06/26/2014 archive

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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Robert Sheer: One Court, Indivisible, Votes Liberty and Justice For All

This week’s unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming a robust Fourth Amendment protection for cellphone data is an enormously important victory for privacy rights in the digital age. It is also a reminder that support as well as opposition to civil liberty these days can come from unexpected quarters. Or maybe it is no longer much of a surprise that our constitutional law professor turned president cares so little for the protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights. [..]

Now, about the NSA and its rummaging, might Edward Snowden come to be viewed as the contemporary James Otis?

Dean Baker: The Sharing Economy and the Mystery of the Mystery of Inequality

Last week I had a fascinating 3:00 a.m. cab ride from San Francisco airport to a hotel in downtown Oakland. My cab driver was an immigrant from Pakistan who was putting two kids through college. After working for years as a driver he managed to save enough money to buy his own cab, and more importantly to buy the medallion that gives him the right to operate a cab in San Francisco. The medallion cost $250,000. He is still paying $2,300 a month on the loan to get the medallion in an addition to annual fee to the city of $1,500. [..]

I apologize for the Thomas Friedman-esque digression, but there is a point. My cab driver was complaining about all of these expenses because he has to compete against two ride services, Uber and Lyft, that have largely escaped the same set of regulations. These companies and their drivers are not subjected to the same set of rules that are imposed on traditional cab services. This has put my cab driver and others like him at an enormous disadvantage, and made Uber the latest Wall Street wonder with an implicit market capitalization of $17 billion.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a business can makes lots of money if it is exempted from the regulations that apply to its competitors. This is largely the story of Amazon’s success. It avoided collecting sales taxes in most states for most of its existence.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: A Secret Plan to Close Social Security’s Offices and Outsource Its Work

For months there have been rumors that the Social Security Administration has a “secret plan” to close all of its field offices. Is it true? A little-known report commissioned by the SSA at the request of Congress seems to hold the answer. The summary document outlining the plan, which is labeled “for internal use only,” is unavailable from the SSA but can be found here.

Does the document, titled “Long Term Strategic Vision and Vision Elements,” really propose shuttering all field offices? The answer, buried beneath a barrage of obfuscatory consultantese, clearly seems to be “yes.” Worse, the report also suggests that many of the SSA’s critical functions could soon be outsourced to private-sector partners and contractors.

Sadhbh Walshe: The Pentagon’s slush fund is arming a War Zone on Main Street. Let’s end the local-cop addiction to backyard battle

We’re winding down conflicts abroad, but America’s militarized police forces have access to a veritable firearms sale funnelling from Washington on down to the local station house

A few years ago, the police chief in Keene, New Hampshire (population: 23,000) announced plans to patrol the hamlet’s “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations” with a 19,000-pound armored vehicle called the BearCat (price tag: $285,933, courtesy of a federal Homeland Security grant).

The cops in nearby Nashua had already purchased one of the so-called “rescue vehicles” – typically reserved for Swat missions and, you know, IEDs – with hundreds of thousands in drug forfeiture money, but given that the town of Keene has had just three homicides in the last 11 years, some locals thought the gun ports, rotating hatch, battering ram and tear-gas deployment nozzle all might just be a little much.

“The police are already pretty brutal,” said one resident. “The last thing they need is this big piece of military equipment to make them think they’re soldiers.”

Jessica Valenti: It’s still revenge porn when the victim is a man and the picture is of his penis

Consent culture requires that we take it seriously when a woman shares photos of a conservative NSA defender’s private parts

When we think of “revenge porn”, what usually comes to mind is a terrible ex-boyfriend who posts naked pictures or videos of a woman he wants to humiliate online. And to be fair, that’s the most common image of this crime because that’s the form revenge porn most often takes. This week, however, we’ve seen not one but two men lose their jobs (and possibly their careers) after consensually-shared pictures of their genitals were made public by women seeking to embarrass them. [..]

No matter how you feel about these men and their politics or work, let’s be clear: they are being punished for acts of which they were the victims. Jennifer “Ruby” Roubenes Allbaugh, the woman who posted Kuhn’s alleged picture, told a reporter that she was seeking “revenge” and tweeted “I hate you, AJK”. The Twitter user who outed her relationship to Schindler and apparently allowed a third party to post the picture of his penis only refers to herself online as Leslie, but she tweeted on Tuesday, “I wanted to inform his wife & embarrass him”.

Revenge porn, which will soon become illegal in New York state and was already made so in several others, is meant to shame, humiliate and potentially ruin the lives of its victims.

