Daily Archive: 10/22/2012

Oct 22 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”.

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Paul Krugman: The Secret of Our Non-Success

The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great – it will still take years to restore full employment – and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?

The answer – backed by overwhelming evidence – is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month. [..]

About the evidence: The most famous study is by Harvard’s Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, who looked at past financial crises and found that such crises are typically followed by years of high unemployment and weak growth. Later work by economists at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere confirmed this analysis: crises that followed a sharp run-up in private-sector debt, from the U.S. Panic of 1893 to the Swedish banking crisis of the early 1990s, cast long shadows over the economy’s future. There was no reason to believe that this time would be different.

Rupert Cornwell: Poverty: The Election Issue That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Neither Obama nor Romney has much to say on the 46 million who live below the breadline

A presidential election campaign approaches its climax, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney criss-cross the land in search of the last few votes. But my thoughts have turned to a couple of candidates from long ago, who have been back in the news these past few days. [..]

But something deep down is wrong. “Redistribution” may rank second only to “liberal” as the dirtiest word in the conservative political lexicon. But the return of poverty rates to a level not seen in a quarter of a century is just another facet of the ever-growing income inequality in the US, where the richest 1 per cent have a greater share of the cake than at any time since the Great Crash of 1929. Politicians still worship at the altar of the American Dream, the notion that anyone can make it big in the US, no matter how poor their origins. The fact is that social mobility, as measured by academic studies, is less here than in coddled, sclerotic Europe.

Soon after LBJ became president, an ally warned him not to squander his political capital on worthy but hopeless causes, such as civil rights and poverty. According to the biographer Robert Caro, Johnson’s reply was: “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?” As you ponder cautious Obama, you think of Johnson, of Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern. Where are their likes today?

Robert Kuttner: Pander Bears

Conservative commentators use the term “pander” to describe politicians, usually liberals, who are sensitive to women, blacks, Latinos, gays, and workers who lose their jobs to outsourcing. You might say a lot of right-wing pandering goes on when it comes to the religious right, the NRA, and the anti-abortion lobby. As we heard in the second debate, nearly everyone seems to be pandering to the coal industry.

But the mother of all special interest groups is Wall Street. And the most economically dangerous pandering this year and next is the pandering to the deficit hawks led by America’s corporate elite. If you need an emetic, have a look at the website of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Or the Fix the Debt Campaign. Or any of a dozen other corporate-led front groups who are urging that America deflate its way to recovery.

New York Times Editorial: The Myth of Job Creation

The headlines from the last presidential debate focused on President Obama challenging Mitt Romney on issue after issue. There was a less noticed, but no less remarkable, moment when Mr. Obama agreed with Mr. Romney on something – and both were entirely wrong.

The exchange began with a question about the offshoring of American jobs. Part of Mr. Obama’s answer was that federal investments in education, science and research would help to ensure that companies invest and hire in the United States. Mr. Romney interrupted. “Government does not create jobs,” he said. “Government does not create jobs.”

It was a decidedly crabbed response to a seemingly uncontroversial observation, and yet Mr. Obama took the bait. He said his political opponents had long harped on “this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe.” He went on to praise free enterprise and to say that government’s role is to create the conditions for everyone to have a fair shot at success.

Jeff Bachman; Growing Oppostion to US Drones Program

The United States has a long history of violating international law when its leaders believe foreign policy objectives justify doing so. The belief in the right of the United States to overthrow democratically elected governments (Guatemala), to train and arm insurgencies (Nicaragua), and to launch aggressive wars (Iraq) free of the inconvenience of the law grows out of the nationalistic fervor of “American Exceptionalism.”

Currently, President Obama is directly overseeing a drones program that potentially violates a number of international legal norms. In October 2009, Philip Alston, then UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, stated that the drones program would be illegal if the U.S. was failing to take “all of the relevant precautions to make sure that civilians are not killed, in accordance with the relevant international rules.” Alston continued, “The problem is that we have no real information on this program.”

Danny Schecter: US Election Concern: What Is There To Vote For?

As Americans prepare to go to the polls, the airwaves are littered with paid advertising of the crassest and most manipulative kind. Political issues packaged by ad agencies are flooding the arena of politics with nasty negative ads.

So far, the two parties and their backers have spent a half billion dollars on political advertising with much of the placements still to come in the next few weeks. CBS reports the “spend” will top a billion dollars — just on ads.

AP warns: “Get ready, presidential swing states. Now the campaign ad crush – and TV spending spree – really begins.”

