Daily Archive: 04/09/2012

Apr 09 2012

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 Gullible Center

So, can we talk about the Paul Ryan phenomenon?

And yes, I mean the phenomenon, not the man. Mr. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the principal author of the last two Congressional Republican budget proposals, isn’t especially interesting. He’s a garden-variety modern G.O.P. extremist, an Ayn Rand devotee who believes that the answer to all problems is to cut taxes on the rich and slash benefits for the poor and middle class.

No, what’s interesting is the cult that has grown up around Mr. Ryan – and in particular the way self-proclaimed centrists elevated him into an icon of fiscal responsibility, and even now can’t seem to let go of their fantasy.

Chris Hedges: The Real Health Care Debate

The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill-some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone-for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.

But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to cement into place our global neofeudalism.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: When Liberals Stop Being Wimps

ELON, N.C.-Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive.

They have long experience with attacking the evils of the left and the abuses of activist judges. They love to assail “tax-and-spend liberals” without ever discussing who should be taxed or what government money is actually spent on. They expect their progressive opponents to be wimpy and apologetic.

So imagine the shock when President Obama decided last week to speak plainly about what a Supreme Court decision throwing out the health care law would mean, and then landed straight shots against the Mitt Romney-supported Paul Ryan budget as “a Trojan Horse,” “an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

Robert Kuttner: What Bipartisanship Looks Like

A couplet keeps running through my head, a sinister variation on the chants from the Madison sit-ins and Zuccotti Park:

Tell me what Bipartisanship looks like

This is what Bipartisanship looks like

This past week, it looked like the JOBS Act. That’s the legislation that sailed through Congress making it easier for investment bankers and start-ups to sell shares of stock to a gullible public without making the usual SEC disclosures, much less following the anti-fraud requirements of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Shamus Cooke: Why Campaigning for Democrats Cripples Labor Unions

As labor leaders across the U.S. shift resources away from defending workers and into Obama’s re-election campaign, millions of organized and non-organized workers remain unemployed and hopeless. Contrary to the “optimistic” government jobs numbers, the jobs crisis grinds onward. Some labor leaders will argue that getting Obama elected is the first step towards addressing the jobs crisis, but they know better.

The recent so-called JOBS Act that passed with strong Democrat and Republican support will create zero jobs – the law’s intent is to lower regulations for banks and corporations, in an attempt to boost their profits. The JOBS wording was used for popularity’s sake, requiring heavy doses of deceit.

New York Times Editorial: Do You Need That Test?

If health care costs are ever to be brought under control, the nation’s doctors will have to play a leading role in eliminating unnecessary treatments. By some estimates, hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted this way every year. So it is highly encouraging that nine major physicians’ groups have identified 45 tests and procedures (five for each specialty) that are commonly used but have no proven benefit for many patients and sometimes cause more harm than good.

Many patients will be surprised at the tests and treatments that these expert groups now question. They include, for example, annual electrocardiograms for low-risk patients and routine chest X-rays for ambulatory patients in advance of surgery.

Apr 09 2012

Home Base

The baseball season is upon us, and I want to pay homage to that yearly optimism I feel no matter how bad my team stunk up the joint last year.  And they did stink.  Injuries?  We had ’em.  We even have a new medical condition, bilateral leg weakness, in honor of the 2011 Twins.  Sloppy play, players giving up, poor pitching, undisciplined hitting, all of it combines for 99 losses.  But it’s a new year.  The M and M boys are healthy.  And all is right again, for the time being.  

This essay is about metaphors, and about optimism, and how weird things like a lap around the sun just wipes the slate clean so you can begin again.  

 

Apr 09 2012

Home Base

The baseball season is upon us, and I want to pay homage to that yearly optimism I feel no matter how bad my team stunk up the joint last year.  And they did stink.  Injuries?  We had ’em.  We even have a new medical condition, bilateral leg weakness, in honor of the 2011 Twins.  Sloppy play, players giving up, poor pitching, undisciplined hitting, all of it combines for 99 losses.  But it’s a new year.  The M and M boys are healthy.  And all is right again, for the time being.  

This easy is about metaphors, and about optimism, and how wired things like a lap around the sun just wipes the slate clean so you can begin again.  

