Daily Archive: 12/09/2011

Dec 09 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”.

Katha Politt: HHS: Let’s Treat ALL Women Like Children

Did you assume the politicization of science was gone with the Bush Administration and the reality-based community was back in charge? Think again. In a surprise move that has outraged women’s rights activists, HHS head Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s proposal to make Plan B One-Step, a single-pill form of emergency contraception, available over the counter. According to the New York Times, this is the first time in our history that a health secretary has overruled the FDA. [..]

This is politics. Pure politics. The Obama administration values the Catholic bishops, the Family Research Council, Rush Limbaugh and the swing voters of Ohio more than the pro-choice Democratic women who make up way more than their share of his base – women who campaigned for him, donated to him, knocked on doors for him, left Hillary Clinton for him. He must be assuming that we are captive voters – we have no place to go. That may be true, but there’s trudging to the polls and there’s passion. Obama is never going to get passion from anti-choicers and swing voters. And it looks increasingly likely that he won’t get it from pro-choice women either.

Paul Krugman: All the G.O.P.’s Gekkos

Almost a quarter of a century has passed since the release of the movie “Wall Street,” and the film seems more relevant than ever. The self-righteous screeds of financial tycoons denouncing President Obama all read like variations on Gordon Gekko’s famous “greed is good” speech, while the complaints of Occupy Wall Street sound just like what Gekko says in private: “I create nothing. I own,” he declares at one point; at another, he asks his protégé, “Now you’re not naïve enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you, buddy?”

Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the movie went a little off at the end. It closes with Gekko getting his comeuppance, and justice served thanks to the diligence of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In reality, the financial industry just kept getting more and more powerful, and the regulators were neutered.

And, according to the prediction market Intrade, there’s a 45 percent chance that a real-life Gordon Gekko will be the next Republican presidential nominee.

John Nichols: Teddy Roosevelt Would Recess Appoint Cordray as Wall St. Watchdog

President Obama borrowed sound rhetoric and ideas from Teddy Roosevelt when he spoke in Kansas this week.

Now, Obama should borrow sound practices from the twenty-sixth president, as he responds to the intransigence of the senators who represent Wall Street rather than Main Street. [..]

The president should pull a Teddy Roosevelt and make a recess appointment during the upcoming Congressional break for the holidays.

Roosevelt was known for making bold moves, especially when he was taking on the robber barons and the trusts that had their way with Washington before the dawn of the Progressive Era. He recognized that there were times when a president had to use the bully pulpit and all the powers afforded him to make a point about the corruption of both our politics and our economy.

Danny Schechter: What happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe

New York, New York – Some years back, the Comedy Channel featured a map illustrating how most Americans see the world. The biggest part of it was pictured as “US”; the rest of the world was shown as “THEM”.

This may be true of public understanding – in part, because of the way our media works or doesn’t work – but it’s not true of the way our government operates as an often stealth force in global affairs.

For many, the crisis in Europe resembles the saying “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” – they see it as a clash of countries rather than currencies or interests, ignoring America’s omnipresent financial presence and role in a number of Europe’s problems that were undeniably made worse by irresponsible spending on every level.

In fact, it was American firms and banks that shovelled many of the loans into European countries that they are struggling to pay back. It was they who encouraged Europe’s banks to take on much of the very debt that they are now complaining about.

Eugene Robinson: Republican Reality Show Gets Weirder and Weirder

I guess I was wrong. I thought Republicans surely would have come to their senses by now. Instead, they seem to be rushing deeper into madness.

With less than a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney, the candidate shown by polls to have the best chance of defeating President Obama, evidently remains unacceptable to most of his party. He has spent the summer and fall playing second fiddle to a series of unconvincing “front-runners” who fade into the shadows once their shortcomings become obvious.

The latest is Newt Gingrich, a man with more baggage than Louis Vuitton-and the taste for fine jewelry of Louis XIV, judging by his Tiffany’s bill. Be honest: Is there anybody out there who believes Gingrich would make it through a general election campaign against Obama without self-destructing? I didn’t think so.

