Daily Archive: 01/19/2011

Jan 19 2011

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”.

New York Times Editorial: Poverty and Recovery

In 2008, the first year of the Great Recession, the number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.7 million to nearly 47.5 million. While hugely painful, that rise wasn’t surprising given the unraveling economy. What is surprising is that recent census data show that those poverty numbers held steady in 2009, even though job loss worsened significantly that year.

Clearly, the sheer scale of poverty – 15.7 percent of the country’s population – is unacceptable. But to keep millions more Americans from falling into poverty during a deep recession is a genuine accomplishment that holds a vital lesson: the safety net, fortified by stimulus, staved off an even more damaging crisis.

Congress should take a good look at those numbers, and consider that lesson carefully, before it commits to any more slashing and burning.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Reversing ‘Citizens United’

It will be a year this week since Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative activist colleagues on the Supreme Court joined together in a dramatic assault on American democracy. Their decision in the Citizens United case overturned more than a century’s worth of precedent by awarding corporations the rights of citizens with regard to electioneering. The court did away with limits on when corporations can spend on elections, how much they can spend and how they can spend their money, allowing unlimited contributions from corporate treasuries to flood the electoral landscape.

As The Nation noted in the days after the case was decided, “This decision tips the balance against active citizenship and the rule of law by making it possible for the nation’s most powerful economic interests to manipulate not just individual politicians and electoral contests but political discourse itself.”

Glenn Greenwald: The Vindication (by Barack Obama) of Dick Cheney

In the early months of Obama’s presidency, the American Right did to him what they do to every Democratic politician:  they accused him of being soft on defense (specifically “soft on Terror”) and leaving the nation weak and vulnerable to attack.  But that tactic quickly became untenable as everyone (other than his hardest-core followers) was forced to acknowledge that Obama was embracing and even expanding — rather than reversing — the core Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism.  As a result, leading right-wing figures began lavishing Obama with praise — and claiming vindication — based on Obama’s switch from harsh critic of those policies (as a candidate) to their leading advocate (once in power).

As early as May, 2009, former Bush OLC lawyer Jack Goldsmith wrote in The New Republic that Obama was not only continuing Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, but was strengthening them — both because he was causing them to be codified in law and, more important, converting those policies from right-wing dogma into harmonious bipartisan consensus.  Obama’s decision “to continue core Bush terrorism policies is like Nixon going to China,” Goldsmith wrote.  Last October, former Bush NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden — one of the most ideological Bush officials, whose confirmation as CIA chief was opposed by then-Sen. Obama on the ground he had overseen the illegal NSA spying program — gushed with praise for Obama: “there’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president.”  James Jay Carafano, a homeland-security expert at the Heritage Foundation, told The New York Times’ Peter Baker last January: “I don’t think it’s even fair to call it Bush Lite.  It’s Bush.  It’s really, really hard to find a difference that’s meaningful and not atmospheric.

Jan 19 2011

On This Day in History January 19

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 19 is the 19th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 346 days remaining until the end of the year (347 in leap years).

On this day in 1853, Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera Il Trovatore receives its premiere performance in Rome.

Il trovatore (The Troubadour) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El Trovador (1836) by Antonio Garcia Gutierrez. Cammarano died in mid-1852 before completing the libretto. This gave the composer the opportunity to propose significant revisions, which were accomplished under his direction by the young librettist, Leone Emanuele Bardare, and they are seen largely in the expansion of the role of Leonora.

The opera was first performed at the Teatro Apollo, Rome, on 19 January 1853 where it “began a victorious march throughout the operatic world”. Today it is given very frequently and is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. It appears at number 17 on Opera America‘s list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

Cultural references

Enrico Caruso once said that all it takes for successful performance of Il trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world. On many different occasions, this opera and its music have been featured in various forms of popular culture and entertainment. Scenes of comic chaos play out over a performance of Il trovatore in the Marx Brothers‘s film, A Night at the Opera. Luchino Visconti used a performance of Il trovatore at La Fenice opera house for the opening sequence of his 1954 film Senso. As Manrico sings his battle cry in “Di quella pira”, the performance is interrupted by the answering cries of Italian nationalists in the audience. In Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism, Millicent Marcus proposes that Visconti used this operatic paradigm throughout Senso, with parallels between the opera’s protagonists, Manrico and Leonora, and the film’s protagonists, Ussoni and Livia.

Anvil Chorus Il Trovatore Preston Opera

Jan 19 2011

The Return of a Tyranical Dictator: Up Date

In a surprising move, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned to Haiti on Sunday from exile in France 25 years after being driven out by mass protests. He didn’t speak to reporters and statements from those who spoke with him would only say that he was happy to be back in Haiti:

Baby Doc, along with his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, were feared and reviled by Haitians for their long reign of terror. The Duvaliers tortured and killed their political opponents with impunity, backed by the Tonton Macoute secret police.

