Daily Archive: 11/10/2014

Nov 10 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 Cuba, Misadventures in Regime Change

In 1996, spurred by an appetite for revenge, American lawmakers passed a bill spelling out a strategy to overthrow the government in Havana and “assist the Cuban people in regaining their freedom.” Helms-Burton Act (pdf), signed into law by President Bill Clinton shortly after Cuba shot down two small civilian American planes, has served as the foundation for the $264 million the United States has spent (pdf) in the last 18 years trying to instigate democratic reforms on the island.

Far from accomplishing that goal, the initiatives have been largely counterproductive. The funds have been a magnet for charlatans, swindlers and good intentions gone awry. The stealthy programs have increased hostility between the two nations, provided Cuba with a trove of propaganda fodder and stymied opportunities to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.

The United States should strive to promote greater freedoms on the island of 11 million people and loosen the grip of one of the most repressive governments in the world. But it must chart a new approach informed by the lessons of nearly two decades of failed efforts to destabilize the Castro regime.

Peter van Buren: What Could Possibly Go Right?

The latest American war was launched as a humanitarian mission. The goal of its first bombing runs was to save the Yazidis, a group few Americans had heard of until then, from genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (IS). Within weeks, however, a full-scale bombing campaign was underway against IS across Iraq and Syria with its own “coalition of the willing” and 1,600 U.S. military personnel on the ground. Slippery slope? It was Teflon-coated. Think of what transpired as several years of early Vietnam-era escalation compressed into a semester.

And in that time, what’s gone right? Short answer: Almost nothing. Squint really, really hard and maybe the “good news” is that IS has not yet taken control of much of the rest of Iraq and Syria, and that Baghdad hasn’t been lost. These possibilities, however, were unlikely even without U.S. intervention.

Trevor Timm: Obama is doubling down on an Isis war with no end in sight. Why does he get a free pass?

We have entered the fourth official month of the latest war without end in the Middle East, and the Obama administration has suddenly doubled America’s troop presence in Iraq – yet there is no approved declaration of war in sight. The so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels receiving millions in weapons are now being defeated, and those same weapons are ending up in the hands of al-Qaida – yet there is no public sign of dialing back in the fight again the Islamic State.

You would think the faces of the mainstream American press would start questioning the White House’s strategy of perpetual war, but you’d be wrong. The drumbeat seems louder than ever; the challengers of power are nearly silent.

Fresh off his party’s drubbing in the US midterm elections, Obama appeared Sunday on Face the Nation, as a meek Bob Schieffer of CBS News lobbed weak questions at the president on his Isis war policy. It was a quintessential example of how some in the mainstream American press have refused to ask critical questions about our new Forever War – even as the most important questions stare everyone in the face.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: US voter turnout is an international embarrassment. Here’s how to fix it

Americans should be embarrassed. The low voter turnout on Election Day last week in the United States was an international disgrace.

What has become of a democratic form of government that Abraham Lincoln said was “of the people, by the people, for the people“? Can we be satisfied with a “democracy” when more than 60% of people don’t vote and some 80% of young people and low-income Americans don’t either? Can we be content when poll after poll shows that most Americans can’t even name the political parties that control the US Senate and House – or who their member of Congress is?

Nationwide, preliminary indications show that the total turnout in the US midterms was only 36.6%. If these estimates hold true, 2014 will be the least representative election in modern American history. When billionaires and corporations tilt elections, conservatives suppress voting and crucial voters feel unengaged, what kind of example for the world is that?

Robert Kuttner: The Cure for the Democrats’ Woes — Goldman Sachs!

After the Democrats’ drubbing in the 2014 midterm elections, there have been fervent debates about whether the Party should embrace an economic populism to tap pocketbook frustrations — or move further to the center in the hopes of capturing more independents.

One thing the Democrats did throughout Obama’s nearly six years was move closer to Wall Street — from the economic team Obama appointed, to the administration’s premature embrace of deficit reduction promoted by financial moguls, to a bailout plan that shored up the biggest banks rather than breaking them up.

It was this coziness with big finance that allowed the far-right Tea Party movement to paint Wall Street and Washington with the same brush — and to capture much of the populist rage on display against Democrats in the 2010 midterms and once again on November 4.

So the last thing Democrats need going forward is an even closer affinity with Wall Street, right? Well, the Democrats may soon get even cozier.