This is occurring even as the economy and unemployment remain major issues. Millions of Americans are broke and hurting as poverty grows, but there seems to be no shortage of money to grease politics.

Oct 22 2012

On This Day In History October 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 22 is the 295th day of the year (296th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 70 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1975,Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, is given a “general” discharge by the air force after publicly declaring his homosexuality. Matlovich, who appeared in his air force uniform on the cover of Time magazine above the headline “I AM A HOMOSEXUAL,” was challenging the ban against homosexuals in the U.S. military. In 1979, after winning a much-publicized case against the air force, his discharge was upgraded to “honorable.”

Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich (1943 – June 22, 1988) was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Matlovich was the first gay service member to fight the ban on gays in the military, and perhaps the best-known gay man in America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause celebre around which the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. In October 2006, Matlovich was honored by LGBT History Month as a leader in the history of the LGBT community.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, he was the only son of a career Air Force sergeant. He spent his childhood living on military bases, primarily throughout the southern United States. Matlovich and his sister were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. He considered himself a “flag-waving patriot,” but always regretted that for several years he maintained the racist attitudes he’d been exposed to as a child of the South. Not long after he enlisted, the United States increased military action in Vietnam, about ten years after the French had abandoned active colonial rule there. Matlovich volunteered for service in Vietnam and served three tours of duty. He was seriously wounded when he stepped on a land mine in DA Nang.

While stationed in Florida near Fort Walton Beach, he began frequenting gay bars in nearby Pensacola. “I met a bank president, a gas station attendant – they were all homosexual,” Matlovich commented in a later interview. When he was 30, he slept with another man for the first time. He “came out” to his friends, but continued to conceal the fact from his commanding officer. Having realized that the racism he’d grown up around was wrong, he volunteered to teach Air Force Race Relations classes, which had been created after several racial incidents in the military in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He became so successful that the Air Force sent him around the country to coach other instructors. Matlovich gradually came to believe that the discrimination faced by gays was similar to that faced by African Americans.

In 1973, previously unaware of the organized gay movement, he read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny who had counseled several gays in the military over the years. He called Kameny in Washington DC and learned that Kameny had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect record to create a test case to challenge the military’s ban on gays. About a year later, he called Kameny again, telling him that he might be the person. After several months of discussion with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone during which they formulated a plan, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” – a reference to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools. For Matlovich, his test of the military’s ban on homosexuals would be equivalent to that case. . .

From the moment his case was revealed to the public, he was repeatedly called upon by gay groups to help them with fund raising and advocating against anti-gay discrimination, helping lead campaigns against Anita Bryant’s effort in Miami, Florida, to overturn a gay nondiscrimination ordinance and John Briggs’ attempt to ban gay teachers in California. Sometimes he was criticized by individuals more to the left than he had become. “I think many gays are forced into liberal camps only because that’s where they can find the kind of support they need to function in society” Matlovich once noted.

With the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in the late 1970s, Leonard’s personal life was caught up in the virus’ hysteria that peaked in the 1980s. He sold his Guerneville restaurant in 1984, moving to Europe for a few months. He returned briefly to Washington, D.C., in 1985 and, then, to San Francisco where he sold Ford cars and once again became heavily involved in gay rights causes and the fight for adequate HIV-AIDS education and treatment.

During the summer of 1986, Matlovich felt fatigued, then contracted a prolonged chest cold he seemed unable to shake. When he finally saw a physician in September of that year, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Too weak to continue his work at the Ford dealership, he was among the first to receive AZT treatments, but his prognosis was not encouraging. He went on disability and became a champion for HIV/AIDS research for the disease which was claiming tens of thousands of lives in the Bay Area and nationally. He announced on Good Morning America in 1987 that he had contracted HIV, and was arrested with other demonstrators in front of the White House that June protesting what they believed was an inadequate response to HIV-AIDS by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.

On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died of complications from HIV/AIDS beneath a large photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” Matlovich’s tombstone at Congressional Cemetery is on the same row as that of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

A Website has been created in his honor and that of other gay veterans, and includes a history of the ban on gays in the military both before and after its transformation into Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and illustrates the role that gay veterans fighting the ban played in the earliest development of the gay rights movement in the United States.

DADT was officially ended on September 20, 2011. We still have a long way to go with equal right for our gay and transsexual brothers and sisters.

Oct 22 2012

Kill List

A sequel of sorts to What Will It Take?

Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

By JO BECKER and SCOTT SHANE, The New York Times

Published: May 29, 2012

WASHINGTON – This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.



