Daily Archive: 04/18/2012

Apr 18 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Katrina vaden Heuvel: A consensus we can’t afford

“Why can’t we all get along?” The iconic question has become the fixation of much of Washington’s chattering class. David Brooks and Thomas Friedman censure President Obama for blowing the “Grand Bargain” or not embracing the recommendations of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the deficit reduction commission. Self-proclaimed bipartisan efforts – No Labels, Americans Elect – call for putting aside partisan squabbles and electing moderates who can get things done.

All this chatter leaves out one thing – any sense of reality. The old bipartisanship, such as it was, was built on the postwar economy that worked for everyone. Top-end taxes were at 90 percent, providing the resources to invest in essential programs such as the interstate highways, the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, the G.I. bill and housing subsidies that educated a generation and built the suburbs.

Laura Flanders: Raising Kids Is Work? Tell That to Women on Welfare

For all the shameful sucking up to multimillionaire mom Ann Romney after Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen accused her of never having worked “a day in her life,” the reality is neither Republicans nor Democrats treat most parenting as work, and thousands of poor women are living in poverty today as living proof of that fact.

Do we need to state the obvious? Women of different classes are beaten with different rhetorical bats. For the college-educated and upwardly aspiring, there’s the “danger” of career ambitions. Ever since women started aspiring to have men’s jobs, backlashers have told those women that they’re enjoying their careers at the expense of their kids’ well being. They really can’t have it all. They’ll raise monsters, or worse, they’ll grow old on the shelf. Remember the Harvard/Yale mob that made headlines with a “study” showing that unmarried women over thirty had a slimmer chance of matrimony than they had of being taken out by a terrorist? Susan Faludi took them apart in Backlash! But the evil spawn of that story still circulate. The media still love stories about stay-at-home moms and professional women are still punished for wanting to succeed. For the poor, though, it’s very different.

Michelle Chen: The Boss Man Cometh: Through State Tax Breaks, Employers Pilfer Workers’ Earnings

As you file your taxes this week, before complaining about how much you’re forking over to Uncle Sam, bear in mind that the tax man might not be the only one you’re writing a check to: Your boss might be getting a big cut, too.

Thanks to arcane state tax subsidies, thousands of companies have fattened their profit margins by poaching from workers’ paychecks. According to a report by the watchdog group Good Jobs First, nearly $700 million in taxpayer money is being siphoned off by corporations annually through clever deals with state governments that are supposedly aimed at “job creation.”

According to the report, the tax breaks allow companies to effectively skim money from workers’ state income tax withholdings “to provide lavish subsidies to corporations rather than paying for vital public services.” The beneficiaries include “more than 2,700 companies, including major firms such as Sears, Goldman Sachs and General Electric.”

Diane Roberts: The Republicans Who Want Ignorance to Get Equal Time in Schools

Education is the new Republican enemy. No more free thinking and empirical evidence, just the Bible, rumour and Fox News

Not content with merely waging war on women, Republicans are targeting another enemy of conservatism: education. New Hampshire state Republican Jerry Bergevin recently railed against science and the atheist eggheads who call themselves teachers: “I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a world view and it’s godless.”

While New Hampshire didn’t end up passing Bergevin’s anti-evolution law, Tennessee did. Its new statute allows – even encourages – teachers to express scepticism toward, as the bill says, “scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, and global warming”. The American Institute of Biological Sciences, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the National Centre for Science Education and all eight of Tennessee’s members of the National Academy of Sciences oppose the new law, calling it “miseducation”. But what do these no ‘count heathen elitist PhD Darwinites know? The government of Tennessee wants you to know they ain’t kin to no monkey.

Donna Smith: Fool’s Gold: US Healthcare System Cheats Patients

In case any one of us needs reminding, the profit-driven healthcare system in America is broken. Driven by its primary motivation to make money, there is little that compels those currently in control to care about patients like you and me. We are most assuredly a necessary component of the healthcare market – they cannot make any money without us – but we are treated like children to be seen and not heard.

The vast majority of us cannot access or pay for the care we need without health insurance coverage through either a private, for-profit health insurance company or through a government program for which we qualify. A small minority of people can afford to pay for care outright with cash or credit.

Allison Kilkenny: Occupy Unveils ‘Spring Awakening’

During the long winter months, Occupy protesters kept reassuring those of us in the media still covering their actions that the spring would prove to be a time of resurgence for Occupy Wall Street. If the “Spring Awakening” meet-up at Central Park this past weekend is any indication of future turnouts, OWS organizers may be correct in their predictions.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at New York City’s most famous park, an inspired location that placed Occupy in the heart of tourist alley, guaranteeing the group’s activities attracted the attention of curious passersby.

