Tag Archive: Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Aug 04 2012

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”.

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New York Times Editorial: Stuck in Place

With 163,000 new jobs created, July’s employment growth topped both analysts’ expectations and the meager job gains in May and June. While that growth was not enough to reduce the jobless rate – now 8.3 percent – it was enough to boost the stock market. For investors, the job tally was just high enough to be a pleasant surprise and low enough to give them hope that the Federal Reserve would soon intervene to juice the economy.

The market’s reaction aside, the report actually shows how bad things are and highlights what needs to be done to improve conditions. [..]

Responding to the latest employment report, the White House noted correctly that major areas of job weakness – including positions in construction and teaching – are precisely those that would have been the subject of the jobs bill proposed in 2011 by President Obama. That legislation was blocked by Congressional Republicans.

Mitt Romney responded to the July report by saying that the numbers reflect the failure of Mr. Obama’s policies when, in reality, they reflect the success of the Republican obstructionism.

Joe Nocera: Frankenstein Takes Over the Market

This week, yet another Wall Street firm most people have never heard of, relying on a computerized trading program that they can’t possibly understand, shook investors’ faith in the market. This is happening a little too frequently, don’t you think?

What makes this particularly painful is that over the last four decades, we have built a society that has become deeply reliant on the stock market. It is how we are supposed to finance our children’s college education and our retirement. With the bursting of the housing bubble, the stock market, in some ways, is all we’ve got left. It is difficult to depend on something that seems so frequently unreliable.

One wonders if Wall Street itself is beginning to question if it can rely on the monster it has created – and which it no longer seems able to control. In the immortal words of the screenwriter William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.” He was talking about Hollywood. But the same could be said today for Wall Street and its fixation with computerized trading.

Gail Collins: Congress Goes Postal

Just this week, Congress failed to protect the Postal Service from tumbling, and the service defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health benefits. It was the first time that the U.S. mail system failed to meet a financial obligation since Benjamin Franklin invented it.

The Postal Service has multiple financial problems, and, earlier this year, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to deal with them. It would not have fixed everything, or even resolved the question of whether the strapped agency would be allowed to discontinue Saturday mail delivery as a cost-savings measure. “It’s not perfect,” admitted Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, one of the sponsors.

At this point, the American public has been so beaten down by Congressional gridlock that “it’s not perfect” sounds fine. In fact, we’d generally be willing to settle for “it’s pretty terrible, but at least it’s something.”

Eugene Robinson: The Emerging ‘Drone’ Culture

The age of the drones has arrived. It’s not possible to uninvent these Orwellian devices, but we can-and must-restrain their use.

As instruments of war, pilotless aircraft have already become essential. The Washington Post reported last year that more than 50 countries had developed or purchased drones to use in surveillance-and that many of those nations were working to weaponize the aircraft. Deadly missiles fired from drones are among the most effective U.S. weapons against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

There has been far too little discussion of the moral calculus involved in using flying robots as tools of assassination. At the very least, the whole thing should leave us uneasy. Collateral damage-the killing of innocents-can be minimized but not eliminated. And even if only “bad” people are killed, this isn’t war as we’ve traditionally understood it. Drone attacks are more like state-sponsored homicide.

Richard Reeves: Train Doctors and Nurses, Not Soldiers

Some days, I feel I have seen it all. Other days, I just don’t want to get out of bed. Over eight years my family has been hit with lung cancer, brain cancer, strokes and various other medical calamities. My wife has had eight operations, in the United States and in France. [..]

American medical care is still getting by with Medicare, machines built by General Electric, and doctors and nurses from India and the Philippines. And with the blind faith of Americans that we have the best medical care in the world. A myth.

As you know, we have national academies to train soldiers, sailors and airmen, probably the best in the world. No tuition.

Why not medical academies? The U.S. social welfare and medical system was built on the assumption that people, on average, would live to 65. No longer. People are now living well into their 80s in relatively good health. That’s why Social Security will face crisis after crisis. That is why Medicare and Medicaid will eventually collapse. Our “safety net” was designed in the 1930s. Different time. Different problems.

David Sirota: Congressional Carnivores Rage Over ‘Meatless Monday’

To understand how utterly broken our society is, how hostile to sacrifice we are and how willfully ignorant we have become, you need only look at the historic drought hammering the heartland-and how our elected officials are responding to that cataclysm.

As you likely know from this arid summer, America is suffering through the worst drought since 1950. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, half of all counties in the nation are officially disaster areas-a situation that has devastated the country’s supply of agriculture commodities. Consequently, food prices are expected to skyrocket, and eventually, water-dependent power plants may be forced to shut down.

This is a full-on emergency, and USDA, a key agency involved in the national security issues surrounding our food and water supply, last week responded with a minor non-binding recommendation. In its inter-office newsletter to agency employees, it suggested that those who want to conserve water could simply refrain from eating meat on Mondays.

Oct 07 2011

On This Day In History October 7

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.

October 7 is the 280th day of the year (281st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 85 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1955, Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg reads his poem “Howl” at a poetry reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco.

