February 2010 archive

Weekend News Digest

Once again I have the helm of the good ship Weekend News Digest while our erstwhile Editor-in-Chief, ek hornbeck, is off resting and plotting revenge on NBC for its less than stellar coverage of what looked like a really exciting Winter Olympics.

While the big news story is the earthquake in Chile and the tsunami that it generated, the disaster in Haiti is now being exacerbated by the early arrival of the spring rainy season. The Haitian people and those trying to aid them cannot catch a break. The world cannot lose sight of this continued catastrophe.

Deadly Floods Swamp Haiti

The traditional rainy season has come early to Haiti, bringing with it floods that have killed 11 people in the south-eastern port city of Les Cayes and the surrounding area.  The city had not been affected by the devastating January 12th earthquake – which killed 230,000 and left a million people homeless – but its population had swelled recently as survivors moved in from the earthquake-hit areas.

Rain triggers deadly floods in Haiti

The deaths occurred in or near the southeastern port city of Les Cayes which was swamped by more than 1.5m (5ft) of water.

Officials said buildings affected included a hospital and a prison where more than 400 inmates were evacuated.

About a million Haitians are still homeless following January’s earthquake which killed up to 230,000 people.

The floods have come several weeks ahead of Haiti’s traditional rainy season.

“The situation is grave… whole areas are completely flooded. People have climbed on to the roofs of their homes,” local senator Francky Exius told AFP news agency.

    Link contains video from the BBC.

A heads up to everyone, some of the links contain videos. I’ll put a warning on those links. This is an Open Thread

One Helluva’ an Idea!

Group blames women for rape.

Also posted at L’Orange.

Today there is a group distributing a religious tract called Women and Girls. Right here, in the United States. It teaches girls that they make men want to be sinful.

“You may have been given this leaflet because of the way you are dressed,” it begins. “Have you thought about standing before the true and living God to be judged?”

The leaflet warns particularly about tight and form fitting clothing.

Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin…By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?

Coffee Curious? updated

Monday 10a.m. UPDATED: see below.

Me too.

Expanding on my comment in jeffroby’s most excellent essay (please check it out.)

Something’s a – brewin’.

Brew 4 U Pictures, Images and Photos

1.2 million Americans lose unemployment benefits today

  Because of the Republicans new found concern for budget deficits, 1.2 million American families will be cut adrift today.

 Nearly 1.2 million unemployed Americans – including 27,000 in Wisconsin – face an imminent cutoff of government unemployment checks if Congress cannot pass emergency legislation to extend federal benefits before funding expires Sunday.

  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) pushed this week for Senate passage of a stopgap 30-day extension of jobless benefits, which also includes a 30-day extension of a federal COBRA health insurance subsidy for the jobless. But as of late Thursday, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) objected to each attempt to bring the issue to a Senate floor vote, balking that the measure would further inflate the nation’s debt.

 Remember, this is the same Congress that took less than a week to bail out Wall Street banks for $700 Billion. There were no questions at that time about where to get the money for their criminal friends in banking.

  The Unemployment extension bill is $10 Billion.

Something’s Up- OFA’s Dead Silent as Hoyer Says House Go First on HCR

Have you all noticed how QUIET all the usual suspects have been in the past 48 hours, as if it was coordinated or something ?

Dive !  Dive !

(warning sirens waaahoooowoo  waaahooooowoo  )

Now look, I never keep anything from the crew and I don’t expect them to keep anything from me.  So come on, speak up !  

You make one move to take over this boat and I’ll see that you’re hung.

A fleet boat of the Navy, a submarine with her fighting powers still intact, and you’d take her back to Pearl ?  I don’t believe it.  


Emanuel, Pelosi Meet in Capitol To Chart Health Care Course Friday 2/26/2010   HuffPo


Rahm Emanuel ventured to the Capitol Friday evening to hash out health care strategy with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a White House aide confirmed.

Senior Hill aides speculated to HuffPost that Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, would bring the message that the House must move first, with a pledge from Senate Democrats that they would follow. It’s hard to make amendments to a law through reconciliation if that law hasn’t been made official yet, they argue.

Pelosi’s office wouldn’t confirm that the meeting, which was still ongoing as of the early evening, was taking place or comment on what Pelosi’s reaction might be. A White House aide said he was unsure what message Emanuel would deliver.  

Hoyer:  House Will Go First on Health Bill  Sunday 2/28/2010   The Hill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved.

