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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
Amtrak train
House Speaker John Boehner may think it's "stupid" to suggest that the recent fatal Amtrak crash had anything to do with lack of funding, but the evidence keeps piling up that Boehner's the stupid one here. The United States spends far less than its peers on rail, and:
As a consequence, industry experts say, despite having some of the least-extensive passenger rail networks in the developed world, the United States today has among the worst safety records. Fatality rates are almost twice as high as in the European Union and countries like South Korea, and roughly triple the rate in Australia.

Analysts say the impressive safety record in Europe and Asia is the result of steady government spending of billions of dollars on development and maintenance of railroad infrastructure — including sophisticated electronic monitoring and automated braking systems developed over the past 20 years.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, the American investment in rail networks is just a quarter of that in Britain and one-sixth that in France and Australia, while Japan spends nearly three times as much per person as the U.S. does.
Over the past decade, even developing countries including India, Russia and Turkey have consistently invested far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.
Not exactly grounds for a "We're number one" chant, there.

We're looking at a consequence of Republican refusal to invest in American infrastructure. It's played out not just in less safe trains but in slower trains and fewer trains. If Republicans hadn't stood in the way all these years, we could have had a speedy, energy-efficient, safe rail network and thousands of jobs creating and maintaining it. Instead, we have a desperately underfunded, inadequate rail system and John Boehner saying it's stupid to see the facts for what they are.


Mon May 25, 2015 at 08:59 AM PDT

Memorial Day, in pictures

by kos

(This post first appeared for Memorial Day in 2014.)

A member of U.S. Army honor guard stretches out a flag before placing it at the headstone of a grave at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, May 26, 2011. The United States will commemorate Memorial Day this weekend. REUTERS/Jason Reed
A member of U.S. Army honor guard stretches out a flag before placing it at the headstone of a grave at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.
A group of high school students from Hawaii prepare to float lanterns during a ceremony marking remembrance and reflection, held by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist organization, honoring victims of war, famine, and natural disasters on Memorial Day at Ala Moana beach park in Honolulu, Hawaii May 27, 2013. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
A group of high school students prepare to float lanterns during a ceremony marking remembrance and reflection, held by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist organization, honoring victims of war, famine, and natural disasters on Memorial Day at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
More below the fold ...
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A relative of a buried serviceman places flowers at his headstone in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, May 26, 2011. The United States will commemorate Memorial Day this weekend.    REUTERS/Jason Reed
This short story was previously published on Monday, May 28, 2012, as "Memorial Day (a Short Story)."

The grizzled old man arrived at his destination, his back hunched over and using a cane. He surveyed the scene before him with what combat veterans describe as the thousand-yard stare, a gaze that looks right through you, a look that says he has seen the horrors of war and that he cannot forget them some sixty years later. A vast sea of white lay before him. It was as if someone had planted the seeds for the garden of stone that was before him, ready for harvest.

“How many?” He asked himself, knowing that while there was no finite answer, the true answer was too many.

He trudged his way across the field of marble, stopping at each headstone to take a flag out of his bag and placing one in front of each marker. He read every name and calculated every age. He was tempted to say that a few were too young to be here; however, he realized that all the men and women that were here were all too young to be here, every soul here was cut down in its prime.

“What a waste,” he exclaimed while shaking his head.

Silent and respectful of the sacrifices of those just below his feet he soldiered on, he was determined to complete his mission before nightfall. Across the field he could hear a lone bugler play "Taps," the mournful sound echoed across the landscape.

The forlorn notes of "Taps" brought back memories of long ago when he was a much younger man. He could still hear their voices, still see their faces as if they were standing next to him. The thoughts of the war came rushing back to him. He remembered each death, he was one of a handful that had survived the entire war.

They were so young then, so full of life and ready to take on the world. Few of them had that chance, many of them were chewed up on foreign soil, never to see home again. They gave their lives for a cause they may not have understood or believed in, but, they knew that their country needed them, so they answered the call. He could see himself as a young man trying to comprehend the savagery around him. Trying to understand why he lived and others died.

