Daily Archive: 08/27/2014

Aug 27 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 toa 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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Anya Schiffrin: The Fall and Rise of Investigative Journalism

From Asia to Africa to Latin America, muckrakers have corrupt officials and corporate cronies on the run

In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers are shrinking, folding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies. Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol — she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.

Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.

Lynn Stuart Parrymore: Is Comcast the Worst Company in America?

A firm so horrendous, the very mention of its name causes body tremors.

There are a lot of really strong contenders for the title of worst company in America. Walmart, Bank of America, Ticketmaster and Carnival Cruise Lines have all consistently delivered exquisitely horrible experiences to the American consumer, and their contributions to the national anxiety-level must not be underestimated. But there is one firm that truly stands out – a company so horrendous the very mention of its name causes body tremors and facial constrictions. I refer, ladies and gentlemen, to Comcast, which seems to take as its motto, If you do a thing, do it as badly as possible.

According to Comsumerist’s annual reader poll to nominate the  Worst Companies In America, Comcast is the best at being the worst. The cable company has won the Golden Poo award for the second time, excelling in awfulness in an industry dominated by companies that treat their customers to a never-ending pile of crap.

Jessica Valenti: Why Is It Easier to Invent Anti-Rape Nail Polish Than Find a Way to Stop Rapists?

You shouldn’t expect women to wear modern chastity belts or a real-life vagina dentata to be safe from sexual assault.

There are a lot of things I expect nail polish to do: dry fast, chip infrequently and make me look halfway put-together. Something I don’t generally depend on my manicure for, however, is warding off rapists. But the members of the all-male invention team behind  Undercover Colors – four students at North Carolina State University – say that, with their new polish,  “any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger.”

I’m appreciative that young men like want to curb sexual assault, but anything that puts the onus on women to “discreetly” keep from being raped misses the point. We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it. [..]

Even if a woman were to wear special nail polish or anti-rape underwear, or if she listens to common – but misplaced – advice about not getting drunk and always walking home in a group, all she’s supposedly ensuring is that she won’t be attacked. (And even then it’s not real security, because women who do all the “right” things get raped too) What about the girl at the same party who decided to have a few drinks that night? So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape.

Joan Walsh: White Paranoia Over Ferguson Raises Big Bucks, with Some Help from Fox News

White defenders of officer Darren Wilson are raising money by slandering Mike Brown.

Not surprisingly, a thriving franchise of the nation’s booming white grievance industry has opened up in Ferguson, Missouri, over the last week.  It’s worth examining closely. As usual, it consists of two parts lies, one part paranoia, but at its heart it’s a big grift.

The weekend featured multiple protests supporting Darren Wilson, the missing Ferguson police officer who shot an unarmed Mike Brown on Aug. 9. His superiors apparently withheld Wilson’s name long enough for him to delete all social media accounts and skip town, but his supporters are declaring Wilson, not Brown, the victim here.  A GoFundMe site raising funds for Wilson’s defense – though he’s not been charged with anything – garnered not only $250,000 in donations, but so many ugly racist rants GoFundMe administrators had to disable comments for the site. (They’ll have no trouble taking a cut of the racists’ money, of course.) Wilson’s supporters say they’ve raised $374,000 online and at local events, “to support his family,”  one woman told MSNBC. [..]

It’s worth noting the way the phony information and paranoia peddled by well-known, oft-discredited right-wing media activists like Hoft and Loesch makes its way into the mainstream media ecosphere, again and again. CNN media critic Brian Stelter called out Fox this weekend for peddling the fractured eye socket story, and good for him, but to my knowledge he didn’t rap his own network for peddling the phony “Josie” story. The right’s influence on big stories like this can be more subtle and insidious: Who believes  the New York Times would have stooped to calling Mike Brown “no angel” – the evidence? He’d been in some “scuffles” and had “taken to rapping” – without the right wing braying about Brown’s stealing cigarillos and making up stories that he did even worse?

Michelle Chen: When Workplace Training Programs Actually Hinder Workers

Each weekday morning, ex-assembly line workers, struggling single moms, and other job-seekers shuffle into government offices to get help retraining for a new career, to start over as a radiology technician or programmer, perhaps, or finish an associate’s degree. These workforce investment programs are set up to offer workers a chance to jump-start a new livelihood in a sagging labor market. But after decades of plowing billions of workforce investment dollars into federal job training initiatives, it’s still hard to tell how much these programs are helping workers regain their footing in an increasingly precarious economy.

Congress recently reauthorized the main funding law for workforce development, the Clinton-era Workforce Investment Act (WIA), purportedly to invest more wisely in the country’s downtrodden workers. In an apparently bipartisan push to “improve accountability and transparency within the system,” the legislation streamlines coordination between employers and agencies, strengthens oversight of program outcomes and cuts some programs deemed ineffective. But both the training programs and the new reforms amount to small drops in a very deep bucket of labor stagnation.

