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Archive for July 7th, 2011

Libertarian Theme Parks

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:53 am by HL

Libertarian Theme Parks
Minnesota’s government shut down takes only a few hours to devolve into a ‘Minnesota Nice’ version of Beyond Thunderdome

picture by ktylerconk at flickr.com

Well it isn’t taking Minnesota’s government shut down long to create a post-apocalyptic world suited for bad Kevin Costner movies or Viking playoff losses:

?

Vandals went wild at abandoned Minnesota state parks over the holiday weekend, wrecking buildings and driving around closed gates as the government shutdown drags toward its second week.

I can only imagine what the Visogoths will do — oh, that’s right they are already running the Minnesota legislature.

In overseas news that continues to be rather ignored in this country, Rupert Murdoch’s latest abuse gets more outrageous every day:

Scotland Yard is investigating claims that families of members of the armed forces killed in Afghanistan and Iraq have been targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who worked for the News of the World.

Murdered children, targeted; terrorist victims, targeted; war casualties, targeted. But leave it to ex-pat jackass Piers Morgan to cry for the real victims, Rupert Murdoch and his cronies.


Somali Terror Suspect to Be Tried on U.S. Soil

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:52 am by HL

Somali Terror Suspect to Be Tried on U.S. Soil
A suspected Somali terrorist who was captured and secretly interrogated aboard a U.S. Navy ship for two months while a terror case was built against him was flown from the Gulf of Aden to New York earlier this week to be tried in civilian court. Bringing 25-year-old Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame to U.S. soil for a public trial rather than to a place like Guantanamo Bay for secret, open-ended detention represents an effort by the Obama administration to be more transparent in its dealings with suspected terrorists. The administration’s decision to try the case in a public proceeding rather than before a military commission is undoubtedly a bold move in the direction of basic human rights, but coupled with secret, months-long interrogations, does it go far enough?  —BF The New York Times: While the Justice Department called Mr. Warsame a “Shabab leader,” it does not accuse him of plotting any specific attack. Officials gave conflicting accounts of his significance: one portrayed him as a “senior operational commander” while another played down his role, saying that his capture was instead important because he had provided large amounts of intelligence about the groups and ties between them. Regardless, his case is likely to have outsize significance in the political arena because it resonates with intense debates surrounding the administration’s counterterrorism policies — including whether to bring newly captured detainees to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; whether to prosecute terrorism cases in civilian court or before a military commission; and what rights terrorism suspects have during interrogation. Read more

A suspected Somali terrorist who was captured and secretly interrogated aboard a U.S. Navy ship for two months while a terror case was built against him was flown from the Gulf of Aden to New York earlier this week to be tried in civilian court.

Bringing 25-year-old Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame to U.S. soil for a public trial rather than to a place like Guantanamo Bay for secret, open-ended detention represents an effort by the Obama administration to be more transparent in its dealings with suspected terrorists. The administration’s decision to try the case in a public proceeding rather than before a military commission is undoubtedly a bold move in the direction of basic human rights, but coupled with secret, months-long interrogations, does it go far enough?? —BF

The New York Times:

While the Justice Department called Mr. Warsame a “Shabab leader,” it does not accuse him of plotting any specific attack. Officials gave conflicting accounts of his significance: one portrayed him as a “senior operational commander” while another played down his role, saying that his capture was instead important because he had provided large amounts of intelligence about the groups and ties between them.

Regardless, his case is likely to have outsize significance in the political arena because it resonates with intense debates surrounding the administration’s counterterrorism policies — including whether to bring newly captured detainees to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; whether to prosecute terrorism cases in civilian court or before a military commission; and what rights terrorism suspects have during interrogation.

Read more

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The Power Behind a Clean Energy Future
This week on Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Why a battery breakthrough is the key to clean energy; how boosting the minimum wage could lift the economy; we check in with immigration; and Robert Scheer talks about the sinful love between the tea party and Goldman Sachs. Also: On the ground in Gaza.

This week on Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Why a battery breakthrough is the key to clean energy; how boosting the minimum wage could lift the economy; we check in with immigration; and Robert Scheer talks about the sinful love between the tea party and Goldman Sachs. Also: On the ground in Gaza.


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Obama Offers Social Security Cuts In Debt Negotiations

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:51 am by HL

Obama Offers Social Security Cuts In Debt Negotiations
President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare…

Lennard Davis: In New York State Some People Who Drink Water Are More Equal Than Others
In upstate NY, there is a class of citizens protected from chemicals in drinking water, and then there are the vast majority of people who are experimental subjects being tested to see if known carcinogens will do anything harmful to us.

