04/11/2012 archive

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”.

Wednesday is Ladies Day

Joan Walsh: Racism and the National Review

Derbyshire may be gone, but William F. Buckley’s magazine championed divisive racial politics – and still does

National Review editor Rich Lowry finally did the right thing and fired John Derbyshire for an unbelievably racist and deeply stupid column (printed elsewhere) about the “advice” he gives his son about avoiding black people. Maybe it represents a ratcheting back of right-wing ugliness about the Trayvon Martin case. But if you want to understand how that tragedy went from being an occasion for bipartisan sorrow to another ugly battle in the culture wars, the National Review is a good place to start.

Although founder William F. Buckley is widely credited with driving John Birch Society extremists out of the conservative movement, he made his own contributions to the ugly coarsening of American politics on the issue of race. He and his magazine defended segregation and white supremacy in the South (though he later apologized), while in the North, he played a leading role in making the issue of rising crime both racial and political – with arguments and tactics still being used in the Trayvon Martin case today.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Countering the Rightwing Policy Machine with a Deeper Progressive Bench

In 1973, a small but powerful group of right-wing state legislators and activists met in Chicago. They gathered to form an organization for those who believe that government, in their words, ought to be limited and “closest to the people.” And since, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts and Mitt Romney, we know that corporations are, in fact, people, it makes sense that Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart and Koch Industries are among the funders of this secretive and influential group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known by its sweet-sounding acronym ALEC.

For nearly forty years, ALEC has quietly and successfully pushed its extremist agenda in state assemblies across the country. As The Nation and the Center for Media Democracy exposed last summer – work recently cited by The New York Times’ Paul Krugman – ALEC literally writes state laws by providing fully drafted model legislation to more than 2,000 state legislators. This corporate leviathan backed the recent national conservative push to further enrich the one percent while rolling back workers’ rights, inventing new ways to harass and debase women and suppressing the vote. They also wrote the so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun bills that now blight some 20 states across the country and are implicated in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Margaret Krome: On Keeping Government Out of Our Pregnancies

It used to embarrass my children and now merely amuses them that as their birthdays approach, I find myself reviewing their births in remarkable detail through small hour-by-hour glimpses. I relive my apprehensions as birth approached, the intense hours of labor, the superb nursing staff, my brilliant husband and advocate, and the joy at holding our babies. [..]

This year, these ruminations were augmented by the screaming debates about “personhood” bills, giving embryos and fetuses “all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents.” In past anti-abortion debates, I’ve resisted descriptions like “a war on women”; I have friends who oppose abortion and are strong pacifists. But the new personhood agenda is fundamentally dangerous to women, while destabilizing legal and medical precedents.

Sarah van Gelder: How to Fix Health Care Without the Mandate

Why truly affordable care means single-payer.

What happens if the Supreme Court strikes down the “individual mandate” in the health care reform law?

Commentators ranging from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to Forbes Magazine columnist Rick Ungar agree: Such a decision could open the door to single-payer health care-perhaps even make it inevitable.

This may be the best news about health care in years. Because ever since Republicans convinced the Obama administration to drop the “public option” in the Affordable Care Act, health reform has been in trouble. True, most Americans favor many of the provisions of Affordable Care Act. But the overall plan rests on forcing you and me to buy insurance from the same companies that have been driving up the costs of health care all along-the same companies that have been finding creative ways to avoid covering needed care, shifting costs on to patients, and endlessly increasing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for all of us.

Maureen Dowd: State of Cool

Hillary is not going to President Obama’s Democratic convention in Charlotte. Evidently, she’s going to wait for her own.

There were intriguing developments on the presidential trail Tuesday, and I don’t mean Rick Santorum dropping out.

Hillary Clinton cemented her newly cool image and set off fresh chatter about her future when she met at the State Department with two young men who created {a popular Internet meme http://textsfromhillaryclinton… showing photos of the secretary of state on a military plane, wearing big sunglasses, checking her BlackBerry and looking as if she’s ready to ice somebody.

Ilyse Hogue: In Search of the Missing Task Force

As someone lucky enough not to have an underwater home, I have had the luxury of not needing to learn the all the gory details of our broken housing finance system-full of undecipherable acronyms and the minutiae of regulation and arcane policy. So, I admit that I have only loosely been following the situation since the $25 billion fraud settlement between the big banks and the state attorney generals was announced.

But my curiosity was piqued again this week when I got an e-mail from CREDO Action protesting new information that the task force established to investigate what went wrong [never received file:///CREDO%20campaign%20http/::news.firedoglake.com:2012:04:09:credo-calls-out-securitization-fraud-task-force-investigators-not-even-deployed:] the staff that it was promised. And while the source of the hold up is unclear as is exactly how many staffers have been assigned, what is becoming clear is that even the promised fifty-five investigators would be ill-equipped to achieve the task at hand. The news got me wondering where things stand with task force, lauded by progressives and homeowners alike when it was announced back in January.

Election 2012: Let the Games Begin

Rick Santorum is out, bloodied and bruised by Mitt Romney’s onslaught of negative campaign ads. Mitt is the presumed heir apparent. The Obama campaign machine has already begun to focus their attacks on Romney. The problem for voters, there is little light between them on policy.

By his own admission, Barack Obama has embraced conservative ideas and policies, some that are straight out of the Heritage Foundation. In his article chastising the Obama DOJ for siding with corporately owned prisons on strip searches, Glenn Greenwald out the facts about Obama’s neo-con policies:

In a speech to the Associated Press today, President Obama boasted that his signature domestic policies were basically conservative (he labeled them “centrist”): his individual mandate, he said, was pioneered by conservatives and the Heritage Foundation; his cap-and-trade policy was first proposed by Bush 41; federal spending is lower now than it was during any year of the Reagan administration, etc. Even the successes most touted by his supporters – the Detroit bailout, TARP, the withdrawal from Iraq – were started by Bush 43. Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties assaults also, of course, were largely shared by his predecessor and are frequently praised by the Right.

