11/07/2014 archive

Party at SHG- The Last 25

Hey there, Partiers! Tonight’s party will feature any and all tunes from the past twenty-five years. Whatever you like, as long as it’s from then til now~

Take Me To Church

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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Richard (RJ) Eskow: 8 Hotly Debated Issues… From the Election That Never Was

Call it the Election That Never Was.

We’ve heard a lot of talk about this week’s election, but the election we needed is the one we didn’t see. The important issues, the issues that affected people’s daily lives, were never debated. Voters never heard a genuine exchange of views and never had a chance to vote on competing visions of the future.

It has been suggested that the Democratic Party can run and win on social issues in 2016, but that seems less likely after this year’s results. If voters can reject a personhood amendment and elect a far-right Republican on the same ballot, social issues aren’t likely to be the cure-all some Democrats are seeking.

It’s clearer than ever: If Democrats don’t offer bold solutions to some fundamental economic issues (we’ll offer eight of them, but there are more) then the implications for their party — and for the country — are profound, and dire.

Gary Hart: For Whom the Bell Tolls

For a political veteran, American politics has seemed disjointed and occasionally irrational in recent years. People are voting against their own interests. Campaign speeches are often ideological statements designed to appeal to a “base.” And most of all the money. In the past twenty or thirty years, we have managed to thoroughly corrupt our democratic system through the intricate network of a permanent political class composed of lobbyists, campaign professionals, fund raisers, and the media.

Every generation longs for a better past, often one that never was as good as it seems in memory. But there was a time when idealism triumphed over power and men and women of good will, often young, entered public service out of a purer motive of doing something for our country. [..]

Regardless of one’s party, serious citizens concerned for our country’s future should be thinking seriously about where our politics are headed, not just left or right but forward or backward. Our founders repeatedly said that the greatest danger to the survival of the Republic they created was corruption, corruption being favoring special or narrow interests over the common good. We are there now and we are increasing the speed with which we become a totally special interest political system. And, even if my Party had prevailed in this election, I’d be issuing the same warning. Where the feared corruption is concerned, both Parties are equally guilty.

David Cay Johnston: Americans’ ownership of assets shrinks

Candidate George W. Bush promised an ‘ownership society’ in 2000, but his policies reduced Americans’ share in ownership

When George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, one of his major campaign themes was creating an “ownership society,” in which a larger share of Americans owned homes, securities and other assets.

“Ownership in our society should not be an exclusive club,” he said at a Rancho Cucamonga, California, campaign stop. “Independence should not be a gated community. Everyone should be a part owner in the American dream.”

In 2003 he followed through on his promises by persuading Congress to cut tax rates on dividends by as much as 57 percent and reduce the top rate on capital gains from 20 percent to 15 percent, saying it would encourage more people to own stocks. [..]

So did his tax cuts and easy mortgage loans help make more Americans part-owners of the American dream? No. Instead what followed was a severe narrowing of ownership.

Home ownership last year fell to its lowest level since 1995, long before Bush took office. The rate is expected to drift further down because a weak job market and falling wages mean fewer people can afford to buy homes.

In the case of stocks and dividends, there has been an enormous concentration in the pockets of the richest Americans, my new analysis of official data from the Internal Revenue Service shows.  

Peter nas Buren: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot in Afghanistan

Did you know the U.S. war in Afghanistan is still going on?

While the American war(s) in Iraq and Syria are the Kardashian’s of geopolitics- can’t get them out of the news, don’t want to look but you do anyway- America’s longest war trudges on. We have been fighting in Afghanistan for over thirteen years now. The young soldiers currently deployed there were barely in elementary school when their dad’s and mom’s kicked off the fighting.

And we still haven’t won anything. The Taliban are still there and very potent and dangerous, a corrupt government still runs the country as a kleptocracy, “ally” Pakistan is still playing all sides against one another and the Afghan economy still relies heavily on opium production that finds its way back home here to America. Al Qaeda may have departed Afghanistan, but the franchise is still strong in its new home(s). Defeated? No, just relocated.

Paul Krugman: Triumph of the Wrong

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet midterms to men of understanding. Or as I put it on the eve of another Republican Party sweep, politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. Still, it’s not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday.

I’ll talk in a bit about some of the reasons that may have happened. But it’s important, first, to point out that the midterm results are no reason to think better of the Republican position on major issues. I suspect that some pundits will shade their analysis to reflect the new balance of power – for example, by once again pretending that Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposals are good-faith attempts to put America’s fiscal house in order, rather than exercises in deception and double-talk. But Republican policy proposals deserve more critical scrutiny, not less, now that the party has more ability to impose its agenda.

So now is a good time to remember just how wrong the new rulers of Congress have been about, well, everything.

Howie Hawkins: America just took a wrong turn. It’s time to take a hard left

Double down on oil and trouble? Not so fast: fracking bans in oil country and common sense on infrastructure might turn the US a deeper shade of green between now and 2016

Sometimes it feels as if Sarah Palin won the last two presidential elections. We’re not quite living in “Drill Baby Drill” America, but by co-opting the other Republican energy slogan, a meaningless plan literally called “All-of-the-Above”, President Obama has opened up vast new areas to offshore drilling and pushed hydrofracking for oil and gas onshore. Even as the president says that “we are closer to energy independence than we’ve ever been before”, sometimes it seems like the US is becoming a repressive petrostate. [..]

