Daily Archive: 06/01/2012

Jun 01 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”.

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Paul Krugman: The Austerity Agenda

“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.” So declared John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago, and he was right. Even if you have a long-run deficit problem – and who doesn’t? – slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression.

So why is Britain doing exactly what it shouldn’t? Unlike the governments of, say, Spain or California, the British government can borrow freely, at historically low interest rates. So why is that government sharply reducing investment and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, rather than waiting until the economy is stronger?  [..]

The big question here is whether the evident failure of austerity to produce an economic recovery will lead to a “Plan B.” Maybe. But my guess is that even if such a plan is announced, it won’t amount to much. For economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. And it still is.

Robert Sheer: Hope Burning

So now we have Rambo Obama, a steely warrior who, according to a lengthy leaked insider account in The New York Times, hurls death-dealing drones at anyone who threatens the good old USA. Including children. Those children are presumed guilty by virtue of proximity, and the Times plays along, not even modifying a targeted terrorist with the word “alleged,” as once had been the paper’s convention: “When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises-but his family is with him-it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

Obama as the cool triggerman is an image useful to White House operatives as they buff the president’s persona for the coming election. But what it reveals is the mindset of a political cynic whose seductive words cloak the moral indifference of a methodical executioner. Forget Harry Truman, who obliterated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Lyndon Johnson, who carpet-bombed millions in Vietnam. The Democrats have got themselves another killer, one whose techniques are as devastatingly effective, but brilliantly refined.

New York Times Editorial: Too Much Power for a President

It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight. On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed who was actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: President Obama himself. And that is very troubling.

Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield – depriving Americans of their due-process rights – without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

Nick Turse: The Pentagon Detours to Terminator Planet

U.S. military documents tell the story vividly.  In the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of West Africa, an unmanned mini-submarine deployed from the USS Freedom detects an “anomaly”: another small remotely-operated sub with welding capabilities tampering with a major undersea oil pipeline.  The American submarine’s “smart software”  classifies the action as a possible threat and transmits the information to an unmanned drone flying overhead.  The robot plane begins collecting intelligence data and is soon circling over a nearby vessel, a possible mother ship, suspected of being involved with the “remote welder.”

At a hush-hush “joint maritime operations center” onshore, analysts pour over digital images captured by the unmanned sub and, according to a Pentagon report, recognize the welding robot “as one recently stolen and acquired by rebel antigovernment forces.”  An elite quick-reaction force is assembled at a nearby airfield and dispatched to the scene,  while a second unmanned drone is deployed to provide persistent surveillance of the area of operations.

And with that, the drone war is on.

E. J. Dionne: The Stakes in the Walker Recall

Recalls and impeachments are a remedy of last resort. Most of the time, voters who don’t like an incumbent choose to live with the offending politician until the next election, on the sensible theory that fixed terms of office and regular elections are adequate checks on abuses of power and extreme policies.

The question facing Wisconsin’s citizens is whether Gov. Scott Walker engaged in such extraordinary behavior that setting aside his election is both justified and necessary.   [..]

Walker seems to enjoy a slight advantage in the polls, having vastly outspent his foes up to now. Barrett, however, should have enough money to level the competition in the final days. This recall should not have had to happen. But its root cause was not the orneriness of Walker’s opponents but a polarizing brand of conservative politics that most Americans, including many conservatives, have good reason to reject.

Joe Conason: Why Cory Booker Got Bain Capital So Wrong

Cory Booker’s emotional televised plea to “stop attacking private equity” may have been the single greatest service he could perform for the Romney campaign. His immediate attempt to revise his remarks on behalf of President Obama, for whom he is supposed to act as a surrogate, only highlighted his earlier insistence that the harsh campaign criticism of Bain Capital, which he specifically defended, is “nauseating.”

But the Newark mayor’s feelings must be influenced by his own relationship with Wall Street, private equity and Bain. America’s financial titans have been very, very good to him.  [..]

