08/12/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Homebody

Most of my friends have long ago moved away from this podunk I call Hellpeckersville. I don’t really know many people who still live in their childhood home towns, but Pew tells me four in ten stay put. Sure, it’s dull, and small, but it still has neighborhoods, and tree-lined streets, and for me, familiarity never did manage to breed the kind of contempt that would make me want to leave. It’s the kind of place I’m happy that my kids are growing up in.

I like to travel, love to see new places. I used to do quite a bit of that, and hope that in the future I can take my kids traveling too, but I was always happy to get home after. I never got anyplace where I looked around and thought I could live there. Not because it wasn’t beautiful or warm, and not because I wouldn’t want to go back, (because I would!)but because it wasn’t home. I don’t know what makes a person a homebody, I just know that whatever it is I am overflowing with that stuff.

And it’s not that I’m not social, I am. But even then I would rather host the party. Even if that means cleaning first, making all the food, and cleaning up after. It makes me happy as hell to host a crowd. I thought I was snagging some new game people on Saturday night and I was excited like a little kid. Sadly, the wife got sick and the new couple didn’t make it, but next time, baby, and there will be snacks.

When Cleetus used to play out, I remember always being happiest when he played at the Pub that my sister owned. Home base, as it were. Yes, we did drive all over hell and play in strange places, and sometimes I sat alone in a crowd giving him the old “Nancy Reagan Gaze” as he played. I was okay with that. But playing regularly at the Pub? Oh, good times! I never sat alone, I knew everybody. I took my position at the end of the bar and all night long was music, friends, and lively conversation. Maybe some folks can feel that way anywhere they go, but not me. It broke my heart when she lost that joint. Because it was home too.

It used to worry me that I was like this. For a while it seemed that everybody but me had this wanderlust, maybe I was defective in some way. Now it doesn’t bother me. I don’t know why I prefer to stay put, or prefer the familiar, and I’m fine with that. The only thing I worry about now is being able to stay put, but that looks like it just may work out too.

Tony Blair- War Criminal

Please, please, please keep my neolib co-conspiritors in power.

Even if you hate me, please don’t take Labour over the cliff edge

by Tony Blair, The Guardian

Wednesday 12 August 2015 13.30 EDT

The Labour party is in danger more mortal today than at any point in the over 100 years of its existence. I say this as someone who led the party for 13 years and has been a member for more than 40. The leadership election has turned into something far more significant than who is the next leader. It is now about whether Labour remains a party of government.

Governments can change a country. Protest movements simply agitate against those who govern. Labour in government changed this country. I don’t just mean the minimum wage, civil partnerships, massive investment in public services, lifting millions out of poverty, or peace in Northern Ireland. I mean we changed the nation’s zeitgeist. We forced change on the Tories. We gave a voice to those who previously had none. We led and shaped the public discourse. And, yes, governments do things people don’t like, and in time they lose power. That is the nature of democracy.

But in a thousand ways, small or large, which anyone in government can describe, being in power can make a difference to those we represent. The reality is that in the last three months the Labour party has been changed. Its membership has virtually doubled. Some will have joined in shock at the election result; many more are now joining specifically to support the Jeremy Corbyn campaign; some with heavy organisation behind them. These last two groups are not many in number, relative to the population. But, relative to the membership of a political party, they’re easily big enough to mount a partial takeover. The truth is they don’t really think it matters whether Labour wins an election or not. Some actually disdain government.

The unions in the 1980s were, by a majority, a force for stability and sense. There were constituencies so solidly Labour that nothing could shake them from their loyalty. The party that assembled after the 1983 defeat knew its direction. Maybe we didn’t know how far or how fast, but we knew, and the new leader Neil Kinnock knew, that we had to put aside the delusion that we had lost two elections because we weren’t leftwing enough and start to modernise. And our objective was to return to government.

What we’re witnessing now is a throwback to that time, but without the stabilisers in place. The big unions, with the exception of the most successful in recent times, USDAW, are in the grip of the hard left. And the people do not have that same old-time loyalty.

