07/16/2014 archive

This Is My Answer & I’m Sticking With It

The main challenge for reporters when they ask a question is to get a response that actually responds to the question being asked. The tactic of responding with totally unrelated talking point over and over seems to have been ingrained in politicians, although they are not the only ones who engage in this method of not answering uncomfortable or unexpected questions. “No comment” just doesn’t cut it anymore. The “canned response” has been raised to a new level of ridiculous by the GOP, to the point it sounds robotic, as if someone was pushing the “repeat button” the remote control.

Substituting for the vacationing Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki handed out the first ribbon for the newly established Canned Response Repetition Hall of Fame for repeating the most ludicrous talking point. There were several nominees, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) but the winner was Gov. Rick “Voldemort” Scott (R-FL) who gave the exact same response four times in under a minute. The man is truly creepy.

Can the voters in Florida elect a human the next time.

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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Distorting Reality of ‘False Balance’ in the Media

False equivalence in the media-giving equal weight to unsupported or even discredited claims for the sake of appearing impartial-is not unusual. But a major media organization taking meaningful steps to do something about it is.

Earlier this month, the BBC’s governing body issued a report assessing the BBC’s impartiality in covering scientific topics. When it comes to an issue like climate change, the report concluded, not all viewpoints share the same amount of scientific substance. Giving equal time and weight to a wide range of arguments without regard to their credibility risks creating a “false balance” in the public debate.

This is a lesson for all media on both sides of the Atlantic-and not just when it comes to science coverage. There are many sides to almost every story, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically equal.

Ana Marie Cox: The GOP self-destruction is complete: millennials officially hate conservatives

The backlash machine has finally backfired with a generation that cringes at old people yelling at gay clouds

Conservatives are stuck in a perpetual outrage loop. The reappearance of Todd Akin, the horror-movie villain immortality of Sarah Palin, the unseemly celebration of the Hobby Lobby decision – these all speak to a chorus of “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you” loud enough to drown out the voice of an entire generation. Late last week, the Reason Foundation released the results of a poll about that generation, the millennials; its signature finding was the confirmation of a mass abandonment of social conservatism and the GOP. This comes at a time when the conservative movement is increasingly synonymous with mean-spirited, prank-like and combative activism and self-important grand gestures. The millennial generation has repeatedly defined itself as the most socially tolerant of the modern era, but one thing it really can’t stand is drama.

Republicans were already destined for piecemeal decimation due to the declining numbers of their core constituency. But they don’t just have a demographic problem anymore; they have stylistic one. The conservative strategy of outrage upon outrage upon outrage bumps up against the policy preferences and the attitudes of millennials in perfect discord.

Jessica Valenti: Abstinence sex education doesn’t work. It teaches lies to ill-informed virgins

Teens – whether you like the idea of them having sex or not – deserve information that can keep them healthy. Anything else is criminal

When you send your child off to school, you expect her to learn math, literature and science. Maybe some athletics thrown in for good measure. What most parents don’t count on, however, is for their kids to be told that condoms cause cancer and that women get cervical cancer because of “promiscuity”. Or that “each time a sexually active person gives that most personal part of himself or herself away, that person can lose a sense of personal value and worth.” Yet this is exactly the kind of nonsense taught to students every day thanks to religiously-based, abstinence-only sex education programs.

These false, ideologically-driven programs are turning out sexually illiterate young people whose lives and health are put in literal danger by “educators” handing out false information. All this, just so your teenager might be scared straight enough to forgo sex for a few extra months.

Joan Walsh: Wingnuts’ anti-child disgrace: From Murrieta to Oracle, America’s worst at it again

The GOP sheriff accused of threatening an ex with deportation foments protest — to scare away immigrant children

Waving yellow Gadsden flags and looking like refugees from Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch, dozens of immigration opponents have amassed on a local road in Oracle, Arizona, to block the expected transfer of 40 undocumented children from Central America to a nearby juvenile detention facility. So far the group, which includes members of the “patriot”/wingnut Arizona State Militia, has only blocked a bus carrying kids from a local YMCA. Like their friends in Murrieta, California, the Oracle heroes think the proper way to protest U.S. immigration policy is to threaten young children. [..]

