Daily Archive: 12/16/2014

Dec 16 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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Richard (RJ) Eskow: We Lost The ‘CRomnibus’ Fight, But At Least Someone’s Fighting

Last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that “the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” They promptly did, and the Senate quickly followed suit. We are now at greater risk of another derivatives-based financial crisis, and billionaires and corporations now have even more influence over the two party’s entrenched establishments.

The “CRomnibus” spectacle was a return to the showdown days of past years, with another phony “drama” ginned up around a “must-pass” bill in order to serve up a “compromise” – a “bipartisan” one, of course – that serves the interests of corporations and wealthy individuals.

But hold the cynicism, because all is not yet lost. “A few more such victories and we are undone,” the Greek general Pyrrhus supposedly said. But we’re looking at the opposite situation: A few more losses like this, and we might be getting somewhere.

Eugene Robinson: Obama’s Boehner Bailout

How often will President Obama come to House Speaker John Boehner’s rescue even when Republican leaders aren’t willing to give much in return? And does the president want to preside over a split in his party?

These are among the questions raised by the dramatic budget battle that came close to breaching the deadline for a government shutdown.

It was a remarkable moment because something quite unexpected happened. [..]

There are several dynamics here that will prove important in the coming year. One is that Senate Democratic negotiators were out of sync with many of their House colleagues. The campaign finance and derivatives sections came out of the Senate, and the potential for further splits between Democrats in the two houses is substantial.

Moreover, Obama will not always be able to count on the Senate to block Republican bills he objects to. To sustain his vetoes, he will depend on House loyalists, the very people the administration’s performance disappointed this time.

Dave Johnson: What Does Wall Street’s Budget Bill Victory Say About Our Democracy?

The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) passed over the weekend. It included a provision undoing part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill, allowing banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill. [..]

This “Citibank” provision undid months of hard work getting the Dodd-Frank bill in place. No one in the House or Senate would admit to putting it in the bill. No one would say they supported the provision. But House/Senate leadership would not take it out of the bill because it was part of a “deal.” And, of course, it was put in at the last minute, making the choice “vote for it or shut down the government.”

OK, this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast. This was written word-for-word by Citibank, to benefit Citibank, putting the taxpayers at great risk. Worse, because taxpayers will back up these risky bets their price goes down, encouraging more and riskier betting, almost ensuring another eventual collapse.

Dec 16 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 12.16.14

I have 2 articles for ya this morning!

First, the torture argument framed in a food for thought way:

A useful way of looking at torture: the bank robbery analogy

The comparisons between bank robbery and torture don’t end there. Our government and media have made the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” sound perfectly acceptable, when we all know it is simply a euphemism for torture. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley parodied this phrase when he pointed out that waterboarding is no more an enhanced interrogation technique than bank robbery is an enhanced money withdrawal technique.


Dec 16 2014

On This Day In History December 16

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.

December 16 is the 350th day of the year (351st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 15 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships moored in Boston Harbor and dump 342 chests of tea into the water.

The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea coming into the colonies. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. The incident remains an iconic event of American history, and other political protests often refer to it.

The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. He apparently did not expect that the protestors would choose to destroy the tea rather than concede the authority of a legislature in which they were not directly represented.

The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution. Parliament responded in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, which, among other provisions, closed Boston’s commerce until the British East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. Colonists in turn responded to the Coercive Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress, which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them. The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775.

Dec 16 2014

The Banjo’s uncomfortable past

Background: As some of you may unfortunately know, this past year I’ve been indulging myself with a musical mid life crisis. I’ve started to learn how to play 5 string banjo.

The short story is this. For just about my entire life there had been this old dusty banjo in the house that no one played. It belongs to my father. In the mid fifties he helped organize a Pete Seeger (a known communist) concert on campus. This means he probably has his very own file folder deep in the Hoover building. My father also has his very own Pete Seeger story but that will have to wait for another blog post. A short while after the concert, inspired by Seeger and other folk artists, my father purchased the least expensive banjo available at Sears. Since he was already making progress learning the guitar he figured the banjo would be easy. After all, it had less strings!