Head below the fold for more of this story.

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Mon May 25, 2015 at 07:00 AM PDT

Cartoon: The bad intelligence

by Tom Tomorrow

Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill

Support independent cartooning: join Sparky's List—and be sure to visit TT's Emporium of Shopping Fun!

United States Army Private First Class William K. Nakamura, Medal of Honor recipient
United States Army Private First Class William K. Nakamura, U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, awarded posthumously.
In "The Memorial Day history forgot: The Martyrs of the Race Course," I wrote last year about the not very well known African-American roots of Memorial Day. In recent years, some media attention has been paid to the long history of Black military service—from the Revolutionary War, including Haitians who fought for us, through the civil war, in films like Glory, and the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II—no matter the racism we faced, and still face in this country.  

We hear less about other soldiers of color—Asian, Native American and Latino who died for us, who also faced, and still face discrimination within our shores.

Pictured above is William Kenzo Nakamura (January 21, 1922-July 4, 1944).

He was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.

Nakamura was born in Seattle to Japanese immigrant parents. He is a Nisei, which means that he is a second generation Japanese-American. His family was interned in Minidoka in Idaho during World War II. Nakamura volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This army unit was mostly made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.

On July 4, 1944, Nakamura was serving as a private first class in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. On that day, near Castellina, Italy, he single-handedly destroyed an enemy machine gun emplacement and later volunteered to cover his unit's withdrawal. He was then killed while attacking another machine gun nest which was firing on his platoon

Follow me below the fold for more of this memorial history.
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What does that mean?

It means that the trusty MacBook that has powered the show for three years is on the blink, and might have to go live on the Apple Farm, if you know what I'm saying.

But, keep your fingers crossed, because it happened with ONE day left on the Apple Care coverage, so it may not be a total loss! Usually these things happen the day after your coverage expires, right?

The downside is, there's no telling just yet exactly how long it will take to get the issues resolved. (It sounds like it's a dying video card, but it's disrupting and freezing everything when it fritzes out unpredictably.)

I'll keep you up to date on things, and hopefully we'll be back up and running soon! And since I still owe you a Rosalyn MacGregor Michigan politics update, I've passed it on to Justice Putnam in the hopes of finding some time for it on Netroots Radio's The After Show (11 AM - noon ET) some time this week.

We'll be bringing you a rerun of the May 27, 2014 show today:

Greg Dworkin joined us to discuss the #YesAllWomen global phenomenon, open carry blowback in Texas, the VA issue narrative versus reality, and how Sen. Burr stepped in it. Even as the tide turns on marriage equality, we're reminded that some think they can turn it on a dime, because "tradition." And the oldest Member of the House ever looks to win his primary. Dark money at work in Arkansas. Twitter was buzzing about corporate social media. What was the Boston "fusion center" tracking while missing the marathon bombing? Occupy. Boing Boing notes new NYT chief Baquet spiked the biggest pre-Snowden NSA story. Speaking of the NSA, the prescience of Justice Brandeis.

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Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

The Josh Duggar shocker takes up a considerable amount of time today. The Boy Scouts of America are finally coming around to reality, it seems. Irish abroad are heading home to vote in today's historic referendum on marriage equality. Greg Dworkin agrees to come in (and fight through technical difficulties) on his birthday to round up stories on ACA's increasing popularity and entrenchment, Chris Christie's attempt at recovery that hometown papers aren't buying, handicapping who gets into the Gop debates, Obama's (un) lame duck status, a peek inside the American Board of Internal Medicine's finances, and Bill O'Reilly's in hot water (and in denial) again. NYT reporter goes way out on a limb on Hillary. Armando joins in to discuss the Duggar & O'Reilly news. Kansas, whose governor blows a lot, takes punishing the poor to a new level. Journos begin admitting they were wrong about the "Fight for $15." Self-driving cars might not necessarily kill us all.

