Daily Archive: 06/03/2014

Jun 03 2014

A Culture Of Rape

You know, I’m not a woman and I can’t claim understanding of what it looks like from their point of view anymore than I can truly grasp the inner life of any other human.  I only know it from this side of my eyes.

Yet I’ve always attempted to treat everyone as I would wish for myself which may explain my particular disdain for bullies who abuse their power.

I’ve done some thinking about it over the last couple of days and I guess my conclusion is that this is the way I want to be remembered, as someone who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right and defend people who are under attack.

There are worse things they could write on your gravestone.

It was lovely ground.

Jun 03 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: The Veterans Affairs Scandal and Plans for Downsizing the Social Security Administration

The media have been rightly focusing their attention on the long waiting lists for veterans seeking medical care, and even worse, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs cover-up. Unlike President Obama’s birth certificate and the attack on the consulate at Benghazi, delaying or denying care to veterans is really a scandal. [..]

Unfortunately the VA system is not the only part of the government where essential services may be threatened by cutbacks. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has recently disclosed plans for a major downsizing that will result in the closing of many more of its field offices. The goal is to handle the bulk of Social Security’s requests, questions, and complaints through the Internet.

While it’s important and desirable for SSA to have an Internet site that can address most problems, the reality is that there are many people who do not feel comfortable using the web. This is especially true among beneficiaries of Social Security and disability, who almost by definition are older than the population as a whole, and often in poor health.

Trevor Timm: Supreme Court Rejects Reporter’s Privilege Case, As NYT Reporter Faces Jail for Protecting His Source

The Supreme Court today rejected New York Times reporter James Risen’s appeal of a 4th Circuit decision that ruled the government can compel him to reveal his source under oath. The case, one of the most important for reporter’s privilege in decades, means that Risen has exhausted his appeals and must now either testify in the leak trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, or face jail time for being in contempt of court. Risen has admirably vowed to go to prison rather than comply.

This is the latest victory of the Obama administration in their crackdown on sources, and in turn, investigative journalism. As the New York Times again reminded us today, they have “pursued leaks aggressively, bringing criminal charges in eight cases, compared with three under all previous administrations combined.”

Make no mistake, this case is a direct attack on the press. The Justice Department has recently tightened its “guidelines” for subpoenaing reporters (which have no enforcement mechanism) and the Obama administration claims it supports a tepid journalist shield law, but this was the case where they could have shown they meant what they said about protecting journalists’ rights. Instead, they argued to the court that reporter’s privilege does not exist all, even comparing journalists who invoke the privilege to criminals who have recieved drugs

Jeff Biggers: Obama’s ‘war on coal’ doesn’t exist

Specious slogans dominate key midterm Senate battles in Appalachia, burying West Virginia coal chemical disaster

On Monday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation to cut CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent, setting a cap that will require states to trade or shift toward clean energy alternatives. U.S. Senate candidates in pivotal coal-producing Appalachian states, however, have already fired the opening salvo in the next battle over dirty coal. [..]

Four years ago, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., issued his clarion call for Appalachia and the coal industry to “embrace the future,” adding later that people, not coal, “are West Virginia’s most valuable resource. We must demand to be treated as such.”

Byrd’s call found scant reception in the campaign war rooms, but its sentiment has continued to spread across Appalachia. Kentuckians electrified such hopes for change in 2010 when a regional grassroots movement for “New Power” compelled the East Kentucky Power Cooperative to halt plans to build two coal-burning power plants in Clark County and explore both job-creating energy efficiency programs and renewable energy options. [..]

As long as those voices are overpowered by the relentless “war on coal” ads bankrolled by out-of-state coal industry lobby fronts, change must come from the EPA and the White House.

At least, that is, until a new era of candidates in West Virginia, Kentucky and even Illinois finally provides the leadership to speak up about a just transition to “new power” initiatives for clean energy jobs and development during elections and put the worn-out, misleading slogans of the coal wars to rest.

Paul Buchheit: Toward the Total Paralysis of an Unequal Society

The severing of our society into a plutocracy and a peasantry is so far along that statistics almost cease to have meaning. But the facts have to be told, to help explain the sickening sense that we’re becoming a nation without a middle class, paralyzed by the inequality deniers and excuse makers who refuse to admit there’s something wrong with their free-market capitalist system. The extremes are becoming almost intolerable. [..]

Thomas Piketty recommends a global wealth tax to help reverse inequality. But a financial transaction tax (also called speculation tax or Robin Hood tax) would be easier to implement, more efficiently regulated, and a source of massive revenues at little cost to financial traders.

Whatever method we choose, progressive thinkers in the U.S. and around the world will need to unite on a single cause, much as the Tea Party did in its crusade against government. We can’t afford to disagree among ourselves as paralysis sets in.

David Sirota: Big Money Behind a Big Merger

There are plenty of reasons to worry about the proposal to combine Comcast, America’s largest cable and broadband company, with Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable firm and third-largest broadband provider.

For one, there’s ever more consolidated control over content. There’s also the possibility of certain types of content being given special (or worse) treatment based on the provider’s relationship with Comcast and Time Warner Cable. And there’s the prospect of even higher prices. Indeed a Comcast executive recently admitted that the company will not promise bills “are going to go down or even that they’re going to increase less rapidly.”

In the capital of a properly functioning democracy, all of these concerns would prompt the federal government to block the deal. But Washington is an occupied city-occupied by Comcast’s vast army. As Time magazine recently reported, “The company has registered at least 76 lobbyists across 24 firms.” Those figures include neither telecom lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s chief of staff, who was a Comcast vice president and raked in $1.2 million in Comcast payments since taking his government job.There are plenty of reasons to worry about the proposal to combine Comcast, America’s largest cable and broadband company, with Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable firm and third-largest broadband provider.