Leadership is also coming from Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who is trying to rival Maricosa County’s Joe Arpaio when it comes to macho intimidation of undocumented immigrants. Babeu, you may recall, had to abort a 2012 GOP congressional campaign when a gay ex-lover, who was Mexican, said Babeu threatened him with deportation if they broke up. (Babeu denied the charge.) Rather surreally, he’s become a national leader in the anti-immigration movement, and now he’s crusading against relocating 40 immigrant children to his county.

Michelle Chen: Hobby Lobby Is Now Discriminating Against a Transgender Employee

The Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Storesre revealed just how far the law now allows corporations to reach into women’s private lives. Now, another case against the same craft store chain is reaching into the ladies’ room as well.

Meggan Sommerville, a Hobby Lobby frameshop manager in Aurora, Illinois, has for years been shut out of the store’s bathroom because her boss insists that, as a trans woman, she cannot use the facilities. She is pressing a discrimination case with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, contending that the ban is both insulting and illegal under state laws barring discrimination in both employment and in public accommodations. The lockout has become a full-fledged civil rights battle-and perhaps the next legal showdown in the debate around corporate personhood, religion and civil rights at work. [..]

Although Sommerville brought her case under Illinois state law, advocates hope a ruling in her favor could set a precedent for other states’ treatment of transgender people under the rubric of civil rights and labor law.

But whatever Hobby Lobby does in the political arena, Sommerville is primarily anxious about how she’s treated when she shows up at work each day-to do a job that she still loves. She’s just waiting for her employer to recognize what her coworkers and her community have already accepted.

Jessica Grove: Parents Are Now Getting Arrested for Letting Their Kids Go to the Park Alone

Debra Harrell, 46, let her 9-year-old daughter play outside alone at the park. The South Carolina child had a cellphone she could use to call her mother in case of emergency. On the girl’s third day alone at the park, someone asked her where her mother was. The girl said her mom was at work. (Harrell works at McDonald’s and didn’t want her daughter to have to sit inside the restaurant for hours on a beautiful summer day.) The result? Harrell was arrested for “unlawful conduct towards a child” and put in jail; her daughter is now in the custody of the department of social services.

Most commentatorssave for a few busybodies interviewed by the local news who nattered on about the possibility of the child being abducted by a strange man, something that’s extremely rarethink that authorities went way too far in arresting Harrell. It angers me, as a citizen, to see the police overreach this way. How is it benefiting this child to be put in the custody of social services? And since I’m a parent, Harrell’s arrest scares me: How can I appropriately parent my child when doing something that seems relatively safe, if out of fashion, can get you arrested?

The Breakfast Club 7-16-2014

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

Bomb Trains


Oil Train Blast Zone Website Lets You See Your Proximity to Bomb Trains

Justin Mikulka, DeSmogBlog

Thu, 2014-07-10 11:31

ForestEthics has launched a new Oil Train Blast Zone website that allows people to search their address and determine if they are within the estimated blast zones for the trains carrying highly flammable crude oil, known as “bomb trains.”

Due to the explosive nature of the oil and the continued use of unsafe DOT-111 tanker cars, even in accidents only involving a few cars rupturing and burning, like the one in Lynchburg, Virginia, first responders have taken the approach of just letting the tank cars and oil burn itself out instead of trying to put the fire out.

In Albany, NY, which has become one of the top destinations for oil trains filled with Bakken crude oil, an event was held at the Ezra Prentice apartments which are located directly along tracks that regularly have the oil tank cars parked on them or moving along them.

While the event was a vigil for the 47 people who died in Lac-Megantic (link added) a year ago, there was plenty of talk about the fact that these apartments and many others in Albany were located within the blast zone.

This past week in Lac-Megantic, it was still very clear where the blast zone was from that accident a year ago.  While the train company has been purchased by the massive New York hedge fund Fortress Investment Group and the tracks have been rebuilt, downtown is still fenced off so that the work of continuing to remove the contaminated soil can continue.

The trains have returned but Lac-Megantic is a long way from being rebuilt.

Another Slap On The Wrist

Who Is the Unsung Hero of the $7 Billion Citigroup Settlement?