Obama’s Twitter Town Hall Delivers Political Gains
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama didn’t say anything particularly newsworthy at Wednesday’s Twitter Town Hall. But his hour-plus appearance before a social media savvy crowd…


Fox News Cooks Up Campaign Contribution Out Of Fund That Can’t Fund Campaigns

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:50 am by HL

Fox News Cooks Up Campaign Contribution Out Of Fund That Can’t Fund Campaigns

Fox News has fabricated the claim that a $10 annual fee approved by the National Education Association (NEA) for the next five years will be used to fund President Obama’s re-election campaign. But the fee is intended to combat anti-union ballot initiatives and cannot be used to support campaigns.

Fox Falsehood: $10 Fee Will Go To President Obama’s Re-Election Campaign

Fox’s Bolling: The Fee Is A “10-Buck Bump In Dues Per Member To Be Used To Re-Elect President Obama.” On the July 5 edition of Follow The Money, Eric Bolling stated:

BOLLING: That was Joe Biden from the NEA teachers convention in Chicago over the weekend. The teachers mega union so smitten with Joe B. and the liberal left, they agreed to a 10-buck bump in dues per member to be used to re-elect President Obama. Let me see: three million teachers, 10 bucks a piece, 30 million reasons for big Joe to spend the Fourth in Chicago. Tony, I’m not sure I want my teachers so involved–Why is the NEA–It’s more a political movement than a teachers union. [Fox Business, Follow The Money with Eric Bolling, 7/5/11]

Fox: “Union Members Taxed $10 To Front Re-Election.” During the July 5 edition of Fox & Friends, the following graphic appeared on screen:

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/5/11]

Fox Called Dues “President’s Campaign Cash.” During the July 6 edition of Fox & Friends, the following graphic appeared on screen:  

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/6/11]

FACT: The Fund Is Geared Toward Fighting Anti-Union Ballot Initiatives And Cannot Support Campaigns

The Chicago Tribune Reported The Increase Was Approved “Specifically To Confront State And Local Efforts To Limit Collective Bargaining Rights.” The Chicago Tribune reported that the National Education Association “approved a $10 per-member fee increase for the next five years, specifically to confront state and local efforts to limit collective bargaining rights for many public workers as has happened in Wisconsin and Ohio, [NEA President Dennis] Van Roekel said.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/5/11]

Education Week: “These Fund Can’t Support Campaigns.” According to Education Week‘s Teacher Beat blog, delegates to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly “approved the amendment to the bylaws that authorize the $10-per-member annual assessment, 60 percent of which will be used primarily to support the Ballot Measure/Legislative Crisis fund, and the other 40 percent for national and state media campaigns. These funds can’t support campaigns but can support messaging and action against things like anti-collective bargaining legislation. [Education Week, Teacher Beat, 7/4/11, emphasis added]


Is FEC Ruling On Super PACs A Win For Campaign Reformers?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:49 am by HL

Is FEC Ruling On Super PACs A Win For Campaign Reformers?
When the Federal Election Commission unanimously approved an advisory opinion last week that said federal candidates could only solicit up to $5,000 on behalf of so-called super PACs, they were either scoring one for campaign finance reform or helping politicians delude democracy. It just depends on who you ask.

Ethics Committee Can’t Sweep Turmoil Over Waters Case Under The Rug
Now that the House Ethics Committee has staffed up, it must decide how to proceed in it’s case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and ethics experts say the panel can’t simply sweep all of last year’s turmoil over the case under the rug.

Sen. Inhofe Wants To Ease ‘Desperation’ Of Pilots Faced With FAA ‘Overreach’
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is pushing a bill that would protect pilots from “agency overreach” by the Federal Aviation Administration, in response to his own experience at the mercy of the FAA after he “scared the crap out of” airport workers last year when he landed his Cessna on a closed runway.



Is There a Magic Number?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:45 am by HL

Is There a Magic Number?
Larry Sabato looks at unemployment and economic growth rates as measures to forecast presidential elections but finds them both lacking.

“If you insist on looking at just one number for an incumbent president seeking reelection, it is probably best to choose presidential popularity — the answer to the question, ‘Do you approve or disapprove of the job President X is doing?’ This is a marvelous summary statistic, because it forces voters to take all the issues of the day into account, projecting their own issue priorities onto the president. When reliable polls show the proportion approving of presidential job performance is 50% or above, the incumbent is highly likely to win. The further the number falls below 50%, the less likely the incumbent is to get his second term.”

Bachmann Continues Strong Iowa Rollout
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) continues her strong efforts to win the Iowa caucuses with a new ad out today stressing her ties to the state and conservative bona fides.

