Daily Archive: 08/14/2014

Aug 14 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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Trevor Timm: When will Obama’s administration stop trying to send this man to jail for telling the truth about spies, nukes and Iran?

James Risen is out of chances. It’s time for the government to stop harassing a journalist for doing his job

If you blinked at the end of June, you may have missed one of the best pieces of journalism in 2014. The New York Times headline accompanying the story was almost criminally bland, but the content itself was extraordinary: A top manager at Blackwater, the notorious defense contractor, openly threatened to kill a US State Department official in 2007 if he continued to investigate Blackwater’s corrupt dealings in Iraq. Worse, the US government sided with Blackwater and halted the investigation. Blackwater would later go on to infamously wreak havoc in Iraq.

But what makes the story that much more remarkable is that its author, journalist James Risen, got it published amidst one the biggest legal battles over press freedom in decades – a battle that could end with the Justice Department forcing him into prison as early as this fall. It could make him the first American journalist forced into jail by the federal government since Judith Miller nearly a decade ago. [..]

If there’s one issue journalists can unabashedly support without fear of being labeled as “biased”, it’s cases like this that strike at the heart of their own rights as reporters.

Tell the Justice Department to live up to its pledge: Stop pursuing James Risen. Period.

Dean Baker: The Entitlement of the Very Rich

The very rich don’t think very highly of the rest of us. This fact is driven home to us through fluke events, like the taping of Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent comment, in which he trashed the people who rely on Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of government benefits.

Last week we got another opportunity to see the thinking of the very rich when Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, complained at a summit with African heads of state and business leaders that there is even an argument over the reauthorization of Export-Import Bank. According to the Washington Post, Immelt said in reference to the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, “the fact that we have to sit here and argue for it I think is just wrong.”

To get some orientation, the Ex-IM Bank makes around $35 billion a year in loans or loan guarantees each year. The overwhelming majority of these loans go to huge multi-nationals like Boeing or Mr. Immelt’s company, General Electric. The loans and guarantees are a subsidy that facilitates exports by allowing these companies and/or their customers to borrow at below market interest rates.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: “Running As Dems While Sounding Republican.” Hey, What Could Go Wrong?

They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one Politico story certainly doesn’t make a campaign season. But if a recent article there is correct – if the Democratic Party’s strategy this year really is “Running as a Dem (while) sounding like a Republican” – then the party may be headed for a disaster of epic but eminently predictable proportions.

“It’s one thing for Democrats running in red parts of the country to sound like Republicans on the campaign trail,” writes Alex Isenstadt. “It’s another when Democrats running in purple or even blue territory try to do so. Yet that’s what’s happening in race after race this season.”

Red Dems

Certainly this isn’t true of every race. Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been brought in to help with Senate contests in several red states, for example. And a recent commentary (in Politico, come to think of it) argued that “an ascendant progressive and populist movement … is on the verge of taking over the party.”

So which is it? Are Dems tacking left or veering right? The answer isn’t clear yet. But Isenstadt offers some worrisome anecdotes. He points to several Democratic candidates who are recycling Republican rhetoric, even in districts that went for Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

Barry Ritholtz: Celebrating Greenspan’s Legacy of Failure

On this day in 1987, Alan Greenspan became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. This anniversary allows us to take a quick look at what followed over the next two decades. As it turned out, it was one of the most interesting and, to be blunt, weirdest tenures ever for a Fed chairman.

This was largely because of the strange ways Greenspan’s infatuation with the philosophy of Ayn Rand manifested themselves. He was a free marketer who loved to intervene in the markets, a chief bank regulator who seemingly failed to understand even the most basic premise of bank regulations.

The stock market was having a scorching year in 1987, up 44 percent during the first seven months of the year. Stocks peaked within weeks of Greenspan being sworn in. He was still settling into the job when Black Monday came along and U.S. markets plummeted 23 percent on Oct. 19.

Welcome to Wall Street, Mr. Chairman.

The contradictions between Greenspan’s philosophy and his actions led to many key events over his career. The ones that stand out the most in my mind are as follows:

Pamela Merritt: Ferguson is not a war zone. We need to talk about more than just Mike Brown

The tragic events here in Missouri could be the beginning of something. But we need to build a path toward reconciliation

A neighborhood just north of my home – Ferguson, Missouri – has been under siege by its own police force. Maybe it’s hard to imagine what that means if you’re not here … but it’s actually harder to come to grips with if you are.

