Daily Archive: 02/21/2013

Feb 21 2013

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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Richard (RJ) Eskow; As Alan Simpson Puts President On the Defensive, House Dems Must Hold the Line

Alan Simpson, along with Erskine Bowles, represents a well-funded cadre of spokespeople who are only willing to present a narrow band of corporate- and billionaire-friendly economic policies. There’s just one approach in their world, one which Simpson and Bowles reiterated just this week: Medicare and Social Security benefit cuts for seniors and the disabled and the gutting of middle-class tax breaks, paired with further tax reductions for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

This cynical agenda is all that Simpson represents. If he brings anything else to the table, it isn’t immediately visible. He lacks subject matter knowledge in any of the fields a person must understand to speak knowledgeably on budget issues. He’s not an expert in finance, economics, health care, or social welfare.

Norman Solomon: Congress: End Endless War and Stop Becoming “the Evil That We Deplore”

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution-the Authorization for Use of Military Force-that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

Prior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor. “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have. That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch. The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine. Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

Now, Rep. Lee has introduced H.R. 198, a measure to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Josh Barrow: Roy and Holtz-Eakin: Keep Obamacare and Make It Worse

Conservative policy researchers Avik Roy and Doug Holtz-Eakin say that Republicans can’t repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and should instead reform it into the free-market system of their dreams. It’s a weird piece.

As Matt Yglesias notes, Roy and Holtz-Eakin basically offer a negotiated surrender that keeps the basic terms of PPACA, tinkers with its parameters and calls it a conservative victory. If conservatives could live with this, why didn’t they cut a deal like this in 2009 instead of engaging in three years of scorched-earth tactics in a failed effort to stop reform? [..]

It’s good to see conservatives realizing that they’re going to have to live with PPACA or something like it. I’m still waiting for them to work on controlling total health spending, within the context of universal coverage, in a truly constructive manner.

Monique Morrissey: Strengthening Social Security for All

Americans need Social Security more than ever, and they’re willing to pay for it. Rather than more cuts, we need higher benefits across the board.

This was the gist of my presentation at the National Academy of Social Insurance conference last month, whose theme was “Social Security and Medicare in a Time of Budget Austerity” (emphasis added). I wasn’t expecting it to go over very well. [..]

At the conference, NASI released the results of a poll showing strong support for Social Security by the American people, a consensus that benefits are inadequate, and a willingness to pay higher taxes to strengthen the program (I discussed these results in an earlier blog post). The poll made it harder to dismiss calls for expanding Social Security, though Wall Street Journal economics editor David Wessel tried. Among the other conference participants who made a strong case for expanding Social Security were blogger-economist Duncan Black (a.k.a. Atrios) and Wilhelmina Leigh, a participant in the 2011 Commission to Modernize Social Security, which led the way in calling for higher contributions and benefits across the board.

Tom Engelhardt: How to Gain Expertise in Recognizing Torture: Go to Law School

There was a scarcely noted but classic moment in the Senate hearings on the nomination of John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” to become the next CIA director.  When Senator Carl Levin pressed him repeatedly on whether waterboarding was torture, he ended his reply this way: “I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and should not be done.  And again, I am not a lawyer, senator, and I can’t address that question.”

How modern, how twenty-first-century American!  How we’ve evolved since the dark days of Medieval Europe when waterboarding fell into a category known to all as “the water torture“!  Brennan even cited Attorney General Eric Holder as one lawyer who had described waterboarding as “torture,” but he himself begged off.  According to the man who was deputy executive director of the CIA and director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in the years of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and knew much about them, the only people equipped to recognize torture definitively as “torture” are lawyers.  This might be more worrisome, if we weren’t a “nation of lawyers” (

Charles M. Blow: A Game of Chicken

Well, here we go again. Another season, another manufactured, self-inflicted, completely preventable crisis of government. This time it’s the sequester.

We may as well put these things in the Farmers’ Almanac.

Now we’re engaged in a finger-wagging blame game of who proposed it, who supported it and who is opposed to preventing it.

Let’s lay out some of the facts of this disaster.

Feb 21 2013

Five biggest TBTF banks are among least reputable companies in America

Harris Interactive’s annual “Reputation Quotient” survey for 2013 finds that the five biggest “too big to fail” (TBTF) U.S. banks have some of the lowest reputations in the country according to their survey of the general public.  All five of them are ranked in the lowest eight slots among the sixty most visible companies measured.

The maximum “reputation quotient” is 100.  Any quotient lower than 64 is considered to be “poor” and anything below 50 is considered “critical”.  All of the big five TBTF banks scored lower than 64 and Goldman Sachs is below 50, so its reputation is in “critical” condition.

Bank of America and JP Morgan have seen some improvement in their score this year, but their reputation still falls into the “poor” range.  

Harris Interactive also ranks industry reputations.  The banking and financial services industries rank above only two other industries:  government and tobacco.  Banking and financial services have improved over last year, however, by seven and eight percentage points, respectively.  Technology, travel and retail are the top three.

This poll has been published for fourteen consecutive years.  This year, more than fourteen thousand interviews were conducted for data collection.

