09/25/2015 archive

John Boehner Resigns (Up Date with Press Conference)

Up date: A jovial John Boehner addressed the press, waking into the press room singing “Zippity Do Da.”

Since the Tea Party revolution that helped the Republicans take over the leadership of the House of Representatives in 2010, that body has slipped into chaos with the hard line right wing refusing to compromise  with the more moderate members of their own party. That chaos had now reached its head. Unable to get any compromise from the Tea Party caucus, Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced his resignation from his leadership position and his seat at the end of October.

John Boehner, House Speaker, Will Resign From Congress

By Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times

Speaker John A. Boehner, under intense pressure from conservatives in his party, announced on Friday that he would resign one of the most powerful positions in government and give up his House seat at the end of October, as Congress moved to avert a government shutdown.

Mr. Boehner, who was first elected to Congress in 1990, made the announcement in an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans on Friday morning.

“The first job of any speaker is to protect this institution that we all love,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement released later. “It was my plan to only serve as speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican conference and the House. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the speakership and my seat in Congress on Oct. 30.”

Mr. Boehner, 65, from Ohio, had struggled from almost the moment he took the speaker’s gavel in 2011 to manage the challenges of divided government and to hold together his fractious and increasingly conservative Republican members. [..]

It will be up to a majority of the members of the House now to choose a new leader, and the leading candidate is Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, who is viewed more favorably by the House’s more conservative members. The preferred candidate among many Republicans, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has said he does not want the job.

While he appears to have the support at the moment, there are those who are opposed to Rep. McCarthy so that is not exactly a done deal. Remember the part of the definition of the chaos theory is

Small differences in initial conditions … yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general.

As Minority Leader Nancy Peolsi (D-CA) said when she heard the news, this is “a stark indication of the disarray of House Republicans.”

Temporary Solutions

If you follow my Formula One coverage you’ll remember that at the Marina Bay race last week Singapore had to resort to cloud seeded rain to reduce the level of particulates and general air pollution enough so that divers could see all the way down the straights (not to mention the breathing problems).

The acute levels of toxicity had to do with massive fires in Indonesia, how’s that working out for them?

Smoke from Indonesia fires puts Singapore’s air at ‘hazardous’ level

Al Jazeera

September 24, 2015 12:28PM ET

Air quality deteriorated to officially “hazardous” levels Thursday in Singapore – a key Southeast Asian business and transit hub – as choking smog blew in from Indonesia’s neighboring island of Sumatra, where forests and brush are being illegally burned to clear land for oil palm plantations and other farming.

The Singapore government’s three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit 319, its highest level so far this year, around midnight local time. The country’s National Environment Agency lists a level of 201-300 as “very unhealthy,” and above 300 as “hazardous.” Thick gray smoke shrouded the island city-state’s gleaming skyscrapers and crept into homes, even as many residents were staying indoors in attempt to escape the pollution.

For the past two decades, smoke from Indonesia has been spreading to other parts of Southeast Asia during the region’s annual mid-year dry season, when plantation owners and other farmers deliberately start brush and forest fires to clear land.

Southeast Asia’s most damaging cross-border haze came in 1997 and 1998, when the smog caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across the region.

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

Paul Krugman: Dewey, Cheatem & Howe

Item: The C.E.O. of Volkswagen has resigned after revelations that his company committed fraud on an epic scale, installing software on its diesel cars that detected when their emissions were being tested, and produced deceptively low results.

Item: The former president of a peanut company has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly shipping tainted products that later killed nine people and sickened 700.

Item: Rights to a drug used to treat parasitic infections were acquired by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which specializes not in developing new drugs but in buying existing drugs and jacking up their prices. In this case, the price went from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

In other words, it has been a good few days for connoisseurs of business predators.

Bill Sher: Here’s What John Boehner Should Do Before He Leaves

Speaker John Boehner resigned, presumably, to save the government from another shutdown. Now he can pass a bill to keep the government open – while also maintaining funds for women’s health clinics including Planned Parenthood – by relying on Democratic votes to make up for Republican refuseniks.

But Boehner set his resignation date for October 30th, not September 30th. He’s giving himself an extra month. That means he can try to pass still more things with the help of Democrats.

Of course, Boehner is not a closet liberal. But he has long tried to pass compromise measures that would help his party appear like people interested in responsible governing, only to be thwarted by those in his caucus who are not.