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation. If he wins the leadership, the public will at first be amused, bemused and even intrigued. But as the years roll on, as Tory policies bite and the need for an effective opposition mounts – and oppositions are only effective if they stand a hope of winning – the public mood will turn to anger. They will seek to punish us. They will see themselves as victims not only of the Tory government but of our self-indulgence.

I don’t doubt that his campaign has sparked interest. Why wouldn’t it? There is something fascinating about watching a party wrestle with its soul. It doesn’t mean it is a smart place to be. And, yes, some young people will be enthused. Many Young Labour members were enthused in 1997 and are enthused by modernising Labour policy today.

The tragedy is that immense damage has already been done by a policy debate that, with some honourable exceptions, is defined by its irrelevance to the challenges of the modern world. We should be discussing how technology should revolutionise public services; how young people are not just in well-paid, decent jobs but also have the chance to start businesses that benefit their communities; how Britain stays united and in Europe; what reform of welfare and social care can work in an era of radical demographic change.

Pretty please?

The tears of sell-out pragmatists delight me.


 Since President Barack Obama announced an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, the war hawks have been apoplectic, flooding the airways with fear mongering, demanding a “better deal,” whatever than means. Iran has signed on for a peaceful accord and accountability to the international community.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been whining for 25 years that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in months, demanding sanctions and the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. What he never mentions is that Israel, unlike Iran, is not a signature of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the most poorly held secret that Israel has had nuclear weapons for years.

In an op-ed at The Guardian, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East putting pressure on Israel to account for its “secret” nuclear weapons.

We – Iran and its interlocutors in the group of nations known as the P5+1 – have finally achieved the shared objective of turning the Iranian nuclear programme from an unnecessary crisis into a platform for cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation and beyond. The nuclear deal reached in Vienna this month is not a ceiling but a solid foundation on which we must build. The joint comprehensive plan of action, as the accord is officially known, cements Iran’s status as a zone free of nuclear weapons. Now it is high time that we expand that zone to encompass the entire Middle East.

Iran’s push for a ban on weapons of mass destruction in its regional neighbourhood has been consistent. The fact that it precedes Saddam Hussein’s systematic use of WMDs against Iran (never reciprocated in kind) is evidence of the depth of my country’s commitment to this noble cause. And while Iran has received the support of some of its Arab friends in this endeavour, Israel – home to the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons programme – has been the holdout. In the light of the historic nuclear deal, we must address this challenge head on.

One of the many ironies of history is that non-nuclear-weapon states, like Iran, have actually done far more for the cause of non-proliferation in practice than nuclear-weapon states have done on paper. Iran and other nuclear have-nots have genuinely “walked the walk” in seeking to consolidate the non-proliferation regime. Meanwhile, states actually possessing these destructive weapons have hardly even “talked the talk”, while completely brushing off their disarmament obligations under the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and customary international law. [..]

One step in the right direction would be to start negotiations for a weapons elimination treaty, backed by a robust monitoring and compliance-verification mechanism.

This could, in an initial phase, occasion the de-alerting of nuclear arsenals (removing warheads from delivery vehicles to reduce the risk of use) and subsequently engender the progressive disarmament by all countries possessing such WMDs. It is certainly a feasible goal to start this global project with a robust, universal and really genuine push to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, if the relevant powers finally come to deem it not just a noble cause but a strategic imperative.

The world must demand the Israel account for its nuclear weapons and submit to inspections by the IAEA


In econo-speak it refers to a condition in which a market has given up the illusion that it’s ‘assets’ have any particular value at all.

Greek Bailout Goes to Servicing the Debt

Real News Network

August 12, 2015

As Costas Lapavitsas pointed out in his speech at the Democracy Rising conference a couple of weeks ago in Athens, it’s extremely unrealistic to expect given the pathetic performance of the privatization program today that anything near 50 billion euros is going to be generated by the sale of Greek state assets, particularly with the economy in shambles, which drastically reduces the value of many of these assets. And with the instability, which is going to be a great concern to potential acquirers of these assets.

And what’s likely to happen is that the sale of these assets is not going to generate anywhere near that amount of money, so that there isn’t going to be any money available for investment. It’s basically all going to go towards recapitalizing the banks. Perhaps if you can get up above 25 billion euros, some portion of the debt will be paid down with the proceeds.

