Daily Archive: 11/06/2014

Nov 06 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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New York Times Editorial Board; In Red and Blue States, Good Ideas Prevail

The Democratic brand did not fare well, to put it mildly, in congressional and governors’ races on Tuesday. Most were contests of political blame, driven by ideological hatred for President Obama. But when the ballot offered a choice on an actual policy, rather than between candidates with a D or R next to their names, voters made notably liberal decisions in both red and blue states.

On at least six high-profile and often contentious issues – minimum wage, marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, abortion rights, gun control and environmental protection – voters approved ballot measures, in some cases overwhelmingly, that were directly at odds with the positions of many of the Republican winners.

William Pfaff: How Ronald Reagan and the Supreme Court Turned American Politics Into a Cesspool

The dominating significance of the mid-term American legislative elections just finished has been the occasion’s dramatic confirmation of the corruption of the American electoral system. This has two elements, the first being its money corruption, unprecedented in American history, and without parallel in the history of major modern western democracies. How can Americans get out of this terrible situation, which threatens to become the permanent condition of American electoral politics?

The second significance of this election has been the debasement of debate to a level of vulgarity, misinformation and ignorance that, while not unprecedented in American political history, certainly attained new depths and extent.

This disastrous state of affairs is the product of two Supreme Court decisions and before that, of the repeal under the Reagan Administration, of the provision in the Federal Communications Act of 1934, stipulating the public service obligations of radio (and subsequently, of television) broadcasters in exchange for the government’s concession to them of free use in their businesses of the public airways.

Juan Cole; How a Republican Congress Could Entangle the U.S. Further in the Middle East

The midterm elections in a president’s second term have historically been a time when the president’s party lost seats in both houses of Congress.  Only a little over a third of the electorate typically votes in these elections, and they are disproportionately white, wealthy and elderly.  In short, a different country voted in 2014 than had voted in 2012, a deep red country.  It is not surprising, then, that the GOP gained control of the Senate.

How could the change affect foreign policy?  The president has wide latitude in making foreign policy and even in making war.  Nevertheless, Congress is not helpless in that realm.  It controls the purse strings via the budget and can forbid the president to spend money on some enterprise (that is how the GOP House blocked the closure of the Guantanamo facility).  The Republican majority now does not have to negotiate with Democratic senators in crafting bills, and it can easily attach riders to key pieces of legislation, making it difficult for the president to veto them.  That was how Congress made the Obama administration implement the financial blockade of Iran’s petroleum sales, by attaching it to the Defense Bill.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Worse Than 2010

For Democrats, the 2014 election was not the 2010 Republican landslide. It was worse.

Four years ago, the economy was still ailing and a new wave of conservative activism in the form of the tea party was roiling politics. This time, the economy was better, ideological energies on the right had abated-and Democrats suffered an even more stinging defeat. They lost Senate seats in presidential swing states such as Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina. They lost governorships in their most loyal bastions, from Massachusetts to Maryland to Illinois.

After a defeat of this scope, the sensible advice is usually, “Don’t overreact.” In this case, such advice would be wrong. Something-actually, many things-went badly for the progressive coalition on Tuesday. Its supporters were disheartened and unmotivated, failing to rally to President Obama and his party’s beleaguered candidates. And voters on the fence were left unpersuaded.

A dismissive shrug is inappropriate.

Robert Creamer: GOP Faces Dramatically Tougher New Battle Ground in 2016

It was certainly a tough night for Democrats. But if the GOP believes it has a mandate for the Tea Party agenda, it is sadly mistaken. Most Americans strongly support a progressive middle-class-first agenda. And most important, with the mid-term elections behind us, the 2016 political battlefield completely transforms the political high ground.

With the loss of the Senate and Republicans continuing to control the House, Democrats and progressives need to dig in for an epic battle with the Tea Party and the billionaires that are now in control of the Republican Party.

One bright spot — State referenda to increase the minimum wage passed everywhere they were on the ballot and in local jurisdictions like San Francisco that increased the wage to $15 per hour.

Robert Brosage: Debacle: Get Ready for the Real Fight

Debacle. Bloodbath. Call it what you will. Democrats, as expected, fared poorly in red states in an off-year election. Worse, unpopular Republican governors survived. This was ugly.

