04/30/2015 archive

Why Free Trade Is Bad for America

President Barack Obama has asked congress to abrogate its constitutional responsibility to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with little to no debate and no changes or amendments. At this time, the House does not have the votes to pass the fast track bill. He has met with resistance from his own party, going so far as to say that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was spreading misinformation and didn’t know what she was talking about, in other words, lying. In reality, it is the president who is lying to the American public to push a free trade bill, that appears to be worse than NAFTA which has nearly destroyed American manufacturing. Thanks to Wikileaks you can read some of the draft provisions here.

Sen. Warren has bee a leader in the fight to stop the fast tracking of TPP, she is now joined by Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) to stop the TPP.

Watch This Democrat Make The Case For Why Obama’s New Free Trade Deal Would Be Awful For America

By Sam Levine, Huffington Post

After President Barack Obama accused critics of his proposed trade deal of being wrong on the facts, one member of Congress released a lengthy video explaining point-by-point why he believes free trade has hurt the United States and why a new deal would be even worse.

After facing vocal criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats on his trade deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama accused the members of his own party of spreading misinformation. In a town hall last week, Obama challenged his critics, saying that he would be happy to debate them on the facts of the deal.

In a nine-minute video, which will be sent out to 1 million members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Thursday morning, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) seems to try to meet that challenge.

Free Trade More Like Fake Trade

Americans are creating tens of millions of jobs in other countries with our purchasing power, and we are losing tens of millions of jobs in our country, because foreigners are not buying as much of our goods and services.

What are they doing? They’re buying our assets. So we lose twice. We lose the jobs, and we are moving further toward national bankruptcy. That is the end game.

Sign the petition to Stop the TPP at Treachery.com

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

Trevor Timm: CIA’s torture experts now use their skills in secret drones program

The controversy over the CIA’s secret drone program has gone from bad to worse this week. We now know that many of those running it are the same people who headed the CIA’s torture program, the spy agency can bomb people unilaterally without the president’s explicit approval and that the government is keeping the entire program classified explicitly to prevent a federal court from ruling it illegal. And worst of all, Congress is perfectly fine with it.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that many of those in charge of the CIA’s torture program – the same people whose names were explicitly redacted from the Senate’s torture report in order to avert accountability – “have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks” and now run the CIA drone program under the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. Rather than being fired and prosecuted, they have been rewarded with promotions.

Lonnae O’Neal
: Bothered by riots? Where’ve you been – for decades?

Question: Who thinks looting is bad?

Raise your hand if you know what happened to the Wall Street types who broke into the American economy, exploited every financial loophole, melted down mortgages, made off with people’s retirement funds, leaving taxpayers to bail them out in 2008.

Question: Do those billions constitute opportunistic looting?

Follow-up question: Do you think people in the inner city don’t notice what some of those folks ran out of the store with?

Raise your hand if you think the people streaming through the streets of Baltimore are thugs.

If so, question, and this is just an aside, then what word will some pundits use for Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman when he gets to bragging?

Raise your hand if you remember the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen to protest corrupt leaders, poverty, lack of jobs and systems that brutalize citizens, leaving them feeling unheard.

Nod if you understand that while we convene grand juries, open federal investigations and debate police rights and wrongs, sometimes the human condition spills beyond that debate.

And if you understand, deeply, that at some point, every pressurized system demands a release. Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, South Carolina, Sanford and Baltimore. Keep nodding.

Raise your hand if you think some might just call this the Urban Spring.

Matter of fact, holler if you hear me.

Bernie Sanders: So-called ‘free trade’ policies hurt US workers every time we pass them

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. As the middle class continues to decline and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider, we should keep that in mind as Congress debates the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade agreement in American history.

Trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China have been abysmal failures: they allowed corporations to shut down operations in the US and move work to low-wage countries where people are forced to work for pennies an hour; and they are one of the reasons that we have lost almost 60,000 factories in our country and millions of good-paying jobs since 2001.

The TPP is simply the continuation of a failed approach to trade – an approach which benefits large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but which is a disaster for working families. The TPP must be defeated, but our overall trade policy must also change for corporations to start investing in America and creating jobs here again, and not just in China and other low wage countries.