After another short while, frustrated, the banjo was put back in its case to collect dust for five decades. A couple decades in the attic, then about 10 years in the basement, another 10 years below the plant rack in the den next to the LPs we haven’t played since we couldn’t find replacement needles for the old HiFi. Followed by some time in the garage before moving to a storage unit.  Except for the few times I’d sneak it out of the case and strum it as a little kid looking for trouble, this specific instrument has had a pretty uneventful life. Until recently at least. Now I annoy people with it for at least 5 minutes every day. I know, I know, 5 minutes a day is not enough to make any measurable progress but I don’t want to drive the people I live with completely insane.

I’m not sure exactly what drew me to rescue the banjo from storage and start playing it at age 46. Maybe it was Seeger visiting Occupy Wall Street. I’m sure that was a factor. I was also a band geek in high school. One of my greatest achievements was making it into the All-State Band playing Small Tuba aka Euphonium. It’s been a long time since I’ve been The Best at anything and I admit to missing the stage and everything that goes along with it. Anyone who says they don’t like the cheers and adulation is just lying.  Small Tuba does have its drawbacks. There’s not much you can do with it beyond joining a circus or military band. While a circus band would be loads of fun, the musicians who play in them are world class. And it’s been a quarter century since I’ve played seriously. So I asked myself, why not find a new passion? Why not lead people in a robust chorus of Solidarity Forever & Which Side Are You On? Everybody and their brother plays guitar. But banjo? That would be bad ass cool!  I knew where I could find an instrument, and of course the most important factor – it was FREE – just sitting there in storage waiting for me. Enough about my  uncomfortable past…

About the Banjo’s uncomfortable past…

The banjo is a four-, five- or (occasionally) six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator. The membrane is typically a piece of animal skin or plastic, and the frame is typically circular. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by Africans in Colonial America, adapted from several African instruments of similar design.[1]

The banjo is frequently associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African American traditional music, before becoming popular in the minstrel shows of the 19th century. In fact, slaves both were influenced by and influenced the early development of the music, which became country and bluegrass, particularly in regard to the innovation of musical techniques for both the banjo and fiddle.[2][3][4] The banjo, with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music.

Part of learning a new instrument is learning its’ history. What I meant by its past being uncomfortable, is not the banjo’s fifteen minutes of pop culture fame as the sound track for Appalachian man on man rape in the movie Deliverance (BTW if you’re ever on Jeopardy, the Dueling Banjos tune is traditionally performed with banjo and guitar, not two banjos). I’m talking about the history of the banjo, heavily promoted at the time as “The American Instrument“, and its association with American blackface minstrel shows of the 19th and early 20th century. Basically you have an instrument with African roots, being popularized by white American performers in blackface, then later black Americans in blackface, using exaggerated stereotyped… well you can understand why the instrument lost a great deal of popularity over the 20th century.

So how are actual black American minstrel show artists and performers viewed? As you might imagine, their work has a long history of being celebrated and vilified. Even now there are black banjo performers getting called Uncle Toms in the comment threads on You-Tube.  

Dec 16 2014

Wall Street Democrats

Democrats Bow Down to Wall Street

Bill Moyers & John R. MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine, Moyers & Company

December 12, 2014

You say if he wins the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he’ll be giving away big chunks of our remaining manufacturing base to Japan and Vietnam and other Pacific Rim countries. Why does he want to do that?

Because he’s the fundraiser in chief. And again, this goes back to Bill Clinton. Because Obama’s really just imitating Bill Clinton. Clinton made an alliance with the Daley machine in Chicago, which Obama, he’s inherited that alliance with the two Daley brothers. The people who were thriving are the people in power. Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago. Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel were the chief lobbyists for passing NAFTA under Clinton. They’re the ones who rounded up the votes. They’re the ones who made the deals with the recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans who didn’t want to vote for it. These people are in the saddle.

Full Transcript

Dec 16 2014

Keystone XL Realities

The good news is that even Politico is beginning to realize that Alberta Tar Sands are not economically sound and will cost more to extract than they are worth.

Also 2 interviews from Democracy Now at COP 20 in Lima.