“How old are these people?” he asked, according to two officials present. “If they are starting to use children,” he said of Al Qaeda, “we are moving into a whole different phase.”



Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war.



It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.

This secret “nominations” process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia.



One early test involved Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The case was problematic on two fronts, according to interviews with both administration and Pakistani sources.

The C.I.A. worried that Mr. Mehsud, whose group then mainly targeted the Pakistan government, did not meet the Obama administration’s criteria for targeted killing: he was not an imminent threat to the United States. But Pakistani officials wanted him dead, and the American drone program rested on their tacit approval. The issue was resolved after the president and his advisers found that he represented a threat, if not to the homeland, to American personnel in Pakistan.

Then, in August 2009, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, told Mr. Brennan that the agency had Mr. Mehsud in its sights. But taking out the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Panetta warned, did not meet Mr. Obama’s standard of “near certainty” of no innocents being killed. In fact, a strike would certainly result in such deaths: he was with his wife at his in-laws’ home.



The very first strike under his watch in Yemen, on Dec. 17, 2009, offered a stark example of the difficulties of operating in what General Jones described as an “embryonic theater that we weren’t really familiar with.”

It killed not only its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and left behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents. It was hardly the kind of precise operation that Mr. Obama favored. Videos of children’s bodies and angry tribesmen holding up American missile parts flooded You Tube, fueling a ferocious backlash that Yemeni officials said bolstered Al Qaeda.



In Pakistan, Mr. Obama had approved not only “personality” strikes aimed at named, high-value terrorists, but “signature” strikes that targeted training camps and suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants.



Mr. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director and now an adviser to Mr. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mr. Romney, commended the president’s aggressive counterterrorism record, which he said had a “Nixon to China” quality. But, he said, “secrecy has its costs” and Mr. Obama should open the strike strategy up to public scrutiny.

“This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that’s not sustainable,” Mr. Hayden said. “I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe.”

The remarkable, unfathomable ignorance of Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Friday 19 October 2012 20.38 EDT

On 29 May 2012, the New York Times published a remarkable 6,000-word story on its front page about what it termed President Obama’s “kill list”. It detailed the president’s personal role in deciding which individuals will end up being targeted for assassination by the CIA based on Obama’s secret, unchecked decree that they are “terrorists” and deserve to die.

Based on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers”, the Times’ Jo Becker and Scott Shane provided extraordinary detail about Obama’s actions, including how he “por[es] over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre ‘baseball cards'” and how he “insist[s] on approving every new name on an expanding ‘kill list'”. At a weekly White House meeting dubbed “Terror Tuesdays”, Obama then decides who will die without a whiff of due process, transparency or oversight. It was this process that resulted in the death of US citizen Anwar Awlaki in Yemen, and then two weeks later, the killing of his 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, by drone.

The Times “kill list” story made a huge impact and was widely discussed and condemned by media figures, politicians, analysts, and commentators. Among other outlets, the New York Times itself harshly editorialized against Obama’s program in an editorial entitled “Too Much Power For a President”, denouncing the revelations as “very troubling” and argued: “No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield – depriving Americans of their due-process rights – without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.”

That Obama has a “kill list” has been known since January, 2010, and has been widely reported and discussed in every major American newspaper since April 2010. A major controversy over chronic White House leaks often featured complaints about this article (New York Times, 5 June 2012: “Senators to Open Inquiry Into ‘Kill List’ and Iran Security Leaks”). The Attorney General, Eric Holder, gave a major speech defending it.

But Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic Congresswoman from Florida and the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, does not know about any of this. She has never heard of any of it. She has managed to remain completely ignorant about the fact that President Obama has asserted and exercised the power to secretly place human beings, including US citizens, on his “kill list” and then order the CIA to extinguish their lives.



One expects corrupt partisan loyalty from people like Wasserman Schultz, eager to excuse anything and everything a Democratic president does. That’s a total abdication of her duty as a member of Congress, but that’s par for the course. But one does not expect this level of ignorance, the ability to stay entirely unaware of one of the most extremist powers a president has claimed in US history, trumpeted on the front-page of the New York Times and virtually everywhere else.

digby says

Somebody needs to get Debbie a subscription to the New York Times.



She appears to think that story isn’t public for some reason. Or is pretending that it isn’t public. And  her annoyance at the ill-mannered hippie asking her “inappropriate” questions outside the approved 2012 campaign topics is palpable. She looks completely ridiculous.

Via Greenwald who is, unsurprisingly, appalled. He thinks she really has never heard of the kill list.  I suppose that’s possible. Which is even more appalling.

Ignorant or lying?

