10/01/2014 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Teaching My Boy To Sew

I’m pretty sure I’ve said so elsewhere, but I’m happy to say again, that back when we used to make things in this country, I was a sewing machine operator. My first real job was at a shoe factory, and I loved that job. I’ve also worked at a cashmere sweater factory, making ladies suits and a drapery shop. After the actual factories closed, I got a heavy duty sewing machine and over the years I’ve made everything from costumes to crafts with it, but in the past few years I haven’t pulled it out much, mostly to hem.

That was the case last week, as my boy’s jeans were all two inches too long and I don’t do jeans by hand. So, out comes the beast and I get ready to wind a bobbin, when I notice I have an audience. I tell the kid I don’t need him yet, in fact, if he just gets me the pants he has that are the right length, I can measure by that. He gets me the pants, but he doesn’t go anywhere, I figure of course he’s curious, I never pull the machine out anymore. But it’s more than that, he wants to know if can help, he wants to know if he can run the machine.

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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Colleen Rowley: Why Do Americans Hate Beheadings But Love Drone Killings?

The answer lies in human psychology. And probably like the old observation about history, people who refuse to understand human psychology are doomed to be victims of psychological manipulation. How is it that even members of peace groups have now come to support US bombing? One lady framed the issue like this: “I request that we discuss and examine why the videotaped beheading of a human being is understood to be more egregious than the explosion (almost totally invisible to the public) of a human being by a missile or bomb fired from a drone.”

There are at least four main reasons that explain why Americans care far more about the beheadings (thus far) of two Americans and one U.K citizen, than they care — here’s the polling — about the thousands of foreign victims of US drone bombing. Here’s how people are likely being manipulated into believing that more US bombing is the answer to such terroristic killings even when almost all military experts have admitted that it won’t work and “there’s no military solution”

Zoë Carpenter: Who Profits From Plans to Lock Up More Immigrant Families? Private Prison Companies

Last week, the federal government announced that it will detain as many as 2,400 women and children on property in Dilley, Texas, that is currently used as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. The new facility will be the largest family detention center in the country, and the third to open since the number of children and families crossing the US-Mexico border shot up early in the summer. Since then, the number of minors caught at the border has fallen back below last year’s levels.

Human rights groups are alarmed that the administration is nevertheless planning to double the number of people in family detention. The controversial practice of locking up women and their children, many of whom are awaiting asylum hearings, had been all but abandoned before this year. Calls for closing the two other centers opened this summer in Texas and New Mexico have intensified in recent weeks due to reports of “deplorable” conditions. [..]

Another cause for concern is the company that the government chose to operate the new detention center, Corrections Corporation of America. CCA got its start in Texas three decades ago when it scored a contract for a federal immigration detention center in Houston. It’s now the largest private prison operator in the country. CCA has been sued a number of times for negligence, abuse and other mistreatment. The company is currently under investigation for allegations of fraud and corruption at the Idaho Correction Center.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Congress’s Sorry Dereliction of its War Powers Duty

In a Washington paralyzed by partisan division, there is apparently one area of bipartisan agreement: Congress should ignore its constitutional mandate to vote on war with the Islamic State, a conflict that President Obama admits will take years.

The president says he’d “welcome” congressional support but doesn’t need it. Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Sen. Harry Reid (NV) agree. Republican House Speaker John Boehner (OH) argues Congress should postpone any debate until next year. He allows it might be in the “nation’s interest” for members of Congress to weigh in, but it certainly isn’t an imperative. The leaders of Congress treat their own body as vestigial, offering little beyond symbolic gesture on the vital question of war and peace.

This bipartisan consensus about expanding the executive’s war-making powers directly contradicts the Constitution of the United States. The founders gave Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. Their purpose was clear. War was the instrument by which kings and dictators consolidated power and impoverished nations. They feared that the executive by its nature was more given to war. James Wilson, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, summarized the consensus: Giving the power to Congress “will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.”

Michelle Chen: Is ‘Big Data’ Actually Reinforcing Social Inequalities?

Sometimes it feels like we live in an era when information is finally becoming “free”-unlimited media access, the “quantified self” of twenty-four-hour wellness tracking, endless dating possibilities. But there’s nothing inherently progressive about Big Data, and all that data collection can actually bolster inequality and undermine personal privacy. A new report reveals that when Big Data creeps into our work and financial lives, civil rights may get severely squeezed.

The report, “Civil Rights, Big Data, and Our Algorithmic Future” by the think tank Robinson + Yu, confronts the challenges of an information landscape where knowledge can be oppressively overwhelming. While it’s true that Big Data-the amassing of huge amounts of statistical information on social and economic trends and human behavior-can be empowering for some, it’s often wielded as a tool of control. While we’re busy tracking our daily carb intake, every data packet we submit, each image we toss into the cloud, is hoarded and parsed by powerful institutions that manage our everyday lives.

Data collection has accelerated due to technological advancements, the declining cost of data mining and storage, and the intensified surveillance climate of post-9/11 America. But while the Algorithmic Future seems inevitable and exciting, say the authors, it creates gray areas in labor rights, privacy and ethics.