William K. Black, The Real News Network


This is the latest in the way of embarrassing settlements by the Department of Justice that they’re trying to bill as if they were holding Citicorp accountable. So it’s $7 billion. As you say, the $4 billion is a larger number than has previously gone to the United States, but it’s not the biggest settlement. The JPMorgan settlement is larger in overall terms. And it really doesn’t matter how much goes to the federal government versus state governments in these terms.

Let me give you two words that you’re not going to hear in the coverage of this, and those words are Richard Bowen. Richard Bowen was the whistleblower that made all of this possible, that gave this case on a platinum platter to the Department of Justice. And today the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, has given a press conference in which he has never mentioned Richard Bowen’s name and has never used it as an opportunity to praise him and to ask other people to come forward and blow the whistle so that we can prevent these kind of crimes.

In addition you’ll note that there are no criminal charges in this case against the individuals or against Citicorp. And as a result of all of this, all of the individuals who became wealthy through what the Department of Justice describes as an egregious fraud that was followed by a coverup–in other words, multiple felonies–have not been charged at this point, and, frankly, there’s no indication that they’re about to be charged as well. So the people that committed the frauds get to keep all of the bonuses that were created as a result of those frauds, and it’s another disgraceful moment in the chapter of the Department of Justice.

Citigroup Is Said to Be Close to Settling Inquiry Into Mortgage Securities


July 8, 2014 9:07 pm

At one point in the talks, the government demanded that Citigroup pay $10 billion. While the settlement will fall short of that demand, the bank will still pay more than once expected.

The two sides are still working out some details. Citi is expected to pay roughly $4 billion in cash, according to a person briefed on the matter. The remainder of the $7 billion would include so-called soft dollar penalties, including mortgage modifications and other forms of relief to homeowners, and possibly payments to state attorneys general involved in the case.

The total amount will almost certainly exceed the $2 billion that some Wall Street analysts initially estimated that Citigroup would be liable to pay, though more recent estimates have put the number closer to $6 billion.

Citigroup was not nearly as big a player in this business as JPMorgan Chase, which agreed to a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department last year.

Lawyers for the big banks say privately that federal prosecutors appear to have scrapped the model used in that case and are demanding penalties that are far more punitive than what JPMorgan paid.

The Citigroup deal raises the stakes for Bank of America, which is expected to be the next large bank to settle its mortgage case with the Justice Department. Talks between the bank and federal prosecutors have largely gone dormant in recent weeks as the Justice Department focused on resolving its case with Citigroup, people briefed on the matter said.

Citigroup Settles Mortgage Inquiry for $7 Billion


July 14, 2014 8:29 p.m.

The unusual arrangement, which was outlined in the deal on Monday, underscores how difficult it remains for Citigroup to shed its rocky past and how federal prosecutors are getting creative in holding the nation’s big banks accountable for losses that crippled the global financial system in 2008.

Like other settlements the federal government has signed with Wall Street, Citigroup’s deal also requires the bank to modify mortgages of struggling homeowners. But Citigroup’s mortgage business has shrunk appreciably since the financial crisis, and the bank doesn’t service enough troubled mortgages to satisfy the monetary settlement terms for homeowner relief. So the bank agreed to finance affordable rental housing in unspecified “high cost of living areas.”

Wall Street watchdog groups and housing advocates said the terms of the $7 billion settlement highlight how the federal government has fallen short in its effort to hold banks accountable, noting that neither Citigroup nor any of its executives have been criminally charged for the bank’s mortgage problems.

In announcing the deal on Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the hard-fought settlement did not absolve the bank or its employees from facing criminal charges. “The bank’s misconduct was egregious,” he said. “As a result of their assurances that toxic financial products were sound, Citigroup was able to expand its market share and increase profits.”

The Justice Department said Citigroup routinely ignored warnings that a significant portion of the mortgages it was packaging and selling to investors in 2006 and 2007 had underwriting defects. In one internal email cited by prosecutors, a Citigroup trader wrote “went thru Diligence Reports and think that we should start praying … I would not be surprised if half of these loans went down.” But the bank securitized the loans anyway.