But whatever he says about capital, the Newark mayor also knows that it takes a lot of money to win public office, like the U.S. Senate seat that may be in his future. What everyone else should know is that he expects to raise that campaign money from the same people and firms that have backed him from the beginning.

Jun 01 2012

On This Day In History June 1

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

June 1 is the 152nd day of the year (153rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 213 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. CNN went on to change the notion that news could only be reported at fixed times throughout the day. At the time of CNN’s launch, TV news was dominated by three major networks–ABC, CBS and NBC–and their nightly 30-minute broadcasts. Initially available in less than two million U.S. homes, today CNN is seen in more than 89 million American households and over 160 million homes internationally.

CNN was the brainchild of Robert “Ted” Turner, a colorful, outspoken businessman dubbed the “Mouth of the South.” Turner was born on November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and as a child moved with his family to Georgia, where his father ran a successful billboard advertising company. After his father committed suicide in 1963, Turner took over the business and expanded it. In 1970, he bought a failing Atlanta TV station that broadcast old movies and network reruns and within a few years Turner had transformed it into a “superstation,” a concept he pioneered, in which the station was beamed by satellite into homes across the country. Turner later bought the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and aired their games on his network, TBS (Turner Broadcasting System). In 1977, Turner gained international fame when he sailed his yacht to victory in the prestigious America’s Cup race.

Early history

The Cable News Network was launched at 5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday June 1, 1980. After an introduction by Ted Turner, the husband and wife team of David Walker and Lois Hart anchored the first newscast. Burt Reinhardt, the then executive vice president of CNN, hired most of CNN’s first 200 employees, including the network’s first news anchor, Bernard Shaw.

Since its debut, CNN has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television companies, several web sites, specialized closed-circuit channels (such as CNN Airport Network), and a radio network. The company has 36 bureaus (10 domestic, 26 international), more than 900 affiliated local stations, and several regional and foreign-language networks around the world. The channel’s success made a bona-fide mogul of founder Ted Turner and set the stage for the Time Warner conglomerate’s eventual acquisition of Turner Broadcasting.

A companion channel, CNN2, was launched on January 1, 1982 and featured a continuous 24-hour cycle of 30-minute news broadcasts. A year later, it changed its name to “CNN Headline News”, and eventually it was simply called “Headline News”. (In 2005, Headline News would break from its original format with the addition of Headline Prime, a prime-time programming block that features news commentary; and in 2008 the channel changed its name again, to “HLN”.)

Jun 01 2012

Unmasking Barney Frank

Writing for naked capitalism Matt Stoller sheds some light on the myth of retiring Massachusetts Rep. Barney Franks’s true politics, and it’s not as liberal as you would think. Despite the press touting Mr. Frank as a “top” and “passionate” liberal in reality, Mr. Stoller points out, that in reality he has been a career Reaganite

The career of Barney Frank casts a large shadow upon the Democratic approach to financial matters, as he perfectly epitomizes how they behaved throughout this time period.  Frank was elected in 1981, as a quintessential Reagan-era Democrat.  He is frequently misunderstood, and cast as a liberal.  In another era, he would have been such.  But he was first and foremost interested in cutting deals, and to that end, his ideology ended up as that of a Reagan-lite.  It’s unfortunate, because by the time he had real power in 2008, he had no firm basis upon which to make decisions for the broad public, and ended up consolidating wealth into the hands of a smaller and smaller number of people. [..]

He’s a bank-friendly Democrat who is believes in neoliberal ideas, but wants to ensure that there is some housing for the poor.  Let’s take this comment, which cuts to the core of how Frank sees the economy.

   “These days in developed countries, everybody says you need a private sector to create wealth, you need a public sector to create rules by which wealth is created. Sensible people understand that.”

