Daily Archive: 08/21/2014

Aug 21 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: What does the Fed have to do with Social Security? Plenty

Fed policies directly affect the future of Social Security’s finances

Most of the people who closely follow the Federal Reserve Board’s decisions on monetary policy are investors trying to get a jump on any moves that will affect financial markets. Very few of the people involved in the debate over the future of Social Security pay much attention to the Fed. That’s unfortunate because the connections are much more direct than is generally recognized.

The basic story of Social Security’s finances is that, while the program is entirely sound for the near future, the program is projected to face a shortfall in the 2030s. Under current law, at that point it will be necessary to reduce benefits from their scheduled level unless additional revenue can be raised.

Of course, the answer from those on the right is to cut benefits, the sooner the better. Progressives, along with most of the public overall, would like to see current benefit levels maintained and possibly increased. Most workers are approaching retirement with little other than Social Security to support them, which means that cuts from currently scheduled benefit levels would mean serious hardship for many.

Bob Herbert: The Fire This Time

I remember the stunned reaction of so many Americans back in the summer of 2005 when legions of poor black people in desperate circumstances seemed to have suddenly and inexplicably materialized in New Orleans during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Expressions of disbelief poured in from around the nation: “How can this be  [..]

It was ever thus: Some tragic development occurs; the media spotlight homes in on black people who had previously been invisible; instant experts weigh in with their pompous, uninformed analyses; and commitments as empty as deflated balloons are made. This time it’s Ferguson, Missouri, in the spotlight. And you can bet the mortgage that this time will be no different.

George Zornick: For Many Politicians, Ferguson Isn’t Happening

Representative Paul Ryan’s response to the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police was fairly straightforward: say nothing, do nothing. “We should take a deep breath, let’s have some sympathy for the family and the community, and let’s not prejudge anything, and let’s let the investigation take its course and hope that justice is served appropriately,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “But what I don’t want to do as a political leader is try to graft my policy initiatives or my preferences onto this tragedy.”

It was not a great moment in the Republican Party’s alleged outreach to minority communities, which Ryan has been championing, but this silence is a bipartisan affair. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle, with a few valuable exceptions, have by and large avoided what’s happening in Missouri entirely.

Most of the candidates likely to contend for the presidency in 2016 have been silent. Hillary Clinton, who has been eager in recent weeks to opine extensively on national issues as she embarked on a book tour, has acted as if the situation isn’t happening.

Anna Feigenbaum: The National Guard protects Ferguson’s police, not its people

Backing a militarized police force with civilian soldiers makes a mockery of the right to protest

On August 16, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called National Guard troops into Ferguson to “ensure the safety and welfare of the citizens.” This call came amid international debate over the militarized police response to protests that were sparked by the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Commentators have questioned why, on top of heavily armed riot teams, the governor needs the National Guard?

Rarely deployed to deal with civilian unrest, in most instances National Guard troops lay sandbags and hand out bottles of water. But as troops turned up in Ferguson on Monday clad in military fatigues and equipped with rifles, they aroused memories of America’s past.

In Ferguson these civilian soldiers were clearly not there to just hand out water. As Monday night’s imagesof excessive force showed, the National Guard was called in to protect the police, not the people. Through wafts of tear gas, with guns ready, these troops provided military backup to an already militarized police force. For many, this is like rubbing salt in a community’s wounds. And as a closer look at the history of National Guard deployments makes clear – from Kent State to the Los Angeles riots – its presence often serves to justify police violence.

Robert Reich: The Disease of American Democracy

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The president’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother?

A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.

Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Clay Calvert: Honor Journalist James Foley: Don’t Watch the Video

If the early reports are correct and journalist James Foley was, in fact, executed by ISIS, you can honor him — and not play into the terroristic hands of that organization — simply by not watching the video of his murder.

Video voyeurism of the worst variety exists when we feast on the death of journalists who strive, through their reporting, to keep our society free. Resist the temptation to take even the briefest of looks.

A dozen years have passed since Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was killed by terrorists in Pakistan. The images from that tragedy are still haunting today. [..]

It’s been a tough enough stretch of days for journalists being arrested in Ferguson, Mo., but Foley’s apparent execution even puts those arrests into perspective when it comes to the dangers of being a journalist.

And if the reports of his death are wrong, then that would be the very best news to report.