The unrest, the vandalism and the looting that you’ve heard about from local, national and international newspeople? That happened to businesses that are part of the Ferguson community. The show of force that you saw on the news the other night? That all went down in neighborhoods where many of my friends work and live. Since Sunday, the afternoons and evenings of the mostly-black residents of Ferguson have been filled with protests and vigils in response to 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer on Saturday, and they’ve endured long nights filled with shouting police and riot gear, with wooden bullets and teargas – and, early Wednesday morning, with a second man shot by a cop.

People I know faced down police dogs to participate in a peaceful protest outside of the Ferguson police department on Saturday. A friend spent hours trying to help young people get home Monday night after buses stopped running – and she ended up letting several stay overnight for fear that they may be targeted for violence if they remained outside. Major cleanup efforts are scheduled for Wednesday.

Michelle Chen: Even bright young immigrants don’t buy Obama’s executive action fail

Whatever unilateral intervention the president may take, it isn’t nearly enough to offset systematic betrayal

With an out-of-session Congress deadlocked over immigration reform and right-wing lawmakers hell-bent on “sealing the border”, the White House faces intense pressure to do something – anything – about immigration, after years of burying a civil rights crisis in a mire of political tone-deafness and jingoistic bombast.

Activists hope that President Obama will expand an existing program to shield undocumented youth from deportation and grant reprieves to their family members. But whatever unilateral action Obama may take, it won’t be nearly enough to offset the systematic betrayal of immigrant communities over the past six years, as the White House has dangled vague promises of reform while denying justice to millions of undocumented people and their families.

Even the young people who have obtained temporary protection aren’t necessarily comforted by the prospect of more executive intervention from Obama. After watching their communities get ripped apart by incarceration and deportation, they’re now not only pressing for relief, but demanding long overdue justice.

Aug 14 2014

The Breakfast Club (Home By the Sea)

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

Truman announces Japan’s surrender in World War II; Blackout hits Northeast U.S., Canada; FDR signs Social Security; British troops arrive in N. Ireland; A strike in Cold War Poland; Steve Martin born.

Breakfast Tunes

Aug 14 2014

State Department, Ken Salazar Still Lying About Keystone XL

Keystone climate impact could be 4 times U.S. State Dept. estimate, study says

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Sunday, August 10, 2014 6:05PM EDT

“It didn’t appear that they looked at the market implications,” said co-author Peter Erickson. “If the Keystone pipeline were to enable a greater rate of extraction of the oilsands, would that not increase global fuel supplies, which might then decrease prices and therefore allow a little bit more global consumption?

“That’s the analysis that we did here and we found that it could be the greatest emissions impact of the pipeline.”

Erickson and co-author Michael Lazarus used figures from previous research and international agencies that mathematically describe how oil prices affect consumption. They found that a slightly lower price created by every barrel of increased oilsands production enabled by Keystone XL would increase global oil consumption by slightly more than half a barrel.

The capacity of the pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) would be about 820,000 barrels a day. If every barrel of that came from new production, the annual carbon impact of Keystone XL could be up to 110 million tonnes — four times the maximum State Department estimate of up to 27 million tonnes.

Keystone XL’s Climate Impact Could Be Four Times Greater Than State Department Claimed

by Emily Atkin, ThinkProgress

August 11, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Opponents of Keystone XL have often made the argument that the pipeline’s construction would increase production of Canadian tar sands crude oil, an unconventional type of oil that’s embedded in sand and mud. Separating the oil from the mud is complicated – scientists say the process produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventionally produced oil.

But the State Department and those who want to see the pipeline built say that’s not true. “At the end of the day, we are going to be consuming that oil,” former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has said. In other words, Keystone XL’s construction would not impact the climate because Alberta’s carbon-intensive tar sands would inevitably be developed, pipeline or not.

Erickson and Lazarus say the problem with the State Department’s assessment is that it didn’t even consider the possibility that production would increase. “There’s a lot of uncertainty that should be accounted for,” Lazarus said.

“If the pipeline doesn’t help oil sands production expand, if all the oil is gonna get out there otherwise, then there’s no increased [climate] impact. We don’t dispute that,” Erickson added. “But what we’re looking at is, to the extent that the pipeline does help oil sands expand more than it otherwise would, then there’s this climate effect and it looks to be big.”

There have been indications from both the oil industry and the federal government that Keystone XL would increase production of the Canadian tar sands. Indeed, even the top executive of the company contracted to build Keystone XL has admitted that the pipeline is essential for speedy tar sands development.