Hannah Giorgis: Beyond ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’: what if there’s no indictment in Ferguson?

Black lives matter? It’s tough to keep saying something like that – to shout it in anything but protest – with this impending reality: At some point in the next few days, it’s likely that Darren Wilson will not be indicted, by the US justice department or the state of Missouri, for the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown – an 18-year-old unarmed black man – in Ferguson, in broad daylight, three long months ago. [..]

But to understand a non-indictment in Ferguson as simply par for the course in the United States case is not to say that Brown’s life is unworthy of defending, nor that his death and its international aftermath are unworthy of redress. This reality check simply locates another officer in the context of the white supremacist law-enforcement apparatus that defends him in lieu of protecting its (black) citizens, that operates with impunity. And for the rest of us to view black life as worthy of defending, to unequivocally repeat that black lives matter in a world that insists otherwise, is a radical act – if a tiresome one.

The hard truth about no justice for Mike Brown is that we must reassess our standards for justice to create a kind of peace – for his family, for Ferguson, and for those of whose anger and grief emerge anew each time a black life is taken without consequence.

Nov 10 2014

Mr. Obama’s Bipartisan “Achievements”

There has been a lot of talk, now that the elections are over and the legislature has fallen into the hands of Republicans about what this will mean for President Obama’s agenda and the Democratic agenda generally. This election season my inbox was full of Democratic politicians begging for money to foreclose the possibility of voters choosing the wrong party at the polls, yours probably was, too.

A persistent theme in these begging emails that I was getting was that the (evil) obstructionist Republicans have gummed up our system of government and the Democrats (the good guys) can’t get anything done in order to enact Mr. Obama’s agenda.

Looking at the accomplishments of Mr. Obama and the governing elites, this narrative, of course, is utter rubbish. The government is working. Mr. Obama and the Republicans have been cooperating all along. Great bipartisan advances and accomplishments are indeed being made.

So, what can we expect of this new aggregation of powers? Probably more of what it created before. Hence, let us review the accomplishments that these allegedly competing forces have created together…

Mr. Obama’s bipartisan accomplishments


Two-tiered justice system, rewards for criminal bankers

Mr. Obama’s bipartisan efforts have kept the criminal banksters who crashed and looted our economy free, under-regulated, still dominating the political system, even larger than they were when they were “too big to fail” and paying the largest bonuses since their criminal activities crashed the economy. Mr. Obama’s efforts to prosecute financial frauds were even wimpier and less effective that George W. Bush’s.  Mr. Obama’s much ballyhooed relief program for homeowners injured by the criminal bankster’s behavior failed miserably; some Democrats claim that Obama sabotaged the program behind the scenes. The result of Mr. Obama’s efforts has been to fuel a new era of Wall Street wealth while screwing average citizens:

They didn’t just blow up finance, they oversaw the swiftest transfer of wealth to the very top the world has ever seen. They screwed workers out of their jobs, they screwed homeowners out of their houses, they screwed retirees out of their pensions, and they screwed municipalities out of their revenues and assets.

Financiers are forcing schools, parks, pools, fire departments, senior citizen centers, and libraries to shut down. They are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in firesales at prices rigged by twenty-something traders at the biggest and most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.

And since they’ve bought the politicians, the policy-makers, and the courts, no one will stop it.

Austerity, benefitting the 1% at the expense of the rest of us

Mr. Obama’s bipartisan efforts (his budgets, the sequester) have imposed the austerity that enriches the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.  On Mr. Obama’s watch, taxes on the rich have decreased, shifting their burden onto everybody else. Mr. Obama was so intent on cutting social security benefits for older folks that the Progressive Change Committee characterized his dropping a particularly nasty proposal to cut benefits by miscalculating the effect of inflation on beneficiaries from his 2015 budget, a “huge progressive victory.” It’s a sad day when progressives consider it a “huge victory” when the depredations of an allegedly, progressive, liberal president and his partners in congress are diminished. You’d think that progressives would get excited about, um, progress rather than lack of regress. The economy delivered to us by Mr. Obama and his Republican colleagues took a lot of wrangling, but as one analyst put it:

Obama is the first President in post-war history (and maybe all of history) whose economy gave more money to the top 10% than the entire value of all productivity gains in his Presidency.  Even George W. Bush didn’t manage that.

