Daily Archive: 06/06/2012

Jun 06 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Margaret Kimberley: Freedom Rider: Criminal Injustice System

If police states are ranked by the number of persons imprisoned, then the U.S. is the world’s worst and biggest police state. The system runs on greed and racism. “Being ‘tough on crime’ is a metaphor for keeping black people under control.” It is a place where being a “big black guy” means conviction, and where “prosecutors routinely overcharge defendants with long sentences, and force innocent people to plead guilty in order to avoid decades behind bars.”

There are so many things amiss in the United States that one hardly knows where to begin discussing them all. Yet of all the calamitous situations faced by Americans, the cruelest by far is the criminal justice system. America is the world’s prison capital, and just one state, Louisiana, has an incarceration rate 13 times higher than China’s and 5 times higher than Iran’s.

Bryce Covert: How the Paycheck Fairness Act Can Help Democrats Win Elections for Years to Come

The latest shot across the bow in the battle for women’s hearts and votes: a push for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate will begin debate on the bill later today now that it’s back in session, with a vote lined up for tomorrow. The bill is expected to fail, and it looked even more doomed after the House voted not to consider it on Thursday. Yet this bill doesn’t just make policy sense for all the women earning less than their male counterparts. It makes political sense for Democrats, giving women a reason to head to the polls and, perhaps more important, more financial firepower to spend on political campaigns for years to come.

The act is undoubtedly sound policy. The gender wage gap has barely budged in recent decades, and the bill aims to help reduce it by protecting workers from retaliation if they compare wages. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that nearly half of all workers are either forbidden or strongly discouraged from sharing that information, yet “pay secrecy makes it difficult for women and men to find out whether they are paid fairly, and undermines attempts to reduce the gender wage gap.” As Irin Carmon wrote last week, this secrecy is likely a root cause of the lack of pay discrimination cases brought against employers. It may be illegal to pay women differently for the same work, but they’ll be in the dark about what’s going on unless they can compare their pay to their coworkers’.

Maureen Dowd: Is Pleasure a Sin?

It’s hard to say what is weirder:

A Sister of Mercy writing about the Kama Sutra, sexual desire and “our yearnings for pleasure.”

Or the Vatican getting so hot and bothered about the academic treatise on sexuality that the pope censures it, causing it to shoot from obscurity to the top tier of Amazon.com’s best-seller list six years after it was published.

Just the latest chapter in the Vatican’s thuggish crusade to push American nuns – and all Catholic women – back into moldy subservience.

Even for a church that moves glacially, this was classic. “Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret Farley – a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar – came out in 2006.

Michelle Chen: Unwelcome Guests: Work Visa Programs Cheat Global Labor, Build Global Capital

When immigration comes up in Washington, politicians either politely ignore the issue or engage in lively debate on how best to punish and get rid of undocumented workers. Yet lawmakers give a strikingly warm embrace to certain types of immigrants. Those are the “legal” ones who enter with special visas under the pretext of having special skills or filling certain labor shortages–like Silicon Valley tech jobs or seasonal blueberry harvesting. So what makes one kind of immigrant valuable and another kind criminal?

So-called guestworker programs attest to the arbitrary politics of immigration that has generated a perfectly legal, global traffic in migrant labor. A new report by the advocacy group Global Workers Justice Alliance reveals how various federal visa programs funnel workers into special high-demand sectors, like amusement park staff or computer programmers. Like their “illegal” counterparts, these workers are inherently disempowered: they may be dependent on employers for legal status in the U.S., have their wages regularly stolen, or suffer sexual or physical abuse. Many lack the access to the health care and overtime pay that citizen workers often take for granted. As products of globalization, they’re sometimes compelled to endure virtual indentured servitude to provide critical wage remittances to their families back home.

The economic logic is simple, according to the report: externalize the costs to those who can’t afford to challenge authority.

Liz Dwyer: American Students Need to Copy Canada’s Tuition Protests

In the past four months, the Canadian province of Quebec has become a hotbed of Occupy Wall Street-style protests-marches with hundreds of thousands of protesters, and battles with tear gas throwing, pepper-spraying police. And it all started over proposed tuition increases at Quebec’s public universities.

Indeed the Quebec Spring first blossomed in February when the government proposed hiking tuition from $2,168 to $3,793 over the next five years. Thousands of students went on strike and the government, led by Premier Jean Charest, decided to play hardball and crack down with the now-infamous Bill 78, a law that limits protest rights.

Since then the protests and student boycotts have only grown. Nearly 200,000 students across the province have gone on strike. And the situation has revealed deeper frustrations with the government’s willingness to bail out businesses but not help the average student-or citizen. On May 22nd nearly 400,000 people-a full quarter of Montreal’s residents-participated in a protest march.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz: Black Out, Speak Out: Canadians Protest War on Nature and Democracy

After the fall of the Berlin wall, I worked with environmental groups in Eastern Europe. They were looking at good examples of democracy and free speech from around the world to help build their own democratic societies. Canadian freedom of speech, respect for environmental laws, and ability of the public to participate in decision-making was a shining model. Over the last decade that I have worked with partners in Canada how things have changed. I have seen firsthand how the expanding tar sands bubble in Alberta has not only skewed the economy of Canada, but also pushed the government, environmental laws and even free speech and democracy to bow to the oil industry. Today NRDC will black out our webpage – along with hundreds of other groups across North America – to speak out and protest what in Canada has become an all out attack on democracy and nature in order to safeguard the interests of the tar sands oil industry. See, Black Out, Speak Out in Canada for more. Tar sands oil is expensive and puts us all on a path of worsening climate change at a time when people across America are suffering from unusual heat, floods, tornados and other extreme weather. When tar sands starts to take away basic individual rights, it is past time to call a halt and focus on cleaner forms of energy.