Moreover, since the reforms do not alter the decentralized structure of the workforce investment system, it won’t resolve the main criticism of WIA-that its investments don’t pay off for workers.

Katie McDonough: College Dudes Worried That Movement to Take Rape Seriously Will Ruin Their Sex Lives

Why still so much confusion about consent?

Trend pieces about so-called college hookup culture tend to overestimate how much sex students are actually having. Last year, a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association found that less than 30 percent of college students had more than one partner in the previous year. Which about equals data from surveys taken over the last twenty years. This means, as  Time’s Maia Szalavitz noted at time time, college students “aren’t hooking up more than they ever were, or even more than their parents did.”

So with this in mind, I didn’t put much stock in a  Bloomberg News headline declaring that hookup culture was waning “amid assault alarm.” According to the piece, heightened awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and a greater move toward justice for survivors has made some college men’s boners shrink in terror. We are, it seems, meant to feel alarmed at these shrinking boners.

Aug 27 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 8.27.14

So, I was surfing around the net yesterday and I happened upon this masterpiece of right wing wet dreamery at Red State Daily Kos. Seems Robert Reich, former Clinton Secy of Labor, had a short brainfart the other day where he suggested that we should eliminate the corporate tax in favor of caps gains taxes. I think maybe Reich may have started being a morning tippler, or maybe he didn’t quite think it through or some sort of similar lapse. Anyway it was all of 3 paragraphs long.

Of course, this was music to former GOPer cum gate crasher cum Dem Party neoliberal gate polisher and blog owner’s ears. In his zealous embrace of the idea, he even seemingly managed to forget copyright and posted 2/3rds of the entire missive. He brought up being able to hire more employees on the money he’d get to keep. The whole post had a rather gleeful feel to it.

(Jump!)

Aug 27 2014

On This Day In History August 27

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 27 is the 239th day of the year (240th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 126 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1883, The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On 27 August four enormous explosions took place at 05:30, 06:44, 10:02, and 10:41 local time. The explosions were so violent that they were heard 3,500 km (2,200 mi) away in Perth, Western Australia and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,800 km (3,000 mi) away, where they were thought to be cannonfire from a nearby ship. Each was accompanied by very large tsunamis, which are believed to have been over 30 meters (100 ft) high in places. A large area of the Sunda Strait and a number of places on the Sumatran coast were affected by pyroclastic flows from the volcano.

The pressure wave generated by the colossal final explosion radiated from Krakatoa at 1,086 km/h (675 mph). It was so powerful that it shattered the eardrums of sailors on ships in the Sunda Strait and caused a spike of more than two and half inches of mercury in pressure gauges attached to gasometers in the Jakarta gasworks, sending them off the scale. The pressure wave radiated across the globe and was recorded on barographs all over the world, which continued to register it up to 5 days after the explosion. Barograph recordings show that the shockwave from the final explosion reverberated around the globe 7 times in total. Ash was propelled to a height of 80 km (50 mi).

The eruptions diminished rapidly after that point, and by the morning of August 28 Krakatoa was silent. Small eruptions, mostly of mud, continued through October, though further reports continued through February 1884. These reports were discounted by (Rogier) Verbeek.

The combined effects of pyroclastic flows, volcanic ashes and tsunamis had disastrous results in the region. There were no survivors from 3,000 people located at the island of Sebesi, about 13 km (8.1 mi) from Krakatoa. Pyroclastic flows killed around 1,000 people at Ketimbang on the coast of Sumatra some 40 km (25 mi) north from Krakatoa. The official death toll recorded by the Dutch authorities was 36,417, although some sources put the estimate at 120,000 or more.

Ships as far away as South Africa  rocked as tsunamis hit them, and the bodies of victims were found floating in the ocean for weeks after the event. The tsunamis which accompanied the eruption are believed to have been caused by gigantic pyroclastic flows  entering the sea; each of the four great explosions was accompanied by a massive pyroclastic flow resulting from the gravitational collapse of the eruption column.

In the aftermath of the eruption, it was found that the island of Krakatoa had almost entirely disappeared, except for the southern half of Rakata cone cut off along a vertical cliff, leaving behind a 250-metre (820 ft) deep caldera.

In the year following the eruption, average global temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 C (2.2 F). Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888.

The eruption darkened the sky worldwide for years afterwards, and produced spectacular sunsets throughout the world for many months. British artist William Ashcroft made thousands of colour sketches of the red sunsets half-way around the world from Krakatoa in the years after the eruption.

Aug 27 2014

TDS/TCR (Cranky)

TDS TCR

Back to School

Calculations

Congratulations on Stephen’s Emmy.  An abbreviated piece below.