Cori Crider: Gitmo hunger strikes are a cry for help. Why is the US fighting back with secret torture?

Force-feeding at Guantánamo shames America – not just in the bad old days of George W Bush, but today, in 2014. And you deserve to hear the truth, loud and clear

“Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent”: so goes the slogan of the world’s most famous offshore prison. It’s an Obama-era rebrand, a bid by Gitmo’s PR people to persuade Americans that today’s is a kinder, gentler Guantánamo Bay. There’s just one wrinkle: Gitmo is stilldangerous, nasty, lawless and secretive – and the evidence just keeps piling up.

At the forefront of this war over the truth is the first-ever trial concerning the practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike, due to start Monday. My client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab – a Syrian man who has never been charged, and indeed has been cleared to leave Guantánamo by the US government for more than five years – has been fighting for over a year to reform the way he and other hunger-strikers have been treated. He’s finally about to have his day in court.

But the Obama administration refuses to accept this unusual intrusion of justice into its island idyll. On Friday, US justice department attorneys filed a motion asking the court to hear all evidence in the trial entirely in closed court, save a short, anodyne opening statement from lawyers on both sides.

Donna Smiith: US Health Care System Cartel… Until Death Us Do Part

One common definition of a cartel is: an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.  Or if you prefer this definition from Merriam-Webster, here you go: car-tel, noun: a group of businesses that agree to fix prices so they all will make more money.  I think that pretty much sums up what the U.S. health care system has become.

If you doubt that collusion exists in the provision of health care in the profit-driven U.S. health care system, please think again.  Why and how would all the health insurance prices, drug prices, and sometimes the provider charges and practices all end up being within a small window of pricing and policy?  (Oh, and the definition of collusion?  Here you go: collusion is  a secret cooperation for an illegal or dishonest purpose.)  You may try to cite some economic factoring and actuarial analysis as the reasoning behind the pricing, but then how do the profits all balloon to such grotesque levels, too, if not through price fixing and the collusion of the industry to hang as tightly together on the cartel agreements as they possibly can?

As a patient, as a policy holder, and as a caregiver to another patient, I have grown so weary of needing to play my part in the profit-taking every time I am in need of medical help. If holistic or alternative medicine were such a great alternative for the treatment of all illness, I would have gone that route by now, but the costs and the lack of any insurance coverage for most of these alternatives makes that an impossibility even if I believe some of those treatments are really good.  So, when I am sick and cannot get better on my own or when my husband is ill and cannot get better on his own, we are at the mercy of the health care cartel.

I often wonder why all this collusion is allowable when the U.S. Justice Department says it isn’t legal in the U.S.  Check it out, from the U.S. government: When competitors collude, prices are inflated and the customer is cheated. Price fixing, bid rigging, and other forms of collusion are illegal and are subject to criminal prosecution by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.

TBC: Morning Musing 10.1.14

I read this last weekend and it was an interesting article, but it was also a piece of beautiful writing. Enjoy!

Intelligent People All Have One Thing In Common: They Stay Up Later Than You

There’s an electricity in the moon. A pulse, a magic, an energy. A bewitching entrancement unlike that of the sun.

The moon is for things unseen, things done in the shadows and beneath the fog. Under bridges and beneath bed sheets – it’s for wild hearts and unconcerned minds. It’s where plans are made in dark alleyways and secrets revealed under the soft haze of light coming through the cracks of closed shutters.

It’s when fugitives escape and kids run away. It’s when girls lose their virginities on torn leather seats and boys get into trouble. It’s when the suffering take their lives and the lonely seek comfort.


On This Day In History October 1

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.

October 1 is the 274th day of the year (275th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 91 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1946, 12 high-ranking Nazis are sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of the German air force; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior. Seven others, including Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. Three others were acquitted.

The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military, held by the main victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, in 1945-46, at the Palace of Justice. The first and best known of these trials was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which tried 22 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. It was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946. The second set of trials of lesser war criminals was conducted under Control Council Law No. 10 at the US Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT); among them included the Doctors’ Trial and the Judges’ Trial.

The Main Trial

The International Military Tribunal was opened on October 18, 1945, in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg. The first session was presided over by the Soviet judge, Nikitchenko. The prosecution entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and six criminal organizations – the leadership of the Nazi party, the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Gestapo, the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the “General Staff and High Command,” comprising several categories of senior military officers.

The indictments were for:

  1. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace

  2. Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace

  3. War crimes

  4. Crimes against humanity

Drones: Fear in the Sky

John Oliver’s “This Week Tonight” on HBO is fast becoming the show to watch, especially his longer segments. This past Sunday John explains how drones are making the blue skies terrifying.

“Drone strikes will be as much a characteristic of the Obama presidency as Obamacare or receiving racist email forwards from distant relatives.” [..]

“Drone strikes are one of those things that it’s really convenient not to think about that much,” Oliver lamented. “Like the daily life of a circus elephant or that Beck is a Scientologist.” [..]