The point I think that we ought to really bear in mind, there are a number of them, in assessing the importance of this deal, is that first of all there’s no agreement to date on debt relief. And if Greece does not get, as the IMF staff now plainly acknowledges, a dramatic writedown of its debt or equivalent measures, then its debt will remain unsustainable. And it almost certainly is going to default eventually, and that would precipitate in all probability an exit from the eurozone. So the very purpose of this deal would be defeated.

The Guardian view on the Greek bailout: a deal that addresses nothing

The Guardian

Tuesday 11 August 2015 14.46 EDT

The Greek PM simply threw in the towel. Pre-referendum sticking points, fiscal perks for Greek islands and reduced VAT on fuel, suddenly paled beside new extreme austerian demands.

A ludicrous €50bn in asset sales were demanded, sweetened only by the concession that Athens could keep an eighth of the cash, while the majority went to foreign debtors and banks. Mr Tsipras spun this as a sovereign wealth fund, implying investment in a more prosperous future. The reality is more like being forced to sell your house, and then being allowed to hang on to a fraction of the proceeds. Controversial cuts to pensions are coming at speed. The traditional European way was to sneak the nastiest medicine down along with a mouthful of fudge, but no more.

Mr Tsipras is left pretending that somewhat revised targets on the fiscal surplus, in truth little more than a retrospective accommodation to the reality of GDP and tax revenues disappearing in the new slump brought about by Greece’s stringent capital controls, represent a major concession.

This week’s “deal” may allow the German and Greek leaders to duck a few local political bullets, but the bombs that threaten the euro more widely have still not been defused.

Extend and pretend is a Ponzi scheme at best.

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The GOP’s Contempt for Women

Republicans may be trapped in a death spiral from which they cannot escape.

During the Republican primary in 2012, one of Mitt Romney’s most damaging gaffes was saying that he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood. If only that were the Republican Party’s biggest problem with women today.

Leading in the early polls, billionaire blowhard Donald Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy when he said that Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who moderated last week’s presidential debate in Cleveland, had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Trump was angry that Kelly had the gall to ask, among other things, how Trump justified his lengthy record of misogynist attacks on women. (“The big problem this country has is being politically correct,” he answered, ridiculously conflating political correctness with common decency).

However, Trump’s ugly bombast is a distraction from a far more serious problem for the GOP. Three years after Romney lost the women’s vote by a double-digit margin, in part because of his support for defunding Planned Parenthood, the presidential debates last week made clear Republicans have only become more disrespectful toward women’s bodies, more deranged in their hatred of Planned Parenthood, and more dismissive of female voters.

Bryce Covert: Freezing Offices Are Just the Beginning of Sexist Workplace Norms

The workplace was originally oriented around men, and that remains largely true today even though women claim half of the workforce. Consider office temperatures, a subject of much discussion of late. The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak detailed the plight of D.C. women in summer, “the time of year desperate women rely on cardigans, pashminas and space heaters to make it through the workweek in their frigid offices. And their male colleagues barely notice.” Less than two weeks later, The New York Times reported on a new study that found most office buildings rely on an old formula from the 1960s to determine the ideal temperature. The short of it: Thermostats are programmed around the needs of a 40-year-old man who weighs 154 pounds.

This was back when just a third of women worked. Today, women make up nearly half of the labor force, and a little more than half of managerial and professional employees. Yet air conditioning is still being blasted into offices as if women weren’t there. Room temperature, however, is just one of many office norms that revolve around men but persist to this day. Some are year-round and can’t be solved with a Snuggie-like unequal professional dress codes, which were similarly cemented decades ago.

Lauren Carasik: Gutting schools won’t solve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis

Austerity measures will hurt the vulnerable to protect the wealthy

On Aug. 1, Puerto Rico defaulted on a bond payment, setting the stage for a protracted fiscal battle between the U.S. territory and its creditors. San Juan paid only $628,000 toward the $58 million on its Public Finance Corp. bonds, though it managed to pay nearly $500 million in other debt payments due on Aug. 3. The selective default may be a gambit because Puerto Rican residents, who are owed much of the overdue payment via credit unions, are unlikely to pursue the legal remedies that litigious hedge funds would be expected to aggressively undertake.

