Daily Archive: 05/28/2014

May 28 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Ana Marie Cox: It’s not easy being green – especially if you’re a Republican and that’s your job

Bob Inglis wants climate change deniers to be more realistic. But can his ‘free-market’ environmentalism win GOP converts?

Ask Americans about “global warming”, and a new study suggests that 13% more of them will think it’s a bad thing compared to “climate change”. That, it turns out, was Republicans’ point: way back in 2002, a Republican pollster warned candidates and then-President George W Bush to avoid using the term “global warming” because people found it “frightening“. [..]

But one Republican is trying to hold back the tide of his colleagues who continue to fall at the feet of the (largely) oil and coal industry-sponsored climate denial movement. Former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, a Republican, is the movement’s best advertisement – a real live conservative convert. His story has the arc of a religious experience, in part because it includes one.

Margaret Sullivan: Kinsley, Greenwald and Government Secrets

Michael Kinsley’s review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place to Hide” hasn’t even appeared in the printed Book Review yet – that won’t happen until June 8 – but it’s already infuriated a lot of people. After the review was published online last week, many commenters and readers (and Mr. Greenwald himself) attacked the review, which was not only negative about the book but also expressed a belief that many journalists find appalling: that news organizations should simply defer to the government when it comes to deciding what the public has a right to know about its secret activities. [..]

Here’s my take: Book reviews are opinion pieces and – thanks to the principles of the First Amendment – Mr. Kinsley is certainly entitled to freely air his views. But there’s a lot about this piece that is unworthy of the Book Review’s high standards, the sneering tone about Mr. Greenwald, for example; he is called a “go-between” instead of a journalist and is described as a “self-righteous sourpuss.” [..]

A Times review ought to be a fair, accurate and well-argued consideration of the merits of a book. Mr. Kinsley’s piece didn’t meet that bar.

Marcie Wheeler: What If the Democratic Response to Snowden Is to Expand Surveillance?

I got distracted reading two pieces this morning. This great Andrew O’Hehir piece, on how those attacking Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald ought to consider the lesson of Justice Louis Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead. [..]

And this more problematic Eben Moglen piece talking about how Snowden revealed a threat to democracy we must now respond to. [..]

I raise them in tandem here because both address the threat of spying to something called democracy. And the second piece raises it amid the context of American Empire (he compares the US to the Roman decline into slavery). [..]

One more thing. Those who believe that American power is affirmatively benign power may be inclined to think the old ways of ensuring that power – which includes a docile press – are justified. As much as journalism embraced an adversarial self-image after Watergate, the fundamentally complicit role of journalism really didn’t change for most. Thus, there remains a culture of journalism in which it was justified to tell stories to the American people – and the rest of the world – to sustain American power.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Let’s stop subsidizing economic inequality

Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, recently asked in a speech at the New Populism Conference in Washington, “Why should our tax dollars subsidize economic inequality?” Why must you and I foot the bill, via our taxes, for the callousness of Wal-Mart or Domino‘s?

The chasm between C-suite pay and minimum wage may be wider than ever before – in 2013, according to the AFL-CIO, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies made 774 times as much minimum wage workers – but, as Anderson points out, many people have grown tired of waiting for a solution to emerge from the maw of Washington and are instead taking the initiative themselves. “Just like on the minimum wage,” Anderson told the conference, “people aren’t waiting for Washington to lead on CEO pay. We’re seeing an unprecedented explosion of bold creative action outside Washington.” In Sacramento, Providence and other capitals, state-level activism and legislation are taking care of business that the House and Senate have chosen to ignore.

Hadley Freeman: Elliot Rodger was a misogynist – but is that all he was?

The killer was enabled by a culture that validates the feelings of angry, lonely and sometimes mentally unwell men

Elliot Rodger was a misogynist. This cannot really be in doubt about a young man who went out on Friday, armed with three semi-automatic shotguns he had bought legally, to punish all women for rejecting him sexually.Elliot Rodger was a misogynist. This cannot really be in doubt about a young man who went out on Friday, armed with three semi-automatic shotguns he had bought legally, to punish all women for rejecting him sexually. [..]