Aug 27 2014

Global Warming: Irrerversable and Humans Did It

The leaked draft report on global warming by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a dark picture for Earth’s climate. The runaway increase in greenhouse gases is causing the climate to warm at a rate that is could be irreversible.

U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks

by Justin Gillis, The New York Times

Using blunter, more forceful language than the reports that underpin it, the new draft highlights the urgency of the risks that are likely to be intensified by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.

That means if society wants to limit the risks to future generations, it must find the discipline to leave a vast majority of these valuable fuels in the ground, the report said. [..]

The draft report found that past emissions, and the failure to heed scientific warnings about the risks, have made large-scale climatic shifts inevitable. But lowering emissions would still slow the expected pace of change, the report said, providing critical decades for human society and the natural world to adapt. [..]

Continued warming, the report found, is likely to “slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing poverty traps and create new ones, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.”

If that isn’t bad enough, the ocean’s are choking on plastics:

Plastic rubbish heaps at sea pose bigger threat to Earth than climate change, claims ocean expert

The world’s leading expert on the poisoning of the oceans said he was “utterly shocked” at the increase in plastic floating on the sea in the past five years and warned that it potentially posed a bigger threat to the planet than climate change.

Charles J Moore, a captain in the US merchant marine and founder of a leading Ocean research group, has just finished his first in-depth survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – one of five major expanses of plastic drifting in the world’s oceans – since 2009. [..]

Plastics are now one of the most common pollutants of ocean waters in the world. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large, swirling glue-like accumulation zones, known to oceanographers as “gyres”, which comprise as much as 40 per cent of the planet’s ocean surface, said Captain Moore, who founded the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, California.

In a previous study of Southern California’s urban centres, he calculated that they spilled 2.3bn pieces of plastic – from polystyrene foam to tiny fragments and pellets – into the area’s coastal waters in just three days of monitoring.

Just because it’s going to snow in Minnesota, doesn’t mean that the rest of the world isn’t cooking.

Aug 27 2014

Democratic Choices for New Yorkers

New York State’s Primary is September 9. New York registered Democratic voter’s will have an option for governor and lieutenant governor, despite incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo’s best efforts to keep his challenger, Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, off the ballot. Prof. Teachout and her running mate , Columbia Law professor, Tim Wu are gaining name recognition are gaining recognition and important endorsements from labor unions, environmental groups to the National Organization for Women (NOW). The campaign’s platform is clear in it’s support of a Democratic liberal agenda that opposes corruption and fracking; calling for support and funding of free public education; increase of the minimum wage; fair taxation; rebuilding infrastructure and real campaign finance reform.

The campaign has focused attention on Gov. Cuomo’s failures to live up to his 2010 campaign promises and has criticized his selection of conservative Democrat, Kathy Hochul, the former Democratic representative to the federal House, as a running mate.

Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu unveiled the first installment of what they called the “Hochul Dossier” detailing the Erie County Democrat’s conservative leanings. The first segment dealt with Hochul’s stint in Congress and several votes she took siding with House GOP leaders against the Obama administration. [..]

Teachout said Cuomo’s choice of Hochul is part of a pattern of behavior that shows the governor is at odds with Democratic primary voters. She also noted his failure to support more ardent redistricting reforms and his lack of support for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate. [..]

Democrat Zephyr Teachout says Gov. Cuomo’s choice for lieutenant governor is too conservative Christie M Farriella/for New York Daily News Democrat Zephyr Teachout says Gov. Cuomo’s choice for lieutenant governor is too conservative

With barely two weeks to go until the Democratic primary, gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout’s campaign launched a new broadside against Gov. Cuomo’s pick for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul.

Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu unveiled the first installment of what they called the “Hochul Dossier” detailing the Erie County Democrat’s conservative leanings. The first segment dealt with Hochul’s stint in Congress and several votes she took siding with House GOP leaders against the Obama administration.

“Kathy Hochul is a choice that Andrew Cuomo made that reflects his own Republican values as opposed to Democratic values,” Teachout said on a conference call with reporters to announce the dossier. The campaign plans to release three other segments of the dossier over the next 10 days.

Teachout said Cuomo’s choice of Hochul is part of a pattern of behavior that shows the governor is at odds with Democratic primary voters. She also noted his failure to support more ardent redistricting reforms and his lack of support for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate.[..]

Among the votes cited by Teachout and Wu were instances where Hochul supported GOP-led efforts to strip away portions of Obamacare, block funding for groups affiliated with the scandal-plagued community group ACORN and hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents related to the “Fast and Furious investigation.”

The campaign also released this video of Ms. Hochul’s conservative leanings.

Professors Teachout and Wu may be underdogs but they are giving disgruntled Democrats in New York a clear choice on the issues and the kind of government most New Yorkers really want. The choice on Speedometer 9th is a choice between real Democrats or Republicans cloaked in a Democratic facade.