Maggie Haberman: “The commercial is upbeat, with a strumming guitar overlay as Bachmann speaks. The spot is going up just as Bachmann is introducing herself to Iowa voters, who already put her in a statistical tie for first place in a recent Des Moines Register poll. She is making a serious push to win the Ames Straw Poll next month, and even some Democrats are taking note that she is running a professional campaign so far, with crisp visuals at her stump stops following an effective rollout.”

Movement Seen in Debt Limit Talks
Congressional leaders meet with President Obama at the White House later this morning to discuss a deal to cut spending, raise revenues and increase the nation’s debt limit.

Washington Post: “President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue… Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.”

Wall Street Journal: “In a sign that both sides see the opportunity for a fundamental revamp of the U.S. budget, Messrs. Obama and Boehner have recently discussed an option that includes tying a deficit package to a broad tax overhaul, people familiar with the talks say.”

New York Times: “The intensifying negotiations between the president and the speaker have Congressional Democrats growing anxious, worried they will be asked to accept a deal that is too heavily tilted toward Republican efforts and produces too little new revenue relative to the magnitude of the cuts.”

Quote of the Day
“I swear every time Mitt Romney opens his mouth I think he’s running against me.”

— Rush Limbaugh, speaking on his talk radio show, criticizing Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney for “running against the Tea Party.”


The Tea Partiers Are Dead-Set on Driving the Deficit Through the Roof and They Don’t Even Know It

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:43 am by HL

The Tea Partiers Are Dead-Set on Driving the Deficit Through the Roof and They Don’t Even Know It
What the Tea Party caucus misses is that messing with the debt ceiling risks driving tax revenues down and the deficit up.

Rupert Murdoch’s Media Empire Is in Crisis — Phone Hacking Scandal Expands to Families of Dead War Vets
Families of UK war dead added to list of alleged hacking victims as Britain’s Prime Minister bows to pressure for public inquiry.


Letter to the Editor

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:42 am by HL

Letter to the Editor
My colleague Ken Berlin and I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times which was published in this morning’s paper. Letter An Economic Stimulus Proposal Published: July 4, 2011 To the Editor: Re “Whose Stimulus?” (editorial,…

David Brooks’ Shot at Foreign Aid
In his trademark fashion, David Brooks crams a lot of issues into his critique today of US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan: ambitious government initiatives, social engineering, the poverty-violence link (known in the trade as “greed v. grievance”), the (in)effectiveness of…

Why Revolutions and Raptures Can’t be Digitized
Asked recently to compare Harvard and Yale undergraduates, I quipped that a Harvard student studying the German sociologist Max Weber will ask, “What were his main points, and how will they help me when I’m Secretary of State or founder…


Did A Court Just Accidentally Outlaw Remakes?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:40 am by HL

Did A Court Just Accidentally Outlaw Remakes?
You know, I understand that overly restrictive copyright laws are a bad thing that stymie innovation and empower corporations. But if they’ll save me from having to see a remake of The Wizard of Oz, that’s a powerful argument in their favor. As the Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner reports, Warner Brothers yesterday won a court […]

You know, I understand that overly restrictive copyright laws are a bad thing that stymie innovation and empower corporations. But if they’ll save me from having to see a remake of The Wizard of Oz, that’s a powerful argument in their favor. As the Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner reports, Warner Brothers yesterday won a court decision in an unrelated merchandising case that says the characters in movies that are adaptations of other works can be copyrighted independent of the copyrights on those individual works:

There are nine Wizard of Oz projects currently in development, by one count, including a big-budget 3D film by Disney directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco that’s meant to be a prequel to the classic film. Might these films have to be very, very careful going forward? One lawyer believes so.

“The court’s statement that the film copyrights cover ‘all visual depictions’ of the characters recognizes that there is often a quintessential version of a literary character that exists in the public’s mind as a result of a popular film adaption,” says Aaron Moss, the chair of litigation at Greenberg Glusker. ” Any filmmaker that wants to create a new version of a literary work—even one in the public domain—needs to be careful not to use copyrightable elements of characters that first appear in protected motion picture versions of the works. Of course, when it comes to characters depicted by live actors, this may be easier said than done.”

Obviously, I don’t actually believe there should be a law against making crappy, derivative knockoffs and revisitations of classic movies (and even non-classic movies) even as I wish there were a lot fewer of them. In any case, I tend to think that there are some works so powerful that there will never be a straight remake of them — variants on Oz projects probably wouldn’t want to ape the original too closely in any case, and I don’t think we’ll ever see another attempt to make Gone With the Wind. And if this decision stands and becomes an anti-competitive tool, it’s more likely to have studios seeing how close they can get to the line where they’d trigger a copyright violation (are we ripping off Lara Croft if we take her down a cup size?) rather than embracing originality as a way to stay lawsuit-free. But man are there times — a moment when we have NINE Oz projects going at once, not to mention the millions of Snow White projects that are underway — when I despair for original content.

Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Is 20 Times Bigger Than Faulty Exxon Pipeline
An Exxon Mobil pipeline buried under the Yellowstone River in Montana burst with terrible effect last week, poisoning the river that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has called “a cornerstone of Montana’s economy and our outdoor heritage.” The hour-long spill — which lasted twice as long as Exxon initially admitted — released about 42,000 gallons of […]

An Exxon Mobil pipeline buried under the Yellowstone River in Montana burst with terrible effect last week, poisoning the river that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has called “a cornerstone of Montana’s economy and our outdoor heritage.” The hour-long spill — which lasted twice as long as Exxon initially admitted — released about 42,000 gallons of toxic oil, to current knowledge.

The Obama administration is now considering whether to approve the construction of a vastly larger pipeline, the Keystone XL project, which would deliver tar sands crude from Canada to Texas refineries, crossing the Yellowstone River, 1,903 other key waterways, and major aquifers along the way. The Keystone pipeline would deliver 830,000 barrels per day, over 20 times the 40,000-barrel Silvertip pipeline that failed last week.

As NRDC’S Anthony Swift relates, the government’s approach to pipeline safety does not lead to confidence regarding Keystone XL:

Several days after the Yellowstone spill, pipeline safety regulators at the Department of Transportation reacted by issuing Exxon-Mobil’s Silvertip pipeline a Corrective Action Order (CAO) which requires the company to make safety improvements to the pipeline before it can restart. In issuing the order, Secretary LaHood said “when companies are not living up to our safety standards, we will take action.”

Here’s the problem — Exxon was living up to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) safety standards. True, Exxon’s decision to build an unprotected crude pipeline only 5 to 8 feet below a flood prone river appears to have been imprudent. Exxon’s decision to restart the pipeline in May despite heavy flooding was foolish. However, the real story is that this string of reckless decisions was permitted by both our pipeline safety regulations and the regulators who enforce them.

This reactive approach to pipeline safety regulation is evidenced by the Department of Transportation’s approach to Keystone XL and other pipelines carrying raw tar sands crude. In her recent testimony to Congress on pipeline safety, Cynthia Quarterman, the Administrator of DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), conceded that her agency did not have a handle on the safety risks that raw tar sands pipelines pose. Specifically, she said that the U.S. pipeline system was not designed with the risks of raw tar sands crude in mind, her agency had not evaluated those risks, and she did not know whether current safety regulations were sufficient to address them. Despite these serious unknowns, her agency has not actively engaged in the consideration of the Keystone XL.

Transcanada’s “first tar sands pipeline, Keystone I, has had thirty three leaks in the U.S. and Canada in less than one year of operation,” Swift writes, “and is the youngest pipelines in the U.S. to be deemed by regulators a threat to life, property and the environment. ”

Activists are mobilizing against the Keystone XL project with the StopTar.org and Tar Sands Action projects.


HUD to pay $62 million to La. homeowners to settle Road Home lawsuit

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 7th, 2011 4:39 am by HL

HUD to pay $62 million to La. homeowners to settle Road Home lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Wednesday that it will pay as much as $62 million to 1,300 Louisiana homeowners to settle a lawsuit alleging that a program that awarded federal grants to rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita discriminated against African Americans.

The lawsuit was filed by two civil rights groups and five homeowners, who maintained that the $9.8 billion Road Home program — called the largest housing recovery program in the nation’s history — relied on a formula that discriminated against thousands of African American homeowners.

Read full article >>

Roger Clemens trial opens with jury selection

Prosecutors and defense lawyers on Wednesday disclosed the identities of more than a dozen high-profile potential witnesses in the perjury trial of Roger Clemens, the former baseball star charged with lying to Congress about taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Among those named were former Boston Red Sox star Wade Boggs and former New York Yankees Jason Giambi and David Cone.

Prosecutors also named Jorge Posada, currently a Yankees designated hitter and catcher, and the team’s general manager, Brian Cashman.

Read full article >>

New oil spill, familiar worries in wake of Exxon’s Yellowstone pipeline breach

For 20 years, Exxon Mobil’s 12-inch Silvertip pipeline lay buried beneath the waters and muddy bottom of the Yellowstone River in Montana, and Friday it was feeding 39 barrels a minute to small refineries in the Billings area.

Then at 10:41 p.m., the pressure in the pipeline dropped — the sign of a leak.

Six minutes later, at the Exxon Mobil control room in Houston, workers used remote devices to shut down the pipeline’s pumps, reducing the flow. A valve near the refinery was closed, reopened, then closed again. Finally, 55 minutes after the pressure drop, the crucial valve on the other side of the river was closed.

Read full article >>