Hoyer is the highest-ranking House Democrat to outline that path forward, which is perceived as a critical concession to Senate Democrats.

“Whether we’re willing or not, we have to go first if we are going to correct thing that the House disagrees with,” Hoyer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) suggested that it be used last week.  

Imagining post-capitalism

Generally, this is an invitation to the reading public to imagine a post-capitalist future: what would it look like, how would people do things, and so on.  In it, I consider what the greater meaning of such a project would be, and what the main considerations of the project are, in hopes my readers will take up the gauntlet and continue the thought-project.

(crossposted at Orange to provoke the capitalists)

On Assigning Blame, Or, “So, You Think I’m Retarded?”

LANGUAGE WARNING: Today’s story is uncharacteristically blunt, and from this moment forward we will be using lots of inappropriate language in making our points.

Gentle Reader, you have been officially…warned.

With that in mind, if you take offense when confronted with language strong enough to knock a fuckin’ buzzard off a shitwagon, please stop reading now.

It is by now fairly well known that Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, had a bit of a blow-up with liberals who were ready to start running ads against “blue dog” Democrats who were working very hard to shut down the health care reform effort.

Now we’re not gonna get in the middle of that argument today; instead, since we’re finally getting a chance to talk, I figured me and Rahm could get a few other things out of the way that have been on everyone’s mind for the past year or so.

Olympic Alternatives XIV

You thought I was not serious?

I’m dead serious.  The only way to effect change is through sacrifice (changing your habits) and protest (telling people what you think, publicly).

Plenty of other stuff out on the Hypnotoad.  Just look-

The Hypnotoad.

"Television is a vast wasteland"

Mid-Afternoon Update.

Primetime Update.

Final Update.

Chile’s Earthquake: How To Help


The New York Times reports:

A strong aftershock struck Chile on Sunday, a day after a destructive 8.8-magnitude earthquake left hundreds of people dead and a long swath of the country in smoky rubble.

The death toll was expected to rise, particularly around Concepción, Chile’s second-largest metropolitan area, which is roughly 70 miles from the quake’s center. The aftershock was reported around 8:30 local time Sunday morning from the capital of Santiago, where it shook buildings, according to Reuters.

More than 1.5 million people have displaced by the quake, according to local news services that quoted the director of Chile’s emergency management office. In Concepción, which appeared to be especially hard hit, the mayor said Sunday morning that 100 people were trapped under the rubble of a building that had collapsed, according to Reuters.

Elsewhere in Concepción, cars lay mangled and upended on streets littered with telephone wires and power cables. A new 14-story apartment building fell, while an older, biochemical lab at the University of Concepción caught fire.

In other words, what Chilean President Michele Bachelet called a “catastrophe.”

Time, again, to get out the checkbook. Please remember that this is the internet.  Heroics aren’t required, all that’s needed are large amounts of people giving small amounts of money.

The Nation let’s us know how to help:

Save The Children — Save The Children is sending an emergency assessment team to Chile, and is asking for contributions to its Children’s Emergency Fund to aid these efforts.

World Vision — The international development, relief and advocacy organization has already sent its first relief flight, from Bolivia this afternoon, with supplies like tarps, blankets, plastic sheeting, and collapsible water containers for survivors. Support these efforts with earmarked gifts to families that need them.

AmeriCares — Vice President of Emergency Response, Christoph Gorder, says AmeriCares is sending medical supplies and humanitarian aid to Chile. Make a direct contribution to AmeriCares’ Chilean earthquake fund.

Habitat for Humanity — Habitat for Humanity has a continual presence in Chile, where the group has constructed more than 1,300 homes. Habitat will be essential in reconstruction efforts, especially in hard-hit rural areas.

International Medical Corps — IMC has a presence in dozens of countries around the globe, providing immediate medical care to those affected by natural disasters. Contribute to its emergency response fund.

ShelterBox — International disaster relief agency ShelterBox has mobilized a team to bring aid to Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city, which saw the worse damage.

There are other groups I like to support I have not listed here.  I will update this later to add them.  Also, I have some antipathy to some of the groups here, particularly World Vision, because of their proselytizing activities to indigenous people in the high Andes, but right now I think the primary idea is to get aid on the ground. There doesn’t seem to me to be time to apply litmus tests to the groups that can help right now.