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

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E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes The right’s political correctness:

Accommodating right-wing primary voters poses real risks to the party in next year’s elections. Its candidates’ messages on immigration and gay marriage could hurt the GOP with, respectively, Latinos and the young.

But the greater loss is that none of the leading Republicans is willing to offer a more fundamental challenge to the party’s rightward lurch over the past decade. L. Brent Bozell III, a prominent activist on the right, could thus legitimately claim to The Post: “The conservative agenda is what is winning the field.” [...]

With occasional exceptions, they have been far more interested in proving their faithfulness to today’s hard-line right than in declaring, as conservatives in so many other democracies have been willing to do, that sprawling market economies need a rather large dose of government.

Trevor Timm at The Guardian writes McConnell can't save the NSA's surveillance program:
Senators were forced to work overtime well into Memorial Day weekend thanks to a manufactured controversy by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has known for years that the parts of the Patriot Act that allow the NSA to collect the phone records of millions of innocent people (known as Section 215) are set to expire on 1 June 2015, but decided to gin up an “emergency” and wait until the very last moment to try to extend them. He managed in the process to block the USA Freedom Act, a modest surveillance reform bill targeting the NSA that has overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, but he also failed by a large number of votes to extend the Patriot Act’s surveillance provisions for even one day.

So while Republicans managed to kill a bill that is supposed to stop the NSA’s bulk collection program, their ineptitude put the law underpinning it one step closer to extinction.

There are more pundit excerpts below the fold.
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U.S. Army Sgt. William Reese watches flames rise into the night sky after setting canal vegetation ablaze in Tahwilla, Iraq, July 30, 2008. Extremists have been using the canal's thick vegetation to plant bombs under the cover of darkness. The soldiers are assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.U.S. Army photo by Spc. David J. Marshall.
Most wars are started or joined because of lies. The Mexican-American War of 1848, the Spanish-American-Cuban War of 1898 and the Vietnam War are all good examples. Lately, thanks to Judith Miller's whiny piece seeking to whitewash her own role in conveying the lies that got us into Iraq War, Jeb Bush's flubbing and flipping what should have been a simple answer about whether he would have done as his brother did in Iraq, Hillary Clinton's Senate vote in 2002 on the authorization to use military force against Iraq and the current situation with ISIL, discussion of the entry into that aggression has gotten some new life.

Therefore, for Memorial Day, it's appropriate to reprise a 7-year-old Daily Kos post about the compilation of 935 Iraq War lies that was produced by the Center for Public Integrity. Here's what the study of the lies concluded:

"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

"Some journalists—indeed, even some entire news organizations—have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.

Here's the post—Lies, Damned Lies, a Searchable Database of Lies originally published here on January 22, 2008:
 For the past six years, activists, progressive bloggers and a handful of traditional media pundits have accused Mister Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney and others in the cronyfest running the executive branch of lying us into Iraq. The relentless response - everybody from Condoleeza Rice to Bill Kristol to the least-read right-wing pundithug - has been to say we're the liars, and traitors as well, for daring suggest such a thing at a time when the nation faces the most dire threat since Adolf Hitler gave the go-ahead to heavy-water experiments, blah, blah, blah.

Eventually—without apologies, of course—there were a few admissions delivered in the passive-aggressive tense popularized decades ago by Richard Nixon: "mistakes were made."

Now, thanks to the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, everybody can check out those lies for themselves at The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War.

Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith at CPI write:

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. ...

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.

Those 935 lies, by the way, do not include "indirect false statements" such as that Iraq had possession of "dangerous weapons."

No single lie is going to surprise anybody who has been following the fabrications of the Cheney-Bush administration. But CPI has done a real service to place nearly 1000 of these in one easy-to-access location.

Mister Bush told the most lies: 259. Colin Powell clocked in second with 244 lies.