Deborah James: Rewriting the Rules of the Global Economy

To start understanding what’s wrong with the international financial institutions (IFIs), we need to look at why we actually need economies to function. The most important economic issues to most people are whether they are able to get decent jobs and whether they are able to lift themselves out of poverty.

In writing the rules for economies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and WTO (World Trade Organization) are major proponents of neoliberal ideology. That ideology is based on the theory that slashing government spending, reducing tariffs, privatizing public resources, and promoting corporate investment will result in higher economic growth, and that this will eventually result in a reduction in poverty because a rising tide lifts all boats. This contrasts with more progressive viewpoints that focus on reducing inequality by investing in health care, education, and opportunities for the poor.

Apr 18 2012

“A Queer and Present Danger”

Cross posted from Docudharma

Our friend and community member, Robyn’s friend Kate Bornstein was a guest in MSNBC’s the Melissa Harris Perry Show to discuss LGBT and, specifically Transgender issues, with Ms. Perry and a panel comprised of LGBT community activist, organizers and one potential politician. It was a major topic this week since when the Obama administration decide not to issue an executive order that would ban LGBT discrimination by contractors hired by the Federal government.

Amand Terkel and Sam Stein for the Huffington Post: White House Punts On Executive Order Banning Contractors From LGBT Discrimination

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday decided not to move forward with an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination among federal contractors that is a top priority for the LGBT community.

“While it is not our usual practice to discuss Executive Orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time,” a senior administration official told The Huffington Post. “We support legislation that has been introduced and we will continue to work with congressional sponsors to build support for it.”

The decision is a blow to LGBT activists who had huddled with administration officials at the White House earlier in the day to discuss the status of the executive order. That meeting featured White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett along with officials from the Human Rights Campaign, Center for American Progress, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other groups.

There is currently no federal law that bars public and private employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, although pushing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — which the administration supports — remains a top goal of the LGBT community. But with a reluctant Congress, many activists believed that their best hope of securing protections would be through an executive order from the president. Such an executive order has been endorsed by 72 members of Congress.

Joining Melissa Harris Perry are author Kate Bornstein, Mara Keisling, executive director of for the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Mel Wymore, a Democratic candidate for the New York City Councilas they discuss gender identity and discrimination against the LGBT community.

Being Transgender in America

Earlier this year the Obama administration issues a rule for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to end discrimination against LGBT Americans. Kai Wright of [Colorlines.com ] joins the Melissa Harris Perry panelists as they discuss how to access the Obama administrations non-discrimination policies that encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.

Obama housing rule prohibits LGBT discrimination

Apr 18 2012

Another “Hero” Fails

I supported Eric Schneiderman in his run for NY state AG in hopes he would carry on the legacy of Eliot Spitzer as the “sheriff of Wall St.” I was wrong, he sold out for whatever reasons, as did NY’s current governor Andrew Cuomo. In the article by Matt Stoller at naked capitalism, (a good analysis of NY AG Schneiderman), the comments about Clinton, Obama, Democrats and the alleged 2 party system would get them all banned from certain pro Obama/”Democratic” web sites.

Just a sample:

“Yeah, when ya get promoted from shaved ape and get sworn in as a human being, one of the things you do have to sign up for is the Torture Convention. This is true of everyone. Commit torture, condone torture, acquiesce to torture, and you are, in the technical legal terminology, hostis humani generis, enemy of all mankind. So in what parallel universe could notional “good Democrats” exist in a party whose leader, Barack Obama, openly violated Articles 12 and 16 of The Convention Against Torture?”

“It is quite amazing how the left-most Democrats on economic issues, like Schneiderman and Elizabeth Warren, casually support massive war crimes.

Look what Schneiderman and Warren support: massive secret wars in over 100 countries, drones that kill far more innocent than targets, cluster bombs, assassination lists, obscene rules of engagement that allow for the targeting of civilians, proxy wars, massive media manipulation and propaganda, and legalized torture.

The Democrats have surpassed even the Nazi party in their extremism!

Right now, in fact, the Democrats are aiding and abetting a criminal act of aggression against Syria (even down to the level of NGOs like MoveOn and Avaaz possibly supporting terrorism).”

“But…but…if Obama isn’t re-elected, then Mitt Romney will, uh… he’ll, uh… well, I guess he’ll do exactly the same things. But he’ll be a Republican, you see!”

The comments about Bill Clinton are equally scathing;

And what exactly did Clinton accomplish ? Repeal Glass-Steagall ? Undo the New Deal ? Start a private debt bubble that led to our current depression ?