It is also worth pointing out that even if Rodger had been diagnosed with a serious mental illness he would still have been able to buy a gun, even in California, which has some of the most stringent laws about buying guns in the United States.

Was misogyny the reason a 22-year-old man went on a killing spree? Hell yes. Were other factors at play here, too, such as mental health, a financially straitened mental health system and an American political system cowed by the NRA, leading to too much access to guns? Yes, yes and yes. And to say that doesn’t diminish the part played by any of these reasons. In fact, they underline the dangers in one another.

Jessica Valenti: How to end the college class war

Between social networks, easy majors and rich parents, the new student elite is destined for success before they hit their first kegger. But there’s a way out – and I learned the hard way

From the time I was seven years old, there was one word my parents repeated in every grade, at every test, during any slip-up: college.

My parents didn’t go to college; they married when my mother was still a teenager, to escape poverty and less-than-stellar home lives. But they were certain that college was the gateway to the middle class for their daughters: public school plus university equals meritocracy and the American Dream. [..]

It was the most awful, culture-shocked year of my life – and I flunked out after my second semester, depressed and ashamed.

So it was hard for me reading a new bestseller in the making, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, and not think of that year. I had never understood how I could fail so miserably at something my parents worked so hard to prepare me for. But according to authors and sociology professors Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, my experience was disconcertingly normal.

Turns out, the college experience – what we’re told is the most obvious path to upward mobility – is actually reinforcing class inequality as much as it disrupts it.

May 28 2014

In Memoriam: Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014

Author, poet, singer, dancer, actress, but most of all, Civil Rights Activist, Maya Angelou died this morning at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86 years young.

Still I Rise

   You may write me down in history

   With your bitter, twisted lies,

   You may trod me in the very dirt

   But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

   Does my sassiness upset you?

   Why are you beset with gloom?

   ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

   Pumping in my living room.

   Just like moons and like suns,

   With the certainty of tides,

   Just like hopes springing high,

   Still I’ll rise.

   Did you want to see me broken?

   Bowed head and lowered eyes?

   Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

   Weakened by my soulful cries.

   Does my haughtiness offend you?

   Don’t you take it awful hard

   ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

   Diggin’ in my own back yard.

   You may shoot me with your words,

   You may cut me with your eyes,

   You may kill me with your hatefulness,

   But still, like air, I’ll rise.

   Does my sexiness upset you?

   Does it come as a surprise

   That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

   At the meeting of my thighs?

   Out of the huts of history’s shame

   I rise

   Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

   I rise

   I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

   Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

   Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

   I rise

   Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

   I rise

   Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

   I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

   I rise

   I rise

   I rise.

Blessed be

May 28 2014

The Breakfast Club: 5-28-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

May 28 2014

Of Course Keystone XL Is Safe

New safety requirements set for Keystone pipeline

Associated Press

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 8:00 am

The new conditions were added four months after the pipeline safety agency sent TransCanada two warning letters last year about defects and other construction problems on the Keystone Gulf Coast Pipeline, which extends from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast.

“From the start of welding, TransCanada experienced a high weld rejection rate,” said one letter dated Sept. 26. Over 72 percent of welds required repairs during one week. In another week, TransCanada stopped welding work after 205 of 425 welds required repair.

Inspections by the safety agency found TransCanada wasn’t using approved welding procedures to connect pipes, the letter said. The company had hired welders who weren’t qualified to work on the project because TransCanada used improper procedures to test them, the letter said. In order to qualify to work on a pipeline, welders must have recent experience using approved welding procedures and pass a test of their work.

The weld failure rates are “horrible,” said Robert Bea, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “The level of defects is indeed cause for alarm and indicative of something that is going on in the Keystone organization that isn’t satisfactory.”

In high-risk projects such as nuclear submarines or nuclear power plants, even one-tenth of a percent rate of bad welds would be cause for deep concern, Bea said.



Another letter, dated Sept. 10, said a government inspector witnessed TransCanada officials investigating dents in pipeline that had been laid without first sufficiently clearing rock from trenches or from soil used as backfill. The same letter said coating that protects pipeline from corrosion was damaged by weld splatter because a contractor hadn’t followed the company’s welding procedures. Eventually, pipeline was excavated in 98 places to make coating repairs.