Aug 21 2014

At Least 32 Killed in Hiroshima Landslides

In other cheerful news from the land of the Rising Sun-

No One Wants You to Know How Bad Fukushima Might Still Be

By Johnny Magdaleno, Vice

Aug 19 2014

Last month, when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced it would move forward with its plan to construct an “ice wall” around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s failed reactors, it seemed like a step backwards.



(I)ts initial attempt at installing a similar structure had flopped. Its pipes were apparently unable to freeze the ground, despite being filled with a -22°F chemical solution.



Aside from TEPCO’s unwillingness to consider other engineering solutions, his main point of criticism about Japan’s largest utility company is rooted in one that countless others have voiced since the earthquake (and subsequent tsunami): a suspicious disregard for keeping the public informed.



(I)t’s worth noting that TEPCO has been reprimanded by the Japanese government, international scientists, peace-keeping organizations, global media outlets, and both anti- and pro-nuclear advocates for its unwillingness to disclose key details at a time when they are desperately needed. Coupled with the unmitigated radiation still pouring into Pacific waters, this helps explain why a Japanese judicial panel announced in late July that it wants TEPCO executives to be indicted.

This negligence can be traced back to the Fukushima plant’s meltdown. Just three months after the plant was crippled, the Wall Street Journal came out with a report culled from a dozen interviews with senior TEPCO engineers saying its operators knew some reactors were incapable of withstanding a tsunami. Since the Daiichi plant’s construction in the late 1960s, engineers had approached higher-ups to discuss refortifying the at-risk reactors, but these requests were denied due to concerns over renovation costs and an overall lack of interest in upgrading what was, at the time, a functioning plant. In 2012, it came to light that one such cost-cutting measure was the use of duct tape to seal leaking pipes within the plant.

A year after the Wall Street Journal report, TEPCO announced that the Daiichi plant’s meltdown had released 2.5 times more radiation into the atmosphere than initially estimated.



(A) year later, in June 2013, TEPCO admitted that almost 80,000 gallons of contaminated water had been leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day since the meltdown. As of today, that leak continues.



In February, TEPCO revealed that groundwater sources near the Daiichi plant and 80 feet from the Pacific Ocean contained 20 million becquerels of the harmful radioactive element Strontium-90 per gallon (one becquerel equals one emission of radiation per second). Even though the internationally accepted limit for Strontium-90 contamination in water hovers around 120 becquerels per gallon, these measurements were hidden from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for nearly four months.



Last month, TEPCO told reporters that 14 different rice paddies outside Fukushima’s exclusion zone were contaminated in August 2013, after a large piece of debris was removed from one of the Daiichi plant’s crippled reactors. The readings were taken in March 2014, but TEPCO didn’t publicize their findings until four months later, at the start of July-meaning almost a year had passed since emissions had begun to accumulate at dangerous levels in Japan’s most sacred food.



As of August 2014, we know that radiation levels around the Fukushima area continue to rise, even after three years of containment attempts. We know that doctors have found 89 cases of thyroid cancer in a study of less than 300,000 children from the Fukushima area-even though the normal incidence rate of this disease among youths is one or two for every million. We know that Japanese scientists are still reluctant to publicize their findings on Fukushima due to a fear of getting stigmatized by the national government.

We also know that US sailors who plotted a relief effort in Fukushima immediately after the disaster have reportedly been experiencing a well-up of different cancers, that monkeys living outside Fukushima’s restricted zone have lower blood cell counts than those living in other parts of northern Japan.

So, in summary, what we know today is that all three of the Daiichi reactors in operation at the time of the earthquake and tsunami experienced core meltdowns with the strong probability that every single one of their containment structures have been breached and the radioactive material sits merely buried but otherwise exposed to the elements.

That the entire site remains so radioactive that humans would face immediate sickness and inevitable death should they attempt to detoxify it themselves and the environment is so hostile that even specially hardened robots can only operate for hours at best before their electronics cease to function.

That there is a pile of used fuel rods larger than the cores of all three reactors in operation at the time of the disaster sitting on top of the fourth reactor building that was shut down for safety concerns.

And that all these structures have continued to deteriorate without any effective repair or maintenance in the past 3 years, the situation is measurably getting worse, and that TEPCO and the Japanese government continue to lie about it.

