01/07/2011 archive

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”.

Paul Krugman: The Texas Omen

These are tough times for state governments. Huge deficits loom almost everywhere, from California to New York, from New Jersey to Texas.

Wait – Texas? Wasn’t Texas supposed to be thriving even as the rest of America suffered? Didn’t its governor declare, during his re-election campaign, that “we have billions in surplus”? Yes, it was, and yes, he did. But reality has now intruded, in the form of a deficit expected to run as high as $25 billion over the next two years.

And that reality has implications for the nation as a whole. For Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting – the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending – has been implemented most completely. If the theory can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere.

Eugene Robinson: In Dallas, defusing a sociological bomb: Wrongful convictions

Race still matters in America, and justice is not completely blind. Anyone who believes otherwise should examine the case of Cornelius Dupree Jr., who was ruled innocent Tuesday after spending 30 years in prison – almost his entire adult life – for a brutal carjacking and rape that he did not commit.

Dupree is just the latest of 21 inmates from the Dallas area, almost all of them black, who have been exonerated since a 2001 Texas law permitted DNA testing of the evidence against them. At least another 20 convicts from other parts of the state have similarly been cleared of their crimes. Imagine the wrongs that could be righted if every state had a law like the one in Texas – and if every jurisdiction saved years-old evidence the way Dallas does.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Three Little Words: How Bill Daley Can Be Your Next Hero

Here’s a suggestion for Bill Daley, three simple words that could turn everything around for the President and his party: Be Joe Kennedy.

Progressives were appalled when FDR appointed that noted stock market manipulator Joe Kennedy to be the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Kennedy had a reputation as a ruthless and unscrupulous master of insider trading. He was a master of the reckless and speculative financial instruments of his day, the early 20th Century equivalents of CDOs and mortage-backed securities. But Kennedy took his job seriously, went after the sharks ferociously, and help stabilize the capitalist system so effectively that it remained sound for another seven decades.

On This Day in History January 7

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.

January 7 is the seventh day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 358 days remaining until the end of the year (359 in leap years).

On this day in 1789, the first US presidential election is held.  The United States presidential election of 1789 was the first presidential election in the United States of America. The election took place following the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788. In this election, George Washington was elected for the first of his two terms as President of the United States, and John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States.

Before this election, the United States had no chief executive. Under the previous system-the Articles of Confederation-the national government was headed by the Confederation Congress, which had a ceremonial presiding officer and several executive departments, but no independent executive branch.

In this election, the enormously popular Washington essentially ran unopposed. The only real issue to be decided was who would be chosen as vice president. Under the system then in place, each elector cast two votes; if a person received a vote from a majority of the electors, that person became president, and the runner-up became vice president. All 69 electors cast one vote each for Washington. Their other votes were divided among eleven other candidates; John Adams received the most, becoming vice president. The Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, would change this procedure, requiring each elector to cast distinct votes for president and vice president.

In the absence of conventions, there was no formal nomination process. The framers of the Constitution had presumed that Washington would be the first president, and once he agreed to come out of retirement to accept the office, there was no opposition to him. Individual states chose their electors, who voted all together for Washington when they met.

Electors used their second vote to cast a scattering of votes, many voting for someone besides Adams with Alexander Hamilton less out of opposition to him than to prevent Adams from matching Washington’s total.

Only ten states out of the original thirteen cast electoral votes in this election. North Carolina and Rhode Island were ineligible to participate as they had not yet ratified the United States Constitution. New York failed to appoint its allotment of eight electors because of a deadlock in the state legislature.

Six In The Morning

Spies Like Us: Please Speak Into The Pen Wait Not Working Try The Flower  

US woman arrested in Iran as spy: Why the story may not have teeth

Istanbul, Turkey

James Bond couldn’t have done it better. Which is why an unconfirmed 007-style story about Iran arresting an American woman with a microphone hidden in her teeth is grabbing headlines.

The report first emerged this week in the state-owned newspaper, Iran, which does not have a history of publishing truth-telling facts when it comes to alleged enemy spies.

Then on Thursday Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is tied to the Revolutionary Guard, weighed in with its own unsubstantiated report: “Iranian authorities announced” the detention one week ago of 55-year-old Hal Talayan, it claimed. The story was titled: “Iran arrests US spy.”

Let’s Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

Over the last week or so a trend has emerged to rewrite, or radically edit, parts of historical documents because some would like to revise history, pretend it never happened, because it is uncomfortable or embarrassing. Two cases stand out more than any others. First, there was the “rewriting” of Mark Twain‘s classic novel of childhood in the South, Huckleberry Finn which was edited to remove the “N” word. The other was the new Republican controlled House of Representatives reading their version of the US Constitution. I didn’t know there was another one, silly me.

I’ll start with the Washington Post’s columnist, Dana Milbank. Yes, Dana, who rarely says anything I can agree with but he managed to surprise me with this from his Op-Ed, A Sanitized Constitution

Reading the document aloud failed to re-affirm lawmakers’ fealty to the framers.

It was a straightforward proposition: The new House Republican majority would lead the chamber in reading the Constitution. But nothing in Congress is straightforward, and the moment the lawmakers began the exercise Thursday morning, they bogged down in a dispute.