Stupid or evil?

Who cares about Debbie Wasserman Schultz digby?  The question is to you.

What will it take?  How many innocents will have to die before you and the rest of the ‘Good Germans’ can no longer ignore the corpses?

Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. “The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,’ ” a top White House adviser recounted.

In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.

The president’s directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because “the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration,” said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush.

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization – innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” – and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

Oct 22 2012

Expanded Debate with the Other Presidential Candidates: Second Debate

Expanding the Debate with Third-Party Candidates Jill Stein, Virgil Goode, Rocky Anderson

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney sparred last night in their second of three debates. Today, in a two-hour special, we expand the debate by including the voices of three presidential candidates shut out of the official debate. We are joined by Jill Stein of the Green Party, Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. We re-air parts of last night’s presidential debate, pausing the videotape to give third-party candidates a chance to respond to the same questions put to the major-party candidates

Transcript here.

Oct 22 2012

Pique the Geek 20121021: Reflections on the Genus Carya

Today was a splendid day in the Bluegrass.  The temperature was in the low 70s, only a very light breeze, and not a cloud in the sky.  The Woman had gone to birthday party for a relative, but when she got home I took over the pumpkin pie that we had baked together last night and we each had a piece.  The crust, described here, was perfect.

I left a generous portion of the pie, and she gave me a big hunk of the pumpkin roll that we also made last night.  I knew that she was going to be busy later in the day, so I went nutting.  My target today was hickory nuts, getting ready for holiday baking.  There is a tree that is a reliable cropper just about half a mile from my house, in the yard of some very nice people who always tell me to get as many nuts as I care to pick up, and so I did.  Within an hour I had enough clean nuts for all of the holiday cooking, and then some.

Oct 22 2012

2012 NL Championship Series- Cardinals at Giants, Game 6

I’ll be kicking of tonight’s Game 6 of the National League Championship. ek hornbeck has been traveling this weekend and without internet access (hmmm, no cell phone either). While, I don’t quite have the same panache and mastery of my erstwhile friend, I will do my best using my limited knowledge of the “Great American Pastime” to inform and entertain you. My Pop used to take me to Yankee home games back in the 50’s, and with ek hornbeck’s expertise much of what Pop taught me about the basics of the game is coming back to me now.

We expected this series to be over Friday night, after the 8 – 3 blow out to the Cardinals on Thursday. The Giants fooled us and pulled off a 5 zip win that was pitched mostly by Barry Zito who was  left off the postseason roster when the Giants won the World Series in 2010. According to the New York Times sports writer, Tyler Kepner, if the Giants win the “pennant”, Zito will pitch Game 1 of the World Series against Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. However, the next two games are “must wins” for the Giants, as the Cardinals lead the series with 3 wins.

Tonight the pitching battle will be between the Giant’s right-handed, Ryan Vogelsong and the Cardinal’s right-handed, Chris Carpenter. This is Kepner’s analysis of the series so far:

The series has yielded few trends and little tension. The eventual winning team has never trailed at the end of any inning. Three games have been decided by at least five runs, somewhat obscuring the stellar work of both bullpens.

“We feel confident in our stuff,” said the Cardinals’ closer, Jason Motte, with good reason. Motte and his primary setup men – Mitchell Boggs, Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal – have allowed one run in 111/3 innings.

That run came off Boggs in the eighth inning of Game 5, when Pablo Sandoval hooked a homer down the right-field line. Sandoval also homered in the ninth inning of Game 4, making him the only player in the series with more than one home run.

Sandoval is 13 for 42 (.310) in the postseason, and his fans should be out in force at AT&T Park, wearing Panda hats. Like Zito, he has rediscovered a star that had dimmed two years ago. A late-season slump that stretched into the 2010 playoffs put Sandoval on the bench for four of the Giants’ five World Series games. [..]

The Cardinals have done a better job containing Buster Posey, the N.L. batting champion and the favorite for the M.V.P. award. Posey has managed just three singles in 18 at-bats this series, while his St. Louis counterpart, Yadier Molina, leads the Cardinals’ regulars with a .350 average.

Posey and Molina were behind the plate at the end of the last two World Series, and the pedigrees of the teams they guide may be the real story of this N.L.C.S. The Cardinals seem to thrive on brinkmanship, coming one strike from elimination in each of their last two postseason series, only to prevail in the end. The Giants won three elimination games on the road to win their division series.

But one game at a time, tonight’s game could go either way.

So in honor of the Giant’s home stadium advantage, don’t stop believing.

Senior League Games will be carried on Faux.