Update: 2/28/10, 1:15 pm ET:  Please add to groups that can help the following:

Oxfam America and

Doctors Without Borders

Update: 2/28/10, 1:30 pm ET: You can also donate via text message as follows:

   * Text CHILE to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross

   * Text CHILE to 23583 to donate $10 to Habitat for Humanity

   * Text CHILE to 20222 to donate $10 to World Vision

   * Text CHILE to 50555 to donate $10 to the Friends of World Food Program

   * Text CHILE to 52000 to donate $10 to the Salvation Army

   * Text REBUILD to 50555 to donate $10 to Operation USA

   * Text 4CHILE to 50555 to donate $10 to Convoy of Hope

Update: 2/28/10, 1:35 pm ET: google is supporting donations to UNICEF and Direct Relief International.


simulposted at dailyKos and The Dream Antilles.  Feel free to copy and post elsewhere.

In the shuffling madness

of the locomotive breath his bipartisanship fantasy,

runs the all-time loser

headlong to his death

oh he feels the piston scraping

steam breaking on his brow

old Charlie stole the handle and

the train it won’t stop going

no way to slow down

A Trojan Horse in Berlin

PIIGS is an unfortunate acronym for the relatively poor countries in the EU (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), but the real pigs in Europe are now and forever the Germans.

The top German pigs have been imposing a reasonable facsimile of the neo-con agenda on their unwary population for about a decade of stagnant wages and increasing job-insecurity…

Especially over the past decade, German manufacturers — already juggernauts of industry — became some of the most globally competitive companies. Just as American firms did, they turned to outsourcing and overseas production hubs. They kept salaries down at home, with average wages stagnating in Germany for a decade. Germany still has no uniform minimum wage, and aggressive cost-cutting has resulted in more and more Germans laboring in temporary or contract jobs with lower pay and less job security.

German consumers responded by saving their pfennigs, and German domestic consumption crashed while exports ballooned to a trade surplus of $184.9 billion, second only to Saudi Arabia.

So the benefits of neo-Reaganism in Germany accrued almost entirely to bankers and other billionaires, while the rank-and-file repaired their old cars and appliances, and patched up their pitiful overcoats.


Even in prosperous countries, almost everybody gets screwed!

Meanwhile the PIIGS used their brand new credit in the Eurozone to borrow piles of money, expand government services, and increase public-sector salaries.

But according to the dogma of globalization, neo-Reaganism’s Democratic twin, all that debt would eventually be repaid by the rising tide of global prosperity, which lifts all boats, turns slumdogs into millionaires, and…


It never happened! Globalization was bullshit and top-down predation, and while Germany exported BMW’s, Greece exported olives, and went broke.

Now Greek government bonds are about to turn into junk-bonds, and that would set off a godawful chain-reaction, because the forward-thinking Eurozone is about to disallow junk-bonds (rated less than A2) as loan collateral, and German banks are holding a heck of a lot of Greek sovereign debt.

That’s the Trojan Horse in Berlin.

If the Greeks default (and junk-bond status for their bonds would push interest rates so high that default would be more or less inevitable), then German banks (and others) are faced with ugly write-downs, and aren’t you glad to know that this alarming possibility has produced a booming market in credit default swaps!

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin, Nelson D. Schwartz and Eric Dash report in The New York Times.

Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.

These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.

“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house — you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.

Now the Germans want the Greeks (and the rest of the PIIGS) to slash public salaries and services, raise taxes, and turn themselves into globally respectable poverty-zones, and Ireland’s neo-con government has already complied.

“I can’t even keep up with my own debts, never mind the nation’s,” Cullen said, shopping for cut-rate sausage at a discount supermarket he disdained to visit in better times. “I’ve got to spend 30 hours a week taxiing just to break even. Something else has got to give. I can’t give any more.”

Despite the pain its cutbacks are imposing on ordinary people, the conservative Irish government of Prime Minister Brian Cowen has won praise from the European Union and the bond markets for its efforts to cut debt, prices and salaries.

But Greece is resisting, mainly on the basis of a (slightly veiled) threat to default on all those bonds German banks have already swallowed, and it would probably be a very good thing for all of us if all the PIIGS refused to implement the draconian austerity program which the Germans (and their tools at the ECB) want to impose, and a very bad thing if Europe stymies its feeble recovery with a lethal combination of higher taxes and diminished spending.

Tax and don’t spend! What’s not to like? It worked for Hoover!

“This premature fiscal tightening is the route to the Second Great Depression” – or at the very least, a long period of economic stagnation, warned Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

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