But there were real victories this week for progressive alternatives on clean energy, economic security and social justice. The extremist blood bath may have painted the country more red, but there were more than a few important – and extremely promising – tea leaves of green. It was even enough to suggest a new, independent, hard-left turn in American politics is still very much possible.

The Breakfast Club (Still I Wonder)

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.

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This Day in History

Bolshevik Revolution takes place; America’s 2000 presidential vote faces limbo; Nixon loses Calif. governor’s race; Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses; Evangelist Billy Graham and singer Joni Mitchell born.

Breakfast Tunes

On This Day In History November 7

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 7 is the 311th day of the year (312th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 54 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this dayin 1940, Only four months after its completion, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State suffers a spectacular collapse.

When it opened in 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world. Built to replace the ferry system that took commuters from Tacoma across the Tacoma Narrows to the Gig Harbor Peninsula, the bridge spanned 2,800 feet and took three years to build. To save cost, the principle engineer, Leon Moisseiff, designed the bridge with an unusually slender frame that measured 39 feet and accommodated just two vehicular lanes.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened with great fanfare on July 1, 1940. Human traffic across the waters of the Tacoma Narrows increased dramatically, but many drivers were drawn to the toll bridge not by convenience but by an unusual characteristic of the structure. When moderate to high winds blew, as they invariably do in the Tacoma Narrows, the bridge roadway would sway from side to side and sometimes suffer excessive vertical undulations. Some drivers reported that vehicles ahead of them would disappear and reappear several times as they crossed the bridge. On a windy day, tourists treated the bridge toll as the fee paid to ride a roller-coaster ride, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge earned the nickname “Galloping Gertie.

Homage to Catalonia

The book was finally published in April 1938 but “made virtually no impact whatsoever and by the outbreak of war with Germany had sold only 900 copies (about twice as many as Cuomo).

I have talked today about Anarcho-Syndicalism and how we kicked Marxist butt from here to Barcelona.  Well, here’s how it went down-

Throughout Catalonia many sectors of the economy fell under the control of the anarchist CNT and the socialist UGT trade unions, where worker’s self management was implemented. These included Railways, streetcars, buses, taxicabs, shipping, electric light and power companies, gasworks and waterworks, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines, mills, factories, food-processing plants, theaters, newspapers, bars, hotels, restaurants, department stores, and thousands of dwellings previously owned by the upper classes.[14] While the CNT was the leading organization in Catalonia, it often shared power with the UGT. For example, control of the Spanish National telephone company, was put under a joint CNT-UGT committee.

Trade union control also spread to small businesses of the middle class handicraft men and tradesmen. In Barcelona, the CNT collectivized the sale of fish and eggs, slaughterhouses, milk processing and the fruit and vegetable markets, suppressing all dealers and sellers that were not part of the collective. Many retailers joined the collectives but others refused, wanting higher wages than the workers.[16] Throughout the region, the CNT committees replaced the middle class distributors and traders in many businesses including retailers and wholesalers, hotel, café, and bar owners, opticians and doctors, barbers and bakers. Though the CNT tried to persuade the members of the middle class and small bourgeoisie to join the revolution, they were generally unwelcoming to the revolutionary changes wanting more than just expropriation of their businesses under force or threat of force and a worker’s wage.

In response to these problems, the Generalitat of Catalonia, backed by the CNT approved a decree on “Collectivization and Workers’ Control” on 24 October 1936. Under this decree all firms with more than 100 workers were to be collectivized and those with less than 100 could be collectivized if a majority of workers agreed. All collectivized enterprises were to join general industrial councils, which would be represented in a central planning agency, the Economic Council of Catalonia. Representatives of the Generalitat would be appointed by the CNT to these regional councils. The goal of this new form of organization would be to allow central planning for civilian and military needs and stop the selfishness of more prosperous industries by using their profits to help others. However these plans for libertarian socialism based on trade unions was opposed by the socialists and communists who wanted a nationalized industry, as well as by unions which did not want to give up their profits to other businesses. Another problem faced by the CNT was that while many collectivized firms were bankrupt, they refused to use the banks because the financial institutions were under the control of the socialist UGT. As a result of this, many were forced to seek government aid, appealing to Juan Peiró, the CNT minister of industry. Socialists and Communists in the government however, prevented Peiró from making any move which promoted collectivization.

After the initial disruption, the unions soon began an overall reorganization of all trades, closing down hundreds of smaller plants and focusing on those few better equipped ones, improving working conditions. In the region of Catalonia, more than seventy foundries were closed down, and production concentrated around twenty four larger foundries. The CNT argued that the smaller plants were less efficient and secure. In Barcelona, 905 smaller beauty shops and barbershops were closed down, their equipment and workers being focused on 212 larger shops.