Now is his chance to clear the decks of everything the far right has been holding back. Boehner can now put on the floor:

Benjamin Spoer: We need publicly funded pharmaceutical research

Thank Martin Shkreli for demonstrating that we can’t depend on the market to deliver the drugs we need

Over the weekend Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli raised the price of the malaria and toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill, an action that outraged people nationwide and made them question why pharmaceutical companies have unilateral power to raise prices on the drugs on which so many of us depend. [..]

n an ironic twist, we can thank Shkreli for illuminating the disconnect between public health’s humane motives and biotech firms’ profit motives. Leaving drug development up to the market puts us at risk of prioritizing the health of people who can afford healthcare over the health of people who cannot. While a few politicians have called for regulations on drug prices, this would be treating the symptoms of the problem instead of the cause.

An increase in public funding for pharmaceutical research would address the cause of these problems. It would ensure that even unprofitable drugs might be developed. And while this would be an expensive undertaking – researchers estimates that each new compound the Food and Drug Administration approves costs $2.6 billion to develop – publically funded pharmaceutical research would ensure that people’s suffering is not judged by their net worth. And it could stop the Martin Shkrelis of the world from harming people’s lives by meddling with their medications.

Dave Johnsom: VW Case Shows Need for More and Bigger Government

Again and again we hear about corporations doing bad things so they can make more money: polluting, selling contaminated food or otherwise harming people’s health, selling products that injure people or just don’t do what they advertise, tricking and scamming people out of their money, selling banned goods or providing financial services for terrorists or drug cartels, and so many other things that are not good for people or society.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some entity that was more powerful than these corporations, whose purpose is to protect us, reign these corporations in, make and enforce rules, prosecute offenders and put a stop to this stuff? [..]

Our government supposedly exists to protect We the People from wealthy and powerful interests, including other countries. Our revolution against the wealthy British aristocracy and the King’s corporations testify to this. A government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” should be big enough, strong enough and funded enough to reign in companies and billionaires, and protect We the People from the kind of corporate misbehavior we saw from Volkswagen — long, long, long before it involves 11 million cars all spewing out serious threats to public health.

Judith Solomon: Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Undermine Women’s Care in Medicaid

Barring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, as some in Congress favor, would have a devastating impact on women’s access to health care services through Medicaid — especially family planning services — and put many women’s health at risk.

Nearly 400,000 low-income women would lose access to care under the one-year funding prohibition that the House passed recently, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.  Moreover, by making it harder for women to get family planning services, defunding Planned Parenthood would raise state and federal Medicaid costs for unplanned pregnancies. [..]

Eliminating federal funds for Planned Parenthood for even one year would undercut future savings from avoiding unplanned pregnancies, while depriving hundreds of thousands of low-income women of critical family planning and other women’s health services.

Joseph Marguiles: Open the lid on US torture

The public deserves to know what the CIA did in its name

I thought things might be changing earlier this year, but I was wrong.

In January, Barack Obama’s administration announced what seemed to be a major change in policy: Henceforth, former prisoners of the Central Intelligence Agency would be allowed to describe their life in custody. Though they could not identify CIA personnel or disclose where they were tortured, the new rule allowed them to provide “information regarding [their] treatment” and “conditions of confinement.”

That was a big deal, and those of us who represent the men tortured by the CIA welcomed the news. Attorneys for Majid Khan, a former CIA prisoner, promptly sought permission to disclose his description of his torture. Among other abuses, he was subjected to what the CIA euphemistically calls rectal infusions but what prosecutors all over the country call anal rape.

After some back and forth, the government allowed Khan’s lawyers to release his account to the public. Reuters published the account, and for the next 24 hours, the article was one of the most popular stories on Reuters’ 17 websites worldwide, which gives some indication of the public interest in this information.

And that was apparently the end of the administration’s very brief dalliance with transparency.

The Breakfast Club (Those Were The Days)

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

Nine black students escorted into Little Rock’s Central High School; President Woodrow Wilson collapses; Author William Faulkner born; TV’s Barbara Walters and movie actor-producer Michael Douglas born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin

On This Day In History September 25

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.

September 25 is the 268th day of the year (269th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 97 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1789, the Bill of Rights passes Congress.

The first Congress of the United States approves 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and sends them to the states for ratification. The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states and the people.

