Daily Archive: 08/29/2012

Aug 29 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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: The GOP’s Split-Screen Convention

This week, the anti-disaster assistance party scrambled to shuffle its anti-government convention speakers in the face of Hurricane Isaac. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported, “As the American Petroleum Institute planned a concert and a party here to push its agenda, which includes expansion of oil exploration on federal lands, some of its members were ramping down production in the gulf and removing workers from platforms.”

Welcome to Republicans’ “split screen” convention week. On one side of your TV screen, competitive condemnations of the government boot on the American economy’s neck. On the other: a dangerous storm that dramatically symbolizes the need for strong infrastructure, sane environmental policy and solid emergency response. Unlike the Republicans, the storm won’t talk. But the contrast speaks volumes.

Amanda Marcotte: She’s Just an Easy-Bake Oven: How the GOP and the Anti-Choice Movement See Women

The good news about the Rep. Todd Akin situation is that it genuinely seems to have raised the public’s awareness of how much the anti-choice movement is rooted not in some love of fetal life, but in a profound misogyny that focuses heavily on fear of female sexuality. Akin’s ready assumption that women frequently lie about rape to cover up their sexual adventures was a perfect example of the demonized view of female sexual liberty driving the anti-choice movement, one that has very little relation to how women actually act in the world. But the exposure of the ugly, misogynist heart of the anti-choice movement might come at a price: Other dehumanizing, ugly attitudes towards women expressed by anti-choicers might seem more moderate by comparison.

For instance, Rep. Paul Ryan, now a nominee for Vice President, has a long history of using incredibly dehumanizing language towards women and speaking of women as if they non-sentient beings, while seemingly imbuing even fertilized eggs with the sentience he won’t grant women. Even though he’s no doubt been strongly coached to try to at least mimic compassion for women, the notion that women have internal lives and experiences that matter just doesn’t seem to factor into his discussion of reproductive rights. Instead, he just falls back on talking about women as if they’re nothing but flesh-bound ovens to cook male heirs. Which, naturally, led to the same kind of minimization of rape that Akin is accused of engaging in.

Laura Flanders: Romney’s Racism: In the Gutter with Gingrich

The sixteenth anniversary of TANF hit this week, and the Republican presidential candidate spent his time lying about the president’s position on it. President Obama, Mitt Romney insists, stripped the work requirements out of the temporary assistance program that replaced welfare for poor families under Bill Clinton in 1996.

Although every fact-check has shown he’s wrong, Romney and the Romney-phile propaganda groups keep pounding away at their message with ads like this one:

Unidentified male: “Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.”

The president’s responded in typically Obaman fashion. Without wading into the welfare fray, he’s wagged his finger at Romney’s facts: “You just can’t make stuff up….” On the campaign trail this week, the Democrat beat the drum for “more popular” government programs, like those for seniors and students. He’s closing all his rallies with Bruce Springsteen’s rousing paean to solidarity, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Leslie Savan: Even GOP Guvs Admit that Romney’s Welfare Ads Are False

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) as much as admitted that Mitt Romney’s race-baiting claim that President Obama is “gutting” work requirements in the welfare program is a load of manure.

He didn’t use those words, of course, but when Tom Brokaw asked Snyder about the program at the Republican convention this afternoon, the governor had only positive things to say about it.

This is the same program that Romney insists Obama is using to “shore up his base.” (Read: black people.) As one of Romney’s five welfare ads says, “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare.”

To back up, the Obama administration recently announced that states could apply for waivers from the 1996 welfare reform law in order to find alternative ways to help welfare recipients find work. Nothing is gutted, the work requirement stands, and in fact, in2005, 29 governors-including Governor Romney-asked for even more flexibility in how they applied the welfare law.

Liliana Segura: In Sentencing Criminals, Is Norway Too Soft? Or Are We Too Harsh?

It’s not very often the concept of restorative justice gets much play outside scholarly publications or reformist criminal justice circles, so first, some credit for Max Fisher at The Atlantic for giving it an earnest look last week. In seeking to explain Norway’s seemingly measly twenty-one-year sentence for remorseless, mass-murdering white supremacist Anders Breivik-a sentence that is certain to be extended to last the rest of his life-Fisher casts a critical eye on the underlying philosophy that animates that country’s sentencing practices, finding it to be “radically different” from what we’re used to in the United States. When it comes to criminal sentencing, he notes, the United States favors a retributive model-in which an offender must be duly punished for his crimes-over a restorative model that “emphasizes healing: for the victims, for the society, and, yes, for the criminal him or herself.”