New York Times Editorial: The Real Way to Help Small Business

With only a week to go before Congress adjourns for the holidays, Congress has yet to renew federal unemployment benefits or the payroll tax cut that will expire at year-end. Unfortunately, Republican leaders seem far more interested in advancing their partisan aims than helping millions of struggling American families.

The House leadership weighed in on Thursday with a particularly bad proposal. It would extend the current payroll tax cut but gradually reduce the duration of unemployment benefits. And it proposes to pay for both with changes to social spending programs and by freezing pay for federal workers. The bill is also larded up with deplorable amendments, including one that would weaken clean air rules and another that would rush ahead with a potentially dangerous oil sands pipeline from Canada.

Dec 09 2011

Limiting Choice, Putting Young Women At Risk

This was not a good week for women’s reproductive freedom, especially young women of childbearing age under seventeen. The Secretary of Health and Human Services chose to strike down the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to make emergency contraception available without a prescription to people under 17, just as it is now to those who are 17 and older. It is very obvious that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius based her decision, not on the science that Plan B One-Step is safe, but on pure politics to avoid a confrontation with Catholic Bishops and so-called “pro-life” conservatives in an election year.

President Barack Obama’s statement that he did not intervene in the secretary’s decision is barely believable. What was even more insulting was his paternalistic statement regarding women being able to make their own reproductive decisions using his own daughters:

I will say this, as the father of two daughters. I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.

And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able-alongside bubble gum or batteries-be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.

And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

No, Mr. President this is not “common sense”, this is a dangerous decision that will put thousands of young women at risk for unwanted pregnancies. As a parent, I know full well that children do not always confide in their parents when they have done something the parents will disapprove. Unlike you, sir, parents can’t watch their children 24/7 and children are not known for making good long term decisions, especially, when they are pressured by their peers.

Girls as young as 10 and 11 are having unprotected sex. As available as condoms are, kids don’t always use or have them and, oh, they do break. There is also the matter of rape and incest. Who do these young women turn to when they are too ashamed to seek help because of the backward attitudes about sex in this country?

For EC to be effective it must be taken within 72 hours of intercourse, the sooner the better. The direction for Plan B are simple and easily understood: Take one pill within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Directions that most 10 or 11 year olds can easily understand.

So putting constraints to access by requiring a prescription from a doctor, which may not be either timely or possible, further put the young woman at risk. This is a rule that could adversely affect the rest of their lives, economically, educationally, familial and professionally. This is denying them control over their reproductive lives. As the father of two daughters, you might want to about this more carefully.

The President’s remarks were not just paternalistic but uniformed and sexist. I’ll get to the nonsense he spouted about over the counter drugs.

Let me say this, as a medical professional, there are millions of young women who take birth control, some for health issues, with no adverse side effects. Teenage pregnancy carries increased health risks to both mother and infant, even a higher risk of mortality.

The “morning after” pill has been available to all women in their menarche over the counter in Europe for years with little or no ill effect. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the F.D.A.’s commissioner, in her statement disagreeing with Sec. Sebelius’ veto, stated the agency’s scientists “determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted disease.”

Sebelius’ override has been described as “medically inexplicable”:

Sebelius’ decision is “medically inexplicable,” said Dr. Robert Block of the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of a number of major medical groups that contends over-the-counter access to emergency contraception would lower the nation’s high number of unplanned pregnancies.

Pediatricians say the morning-after pill is safe — containing a high dose of the same female hormone that’s in regular birth control pills — especially compared to some existing over-the-counter medicines.

“I don’t think 11-year-olds go into Rite Aid and buy anything,” much less a single pill that costs about $50, added fellow AAP member Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington.

Instead, putting the morning-after pill next to the condoms and spermicides would increase access for those of more sexually active ages “who have made a serious error in having unprotected sex and should be able to respond to that kind of lack of judgment in a way that is timely as opposed to having to suffer permanent consequences,” she said.