For one, there’s ever more consolidated control over content. There’s also the possibility of certain types of content being given special (or worse) treatment based on the provider’s relationship with Comcast and Time Warner Cable. And there’s the prospect of even higher prices. Indeed a Comcast executive recently admitted that the company will not promise bills “are going to go down or even that they’re going to increase less rapidly.”

In the capital of a properly functioning democracy, all of these concerns would prompt the federal government to block the deal. But Washington is an occupied city-occupied by Comcast’s vast army. As Time magazine recently reported, “The company has registered at least 76 lobbyists across 24 firms.” Those figures include neither telecom lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s chief of staff, who was a Comcast vice president and raked in $1.2 million in Comcast payments since taking his government job.

Jarett Murphy: The Working Families Party Plays it Safe by Endorsing Andrew Cuomo for Governor

Both the governor and the WFP went into the weekend needing something from the other. The governor walked away with what he wanted. The party got an IOU.

Has New York state’s Working Families Party come up with the formula for forcing centrist Democrats to the left and delivering bread-and-butter progressive policy? That was the hope on Saturday night outside Albany, where the party gathered to make its endorsements for state races later this year. Faced with losing the ballot line to a challenger who tapped into resentment over his estate tax cuts, charter-school championing and failure to deliver campaign finance reform, Governor Andrew Cuomo won the party’s designation only after promising to fight for Democratic control of the state Senate and deliver a progressive policy wish list. [..]

The sales pitch worked: Cuomo won a solid (if not commanding) 59 percent of the vote to Teachout’s 41 percent.

But the endorsement vote and the deal that secured it don’t represent success. The real test of the WFP approach-honed since its founding in 1998 and facilitated by hard work in hundreds of contests for local and state office-will be whether Cuomo delivers, which won’t really be clear until his second term is under way.

Both the governor and the WFP went into the weekend needing something from the other. The governor walked away with what he wanted. The party got an IOU.

Jun 03 2014

On This Day In History June 3

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

June 3 is the 154th day of the year (155th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 211 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the National Defense Act, which expanded the size and scope of the National Guard, the network of states’ militias that had been developing steadily since colonial times, and guaranteed its status as the nation’s permanent reserve force.

The National Defense Act of 1916 provided for an expanded army during peace and wartime, fourfold expansion of the National Guard, the creation of an Officers’ and an Enlisted Reserve Corps, plus the creation of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in colleges and universities. The President was also given authority, in case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of the emergency.

The act was passed amidst the “preparedness controversy”, a brief frenzy of great public concern over the state of preparation of the United States armed forces, and shortly after Pancho Villa’s cross-border raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Its chief proponent was James Hay of Virginia, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs.

Sponsored by Rep. Julius Kahn (R) of California and drafted by the House Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs Rep. James Hay (D) of Virginia, it authorized an army of 175,000 men, a National Guard of 450,000 men. It created the modern Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and empowered the President to place obligatory orders with manufacturers capable of producing war materials.

Langley Field in Virginia was built as part of the act. Now U.S. Air Force Command HQ as Langley Air Force Base, this “aerodrome” was named after air pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley (died 1904). The President also requested the National Academy of Sciences to establish the National Research Council to conduct research into the potential of mathematical, biological, and physical science applications for defense. It allocated over $17 million to the Army to build 375 new aeroplanes.

Perhaps most important, it established the right of the President to “Federalize” the National Guard in times of emergency, with individual States’ militias reverting to their control upon the end of the declared emergency. With the Defense Act, Congress was also concerned with ensuring the supply of nitrates (used to make munitions), and it authorized the construction of two nitrate-manufacturing plants and a dam for hydropower as a national defense measure. President Wilson chose Muscle Shoals, Alabama as the site of the dam. The dam was later named for him, and the two Nitrate plants built in Muscle Shoals were later rolled into the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933.

Developments after September 11, 2001

Prior to the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the National Guard’s general policy regarding mobilization was that Guardsmen would be required to serve no more than one year cumulative on active duty (with no more than six months overseas) for each five years of regular drill. Due to strains placed on active duty units following the attacks, the possible mobilization time was increased to 18 months (with no more than one year overseas). Additional strains placed on military units as a result of the invasion of Iraq further increased the amount of time a Guardsman could be mobilized to 24 months. Current Department of Defense policy is that no Guardsman will be involuntarily activated for more than 24 months (cumulative) in one six year enlistment period.

Traditionally, most National Guard personnel serve “One weekend a month, two weeks a year”, although personnel in highly operational or high demand units serve far more frequently. Typical examples are pilots, navigators and aircrewmen in active flying assignments, primarily in the Air National Guard and to a lesser extent in the Army National Guard. A significant number also serve in a full-time capacity in roles such as Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) or Air Reserve Technician or Army Reserve Technician (ART).

The “One weekend a month, two weeks a year” slogan has lost most of its relevance since the Iraq War, when nearly 28% of total US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at the end of 2007 consisted of mobilized personnel of the National Guard and other Reserve components.

Jun 03 2014

The Breakfast Club: 6-3-2014

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. 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.

The Breakfast Club Logo photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps5485351c.png

This Day in History

Jun 03 2014

Cosmic Man, Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks

All this week on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” the host of the series “Cosmos,” Neil deGrasse Tyson sat down with Chris to talk about life, the universe and everything. Here are the first three segments.

Cosmic, man

Chris talks with renowned astrophysicist and host of “Cosmos,” Neil deGrasse Tyson, about the future of science and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.