Yes, the electorate was as skewed as was the map. Many Republicans won office with the support of less than 20 percent of the eligible voters. Voters over 60 made up a stunning 37 percent of the electorate (up from 25 percent in 2012 or 32 percent in the last bi-election in 2010). Voters under 30 were only 12 percent of the electorate, down from 19 percent in 2012. Democrats won women, but lost white men big. Republicans lost ground with Hispanic voters, but in most of the contested states, they weren’t much of a factor.

The election was fundamentally about frustration with a recovery that most people haven’t enjoyed. Hysteria about ISIS and Ebola didn’t help, but wasn’t the central source of frustration. The Republican theme was to blame President Obama and tie Democrats to him, arousing their base. Democrats chose not to run nationally against Republican obstruction, assuming that technique and right-wing social reaction would mobilize their base.

Nov 06 2014

Leak The Torture Report!

Mark Udall’s loss is a blow for privacy, but he can go out with a bang: ‘leak’ the CIA torture report

Trevor Timm, The Guardian

Wednesday 5 November 2014 00.46 EST

America’s rising civil liberties movement lost one of its strongest advocates in the US Congress on Tuesday night, as Colorado’s Mark Udall lost his Senate seat to Republican Cory Gardner. While the election was not a referendum on Udall’s support for civil liberties (Gardner expressed support for surveillance reform, and Udall spent most of his campaign almost solely concentrating on reproductive issues), the loss is undoubtedly a blow for privacy and transparency advocates, as Udall was one of the NSA and CIA’s most outspoken and consistent critics. Most importantly, he sat on the intelligence committee, the Senate’s sole oversight board of the clandestine agencies, where he was one of just a few dissenting members.

But Udall’s loss doesn’t have to be all bad. The lame-duck transparency advocate now has a rare opportunity to truly show his principles in the final two months of his Senate career and finally expose, in great detail, the secret government wrongdoing he’s been criticizing for years. On his way out the door, Udall can use congressional immunity provided to him by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause to read the Senate’s still-classified 6,000-page CIA torture report into the Congressional record – on the floor, on TV, for the world to see.

There’s ample precedent for this. In 1971, former Senator Mike Gravel famously read the top-secret classified Pentagon Papers for three hours before almost collapsing and then entering thousands of pages more into the record after he couldn’t speak for any longer from exhaustion.

Not for nothing, but the Mike Gravel has actually published with us.

Nov 06 2014

The Sands of Time

So you think all sand is the same?  Not quite.

Why Sand Is Disappearing


NOV. 4, 2014

The sand and gravel business is now growing faster than the economy as a whole. In the United States, the market for mined sand has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers. But as demand has risen – and the damming of rivers has held back the flow of sand from mountainous interiors – natural sources of sand have been shrinking.

One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don’t adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia.

And now there is a global beach-quality sand shortage, caused by the industries that have come to rely on it. Sand is vital to the manufacturing of abrasives, glass, plastics, microchips and even toothpaste, and, most recently, to the process of hydraulic fracturing. The quality of silicate sand found in the northern Midwest has produced what is being called a “sand rush” there, more than doubling regional sand pit mining since 2009.

But the greatest industrial consumer of all is the concrete industry. Sand from Port Washington on Long Island – 140 million cubic yards of it – built the tunnels and sidewalks of Manhattan from the 1880s onward. Concrete still takes 80 percent of all that mining can deliver. Apart from water and air, sand is the natural element most in demand around the world, a situation that puts the preservation of beaches and their flora and fauna in great danger. Today, a branch of Cemex, one of the world’s largest cement suppliers, is still busy on the shores of Monterey Bay in California, where its operations endanger several protected species.

As a child I remember my family in the summer visiting the beach close to where my father took the train to work.  Though it was late afternoon the powdered sand would be so hot as to induce a cool numbing of your feet even as they baked while you raced down to the water.  When my Dad arrived he would fire up one of the public grills with Kingston (not a troll at all was he) and we’d have hambugers and hotdogs.  After dinner (What?  Touch water less than 30 minutes after you’ve eaten?  Do you want to drown of cramps?) my sister and I would go to the playground across the parking lot (considerably cooler than the sand) to play on the tall swings, and the high slide, the big Monkey Bars, and the human powered Merry-Go-Round until we felt dizzy and sick, and most especially the fiberglass animals on top of springs that you could rock in three dimensions.