Sebelius may not have been forthcoming when she said that the drug’s manufacturer had failed to study whether girls as young as 11 years old could safely use Plan B. Teva Pharmaceuticals had funded a study that “tracked 11- to 17-year-olds who came to clinics seeking emergency contraception. Nearly 90 percent of them used Plan B safely and correctly without professional guidance, said Teva Vice President Amy Niemann.”

There are far riskier drugs that are on the shelves of drug stores that are available to teens that can do more harm than a one time use pill that you have to see the pharmacist to get. There are no known drug interactions, yet there are serious warnings about taking Tylenol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Naprosyn) with a long list of over the counter and prescription drugs. There are diet pills and cough remedies that carry higher risks. A teen driving a car is more dangerous.

For the President to say that he was not involved in the process is laughable on its face. The Executive Branch is controlled by him. All of the cabinet members are answerable to him. No cabinet member would presume to make a decision of this magnitude with the political repercussions without his direct or implicit approval. The buck stops with him.

There is no medical argument that can be made to justify this. It is purely political, pandering to the far right factions that will never vote for Obama even if his were the only name on the ballot. It is feckless, cowardly and a slap in the face to 51% of the population of the United States.

 

Dec 09 2011

On this Day In History December 9

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.

December 9 is the 343rd day of the year (344th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 22 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1861, The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is established by the U.S. Congress.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a United States Congressional investigating committee created to handle issues surrounding the American Civil War. It was established on December 9, 1861, following the embarrassing Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah T. Chandler of Michigan, and continued until May 1865. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate states, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses. The Committee was also involved in supporting the war effort through various means, including endorsing emancipation, the use of black soldiers, and the appointment of generals who were known to be aggressive fighters. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, and became identified with the Radical Republicans who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln.

History

Union officers often found themselves in an uncomfortable position before the Committee. Since this was a civil war, pitting neighbor against neighbor (and sometimes brother against brother), the loyalty of a soldier to the Union was simple to question. And since Union forces had very poor luck against their Confederate counterparts early in the war, particularly in the Eastern Theater battles that held the attention of the newspapers and Washington politicians, it was easy to accuse an officer of being a traitor after he lost a battle or was slow to engage or pursue the enemy. This politically charged atmosphere was very difficult and distracting for career military officers. Officers who were not known Republicans felt the most pressure before the Committee.

During the committee’s existence, it held 272 meetings and received testimony in Washington and at other locations, often from military officers. Though the committee met and held hearings in secrecy, the testimony and related exhibits were published at irregular intervals in the numerous committee reports of its investigations. The records include the original manuscripts of certain postwar reports that the committee received from general officers. There are also transcripts of testimony and accounting records regarding the military administration of Alexandria, Virginia.

One of the most colorful series of committee hearings followed the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, where Union Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, a former congressman, accused Maj. Gen. George G. Meade of mismanaging the battle, planning to retreat from Gettysburg prior to his victory there, and failing to pursue and defeat Robert E. Lee‘s army as it retreated. This was mostly a self-serving effort on Sickles’s part because he was trying to deflect criticism from his own disastrous role in the battle. Bill Hyde notes that the committee’s report on Gettysburg was edited by Wade in ways that were unfavorable to Meade, even when that required distorting the evidence. The report was “a powerful propaganda weapon” (p. 381), but the committee’s power had waned by the time the final testimony was taken of William T. Sherman on May 22, 1865.

The war it was investigating completed, the committee ceased to exist after this last testimony, and the final reports were published shortly thereafter. The later Joint Committee on Reconstruction represented a similar attempt to check executive power by the Radical Republicans.

Dec 09 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles

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Your Bloguero And The Book

You probably didn’t know that your faithful Bloguero was interested in commerce. Actually, to tell the truth, he really isn’t. But he can’t lie. Even though he has neither real skill for commerce nor any interest in it, even though in general he could care less about it, he finds himself now personally involved in it. Namely, selling his book, Tulum. Your Bloguero can hear his faithful but somewhat intellectually snobbish readers (and his many wise-ass critics) saying, “Selling? Ewwww. How could you?” Your Bloguero agrees that selling is often crass, sometimes beyond distasteful, and frequently involves prevarication if not outright fraud. But this, your Bloguero assures himself and you, is a different matter. This is something else entirely.