“I don’t have an answer for which is better,” he says at the outset, acknowledging that his own sense of outrage over Breivik’s sentence-like that of many Americans-“hints at not just how different the two systems are, but how deeply we may have come to internalize our understanding of justice, which, whatever its merits, doesn’t seem to be as universally applied as we might think.”

Jessica Valenti: Fantasy Women of the GOP

As the “war on women” continues, my sole comfort has been watching dumbfounded Republicans try to explain away the misogyny that’s so foundational to their agenda.

In the midst of the fallout over Todd Akin’s comments claiming “legitimate” rape victims are unlikely to get pregnant, the science-whiz whined to Mike Huckabee in a radio interview that he “made a single error in one sentence.” He was frustrated that people “are upset over one word spoke in one day in one sentence.”

Bryan Fischer, a spokesperson from the American Family Association, complained about the Akin backlash, saying, “You talk about somebody being a victim of forcible assault, that would be Todd Akin.” Mitt Romney denounced Akin’s remarks as “insulting” and “inexcusable,” but accused the Obama campaign of trying to link Akin to the GOP as a whole, calling it “sad” and that the move stooped “to a low level.”

But what Romney, Akin, and their ilk don’t understand is that women’s anger isn’t about “one word” or one politician-it’s about an ethos, a Republican ideology steeped in misogyny and willful ignorance.

Aug 29 2012

Seven Days In May

U.S. Army battling racists within its own ranks

By Daniel Trotta, Reuters

Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:00am EDT

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups encourage followers to enlist in the Army and Marine Corps to acquire the skills to overthrow what some call the ZOG – the Zionist Occupation Government. Get in, get trained and get out to brace for the coming race war.

If this scenario seems like fantasy or bluster, civil rights organizations take it as deadly serious, especially given recent events. Former U.S. Army soldier Wade Page opened fire with a 9mm handgun at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, murdering six people and critically wounding three before killing himself during a shootout with police.



“We don’t really think this is a huge problem, at Bragg, and across the Army,” said Colonel Kevin Arata, a spokesman for Fort Bragg.

“In my 26 years in the Army, I’ve never seen it,” the former company commander said.



That failed to stop former Marine T.J. Leyden, with two-inch SS bolts tattooed above his collar, from serving from 1988 to 1991 while openly supporting neo-Nazi causes. A member of the Hammerskin Nation, a skinhead group, he said he hung a swastika from his locker, taking it down only when his commander politely asked him to ahead of inspections by the commanding general.

“I went into the Marine Corps for one specific reason: I would learn how shoot,” Leyden told Reuters. “I also learned how to use C-4 (explosives), blow things up. I took all my military skills and said I could use these to train other people,” said Leyden, 46, who has since renounced the white power movement and is a consultant for the anti-Nazi Simon Wiesenthal Center.



“We’re very strict on the tattoo policy here within this recruiting station,” said Sergeant Aaron Iskenderian, head of the Army recruiting office in Fayetteville, the Army town next to Fort Bragg.



Iskenderian cited the example of a young man who came in recently with a tattoo of the Confederate flag.

“We’re in the South here. It’s considered Southern heritage. It’s on the General Lee,” Iskenderian said, referring to the car from the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”



Academics who study white supremacists say proponents of the “infiltration strategy” of joining the U.S. military have adapted, telling skinheads to deceive military recruiters by letting their hair grow, avoiding or covering tattoos, and suppressing their racist views.



“They are some of the most disciplined soldiers we have. They really want to learn to shoot those weapons,” Smith (former military investigator, now a professor of criminal justice at Austin Peay State University) said. “The problem wasn’t just that we were opening the floodgates to let them in. We let them out after prosecution or when their time was up and we didn’t let the police know.”

4 soldiers linked to terror plot; alleged leader tied to Washington

Mike Carter and Miyoko Wolf, Seattle Times

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Aguigui was home-schooled in Cashmere, Chelan County, joining the Army after graduation. He married fellow soldier Dierdre Wetzker at Fort Stewart, according to news reports and interviews with family.

Wetzker, 24, died last year at Fort Stewart while pregnant with the couple’s son. According to Orlin Wetzker, her uncle in Ogden, Utah, the family was told by law-enforcement officials that she may have been poisoned. A call to Aguigui’s parents’ home in Cashmere was not returned.