Dean Baker: The stock market isn’t in another bubble – yet

The stock market has recovered sharply from its lows during the 2008 financial crisis. All the major indices are at or near record highs. This has led many analysts to worry about a new bubble in the stock market. These concerns are misplaced.

Before going through the data, I should point out that I am not afraid to warn of bubbles. In the late 1990s, I clearly and repeatedly warned of a stock bubble. I argued that its collapse would likely lead to a recession, end the Bill Clinton-era budget surpluses and pose serious problems for pensions. In the last decade I sounded the dangers of the housing bubble as early as 2002. I recognize the dangers of bubbles and have been at the forefront of those calling attention to them. However, it is necessary to view the picture with clear eyes and not sound the alarm at every hint of froth. [..]

It is hard to make the case that current market valuations are driving the economy. Consumption is somewhat high relative to disposable income but not hugely out of line with past levels. And there is no investment boom in aggregate, even if some social media spending might be misguided.

This means that if the market were suddenly to plunge by 20 to 30 percent, we will see some unhappy shareholders, but it is unlikely to sink the economy. In short, this is not Round 3 of the bubble economy.

Jessica Valenti: College rapists should not be able to transfer schools to skip consequences

A bit of good news for college rapists: if you’ve been accused of sexual assault and don’t feel like sticking around to deal with the consequences on campus, you can simply transfer schools and no one will be the wiser. Thanks to a privacy law for students, young men accused of rape don’t even have to disclose the complaint to their new school.

Since we know that college rapists commit an average of six rapes during their time at school, these colleges – and this policy – are making it easier for sexual offenders to move on without consequence. And onto new victims. [..]

And while transfer applications also frequently ask students to reveal if they’ve been convicted of a crime, suspended or expelled, the fact that so few college rapists are punished beyond writing a research paper or letter of apology means it’s unlikely a rape accusation would ever be revealed.

Despite the threat of letting rapists simply college-hop to avoid detection and punishment, educational and even anti-rape activists are nervous about the idea of mandating disclosure of disciplinary infractions.

The Breakfast Club (The Great Language Wars, Strong and Weak Typing)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIn the begining there was machine code, a series of ones and zeros that got entered directly into your computer in order to make it do useful stuff, but you need to take a step back in time to see how even that worked.

The fundamental operations of a general purpose computing machine are to accept a value, perform an operation on that value, and return the result.  Now the fact of the matter is that it’s complicated and tricky to get anything done with that since on this primitive level what you can mostly accomplish is turn 0s to 1s simply because they are 0s and vice versa.  On the other hand, since they can evaluate the input and produce a measurable result they are theoretically capable of solving any problem that can be solved by computation (see Alan Turing).

This is incredibly tedious.

The great break through is when you can work with more than one piece of information at a time, retrive and store the results and accept multiple instructions.  Both the instructions and the results are stored in what we commonly call memory and are loaded into the machine, operated on, and returned to memory.

Now there are all kinds of funny math tricks you can perform that look like addition and subtraction in a binary world as well as transformations based on values you examine, but a LOT of the instructions that even a simple computer will execute have to do with managing it’s work flow in terms of retrieving things from memory including the next action to perform.

The computer doesn’t care what its next activity is, in fact results, information yet to be processed, and instructions all look exactly the same so the prospect of writing instructions (self modifying code) based on previous processing is absurdly easy.

And you may think this is a good thing rather than a bad one because of course you want your computer to be responsive to the fact that the result of the previous operation was 4 rather than 5 but in practice a whole lot of programmers would forget just exactly they were trying to accomplish and the pointer that told the computer where to get the next instruction would end up directing it somewhere the value was not just wrong, but random.

So hardware came to make a distinction between programs and operational data, but because it is so damn useful sometimes to make an exception it’s more a guideline than a rule.

In the 50s, 60s, and 70s programming itself kind of branched between those who were mostly interested in getting the damn things to work at all and those who were more interested in practical results.  This led to the rise of symbolic languages of the types most programmers today would recognize like COBOL, FORTRAN, and BASIC.

