01/14/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Small World

I’ve been out of the house twice in the past month. Once, up to the doctor to get a bunch of shots in my head, and another time to run up to my son’s school to buy tickets for his show. Both times I was gone less than an hour. It’s a small world I’m living in right now, and for the foreseeable future. I suppose if I really wanted to go somewhere I could pick a day and make arrangements, but It’d better be something good, because damn it, I’m exhausted.

Lip Service – Caution Democrats At Work!

HueyPLongLook out! The ghost of Huey Long has taken over for all three of Dickens’ spirits and is haunting the Corporate Democrats. How else to explain the recent conversions of the darling of Goldman Sachs’ and Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Project, the Crown family of General Dynamics and Penny Pritzger of the Hyatt fortune suddenly getting all populist and proposing a free community college education for one and all?

President Obama said Thursday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States. …

The proposal would cover half-time and full-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average – about a C-plus – and who “make steady progress toward completing a program,” White House officials said. It would apply to colleges that offered credit toward a four-year degree or occupational-training programs that award degrees in high-demand fields. The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college for those students, and states that choose to participate would cover the remainder. If all states participate, the administration estimates, the program could cover as many as nine million students, saving them each an average of $3,800 a year.

Mr. Obama will include the program, which would need congressional approval, in his budget for the coming year, his advisers said, and detail it in his State of the Union address Jan. 20. …

White House officials acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that the program was unlikely to win quick approval in Congress.

Huey has also been haunting congressional corporate Democrats, too! Programs and ideas that liberals/progressives and decent people have been politely pushing the Democrats to get behind are suddenly popping up all over! The “Robin Hood” (Tobin) Tax, incentives to raise worker pay, tripling the child-care tax credits – a program that for once redistributes wealth downwards!

All this from an administration that created a budget sequestration process and stood by with its hands in its pockets as a bipartisan deal was cut which rewarded the military industrial complex while failing to address drastic cuts in food stamp benefits and did not extend unemployment benefits for workers displaced by the banksters’ (whom Obama continues to protect) looting of the economy.The same administration that has been aching to cut old folk’s social security to reward his rich buddies. Corporate Democrats came out of the woodwork to support Obama in his attack on poor old folks with rhetoric that would make Frank Luntz wonder which party he works for:

Congressional Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), signaled greater willingness on Wednesday to cut Social Security benefits … Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that a cut proposed by President Barack Obama in the fiscal cliff negotiations would in fact “strengthen” the program, echoing the claims often made by Republicans about entitlement programs they want to slash. …

The cut involves swapping out the traditional method for calculating cost of living increases, based on the current standard for measuring inflation, for something called a chained CPI, or chained Consumer Price Index.

The cuts would start small, but wind up costing beneficiaries thousands of dollars over time … Pelosi wrapped both her arms around it Wednesday, insisting she does not regard it as a “cut.”

Huey must have clapped these guys upside the head with a spectral clue-by-four!

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Cheryl Contee: If California truly leads the nation, we can elect a black woman to the US Senate

Here in California, it’s been a blockbuster week in politics: Barbara Boxer is finally stepping down as perma-Senator after over 20 years; former San Francisco mayor and current lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom is running for governor; and attorney general Kamala Harris gunning for Boxer’s soon-to-be-vacated seat. Why does it matter?

There’s certainly something compelling about Harris’ daring bid for US Senate: there are only one in five senators are female in this Congress; and there are only two black Senators currently (Cory Booker of New Jersey and Tim Scott from South Carolina). If Harris won, she not only would contribute to the growing number of women in power, but having three actual black senators at one time would make history because, to date, two is the best we’ve been able to achieve as a nation. In America’s entire history, only eight black people have ever been senators and of those, only half were actually elected, rather than appointed. Yet African-Americans make up about 13% of the population, according to the 2013 census. True proportional representation would see black senators in the double digits in Congress.

Ekise Vincent: France’s political elite never champions virtues of a multicultural nation

After the attacks that have left Paris soaked in blood, a series of fears and questions now grips France. The attackers – the Kouachi brothers and their ally, Amedy Coulibaly – were killed by the forces of law and order. Their deaths might have brought an end to the climate of anxiety, but just the opposite is happening, with a very unpleasant stench, a gas, hanging over France.

The context, the backdrop, is known. There’s been the very strong advance in recent years of the ideas of the Front National; the economic crisis continues; and in this environment, how does one limit and fight against what we call the amalgames, those infernal shortcuts in public opinion: jihad = Islam = immigration?

Will life carry on as before or are we going to witness huge political and sociological jolts?

Jessica Valenti: Women can’t end sexism in the workplace just by showing up

Feminists insist that the more women, people of color and LGBT individuals are visible, the better off – and more egalitarian – the world will be. But is simple representation the best answer to sexism?

Women are still scarce in many places of power: there’s a dearth of women in Congress, a lack of female experts on the Sunday morning talk shows and a shortage of women CEOs, law partners and bylined reporters. (One scholar is even studying what the lack of women in comments sections does to the public debate.)