After all, your Bloguero is not going door to soon-to-be-slammed door trying to sell encyclopedias or Bibles. He’s selling fiction.  Magical realist fiction. He’s selling a book he wrote. What, you might ask, is so hard about selling fiction? Isn’t most political speech in the US just selling fiction? Isn’t most advertising just selling fiction? My goodness, your Bloguero hears you saying, in this season, the season of vast capitalistic excess and unnecessary expenditures, isn’t the main activity selling fiction of various sorts? All right. You’ve got a point there, but your Bloguero will not be diverted by it. Your Bloguero is selling only his new novel, Tulum. And he’s not at all that committed to doing that in the tradition, shameless, well worn way.

There are obvious problems with your Bloguero’s selling this book. Your Bloguero thinks of himself as a writer (he hopes that is not offensive to you for him to say it).  And he thinks he is a terrible salesman. He doesn’t like selling.  At all.  He has little or no positive experience with it.  And to make matters worse, your Bloguero’s psyche screams vociferous objections to tooting his own schnozz.  In other words, your Bloguero doesn’t want to pimp his book. Or himself. Or his “abilities.” That seems unseemly. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s your Bloguero’s fabled and oft practiced sloth and indolence. These subvert selling and all other commercial activities. Put it this way to keep it simple: Your Bloguero thinks that if his book is any good at all, it should simply sell itself while your Bloguero returns to daydreaming and making up his third book. Your Bloguero shouldn’t have to occupy himself with the physical activity and mental exertions involved in selling his creation. Look. Your Bloguero writes magical realism. So if this book is going to sell, it’s logical, isn’t it, that it should only be sold magically.

Do you hear your Bloguero whining? Making excuses? Walking back the expectations? Your Bloguero is more worried that he sounds a lot like Ignatius Reilly. But no matter. Your Bloguero would like to sell many thousands of copies of his book through the magical reality of the Internet and through the magic of word of mouth. That is the sum and substance of your Bloguero’s sales business planning. Magic. When one writes magical realism, one doesn’t complete the book and then suddenly act like one just spent 5 years writing financial non-fiction. No. There has to be some consistency between what’s in the book and how it exists in the world, doesn’t there? So if the book is magical realism and fiction, it has to be sold magically. There. Your Bloguero said it. Your Bloguero doesn’t want to hear anyone criticize or analyze his motivations in making this assertion.

Anyway, that’s where you come in. This is really simple, and a solution beautifully fitting your Bloguero’s laziness and magical thinking.  It is not a linear solution. It is not logical. But, alas, it’s your Bloguero’s magical solution. And his magical solution is his only one.

Here it is:  your Bloguero wants you to buy a copy of the book (or more if you feel called to do so), read it, and write a short review at Barnes and Noble, or Amazon, or iUniverse, or on the Blogs or Facebook or wherever, and, whether you liked it or not, though the thought of the latter possibility disturbs your Bloguero’s feelings, tell your friends and family about it.  And soon it will be, as Arlo once sang, a movement. And then, after a very short while,Tulum  will magically be ubiquitous. Think of this: Your Bloguero will be lying on the floor with his faithful dog and staring at the ceiling and dreaming up something new, and as he does this, the book, this very book, will be selling effortlessly. Magically. Thousands and thousands of magical sales. An avalanche of books. And you dear reader will have made this possible.

One last thought. Your Bloguero would also like you to realize that no Christmas or Channukah or Solstice stocking is complete without a copy of this book in it.  Yes, yes, your Bloguero knows that there are no Channukah stockings. Not yet. But he thinks there should be.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn’t actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles.  And it’s not yet Friday. For the essays you have to visit The Dream Antilles.

Dec 09 2011

Serious Classy Republican Debate

Personally?  I think it’s just exactly as Serious as the Very Serious People.

And twice as classy.