Archive | September 2013

What is the Main Problem?

Doc Cleveland recently posted Larry Summers is not the Main Problem on dagblog: 

I’m as pleased as anyone that Larry Summers has withdrawn from consideration as the next Chair of the Fed. I thought he would do a terrible job. But Summers himself was never the real problem. His candidacy was only a symptom. The real problem is that we have a President who wanted to nominate Summers in the first place. Obama does not understand what’s wrong with the American economy, and five years into his term, he persists in some basic misunderstandings.

There are two basic Democratic narratives to explain the 2008 financial meltdown, and they contradict each other. When Obama took office, he had to choose which story to believe.

I agree with dag commenters that that it was a thoughtful post, but I don’t believe that elected officials of either party could stray too far from the dictates of the oligarchy. In, Was This Whistle-Blower Muzzled? former investment banker William D Cohan, author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World posts an opinion piece that shows what happened when a Citigroup executive tried to pull back a fold of the curtain:

On Feb. 27, 2010, Mr. Bowen met with Victor J. Cunicelli and Tom Borgers, two F.C.I.C. investigators, and, briefly, with Bradley J. Bondi, the commission’s deputy general counsel. For four hours, with his own two lawyers present, Mr. Bowen told them his story. “This was placing the company in extreme risk with regard to losses, and I made that known,” he told the commission staff.

The investigators told him they found his account “very compelling,” and Mr. Bowen was subsequently invited to testify publicly before the commission, on April 7, 2010. Mr. Bowen’s conversation, like hundreds of others, was recorded (including mine when, as the author of two books on the financial crisis, I was interviewed).

Unlike those other conversations, though, Mr. Bowen’s Feb. 27 interview, a transcript of which I have read, is not publicly available. Instead, the document, along with the commission’s other records, was sealed and sent off to the National Archives, where it may be reviewed beginning in 2016. “Why five years?” Mr. Bowen wondered. “I don’t know. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that five years is the statute of limitation for fraud.”

Owned by Our Guns

I read that Shellie Zimmerman claimed that George always had to be holding his guns. I told my wife some people just own a firearm, and treat it like any other tool or machine, but others are owned by their guns. The first group occasionally make mistakes; the second group are deadly mistakes waiting to happen.

Since the Sandy Hook mass shooting, several mainstream media outlets are consciously paying more attention to gun violence. Consequently there have been a steady stream of, “five-year-old shoots three-year-old” stories. A few days ago was the story about the man who tried to prove his handgun wasn’t loaded by pointing it at his wife and pulling the trigger. As I recall, the bullet ricocheted off one of her leg bones and into the other leg.

But private citizens aren’t the only ones firing in error. Early Saturday morning, Charlotte police killed an injured man knocking on doors and seeking help after an auto accident. On Saturday night, NYPD officers wounded two bystanders while shooting at an erratic, but unarmed, man who was dodging cars in Times Square. Officers used to take pride in never firing their weapons while on duty. Now it seems that some of them can’t wait to shoot someone.

And today we are reading about another mass shooting at the SE Washington DC Navy Yard. There were at least three shooters, and so far at least twelve people are dead.

Update 20130917: Today’s reports say there was only one shooter, who is among the thirteen dead. The shooter had a history of gun violence.

Bowman Talks About Lowenthal’s Drowning

Based on a talk by Bob Bowman – pleading with coaches to discourage long distance underwater swimming – Swim Vortex offers a great deal of information on the Louis Lowenthal drowning. I have read a great many accusations and speculation to the effect that the boy had drowned in an essentially empty, unsupervised pool, and had spent a lot of time underwater before being discovered. According to Bowman’s statement, the pool was occupied by at least one other swimmer, and Lowenthal was pulled out by lifeguards within one minute of her seeing him alive:

Bowman & Baltimore Plea for Safety’s Sake

A masters swimmer who takes about a minute to get down the 50m lap, saw Louis kicking his way underwater in the opposite direction somewhere along the way of her own swim. When she got to the edge of the pool, she turned, fiddled with her goggles a little and looked up: Louis [was] already on deck and CPR being administered.

There are up to five 50m lanes adjacent to the lane along the edge of the pool in which the body was found, but the water is clear and you can easily see swimmers all the way across to the 25 yard lanes. Louis was swimming in the longest straight lane in the pool, which goes past an island and ends at the shallow end ramp. It would have been about 60 meters or so – more if he had turned at the ramp.

Even Wearing Helmet, Fractured Skull & Brain Hemorrhage

Lest I feel too sorry about my broken hand bone, triathlete Camilla Pedersen is still in an induced coma after swerving her bike to avoid schoolchildren, crashing and fracturing her skull on September 3rd. Pedersen is the current European Ironman champion, and even though she was wearing a helmet – probably the Rudy Wing 57 she endorses – she came off the bike and landed directly on her head.

Ironman European Champion Camilla Pedersen Suffers Serious Head Injuries

… The incident occurred while on a group ride in the town of Esbjerg, which is in the South West region of Denmark. According to local reports, Pedersen and the group she was riding with, turned a corner to find a group of children standing on the road. The rider in front was able to avoid hitting the children and remain upright, however being the back rider Pedersen was unable to and came off her bike.