All these seminal languages had the great virtue of seeming more like real English than POP and MOV and didn’t actually care how many registers you had or the exact bit width, and the instruction pointer was not easily spoofed (though try a recursive subroutine sometime, I dare you).

COBOL is in most implemetations a strongly typed language.  I remember an interminable amount of time being devoted to analyzing exactly what data would be needed to solve the problem and what types of values would be acceptable.

Because that is the BIG difference between a strongly typed and a weakly typed language.  Without specifically stating that you are going to transform your data from one type to another, from numbers you can add and subtract to characters you can alphabetize for instance, a STRONGLY typed language will reject your program and refuse to work at all if you attempt to perform a disallowed operation for that type of data.

FORTRAN and BASIC are weakly typed and BASIC doesn’t even require that you pre-declare variables.  It just assigns them on the fly based on what it thinks is appropriate.  They both operate on them whatever way you tell them you want and if you add ‘A’ and ‘B’ unless they are previously assigned values as symbols for a memory location (variables) your result will be 131 and if you subtract ‘A’ from ‘B’, 1.

This is incredibly handy for certain types of operations.

In the early 80s there was a great debate between supporters of COBOL strongly typed programming and weakly typed programming.  The standard bearers of strong typing were PASCAL and Modula 2, the champions of weak typing, BASIC and C (actually older than BASIC but not nearly as popular).

Looking back from a perspective of 30 years (and oh yes I have my news stand copy of the August 1984 Byte) I think we can declare weak typing the clear victor.

As a practical matter (and I have written and maintained hundreds of thousands of lines of code) with any of the “unstructured”, “weakly typed” languages you can be as structured as you want to be and I’m a great believer in structure.  But you don’t have to, and that is the beauty part of the craft languages as opposed to the academic ones.  The academic languages mitigate in favor of comprehensive analysis in advance of practical application and the craft languages…

Well, they solve problems.

Today, when I write poetry for machines, I do it in ‘C’ which has useful concepts like structures which are containers for disparate types of data and pointers which can point to anything from a value to a sub-routine.

And this big A?  It stand for Anarchist.

 photo 125px-Anarchy-symbolsvg.png

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History April 30

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.

Click on images to enlarge

April 30 is the 120th day of the year (121st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 245 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1900, Jones dies in a train wreck in Vaughn, Mississippi, while trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express.

John Luther (“Casey”) Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was an American railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee, who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). On April 30, 1900, he alone was killed when his passenger train, the “Cannonball Express,” collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi, on a foggy and rainy night.

His dramatic death, trying to stop his train and save lives, made him a hero; he was immortalized in a popular ballad sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, an African American engine wiper for the IC.


On April 29, 1900 Jones was at Poplar Street Station in Memphis, Tennessee, having driven the No. 2 from Canton (with his assigned Engine No. 382 ). Normally, Jones would have stayed in Memphis on a layover; however, he was asked to take the No. 1 back to Canton, as the scheduled engineer (Sam Tate), who held the regular run of Trains No. 1 (known as “The Chicago & New Orleans Limited”, later to become the famous “Panama Limited”) and No. 4 (“The New Orleans Fast Mail”) with his assigned Engine No. 382, had called in sick with cramps. Jones loved challenges and was determined to “get her there on the advertised” time no matter how difficult it looked.

A fast engine, a good fireman (Simeon T. Webb would be the train’s assigned fireman), and a light train were ideal for a record-setting run. Although it was raining, steam trains of that era operated best in damp conditions. However, the weather was quite foggy that night (which reduced visibility), and the run was well-known for its tricky curves. Both conditions would prove deadly later that night.

Normally the No. 1 would depart Memphis at 11:15 PM and arrive in Canton (188 miles to the south) at 4:05 AM the following morning. However, due to the delays with the change in engineers, the No. 1 (with six cars) did not leave Memphis until 12:50 am, 95 minutes behind schedule.