The island’s economy is buckling under a staggering $72 billion debt. In June, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla urged investors to renegotiate the terms of repayment, calling the debt “unpayable.” But hedge fund investors, who bought up Puerto Rico’s distressed debt, are demanding austerity measures that would exact a toll on the public. And they have rejected proposals to restructure the debt, which would reduce their returns on investment but enable the economy to recover.

Megan Carppentier: Republicans have breathed political life into their very own Trump-enstein

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump is little more than a walking, talking conservative blog comment section: he is the seething, narcissistic id of a political class which decries any legitimate claims of unequal or discriminatory treatment by non-white heterosexual men (including rape victims, African Americans and LGBT people) while claiming to be the true victims of, well, everything.

Trump is every profane Facebook commenter who calls women “cunts” while denying the existence of sexism; he’s that guy on Twitter who replies to strangers using #BlackLivesMatter to demand they discuss black-on-black crime.

But, Republicans, Donald Trump is not a witch – he’s you.

Marion Nestle: Coca-Cola says its drinks don’t cause obesity. Science says otherwise

These days, you almost have to feel sorry for soda companies. Sales of sugar-sweetened and diet drinks have been falling for a decade in the United States, and a new Gallup Poll says 60% of Americans are trying to avoid drinking soda. In attempts to reverse these trends and deflect concerns about the health effects of sugary drinks, the soda industry invokes elements of the tobacco industry’s classic playbook: cast doubt on the science, discredit critics, invoke nanny statism and attribute obesity to personal irresponsibility.

Casting doubt on the science is especially important to soda makers. Overwhelming evidence links habitual consumption of sugary drinks to poor health. So many studies have identified sodas as key contributors to chronic health conditions – most notably obesity, type-2 diabetes and coronary artery disease – that the first thing anyone trying to stay healthy should do is to stop drinking them.

Soda companies know this. For at least the last 10 years, Coca-Cola’s annual reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission have listed obesity and its health consequences as the single greatest threat to the company profits. The industry counters this threat with intensive marketing, lobbying and millions of dollars poured into fighting campaigns to tax or cap the size of sugary drinks.

But it is also pours millions into convincing researchers and health professionals to view sodas as benign.

The Breakfast Club (Summertime)

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

Last U.S. combat troops leave Vietnam; Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. killed in World War II; N.J. Gov. McGreevey to resign after declaring he’s gay; Russian sub Kursk explodes; Director Cecil B. DeMille born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

Henry David Thoreau

On This Day In History August 13

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 image to enlarge

August 12 is the 224th day of the year (225th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 141 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. It is also known as the “Glorious Twelfth” in the UK, as it marks the traditional start of the grouse shooting season.

On this day in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovers three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turn out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer.

Amazingly, Sue’s skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Hendrickson’s employer, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paid $5,000 to the land owner, Maurice Williams, for the right to excavate the dinosaur skeleton, which was cleaned and transported to the company headquarters in Hill City. The institute’s president, Peter Larson, announced plans to build a non-profit museum to display Sue along with other fossils of the Cretaceous period.

Preparation and display

The Field Museum hired a specialized moving company, with experience in transporting delicate items, to move the bones to Chicago. The truck arrived at the museum in October 1997. Two new research laboratories funded by McDonalds were created and staffed by Field Museum preparators whose job was to slowly and carefully remove all the rock, or “matrix” from the bones. One preparation lab was at Field Museum itself, the other was at the newly opened Animal Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando. Millions of visitors observed the preparation of Sue’s bones through glass windows in both labs. Footage of the work was also put on the museum’s website. Several of the fossil’s bones had never been discovered, so preparators produced models of the missing bones from plastic to complete the exhibit. The modeled bones were colored in a reddish hue so that visitors could observe which bones were real and which bones were plastic. The preparators also poured molds of each bone. All the molds were sent to a company outside Toronto to be cast in hollow plastic. Field Museum kept one set of disarticulated casts in its research collection. The other sets were incorporated into mounted cast skeletons. One set of the casts was sent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida to be presented for public display. Two other mounted casts were placed into a traveling tour that was sponsored by the McDonald’s Corporation.