 

Apr 09 2012

On This Day In History April 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.

April 9 is the 99th day of the year (100th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 266 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House. In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller.

At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end

Apr 09 2012

Legally Obligated to Prosecute

President Barack Obama took this oath on January 20, 2009 as prescribed by the US Constitution, Article II, Section 1:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

That includes a legal obligation to enforce the laws of this country and prosecuting the criminals who break those laws, even if that criminal is another President.

Rachel Maddow tiptoed around a bit when she that Bush-era torture was “probably a war crime,” while discussing the recently released memo by Philip Zelikow, a former Bush counselor. I suspect she did so as to not find herself on the unemployment line.

Rachel Maddow relays the news that the original Philip Zelikow memo advising the Bush administration that waterboarding is torture and such, illegal, has been found despite Bush administration efforts to destroy every copy. Will new proof that the Bush administration did not act in good faith when it tortured detainees push the Obama administration to prosecute? Will the Republican Party, once principled against torture, outflank Obama and call for prosecutions?

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It was probably a war crime, not to put a fine point on it. And that is something we are legally obligated to prosecute in this country. This opens the whole question of legal liability for torture that was administered by the previous administration. The Democratic Party will be split by this, because the White House politically doesn’t want to deal with this, even if it’s wrong and even if they know it’s wrong. And the Republican Party still has to figure out who it is. Is the Republican Party still the party of John McCain, which now has the opportunity to outflank the president on a matter of principle here? Where the Whit house knows what the right thing to do is, but they don’t want do it. Or is the Republican Party still the party of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney who think torture is OK?

Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog  doesn’t think this is going away. He also wonders why the Obama administration didn’t pursue it and links to an article written by Andrew Kreig, executive director of Justice Integrity Project, on September 13, 2011:

President-Elect Obama’s advisers feared in 2008 that authorities would “revolt” and that Republicans would block his policy agenda if he prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a law school dean who served as one of Obama’s top transition advisers.

University of California at Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., the sixth highest-ranking member of the 2008 post-election transition team preparing Obama’s administration, revealed the team’s thinking in moderating a forum on 9/11 held by his law school (also known as Boalt Hall)[..]

When a citizen, Susan Harmon, who opposed torture, questioned Dean Ederly on the inclusion of Professor John C. Yoo, former Bush Justice Department attorney who authored a memo justifying torture, to Boalt Hall’s faculty, this is what happened:

Harman’s account of her actions at the Boalt Hall forum, which focused on such goals as human rights and the rule of law:

I said I was overwhelmed by the surreality of Yoo being on the law faculty . . . when he was single-handedly responsible for the three worst policies of the Bush Administration. They all burbled about academic freedom and the McCarthy era, and said it isn’t their job to prosecute him.

Duh.

Dean Chris Edley volunteered that he’d been party to very high level discussions during Obama’s transition about prosecuting the criminals. He said they decided against it. I asked why. Two reasons: 1) it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and 2) it was thought the Repugnants would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation they tried to move (which, of course, they’ve done anyhow).

Harman says that she approached Edley privately after the forum closed and said she appreciated that Obama might have been in danger but felt that he “bent over backwards” to protect lawbreakers within the Bush administration. She recalled, “He shrugged and said they will never be prosecuted, and that sometimes politics trumps rule of law.”

The last I checked waterboarding was still considered torture and torture was still a crime. Obama could well become a target for impeachment proceedings should the Democrats lose control of the Senate and more seats in the House. So long as the Obama administration refuses to prosecute former Bush administration officials, as well as, Bush and Cheney, they themselves are complicit in war crimes as per established laws and treaties of this country and the oaths that they took to uphold those laws and the Constitution.  

Apr 09 2012

Pique the Geek 20120408: More on Meat

Last time we discussed lean finely textured beef, commonly referred to as pink slime.  Tonight we shall finish this short series by discussing two other forms of recovered meat.

Mechanically separated meat is derived from a process that dates back to around forty or a few more years.  A newer process is called advanced meat recovery and has certain advantages over the older processes for some applications, but the older process is still used in others.

These products are in LOTS of prepared foods and interestingly are subject to a higher degree of regulation than lean finely textured beef, at least for beef products.  Please join for the discussion to follow.