The first section of the run would take Jones from Memphis 100 miles south to Grenada, Mississippi, with an intermediate water stop at Sardis, Mississippi (50 miles into the run), over a new section of light and shaky rails at speeds up to 80 mph (129 km/h). At Senatobia, Mississippi (40 miles into the run) Jones passed through the scene of a prior fatal accident from the previous November. Jones made his water stop at Sardis, then arrived at Grenada for more water, having made up 55 minutes of the 95 minute delay.

Jones made up another 15 minutes in the 25-mile stretch from Grenada to Winona, Mississippi. The following 30-mile stretch (Winona to Durant, Mississippi) had no speed-restricted curves. By the time he got to Durant (155 miles into the run) Jones was almost on time. He was quite happy, saying at one point “Sim, the old girl’s got her dancing slippers on tonight!” as he leaned on the Johnson bar.

At Durant he received new orders to take to the siding at Goodman, Mississippi (eight miles south of Durant, and 163 miles into the run) and wait for the No. 2 passenger train to pass, and then continue on to Vaughan. His orders also instructed him that he was to meet passenger train No. 26 at Vaughan (15 miles south of Goodman, and 178 miles into the run); however, No. 26 was a local passenger train in two sections and would be in the siding, so he would have priority over it. Jones pulled out of Goodman, only five minutes behind schedule, and with 25 miles of fast track ahead Jones doubtless felt that he had a good chance to make it to Canton by 4:05 AM “on the advertised”.

But the stage was being set for a tragic wreck at Vaughan. The stopped double-header freight train No. 83 (located to the north and headed south) and the stopped long freight train No. 72 (located to the south and headed north) were both in the passing track to the east of the main line but there were more cars than the track could hold, forcing some of them to overlap onto the main line above the north end of the switch. The northbound local passenger train No. 26 had arrived from Canton earlier which had required a “saw by” in order for it to get to the “house track” west of the main line. The saw by maneuver for No. 26 required that No. 83 back up and allow No. 72 to move northward and pull its overlapping cars off the south end, allowing No. 26 to gain access to the house track. But this left four cars overlapping above the north end of the switch and on the main line right in Jones’ path. As a second saw by was being prepared to let Jones pass, an air hose broke on No. 72, locking its brakes and leaving the last four cars of No. 83 on the main line.

Meanwhile, Jones was almost back on schedule, running at about 75 miles per hour toward Vaughan, unaware of the danger ahead, since he was traveling through a 1.5-mile left-hand curve which blocked his view. Webb’s view from the left side of the train was better, and he was first to see the red lights of the caboose on the main line. “Oh my Lord, there’s something on the main line!” he yelled to Jones. Jones quickly yelled back “Jump Sim, jump!” to Webb, who crouched down and jumped about 300 feet before impact and was knocked unconscious. The last thing Webb heard when he jumped was the long, piercing scream of the whistle as Jones tried to warn anyone still in the freight train looming ahead. He was only two minutes behind schedule about this time.

Jones reversed the throttle and slammed the airbrakes into emergency stop, but “Ole 382” quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track. He had amazingly reduced his speed from about 75 miles per hour to about 35 miles per hour when he impacted with a deafening crunch of steel against steel and splintering wood. Because Jones stayed on board to slow the train, he no doubt saved the passengers from serious injury and death (Jones himself was the only fatality of the collision). His watch was found to be stopped at the time of impact which was 3:52 AM on April 30, 1900. Popular legend holds that when his body was pulled from the wreckage of his train near the twisted rail his hands still clutched the whistle cord and the brake. A stretcher was brought from the baggage car on No. 1 and crewmen of the other trains carried his body to the depot ½-mile away.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Fake News)

Yo’ Momma

Tonightly- is “thug” the new n-word?  More on the Baltimore unrest.  You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.  Our panel is BobCostas, Charlamagne, Chloe A. Hillard, and Dios MiGos.

Larry really books the obscure guests.  Get a Wiki page you dopes!


Hasan Minhaj

Oh, and a little Trevor Noah (not his best work I’m afraid).

This week’s guests-

On The Daily Show we continue our parade of media whores, con men, and liars with Judith Miller who has as much blood on her hands as William Randolph Hearst.

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.


George Stephanopoulos, another asshole who got a web exclusive extended interview.  It and the real news below.