Daily Archive: 12/23/2014

Dec 23 2014

“Christmas Eve And Other Stories”

Republished from Dec 24, 2013.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve And Other Stories

Old City Bar

In an old city bar

That’s never too far

From the places that gather

The dreams that have been

In the safety of night

With its old neon light

It beckons to strangers

And they always come in

And the snow it was falling

Neon was calling

The music was low

And the night Christmas Eve

And here was the danger

That even with strangers

Inside of this night

It’s easier to believe

Then the door opened wide

And a child came inside

That no one in the bar

Had seen there before

And he asked did we know

That outside in the snow

That someone was lost

Standing outside our door

Then the bartender gazed

Through the smoke and the haze

Through the window and ice

To that corner streetlight

Where standing alone

By a broken pay phone

Was a girl, the child said

Could no longer get home

And the snow it was falling

Neon was calling

Bartender turned and said, “Not that I care

But how would you know this?”

The child said, “I’ve noticed

If one could be home, they’d be already there”

Then the bartender came out, from behind the bar

And in all of his life, was never that far

And he did something else that he thought no one saw

When he took all the cash from the register drawer

Then he followed the child to the girl across the street

And we watched from the bar as they started to speak

Then he called for a cab then he said, “J.F.K.”

Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away

And we saw in his hand, that the cash was all gone

From the light that she had wished upon

If you want to arrange it

This world you can change it

If we could somehow make this

Christmas thing last

By helpin’ a neighbour

Even a stranger

To know who needs help

You need only just ask

Then he looked for the child

But the child wasn’t there

Just the wind and the snow

Waltzing dreams through the air

So he walked back inside

Somehow different, I think

For the rest of the night

No one paid for a drink

And the cynics will say

That some neighbourhood kid

Wandered in on some bums

In the world where they hid

But they weren’t there

So they couldn’t see

By an old neon star

On that night, Christmas Eve

When the snow it was falling

And neon was calling

In case you should wonder

In case you should care

Why we on our own

Never went home?

On that night of all nights

We were already there

Dec 23 2014

A Christmas Song

Republished from Dec 24, 2013

Christmas Album – Nat King Cole

Dec 23 2014

The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Republished from Dec 22, 2013

Trans Siberian Orchestra The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Dec 23 2014

Trans-Siberian Orchestra “The Lost Christmas Eve”

Republished from Dec 21, 2013.

Trans Siberian Orchestra – The Lost Christmas Eve

Dec 23 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: Mr. de Blasio’s Call for Harmony

First, do no harm. That principle applies to those who command the public’s attention at this moment of heightened tension in New York City.

Two families in Brooklyn – and the larger family of New Yorkers and the New York Police Department – are mourning the deaths of two officers who were shot in ambush by a criminal on Saturday. His deranged act has inflamed rifts between the police and Mayor Bill de Blasio and between the police and the public, and it posed a grave test of Mr. de Blasio’s leadership.

So the mayor’s plea on Monday for everyone to stand down, to put aside protests and bitter words, at least until the funerals are done, was an understandable bid for civic calm. Fair enough. Anything that even briefly silences the police union leader Patrick Lynch, whose response to the killings has been to slander Mr. de Blasio as a bloody-handed accomplice to murder, is worth supporting.

But the moment for discussion and argument will soon return. And that moment will demand forceful truth-telling, to counter the lies and distrust that have clouded this tragedy.

Dean Baker: The Trade Agreement Pinatas

In recent weeks many labor, environmental and consumer groups have stepped up their criticisms of the Obama administration’s plans for pushing fast-track trade negotiating authority. The purpose of fast-track is to allow the administration to negotiate to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) and then hand both deals to Congress on a take it or leave it basis.

Under the fast-track rules there would be no opportunity for amendments or delays. The deal must be voted up or down in a narrow time-frame. The idea is that with the bulk of the business community promising large campaign contributions to supporters and threatening to punish opponents, most members of Congress would find it difficult to vote no. [..]

Since many traditional Democratic constituencies strongly oppose these deals it is reasonable to ask why the Obama administration is so intent on pushing them. The answer is simple: money.

Richard Kirsch: Chuck Schumer and the Democrats’ Identity Crisis: Economic Policy vs. Rhetoric

Two weeks before New York Senator Charles Schumer once again delivered for Wall Street with the omnibus budget deal, he gave a major speech in which he sounded like a progressive champion. Schumer offered a stirring defense of government as the only force that can stand up to the private sector’s attack on the middle class, and argued that for Democrats to “roll to victory in 2016… First, we must convince Americans that government can be on their side and is not just a tool of special interests.” [..]

Unfortunately, Schumer embodies the contradictions that will tear the Democratic Party apart over the next two years. He understands the need to embrace a populist, progressive narrative and program, but his ties to Wall Street and big money lead him to blunt any real moves by Democrats to take a bold stand for working people against corporate power.

The budget proposal to allow more government bailouts of banks that gamble with their depositors’ money was a huge lost opportunity for Democrats to paint Republicans as being on the side of the big banks that wrecked the economy. That opportunity was negated by President Obama’s pushing for the budget and Senator Schumer’s stealth maneuvers (widely known in Congress) to keep the Wall Street deal intact. As a result, the leaders of both parties demonstrated, as they’ve done before, that government is in fact on the side of the rich and powerful.

Jeff Biggers: Dear media: Stop using the phrase ‘clean coal’

Journalists are enabling a deadly industry

You’d think the filing of a class action lawsuit last month by the families of the 78 coal miners killed in the 1968 Farmington, West Virginia, mine explosion – a disaster that led to the establishment of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act – would serve as a painful reminder that coal isn’t clean.