“When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.” [..]

“Congratulations everyone. We did it. We managed to make blue skies completely terrifying.”

It’s all in how you define “imminent.”

The Umbrella Revolution


Hong Kong is facing its biggest political unrest in decades as tens of thousands of protesters defy a police crackdown to demand greater freedom from China. The new round of protests began last week when thousands of college students launched a boycott to oppose China’s rejection of free elections in 2017. The protesters want an open vote, but China’s plan would only allow candidates approved by Beijing. After a three-day sit-in, police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. But that only fueled a public outcry which brought even more into the streets, with estimates reaching up to 200,000 people. Protest leaders have vowed to remain until the resignation of Hong Kong city leader, Leung Chun-ying, and a free vote for his successor. Originally organized by the group “Occupy Central,” the protests have been dubbed Umbrella Revolution, for the umbrellas protesters have used to hide from the tear gas. The police crackdown is the harshest since China retook control of Hong Kong in 1997 after 150 years of British rule. The crackdown is being felt in mainland China, where the government has blocked the mobile photo-sharing app Instagram and heavily censored references to Hong Kong on social media. We are joined from Hong Kong by journalist Tom Gundy, who has been covering the protests.

Pro-Democracy Demonstrators Dig Deep, Hold Ground in Hong Kong

by Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The pro-democracy crowds in central Hong Kong are growing, not shrinking, after more than three days of sustained protest.

Despite a call earlier on Tuesday by Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive of Hong Kong, that demonstrators should end their barricaded sit-in in the city’s center, those rallying under the name ‘Occupy Central with Peace and Love’ appear to be digging in, not giving up.

Leung gave a brief public speech in which he said he would not resign, as protesters have demanded, but said that the protests are proving disruptive to their fellow citizens and should end. Backed by leaders in Beijing, Leung acknowledged that the protesters appeared to have staying-power, but said demands for more control over the elected leadership and governance of Hong Kong will not be entertained by leaders in China.

The protesters meanwhile, who are sparking solidarity protests worldwide for their courageous stand against Chinese one-party rule, say they are now organizing for the long haul and planning wider actions.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists threaten to step up protests

Tania Branigan, The Guardian

Tuesday 30 September 2014 11.49 EDT

Pro-democracy protest leaders in Hong Kong have threatened to step up their campaign if the region’s chief executive does not meet them by midnight on Tuesday, after he insisted that Beijing would not retreat on limits to voting reforms.

Leung Chun-ying had urged demonstrators to withdraw immediately from an occupation that has brought roads in the city centre to a standstill for the third night running. Tens of thousands of protesters withstood a rainstorm to make their voices heard.

“If Leung Chun-ying doesn’t come out to Civic Square before midnight … then I believe inevitably more people will come out on to the streets,” said Alex Chow, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which organised class boycotts that sparked the mass protests.

Lester Shum, another student leader, told the growing crowd at Admiralty, around government complexes: “We are not afraid of riot police, we are not afraid of teargas, we are not afraid of pepper spray. We will not leave until Leung Chun-ying resigns. We will not give up, we will persevere until the end.”

Leung said: “Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop. I’m now asking them to fulfil the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately.”

TDS/TCR (Shyamalan-a-ding-dong)


So much classier with a British accent.

Our Plagiarist President

So no Matt Bai (you didn’t miss much) and Hadi al-Bahra, President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, instead.

Oops.  I’m a mushroom.

His 2 part web exclusive extended interview as well as the real news and this week’s guests below.

Jr. League Wildcard Play In: As @ Royals

A mite o’ meta.  TMC is on vacation after a very busy week and I leave tomorrow on family business and do not expect to be back until Tuesday next.  Does this mean we shall cease publication?  No.  We’ll do the best we can to provide the same content our readers have come to expect.

This is a particular problem for our sports coverage (Major League Baseball Playoffs and Formula One Racing) since I’m not sure what times I’ll be available, what my connection will be like, and whether I’ll have a TV handy.

As I said we’ll do the best we can.  Some games we will be liveblogging as usual, some games you’ll have to make your own fun.  We will attempt to post pre-game matchups and summaries of the key plays from the previous day’s contests.

– ek hornbeck

The Royals will be hosting, hosting I say, the Athletics tonight in the Jr. League Wild Card Play In Game.  What makes this so unusual is it’s been years, nay decades since the Royals have even sniffed post season play, and to enter tonight’s contest with a better record and home field advantage over the As is odd indeed.

The Play In Games have the unique feature that they’re not a series and teams can make up a special 1 game roster with only 1 or 2 starters and replace the others with position players.  Tonight’s contest will see Jon Lester (L, 6 – 4, 2.35 ERA) face James Shields (R, 14 – 8, 3.21 ERA).  Neither team has performed particularly well, what distinguishes this year’s edition of the Royals (who hit less than 100 Home Runs) is they have an excellent Bullpen with has covered for their lack of offense.  The As are just having an off year.

Game starts at 8 pm on TBS.