Daily Archive: 05/29/2015

May 29 2015

Remember Anthrax?

Pentagon accidentally sent live anthrax to as many as nine states, officials say

by Spencer Ackerman

Wednesday 27 May 2015 16.20 EDT

The Pentagon has conceded it accidentally shipped samples of a live bioweapon across nine states and to a US air base in South Korea.

In an extraordinary Wednesday admission, the Pentagon revealed what it called an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis,” or anthrax, took place at an unspecified time from a US defense department laboratory in Dugway, Utah.

Nine unspecified states received samples of the bioweapon, which can be fatal if untreated. One sample was also sent to Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, about 65km south of Seoul.

The Pentagon is aiding with a Centers for Disease Control investigation, Warren said, and “out of an abundance of caution” stopped additional anthrax shipments from its stockpiles. Such shipments are supposed to involve only inactive or dead bioweapons samples.

Pentagon officials would not say more about when the shipment occurred, who was the official responsible nor how inadvertent it was, given that the shipment appeared from Warren’s account to be part of a bioweapon detection initiative.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that a facility in Georgia exposed staff to anthrax after conducting an experiment into the prospect for mass spectrometry providing “a faster way to detect anthrax compared to conventional methods.”

While it is unclear if the two incidents are related, the CDC placed a moratorium on facilities’ transfers of anthrax while it improved safety procedures.

May 29 2015

Secret Treaties

The reason it’s secret is because it’s horrible.

Congress Can – and Should – Declassify the TPP

By Robert Naiman

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Although the other negotiating countries and “cleared” corporate advisers to the US Trade Representative have access to the draft TPP agreement, the American people haven’t been allowed to see it before Congress votes on fast track. Members of Congress can read the draft agreement under heavy restrictions, but they can’t publicly discuss or consult on what they have read.

In fact, the Iran nuclear negotiations have arguably been more transparent to Congress and the American people so far than the TPP negotiations. After all, there’s been a sustained public argument over the likely provisions of the Iran deal. It’s very clear now to anyone who cares that the current P5+1 negotiations with Iran, if they succeed, will result in an agreement that allows Iran to enrich uranium. There’s no mystery about that. For those who oppose any agreement that allows Iran to enrich uranium, there’s no need to wait and see what deal emerges before criticizing.

Therefore, a yes vote on fast track now would be a vote to accept that the TPP will have no enforceable provisions on currency manipulation. But this is the kind of transparency that the public has so far been denied by officials shrouding the text and claiming that we shouldn’t talk about the details until the text has been finalized.

This example shows that the question of transparency around the TPP isn’t just a question of administration transparency. As in so many other cases, it’s also a question of congressional transparency.

The two-step process of voting on fast track now and the TPP later – when the fast track vote is in fact the key vote to approve the agreement, and when key, knowable provisions of the TPP agreement are shrouded in public fog at the time of the fast track vote – is designed to allow swing members of Congress to vote yes on fast track while pretending that they are not thereby voting yes on the TPP. Later, some of these members will vote no on passage of the TPP, just as former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) cast a key enabling vote for fast track in 1991 and then subsequently voted against NAFTA.

May 29 2015

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: Let Patriot Act Provisions Expire

Barring a last-minute compromise, congressional authorization for the program the government uses to sweep up Americans’ phone records in bulk will lapse on Sunday. That would be perfectly fine.

The looming expiration of a handful of provisions of the Patriot Act, which gave federal authorities vast surveillance powers, has stirred a long-overdue debate over the proper balance between investigative tactics in national security cases and civil liberties. That debate should be allowed to continue, with the goal of reaching a compromise that ensures that surveillance programs are subject to substantive judicial oversight and that Americans have a clear understanding of the data the government is allowed to collect. [..]

It’s important that intelligence agencies have the ability to investigate threats nimbly, but not at the expense of meaningful judicial review. Balancing both aims may require weeks or months of further debate and a deeper examination of the values and priorities of the United States. It is a conversation well worth having.

Paul Krugman: The Insecure American

America remains, despite the damage inflicted by the Great Recession and its aftermath, a very rich country. But many Americans are economically insecure, with little protection from life’s risks. They frequently experience financial hardship; many don’t expect to be able to retire, and if they do retire have little to live on besides Social Security.

Many readers will, I hope, find nothing surprising in what I just said. But all too many affluent Americans – and, in particular, members of our political elite – seem to have no sense of how the other half lives. Which is why a new study on the financial well-being of U.S. households (pdf), conducted by the Federal Reserve, should be required reading inside the Beltway. [..]

But while things could be worse, they could also be better. There is no such thing as perfect security, but American families could easily have much more security than they have. All it would take is for politicians and pundits to stop talking blithely about the need to cut “entitlements” and start looking at the way their less-fortunate fellow citizens actually live.

David Cay Johnston: Monopoly power tightens grip on US economy

Charter Communications bids for greater control of broadband

This week, Charter Communications announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable as well as the much smaller Bright House Networks. These actions illustrate the increasingly sclerotic condition of the American economy.

Instead of enjoying the benefits of competition, America suffers from ever more concentrated ownership of vital, privately owned infrastructure. This deal, if approved by regulators, would make this problem even worse.

In 1980 we had 37 large railroads; we now have seven. Rules that once limited broadcast chains to a handful of stations now allow massive concentration of ownership with a predictable narrowing of perspectives. At the same time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission turns a blind eye to records in its own files showing egregious price gouging by monopoly oil and gas pipelines. [..]