They couldn’t agree on which version to read.

Now most Americans are of the impression that there isn’t, say, a King James version of the Constitution and a New International version of the Constitution. There is only one version. But our leaders had other views. . . . .

In fact, there is only one version of the Constitution – and it wasn’t what the lawmakers read aloud. What the Republican majority decided to read was a sanitized Constitution – an excerpted version of the founding document conjuring a fanciful land that never counted a black person as three-fifths of a white person, never denied women the right to vote, never allowed slavery and never banned liquor.

The idea of reading the Constitution aloud was generated by the Tea Party as a way to re-affirm lawmakers’ fealty to the framers, but in practice it did the opposite. In deciding to omit objectionable passages that were later altered by amendment, the new majority jettisoned “originalist” and “constructionist” beliefs and created – dare it be said? – a “living Constitution” pruned of the founders’ missteps. Nobody’s proud of the three-fifths compromise, but how can we learn from our founding if we aren’t honest about it?

What can I say? But that the revisionist Republicans would like you to believe that the US is a “perfect” union. Well, not quite yet but despite them, some of us are still striving.

Now there is the sanitizing of “Huckleberry Finn” by Alan Gribben, a professor of English,  because the use of the “N” word  throughout the book that may have

resulted in the novel falling off reading lists, and that he thought his edition would be welcomed by schoolteachers and university instructors who wanted to spare “the reader from a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol.” Never mind that today nigger is used by many rappers, who have reclaimed the word from its ugly past. Never mind that attaching the epithet slave to the character Jim – who has run away in a bid for freedom – effectively labels him as property, as the very thing he is trying to escape.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t encouraging students to think and exposing them to facts part of teaching? Since when does taking offense words out of books, or for that matter entire books out of a curriculum, foster understanding? It is and it doesn’t. We need to know history to understand it. We need to read the facts and words that make us uncomfortable in our own “skin”.

New York Times book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, writes:

Controversies over “Huckleberry Finn” occur with predictable regularity. In 2009, just before Barack Obama’s inauguration, a high school teacher named John Foley wrote a guest column in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in which he asserted that “Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men,” don’t belong on the curriculum anymore. “The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms,” he wrote. “Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the ‘N-word’ repeatedly need to go.”

Haven’t we learned by now that removing books from the curriculum just deprives children of exposure to classic works of literature? Worse, it relieves teachers of the fundamental responsibility of putting such books in context – of helping students understand that “Huckleberry Finn” actually stands as a powerful indictment of slavery (with Nigger Jim its most noble character), of using its contested language as an opportunity to explore the painful complexities of race relations in this country. To censor or redact books on school reading lists is a form of denial: shutting the door on harsh historical realities – whitewashing them or pretending they do not exist.

(emphasis mine)

As Adam Sewer observed comparing the Republican “edition” of the Constitution and the edited version of Twain’s classic, “This kind of political correctness offers no justice to the descendants of slaves — it merely papers over a terrible ugliness that is an essential part of American history.”

I’ll leave the final thought to Jamelle Bouie, who said it best:

But erasing “nigger” from Huckleberry Finn-or ignoring our failures-doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t provide racial enlightenment, or justice, and it won’t shield anyone from the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. All it does is feed the American aversion to history and reflection. Which is a shame. If there’s anything great about this country, it’s in our ability to account for and overcome our mistakes. Peddling whitewashed ignorance diminishes America as much as it does our intellect.

(emphasis mine)

What NEVER to do

NEVER be unfaithful to your mate.

You will hate yourself later, so just do not do it.

Warmest regards,


Do No Harm

Prime Time

That was quick.

I have to admit another guilty pleasure. Leonardo DiCaprio’s first movie, The Quick and the Dead.  In fairness it also has Sharon Stone, Russell Crowe, and Gene Hackman.

All I hear from you, you spineless cowards, is how poor you are; how you can’t afford my taxes. Yet somehow, you managed to find the money to hire a gunfighter to kill me. If ya got so much money, I’m just gonna have to take some more. Because clearly some of you haven’t got the message! This is my town! I run everything! If you live to see the dawn, it’s because I allow it! I decide who lives and who dies!


Dave hosts Seth Rogen, Beau Garrett, and The Walkmen.  Jon has Patton Oswalt, Stephen Dr. Ronald Depinho.  Conan in repeats from 12/13.

Elaine, you’re a member of this crew. Can you face some unpleasant facts?


I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Ivory Coast rival urges raid to snatch Gbagbo

by Evelyne Aka, AFP

1 hr 37 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast’s internationally recognised president called Thursday for a bloodless raid by west African special forces to snatch defiant strongman Laurent Gbagbo and “take him elsewhere” amid fears of civil war.

Alassane Ouattara’s call came after regional bloc ECOWAS said it was prepared to use military force as a last resort to oust Gbagbo who retains control of the army and continues to defy international calls to step down.

“If he persists, it’s up to ECOWAS to take the necessary measures and those measures can include legitimate force,” Ouattara told journalists at the Abidjan hotel where he has for weeks been besieged by Gbagbo forces.