10/01/2010 archive

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Gail Collins: Waiting for Somebody

Let’s talk for a minute about education.

Already, I can see readers racing for the doors. This is one of the hardest subjects in the world to write about. Many, many people would rather discuss … anything else. Sports. Crazy Tea Party candidates. Crop reports.

So kudos to the new documentary “Waiting for Superman” for ratcheting up the interest level. It follows the fortunes of five achingly adorable children and their hopeful, dedicated, worried parents in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., as they try to gain entrance to high-performing charter schools. Not everybody gets in, and by the time you leave the theater you are so sad and angry you just want to find something to burn down.

Robert Scheer The Big Guy’s on Our Side

Paul Volcker, or the “big guy,” as President Barack Obama refers to the former Federal Reserve chair who heads his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, nailed it in a series of blistering remarks on the sorry state of our economy. But what he said was even tougher than was indicated by the media’s scattergun reporting on his speech last Thursday to the Chicago Fed. Thanks to Reuters, which posted the video coverage online, it is possible to take the full measure of his concern over where we are and how we got here.

Volcker warned that “the financial system is broken. … We know that parts of it are absolutely broken, like the mortgage market, which only happens to be the most important part of our capital markets [and has] become a subsidiary of the U.S. government.” That sentence was quoted in brief mentions of the speech in The New York Times and other leading news outlets but not so his explanation of how this was allowed to happen: “I don’t think anybody doubts that the underlying problem in the markets is this too-big-to-fail syndrome, bailout and all the rest.”

Michael Moore: Dwight Was Right

So…it turns out President Eisenhower wasn’t making up all that stuff about the military-industrial complex.

That’s what you’ll conclude if you read Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s War. (You can read excerpts of it here, here and here.) You thought you voted for change when you cast a ballot for Barack Obama? Um, not when it comes to America occupying countries that don’t begin with a “U” and an “S.”

In fact, after you read Woodward’s book, you’ll split a gut every time you hear a politician or a government teacher talk about “civilian control over the military.” The only people really making the decisions about America’s wars are across the river from Washington in the Pentagon. They wear uniforms. They have lots of weapons they bought from the corporations they will work for when they retire.

For everyone who supported Obama in 2008, it’s reassuring to find out he understands we have to get out of Afghanistan. But for everyone who’s worried about Obama in 2010, it’s scary to find out that what he thinks should be done may not actually matter. And that’s because he’s not willing to stand up to the people who actually run this country.

And here’s the part I don’t even want to write — and none of you really want to consider:

It matters not whom we elect. The Pentagon and the military contractors call the shots. The title “Commander in Chief” is ceremonial, like “Employee of the Month” at your local Burger King.

Two Paychecks away from Homelessness

77% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

David DeGraw:

That ‘Official’ Poverty Rate? It’s Much Worse than You Think

The shocking poverty statistics released last week tell only part of the story.

September 23, 2010  While the shocking new poverty statistics from the Census Bureau indicating that a record 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty in 2009 emphatically demonstrates the severity of the economic crisis, the Census is drastically undercounting this demographic. Apparently the government’s poverty statistics are as accurate as its unemployment statistics.

   In my analysis, a key metric to judge the overall economic security and hardship level of a country is the percentage of the population living paycheck to paycheck. Anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck can tell you about the stress and psychological impact it has on you when you know your family is one sickness, injury or downsizing away from economic ruin. The employment company CareerBuilder, in partnership with Harris Interactive, conducts an annual survey to determine the percentage of Americans currently living paycheck to paycheck. In 2007, 43 percent fell into this category. In 2008, the number increased to 49 percent. In 2009, the number skyrocketed up to 61 percent.

   In their most recent survey, this number exploded to a mind-shattering 77 percent. Yes, 77 percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. This means in our nation of 310 million citizens, 239 million Americans are one setback away from economic ruin.

(my emphasis)

Two Paychecks Away from Homelessness

The Las Vegas Sun newspaper has done something most other papers don’t bother with. They haven’t just paid lip service to homelessness. They actually keep on printing stories about homeless people.

Roger Jacobs

   I am a 51-year-old professional writer; throughout my 20-year career I have been an award-winning feature documentary producer (“Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes” and multiple educational documentaries), a trade and arts magazine journalist, a successful playwright (“Go Irish: The Purgatory Diaries of Jason Miller”), a true crime author and a literary event producer. For the past two years, I have enjoyed my role as a book and literature columnist for Pop Matters, a popular online journal of cultural criticism.

   But in the larger scheme of things, my credentials are utterly meaningless. In less than two weeks, my girlfriend and I will be without a home in a town where we have no friends, no family, and apparently no safety net to catch us when we fall.

   I have been medically disabled for the past eight years; my primary source of income is my monthly Social Security disability payment of $926 and whatever supplemental income I can earn within the $1,000 monthly limit, but with jobs in the freelance market few and far between in the new economy, several months often pass without additional income.

Rodger Jacobs is disabled. He has psoriatic arthritis. Many of the angry people who responded to his essay told him to go get a job at McDonalds. The lack of compassion is troubling – but the level of anger is even more disconcerting. I suspect that the anger some people have for the homeless is fueled by their own fears that they are only a paycheck or two away from being homeless themselves.