Dents and damaged coatings are serious defects because they can weaken pipes and lead to failures, Bea said.

After Safety Concerns Over Its Southern Leg, Keystone XL Is Getting New Regulations

By Katie Valentine, Think Progress

May 27, 2014 at 10:20 am

PHMSA slipped in the two conditions towards the end of the appendices of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, released this January. They dictate that TransCanada hires a third-party contractor chosen by PHMSA to monitor Keystone XL’s construction and report any faulty construction techniques back to the agency. In addition, TransCanada will be required to adopt a quality management program to make sure that Keystone XL is “built to the highest standards by both Keystone personnel and its many contractors.”



The letters aren’t the only evidence of faults along Keysone XL’s southern leg, however. A November report found that TransCanada had dug up the pipeline 125 times to fix dents and sags, defects that can weaken pipelines and eventually lead to spills. And as Bloomberg reported last year, TransCanada won’t be using the most advanced spill detection technology, which employs infrared sensors or fiber-optic cables to find even tiny spills, on Keystone XL. That failure to include high-tech spill detection is concerning, especially when paired with news that PHMSA could be shrinking its staff by nine percent by mid-June, due to agency-offered employee buyouts.

May 28 2014

On This Day In History May 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.

Click on image to enlarge

May 28 is the 148th day of the year (149th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 217 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, the British newspaper The London Observer publishes British lawyer Peter Benenson’s article “The Forgotten Prisoners” on its front page, launching the Appeal for Amnesty 1961–a campaign calling for the release of all people imprisoned in various parts of the world because of the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

Benenson was inspired to write the appeal after reading an article about two Portuguese students who were jailed after raising their glasses in a toast to freedom in a public restaurant. At the time, Portugal was a dictatorship ruled by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Outraged, Benenson penned the Observer article making the case for the students’ release and urging readers to write letters of protest to the Portuguese government. The article also drew attention to the variety of human rights violations taking place around the world, and coined the term “prisoners of conscience” to describe “any person who is physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing…any opinion which he honestly holds and does not advocate or condone personal violence.”

“The Forgotten Prisoners” was soon reprinted in newspapers across the globe, and Berenson’s amnesty campaign received hundreds of offers of support. In July, delegates from Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland met to begin “a permanent international movement in defense of freedom of opinion and religion.” The following year, this movement would officially become the human rights organization Amnesty International.

Born in London as Peter James Henry Solomon to a Jewish family, the only son of Harold Solomon and Flora Benenson, Peter Benenson adopted his mother’s maiden name later in life. His army officer father died when Benenson was aged nine from a long-term injury, and he was tutored privately by W. H. Auden before going to Eton. At the age of sixteen he helped to establish a relief fund with other schoolboys for children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. He took his mother’s maiden name of Benenson as a tribute to his grandfather, the Russian gold tycoon Grigori Benenson, following his grandfather’s death.

He enrolled for study at Balliol College, Oxford but World War II interrupted his education. From 1941 to 1945, Benenson worked at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking centre, in the “Testery”, a section tasked with breaking German teleprinter ciphers. It was at this time when he met his first wife, Margaret Anderson. After demobilisation in 1946, Benenson began practising as a barrister before joining the Labour Party and standing unsuccessfully for election. He was one of a group of British lawyers who founded JUSTICE in 1957, the UK-based human rights and law reform organisation. In 1958 he fell ill and moved to Italy in order to convalesce. In the same year he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1961 Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom during the autocratic regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar – the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal was the last remaining European colonial power in Africa, ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime. Anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson’s article, entitled “The Forgotten Prisoners,” was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students. To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International was founded in Luxembourg in July at a meeting of Benenson and six other men. The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries.

Initially appointed general secretary of AI, Benenson stood down in 1964 owing to ill health. By 1966, the Amnesty International faced an internal crisis and Benenson alleged that the organization he founded was being infiltrated by British intelligence. The advisory position of president of the International Executive was then created for him. In 1966, he began to make allegations of improper conduct against other members of the executive. An inquiry was set up which reported at Elsinore in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI.

While never again active in the organization, Benenson was later personally reconciled with other executives, including Sean MacBride. He died of pneumonia on 25 February 2005 at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, aged 83.