed in fighting, while numbers of the injured and prisoners taken vary considerably. The result of the battle was the halting of the Maratha advances in the North.

The Legacy

The Third Battle of Panipat saw an enormous number of casualties and deaths in a single day of battle. It was the last major battle between indigenous South Asian military powers, until the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

To save their kingdom, the Mughals once again changed sides and welcomed the Afghans to Delhi. The Mughals remained in nominal control over small areas of India, but were never a force again. The empire officially ended in 1857 when its last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was accused of being involved in the Sepoy Mutiny and exiled.

The Marathas’ expansion was stopped in the battle, and soon broke into infighting within their empire. They never regained any unity. They recovered their position under the next Peshwa Madhavrao I and by 1772 were back in control of the north, finally occupying Delhi. However, after the death of Madhavrao, due to infighting and increasing pressure from the British, their claims to empire only officially ended in 1818 after three wars with the British.

Meanwhile the Sikhs, the original reason Ahmad invaded, were left largely untouched by the battle. They soon retook Lahore. When Ahmad Shah returned in March 1764 he was forced to break off his siege after only two weeks due to rebellion in Afghanistan. He returned again in 1767, but was unable to win any decisive battle. With his own troops arguing over a lack of pay, he eventually abandoned the district to the Sikhs, who remained in control until 1849. . . . .

The battle proved the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling‘s poem “With Scindia to Delhi”.

The strength of Afghan military prowess was to both inspire hope in many orthodox Muslims, Mughal royalists and fear in the British. However the real truth of so many battle hardened Afghans killed in the struggle with the Marathas never allowed them to dream of controlling the Mughal Empire realistically again. On the other side, Marathas, possibly one of the only two real Indian military powers left capable of challenging the British were fatally weakened by the defeat and could not mount a serious challenge in the Anglo-Maratha wars 50 years later.

Jan 14 2014

Fast Track Bill for TPP Hits the Floor

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg The bill to fast track the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was introduced last week

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R) and top Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) on Thursday unveiled the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 that would require a simple up-or-down vote on major trade deals without the opportunity to offer amendments to pertinent bills. [..]

The Obama administration is seeking the heightened authority in trade deals, allowing the Executive Branch to smooth congressional negotiations on accords. The two major deals, both long in the works, that are likely to be subject to such legislation are the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the 28-nation pact with the European Union, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The deals would establish the world’s largest so-called free-trade zones.

The US is also working on a services-trade accord with a group of nations that would encompass half of the global economy. [..]

The bill has been negotiated in secret and other than some leaked passages by WikiLeaks, only the negotiators and insider corporations have seen the full proposal which is nearing completion. There is push back in the House of Representatives that may scuttle the president’s plan to push this agreement without any debate or amendments

Late last year, 151 House Democrats signed a letter opposing the so-called fast track scheme, also known as trade promotion authority. Several House Republicans oppose fast track on the grounds that it excessively empowers the executive branch, but many others, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), support the proposal.

“Obama wants to pass it; Democrats in the House want to oppose it,” said one House Democratic aide, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the Democratic position. “Republicans are split ideologically, and want to know why they should take one for Obama.”

Nevertheless, Boehner said at a Thursday press conference that he cannot pass the bill without Democratic help. [..]

Many House Democrats are flatly opposed to the TPP and efforts to ease its passage. House Democrats are often more responsive to liberal interest groups than their Senate counterparts, and many members — including some in the Democratic Party leadership — believe that opposing TPP is good for electoral politics in 2014. While supporters of the deal argue it will increase economic growth, similar recent trade deals have undercut some U.S. industries and weakened global labor protections.

“The president has failed to find someone who is willing to introduce the bill. He’s got over 200 members to cultivate from, some of whom would like to have his support in the next election. But Democratic members are extremely skeptical of this,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost.

“We’ve tried free trade, and not only has free trade not improved the U.S. economy, it’s gutted manufacturing and driven down our labor standards,” he added, citing NAFTA as a prime example. [..]

Progressive groups came out strongly against the trade promotion authority, suggesting that approving it and the underlying trade deal would undercut efforts to curtail income inequality.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to Internet freedom and working families,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of Democracy For America, a grassroots progressive organization, which intends to make trade an election-year issue.

In an interview with Huffington Post, political theorist and linguist Noam Chomsky slammed the agreement as a “neo-liberal assault”

(T)he deal, which is not yet finalized, is “designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.”

Chomsky said it was “a joke” that the deal is designated a “free trade” agreement. “It’s called free trade, but that’s just a joke,” Chomsky said. “These are extreme, highly protectionist measures designed to undermine freedom of trade. In fact, much of what’s leaked about the TPP indicates that it’s not about trade at all, it’s about investor rights.”

The MIT professor also slammed the veil of secrecy that has surrounded TPP negotiations. [..]

As Chomsky noted:

“It’s very hard to make anything of the TPP because it’s been kept very secret. A half-secret, I should say. It’s not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. To them, it’s perfectly public. They’re, in fact, writing it. It’s being kept secret from the population. Which of course raises obvious questions.”

If you haven’t done it need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. Even if you have do it again. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.

Jan 14 2014

Will the NSA Be “Reformed”?

In the run up to President Barack Obama’s promised decision on reforms the National Security Agency and its surveillance programs, there has been an  unsubstantiated press release, by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers and his Democratic counterpart Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, that the material taken by whistleblower Edward Snowden gravely impacted America’s national security, put the lives of US military personnel at risk and aided terrorists. There are no specifics about these allegations that Snowden had downloaded 1.7 million files or had considerable information on current U.S. military operations because the Pentagon report is, of course, classified.

Meanwhile top NSA officials and their allies are making their public appeals to retain their surveillance powers

In a lengthy interview that aired on Friday on National Public Radio (NPR), the NSA’s top civilian official, the outgoing deputy director John C Inglis, said that the agency would cautiously welcome a public advocate to argue for privacy interests before the secret court which oversees surveillance. Such a measure is being promoted by some of the agency’s strongest legislative critics. [..]

But security officials are arguing strongly against curtailing the substance of domestic surveillance activities.

While Inglis conceded in his NPR interview that at most one terrorist attack might have been foiled by NSA’s bulk collection of all American phone data – a case in San Diego that involved a money transfer from four men to al-Shabaab in Somalia – he described it as an “insurance policy” against future acts of terrorism. [..]

Inglis was bolstered on Thursday by the new FBI director James Comey, who said he opposed curbing the bureau’s power to collect information from businesses through a non-judicial subpoena called a national security letter. The use of national security letters, which occurs in secret, came under sharp criticism from Obama’s surveillance review panel, which advocated judicial approval over them.

Comey told reporters that would make it harder for his agency to investigate national security issues than conduct bank fraud investigations.

What we have learned is that the massive data collection has not led to the prevention of one terrorist attack and that conventional methods using court orders were more effective (pdf).

Activist and journalist Chris Hedges, along with former NSA technical director and NSA whistle-blower William Binney, tell Real News Network‘s Paul Jay that there should be accountability, including the President himself, for the criminal practices used by the NSA against the American people.

This Friday the president will publicly announce the results of his review of National Security Agency surveillance programs at the Department of Justice, not the White House.