Former VP Al Gore Urges Obama to Reject Keystone XL as Kerry, Top U.S. Negotiator Stay Mum

Pipe Dreams? Labor Researchers Say Keystone XL Project May Kill More Jobs Than It Creates

Will cheap oil kill Keystone?

By Elana Schor, Politico

12/15/14 5:35 AM EST

The same collapse in oil prices that is pumping dollars into motorists’ wallets also risks undermining the case for building the 1,179-mile pipeline in two crucial ways: It’s squeezing the western Canadian oil industry that has looked to Keystone as its most promising route to the Gulf Coast. And anti-pipeline activists hope that falling prices will make it politically safer for Obama to reject the project, despite the new Republican Congress’ pledges to put Keystone at the top of its 2015 energy agenda.

U.S. oil prices have plunged by nearly half since late June, tumbling to around $58 a barrel on Friday, thanks to the refusal of OPEC to cut production amid a glut of global supplies. Gasoline prices have fallen to a five-year low at the same time, reaching a national average of $2.60 a gallon Friday morning.

The oil price is crucial to the Keystone debate because the latest State Department environmental study on the project says prices in the $65-to-$75 range are a potential danger zone for oil production in western Canada – the point where transportation costs driven higher by failing to build the pipeline could “have a substantial impact on” the industry’s growth.

Cheaper oil also makes it easier to blame Keystone for the greenhouse gases that the Canadian oil fields send into the atmosphere. The State Department study said Keystone would be blameless for all that carbon because Canada is likely to keep pumping more oil even without the pipeline, sending the crude to the U.S. by truck or train if necessary. But the rail and truck options are more expensive – so if cheap oil makes them no longer cost-effective, greens argue, the pipeline would be the thing that keeps the pollution coming.

“It is now impossible to credibly argue that Keystone XL won’t enable significant expansion of the tar sands and associated climate emissions,” Natural Resources Defense Council international program attorney Anthony Swift said by email. “Plummeting global oil prices have highlighted the fact that tar sands only work in a world of expensive crude – and without cheap pipeline infrastructure, many carbon-intensive tar sands projects simply will not be built.”

Canada’s heavy-fuel producers are facing a cash crunch as cheap crude chokes profits for some of the industry’s most expensive new projects, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared last week that trying to regulate oil emissions during the current price crash would be “crazy economic policy.”

Everywhere you look in the region, companies are cutting back: The company Canadian Oil Sands sliced its 2015 budget nearly in half compared with this year’s spending. Baytex slashed its dividends to stockholders by more than half, announcing a focus on U.S. oil assets. Cenovus described its 15-percent budget cut for 2015 as “capital restraint in the year ahead in the face of weaker oil prices.”

(P)olitical jostling over the murky nuances of oil markets often glosses over some of the escape hatches in the State Department’s price scenario: For the death of the pipeline to slow Canadian oil sands growth – and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions – other major export projects for the Canadian fuel would also have to run into problems, the study said.

That “pipeline-constrained” scenario was taking shape even before this fall’s oil crash, thanks to an obstruction campaign by climate activists and indigenous peoples on both sides of the border. Three other massive pipeline projects that would funnel crude from Canada’s oil-rich Alberta province to its coastlines have met fierce resistance from greens.

Dec 16 2014

TDS/TCR (Acts of War and Hacker Attacks)


Jessica Williams

Martin Freeman’s Second Fiddle

The real news and this week’s guests below.

Dec 16 2014

War Criminal Throws His Cohrts Under the Bus

Not to make any excuses for this man’s complicity in the commission of war crimes but former Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney John Yoo tossed his former bosses. President George W. Bush et al,  under the bus to cover his butt just in case they are all indicted for the crimes that they committed in our names after 9/11.

Even Torture Memo Author John Yoo Thinks Rectal Feeding Was Illegal

As former Vice President Dick Cheney argued on Sunday that the CIA’s aggressive interrogation of terrorism suspects did not amount to torture, the man who provided the legal rationale for the program said that in some cases it had perhaps gone too far.

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo said the sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and other harsh treatment outlined in a U.S. Senate report last week could violate anti-torture laws. [..]

As Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel in 2002, Yoo co-wrote a memo that was used as the legal sanction for what the CIA called its program of enhanced interrogation techniques after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The memo said only prolonged mental harm or serious physical injury, such as organ failure, violated the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture. Aggressive interrogation methods like waterboarding fell short of that mark.

Full transcript can be read here

Prosecute John Yoo, Says Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

By John Weiner, The Nation

Torture is a crime, a violation of the Federal Torture Act. Those who engaged in the torture documented in such exhaustive detail in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report should be prosecuted, and those who conspired in that torture should also be prosecuted. They include UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, says Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the Law School at the University of California Irvine.

Yoo was co-author of the infamous “torture memo” of 2002, when he was Deputy Assistant US Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Bush Justice Department. In the memo he declared that-in the words of Jane Mayer in her book The Dark Side-“cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees could be authorized, with few restrictions.” [..]

The Federal Torture Act defines torture broadly, as “an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering…upon another person within his custody or physical control.” The penalty for violating the Torture Act is imprisonment “for not more than 20 years.”

Most important for the case of John Yoo, the Federal Torture Act specifically includes conspiracy, stating that “a person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties…as the penalties prescribed for the offense.” That means Yoo could be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison if found guilty.

Dec 16 2014

Thoroughly Modern Meatless Mince Pie

Republished from 11/6/2011 from the What’s Cooking Archives at The Stars Hollow Gazette

Mince pie is a old holiday tradition that can be traced back to 13th century when European crusaders returned from the Middle East with recipes for meats, fruits and spices. Mincing was a way of preserving meats without salting or smoking. The pie has been served at royal tables and, at one time, was banned by the Puritans since it was a symbol of the Pagan Christmas celebration.

Traditional mincemeat pie contains shredded meat and suet along with fruits and spices and cooks for hours. Mostly made with beef, there is a record of a recipe that used whale meat.  Today, most cooks buy mince in a jar, like Cross & Blackwell or None-Such, to make pies and small tarts. I use to do that as well, adding chopped apples, walnuts and extra brandy.

Several years ago, I came across recipe for a meatless mince full of apples, dried fruits and lots of spices. It cooks over low heat for about ninety minutes filling the house and the neighborhood with its spicy aroma. This recipe calls for pippin apples but MacIntosh, Granny Smith or any pie variety of apple is a fine substitute. I use a combination. It can be made a week or so ahead of time and kept refrigerated in an airtight container. The recipe will make one pie or about a dozen medium tarts. I like the tarts even though it’s more work making the crusts. For the top crust, I make decorative cutouts with small cookie cutters, shaped like leaves and acorns. I’ve also just made a few cutouts in the top crust and surrounded the pie edge with the dough cutouts.

Modern Mince Pie


   3 1/2 pounds small pippin apples (about 7), peeled, cored, chopped

   1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes

   1/2 cup golden raisins

   1/2 cup dried currants

   1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

   1/4 cup unsulfured (light) molasses

   1/4 cup brandy

   1/4 cup orange juice

   1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

   2 tablespoons dark rum

   1 tablespoon grated orange peel

   1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

   1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

   1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

   1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

   Pinch of salt


Combine first 17 ingredients in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until apples are very tender and mixture is thick, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool filling completely. (Can be prepared up to 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Roll out 1 pie crust disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch-diameter round (about 1/8 inch thick). Roll up dough on rolling pin and transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie plate. Gently press into place. Trim edges of crust, leaving 3/4-inch overhang. Fold overhang under crust so that crust is flush with edge of pie pan. Crimp edges with fork to make decorative border. Spoon filling into crustlined pan, gently pressing flat.

Roll out second disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut out about 28 three-inch leaves using cookie cutter. Press leaves lightly with tines of fork to form vein pattern. Brush bottom of 1 leaf with milk. Place leaf atop mince, overlapping crust slightly and pressing to adhere to crust. Continue placing leaves atop pie in concentric circles, overlapping edges slightly until top of pie is covered. Brush crust with milk. Bake until crust is golden brown and mince bubbles, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Serve pie with rum raisin ice cream if desired.

(To make this recipe vegan substitute light olive oil for the butter.

Bon appétit!