The Justice Department said it was this type of evidence that enabled prosecutors to extract a $4 billion cash penalty from Citigroup – the largest payment of its kind. That money will go into the United States Treasury’s general fund and is not earmarked for any particular use.

The deal also includes $2.5 billion in so-called soft dollars designated for the financing of rental housing, mortgage modifications, down payment assistance and donations to legal aid groups, among other measures intended to provide relief to consumers.

In a boon for Citigroup, the deal with the Justice Department forgoes any potential cases against the bank related to collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.s, which were often tied to mortgages. While Citi was a relatively small player in the mortgage securities market, it was a leader on Wall Street in C.D.O.s.

But for many borrowers who have already gone through foreclosures, the settlement comes too late, consumer advocates say.

“Seven billion sounds like a lot. But compared to the number of families that lost their homes, it is not very much at all,” said Isaac Simon Hodes, a community organizer with Lynn United for Change, a group that advocates on behalf of Boston-area residents facing foreclosure.

Citigroup Pays Just $7 Billion For Causing Financial Crisis

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Monday July 14, 2014 7:22 am

Attorney General Eric Holder, once a Wall Street lawyer who represented clients involved in mortgage fraud that led to the 2008 crisis, said “The bank’s misconduct was egregious,” while promoting the inconsequential settlement.

The Justice Department declined an earlier offer from Citigroup noting it had emails and other evidence that, according to AG Holder, showed “[W]idespread defects among the increasingly risky loans they were securitizing, the bank and its employees concealed these defects.” Kind of sounds like criminal fraud doesn’t it?

Citigroup itself was formed under dishonest circumstances through the merger of Citibank and Travelers Group when Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan approved the merger despite it being illegal at the time. Congress, who had taken millions of dollars from owners and investors in Citigroup, then approved the merger. One of those lobbying for the merger to be retroactively legalized was Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who would go on to serve as chairman of Citigroup and make over $100 million.

Citigroup has been bailed out at least four times by the federal government and continues to be implicated in illegality regarding money laundering for terrorists and drug cartels as well as other crimes in the foreign exchange market. The former CEO of Citigroup and architect of the merger in the 90s, Sandy Weill, has said the merger no longer makes sense and Citigroup should be broken up.

Le Tour 2014: Stage 11, Besançon / Oyonnax

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

So 2 of the 3 favorites are out.  Alberto Contador broke is leg in a crash on the Col du Platzerwasel 5 days after Chris Froome was forced to withdraw with a broken wrist and without question this makes Vincenzo Nibali who won the stage the prohibitive favorite to win it all.  Not that strange things can’t happen, that’s why they race.  His chief competitors now are Richie Porte (2:23) who has taken over as leader of the Sky team and Alejandro Valverde (2:47).  What brought down Contador?

Speaking with Agence France-Presse, he said he had taken his hands off the handlebars to reach for an energy bar in his back pocket when his front wheel hit a pothole. Along Monday’s route, there were several small potholes and larger sinkholes on a number of descents. Most were ineffectually marked with orange spray paint that all but faded away in the fog and the on-and-off rain.

But everybody knows that, the surprise this morning is that Fabian Cancellara is out too so he can prepare for the World Championships, leaving Trek with just 6 riders.

That makes 19 drops-

Stage 10

  • HAYMAN Mathew, Orica
  • KING Edward, Cannondale
  • CONTADOR Alberto, Tinkoff

Stage 9

  • GARCIA ECHEGUIBEL Egoitz, Cofidis

Stage 8

  • FRANK Mathias, IAM
  • DE CLERCQ Bart, Lotto

Stage 7

  • VAN POPPEL Danny, Trek
  • ATAPUMA John Darwin, BMC
  • CLEMENT Stef, Belkin

Stage 6

  • RICHEZE Ariel Maximiliano, Lamprey
  • HERNANDEZ BLAZQUEZ Jesus Alberto, Tinkoff
  • SILIN Egor, Katusha
  • ZANDIO ECHAIDE Xabier, Sky

