05/18/2011 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day. Scroll down for the Gentlemen

Katrina vanden Heuvel: For-Profit College and the Real Debt Crisis

It’s college commencement season in America, a time of excitement and celebration. For the millions who will graduate this year, the events of this month and next represent not just the end of college but the beginning of a new and meaningful chapter in their lives.

That chapter, for most, however, will be accompanied by hefty student loan payments. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average debt for a bachelor’s degree recipient in 2011 will reach almost $23,000, making this year’s graduating class the most debt-burdened in history. In fact, student loan debt is expected to outpace credit card debt, probably reaching more than $1 trillion this year.

This is partly a function of tuition, which the Wall Street Journal reports has increased at a rate of 5 percent a year. It is also a function of a flailing economy in which parents are far less able to help their children pay for college. It’s no wonder that a staggering 85 percent of 2011 college graduates are moving back home after graduation.

Joan Walsh: Newt Gingrich will never be president

How many racially divisive images and issues can he throw at us in just one week? Keep watching

It’s beginning to look like when Haley Barbour shuffled off into the Mississippi sunset, saying he just couldn’t commit to a 10-year presidential crusade, he left his draft campaign playbook sitting on a garbage can, and Newt Gingrich picked it up. Barbour, you’ll recall, was trying out a new approach to race in the Obama era: Jim Crow wasn’t “that bad,” the white-supremacist White Citizens Councils kept down the KKK, and nobody could make him denounce an effort by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to dedicate a license plate to KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, either. “I don’t go around denouncing people,” declared the man who denounced Democrat Ronnie Musgrove for efforts to remove the Confederate flag from Mississippi’s state flag. I said at the time that Barbour was trying out the notion that post-Obama, people — particularly white people leaning Republican — are ready for an approach that says let’s quit all this whining about racism, it wasn’t that bad, it’s time to get back to the business of cutting taxes for the rich and programs for the poor.

Dahlia Lithwick: Judicial Review Under Review

Should the legal arguments over Obama’s health care law force us to reconsider the role of the courts?

It’s hard, nowadays, to begrudge anyone his or her constitutional nihilism. Even before oral arguments started last week over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care reform law at the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., some conservatives were complaining that the result was preordained because the three-judge panel consisted of two Obama appointees and a Clinton appointee. And if liberals want to get a head start on their own freak-outs over the lawsuits, they might well note that the just-announced panel for the June 1 hearings on the Affordable Care Act at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati include a George W. Bush appointee, a Reagan appointee, and a Carter appointee.

So we can already start writing that 2-1 decision.

Amanda Marcotte: 5 Surprising Things About Sex Women Might Be Scared to Tell Men

Many ballsy women are afraid to say ‘Please do this’ or ‘Don’t do that’ in bed. Here’s what some women are really thinking.

Our sexist culture unleashes many forms of toxic socialization on its inhabitants, but few lessons seem to take as well as teaching girls from the cradle to coddle the male ego, not just with flattery but with a deep unwillingness to speak truths that could cause men to feel uncomfortable or imperfect. And nowhere is this less true than in the sack. Many a woman who feels herself a ballsy broad in her daily life finds herself in bed, afraid to say “Please do this” or “Don’t do that” for fear of confronting a man looking shocked, upset, or disappointed-which can push a button installed in us as little girls labeled Failure As A Woman.

We know we should get over it already. We know we should speak up and take our lumps and men who can’t handle it are bad lovers we should be dumping anyway. It’s not like we’re not trying. The female half of the human race spends an ungodly amount of time and money trying to unlearn passivity and replace it with a dose of speaking up for themselves.

In the meantime, however, there’s a number of things women are thinking about sex that tend to go unsaid, but you men should probably know them anyway.

Robert Reich: The Battle is Squared, and Why We Need Budget Jujitsu

Technically, the federal government has now reached the limit of its capacity to borrow money.

Raising the debt ceiling used to be a technical adjustment, made almost automatically. Now it’s a political football.

Democrats should never have agreed to linking it to an agreement on the long-term budget deficit.