The push for eventual parity, however, often means that the first women in traditionally male spaces – be it politics, gaming or even firefighting – are saddled with the responsibility of taking abuse until a critical mass is reached and (hopefully) the culture shifts, and of making that space more woman-friendly.

Sara Goldrick-Rab: Free community college isn’t a joke for families who spend half their income to send a child

In the United States today, the odds of getting a degree are more tightly linked to family income than ever before, thanks to skyrocketing college costs and insufficient and misallocated federal and state financial aid funds. Although the federal government distributes about $170bn a year in financial aid to many types of students attending many types of schools, many low-income families still have to pay too much. Low-income families often end up paying about 40% of their family income for a member to attend community college – and, for four-year colleges, the bill can add up to a whopping 59% of a family’s earnings. Even middle-class families may be asked to spend or borrow a quarter of their annual income to finance one child’s attendance at a public university, while the costs of a private one are yet higher.

As a result, many families of modest means are unable to afford college. Students from middle- and low-income families have also become more likely to drop out from public colleges and universities, leaving with debts they can’t afford to pay back rather than degrees. But these are more than just personal tragedies: they represent a significant loss to America’s economy and competitiveness for decades to come.

Katruna vanden Heuvel: On Bill Moyers’s Legacy

After more than forty years on the air, Bill Moyers has turned off his microphone. While the longtime face of public broadcasting had threatened to retire in the past, this time he has assured us that we have heard his final farewell. His voice and regular presence will be deeply missed, but his legacy, and his impact on public life will surely live on.

During his storied career, the former White House press secretary and newspaper publisher produced groundbreaking reports on subjects ranging from the Iran/Contra scandal and the Iraq war to economic inequality and the corrosive influence of money in politics. His relentless commitment to the truth made Moyers the target of vicious attacks from Republicans, who for decades have sought to dismantle the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but he never backed down. Always fearlessly independent, Moyers provided an invaluable counterpoint to Washington’s conventional wisdom. Yet his true legacy is far greater than the stories he covered or the politics he espoused. Indeed, Moyers constantly reminded us of journalism’s indispensable role in our democracy.

Zoë Carpenter: When it Comes to the GOP’s Race Problem, Scalise is Just a Sideshow

Greg Billings stood in the cold outside the National Republican Club on Tuesday, holding a photo of current House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and, just behind his left shoulder, Klu Klux Klan wizard David Duke. “Is this your GOP?” Billings’s sign read. Somewhere inside the club Scalise was due to meet with Republican donors.

“Those type of people having access to power is disturbing to me. I don’t like people with those connections making policy decisions,” said Billings.

News that the third-ranking Republican in the House addressed a group of white supremacists in 2002 broke in late December; since then we’ve learned that the Louisiana representative also voted multiple times against declaring Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, and tried to squash a resolution apologizing for Louisiana’s role in slavery. Regarding the first revelation, Scalise claims not to have known he was addressing a room full of racists. Civil rights advocates, lawmakers, and even several conservative commentators have called for him to step down or at least demonstrate some commitment to racial equality. So far other GOP leaders are standing by him

Anonynous Launches #OpCharlieHebdo

Fighting fire with cyber attacks:

On January 9th, the hacker group Anonymous launched #OpCharlieHebdo to take down websites and social media networks of Islamic extremist groups] as avenge the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The announcement was made on You Tube

The threat has produced results:

Anonymous blocks jihadist website in retaliation for Charlie Hebdo attack

By David Goldman and Mark Thompson, CNN Money

Hackers claiming to be with the group Anonymous say they have hacked a jihadist website in retaliation for the terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The website ansar-alhaqq.net, a French jihadist site, currently redirects to Duck Duck Go, a search engine. Hackers using the Twitter handle @OpCharlieHebdo claimed responsibility.

Anonymous also named dozens of Twitter accounts that the hacktivist group says belong to jihadists.

The hackers posted the Twitter handles on Pastebin, a website that lets people post information anonymously online.

Terror Attacks: Rogue Actions or Global Conspiracy

The Paris Mystery: Were the Shooters Part of a Global Terrorist Conspiracy?

By Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

n the days since the siege at the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, the press and social media sites have been consumed with the possible answers to one question: Beyond the two shooters, Said and Cherif Kouachi, who is responsible for the attack that killed 12 people at the magazine’s offices?

On Friday, shortly after the gunmen were killed by French forces in a raid on a printing plant outside of Paris, a source from within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) provided The Intercept with a series of messages and statements taking responsibility for the attacks, asserting that AQAP’s leadership “directed” the raid on the magazine to avenge the honor of the Prophet Mohammed.

Moments after The Intercept published these statements, an AQAP official, Bakhsaruf al-Danqaluh tweeted, in Arabic, the exact paragraphs the AQAP source provided us. Within an hour of that, AQAP’s senior cleric, Sheikh Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari, released an audio statement through AQAP’s official media wing, praising the attack. “Some of the sons of France showed a lack of manners with Allah’s messengers, so a band of Allah’s believing army rose against them, and they taught them the proper manners, and the limits of freedom of speech,” Nadhari declared. “How can we not fight the ones that attacked the Prophet and attacked the religion and fought the believers?” While heaping passionate praise on the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Nadhari stopped short of making any claim that AQAP directed or was in any way involved with the planning.