Now that’s an accomplishment!

Not to be forgotten as well are Mr. Obama’s actions to crack down on those outraged by the bankster criminals and the impunity Mr. Obama created for those that crashed our economy.

Nov 10 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 11.10.14

I have 3 for you this Monday morning.

First, on the culprits of Climate Change:

Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions

The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.

Jump!

Nov 10 2014

On This Day In History November 10

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 10 is the 314th day of the year (315th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 51 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1975, the 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald (nicknamed “Mighty Fitz,” “The Fitz,” or “The Big Fitz”) was an American Great Lakes freighter launched on June 8, 1958. At the time of its launching, it was one of the first boats to be at or near maximum “St Lawrence Seaway Size” which was 730 feet (220 m) long and 75 feet (23 m) wide. From its launching in 1958 until 1971 the Fitzgerald continued to be one of the largest boats on the Great Lakes.

Final voyage and wreck

Fitzgerald left Superior, Wisconsin on the afternoon of Sunday, November 9, 1975 under the command of Captain Ernest M. McSorley. It was en route to the steel mill on Zug Island, near Detroit, Michigan, with a full cargo of taconite. A second freighter under the command of Captain Jesse B. “Bernie” Cooper, Arthur M. Anderson, destined for Gary, Indiana out of Two Harbors, Minnesota, joined up with Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, being the faster ship, took the lead while Anderson trailed not far behind. The weather forecast was not unusual for November and called for a storm to pass over eastern Lake Superior and small craft warnings.

Crossing Lake Superior at about 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph), the boats encountered a massive winter storm, reporting winds in excess of 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) with gusts up to 86.9 knots (160.9 km/h; 100.0 mph) and waves as high as 35 feet (11 m). Visibility was poor due to heavy snow.  The Weather Bureau upgraded the forecast to gale warnings. The freighters altered their courses northward, seeking shelter along the Canadian coast. Later, they would cross to Whitefish Bay to approach the locks.When the storm became intense, the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie were closed.

Late in the afternoon of Monday, November 10, sustained winds of 50 knots were observed across eastern Lake Superior. Anderson was struck by a 75-knot (139 km/h; 86 mph) hurricane-force gust. At 3:30 pm, Captain McSorley radioed the Anderson to report that she was taking on water and had top-side damage including that the Fitzgerald was suffering a list, and had lost two vent covers and some railings. Two of the Fitzgerald’s six bilge pumps were running continuously to discharge shipped water.

At about 3:50 pm, McSorley called the Anderson to report that his radar was not working and he asked the Anderson to keep them in sight while he checked his ship down so that the Anderson could close the gap between them. Fitzgerald was ahead of Anderson at the time, effectively blind; therefore, she slowed to come within 10 miles (16 km) range so she could receive radar guidance from the other ship. For a time the Anderson directed the Fitzgerald toward the relative safety of Whitefish Bay. McSorley contacted the U.S. Coast Guard station in Grand Marais, Michigan after 4:00 pm and then hailed any ships in the Whitefish Point area to inquire if the Whitefish Point light and navigational radio beacon were operational. Captain Cedric Woodard of the Avafors answered that both the light and radio direction beacon were out at that moment. Around 5:30 pm, Woodward called the Fitzgerald again to report that the Whitefish point light was back on but not the radio beacon. When McSorley replied to the Avafors, he commented, “We’re in a big sea. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

The last communication from the doomed ship came at approximately 7:10 pm, when Anderson notified Fitzgerald of an upbound ship and asked how it was doing. McSorley reported, “We are holding our own.” A few minutes later, it apparently sank; no distress signal was received. Ten minutes later Anderson could neither raise Fitzgerald by radio, nor detect it on radar. At 8:32 pm, Anderson was finally able to convince the U. S. Coast Guard that the Fitzgerald had gone missing. Up until that time, the Coast Guard was looking for a 16 foot outboard lost in the area. The United States Coast Guard finally took Captain Cooper of the Anderson seriously shortly after 8:30 pm. The Coast Guard then asked the Anderson to turn around and look for survivors.

The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies under 530 feet of water, broken in two sections. On July 4, 1995, the ship’s bell was recovered from the wreck, and a replica, engraved with the names of the crew members who perished in this tragedy, was left in its place. The original bell is on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in Michigan.

The Witch of November I am a sailor. Blessed Be