This is absurd.  The government creates enormous amounts of wealth, from the telecommunications industry to the computer to the internet, to infrastructure like the national highway system.  If you’re driving across any number of bridges or traveling over airports, that’s wealth.  That’s value.  And it’s government-created.  The Reconstruction Finance Corporation lent out a total of $55 billion in the 1930s and 1940s, it was a government-bank that financed infrastructure all over the country.  Liberals govern like wealth can be created in both the public and private sector, and destroyed in both areas as well.  Neoliberals like Frank put their faith in the private sector.

Nor is Barney a friend to activists as Matt sites this statement that was made just recently about the Gay Pride movement:

    And I believe very strongly people on the left are too prone to do things that are emotionally satisfying and not politically useful. I have a rule, and it’s true of Occupy, it’s true of the gay-rights movement: If you care deeply about a cause, and you are engaged in an activity on behalf of that cause that is great fun and makes you feel good and warm and enthusiastic, you’re probably not helping, because you’re out there with your friends and political work is much tougher and harder. I’m going to write about the history of the LGBT movement, partly to make the point that, in America at least, it’s the way you do progressive causes….

   Pride Weekend was very important early on, because people didn’t know who we were, the hiddenness was a problem. Today, Pride has no political role. It’s a fun thing for people.

Wow! If it weren’t for the activists of OWS and Gay Pride there would be no change in public attitude about LGBT rights and no turn in conversation about the corruption of Wall St. and the causes for the income disparity that is holding back the economic recovery from the Great Recession.

Like President Obama, Barney Frank likes bipartisanship and compromise. The problem with that is it has been the downfall of the Democratic Party and widening of income disparity for the 99%. It well past time Barney Frank retired. Let the voters of Massachusetts replace him with a representative that will stand for the principles of the Democratic Party, the majority of Americans and not the banks and Wall St.

Happy retirement, Mr. Frank, and congratulations on your up coming nuptials which might not be happening if it weren’t for the Gay Pride movement.

Jun 01 2012

West Side Story; The Classic That Never Grows Old:

I started writing an essay with this title early yesterday morning on docudharma.com, only to have it just disappear on me when I was roughly halfway through it.  It’s a royal pain in the ass when that happens, but I decided to wait until later today to try it again, as I was too exasperated to try to do it over again right away.  

I’ll start out by saying that my initial introduction to West Side Story was through the music of the original Broadway stage production of this musical.   It came while I was attending day camp out west in the summer of 1962, prior to entering the sixth grade.  A girl in the group I was with, who’d just received an LP copy of the original Broadway soundtrack of WSS for her birthday, brought it to camp and played it for the rest of the group.  My love of West Side Story took off…instantly.  

West Side Story-mania was in the air that summer.  Kids roamed the hallways, sometimes in groups, snapping their fingers, and the various songs from WSS rang through the bus to and from camp every day of the week, as the kids sang all the songs.  It was cool.  

I missed seeing the film version of West Side Story during the heyday of its popularity, partly due to my relative isolation from most of the other kids, and partly because my parents refused to  take my sister and I to see it, at least in part because they didn’t think (and my mom still doesn’t think) that West Side Story was a kids’ movie.  Having seen this great, golden oldie but keeper of a Classic movie/musical more times than I’m able or willing to count at this point, the more I think about it, the more I tend to agree with my mom on this point.  

Since my parents also had an LP copy of the soundtrack of the original Broadway stage version of WSS, I played it on my parents’ Hi-Fi whenever I had the opportunity to do so, because I’d come to so love the music and the story of West Side Story itself.  I would not get to see the movie until seven years later, as my high school years were coming to a close, and WSS, although there was a big national re-release of it, had passed the heyday of its popularity, freshness and newness.

I finally did get to see it for the first time, at around Christmastime of 1968, as a high school Senior, at a now-defunct cinema that was roughly 45 minutes north of Boston, and fell in love with this film the minute I saw it.  Little did I, or my family know, that this was the start of my own love affair with the film West SIde Story that would last all the way up until the present, much to their amusement, chagrin and resigned acceptence of this particular idiosyncrasy of mine.