I’m not sure why this amused me, but it did.

Nov 06 2014

The Breakfast Club (Bang! You’re Dead)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgMy late Uncle called the History Channel The War Channel because of it’s steady drumbeat of World War II documentaries and other celebrations of armed conflict which, along with the “Great Man” theory of history, Marx shows us is a mere outgrowth of underlying economic dynamics.

Not that he was a Marxist, nor am I.  I’m a proud Anarcho-Syndicalist and we kick Marxist butt from here to Barcelona.

Anyway among the objects of their fascination are guns of every shape, size, and description because big explosions are good Television.

Just what about bigger do you not understand?

So I’m a factoid factory about firearms even though I do not now and never have owned one (though I do have a dusty old NRA Pro Marksman certificate which attests I can hit a sheet of paper if it gets close enough to threaten me).

For the purposes of today’s story we’ll start off with the mechanics of basically every gun until 1808.

Now we all have this vision of a frontiersman in his coonskin cap carefully pouring powder from his Powder Horn into the Pan of his Kentucky Long Rifle, lowering the Frizzen and putting the Hammer on Half Cock, putting the Stock on the ground and pouring more powder from his Horn into the Muzzle, grabbing a Patch of cloth and a lead Ball from his pouch and carefully seating them in the Barrel, and finally pulling out his Ramrod and tamping it all down, returning Ramrod to its sleeve, then raising the Rifle, pulling the Hammer to Full Cock, aiming, and firing.

That’s completely wrong.

It actually matters a great deal just how much powder you use and if you want consistent results (and incidentally a gun that doesn’t blow up in your face) you’ll monitor that quantity quite carefully.

In fact since the 1500s most militaries haven’t used loose powder at all.

Well, except for priming the Pan and at that they’d have carefully crafted quills which they would dip like a cooking measure into flour to procure the desired amount.

Instead they have used a paper cartridge which has powder and ball enclosed in a waxed or oiled paper wrapper.  You tear off the seal (usually just a twist like a candy) of the powder end an pour that down the Barrel.  Then you seat the Ball end of the cartridge (with paper replacing the Patch) and ram that down.  The waxing not only contributes to waterproofing the powder (let’s keep it dry Democrats) but also makes it easier to slide down the Ball.  Rumours that the British were using Lard and Tallow to grease their cartridges was one of the proximate causes of the Sepoy Rebellion.

Still, it’s a pain in the ass.

Starting in 1808 we see the emergence of cartridges designed for Breech loading using Percussion Caps for ignition.  While many designs used paper and other self consuming material to contain the charge it was eventually found that Brass would expand to prevent leakage of the propellant into the Breech while maintaining enough integrity to be easily extracted to accept the next round, and they were waterproof to a large extent.


By now you’ve heard all the panic about 3-D printed guns and frankly there’s a lot to be worried about.  They are 100% plastic and don’t show up on metal detectors.  They’re made of commonly available materials by reasonably ($400) priced machines according to specifications easily downloaded off the Internet.  All this technology is thoroughly dual purpose and essentially unregulatable.

Until now the only problem has been that they are single shot and have a tendency to blow up because the Barrel and Breech are not quite strong enough.

A machinist from Pennsylvania has solved that problem (well, the blow up part at least, but that’s the key).  Instead of using a Brass cartridge he uses a Steel one to contain the detonation at its highest pressure point.

Now his is machined and takes about an hour a round to make, but you can reload it and the design could just as easily be stamped (if you have an industrial stamping machine, Kalashnikovs are stamped for instance).

Now perhaps you think this a radical breakthrough, yes in some respects, not so much in others.  Behold the Colt Paterson 1836

The revolvers came with spare cylinders and the practice of the day was to carry spare cylinders loaded and capped for fast reloading.

Yup, and that was without smokeless powder in a basically Ball and Cap design.