In 1986 Haitians danced in the streets when the young, pudgy tyrant was driven to the airport in a black limousine and flown into exile in France. But a handful of loyalists have been campaigning to bring Duvalier home, launching a foundation to improve the dictatorship’s image and reviving Baby Doc’s political party in the hopes that one day he can return to power democratically.

The prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, said that if Duvalier was involved in any political activities, he was unaware of them. “He is a Haitian and, as such, is free to return home,” the prime minister told the Associated Press.

In 2007, President Rene Preval said that Duvalier could return but would have to face justice for the deaths of thousands of people and the theft of millions of dollars.

With the prodding of world wide protests, the Préval government made good on their word arresting Duvalier and charging him with corruption:

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was charged with corruption and the theft of his country’s meagre funds last night after the former Haitian dictator was hauled before a judge in Port-au-Prince

Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.

“His fate is now in the hands of the investigating judge. We have brought charges against him,” said Port-au-Prince’s chief prosecutor, Aristidas Auguste.

He said his office had filed charges against Duvalier, 59, of corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other alleged crimes committed during his period in power.

Those charges seem pretty mild for someone as the New York Times says “is widely blamed for one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history – and whose government has been accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering thousands of political opponents.”

There are more than a few questions about not just the reason for Duvalier’s return but why he was not stopped from returning to a country devastated by an earthquake, in the midst of a cholera epidemic and disputed elections. Marcy Wheeler at FDL details the efforts that were made blocking Duvalier’s return in 2006:

Five years ago, BabyDoc Duvalier applied for a passport for Haiti, threatening to return in a period leading up to elections. As a series of Wikileaks cables make clear, the US pressed hard-with apparent success-to prevent his return to Haiti. One cable shows the US asking France, on January 11, 2006, whether it could prevent Duvalier from leaving that country. Another shows the US raising concerns about Duvalier with Haiti Prime Minister Latortue that same day, and again on January 16. And the US raised the same concerns with the Dominican Republic, first (as far as we can tell from the cables) on January 11 and then again on February 7, 2006.

So what happened? The US made a concerted effort to stop his return in 2006. As Marcy asks, was the Obama administration unable to stop him, or did they choose let him return?

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has some questions, too. In a statement released yesterday, Rep, Waters expressing her concern and demanding that Duvalier be prosecuted for human rights violations but called for an investigation into his return:

It is absurd and outrageous that anyone would even think to take advantage of this situation to facilitate Baby Doc Duvalier’s return to Haiti.  Unfortunately, he has returned, and it is important to ask why.  Who assisted Duvalier in his return?  Where did he get the money to pay for his return?  Were any officials of the U.S. Government aware of his plans to return?  Was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aware?  If so, was any action taken to stop him from returning or to ensure that he would be arrested and prosecuted for his crimes and not allowed to usurp power if he did return?

I am deeply concerned that the wealthy elites of Haiti who supported the Duvalier regime in the past, along with the assistance of international agencies, may have encouraged Duvalier to return in the hope that the flawed elections will create a power vacuum that could allow him to take power once again.  I am even more concerned that OAS officials may be wittingly or unwittingly helping to create precisely the type of power vacuum that would enable him to do so.

It is important that we determine what role U.S. officials played, if any, in facilitating Duvalier’s return.  It is even more important that we determine what role the U.S. Government will play moving forward.

Lots of questions, indeed.

Up Date: There is some positive news about the 25 year battle to recover the funds stolen by Duvalier and deposited in a Swiss bank account. The assets were frozen by Switzerland which until the new change in the law were only able to freeze the assets “for a limited period to allow space for attempts to seek restitution through the courts, a measure it stretched to its very limit with the assets from Haiti.”

As of February 1 a new law will allow The Haitian government to recover funds held in Swiss bank.

Jan 19 2011

Prime Time

Almost all premiers.  V.  PBS has Pioneers of Television– Science Fiction.

You want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library!

Later-

Dave hosts Betty White, Kardashians, and The Script.  Jon has Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Cornel West.  Conan hosts Jennifer Garner and Gabriel Iglesias.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Jan 19 2011

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – Incendiary Political Rhetoric: Just Words?

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma



Jen Sorensen, Slowpoke, Buy this cartoon

:: ::

Sorensen writes on her blog:

What really drives me nuts in the wake of the Giffords shooting is the chorus of voices — mostly on the right — tut-tutting that “we can’t jump to conclusions.”  As though they are the source of caution and reason and all things prudent and high-minded.  Well, guess what: your candidates are anything but.  I don’t really care whether Loughner is schizo, or what particular bits of tea party propaganda he swallowed or didn’t.  If you don’t find the violent language of the right utterly repugnant, then it’s a sign of how far we’ve drifted away from normalcy in this country.