Daily Archive: 06/09/2014

Jun 09 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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Dean Baker: Fighting climate change with taxpayer dollars isn’t a fight against freedom – it’s a fight against the end of the planet

The conservative defense for climate denialism is at odds with political ideology

Conservatives like to project themselves as lovers of the free market. They believe that everyone should go out and fend for themselves, that the government shouldn’t be getting in the way of those with talent and ambition – and that it shouldn’t be wasting “their” tax dollars on people who are too lazy to get off their rears and earn their keep.

That story has a certain simplistic appeal and apparent logical consistency. Unfortunately it also has almost nothing to do with the reality of where conservatives actually stand on major political issues.

We got a rare chance to see the ugly truth behind the “rugged individualist” story earlier this year when the rancher Cliven Bundy briefly became a hero to the libertarian-leaning right. The government was harassing a hard-working rancher, went the story – a man who simply wanted to feed and water his cattle.

Paul Krugman: Interests, Ideology And Climate

There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.

But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?

I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else – a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.

William Cohn: Fighting the Sunlight: The James Risen Case in Context

In what critics call its War on Journalism, the Obama administration has pursued leaks aggressively, bringing criminal charges in eight cases, compared with three under all previous administrations combined. It has also denigrated First Amendment jurisprudence by threatening journalists with criminal prosecution, including under the Espionage Act (a capital offense), for using leaked information. Raids of press offices and confiscation of reporters’ computers and notebooks have also occurred, revealing the divide between words and deeds.

The Fourth Circuit’s 2-1 ruling which the Supremes let stand, overturned the Virginia trial court verdict ruling that Risen was protected by a reporter’s privilege and could not be compelled to reveal the identity of his source for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration which told of a bungled CIA effort in 2000 to undermine Iran’s nuclear program.

Why is it so important? The 4th Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Virginia and Maryland, which is where the CIA and NSA are headquartered and where many national security reporters live and work. By eviscerating the privilege there, the government has made national security reporting that much harder at a time when other tactics such as mass surveillance are being used to scare off journalists’ sources. In fact, the Risen subpoena may be one of the last seen, as Big Brother will no longer even need to ask the reporter – as it will already know the source of the leak via its own snooping.

Owen Jones: The CIA’s cute first tweet can’t cover its bloody tracks

As the agency strives to craft a cuddly new image, we mustn’t allow it to whitewash its history of torture and murder

In the latest CIA coup, America’s leading spooks have sent the Twittersphere into a frenzy with their chucklesome debut on social media: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.” How droll! More than a quarter of a million people have retweeted what has been described as “the best first tweet possible”. No wonder: it’s one of the world’s most secretive organisations being self-deprecating, light-hearted, even – dare I say it? – cute. [..]

The agency’s first tweet provoked the New York Review of Books to launch a Twitter war, exposing the CIA’s recent record. The CIA had interfered with a recent Senate investigation into torture, the magazine pointed out, in CIA secret prisons established by President Bush. CIA operatives were given clearance to deprive suspects of sleep, slam them against walls, and use waterboarding and other forms of torture.

It’s in the CIA’s interests to craft a cuddly new image: as a team of glamorous, James Bond-style spooks who can take a joke. Given the abject failure of much of the western media to scrutinise its actions – at least until it’s too late – it may believe it can get away with it. But its record of torture, murder and subverting democratic governments speaks for itself. However savvy its Twitter campaign, that must not be forgotten.

Chase Madar: For US foreign policy, ‘left’ and ‘right’ have little meaning

Both political parties seek hawkish reputation

We all know our left from our right, don’t we? This skill, difficult enough in salsa dancing, turns out to be even trickier when applied to American foreign policy, where the difference between left and right is anything but simple.

Remember how in 2008, the candidate promising to expand the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan was Barack Obama, to the horror of GOP candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney? How come the most popular anti-war politician of the past 10 years isn’t a Democrat or even Ralph Nader but Ron Paul, a paleoconservative Texas Republican? How does it happen that Pvt. Chelsea Manning, a WikiLeaks source, gets far better treatment in the pages of The American Conservative, founded by Pat Buchanan, than in liberal Salon? Not even highbrow intellectuals are immune to this disorientation: The late ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain, sympathetic biographer of left reformer Jane Addams, thought the Iraq War was swell and proceeded to muse about “just war” rationales for strikes against Iran. Historian and retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, an uncompromising anti-war public intellectual, identifies himself as a Catholic conservative.

What’s going on here? The difference between war lover and anti-interventionist, hawk and dove, is clearly more complicated than a simple left-right divide. We need a better map for this quirky landscape. Here are three things that scramble the tidy left-right spectrum in U.S. foreign policy.