Technologically this is essentially a dead end.  Plastics with the requisite characteristics and the machines to create them will continue to evolve but don’t be too worried, even today if you know what you’re doing you can construct a fully automatic AR-15 out of a $35 receiver you can buy unregistered over the Internet and some “spare” parts.

Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse yet?

The Bullet That Could Make 3-D Printed Guns Practical Deadly Weapons

By Andy Greenberg, Wired


As 3-D printed guns have evolved over the past 18 months from a science-fictional experiment into a subculture, they’ve faced a fundamental limitation: Cheap plastic isn’t the best material to contain an explosive blast. Now an amateur gunsmith has instead found a way to transfer that stress to a component that’s actually made of metal-the ammunition.

Michael Crumling, a 25-year-old machinist from York, Pennsylvania, has developed a round designed specifically to be fired from 3-D printed guns. His ammunition uses a thicker steel shell with a lead bullet inserted an inch inside, deep enough that the shell can contain the explosion of the round’s gunpowder instead of transferring that force to the plastic body or barrel of the gun. Crumling says that allows a home-printed firearm made from even the cheapest materials to be fired again and again without cracking or deformation. And while his design isn’t easily replicated because the rounds must be individually machined for now, it may represent another step towards durable, practical, printed guns-even semi-automatic ones.

“It’s a really simple concept: It’s kind of a barrel integrated into the shell, so to speak,” says Crumling. “Basically it removes all the stresses and pressures from the 3-D printed parts. You should be able to fire an unlimited number of shots through the gun without replacing any parts other than the shell.”

Last week, for instance, Crumling shot 19 rounds from a 3-D printed gun of his own design created on an ultra-cheap $400 Printrbot printer using PLA plastic. (He concedes his gun isn’t completely 3-D printed; it uses some metal screws and a AR-15 trigger and firing hammer that he bought online for a total of $30. But he argues none of those parts affected the gun’s firing durability.) Though the gun misfired a few times, it didn’t suffer from any noticeable internal damage after all of those explosions. Here’s a time lapse video that shows 18 of those shots.

Crumling’s steel-shelled rounds seem to control their explosions well enough to protect printed guns created with even the very cheapest printing techniques. “This guy has refined 3D printed firearms such that they can be reliably printed on very low end 3-D printers,” says Sullivan. “It’s so brilliantly simple. I love it.”

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Nov 06 2014

On This Day In History November 6

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.

November 6 is the 310th day of the year (311th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 55 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th President of the United States over a deeply divided Democratic Party, becoming the first Republican to win the presidency. Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote but handily defeated the three other candidates: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Constitutional Union candidate John Bell, and Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas, a U.S. senator for Illinois.

Lincoln received 1,866,452 votes, Douglas 1,376,957 votes, Breckinridge 849,781 votes, and Bell 588,789 votes. The electoral vote was decisive: Lincoln had 180 and his opponents added together had only 123. Turnout was 82.2%, with Lincoln winning the free Northern states. Douglas won Missouri, and split New Jersey with Lincoln. Bell won Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Breckinridge won the rest of the South. There were fusion tickets in which all of Lincoln’s opponents combined to form one ticket in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, but even if the anti-Lincoln vote had been combined in every state, Lincoln still would have won a majority in the electoral college.

As Lincoln’s election became evident, secessionists made clear their intent to leave the Union. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina took the lead; by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed. The seven states soon declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the Confederate States of America. The upper South (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) listened to, but initially rejected, the secessionist appeal. President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy. There were attempts at compromise, such as the Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended the Missouri Compromise line of 1820, and which some Republicans even supported. Lincoln rejected the idea, saying, “I will suffer death before I consent…to any concession or compromise which looks like buying the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitutional right.”

Lincoln, however, did support the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which had passed in Congress and protected slavery in those states where it already existed. A few weeks before the war, he went so far as to pen a letter to every governor asking for their support in ratifying the Corwin Amendment as a means to avoid secession.

Nov 06 2014

TDS/TCR (I’ll Bite Your Legs Off!)


America Remembers It Forgot To Vote

14 / 2 == 8

The real news and this week’s guests below.