Stage 5

  • FROOME Christopher, Sky

Stage 4

  • SCHLECK Andy, Trek
  • HENDERSON Gregory, Lotto

Stage 2

  • MODOLO Sacha, Lamprey
  • CAVENDISH Mark, Omega Pharma

The results from the 10th Stage look like this, Vincenzo Nibali, Thibault Pinot (:15), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte and Jean-Christophe Péraud (:20), Romain Bardet and Tejay Van Garderen (:22), Riche Porte (:25), Leopold Konig (:50), Joaquim Rodriguez (:52), and Mikel Nieve Iturralde (:54).  Twelve more riders finished within 2 minutes and an additional 3 under 3.  Leaders of the General Classification are Vincenzo Nibali, Riche Porte (2:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (2:47), Romain Bardet (3:01), Tony Gallopin (3:12), Thibaut Pinot (3:47), Tejay Van Garderen (3:56), Jean-Christophe Péraud (3:57), Rui Alberto Costa (3:58), Bauke Mollema (4:08), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (4:18), Jakob Fuglsang (4:31), and Michal Kwiatkowski (4:39).  Ten other riders are under 10 minutes behind.  In Points competition Peter Sagan at 287 is waay ahead of the field.  His closest competitors are Bryan Coquard (156), Marcel Kittel (146), Alexander Kristoff (117), Mark Renshaw (101), André Greipel (98), Vincenzo Nibali (95), and Greg Van Avermaet (87).  Everyone else is over 11 points behind.  In the Climbing contest it is Joaquim Rodriguez (51), Thomas Voeckler (34), Tony Martin (25), Vincenzo Nibali (20), Blel Kadri and Alessandro De Marchi (17), and Thibaut Pinaut (16).  Everyone else is at least 4 points behind.  Team times look like this, AG2R, Astana (3:19), Belkin (4:25), and Sky (4:56).  Everyone else is over 20 minutes behind.  In Youth competition it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:46), and Michal Kwiatkowski (1:38).  Everyone else is over 12 minutes behind.

To call today’s 116.5 mile stage, Besançon / Oyonnax, hilly is only by comparison.  There are plenty of bumps and 4 rated climbs, 3 Category 3 and 1 Category 4.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 141.0 Côte de Rogna 7.6 kilometre @ 4.9% 3
Km 148.5 Côte de Choux 1.7 kilometre @ 6.5% 3
Km 152.5 Côte de Désertin 3.1 kilometre @ 5.2% 4
Km 168.0 Côte d’Échallon 3 kilometre @ 6.6% 3

The Sprint Checkpoint is after the first big bump but after a rest day and a flat run up you may see the sprinters try to contest except for Peter Sagan’s overwhelming lead in points.  The finish is down hill after a descent so you will probably see some tight racing, but I doubt it will be a bunch sprint.  Tomorrow is another hilly day and then we hit the Alps where there won’t be many climbs, but they will be very steep indeed.

On This Day In History July 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.

Click on images to enlarge

July 16 is the 197th day of the year (198th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 168 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to an explosive end as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico.


If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one…

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Bhagavad Gita

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were established as early as 1939, when Italian emigre physicist Enrico Fermi met with U.S. Navy department officials at Columbia University to discuss the use of fissionable materials for military purposes. That same year, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt supporting the theory that an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction had great potential as a basis for a weapon of mass destruction. In February 1940, the federal government granted a total of $6,000 for research. But in early 1942, with the United States now at war with the Axis powers, and fear mounting that Germany was working on its own uranium bomb, the War Department took a more active interest, and limits on resources for the project were removed.

Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves, himself an engineer, was now in complete charge of a project to assemble the greatest minds in science and discover how to harness the power of the atom as a means of bringing the war to a decisive end. The Manhattan Project (so-called because of where the research began) would wind its way through many locations during the early period of theoretical exploration, most importantly, the University of Chicago, where Enrico Fermi successfully set off the first fission chain reaction. But the Project took final form in the desert of New Mexico, where, in 1943, Robert J. Oppenheimer began directing Project Y at a laboratory at Los Alamos, along with such minds as Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, and Fermi. Here theory and practice came together, as the problems of achieving critical mass-a nuclear explosion-and the construction of a deliverable bomb were worked out.

TDS/TCR (Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI!!!)


Jason Jones Revealed

The Internet of Things

The real news, Threatdown All Bear Edition, and Dahlia Lithwick’s 3 part web exclusive extended interview below the fold.