Ray McGovern: Leaving the USS Liberty Crew Behind

Justifying the swap of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bergdahl, President Obama cited a principle of never leaving U.S. soldiers behind, but that rule was violated in the shabby treatment of the USS Liberty crew, attacked 47 years ago by Israeli warplanes

On June 8, 1967, Israeli leaders learned they could deliberately attack a U.S. Navy ship and try to send it, together with its entire crew, to the bottom of the Mediterranean – with impunity. Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, a state-of-the-art intelligence collection platform sailing in international waters off the Sinai, killing 34 of the 294 crew members and wounding more than 170.

On the 47th anniversary of that unprovoked attack let’s be clear about what happened: Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day War raged in the Middle East. Let me repeat: there is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew.

Referring last week to the controversy of the swap of five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bode Bergdahl, President Barack Obama claimed, “The U.S. has always had a pretty sacred rule: We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.” The only exception, he might have added, is when Israeli forces shoot them up; then mum’s the word.

Mr. President, try explaining that “pretty sacred rule” to the USS Liberty survivors. I know them well enough to sense the hollow echo that Obama’s claim will leave in their ears – and in the ears of the families of those who did not survive.

Jun 09 2014

The Breakfast Club: 6-9-2014

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.

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This Day in History

Jun 09 2014

On This Day In History June 9

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.

June 9 is the 160th day of the year (161st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 205 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1973, Secretariat wins Triple Crown

With a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win America’s coveted Triple Crown–the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances in racing history, Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte, completed the 1.5-mile race in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a dirt-track record for that distance.

With easy victories in his first two starts of 1973, Secretariat seemed on his way to the Triple Crown. Just two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, however, he stumbled at the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct, coming in third behind Angle Light and Sham. On May 5, he met Sham and Angle Light again at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat, a 3-to-2 favorite, broke from near the back of the pack to win the 2 1/4-mile race in a record 1 minute and 59 seconds. He was the first to run the Derby in less than two minutes and his record still stands. Two weeks later, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, Secretariat won the second event of the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes. The official clock malfunctioned, but hand-recorded timers had him running the 1 1/16-mile race in record time.

On June 9, 1973, almost 100,000 people came to Belmont Park near New York City to see if “Big Red” would become the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. Secretariat gave the finest performance of his career in the Belmont Stakes, completing the 1.5-mile race in a record 2 minutes and 24 seconds, knocking nearly three seconds off the track record set by Gallant Man in 1957. He also won by a record 31 lengths. Ron Turcotte, who jockeyed Secretariat in all but three of his races, claimed that at Belmont he lost control of Secretariat and that the horse sprinted into history on his own accord.

Jun 09 2014

Sunday Train: The Solar Fight, Is Going Right, Deep in the Heart of Texas …

Well, what do you know? I look around, and see a story saying Solar power gains momentum after long struggle in Texas. And not in “Grist” or “Solar Energy News!” or any such … but in the Dallas Morning News Business section from Wed, 4 June 2014.

According to the story,

Recurrent announced plans last month to build a 150-megawatt solar farm in West Texas after signing a 20-year power purchase deal with Austin Energy. That comes just months after First Solar, one of the world’s largest solar companies, began construction on a 22-megawatt farm near Fort Stockton with plans of eventually expanding to 150 megawatts.



And an even more dramatic acceleration could be ahead. Solar developers have been flooding the state’s grid operators with applications for more solar farms, close to 2,000 megawatts worth, said Warren Lasher, director of system planning for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. “It’s hard to say how much will actually get built,” he said. “It’s been this way for more than a year. But it’s a significant increase from before.”

Join me for utility scale solar PV, utility scale solar thermal, onshore wind, offshore wind, and grid integration …  below the fold.

Jun 09 2014

A-C Meetup: Part 1 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

[Note: This is my version of light summer reading (but my nickname’s not “Buzzkill” for nothing). Hey, I’m even breaking this diary into two parts. It’s not healthy to read while you eat but if you do, have a nice sandwich (better make that two), chew slowly, and by the time you’re to the pickle, maybe you’ll be done. I want to present in bite-size easily digestible pizzas my vision of a peaceful deep democratic revolution. I’m not there yet. I enjoy all the rabbit trails that make up the whole too much and mixing metaphors like a … concrete mixer. (Do similes count?–see, I do know the difference.) Below all bad writing is my own and unintentional.]

