05/12/2011 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Dean Baker: The Only Real Solution for Budget Deficits: Job Growth

Scarcely a decade ago, the US was running a budget surplus, with unemployment at 4%. It had little to do with cuts or taxes

People in Washington have incredibly bad memories. The last time that the United States balanced its budget was just a decade ago. Even though this is not distant history, almost no one in a policymaking position or in the media seems able to remember how the United States managed to go from large deficits at the start of the decade to large surpluses at the end of the decade.

There are two often-told tales about the budget surpluses of the late 1990s: a Democratic story and a Republican story. President Clinton is the hero of the Democratic story. In this account, his decision to raise taxes in 1993, along with restraint on spending, was the key to balancing the budget.

The hero in the Republican story is News Gingrich. In this story, the Republican Congress that took power in 1995 demanded serious spending constraints. These constraints were ultimately the main factor in balancing the budget.

Fortunately, we can go behind this “he said/she said” to find the real cause of the switch from large budget deficits to large surpluses. This one is actually easy.

John Nichols: House Republicans Shred Constitution With Backdoor Proposal of Permanent War

House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Tea Party, and their circle even attempted — in unsettlingly bumbling manner — to read the document into the Congressional Record at the opening of the current Congress.

Now, however, with a backdoor plan to commit the United States to a course of permanent warmaking, they are affronting the most basic premises of a Constitution that requires congressional declarations of all wars and direct and engaged oversight of military missions.

The House Republican leadership, working in conjunction with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, has included in the 2012 defense authorization bill language (borrowed from the sweeping Detainee Security Act) that would effectively declare a state of permanent war against unnamed and ill-defined foreign forces “associated” with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The means that, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (which GOP leaders in the House have refused to officially recognize as a significant development), the Department of Defense will be authorized to maintain a permanent occupation of Afghanistan, a country bin Laden abandoned years ago, and a global war against what remains of bin Laden’s fragmented operation.

Glen Greenwald: The WikiLeaks Grand Jury and the Still Escalating War on Whistleblowing

The contrast between these two headlines from this morning tells a significant story: From The Guardian

Julian Assange awarded Australian peace prize

From NPR:

Case Against WikiLeaks Part Of Broader Campaign

As Julian Assange wins the Sydney Peace Prize for “exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights,” NPR reports that “a federal grand jury in Virginia is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday from witnesses” in the criminal investigation of his whistle-blowing group, as “prosecutors are trying to build a case against [the] WikiLeaks founder whose website has embarrassed the U.S. government by disclosing sensitive diplomatic and military information.”  The NPR story — based in part on my reporting of a Grand Jury Subpoena served two weeks ago in Cambridge — explains what has long been clear: that “the WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers.”

New York Times Editorial: Republican Demands and the Debt Limit

Even before the White House and the Republicans began talks on the debt limit, John Boehner made clear that he was looking for a political fight, not a compromise.

Then, in a speech on Monday, the speaker of the House said that Republicans would insist on trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for votes to raise the debt limit. He did not mention a time frame, but even a fraction of “trillions” in the near term could do huge damage to the recovery. He also did not offer specifics on how he planned to make those cuts. After the beating Republicans took for their plan to slash Medicare, he clearly decided generalities were politically safer.

There is no way to solve the country’s fiscal ills without an accurate diagnosis and rigorous prescriptions for a cure. Mr. Boehner’s speech was devoid of both.

Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein: Obama Health Law Unlikely to Stem Medical Bankruptcies

When President Obama kicked off his health reform push, he highlighted our research finding that 2 million Americans suffer medical bankruptcy each year, promising to end this disgrace. Our latest figures warn that his reform won’t stanch the flow of medical debtors.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed by Congress in March 2010 was modeled after Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform plan – a plan that’s now been up and running for more than three years. So Massachusetts offers a preview of what to expect when the ACA is fully implemented in 2014.

Unfortunately, medical bankruptcies haven’t dropped much – if at all – in Massachusetts. When we surveyed bankruptcy filers there in August 2009, 53 percent cited illness or medical bills as a cause of their bankruptcy, a percentage that’s statistically indistinguishable from the 59 percent figure we found in early 2007. Indeed, because the total number of bankruptcies soared in 2009, the actual number of medical bankruptcies increased from 7,504 in 2007 to 10,093 in 2009.

Why are so many people still suffering medical bankruptcies despite Massachusetts’ health reform? While only 4 percent of the state’s residents remain uninsured, much of the new coverage is so skimpy that serious illness leaves families with crushing medical bills.