But getting back to Schneiderman. He sold out, crossed over to the dark side. He went from being a hero to being a sellout. He’s got nuthin.

Don’t forget Clinton negotiated a deal to cut Social Security, which was only stopped by the Lewinsky scandal.

You forgot….in addition to eliminating Glass Steagall, Clinton also passed that wonderful “job creator” NAFTA…..remember?

But wait! That’s not all! From Slick Willie-for the same low, low bribe – you also got the Telecom Act, aka Rupert Murdoch Monopoly Act. And for a limited time, while supplies last, lobbyists will pay all your shipping and handling charges.

According to Common Cause: “…the Telecom Act failed to serve the public and did not deliver on its promise of more competition, more diversity, lower prices, more jobs and a booming economy.

“Instead, the public got more media concentration, less diversity, and higher prices.

“Over 10 years … cable rates have surged by about 50 percent, and local phone rates went up more than 20 percent.”

As WEB Dubois said in 1956 when he announced, I will not vote “:

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party.

I am nearly to that point. If there is no other choice but evil. I will not vote.

Apr 18 2012

Ignoring Latin America: The War on Drugs

In the failed “War on Drugs”, President Obama appears to be standing alone in his refusal to consider the alternative to the “zero tolerance” policy which has been an abject failure, that has cost thousands of lives, imprisoned millions, mostly minorities for minor offenses, and cost billions of dollars. At the recent Summit of the Americas in Colombia, demands by the leaders of Latin American countries for exploring the option of legalizing drugs and institutional regulations are being dismissed by Pres. Obama.

Is it time to end America’s ‘war on drugs’?

With demand for drugs increasing and drug-related violence worsening, we ask if it is time to reassess drug policies.

Drug addiction in the vast majority of countries is a very serious public health problem. Drug trafficking continues to be the principle financier of violence and terrorism. Colombia and many other countries in the region believe it is necessary to begin a discussion, an analysis of this issue, without judgment and without dogmas, and look at the different scenarios and the possible alternatives to confronting this challenge with the greatest effectiveness.

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president

John Walker at Just Say Now: Obama Dismisses Latin American Leaders’ Calls for Drug Legalization in Colombia

With the total failure of the drug war causing many Latin American political leaders to publicly question the wisdom of prohibition, President Obama was forced to repeatedly address the issue this weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Unfortunately, Obama did his best to quickly dismiss the topic with incoherent excuses. From the LA Times:

   Facing calls at a regional summit to consider decriminalization, Obama said he is open to a debate about drug policy, but he believes that legalization could lead to greater problems in countries hardest hit by drug-fueled violence.

   “Legalization is not the answer,” Obama told other hemispheric leaders at the two-day Summit of the Americas.

   “The capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting, if not more corrupting, than the status quo,” he said.

This is simply an absurd defense of prohibition. If drugs were legalized and regulated like any other product, the business running them would be operate like any other legal business such as beer breweries, pharmaceutical makers, car manufacturers, alcohol distillers, dairies, etc. While corporations can and sometimes do have a corrupting influence over a nation’s politics, the idea that the level of corruption and violence from a legal business would ever be on the scale that we see with the cartels in the illicit drug trade doesn’t pass the laugh test.

‘War on drugs’ has failed, say Latin American leaders

Watershed summit will admit that prohibition has failed, and call for more nuanced and liberalised tactics

Otto Pérez Molina, the president of Guatemala, who as former head of his country’s military intelligence service experienced the power of drug cartels at close hand, is pushing his fellow Latin American leaders to use the summit to endorse a new regional security plan that would see an end to prohibition. In the Observer, Pérez Molina writes: “The prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy today is based on a false premise: that global drug markets can be eradicated.”

Pérez Molina concedes that moving beyond prohibition is problematic. “To suggest liberalisation – allowing consumption, production and trafficking of drugs without any restriction whatsoever – would be, in my opinion, profoundly irresponsible. Even more, it is an absurd proposition. If we accept regulations for alcoholic drinks and tobacco consumption and production, why should we allow drugs to be consumed and produced without any restrictions?”

He insists, however, that prohibition has failed and an alternative system must be found. “Our proposal as the Guatemalan government is to abandon any ideological consideration regarding drug policy (whether prohibition or liberalisation) and to foster a global intergovernmental dialogue based on a realistic approach to drug regulation. Drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that drug consumption and production should be legalised, but within certain limits and conditions.” [..]

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil and chairman of the global commission on drug policy, has said it is time for “an open debate on more humane and efficient drug policies”, a view shared by George Shultz, the former US secretary of state, and former president Jimmy Carter.

This is a discussion that is long past due.