The Bill of Rights is the name by which the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known. They were introduced by James Madison to the First United States Congress in 1789 as a series of articles, and came into effect on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by three-fourths of the States. An agreement to create the Bill of Rights helped to secure ratification of the Constitution itself. Thomas Jefferson was a supporter of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law respecting any establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, guarantees free speech, free press, free assembly and association and the right to petition government for redress, forbids infringement of “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms…”, and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. In federal criminal cases, it requires indictment by a grand jury for any capital or “infamous crime”, guarantees a speedy, public trial with an impartial jury composed of members of the state or judicial district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy. In addition, the Bill of Rights states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and reserves all powers not specifically granted to the federal government to the people or the States. Most of these restrictions were later applied to the states by a series of decisions applying the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868, after the American Civil War.

The question of including a Bill of Rights in the body of the Constitution was discussed at the Philadelphia Convention on September 12, 1787. George Mason “wished the plan [the Constitution] had been prefaced with a Bill of Rights.” Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts “concurred in the idea & moved for a Committee to prepare a Bill of Rights.” Mr Sherman argued against a Bill of Rights stating that the “State Declarations of Rights are not repealed by this Constitution.” Mason then stated “The Laws of the U. S. are to be paramount to State Bills of Rights.” The motion was defeated with 10-Nays, 1-Absent, and No-Yeas.

Madison proposed the Bill of Rights while ideological conflict between Federalists and anti-Federalists, dating from the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, threatened the final ratification of the new national Constitution. It largely responded to the Constitution’s influential opponents, including prominent Founding Fathers, who argued that the Constitution should not be ratified because it failed to protect the fundamental principles of human liberty. The Bill was influenced by George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, works of the Age of Enlightenment pertaining to natural rights, and earlier English political documents such as Magna Carta (1215).

Two other articles were proposed to the States; only the last ten articles were ratified contemporaneously. They correspond to the First through Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. The proposed first Article, dealing with the number and apportionment of U.S. Representatives, never became part of the Constitution. The second Article, limiting the power of Congress to increase the salaries of its members, was ratified two centuries later as the 27th Amendment. Though they are incorporated into Madison’s document known as the “Bill of Rights”, neither article established protection of a right. For that reason, and also because the term had been applied to the first ten amendments long before the 27th Amendment was ratified, the term “Bill of Rights” in modern U.S. usage means only the ten amendments ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights plays a key role in American law and government, and remains a vital symbol of the freedoms and culture of the nation. One of the first fourteen copies of the Bill of Rights is on public display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Daily Late Nightly Show (All Frank, All the Time)

I mean c’mon, look at the guests-

The musical guests are the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus and the Choir of St. Jean Baptiste.

What do you think they’re going to talk about?

Oh, Liz.  Well I’d show it to you but only 2 minutes are available in any but the poorest quality.  Screw you CBS, when Trevor gets here next week we’ll see how interested I am.

And the show will be late because- Throwball!

Yawn.  I might not even stay up.

The New Continuity

Clock Boy

The story of Ahmed Mohamed is this in brief.

He’s 14 years old and very bright.  He built himself one of those old timey digital clocks out of a 555 timer chip (I’m so old I know what those are) soldered together with some Resistors and Capacitors and LEDS on a Breadboard.  He used a pencil case as a case.

In terms of sophistication this is one step above a Potato Clock because you have to be careful not to burn yourself with the Iron or stick the Drill through your finger.  Seriously, it’s like project 1 or 2 in Beginner’s books of Electronics, “Hello World”.

His Science Teacher was not much impressed and gave it back to him and later that day another teacher saw it and ran to the Principal who called the Police who led Ahmed away in handcuffs.

Frankly you’d soil your pants if I told you about the truly dangerous stuff my friends and I were doing at that age and we weren’t considered the “bad crowd” even.

So why do you think that happened?  Does it have anything to do with the fact that Ahmed is brown and Muslim?  If you see something say something.

The correct answer is that this is sheer Islamophobic bigotry of the worst stripe.  Teacher who narced- bigot.  Principal- bigot.  Police- bigots.

And the Faux Noisemakers who are defending this as a fair cop- bigots.

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

Ahmed, if you’re reading this, sell the damn useless Apple Watch (top of the market and yours has an interesting provenance), keep the prop as a memento, and put the money in your college fund or blow it on pizza with your friends.

Thursday Nightly Bag-O-Grab.  The panel is Andrew Rannells, Kerry Coddett, and Will Forte.