Dick Cheney has been especially pleased with Obama’s covering up war crimes and prosecuting more whistle blowers than any other president under the Espionage Act, letting the criminals walk free.

Up with Chris: With the election in sight, Obama directs attacks at Romney

The Up w/ Chris Hayes panel of Newsweek/Daily Beast contributor Michelle Goldberg, The Nation.com editor Richard Kim, playwright and author Esther Armah, and MSNBC Political Analyst Jonathan Alter, weigh in on how they expect the president to frame his campaign message against Romney.

The next seven months are going to be nauseatingly boring. The four years after that are going to be even worse no matter which of the two candidates for president is elected.  

On This Day In History April 11

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 11 is the 101st day of the year (102nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 264 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1814, the Treaty of Fontainebleau ends the War of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte, and forces him to abdicate unconditionally for the first time.

War of the Sixth Coalition

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812-13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was then able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France’s loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a new coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.

Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days Campaign, though these were not significant enough to turn the tide; Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.

When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favour of his son; however, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.

   The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.

   Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April 1814.

   -Act of abdication of Napoleon

In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victors exiled him to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried since a near-capture by Russians on the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, and he survived to be exiled while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods.

The Boat Race

There is only one of course.  This Saturday was the 158th official running of the Oxford Cambridge Heavyweight 8s and like many things sporting had both its share of unexpected drama and political implications.

Not that there haven’t been dramatic events in the past.  Over the years there have been 2 mutinies (1959 and 1987, both Oxford), 7 sinkings, and one tie because the Judge was sleeping under a bush (a not uncommon collegiate experience).  

This year the race was disrupted by a lone swimmer, Trenton Oldfield.

Before we get to the politics, I’d like to talk about the race which I only saw from the restart.  As far as I’m concerned the Umpire showed a distinctly pro-Cambridge bias.  Despite Oxford leading by a quarter length the boats re-started even.  When Oxford lost a blade the Umpire ruled it Oxford’s fault and blamed it on their female coxswain.

Asshole.  He handed it to Cambridge.

Also the lead oar of Oxford collapsed from exhaustion but was left untreated for several minutes because everyone was too busy patting themselves on the back.

Against which I offer this statement from the notorious Trenton Oldfield-

(T)his reach is (…) the site of a number of past and present elitist establishments; Fulham Palace, Chiswick House and St Paul’s Schools and a large collection of other ‘independent/public/free schools’. It is also where Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minster of the Government lives with his family, despite his constituents living hundreds of miles away in post-industrial Sheffield. Most notably and most importantly for today, it is a site where elitists and those with elitist sympathies have come together every year but one for the last 158 years to perform, in the most public way, their ambition for the structures and subsequent benefits from elitism and privilege to continue. (They even list in the programme which public school the rowers attended before Oxford or Cambridge)

The boat race itself, with its pseudo competition, assembled around similar principles of fastest, strongest, selected …etc, is an inconsequential backdrop for these elite educational institutions to demonstrate themselves, reboot their shared culture together in the public realm. It is also inconsequential to the performance that the overwhelming majority of the population continue to remain interested in their own lives and disinterested in the boat race. The boat race, while accessible to everyone, isn’t really advertised or promoted as something for the general public to attend, you know when it’s on because it is part of the social networking calendar. This is a public event, for and by the elites with broader social relations aims. The fact that it happens in the public realm (visible) almost exactly as it has done for the last 158 years also becomes important; the untouched; the unchanged is significant. Most standing alongside the Thames today are in fact the pumped-up though obedient administrators, managers, promoters, politicians and enforcers; functional, strategic and aspirational elites.

When hasn’t elitism lead to tyranny? When hasn’t the belief of being ‘more’ than another person led to tragedy? Who benefits from elitism? One won’t be surprised to learn the etymology of the word ‘elite’ derives from ‘the elected’ … unfortunately not elected by democratic means, but rather, elected by god. Yup…’elected’, ‘selected’, ‘chosen’ … by god … inherited. When has this understanding of oneself or by a group of people ever been a good thing? When has this understanding not resulted in tyranny? Is tyranny surely not the inevitable outcome? And in contrast, when hasn’t the pursuit of equality, not resulted in these long passages of tyranny being overcome, even if temporarily?

To enclose and to enslave requires the audacity, cunning and daring to take advantage of our natural kindness, our belief in others, our respect for authority, our desire to please, and our apprehension about ‘causing waves’, our hope for all to have a better life, somehow. It also depends on our disbelief, despite having experienced it, that other people would purposefully set out to harm us for their own advantage. More recently we have also been encouraged, though the evidence displays the opposite much of the time, that a whole raft of institutions exists that work to prevent human catastrophes like our right to protest being denied, detention without trial or charge, the monopolisation of  industries, and essentials like food and water. These institutions were established to prevent slavery, genocide, indentured labour and groupings of indices of deprivation and poverty from occurring.  It is likely many in the western Baby Boomers generation (large percentage of the UK population), who have benefited so much from these institutions, are finding it very difficult to consider that these institutions might now be turning against them, their children and their grandchildren?

Do we resist now setting out to avoid something akin to slavery and imperialism? Or do we hesitate and find ourselves and our children without agency once again and in a long battle to gain it again? How long might it take and how many lives might this demand?

Some more corporatist sympathetic links-