As for the administration response, the Boston Globe reports:

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

Uh-huh. Time to start a new database.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2006A Choice Predicament:

Via The Carpetbagger Report:

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the House easily passed bi-partisan legislation that would remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The companion measure in the Senate had a filibuster-proof majority, Bill Frist endorsed the bill and vowed to bring it to the floor, and polls showed overwhelming support from the public. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote at the time, "Unless there's another war, stem cells will become one of the defining issues of the 2006 campaign." It seemed we were finally on the brink of a breakthrough for science, medical research, and public health. And then ... nothing.
I guess there's two ways Republicans can play this: They can go ahead and get the bill to the White House, putting the President in one hell of a bind and creating at least the appearance of independence. Or they can kick it down the road to appease their fundamentalist masters and take a chance on being tarred and feathered with the issue come November.

It's often said the Democrats don't stand for anything. But here the GOP has a choice of life versus ideology, loyalty to Mr. 29% Vs We the People. We'll see exactly who and what the Republicans stand for on this issue alone.

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In the last few days America witnessed something many have been stating for decades. The media coverage and interpretation of events is demonstrably race based.

I walked into my home from after blogging for five hours at Starbucks. My daughter was in the couch with her face pasted on her Twitter feed on her phone.

"Dad, what is going on at Twin Peaks?” She asked.

"I don't know?" I replied.

"Nine people got killed in Waco," she said. "There are rival biker gangs shooting and stabbing each other and shooting at police."

"Really?" I replied. "Turn on CNN."

We turned on CNN and they were doing regular programming. We turned to Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC. They were all doing regular programming on a slow news day.

Everyone knows that especially on a slow news day the most mundane gets covered as breaking news. So what happened here? Nine human beings were killed, murdered in a gang fight. Gangs were reportedly shooting at the police. It was mayhem. It was extremely violent behavior.

The riots in Ferguson had many casualities. The riots in Baltimore had many casualties. There was incessant coverage as breaking news. But it was the display of those inner city people acting violently that made the news, a disparity I discuss more below the fold.

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Sun May 24, 2015 at 04:00 PM PDT

The promise of NewSpace

by DarkSyde

Ceres as revealed by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 4, 2015, from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers). The bright spots may be water ice.
We throw a lot of terms around here on Daily Kos, mostly in politics, sometimes in science. One of the latter is NewSpace, which can mean different things to different people:
NewSpace—formerly; also "new space", and entrepreneurial space—are umbrella terms for a movement and philosophy often affiliated with, but not synonymous with, an emergent private spaceflight industry. Specifically, the terms are used to refer to a community of relatively new aerospace companies working to develop low-cost access to space or spaceflight technologies and advocates of low-cost spaceflight technology and policy.
But NewSapce means more than just space exploration, it also means using resources in space back here on Earth, where we are likely to run low on key elements and other substances in the forseeable future.

It's interesting that one of the people who first glimpsed that looming shortfall half a century ago had nothing to do with space exploration or aerospace technology in general. His bailiwick was the oil business. Follow us below and we'll briefly review the frightening immediate future.

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Flags and roses decorate graves in Section 60, where many members of the military killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, during Memorial Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
I often struggle to write about Memorial Day. It is about more than barbecues, picnics, and the kick-off to summer. It is not a time to debate whether our country was right or wrong to send our children to war. No, it is a solemn day to reflect upon those who have died in service to our country, for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice four our nation.

I am reminded of my dad and uncles who served in World War II. None of them talked about their war experiences—I am sure that those experiences were horrifying for them as young men. When I knew them they all seemed older than the uncles who had not served. There was something about their eyes that was not present in my other uncles' eyes—that they had seen humanity at its worst, and survived. It was an emptiness, an emptiness that has been called the thousand yard stare. No matter their age, it was still there, maybe not as hard edged as it was when they first came home, but it was with them, in some small way, until the day they died.