Lola Okolosie: Gary Oldman showed how far ‘anti-PC brigade’ sentiment has come

The view of political correctness as humourless language policing is so normalised, it can be used as a cover for bigoted language

“Our world has gone to hell,” declared Gary Oldman in a recent interview with Playboy magazine. These days people won’t take a simple joke about being a “nigger” or a “fucking Jew”, according to Oldman; it’s considered bad form to name women, especially those in positions of power, “fucking useless cunts”, and, when in a rage, you can’t even call gay men “faggots”. What or who can we blame for this awful state of affairs, Gary? Political correctness and the liberal dictatorship, of course. [..]

PC language is widely viewed as an encroachment on individual freedom. In this sense, the persistent rightwing offensive on the concept has won out. The argument goes that offensive language is so because those taking offence choose to; equality, therefore, is the right to demean and abuse minorities if the fancy takes you. Political correctness as humourless language policing is an idea so normalised that blatantly racist, sexist, ableist and homophobic slurs can be protected under the rubric of free speech. It has become banal and even tyrannical to try to argue for language and behaviour that respects women and minorities.

The Breakfast Club June 26, 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

Breakfast Tunes

Well, Ok. Maybe There’s Hope For The World After All?

Now this is usin’ yer noodle.

Australian Police Confiscate Pastafarian Man’s Guns Because He Posed For His ID Card Wearing A Colander

I have to admit, the whole Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster thing is beautiful to me. The whole concept hits exactly the sweet spot of the irony bat for someone who preaches secularism in the face of a diverse population. If you somehow don’t know the history of this “church”, go read up on it. It’s completely worth it. The point being made by so-called pastafarians is one of keeping religion out of the government and vice versa. It started with combatting a misguided attempt to inject faith into public schools, but it has evolved to mock any attempt to bring religious dogma into the public square.

The latest example comes from Australia, where a self-described pastafarian went about mocking the rules set up for firearm ID pictures by wearing a colander on his head.

Guy Albon convinced the photographer that he was a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster so that he could wear the colander- a symbol of the satirical religious movement whose members refer to themselves as Pastafarians. The 30-year-old said he exploited a law that allows headgear to be worn in photos.

‘The law stipulates you can have something on your head,’ he said. ‘You have to have your entire face uncovered and if the headgear is being worn it has to have some religious significance. I thought ‘I’ve got this one in the bag’ – it was an absolute scream.’

And he’s right. After all, when you make an exemption allowing head-dress to be worn in government ID pictures so long as it represents something to do with your faith, the government then doesn’t get to question that faith, assuming that government affords people the freedom of religion. Which Australia does. And which this guy used to mock the entire concept of the exemption. But, hell, it’s not like the government could actually do anything about it, right? He’s following the rules.

Officers came to his home, where they seized two handguns and two rifles and ordered him to see a psychiatrist. According to Mr Albon, the psychiatrist immediately declared him as sane and ‘laughed it off’.

more… with sauce…

On This Day In History June 26

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 images to enlarge.

June 26 is the 177th day of the year (178th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 188 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, St. Lawrence Seaway opened.

In a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II, the St. Lawrence Seaway is officially opened, creating a navigational channel from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The seaway, made up of a system of canals, locks, and dredged waterways, extends a distance of nearly 2,500 miles, from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior.


The Saint Lawrence Seaway was preceded by a number of other canals. In 1871, locks on the Saint Lawrence allowed transit of vessels 186 ft (57 m) long, 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m) wide, and 9 ft (2.7 m) deep. The Welland Canal at that time allowed transit of vessels 142 ft (43 m) long, 26 ft (7.9 m) wide, and 10 ft (3.0 m) deep, but was generally too small to allow passage of larger ocean-going ships.

The first proposals for a binational comprehensive deep waterway along the St. Lawrence came in the 1890s. In the following decades the idea of a power project became inseparable from the seaway – in fact, the various governments involved believed that the deeper water created by the hydro project were necessary to make the seaway channels feasible. American proposals for development up to and including the First World War met with little interest from the Canadian federal government. But the two national government submitted St. Lawrence plans, and the Wooten-Bowden Report and the International Joint Commission both recommended the project in the early 1920s. Although the Liberal Mackenzkie King was reluctant to proceed, in part of because of opposition to the project in Quebec, in 1932 the two countries inked a treaty. This failed to receive the assent of Congress. Subsequent attempts to forge an agreement in the 1930s came to naught as the Ontario government of Mitchell Hepburn, along with Quebec, got in the way. By 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister King made an executive agreement to build the joint hydro and navigation works, but this too failed to receive the assent of Congress. Proposals for the seaway were met with resistance from railway and port lobbyists in the United States.