Although she was wearing a helmet, Pedersen landed head first and lost consciousness immediately. An ambulance was called and in that time Pedersen regained consciousness but was speaking incoherently. This has caused concern what the long term damage may be.

Upon arrival at the hospital in Esbjerg, Pedersen was assessed to have sustained skull fractures and bleeding on the bran. It was decided she would then be transported to an alternative hospital that is more equipped to deal with such injures.

She was immediately put into an induced coma and on a respirator. Pedersen underwent surgery on Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning to insert two drains in her skull in an attempt to control the pressure from the brain bleeding. She will remain in an induced coma for several days until the swelling comes down and give her body best chance of recovery.

Although there was some expectation of waking her after the critical third day, this Danish language site says that she is still in critical condition this weekend and that doctors have chosen to keep her in the coma longer.

I wish Ms Pedersen a complete recovery.

The night before last, I was shopping for a strong glove to protect my hand when I start riding again, when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t even looked at the helmet I was wearing when the MTA bus knocked me over. In addition to my painful knee and hand injuries, I had two faint bruises on the right side of my chin and forehead, and a large bruise along the back of my left upper arm.

I had been wearing the yellow Bell Solar that I bought along with the folding Xootr Swift eight years ago. Besides a scrape on the thin plastic shell was a large crack in the expanded polystrene liner – just where my noggin smacked the pavement. So I need a new helmet, but I avoided heavy bruising, concussion or fracture. Thank you, Bell.

In the last two weeks I have paid attention to how many cyclists in automobile traffic aren’t wearing helmets. They mostly seem to be young adult riders. I wish I could pull up besides each of them and tell them how fast things can go wrong.

Update 20130911: From Triathlete-Europe:

The medical staff at Odense University Hospital are working on keeping the pressure inside her brain down to avoid surgery. [and] will keep her in the induced coma until they consider it safe to wake her up. This might take weeks and, as of now, it is impossible to say when they will try to wake her up …

Update 20131003: Pedersen has regained consciousness and movement, but not language, according to a Danish language site:

… the staff at Hammel Neuro Center applauds her for her walk of courage and determination to meet the challenges they ask. She even walks around the corridors … , which we had not anticipated a week ago, says Michael Pedersen, who also reveals that she briefly has been on an exercise bike ….

We talk to her and she is about to rediscover the language, but she’s looking in between the words. We are happy that she shows the great progress she is making, and we’re really happy to see her lovely smile again …

Hedges and Hedges

I’ve posted before about Chris Hedges’ and Joe Sacco’s illustrated book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, in which they call attention to the poor victims of race and class war. Truthout reprints, Obama’s Decision to Attack Syria and “Give Congress a Voice,” a transcript of a video interview of Chris Hedges by Paul Jay of The Real News Network. Hedges argues that the US has no moral standing to punish Syria:

… within the Middle East there is a widespread remembrance that Israel used over 200 white phosphorus rockets when they did their 22-day aerial bombardment of Gaza, that we as a country used chemical agents–Agent Orange in Vietnam, and we have littered the Middle East–Afghanistan, Iraq–with depleted uranium. …

The fact that we were complicit, in essence, with the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War–we gave them satellite imagery so that they knew where to drop it–that we stood by and did nothing when Saddam Hussein was dropping poison gas on places like Halabja, this is not lost to people in the Middle East. So there’s no kind of uniformity at all to our response. When those who are our purported allies (and in the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was tacitly our ally) do these kinds of things, we ignore it. When the Israelis do it, we ignore it. And when it happens in Syria, you know, supposedly we respond.

I think morally the United States has no case to make unless they were actively stopping a delivery system of these chemical agents, i.e. intercepting the planes that were dropping them or, if they used artillery shells, which is what Saddam Hussein had, you know, the 155 howitzers or the units that were delivering those shells.

But we have no legal, moral, as you pointed out, right to intervene at this point as an act of punishment. Nor do we have the moral credibility to do it.

In, The Last Chance to Stop the NDAA, Hedges decries potential military detention of civilians:

During the five years I covered the war in El Salvador the Reagan administration regularly denounced reporters who exposed atrocities by the Salvadoran military as“fifth columnists” for the rebel movement, a charge that made us in the eyes of Reagan officials at the very least accomplices to terrorism. This, too, was raised in court, as was the fact that during my seven years as a reporter in the Middle East I met regularly with individuals and groups, including al-Qaida, that were considered terrorists by the U.S. government. There were times in my 20-year career as a foreign correspondent, especially when I reported events or opinions that challenged the official narrative, that the U.S. government made little distinction between me and groups that were antagonistic to the United States. In those days there was no law that could be used to seize and detain me. Now there is. …

This will be the standard tactic. Laws passed in the so-called war on terror will be used to turn all dissidents and activists into terrorism suspects, subjecting them to draconian forms of state repression and control. The same tactic was used during the anti-communist hysteria of the 20th century to destroy union leaders, writers, civil rights activists, intellectuals, artists, teachers, politicians and organizations that challenged entrenched corporate power.

“There’s nothing that’s built into this NDAA [the National Defense Authorization Act] that even gives a detained person the right to get to an attorney,” Afran said. “In fact, the whole notion is that it’s secret. It’s outside of any judicial process. You’re not even subject to a military trial. You can be moved to other jurisdictions under the law. It’s the antithesis of due process.”