Glen Ford: Libyan “Humanitarian” War Creates Humanitarian Crisis

Europe and America’s ghastly military intervention in Libya’s civil strife – supposedly for humanitarian reasons – has created its own humanitarian crisis, especially for Black African migrant workers trapped in that country. Whether by death at sea or by lynching at the hands of U.S.-backed “rebels,” the death toll among migrant workers and their families is certainly in the thousands – although the U.S. superpower and its European allies seem not to care in the slightest. Dead Africans – whether Arab or sub-Saharan, Muslim or Christian – are of no consequence to the rulers in Washington, Paris, London and Rome, who seek to strengthen their grip on the region and its resources by force of arms. In their mouths, “humanitarian intervention” is an oxymoron.

For the 72 Black passengers of a rickety vessel that ran out of fuel shortly after leaving Libya in late March, there was no humanity in NATO’s intervention. All but 11 died from thirst and starvation during 16 days of agony in the Mediterranean Sea. At one point, they passed very close to a NATO aircraft carrier, almost certainly the Carl Vinson. Two warplanes buzzed the stricken ship as the Africans on deck held up their babies to show their distress. But then the planes went back where they came from. The NATO fleet could not be bothered with rescuing otherwise doomed Africans – even though NATO claims the purpose of its mission is to save civilian lives. Clearly, the Black American commander-in-chief did not give his sailors and flyers the impression that Black lives matter. The dead included men, women and children from Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ghana and Nigeria.

Ari Melber: After White House Invite, Conservatives Get Tough on Soft Rapper

White House poetry night is one of those ceremonial events that you never hear about unless there’s a controversy. Or a fake controversy.  But today’s conservative kerfuffle over a White House invitation for Common — a socially conscious, mainstream hip hop artist and sometime actor (most recently in Tina Fey’s Date Night) — is interesting, since the faux outrage targets an artist who actually embodies many values of his critics.

In a different universe, where conservative culture warriors listened to music before demonizing it, Common would perform at pro-life rallies.  Take his famous duet with The Fugees’ Lauryn Hill, Retrospect for Life, which strongly questions abortion.  “Musta really thought I was God to take the life of my son,” he raps, “from now on, I’m using self-control, instead of birth control, because $315 aint worth your soul.”  The last line, comparing the cost of an abortion to the value of life, is a repeating hook. Common also uses the song to dialogue with his unborn child, saying “Knowing you the best part of life, do I have the right to take yours?,” and lamenting the thought of turning his “woman’s womb into a tomb.”

The Price of Ownership

When the Republicans voted lock step on the Ryan Budget plan that would decimate the safety nets of Medicaid ans Medicare, they were not prepared for the harsh criticism from their own supporters and organizations that had praised their agenda in the past. During the Spring recess, House members faced angry constituents and a harsh press. On Tuesday, 42 freshmen sent a letter to the president asking that the Democrats forget that they used Medicare scare tactics fighting the Health Care Reform bill and back off holding them responsible for their votes on the Ryan Budget bill. Sorry, guys, no do-overs. You own it now.

Republican Budget Would Cause Millions of Americans to Lose Medicaid

By Jon Walker @ FDL

The House Republican budget written by Paul Ryan has received a huge amount of criticism for its plan to replace Medicare with a poorly indexed private voucher program that could result in more and more seniors every year being unable to afford health care. Less focus has been put on how equally devastating the Ryan plan would be to people who rely on Medicaid because the plan would stop federal funding for the program from keeping up with the increasing cost of actually providing people with care.

A study from be the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid(PDF) lays out three likely scenarios of what would happen if the Republican plan were implemented.

Critics Fear G.O.P.’s Proposed Medicaid Changes Could Cut Coverage for the Aged

By Jennifer Steinhauer @ NYT

While the largest number of Medicaid recipients are low-income children and adults, who tend to be far less politically potent voices in battles over entitlement programs than older voters, the changes to Medicaid proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the House budget chairman, could actually have a more direct impact on older Americans than the Medicare part of his plan.

The House plan would turn Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the poor through a combination of federal and state money, into a block grant program for states. The federal government would give lump sums to states, which in turn would be given more flexibility and independence over use of the money, though the plan does not spell out what the federal requirements would be.

Beginning in 2013, these grants would increase annually at the rate of inflation, with adjustments for population growth, a rate far below that of inflation for health care costs. As a result, states, which have said that they cannot afford to keep up with the program’s costs, are likely to scale back coverage. Such a reduction, critics fear, could have a disproportionate effect on Medicaid spending for nursing home care for the elderly or disabled.

Critical Letter by Catholics Cites Boehner on Policies

By Laurie Goodstein @ NYT

More than 75 professors at Catholic University and other prominent Catholic colleges have written a pointed letter to Mr. Boehner saying that the Republican-supported budget he shepherded through the House will hurt the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable, and that he therefore has failed to uphold basic Catholic moral teachings.

“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s most ancient moral teachings,” the letter says. “From the apostles to the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”

The letter writers criticize Mr. Boehner’s support for a budget that cut financing for Medicare, Medicaid and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, while granting tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. They call such policies “anti-life,” a particularly biting reference because the phrase is usually applied to politicians and others who support the right to abortion.