No pressure, but in late 2012 Kyle Thompson at The other Spiral wrote:

I think the most important thing at this point in time is for the left to reclaim three areas: 1) Internationalism 2) The vision of the future and 3) Economic legitimacy. Without internationalism each struggle feels isolated and localism will never be anything more than localism. … Similarly the left needs to reclaim the future. If all we can imagine for the future is dystopia we will never be motivated enough to build socialism. This is basically the work of artists, conjuring up an image of what might be …. Finally the left must fight to achieve at least a niche of respectability in economic discourse.

I’ll up the ante and say that together we must constantly work to combine all three into a new praxis, one that learns from the past but also is willing to modify or even Jetson imagery that unnecessarily divides us. But, we’ve caught a break: in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of capitalist imagery has worn thin. Ecology and unemployment are biting capitalism on the buttock, just as our side predicted. When I was a kid, I was counting on one of those glass-topped space sedans to zip me around town one day. I’m beginning to doubt that’s going to happen. The caution yellow Pinto with shag carpeting on the dash that zipped me to my first job has long since finished rusting to nothingness, and only the bondo I liberally applied during those bong-heady times remains at the bottom of some landfill.

The future is with us, and that’s scaring the bondo out of the oligarchy, but our side’s still dazed and confused, and the oligarchy wants to keep its party going until the polar ice cap has gone and every last carbon chain has been broken to fuel the Pintos of the 21st century we will purchase to drive to the jobs we won’t have. I’m no artist and have no credentials for economic discourse. That leaves me with a possible niche of utility if not respectability researching internationalism. But since I’m writing from the Deep South of the U.S., home of a widely-held theory about the U.N. involving the mark of the Beast, I’d better toss in some revolutionary ever-modern art to get things started, and, in Part 2, follow-up with Luxemburg, who gives the political-economic basis for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. If Rosa’s not respectable and respectful enough for the dismal scientists they can kiss my grits.

When El Lissitzsky created “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” he made a conscious decision to use the forms of the unrepresentational feelings-based supremacist school he had helped found to focus on their artistic opposite: the material world as he perceived it. This professional betrayal was motivated by a higher duty: universal morality. As a Russian Jew who’d lived most of his life under the Czar’s antisemitism, he wanted to use the best tools that he could muster to help beat the reactionary White Army. Nothing could have been more literal in the minds of the populace who viewed the poster and others like it in the Russian Civil War. Yet the use of geometric shapes and a limited palette brings a discordant transcendence so that even now when one looks at the poster it appears relevant– or so would have said two kids I showed it to if they used big words. Subconsciously, it is up to the individual viewer to decide where he or she fits among the objects, while pining for something missing from this divided two-dimensional incomplete but sadly accurate plane.

What tools do we have to muster and for whose cause should we be mustering them? Key questions of the 20th century and always.

I write this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when humanity did not need national banners to know that Hitler’s eliminationist ethnic nationalism was so inhumane it had to be defeated. (But humane posters are always useful.) Capital “F” Fascism has a way of reemerging on our one planet, and we rarely on this day consider why that is in our justifiable remembrance of the lives that were lost on those bloodied shores of Normandy. I am sure that millions of D-Day-themed posts and comments in blogs and on Facebook pages will be published before this one comes out on Sunday night, June 8, 2014. Rather than add to the digital pile, I am instead going to focus on the war to end all wars that came one generation before WWII, the choices that are involved in warring, and the political-economic reasons we keep doing the wrong thing as a single human species.

Interesting, “national” banners. They pop up, as with the U.S. Civil War, before ethnic armies that are not even nations. Two passed me night before last as I was walking my dogs in the Deep South: the rebel flag flying proudly on the right of the back of an old imported pick-up truck with its windows down driven by a “white” man with the Libertarian “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on the left. The skinny bearded great American working class Confederate man calmly smiled and nodded at me inclusively, assuming I was part of his team, like we were about to go over together and kick the dead Yankee bodies at Bull Run just for grins, or perhaps attend a lynching and pass the bottle (not spin the bottle mind you, 100% virile straight man fun stuff). I was wondering if he heard my loud “Booooo,” particularly when he began to slow down about thirty yards past me. (At least I thought it was loud, but not so loud as to upset the dogs–but pretty darn loud people.) I thought he, likely packing, was turning around to come back and tread on me or worse, but he turned right, fittingly. Maybe he had second thoughts about murder or maybe it was his muffler problem that allows me to write these words. How do we get him out of the white circle and in the natural polychromatic sphere of life, not pictured here? I think he’s hopeless, so mostly I ignore him, but, if and when he waves his hateful flags in my neighborhood or yours, I propose confrontation, red wedge wielded. And somewhere, those flags are always waving. And innocent kids are being raised to be in the white circle.