Historically, when AQAP has taken credit for attacks, it has used al Qaeda central’s al-Fajr Media to distribute statements and video or audio recordings through the AQAP media outlet al-Malahim to a variety of jihadist forums. But over the past year, AQAP has broadened its distribution strategy and has begun using Twitter and other social media sites. While AQAP continues to use al-Malahim, “the vast majority if not all of the releases are now released onto Twitter first via authenticated Twitter accounts that have become the first point of release,” says Aaron Zelin, an expert on al Qaeda and other militant groups and a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. “This has been the case ever since late July 2014, though AQAP had been making a slow transition going all the way back to early 2014.” Zelin’s analysis of this new distribution strategy tracks with how AQAP sources began to assert responsibility for the Paris attacks last week, with the one caveat being that an AQAP source provided the tweets in advance to a media outlet, The Intercept.

In the past, AQAP publicly took responsibility through its official media and communication channels. None of that has happened yet in the case of the Kouachi brothers’ Paris attack. [..]

In analyzing AQAP’s potential role in the Paris attack, it’s worth remembering the four-month delay between the group praising the 2009 underwear plot and the group releasing evidence it actually orchestrated the act. Short of such video or photographic documentation, and even with an official statement from AQAP’s leadership, it would be difficult to prove that AQAP indeed sponsored the raid on Charlie Hebdo.

Scahill, the co-founder of The Intercept, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about these claims

Transcript can be read here

On This Day In History January 14

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.

January 14 is the 14th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 351 days remaining until the end of the year (352 in leap years).

It is celebrated as New Year’s Day (at least in the 20th & 21st centuries) by countries still following the Julian calendar.

On this day in 1761, the Third Battle of Panipat is fought in India between the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durrani and the Marhatas. The Afghan victory changes the course of Indian History.

The Third Battle of Panipat took place at Panipat (Haryana State, India), about 60 miles (95.5 km) north of Delhi. The battle pitted the French-supplied artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the heavy cavalry and mounted artillery(zamburak and jizail) of the Afghans led by Ahmad Shah Durrani, an ethnic Pashtun, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali. The battle is considered one of the largest battles fought in the 18th century.

The decline of the Mughal Empire had led to territorial gains for the Maratha Confederacy. Ahmad Shah Abdali, amongst others, was unwilling to allow the Marathas’ gains to go unchecked. In 1759, he raised an army from the Pashtun tribes and made several gains against the smaller garrisons. The Marathas, under the command of Sadashivrao Bhau, responded by gathering an army of between 70,000-100,000 people with which they ransacked the Mughal capital of Delhi. There followed a series of skirmishes along the banks of the river Yamuna at Karnal and Kunjpura which eventually turned into a two-month-long siege led by Abdali against the Marathas.

The specific site of the battle itself is disputed by historians but most consider it to have occurred somewhere near modern day Kaalaa Aamb and Sanauli Road. The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 men. Protracted skirmishes occurred, with losses and gains on both sides. The forces led by Ahmad Shah Durrani came out victorious after destroying several Maratha flanks. The extent of the losses on both sides is heavily disputed by historians, but it is believed that between 60,000-70,000 were killed in fighting, while numbers of the injured and prisoners taken vary considerably. The result of the battle was the halting of the Maratha advances in the North.

The Legacy

The Third Battle of Panipat saw an enormous number of casualties and deaths in a single day of battle. It was the last major battle between indigenous South Asian military powers, until the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

To save their kingdom, the Mughals once again changed sides and welcomed the Afghans to Delhi. The Mughals remained in nominal control over small areas of India, but were never a force again. The empire officially ended in 1857 when its last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was accused of being involved in the Sepoy Mutiny and exiled.

The Marathas’ expansion was stopped in the battle, and soon broke into infighting within their empire. They never regained any unity. They recovered their position under the next Peshwa Madhavrao I and by 1772 were back in control of the north, finally occupying Delhi. However, after the death of Madhavrao, due to infighting and increasing pressure from the British, their claims to empire only officially ended in 1818 after three wars with the British.

Meanwhile the Sikhs, the original reason Ahmad invaded, were left largely untouched by the battle. They soon retook Lahore. When Ahmad Shah returned in March 1764 he was forced to break off his siege after only two weeks due to rebellion in Afghanistan. He returned again in 1767, but was unable to win any decisive battle. With his own troops arguing over a lack of pay, he eventually abandoned the district to the Sikhs, who remained in control until 1849. . . . .

The battle proved the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling‘s poem “With Scindia to Delhi”.

The strength of Afghan military prowess was to both inspire hope in many orthodox Muslims, Mughal royalists and fear in the British. However the real truth of so many battle hardened Afghans killed in the struggle with the Marathas never allowed them to dream of controlling the Mughal Empire realistically again. On the other side, Marathas, possibly one of the only two real Indian military powers left capable of challenging the British were fatally weakened by the defeat and could not mount a serious challenge in the Anglo-Maratha wars 50 years later.

The Daily Show (Cuba Libre)

Les Crayons de France

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