My great-grandfather was a soldier during the Civil War, and passed away when my mom was just six years old in 1932, some 35 years before I came into this world. His obituary reads like a history book of Civil War battles:

Mr. [William] Posten an honest upright, conscientious man, a kind and affectionate husband, a kind and loving father, a good neighbor, a true and loyal American citizen. He was a perfect type of American manhood. He leaves to mourn his loss a sorrowing wife, seven living children and a number of grandchildren, also a sister, Mrs. Sarah Jacoby of Millville (Wisconsin) He was member of Co. D., 51st Penn. V.I. He took part in many of the most famous engagements in which the army of the Potomac participated. He enlisted Oct. 13, 1861 and was mustered out July 27, 1865. His services included the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg and the operations of the 9th corps under Brownside in the Shenandoah Valley. He fought with his regiment in the Wilderness at Spottsylvania and Cold Harbor and during the siege of the Petersburg his command formed a part of the troops who charged the Confederate works following the famous mine explosions. Mr. Posten took part in the charge on the Confederates in front of Petersburg on April 2, 1865, which resultd in the capture of the outer works and the rapid flight of Lee's army and Jefferson Davis from Petersburg and Richmond and with his regiment followed Lee to the end at Appomattox.
The horrors he must have seen—just 17 years old at the battle of Fredericksburg, and all of 21 during the final battles of the war. Memorial Day, at that time Decoration Day, grew out of the carnage we know as the Civil War, a war that was anything but civil. New weapons and old tactics made the Civil War a hellish nightmare for the soldiers who fought in it. While the practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers is an ancient custom ...
... and soldiers' graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier's grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia, on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there.Though not for Union soldiers, there is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated Confederate soldiers' graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers' graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Decoration Day was not observed as a national holiday until after World War I, when the South began to celebrate on the same day as the North as the day no longer was just to memorialize Civil War dead. As time went on the name Decoration Day began to fall out of fashion, being replaced by Memorial Day entirely shortly after WWII ended. It did not become an official federal Holiday until 1968 and the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Today, much of the meaning of Memorial Day is lost, as I'll discuss below. Far too many view it as just the official kick-off to summer.

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Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles, California May 15, 2014. The march was held as part of an international protest by fast-food workers who planned to go on strikes in 150 c
If national Democrats had done their job, she'd have had a living wage years ago.
Before she was the tart-tongued grande dame on Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith was the tartan-clad elder stateswoman of Hogwarts. In the sixth Potter film, after Harry saved his friend Ron Weasley from poisoning, Smith's Professor McGonagall quipped: "I think we all agree that Mr. Potter’s actions were heroic. The question is: Why were they necessary."

As great a triumph as was the passage of a minimum wage hike in Los Angeles—one that will raise the floor to $15 an hour by 2020 and index it to inflation going forward—reading about it brought to mind the aforementioned quotation. The city-by-city, state-by-state struggle to raise the minimum wage has undoubtedly been heroic. Los Angeles—because of the sheer size of its population—is its most impressive and important achievement to date, although certainly not its only one. But why, indeed, has that struggle been necessary?

It has been necessary, first and foremost, because national Democrats failed low-wage workers on the issue in 2009 and 2010. Yes, this country increased the federal minimum wage in 2007, when a Congress with Democratic majorities passed the first such increase in 10 years. And the raise was—from a percentage standpoint—impressive, going up 40 percent, from $5.15 to $7.25, over 26 months. With a Republican president, that may have been as much as was possible at that time. Maybe.

But then Barack Obama became president of the United States, and Democrats increased their majorities in the House and Senate to the point that, once Al Franken's recount finally came to an end and he took his seat, the Senate Democratic caucus counted 60 members—enough to overcome a Republican filibuster. Franken took his seat, in fact, less than a month before the third and final wage increase mandated in 2007 took effect. Why, we can ask, did the Democratic Party—the party of working people—fail to take further action?

Please follow me beyond the fold for more on this question.

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