“Developing tar sands is an opportunity that’s going to be lost for decades to come if new pipelines do not immediately come online,” TransCanada CEO Ross Girling said in January. “If you miss an opportunity, you may lose it for decades and decades to come.”

The International Energy Agency has also stated that tar sands expansion “is contingent on the construction of major new pipelines,” and RBS Dominion Securities of Toronto warned that up to 450,000 barrels a day of tar sands production could be put on hold between 2015 and 2017 if the Keystone pipeline is not approved.

So why wouldn’t the State Department consider global carbon impacts in its assessment? The answer might be that there are still questions as to whether the U.S. government can legally consider worldwide impacts – whether Keystone’s potential impact on global consumption is within the State Department’s scope. It is a United States-based project, after all.

But Lazarus said that shouldn’t matter. “We need to consider, especially from a climate change stance, that emissions know no borders when it comes to greenhouse gases,” he said. “It seems imperative that wherever one is supposed to look at emissions implications of a policy, one must look at it from a global perspective.”

Aug 14 2014

On This Day In History August 14

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.

August 14 is the 226th day of the year (227th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 139 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act. Press photographers snapped pictures as FDR, flanked by ranking members of Congress, signed into law the historic act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. FDR commended Congress for what he considered to be a “patriotic” act.

U.S. Social Security is a social insurance program that is funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.

The main part of the program is sometimes abbreviated OASDI (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) or RSDI (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance). When initially signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal, the term Social Security covered unemployment insurance as well. The term, in everyday speech, is used to refer only to the benefits for retirement, disability, survivorship, and death, which are the four main benefits provided by traditional private-sector pension plans. In 2004 the U.S. Social Security system paid out almost $500 billion in benefits.

By dollars paid, the U.S. Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal budget, with 20.8% for social security, compared to 20.5% for discretionary defense and 20.1% for Medicare/Medicaid. Social Security is currently the largest social insurance program in the U.S., constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of the gross domestic product and is currently estimated to keep roughly 40% of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty. The Social Security Administration is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore.

Social Security privatization became a major political issue for more than three decades during the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Aug 14 2014

Rethinking “Throwing It Like A Girl”

Have you ever been told you do something like a girl? Or told someone they were “doing that like a girl?” Have you ever considered the implications of that? Now consider this

13-year-old girl leads team to Little League World Series

BRISTOL, Conn. — Female pitcher Mo’ne Davis led her team into the Little League World Series, throwing a three-hitter Sunday to lead Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League of Philadelphia to an 8-0 victory over a squad from Delaware.

Davis struck out six in the six-inning game in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game.

The 13-year-old will become the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series in 68 years.

A girl playing with the boys, out throwing them and out playing them. It is time to rewrite what it means to do something “like a girl.”

It’s time to end the sexist term the negates the worth of girls and women.

Aug 14 2014

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Welcome

As some of you may know, I’ve been writing for several years off and on about coping with a debilitating chronic illness, dealing with a special needs child, and becoming a full time caretaker to my mom, who is suffering with rapidly progressing dementia. I’ve written about difficulties with doctors, feeling guilt over not being an active enough parent, feeling the grief of losing a parent who is still sitting there right in front of you, and the strategies I’ve used to cope with these things. Half in the hope that what I wrote would help somebody else, and half because it helped me, just to be able to talk about it.

I did that for the series “Chronic Tonic”–which I was proud to be a part of, and try to carry on, but now I feel like it’s time to move forward, you know, broaden my scope. Because coping is not just about being ill, or dealing with a school system and your kid’s IEP, or even your mom losing herself. It’s about life. And it’s about family, and I have a big one.

I have the family I was born into, and that one is pretty big, my mom is one of nine, my dad is one of seven, and all of them procreated like crazy. But I also have another family, the family I chose, and who chose me, some of whom I’ve never met, but they’re family just the same. The illustrious internets have made it possible for us to go through hell and high water together, and that’s pretty much what we’ve done.

I’ve found that experience to be life sustaining for me. As the world in general seems to growing colder and more selfish, I find myself with a need for being kinder and more open. I know there are things I wouldn’t have gotten through without being able to talk about and have people who actually listen. Life throws all of us curveballs, and we could all use support when that shit happens.

So, I’ve decided to start something new. I’ll be posting a little something every week here from Hellpeckersville, whatever the week may bring, and from there we can talk about whatever we need to. What a mess this country is, the way we live today, the employment situation, depression, everything, and all the things we do to get by. The little islands of happiness we try to find along the way. Do you find that in art, music, food, inappropriate humor? Bring it.

I have a big family, but I have room for more~