Another aspect of the revolution was the rise of an anarcho-feminist women’s movement, the Mujeres Libres (Liberated Women). The organization, with 30,000 members at its disposal, set up schools to educate women and worked to persuade prostitutes to give up their way of life.[26] The anarcho-feminists argued that overthrow of patriarchal society was just as necessary for personal freedom, as the creation of a classless society. To demonstrate this new sexual equality, some women even fought at the front (no more than one thousand) and several more joined women’s battalions in the rear.

In the days following the fighting in Barcelona, various Communist newspapers engaged in a massive propaganda campaign against the anarchists and the POUM. Pravda and the American communist Daily Worker claimed that Trotskyists and Fascists were behind the uprising. The Spanish Communist party newspapers also viciously attacked the POUM, denouncing them as traitors and fascists. The Communists, supported by the centrist faction of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) under Indalecio Prieto now called for the POUM to be dissolved, but PM Largo Caballero resisted this move and the Communists along with their allies in the PSOE then left the government in protest.[68] The following crisis led to the removal of Largo Caballero by President Manuel Azaña. Azaña then appointed Juan Negrín (a centrist socialist and ally of the Communists and the Kremlin) as the new premier. The new cabinet was dominated by the Communists, center socialists and republicans, the CNT and left wing of the PSOE were not represented. The Communist Party of Spain (PCE) had now come to the fore as the most influential force in the Republican government.

In Catalonia, now controlled by troops under the Command of Communist General Sebastián Pozas and newly appointed Barcelona chief of Police Ricardo Burillo, the CNT independent police patrols were dissolved and disarmed. Furthermore, the CNT were completely removed from their positions at the Franco-Spanish border posts. Another major blow to the CNT was the dissolution of countless revolutionary committees throughout Catalonia by the army and assault guards. When a new cabinet was formed by President Companys, the CNT decided not to participate. In the months that followed, the Communists carried out a campaign of arrests, tortures and assassinations against the CNT. The imprisonment of many Anarchists caused a wave of dissent in working class quarters. Meanwhile the Communists working with Soviet agents seized most the POUM leadership along with many of its members. The POUM secretary Andrés Nin was also arrested, send to a secret prison in Alcalá de Henares and eventually murdered. Nin’s disappearance and the repression of the POUM caused an international outcry from various left wing organizations and further deepened the divisions within the Republic.

I have little love for Stalinists, Nazis, and Facists.

Oh, so why would I be writing this if it didn’t have a hook to today?

Spain’s Corruption May Set Catalonia Free

By Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View

Nov 5, 2014 8:02 AM EST

Catalonia’s determination to go ahead with a symbolic vote on independence from Spain on Sunday — despite being banned by the nation’s constitutional court — now has an additional layer of legitimacy. Spain’s ruling People’s Party, which scuppered the Catalan version of “devo-max” four years ago, has turned out to be so sickeningly corrupt that it has no right to tell anyone what to do.

Catalonia is no Somaliland, and nothing is extreme about its treatment by Spain. Yet Catalans could argue that their rights were first recognized and then trampled by Madrid. In 2006, both houses of the Spanish parliament — and the people of Catalonia in a referendum — voted for the region’s new Statute of Autonomy, and King Juan Carlos signed it. The document granted the wealthy region — which accounts for 16 percent of Spain’s population, 19 percent of its gross domestic product and 21 percent of research and development spending — broad self-government and fiscal powers not unlike those Scotland is about to get after its failed independence referendum.

Had those powers remained in place, there would probably be no question of secession now. Yet the People’s Party, in opposition at the time, challenged the document in the Constitutional Court. Four years later, the court struck down 14 articles of the statute and reinterpreted another 27. The ruling, in effect, said that Catalonia had no right to call itself a nation, just a “nationality” under the Spanish constitution. It declared Catalonia’s extended tax powers unconstitutional and told the region it had to stick with the Spanish scheme of administrative division.

Throughout the appeal process, it was the current prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who led the People’s Party. After it returned to power in 2011, Rajoy went back to the Constitutional Court again and again, seeking and receiving rulings against continued Catalan attempts to get more independence from Madrid. And we now know that throughout all this, he presided over some of the most rampant corruption ever revealed in Spain.

The People’s Party’s former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, says Rajoy and a former economics minister, Rodrigo Rato, received illegal cash from a slush fund. Rato has also been accused of running up an enormous bill on a corporate credit card issued by Bankia, the bailed-out financial group he chaired between 2010 and 2012. Local party officials seem to have been caught taking kickbacks to award government contracts. Last week, 51 former and current officials, including some top People’s Party figures, were arrested.

Rajoy has apologized on behalf of his party “to all Spaniards for having appointed to positions for which they were not worthy those who would seem to have abused them.” The apology, however, will not be enough to explain to Spaniards why the leader of a party whose banners have “austerity” written all over them has not been able to impose it on his close co-workers and perhaps even on himself.

The Sands of Time

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

Why Sand Is Disappearing

By JOHN R. GILLIS, The New York Times

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 hamburgers 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.

TDS/TCR (Boom, Boom, Boom)


Hope and Changiness

All Hope is Lost

The real news, the John Cleese web exclusive extended interview, and next week’s guests below.