But now that the debt ceiling is in play, there’s no end to what the radical right will demand. John Boehner is already using the classic “they’re making me” move, seemingly helpless in the face of Tea Party storm troopers who refuse to raise the ceiling unless they get their way. Their way is reactionary and regressive – eviscerating Medicare, cutting Medicaid and programs for the poor, slashing education and infrastructure, and using most of the savings to reduce taxes on the rich.

Paul Krugman: Remain Calm: Money Madness Does Not Have to Be Contagious

I’ve been fond of quoting the late economist Charles Kindleberger, my old teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who used to say that anyone who spends too much time thinking about international money goes mad.

But I’m thinking that we need to expand the proposition: it seems that almost everyone who weighs in on monetary matters of any kind goes crazy.

Those who expected more traction on the United States’ economy from the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program are disappointed, but the proper reaction is, “Meh.” Just not a big deal. Similarly for the depreciation of the dollar from its crisis peak to more or less where it was in early 2008 (which has some people hysterical).

John Nichols: From GOP ‘Golden Boy’ To Also-Ran: Paul Ryan’s Big Bad Bummer of a Week

House Budget Committee chairman  Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has turned so “toxic” he can’t get away from the protests that began when he came home last month to try to sell his plan to gut Medicare and Medicaid.

And it is starting to cost him politically.

The former “golden boy” of national Republican politics has tarnished his brand to such an extent that, on Tuesday, he had to relinquish his long-cherished dream of running for the U.S. Senate to replace Democratic Senator Herb Kohl.

Kohl is stepping down in 2012 but, after a brief flirtation with the prospect, Ryan signaled that he will skip the contest — effectively giving up on any chance of becoming a senator in the foreseeable future.

Instead, Ryan says, he will focus on trying to revive his budget plan, which after earning an endorsement from House Republicans has stalled in the face of broad national opposition to his proposal to end Medicare and Medicaid as they are known and use the federal money to bail out for-profit insurance companies.

Dean Baker: The Good News and the Bad News in the Social Security Trustees’ Report

There was both good news and bad news in the Social Security trustees’ report released last week. The bad news is that the program is projected to cost somewhat more in the latest report than in the 2010 report.

As a result, its projected 75-year shortfall was increased by 0.3 percentage points of covered payroll from 1.92 percent to 2.22 percent. The year when it was first projected to face a shortfall was moved up a year from 2037 to 2036.

This bad news about the program is also the good news. The main reason that the program’s finances deteriorated between the 2010 report and the 2011 report is that in the 2011 report the trustees assumed that we would enjoy substantially longer life expectancies than they did in the 2010 report.

Jeremy Scahill Erik Prince, You’re No Indiana Jones

When Erik Prince, founder of the infamous mercenary company Blackwater, claimed in early 2010 he was leaving the soldier of fortune business, he said he’d decided to pursue a less dangerous and controversial line of work. “I’m going to teach high school,” he said, straight-faced, in an interview with Vanity Fair. “History and economics. I may even coach wrestling. Hey, Indiana Jones taught school, too.” It was an interesting comment. As fans of Indiana Jones will recall, the whip-wielding archaeologist was indeed a professor. But what he did on the side-traveling the globe in search of potentially history-altering artifacts-was his real passion. In one confrontation with his arch-nemesis, archaeologist René Emile Belloq, who is working for the Nazis, Jones threatens to blow up the Ark of the Covenant with an RPG. “You’re going to give mercenaries a bad name,” Belloq tells him.

Erik Prince did leave the US, but he isn’t teaching high school and is certainly not out of the mercenary business. In fact, far from emerging as a neo-Indiana Jones, the antithesis of a mercenary, Prince is more like Belloq, offering his services to the highest bidder. Over the weekend, The New York Times revealed that Prince was leading an effort to build an army of mercenaries, 800 strong-including scores from Colombia-in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. They would be trained by US, European and South African Special Forces veterans. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, also known as R2, was bankrolled to the tune of $529 million from “the oil-soaked sheikdom,” according to the Times, adding that Prince was “hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi” Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Erik Prince is not mentioned by name in corporate documents outlining the deal, but is instead referred to as “Kingfish.”

On This Day In History May 18

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 image to enlarge

May 18 is the 138th day of the year (139th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 227 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1917, U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act.