Once the preparators finished removing the matrix from each bone, it was sent to the museum’s photographer who made high-quality photographs. From there, the museum’s paleontologists began the study of the skeleton. In addition to photographing and studying each bone, the research staff also arranged for CT scanning of select bones. The skull was too large to fit into a medical CT scanner, so Boeing’s Rocketdyne laboratory in California agreed to let the museum use their CT scanner that was normally used to inspect space shuttle parts.

Bone damage

Close examination of the bones revealed that Sue was 28 years old when she died, making her the oldest T. rex known. During her life this carnivore received several injuries and suffered from numerous pathologies. An injury to the right shoulder region of Sue resulted in a damaged shoulder blade, a torn tendon in the right arm, and three broken ribs. This damage subsequently healed (though one rib healed into two separate pieces), indicating Sue survived the incident. The left fibula is twice the diameter of the right one, likely a result of infection. Original reports of this bone being broken were contradicted by the CT scans which showed no fracture. Multiple holes in the front of the skull were originally thought to be bite marks by some, but subsequent study found these to be areas of infection instead, possibly from an infestation of an ancestral form of Trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan parasite that infests birds. Damage to the back end of the skull was interpreted early on as a fatal bite wound. Subsequent study by Field Museum paleontologists found no bite marks. The distortion and breakage seen in some of the bones in the back of the skull was likely caused by post-mortem trampling. Some of the tail vertebra are fused in a pattern typical of arthritis due to injury. The animal is also believed to have suffered from gout. In addition, there is extra bone in some of the tail vertebrae likely caused by the stresses brought on by Sue’s great size. Sue did not die as a result of any of these injuries; her cause of death is not known.


After the bones were prepared, photographed and studied, they were sent to New Jersey where work began on making the mount. This work consists of bending steel to support each bone safely and to display the entire skeleton articulated as it was in life. The real skull was not incorporated into the mount as subsequent study would be difficult with the head 13 feet off the ground. Parts of the skull had been crushed and broken, and thus appeared distorted. The museum made a cast of the skull, and altered this cast to remove the distortions, thus approximating what the original undistorted skull may have looked like. The cast skull was also lighter, allowing it to be displayed on the mount without the use of a steel upright under the head. The original skull is exhibited in a case that can be opened to allow researchers access for study. When the whole skeleton was assembled, it was forty feet (twelve meters) long from nose to tail, and twelve feet (four meters) tall at the hips.

Just The Nightly Show (Ferguson)

It’s really hard to know what to say about Ferguson.  On the one hand I don’t seem to be finding a firm answer to my question- did the guy the cops shot really have a gun?  Do you remember the Molotov cocktail at the 3 am news conference last year, where they displayed a bottle of liquid with a rag in it and clamed this was an actual, factual gasoline bomb they had recovered that night and then proceeded to man handle it as if it had no forensic value at all?

You know, you’d think if they wanted to become cops they would have watched at least one cop show in the last 30 years.

Other than that teeny tiny sliver of good faith on my part (I don’t think most cops are liars, I know it) the news is that things are, if anything, worse.  The capper for me is that they’re letting armed vigilantes roam the streets in cammo and body armor because they are…

Wait for it.

White!  Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Missouri has always had very flexible rules about open carry and it’s always a great pleasure when I venture South to discover that everyone doesn’t wander in to the Waffle House (Waffle House!) packing a Peacemaker as a cosplay codpiece in their own personal Rio Bravo fantasy of frontier justice.

They have just relaxed their restrictions on concealed carry about which part of me asks- if I’m using a gun as a deterrent, why wouldn’t I want people to know I’m packing heat?  That’s right, I like that Buntline Special with the barrel that pokes into your boot tops.

There is another part of me that wonders- so what if I’m Black?  How exactly does that interaction go?

“Officer- you need to know I have a permit”?

My instinct is- not well.

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

Our panel tonight is Jordan Carlos, Regina Hall, and Carey Reilly.