Daily Archive: 01/16/2014

Jan 16 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”.

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Eugene Robinson: Where Is the Democrats’ Outrage?

Shame on Republicans for blocking the resumption of long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans. And shame on Democrats for letting them.

The GOP cannot be allowed to cast this as a bloodless policy debate about “incentives” that allegedly encourage sloth. Putting that spin on the issue is disingenuous, insulting and inaccurate: As Republicans well know, individuals receiving unemployment checks are legally required to look for work.

Republicans should also know that the jobless desperately want employment. For some, a new job might be just weeks or months away. But the benefits cutoff may make it impossible to keep house and home together in the meantime.

Jeff Biggers: How dirty coal foretold West Virginia’s disaster

Residents have warned about coal-cleaning chemicals for years. Will feds finally investigate state agencies?

Since Jan. 9, when a chemical used to process coal leaked into West Virginia’s Elk River, images of beleaguered Charleston residents lining up for bottles of water from National Guard tankers have dominated the headlines. With some restrictions on water use lifted on Jan. 13, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared, “We see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The tunnel of denial, hopefully. The fallout over the chemical spill from a coal-processing plant should serve as a wake-up call to the nation after years of pleas by coal-mining communities for federal invention in the state’s rogue regulatory agencies that oversee the coal industry and its chemical-industry counterparts.

Tomblin has attempted to distance the coal industry from the nation’s latest environmental disaster. Asked if the spill was a result of the state’s heavy reliance on the coal industry, he quickly replied, “This was not a coal-company incident. This was a chemical-company incident.” But the entangled reality of dirty coal and its toxic chemical cleansers has finally arrived at the governor’s front door – and faucet.

Jim Hightower: What if Antibiotics no Longer Work?

Have you had your daily minimum requirement of triclosan today? How about your dosage of triclocarban?

Chances are you have, but don’t know it. These two are antimicrobial chemicals, which might sound like a good thing – except that they disrupt the human body’s normal regulatory processes. Animal studies show, for example, that these triclos can be linked to the scrambling of hormones in children, disruption of puberty and of the reproductive system, decreases in thyroid hormone levels that affect brain development and other serious health problems.

Yet, corporations have slipped them into all sorts of consumer products, pushing them with a blitz of advertising that claims the antibacterial ingredients prevent the spread of infections. The two chemicals were originally meant for use by surgeons to cleanse their hands before operations, but that tiny application has now proliferated like a plague, constantly exposing practically everyone to small amounts here, there and everywhere, adding up to dangerous mega-doses.

John Nichols: The Internet As We Know It Is In Peril. The FCC Can (And Must) Save It

When the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order Tuesday-dealing what is being broadly interpreted as a fatal blow to net neutrality- it highlighted the urgent need for the FCC to develop a smarter and more assertive approach to protecting citizens and consumers in the digital age. [..]

The DC Circuit has rejected the commission’s approach, and struck down key regulations that were designed to preserve net neutrality. In so doing, they have, as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, says: “(dealt) a blow to consumers and small businesses alike.” Without regulatory safeguards, adds Sanders, “corporations are able to prioritize the information available to users, it stifles ideas and expression, as well as commerce and innovation.”

But the court has not said the FCC lacks authority to protect broadband Internet users.

In fact, if the FCC responds to the court ruling with a bold move to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service that can be regulated in the public interest, it has the ability to do just that.

Diane Roberts: For some idiots, there just aren’t enough guns on university campuses

Guns are a part of US culture. But as a professor, I see no reason they need to be on college campuses. It just invites disaster

American universities are places of art and music, gleaming labs and fine old buildings, famous libraries and fancy football stadiums, old traditions and new thinking, beauty, youth and brains – about everything you could want. Except guns. Apparently, there just aren’t enough guns in those ivy-covered halls.

Never fear: second amendment fundamentalists mean to correct what they see as the sad paucity of weapons on campus. In Florida, a gaggle of true believers calling themselves Florida Carry busies itself arguing that institutions of higher learning have no right to ban guns on their taxpayer-funded property. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to pack heat in a class like Organic Chemistry II? Florida Carry’s attack is gradual: last year they prevailed in a suit to let students at the University of North Florida stash guns in their cars; this year, they’re aiming to force the University of Florida to allow its 50,000 students to keep guns in their dormitories.

Jan 16 2014

On This Day In History January 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.

January 16 is the 16th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 349 days remaining until the end of the year (350 in leap years).

On this day in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” is ratified.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

The amendment and its enabling legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but made it difficult to obtain it legally.

Following significant pressure on lawmakers from the temperance movement, the House of Representatives passed the amendment on December 18, 1917. It was certified as ratified on January 16, 1919, having been approved by 36 states. It went into effect one year after ratification, on January 17, 1920. Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.

When Congress submitted this amendment to the states for ratification, it was the first time a proposed amendment contained a provision setting a deadline for its ratification. The validity of that clause of the amendment was challenged and reached the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of such a deadline in Dillon v. Gloss (1921).

Because many Americans attempted to evade the restrictions of Prohibition, there was a considerable growth in violent and organized crime in the United States in response to public demand for illegal alcohol. The amendment was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933. It remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety.

To define the language used in the Amendment, Congress enacted enabling legislation called the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed that bill, but the House of Representatives immediately voted to override the veto and the Senate voted similarly the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest date allowed by the 18th Amendment.Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed that bill, but the House of Representatives immediately voted to override the veto and the Senate voted similarly the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest date allowed by the 18th Amendment.

Jan 16 2014

Through the Airwaves

White House Panel Refutes NSA Claims

Democracy Now

January 15, 2014

Members of the White House panel reviewing government surveillance have publicly rejected some of the National Security Agency’s key claims in justifying warrantless, mass spying. Appearing before a Senate hearing, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell and former national security aide Richard Clarke refuted assertions the bulk collection of phone data could have prevented 9/11.

“No Spy” Agreement Nears Collapse over U.S. Refusal to End Spying on Germany

The latest news about National Security Agency spying comes amidst reports talks between the United States and Germany on a no-spying agreement are near collapse. Tensions peaked between the two countries last year after documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed U.S. surveillance of German citizens and officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. A German newspaper reports the negotiations are at a dead-end over a U.S. refusal to guarantee an end to spying on German politicians. Germany denies the claim and says the talks are ongoing.

Jan 16 2014

NSA Excuses Get Moronic

We can’t tell you that we spied on you because it would violate your privacy??!!! This is precisely what the head of the NSA, General Keith B. Alexander told Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in a letter responding to Sen. Sanders’ question about whether it collects information on members of Congress because doing so would violate the law.

“Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups,” Alexander wrote. “For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without the predicate.” [..]

Alexander doesn’t actually say so in his letter, but it’s very possible that the NSA collects data on members of Congress just as it does on everyone else, in bulk. The NSA said in a statement earlier this month that members of Congress have the “same privacy protections” as ordinary citizens, which means that they too might be caught up in the NSA’s terrorism queries of its telephone database, which may sweep up millions of innocent people in a single search.

Seriously. I want to know what drugs they have given the heads of the DNI & NSA that they think that this is a plausible explanation of why that can’t tell a United States Senator whether or not they have spied on him. Alexander really wants us to believe that searching the NSA data base for information would violate the law

This certainly comes under the category of the most lamest excuses for abuse of power.