Bank Size (1 is the largest)

bank_size_2013_table

Harris Reputation Index

bank_reputation_harris_table_2013

Sources:

FFIEC – Top 50 holding companies (HCs) as of 12/31/201

relbanks.com – The Largest US Banks

The Harris Poll 2013 RQ® Summary Report – A Survey of the U.S. General Public Using the Reputation Quotient® (This file is a PDF)

Feb 21 2013

On This Day In History February 21

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.

February 21 is the 52nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 313 days remaining until the end of the year (314 in leap years).

On this day in 1965, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in New York City.

Assassination

Malcolm X began to speak to a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity when a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400. A man yelled, “Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!” As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot him in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired handguns, hitting him 16 times. Furious onlookers caught and beat one of the assassins as the others fled the ballroom. Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., shortly after he arrived at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Talmadge Hayer, a Nation of Islam member also known as Thomas Hagan, was arrested on the scene. Eyewitnesses identified two more suspects, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, also members of the Nation. All three were charged in the case. At first Hayer denied involvement, but during the trial he confessed to having fired shots at Malcolm X. He testified that Butler and Johnson were not present and were not involved in the assassination, but he declined to name the men who had joined him in the shooting. All three men were convicted.

Butler, now known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz, was paroled in 1985. He became the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque in New York in 1998. He continues to maintain his innocence. Johnson, now known as Khalil Islam, was released from prison in 1987. During his time in prison, he rejected the teachings of the Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam. He, too, maintains his innocence. Hayer, now known as Mujahid Halim, was paroled in 2010.

Funeral

The number of mourners who came to the public viewing in Harlem’s Unity Funeral Home from February 23 through February 26 was estimated to be between 14,000 and 30,000. The funeral of Malcolm X was held on February 27 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem. The Church was filled to capacity with more than 1,000 people. Loudspeakers were set up outside the Temple so the overflowing crowd could listen and a local television station broadcast the funeral live.

Among the civil rights leaders in attendance were John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, James Forman, James Farmer, Jesse Gray, and Andrew Young. Actor and activist Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy, describing Malcolm X as “our shining black prince”.

   There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain-and we will smile. Many will say turn away-away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man-and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate-a fanatic, a racist-who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.

Malcolm X was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. At the gravesite after the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and completed the burial themselves. Actor and activist Ruby Dee (wife of Ossie Davis) and Juanita Poitier (wife of Sidney Poitier) established the Committee of Concerned Mothers to raise funds to buy a house and pay educational expenses for Malcolm X’s family.

Feb 21 2013

The Media’s Hubris In Selling the Iraq War

The enraging thing is that it was all transparent bullshit at the time. They gaslighted the nation. ~Atrios~

On March 19, it will be ten years since President George W. Bush launched the Iraq War that was based wholly on lies at the cost of thousands of lives to the United States and Iraqis and well over three trillion dollars. The overthrow of Sadaam Hussein opened the “can of worms” of decades long animosity of the religious factions in the region that will contribute to the instability of the region for the unforeseeable future, not to mention, the increased animosity towards the United States that breeds more terrorists determines to seek revenge.

Based on the book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by David Corn and Michael Isikoff with updates of recently declassified documents, the hour long documentary, “Hubris: Selling of the Iraq War” narrated by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, is an accurate accounting of the web of lies and bad actors who entangled the US an illegal war, except, there is no mention of the MSNBC’s own complicity in selling the lie. David Swanson, author and one of the co-founders of War Is A Crime.org, notes that hubris isn’t the half of it:

As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air.  The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week, and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world, as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.

From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.

But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris.  This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC’s role. [..]

Despite this omission and the glossing over of any accountability for the lies then, and now about Iran, Mr. Swanson goes on to praise the all too short film (just short of 44 minutes minus commercials). He praises MSNBC and Ms. Maddow in hopes that American awareness about the lies that destroyed Iraq in hopes that it will stop an invasion of Iran.

At FDL‘s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola also reports the traditional MSM’s complicity and the refusal of Congress to hold anyone in the Bush – Cheney administration accountable, as well as, the MSM’s cooperation with the Obama administration to withhold information:

Eighty-two Democrats in the House of Representatives voted for the Iraq War resolution. Twenty-nine Democrats in the Senate, including Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, voted for the resolution. Jones has developed into an anti-war voice in Congress, but isn’t it remarkable that he is the one who gives the mea culpa in the documentary? Where is the Senate Democrat or House Democrat atoning for his or her role in making war possible?

Given the criminality of what the Bush administration did, it is shameful that none of the players involved have suffered consequences and David Corn makes this point, “A lot of people who purposely used extreme rhetoric to gin up populous support for the war, there have been no consequences for them.” [..]

Ten years on, it is appropriate to recount what happened, to remind Americans that what happened was wrong and there are criminals from the Bush administration who should have been held accountable in some way. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and Congress, led by Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, shied away from accountability.

Between now and March 19, the tenth anniversary of the invasion, there should be reflection because it could happen again; maybe not a full-scale occupation but another military operation, perhaps, one involving drones. The media has not questioned Obama’s decision to wage conflict in Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen. Both the Washington Post and New York Times agreed to comply with requests from the Obama administration to not report on a drone base in Saudi Arabia. Now, there’s talk of Iran and “round magnets.” There is no US war or national security operation the US media has not collectively been willing to sell and it would not be surprising to see a presidential administration successfully manipulate the media again.

Hubris : Selling the Iraq War

There is no statute of limitations for war crimes.