It’s Nothing Personal: Up Dated

What digby said:

Where do they find these people?


“For nearly six months, Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, has waged an internet campaign against” Chris Armstrong, who is the openly gay student assembly president at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

   Shirvell maintains a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch where he regularly berates Shirvell and complains about what he calls the “homosexual lifestyle.” The blog even features mocked up graphics Shirvell has created of Armstrong, including one where the assistant attorney general has written racist elitist liar” on a picture of Armstrong’s face. Additionally, the assistant AG has even demonstrated outside Shirvell’s home and allegedly stalked him on Facebook.

This guy’s an assistant Attorney General?

Up Date: Michigan assistant AG Andrew Shirvell takes leave after antigay blog

After Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox spent Wednesday night on CNN defending Shirvell’s right to maintain the blog, his office said today that Shirvell’s leave began Thursday and he’ll face a disciplinary hearing when he returns.

U-M bans official who targets gay student leader

Andrew Shirvell closes access to antigay blog

Assistant AG with antigay blog appeals order to keep off U-M campus

On This Day in History: October 1

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

October 1 is the 274th day of the year(275th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 91 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1946, 12 high-ranking Nazis are sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of the German air force; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior. Seven others, including Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. Three others were acquitted.

The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military, held by the main victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, in 1945-46, at the Palace of Justice. The first and best known of these trials was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which tried 22 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. It was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946. The second set of trials of lesser war criminals was conducted under Control Council Law No. 10 at the US Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT); among them included the Doctors’ Trial and the Judges’ Trial.

The Main Trial

The International Military Tribunal was opened on October 18, 1945, in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg. The first session was presided over by the Soviet judge, Nikitchenko. The prosecution entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and six criminal organizations – the leadership of the Nazi party, the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Gestapo, the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the “General Staff and High Command,” comprising several categories of senior military officers.

The indictments were for:

  1. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace

  2. Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace

  3. War crimes

  4. Crimes against humanity


First of all, here’s a great one paragraph description of the current state of the world economy-

Major advanced economies are still reeling from the effects of a burst housing bubble and the financial crisis that followed. Consumer spending is depressed, and firms see no point in expanding when they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. The recession may be officially over, but unemployment is extremely high and shows no sign of returning to normal levels.

Here’s a prescription for at least partially addressing it, at least for the United States-

Taking On China


Published: September 30, 2010

So what will the bill accomplish? It empowers U.S. officials to impose tariffs against Chinese exports subsidized by the artificially low renminbi, but it doesn’t require these officials to take action. And judging from past experience, U.S. officials will not, in fact, take action – they’ll continue to make excuses, to tout imaginary diplomatic progress, and, in general, to confirm China’s belief that they are paper tigers.

The Levin bill is, then, a signal at best – and it’s at least as much a shot across the bow of U.S. officials as it is a signal to the Chinese. But it’s a step in the right direction.

For the truth is that U.S. policy makers have been incredibly, infuriatingly passive in the face of China’s bad behavior – especially because taking on China is one of the few policy options for tackling unemployment available to the Obama administration, given Republican obstructionism on everything else. The Levin bill probably won’t change that passivity. But it will, at least, start to build a fire under policy makers, bringing us closer to the day when, at long last, they are ready to act.

Now it all seems a little Smoot Hawley to me but I’m really not equipped to judge, however the mere fact our “educated” elites are reduced to measures this drastic by the narrow mindedness of their thinking just flat out stuns me until I remember how inbred and ignorant they are.

I’m reminded of very serious solutions to problems like climate change where people are paying more and more attention to crackpot terraformers instead of simply inflating their tires and painting their roofs white, investing in Rail (diesel/electric is really efficient) and flying less, eating less meat (factory farming has an incredible carbon footprint) and other really common sense and easy to do things.

I’m not calling Krugman a crackpot terraformer, what I’m saying is that it’s a sorry state of affairs indeed that our only options are extreme.

Prime Time

A Full Night of Premiers!  Broadcast TV is so Huxtable.  Four games left.  Mets finish Sunday against the Nats.  They have to win out to have a .500 season.  The Bridges of Madison County is a good movie, but this is the 2700th time TV Guide has played it, they’re playing it twice, AND making their channel totally useless until 3 am for it’s intended use as a (DUH!) TV Guide.


Well, it’s not like there’s anything worth watching anyway.


Dave hosts Tom Selleck, Janet Elder, and Tired Pony.  Jon has Justin Timberlake, Stephen Aaron Sorkin.  No Alton.  No Boondocks.

THESE are the hot sheets?

Best investigative reporting on the planet. But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Ireland reveals full horror of banking crisis

by Andrew Bushe and Roland Jackson, AFP

1 hr 21 mins ago

DUBLIN (AFP) – Ireland revealed Thursday that bailing out Anglo Irish Bank could cost nearly 35 billion euros and had threatened to push the country into insolvency on a torrid day dubbed “Black Thursday”.

The state’s rescue of Anglo Irish, which hit the rocks when Ireland’s property bubble burst amid the 2008 global financial crisis, could cost as much as 34.3 billion euros (46.6 billion dollars).

The massive bill, plus the cost of helping other banks, is expected to help push Ireland’s public deficit to a record 32 percent of gross domestic product this year.