But familiar headlines about “clean coal” endeavors – the coal industry’s still experimental carbon capture and storage operations – continue to roll off the newswires. [..]

“Clean coal” is an industry marketing term. Failing to enclose it in quotes, which the AP Stylebook does not require, and instead presenting it as a demonstrable fact is inaccurate and lazy – and offensive. It also makes a mockery of the miners and journalists who employ the term.

Coal is dirty, costly and deadly. It’s time all media venues stop using the phrase “clean coal” as though it were truthful reporting – because by touting the PR-speak of energy companies, the media are enabling a deadly and outlaw industry.

Joe Nocera: Shale and the Falling Price of Oil

Six years ago, the price of oil went on an incredible roller-coaster ride. In January 2008, oil hovered around $90 a barrel. By July, it had reached $147 a barrel. By the end of the year, it had plunged to under $35 a barrel. [..]

We tend to think of OPEC as a cartel whose goal is to set the price of oil – and set it high. But stability is also an important goal. Without a cartel controlling supply, oil can be the most volatile of commodities. [..]

And then, of course, there is the effect of the shale revolution in the United States, where oil production has nearly doubled, to nine million barrels a day from five million a day, in the space of six years. The conventional wisdom holds that the Saudis “fear” the influx of shale oil onto the market – as The Wall Street Journal put it on Monday – and that they want to see the price go down in order to drive out some of that shale production.

But the Saudis don’t really fear shale oil. “I’ve heard officials in Saudi Arabia call shale a blessing,” said Robert McNally, the founder and president of The Rapidan Group, who is also affiliated with the Center on Global Energy Policy. “Shale oil is light,” he added. “Saudi oil is medium and heavy, and their real competitors are the Iraqis and the Iranians.” The Saudis can adjust to shale oil more easily than many other countries.

Jacob Heilbrunn: The Real Threat to Hillary Clinton: Jim Webb

THE conventional wisdom is that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be almost impossible to dislodge from the Democratic presidential nomination and that even if she does encounter some hiccups, they will come from her left flank on economic policy. But if Mrs. Clinton runs, she may face a serious and very different threat: her own foreign policy record. While she can pretty much split the difference with any primary opponents on economic policy, the divisions over foreign affairs could be a lot harder to paper over for Mrs. Clinton, who has been tacking to the right on Iran, Syria and Russia in anticipation of Republican assaults during the general election.

This is why it isn’t really the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren who should worry the Clinton camp. It’s the former Virginia senator Jim Webb, a Vietnam War hero, former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, novelist and opponent of endless wars in the Middle East. Late last month, Mr. Webb formed an exploratory committee. “He’s a very long shot,” Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “He has to become a serious candidate. At that point she would find him much more complex than dealing with liberals. He’s not a liberal, but a lot of what he says might appeal to liberals. He does not get carried away by humanitarian intervention.”

Dec 23 2014

The Breakfast Club (With True Love and Brotherhood)

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

The Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is first published; Former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo is executed; Mormon religion founder Joseph Smith, Jr. is born; North Korea releases the 82 U.S. Seamen.

Breakfast Tunes

Dec 23 2014

On This Day In History December 23

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 23 is the 357th day of the year (358th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are eight days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1893, The opera Hansel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck is first performed.

The libretto was written by Adelheid Wette (Humperdinck’s sister), based on the Grimm brothers’ Hansel and Gretel. It is much admired for its folk music-inspired themes, one of the most famous being the Abendsegen (“Evening Benediction”) from Act 2.

The idea for the opera was proposed to Humperdinck by his sister, who approached him about writing music for songs that she had written for her children for Christmas based on “Hänsel und Gretel.” After several revisions, the musical sketches and the songs were turned into a full-scale opera.

Humperdinck composed Hansel and Gretel in Frankfurt am Main in 1891 and 1892. The opera was first performed in Weimar on 23 December 1893, conducted by Richard Strauss. It has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances and today it is still most often performed at Christmas time.

Dec 23 2014

No Jail Time for Billionaire But There Is a Bit Justice

As David Dayen puts it, “it isn’t prison” but the consequences are at least a bit satisfying.

Finally, a Financial Executive Is Sacked for His Company’s Misdeeds

By David Dayen, The New Republic

Lets say you run a company whose misdeeds are splashed across the pages of the business section on an almost weekly basis. you might reasonably expect to be fired without delay. But then let’s stipulate that you’re in the financial service industry. Recent history suggest that you’ll be able to keep your job and your handsome bonus, and that even if law enforcement decide to penalize the company for improprieties, somebody else – like your shareholders – will pay those fines, leaving you to continue your charmed life unscathed.

William erbey, the billionaire chairman of the mortgage serving giant Ocwen, probably thought that would be his fate as well, but he didn’t anticipate the determination of New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky. On Monday, Lawsky announced that Erbey would step down from Ocwen and four related businesses, as part of the settlement of an investigation into the companies sad enduring legacy of ripping off homeowners.

The consequences for Erbey have been huge financial losses as Ocwen shares dropped 31% “after agreeing to a settlement that prevents it from acquiring mortgage-servicing rights until the company makes improvements to satisfy New York regulators.” The company must also provide $150 million for relief to homeowners and hire a monitor who will approve the appointment of two independent directors to Ocwen’s board and continue to oversee the business.

According to Forbes, poor Erbey is no longer a billionaire:

Erbey, according to Forbes’s Real Time Wealth Rankings for billionaires, lost over $300 million on Monday causing his net worth to fall to around $800 million and knocking him out of the billionaire ranks. He was worth as much as $2.5 billion in March when we published our annual listing of the world’s wealthiest. [..]

Forbes now calculates Erbey’s net worth at $802 million, as of late afternoon trading.

As Atrios said, “it’s sad that this is all we’ll get.”