If the Federal Communications Commission lets the cable deal go through, then Charter will control almost 30 percent of broadband Internet service.  The company would enjoy the benefits of operating as a monopoly or part of a duopoly, free to charge much higher prices than a competitive market would allow.

Mike Lux: Is the TPP Okay With Slavery? Really?

So the fast track plan to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership has run into a new wrinkle after an amendment passed in the Senate debate: slavery. Yes, really, slavery: the Senate voted for an amendment that would make it more difficult for countries that engage in slavery to be in the TPP, and the Obama administration objected. This is bizarre stuff, folks, but welcome to the world of international trade deals. [..]

The President does not want an anti-slavery provision in what he calls the “most progressive trade deal of all time” because it would keep a country noted for its egregious slave trade out of the treaty? I have to admit this bothers me just a little. Okay, a massive amount. We’re not going to object to slavery because a country that openly engages in it might trade more with China than with us? Doesn’t this kind of blow up the whole “most progressive trade agreement in history” thing?

Robert Reich: Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #6: End Corporate Welfare Now

Corporations aren’t people, despite what the Supreme Court says, and they don’t need or deserve handouts.

When corporations get special handouts from the government — subsidies and tax breaks — it costs you. It means you have to pay more in taxes to make up for these hidden expenses. And government has less money for good schools and roads, Medicare and national defense, and everything else you need.

You might call these special corporate handouts “corporate welfare,” but at least welfare goes to real people in need. In the big picture, corporate handouts are costing tens of billions of dollars a year. Some estimates put it over $100 billion — which means it’s costing you money that would otherwise go to better schools or roads, or lower taxes.

Conservatives have made a game of obscuring where federal spending actually goes. In reality, only about 12 percent of federal spending goes to individuals and families, most in dire need. An increasing portion goes to corporate welfare.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: In Search of the Democratic Soul

A Google search for the phrase “soul of the Democratic Party” yields thousands of hits, because the struggle for that soul has been a perennial subject of debate. I’ve probably used the phrase myself.

But after a week spent tracking the independent left’s political progress, I’ve become even more convinced that politicians should seek the soul of the country instead. Tap into that, and the rest will follow.

Still, the debate over the Democratic soul continues. Political strategist Robert Creamer said this week that progressives have already won it. He dismisses the notion of a split between the party’s “Hillary Clinton” and “Elizabeth Warren” wings, and says Democrats now largely agree on economic problems and their solutions.

“There are still pro-Wall Street, corporatist — and even socially conservative — elements in the Democratic coalition,” Creamer acknowledges. But, he says, “it’s hard to tell the difference between a Clinton speech and a Warren speech when it comes to most economic questions — and particularly … the overarching narrative.”

Is he right?

May 29 2015

The Breakfast Club (Thanks For The Memories)

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

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first to scale Mt. Everest’s peak; President John F. Kennedy born; Patrick Henry gives his “If this be treason” speech; Comedian Bob Hope born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything till noon. That’s when it’s time for my nap.

Bob Hope

May 29 2015

On This Day In History May 29

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.

May 29 is the 149th day of the year (150th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 216 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1913, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps makes its infamous world premiere

Some of those in attendance to see the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-élysées on May 29, 1913, would already have been familiar with the young Russian composer Igor Stravinsky through his 1910 ballet L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird). But if they expected his newest work to proceed in the same familiar and pleasing vein as his first, they were in for a surprise. From the moment the premiere performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) began on this night in 1913, it was clear that even an audience of sophisticated Parisians was totally unprepared for something so avant-garde.


After undergoing revisions almost up until the very day of its first performance, it was premiered on Thursday, May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was conducted by Pierre Monteux under the Ballets Russes.

The premiere involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet. Stravinsky would later write in his autobiography of the process of working with Nijinsky on the choreography, stating that “the poor boy knew nothing of music” and that Nijinsky “had been saddled with a task beyond his capacity.” While Stravinsky praised Nijinsky’s amazing dance talent, he was frustrated working with him on choreography.

This frustration was reciprocated by Nijinsky with regard to Stravinsky’s patronizing attitude: “…so much time is wasted as Stravinsky thinks he is the only one who knows anything about music. In working with me he explains the value of the black notes, the white notes, of quavers and semiquavers, as though I had never studied music at all… I wish he would talk more about his music for Sacre, and not give a lecture on the beginning theory of music.”

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the premiére allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet’s opening bars (though Stravinsky later said “I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.”) .

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted counts to the dancers, who were unable to hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers above ten are polysyllabic, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat vs. seventeen: semnadsat).

After the premiere, Diaghilev is reported to have commented to Nijinsky and Stravinsky at dinner that the scandal was “exactly what I wanted.”

May 29 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Let’s Go Mets!)

Stroking Out

You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.

Thursday nightly mishmash.  The panel is Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, and Ricky Valez.


The Great Green Arkleseizure

Next week’s guests-

Matt Harvey pitches tomorrow.  The Mets (a passion I share with Jon) are doing surprisingly well in a bad division, one and a half games behind the Nats at 27 and 21 on a 3 game winning streak.

Putting on his most dismal Adam Rickman voice, I’m sure it will all end horribly.

The real news below.