(h/t Naked Capitalism)

Aug 21 2014

You can’t handle the truth!

Video by KMOV

Transcript by  Lincoln Madison

I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.

By Sunil Dutta, Washington Post

August 19 at 6:00 AM

Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years.

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

I know it is scary for people to be stopped by cops. I also understand the anger and frustration if people believe they have been stopped unjustly or without a reason. I am aware that corrupt and bully cops exist. When it comes to police misconduct, I side with the ACLU: Having worked as an internal affairs investigator, I know that some officers engage in unprofessional and arrogant behavior; sometimes they behave like criminals themselves.



(Y)ou don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go. Finally, cops are legally prohibited from using excessive force: The moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officers must cease use of force.

But if you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will not become easier if you show your anger and resentment. Worse, initiating a physical confrontation is a sure recipe for getting hurt. Police are legally permitted to use deadly force when they assess a serious threat to their or someone else’s life.



Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.

Respect his authoritah. He’s not just a cop, but a “professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University.”- Atrios, Eschaton

So, if you fk with me and my rights, and I respond by explaining to you that I am going to call a lawyer and sue you for abuse, you have the right to tase me, bro? I can’t tell you how glad I am that this guy is training the next generation of Homeland Security goons.-  Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

Aug 21 2014

The Breakfast Club (You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught)

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

Highlights of this day in history: Soviet coup against Mikhail Gorbachev fails; Exiled revolutionary Leon Trotsky murdered in Mexico; Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion; U.S. flag gets 50th star; Count Basie and singer Kenny Rogers born.

Breakfast Tunes

Aug 21 2014

On This Day In History August 21

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 21 is the 233rd day of the year (234th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 132 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, Hawaii became our 50th state. Hawaii is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It occupies most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. Hawaii’s natural beauty, warm tropical climate, inviting waters and waves, and active volcanoes  make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Due to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vibrant native culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian Island chain, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight “main islands” are (from the northwest to southeast) Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii. The last is by far the largest and is often called “The Big Island” to avoid confusion with the state as a whole. The archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania.

The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century. In the early 18th century, American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands’ sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid 19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life. In 1840, a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority.

In 1893, a group of American expatriates and sugar planters supported by a division of U.S. Marines deposed Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. One year later, the Republic of Hawaii was established as a U.S. protectorate with Hawaiian-born Sanford B. Dole as president. Many in Congress opposed the formal annexation of Hawaii, and it was not until 1898, following the use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the Spanish-American War, that Hawaii’s strategic importance became evident and formal annexation was approved. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory. During World War II, Hawaii became firmly ensconced in the American national identity following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Admission, or Statehood, Day is an official state holiday. It is the home state of President Barack Obama, the only President from that state and one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The pictures were the very hard to select. The second picture (above) is an aerial view of Diamond Head.

Diamond Head is a dormant volcanic cone on the island of Oahu. It is called Le’ahi by Hawaiians, most likely from lae ‘browridge, promontory’ plus ‘ahi ‘tuna’ because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds.

Then of course there are volcanoes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The first picture on the left is the more famous of the volcanoes, Mauna Loa which is the largest volcano on Earth by volume and area and one of the five volcanoes in that form the islands.

Aug 21 2014

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Riders On The Crazy Train

Several years back, when Mom was first diagnosed with senile dementia, we knew that things would change here at chez triv, but it was a gradual thing, at first it was mostly a case of CRS (can’t remember shit)–a lot of repeating herself and just asking the same question over and over again. Monday, Mom, it’s Monday. She liked to tell the same stories over too, like the time when she was young and my Uncle Frankie spun her but good on the dance floor and she twirled right into catastrophe and needed stitches, but was so drunk she wanted to go back to the dance…ah good times~

Over the next couple of years we struggled to find ways to keep her connected as she lost her ability to enjoy reading, Mom was always a big reader, and to play games, it never mattered what game we were playing, Mom was in, or to even sit around and have a good bull session, Mom always knew who had skeletons in their closet and if they weren’t in that closet, she knew where they were buried, and now all of these things were gone. So, more and more, Mom took to her room, watching The Golden Girls and simple things she could follow, no more police procedurals for her, where once she knew whodunit before the second act was half-way through, she couldn’t even follow them now.