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet who vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression. In the 1950s, Ginsberg was a leading figure of the Beat Generation, an anarchic group of young men and women who joined poetry, song, sex, wine and illicit drugs with passionate political ideas that championed personal freedoms. Ginsberg’s epic poem Howl, in which he celebrates his fellow “angel-headed hipsters” and excoriates what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States, is one of the classic poems of the Beat Generation  The poem, dedicated to writer Carl Solomon, has a memorable opening:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn

looking for an angry fix…

In October 1955, Ginsberg and five other unknown poets gave a free reading at an experimental art gallery in San Francisco. Ginsberg’s Howl electrified the audience. According to fellow poet Michael McClure, it was clear “that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America and its supporting armies and navies and academies and institutions and ownership systems and power support bases.” In 1957, Howl attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial in which a San Francisco prosecutor argued it contained “filthy, vulgar, obscene, and disgusting language.” The poem seemed especially outrageous in 1950s America because it depicted both heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. Howl reflected Ginsberg’s own bisexuality and his homosexual relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that Howl was not obscene, adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

In Howl and in his other poetry, Ginsberg drew inspiration from the epic, free verse style of the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman. Both wrote passionately about the promise (and betrayal) of American democracy; the central importance of erotic experience; and the spiritual quest for the truth of everyday existence. J. D. McClatchy, editor of the Yale Review called Ginsberg “the best-known American poet of his generation, as much a social force as a literary phenomenon.” McClatchy added that Ginsberg, like Whitman, “was a bard in the old manner – outsized, darkly prophetic, part exuberance, part prayer, part rant. His work is finally a history of our era’s psyche, with all its contradictory urges.”

Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa, founder of the Naropa Institute, now Naropa University at Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa’s urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started a poetry school there in 1974 which they called the “Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics”. In spite of his attraction to Eastern religions, the journalist Jane Kramer argues that Ginsberg, like Whitman, adhered to an “American brand of mysticism” that was, in her words, “rooted in humanism and in a romantic and visionary ideal of harmony among men.” Ginsberg’s political activism was consistent with his religious beliefs. He took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. The literary critic, Helen Vendler, described Ginsberg as “tirelessly persistent in protesting censorship, imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.” His achievements as a writer as well as his notoriety as an activist gained him honors from established institutions. Ginsberg’s book of poems, The Fall of America, won the National Book Award for poetry in 1974. Other honors included the National Arts Club gold medal and his induction into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, both in 1979. In 1995, Ginsberg won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992.

Sep 15 2011

On this Day in History September 15

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 15 is the 258th day of the year (259th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 107 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1963, a bomb explodes during Sunday morning services in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls.

The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was a racially motivated terrorist attack on September 15, 1963, by members of a Ku Klux Klan group in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. The bombing of the African-American  church resulted in the deaths of four girls. Although city leaders had reached a settlement in May with demonstrators and started to integrate public places, not everyone agreed with ending segregation. Other acts of violence followed the settlement. The bombing increased support for people working for civil rights. It marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The three-story Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was a rallying point for civil rights activities through the spring of 1963, and is where the students who marched out of the church to be arrested during the 1963 Birmingham campaign’s Children’s Crusade were trained. The demonstrations led to an agreement in May between the city’s African-American leaders and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to integrate public facilities in the country.

In the early morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan group, planted a box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the church, near the basement.

At about 10:22 a.m., when twenty-six children were walking into the basement assembly room for closing prayers of a sermon entitled “The Love That Forgives,” the bomb exploded. According to an interview on NPR on September 15, 2008, Denise McNair’s father stated that the sermon never took place because of the bombing. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (aged 11), Carole Robertson (aged 14), and Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), were killed in the attack, and 22 additional people were injured, one of whom was Addie Mae Collins’ younger sister, Sarah.

The explosion blew a hole in the church’s rear wall, destroyed the back steps, and left intact only the frames of all but one stained-glass window. The lone window that survived the concussion was one in which Jesus Christ was depicted knocking on a door, although Christ’s face was destroyed. In addition, five cars behind the church were damaged, two of which were destroyed, while windows in the laundromat across the street were blown out.

Jul 24 2011

On This Day In History July 24

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

July 24 is the 205th day of the year (206th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 160 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day, one hundred years ago, in 1911, Machu Picchu discovered

American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911, when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.

Traveling on foot and by mule, Bingham and his team made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, where a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day–July 24–after a tough climb to the mountain’s ridge in cold and drizzly weather, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate network of stone terraces marking the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area. The latter had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.

Hiram Bingham theorized that the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns”. More recent research by scholars such as John Howland Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas.

Johan Reinhard believes Machu Picchu to be a sacred religious site. This theory stands mainly because of where Machu Picchu is located. Reinhard calls it “sacred geography” because the site is built on and around mountains that hold high religious importance in the Inca culture and in the previous culture that occupied the land. At the highest point of the mountain in which Machu Picchu was named after, there are “artificial platforms [and] these had a religious function, as is clear from the Inca ritual offerings found buried under them” (Reinhard 2007). These platforms also are found in other Incan religious sites. The site’s other stone structures have finely worked stones with niches and, from what the “Spaniards wrote about Inca sites, we know that these (types of) building(s) were of ritual significance” (Reinhard 2007). This would be the most convincing evidence that Reinhard points out because this type of stylistic stonework is only found at the religious sites so it would be natural that they would exist at this religious site. Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca llaqta, a settlement built to control the economy of conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. An alternative theory is that it is an agricultural testing station. Different types of crops could be tested in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces; these were not large enough to grow food on a large scale, but may have been used to determine what could grow where. Another theory suggests that the city was built as an abode for the deities, or for the coronation of kings

Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and few outsiders knew of its existence.