Jun 06 2012

On This Day In History June 6

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 6 is the 157th day of the year (158th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 208 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1933, eager motorists park their automobiles on the grounds of Park-In Theaters, the first-ever drive-in movie theater, located on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey.

History

The drive-in theater was the creation of Camden, New Jersey, chemical company magnate Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr., whose family owned and operated the R.M. Hollingshead Corporation chemical plant in Camden. In 1932, Hollingshead conducted outdoor theater tests in his driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue in Riverton. After nailing a screen to trees in his backyard, he set a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and put a radio behind the screen, testing different sound levels with his car windows down and up. Blocks under vehicles in the driveway enabled him to determine the size and spacing of ramps so all automobiles could have a clear view of the screen. Following these experiments, he applied August 6, 1932, for a patent of his invention, and he was given U.S. Patent 1,909,537 on May 16, 1933. That patent was declared invalid 17 years later by the Delaware District Court.

Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933, on Admiral Wilson Boulevard at the Airport Circle in Pennsauken, a short distance from Cooper River Park. It offered 500 slots and a 40 by 50 ft (12 by 15 m) screen. He advertised his drive-in theater with the slogan, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.” (The first film shown was the Adolphe Menjou film Wife Beware.) The facility only operated three years, but during that time the concept caught on in other states. The April 15, 1934, opening of Shankweiler’s Auto Park in Orefield, Pennsylvania, was followed by Galveston’s Drive-In Short Reel Theater (July 5, 1934), the Pico in Los Angeles (September 9, 1934) and the Weymouth Drive-In Theatre in Weymouth, Massachusetts (May 6, 1936). In 1937, three more opened in Ohio, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with another 12 during 1938 and 1939 in California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Texas and Virginia. Michigan’s first drive-in was the Eastside, which opened May 26, 1938, in Harper Woods near Detroit.

Early drive-in theaters had to deal with noise pollution issues. The original Hollingshead drive-in had speakers installed on the tower itself which caused a sound delay affecting patrons at the rear of the drive-in’s field. Attempts at outdoor speakers next to the vehicle did not produce satisfactory results. In 1941, RCA introduced in-car speakers with individual volume controls which solved the noise pollution issue and provided satisfactory sound to drive-in patrons.

Jun 06 2012

Against Their Own Best Interests

Last week the Irish voted against their own (s)elf interest, which according to Yanis Varoufakis, professor of economics at the University of Athens, when they “voted in favour of the EU’s fiscal compact which specifies that which is both impossible to attain and catastrophic if it is attained“:

So, why did the Fine Gael-led Dublin government push so powerfully in favour of this piece of crippling idiocy? And why did the smart, decent Irish voters said Yes, despite their tradition of saying No to euro-silliness? The answer is simple: They were blackmailed. Ireland’s voters were told: Vote No and the flow of money from the troika will cease. And so they voted Yes, even though I suspect that no government minister, no rank and file Fine Gael or Labour Party member, no man or woman on the street believes that the Fiscal Compact they voted for makes sense. [..]

If on 17th June Greeks voted like the Irish did last week (that is, against their reasoning and guided by fear and blackmail), the Eurozone will become history, with terrible consequences for the global economy. This is not the case of the Philosopher Kings blackmailing the plebs to do what is right. This is the case of ‘madmen in authority’, to quote Keynes, who are not only steering the vessel toward the rocks but who are, in the process, punching holes in the life vests that may carry us to safety once the shipwreck is complete. [..]

To conclude, Europe’s peoples are being marched into a catastrophe. They know that this is their predicament. They can see their march is leading them off a mighty cliff. But they are too afraid to veer off, in case there are beaten back into line, in case they get lost in the woods, for reasons that sheep know best. However, the only way this hideous march can end is if someone summons up the courage and does it. And steps out, showing the others that this march can stop and must stop – for everyone’s benefit. Who is that someone? We, Europeans, do not have many options. As I wrote above, the Irish people had a chance but did not take it. In two weeks, the Greeks have their chance. Voting for Syriza would offer us (and by ‘us’ I mean all Europeans) a chance of this circuit-breaker. A chance to say: Enough! Time to change course in order to save the Eurozone, so as to prevent the Great Postmodern Depression which lurks once the euro-system fragments formally.

Varoufakis gives his reasons for supporting Sariza: first, that Sariza is the only party that understands that Greece needs to stay in the EuroZone and that the Eurozone won’t survive if it doesn’t give up austerity; second, the economic team that will negotiate on Greece’s behalf are good and persuasive with a clear understanding of the situation; and third, Syriza will not be the sole arbiter of the Greek government. It will be a coalition, so there is no need to fear the party’s extreme leftism.

I hope the Greeks’ come to their senses unlike the Irish and Wisconsins.

Jun 06 2012

What Is Wrong With Wisconsin?

MSNBC and other news outlets are calling the Wisconsin recall of Republican Governor Scott Walker for Gov. Walker.

Walker Survives Recall Vote

Scott Walker, the embattled Republican governor of Wisconsin, narrowly survived a recall vote on Tuesday, defeating a union-led effort to remove him from office for pushing laws to restrict the collective bargaining rights of state workers.

The state’s labor movement had marshaled widespread anger earlier this year to force a recall vote just two years into Mr. Walker’s four-year term. Democrats collected close to one million signatures in the petition drive to oust him.

That effort led to the closely-watched rematch between Mr. Walker and the Democratic opponent he beat in 2010, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee. In the voting Tuesday, Mr. Walker once again bested Mr. Barrett for the state’s top job.

The results were a victory for the national Republican Party and conservative groups from around the country, which had rallied behind Mr. Walker with tens of millions of dollars. Mr. Walker will now complete his term.

Unless, he’s indicted.