The prosecutors in the Georgia homicide case have called Wetzker’s death “highly suspicious,” but no charges have been filed.

According to court testimony, the group used some of the nearly $500,000 in insurance and death benefits to buy more than $87,000 worth of military-grade firearms and land in Washington state.



In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself “the nicest coldblooded murderer you will ever meet.” He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.

“All members of the group were on active duty or were former members of the military,” Pauley said. “He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned.”



In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.

Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said the Army has dropped its own charges against the four soldiers in the slayings of Roark and York. The Military authorities filed their charges in March, but never acted on them. Fort Stewart officials Monday refused to identify the units the accused soldiers served in and their jobs within those units.

But, but, but…

Anarchy!

Anarchist Leader In Assassination Plot Was Apparently A Page At The 2008 GOP Convention

Geoffrey Ingersoll, Business Insider

Aug. 28, 2012, 8:57 AM

Shortly after the media frenzy over these "anarchist" militant revolutionaries and their alleged aspirations to overthrow the government (with $87,000 of weapons and multiple members with loose lips), Gawker revealed that their leader, Isaac Aguigui was apparently a page at the Republican National Convention in 2008.



The caption of the photograph says “Republican National Convention page Isaac Aguigui watches from the edge of the floor at the start of the first session of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota September 1, 2008.”

Move along, nothing to see.

Aug 29 2012

What we’re good at

U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market

By THOM SHANKER, The New York Times

Published: August 26, 2012

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011.



(A)greements with Saudi Arabia included the purchase of 84 advanced F-15 fighters, a variety of ammunition, missiles and logistics support, and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighters in the current fleet.

Sales to Saudi Arabia last year also included dozens of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, all contributing to a total Saudi weapons deal from the United States of $33.4 billion, according to the study.

The United Arab Emirates purchased a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, an advanced antimissile shield that includes radars and is valued at $3.49 billion, as well as 16 Chinook helicopters for $939 million.

Oman bought 18 F-16 fighters for $1.4 billion.

(h/t Naked Capitalism)

Aug 29 2012

On This Day In History August 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 29 is the 241st day of the year (242nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 124 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1533, the 300 year old Inca civilization ended when Francisco Pizarro’s conquistadors strangled the last Inca Emperor, Atahuallpa.

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the Inca built a dazzling empire that governed a population of 12 million people. Although they had no writing system, they had an elaborate government, great public works, and a brilliant agricultural system. In the five years before the Spanish arrival, a devastating war of succession gripped the empire. In 1532, Atahuallpa’s army defeated the forces of his half-brother HuÁscar in a battle near Cuzco. Atahuallpa was consolidating his rule when Pizarro and his 180 soldiers appeared.

In 1531, Pizarro sailed down to Peru, landing at Tumbes. He led his army up the Andes Mountains and on November 15, 1532, reached the Inca town of Cajamarca, where Atahuallpa was enjoying the hot springs in preparation for his march on Cuzco, the capital of his brother’s kingdom. Pizarro invited Atahuallpa to attend a feast in his honor, and the emperor accepted. Having just won one of the largest battles in Inca history, and with an army of 30,000 men at his disposal, Atahuallpa thought he had nothing to fear from the bearded white stranger and his 180 men. Pizarro, however, planned an ambush, setting up his artillery at the square of Cajamarca.

On November 16, Atahuallpa arrived at the meeting place with an escort of several thousand men, all apparently unarmed. Pizarro sent out a priest to exhort the emperor to accept the sovereignty of Christianity and Emperor Charles V., and Atahuallpa refused, flinging a Bible handed to him to the ground in disgust. Pizarro immediately ordered an attack. Buckling under an assault by the terrifying Spanish artillery, guns, and cavalry (all of which were alien to the Incas), thousands of Incas were slaughtered, and the emperor was captured.

Atahuallpa offered to fill a room with treasure as ransom for his release, and Pizarro accepted. Eventually, some 24 tons of gold and silver were brought to the Spanish from throughout the Inca empire. Although Atahuallpa had provided the richest ransom in the history of the world, Pizarro treacherously put him on trial for plotting to overthrow the Spanish, for having his half-brother HuÁscar murdered, and for several other lesser charges. A Spanish tribunal convicted Atahuallpa and sentenced him to die. On August 29, 1533, the emperor was tied to a stake and offered the choice of being burned alive or strangled by garrote if he converted to Christianity. In the hope of preserving his body for mummification, Atahuallpa chose the latter, and an iron collar was tightened around his neck until he died.