Some six weeks after the United States formally entered the First World War, the U.S Congress passes the Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917, giving the U.S. president the power to draft soldiers.

When he went before Congress on April 2, 1917, to deliver his war message, President Woodrow Wilson had pledged all of his nation’s considerable material resources to help the Allies-France, Britain, Russia and Italy-defeat the Central Powers. What the Allies desperately needed, however, were fresh troops to relieve their exhausted men on the battlefields of the Western Front, and these the U.S. was not immediately able to provide. Despite Wilson’s effort to improve military preparedness over the course of 1916, at the time of Congress’s war declaration the U.S. had only a small army of volunteers-some 100,000 men-that was in no way trained or equipped for the kind of fighting that was going on in Europe.

To remedy this situation, Wilson pushed the government to adopt military conscription, which he argued was the most democratic form of enlistment. To that end, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which Wilson signed into law on May 18, 1917. The act required all men in the U.S. between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for military service. Within a few months, some 10 million men across the country had registered in response to the military draft.

The World War I Draft

During World War I there were three registrations.

   The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.

   The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. A supplemental registration, included in the second registration, was held on August 24, 1918, for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918.

   The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45.

After the signing of the armistice of November 11, 1918, the activities of the Selective Service System were rapidly curtailed. On March 31, 1919, all local, district, and medical advisory boards were closed, and on May 21, 1919, the last state headquarters closed operations. The Provost Marshal General was relieved from duty on July 15, 1919, thereby finally terminating the activities of the Selective Service System of World War I.

Let’s Have A Garage Sale

Did you know that the Federal government hit the debt ceiling? Did you know that the US government owns 70% of the state of Utah? Did you know that the US government also still has lots of gold in Ft. Knox? The right wing Tea Party Republicans, who now hold the country hostage, have suggested we hold a “garage sale” and sell off assets to pay the ransom.

Many conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, especially those affiliated with the small-government Tea Party movement, say that Geithner and the White House are trying to panic them into raising the debt limit.

They also contend that the Treasury has other options to continue meeting the country’s obligations, such as selling assets including gold reserves and government land.

“There is no certain day,” said congressman James Lankford, a member of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee. “It’s a moving target. Even if Aug. 2 is passed, Treasury has the tools in its back pocket to keep us from defaulting.”

Lankford added: “Treasury has done a good job of trying to increase the panic, rather than giving us solutions.”

Dennis Ross, a House Republican and a member of the Tea Party caucus, told Reuters: “I don’t think Treasury has been up front with us. I am not convinced the sky will fall in on August 3.”

Ross added: “I’m not an economist, but I have maintained a household. The federal government owns 70 per cent of Utah, for example. There are federal buildings. If you need cash, let’s start liquidating.”

If they decide to sell off chunks of Nevada, I want first dibs on Area 51.

Exposing ALEC

No, it’s not an Alec Baldwin expose. This is about The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who “owns” and “runs” the US and state governments.

Democracy for Sale?

Andrew Gillum, Director of Leadership Programs at People for the American Way Foundation, joins The Last Word to discuss a Republican group more powerful than the Koch brothers.

From People for the American Way

ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures

When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who helped build a nationwide right-wing political infrastructure following the reelection of Richard Nixon. In the same year, he helped establish the Heritage Foundation, now one of the most prominent right-wing policy institutes in the country. One year later, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the predecessor of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1979, he co-founded and coined the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, and in 1981 he helped establish the ultraconservative Council on National Policy.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 17, 2011-


Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Rwanda ex-army chief jailed for 30 years over genocide

by Ephrem Rugiririza, AFP

Tue May 17, 12:32 pm ET

ARUSHA (AFP) – The UN court for Rwanda handed former army chief Augustin Bizimungu a 30-year jail term for his role in the 1994 genocide, including for calling for the murder of minority Tutsis.

It also jailed two senior officers for ordering their men to assassinate the prime minister at the start of the 100-day killing spree, when they also murdered 10 Belgian UN troops protecting her.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted the head of the paramilitary police at the time, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, of genocide crimes but ordered his release as he had already spent 11 years in jail.