In the post-1945 years, proposals to introduce tolls still could not induce the U.S. Congress to approve the project. Growing impatient, and with Ontario desperate for hydro-electricity, Canada began to consider “going it alone.” This seized the imagination of Canadians, engendering a groundswell of St. Lawrence nationalism. Fueled by this support, the Canadian Louis St. Laurent government decided over the course of 1951 and 1952 to construct the waterway alone, combined with a hydro project (which would prove to be the joint responsibility of Ontario and New York – as a power dam would change the water levels, it required bilateral cooperation). However, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations considered it a national security threat for Canada to alone control the deep waterway, and used various means – such as delaying and stalling the Federal Power Commission license for the power aspect – until Congress in early 1954 approved an American seaway role via the Wiley act. Canada, out of concern for the ramifications of the bilateral relationship, reluctantly acquiesced.

In the United States, Dr. N.R. Danelian (who was the Director of the 13 volume St. Lawrence Seaway Survey in the U.S. Department of Navigation (1932-1963)), worked with the U.S. Secretary of State on Canadian-United States issues regarding the Seaway and worked for over 15 years on passage of the Seaway Act. He later became President of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Association to further the interests of the Seaway development to benefit the American Heartland.

The seaway opened in 1959 and cost $638 million in Canadian dollars, $336.2 million of which was paid by the U.S. government.[1] Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally opened the Seaway with a short cruise aboard Royal Yacht Britannia after addressing the crowds in St. Lambert, Quebec.

The seaway’s opening is often credited with making the Erie Canal obsolete, thus setting off the severe economic decline of several cities in Upstate New York.

Water, Water Everywhere But Not A Drop to Drink for Detroit’s Poor

Also posted at Docudharma and Humanitarian Left

Most Americans take water for granted. We get up in the morning shower, brush teeth, flush the toilet, run water to drink, clean and on and on. What would you do if you couldn’t do those things? How would it effect you daily life? You ability to work? Support yourself and your family? How would it effect you health?

Those questions are all being faces right now by hundreds of thousands men, women and children, not in some third world country, but Detroit, Michigan.

In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is resuming efforts to shut off water service to thousands of delinquent customers.

Crews will be targeting those who have received a shutoff notice and whose bills are more than two months late. Customers with late bills can avoid a shutoff by entering into a payment plan. Typically, it takes a payment of 30% to 50% of the amount owed to start such a plan. [..]

There are 323,900 DWSD accounts in Detroit. Of those, 150,806 are delinquent. Some of those delinquencies are low-income customers who are struggling to keep their utilities on, said some who work in providing assistance to those in need.

But agencies aiding the mostly low income families currently without water are short on cash

“The need is huge,” said Mia Cupp, director of development and communications for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. “There are families that have gone months and months without water.”

The group is among a handful of local agencies that provide assistance to those who need help with their water bills. The Water Access Volunteer Effort, a Detroit-based nonprofit, is another. [..]

The organization has very limited resources. Cupp said the group raised about $148,000 during a charity walk; that money could go to helping people pay water bills. [..]

Mayor Mike Duggan’s spokesman John Roach referred to the Water and Sewerage Department questions about how the city handles community outreach to inform residents about programs to help with water bills. Detroit’s Human Services Department used to perform outreach but no longer does, Latimer said. So the water department is finalizing an agreement with The Heat And Warmth Fund, or THAW, to do so, he said. THAW provides low-income Michigan residents with emergency energy assistance.

Jill Brunett, vice president for marketing and communication for THAW, confirmed that the group is in talks with the water department. She said the extreme weather this winter increased heating bills, putting a strain on finances.

Al Jazeera reported that the average Detroit water bill is nearly double the national average of $40 per month (pdf). Tho add insult to injury, DWSD said it would again raise rates, this time by 8.7 percent.

A coalition of groups including the Detroit People’s Water Board, Food and Water Watch, Blue Planet Project and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have appealed to the United Nations for assistance (pdf)

“We are asking the UN special rapporteur to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water,” said Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a key member of the coalition that put the report together. In addition to creating international pressure to stop the Detroit shutoffs, Barlow said, the UN’s intervention could lead to formal consequences for the United States. “If the US government does not respond appropriately this will also impact their Universal Periodic Review,” she said, “when they stand before the Human Rights Council to have their [human rights] record evaluated.”

Two of those activists, Maureen Taylor, state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Meera Karunananthan, international water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about Detroit’s water crisis.

Trancript can be read here

The US may be the wealthiest country in the world but it is rapidly turning it’s cities into third world slums, endangering thousands of lives.

TDS/TCR (Big Red Button)


Clinging to Guns and Religion

Reagan Democrats?!  That was 34 years ago!  Explain to me again how you are anything but Republican-lite.

Freedom of Twit, GMO & Jerry’s

The real news below.