The shoe is once again on the other foot and it is up to the Democrats to make sure it causes permanent bunions, by making them own their votes and pay the price.

The Right Wing Has Nothing Else?

The “kevetching” from the right wing over the invitation to rapper Common by Michele Obama for a poetry night went on for nearly two days, distracting from the really important news that former President Bush killed Osama bin Laden.

Tone Def Poetry Jam

Tone Def Poetry Jam – Lyrics Controversy

On This Day In History May 12

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.

Click on images to enlarge

May 12 is the 132nd day of the year (133rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 233 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1937, George Denis Patrick Carlin was born in the Bronx. He was raised by his mother in Morningside Heights which he and his friends called “White Harlem” because it sounded tougher. He was raised Irish Catholic and educated in Catholic schools. He often ran away from home. After joining the Air Force while stationed in Louisiana, Carlin became a DJ in Shreveport starting on his long career in entertainment. Carlin rose to fame during the 60’s and 70’s, generating the most controversy with his famous “Seven Dirty Words”:

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that’ll infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.

His arrest and the subsequent FCC rulings ended up in the Supreme Court which upheld the right of the FCC to regulate the public airways. In the ruling it called the routine “indecent but not obscene”.

In 1961, Carlin was also present in the audience the night that Lenny Bruce was arrested in San Fransisco for obscenity. He was arrested, as well, after the police, who were questioning the audience, asked Carlin for ID. He said he didn’t have any because he didn’t believe in government-issued ID’s.

We all know the rest. His popularity as a comic and “commentarian” on politics, religion and social issues made him a popular guest on late night talk shows. His death in  June 22, 2008 saddened many. He left behind his second wife, Sally Wade, whom he married after his first wife Brenda died of liver cancer in 1997. He left a daughter by his first marriage, Kelly.

Happy Birthday, George, you are missed.

Six In The Morning

Bin Laden death ‘not an assassination’ – Eric Holder

The BBC  12 May 2011

US Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, in which the al-Qaeda leader was killed, was “not an assassination”.

Mr Holder told the BBC the operation was a “kill or capture mission” and that Bin Laden’s surrender would have been accepted if offered.

The protection of the Navy Seals who carried out the raid was “uppermost in our minds”, he added.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 11, 2011-


My Little Town 20110511: Uncle Dan

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile of so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

I never write about living people except with their express permission, but since he is long gone, he is fair game.  He was not really an uncle, but I shall explain that later.  I knew him pretty well, and also his son, Tim, who as far as I know still is living.  He is sort of a nefarious character, so no mention other than this about him.

Nice Job Rewarded

I think that this Tweet from Greenwald’s summed up the reaction to this news:

Can’t recall reading a news article in quite some time that produces as much intense nausea as this one

After approving NBC buyout, FCC Commish becomes Comcast lobbyist

Meredith Attwell Baker, one of the two Republican Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission, plans to step down-and right into a top lobbying job at Comcast-NBC.

The news, reported this afternoon by the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Politico, comes after the hugely controversial merger of Comcast and NBC earlier this year. At the time, Baker objected to FCC attempts to impose conditions on the deal and argued that the “complex and significant transaction” could “bring exciting benefits to consumers that outweigh potential harms.”

Four months after approving the massive transaction, Attwell Baker will take a top DC lobbying job for the new Comcast-NBC entity, according to reports.

Comcast press release:

WASHINGTON, DC  –  May 11, 2011

Meredith Attwell Baker will join Comcast as Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, NBCUniversal.  Ms. Baker currently serves as a member of the Federal Communications Commission.  Her current term at the Commission expires at the end of June 2011.

Kyle McSlarrow, President of Comcast/NBCUniversal for Washington, DC, said, “Commissioner Baker is one of the nation’s leading authorities on communications policy and we’re thrilled she’s agreed to head the government relations operations for NBCUniversal.  Meredith’s executive branch and business experience along with her exceptional relationships in Washington bring Comcast and NBCUniversal the perfect combination of skills.”

“I’ve been privileged to serve in government for the past seven years under President Obama at the FCC and President Bush at NTIA, I’m excited to embark on a new phase of my career with Comcast and NBCUniversal,” said Ms. Baker.

Ms. Baker, a Republican, was appointed to the FCC by President Obama in June of 2009. I guess he couldn’t find a Democrat. Mission accomplished

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 45 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Libya rebels celebrate capture of Misrata airport

by Alberto Arce, AFP

2 hrs 26 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya (AFP) – Libyan rebels captured the strategic Misrata airport on Wednesday after a fierce battle with Moamer Kadhafi’s troops, marking their first significant advance in weeks.

The airport of Libya’s third-largest city, which had been under siege by loyalist forces for almost two months, fell to the rebels after fighting that raged through the night, an AFP correspondent said.

By Wednesday afternoon, insurgent fighters were in full control, as people celebrated the victory in the streets and others set ablaze tanks left behind by Kadhafi troops.