10/15/2012 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”.

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New York Times Editorial: No Shame

There are many unanswered questions about the vicious assault in Benghazi last month that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. And Congress has a responsibility to raise them. But Republican lawmakers leading the charge on Capitol Hill seem more interested in attacking President Obama than in formulating an effective response.

It doesn’t take a partisan to draw that conclusion. The ugly truth is that the same people who are accusing the administration of not providing sufficient security for the American consulate in Benghazi have voted to cut the State Department budget, which includes financing for diplomatic security. The most self-righteous critics don’t seem to get the hypocrisy, or maybe they do and figure that if they hurl enough doubts and complaints at the administration, they will deflect attention from their own poor judgments on the State Department’s needs.

Paul Krugman: Death By Ideology

Mitt Romney doesn’t see dead people. But that’s only because he doesn’t want to see them; if he did, he’d have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care.

Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney – echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush – in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.

These are remarkable statements. They clearly demonstrate that Mr. Romney has no idea what life (and death) are like for those less fortunate than himself.

Jonathan Turley: Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech

Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.

In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called “Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.” [..]

Of course, free speech is often precisely about pissing off other people – challenging social taboos or political values.

William K. Black: Ryan and Romney’s Secret Plan to Cut the Deficit — and Why Romney Opposes It

At Thursday’s vice presidential debate, Representative Ryan renewed his claim that he has a secret plan to cut the deficit while cutting all tax rates by 20 percent and not eliminating any tax deductions for which the middle class are large recipients. Oh, and Romney has also promised to increase military spending. [..]

There is, of course, no Ryan plan. There cannot be a Ryan plan because mathematicians are not like historians. The cruel joke about historians is that while God himself cannot change history; historians can. It is perhaps because they can be useful to God in this regard that he tolerates their continued existence and frequent errors. Mathematicians are useless to God, at least in the non-exotic realms of mathematics relevant to budgets, because they are so good at exposing errors and when they do so the error is beyond dispute. (Econometricians are God’s favorites among the quants.) No budget plan could meet all (or even most) of the policy constraints Ryan and Romney have promised they would obey. It is mathematically impossible. Romney and Ryan’s primary lie is that they have a secret plan to cut taxes, cut the deficit, and increase military spending.

Andrew Leonard: Romney’s magic economy plan

Mitt Romney gets a lot of guff from his critics for his unwillingness to spell out the details of how he plans to fix the U.S. the economy; how exactly his tax reforms will work, for example, or what precisely he will do in his first 100 days to boost job creation. But the best thing about the Romney agenda is that by his own admission, he doesn’t need a plan. Just getting himself elected is the ticket to prosperity. [..]

The notion that Romney could spur economic growth “without actually doing anything” invites mockery. The Atlantic’s Matt O’Brien memorably dubbed it “faith-based economic strategy.” At the very least it seemed to betray a breath-taking level of unwarranted hubris. But the key to understanding his boast is to ignore the low-hanging fruit (“without actually doing anything”) and focus on five crucial words: “We’ll see capital come back.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Town Hall Debate: Will Voters Ask the Medicare and Social Security Questions Reporters Haven’t?

If you support strong and effective government, then the unfamiliar glow you felt after last Thursday’s debate was the satisfaction of seeing your opinions forcefully defended by a national candidate. There hasn’t been much of that going on lately. But a deceptive question was asked in the vice presidential debate, while other important ones still haven’t been asked of any national candidate.

The president’s been undercutting his own party’s best message and keeps threatening to cut benefits for its signature programs. As for Mitt Romney and his running mate, there’s little left to be said: They’re both determined to undermine Medicare and Social Security. Even if they’re retreating from their most radical ideas now, you know those ideas will be back once they’re in office.

If what follows focuses more on the president than on his challenger, its because the Republicans are beyond redemption on this issue. But both candidates need to answer some direct questions on this topic.

Robert Kuttner: Muddled Ideology, Muddled Debate

The nation’s pundits have had a fine week, psychoanalyzing President Obama’s dismal performance in the first debate and Joe Biden’s effective if a bit over-the-top counter-punching in his match with Paul Ryan.

Maureen Dowd had it about right when she wrote that “Because Obama doesn’t relish confrontation, he often fails to pin his opponents on the mat the first time he gets the chance; instead, perversely, he pulls back and allows foes to gain oxygen.” Ouch.

But the psycho-biography school, fascinating as it is, mostly misses the point.

Romney and Obama have each muddled their views — but Romney does it in a way that helps him, while Obama’s muddling helps the Republicans. Let me explain.

On This Day In History October 15

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.

October 15 is the 288th day of the year (289th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 77 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte begins his final exile on the Island of St. Helene.

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a military and political leader of France and Emperor of the French as Napoleon I, whose actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century.

Napoleon was born in Corsica to parents of minor noble Italian ancestry and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France. Bonaparte rose to prominence under the French First Republic and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. In 1799, he staged a coup d’etat and installed himself as First Consul; five years later the French Senate proclaimed him emperor. In the first decade of the 19th century, the French Empire under Napoleon engaged in a series of conflicts-the Napoleonic Wars-involving every major European power. After a streak of victories, France secured a dominant position in continental Europe, and Napoleon maintained the French sphere of influence through the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.

The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon’s fortunes. His Grande Armee was badly damaged in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig; the following year the Coalition invaded France, forced Napoleon to abdicate and exiled him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he escaped Elba and returned to power, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in confinement by the British on the island of Saint Helena. An autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer, though Sten Forshufvud and other scientists have since conjectured he was poisoned with arsenic.

Napoleon’s campaigns are studied at military academies the world over. While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the administrative and judicial foundations for much of Western Europe.

Green Party Candidate: Jill Stein

If you watch only the major networks or read only the local newspapers you would think that only Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are vying for the Oval Office. There are other candidates running for President but the MSM and the two major parties have managed to keep them out of the debates. There are three other candidates: Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson; Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Today the focus will be Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate:

Jill Stein (born May 14, 1950) is an American physician and the nominee of the Green Party for President of the United States in the 2012 election. Stein was a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in the 2002 and the 2010 gubernatorial elections. Stein is a resident of Lexington, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Harvard College (1973) and the Harvard Medical School (1979). She serves on the boards of Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and MassVoters for Fair Elections, and has been active with the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities.

Among others, Jill Stein has been endorsed for 2012 President by linguist, author and activist Noam Chomsky and by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges.

This was Dr. Stein’s response to five key debate questions

Give us a mandate for what America needs: a Green New Deal

We’ve heard Democrats’ and Republicans’ promises before and their Wall Street-driven policies have failed. It’s time to go Green

President Obama and Governor Romney are talking a lot about how they’re going to save the economy. But it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that what they’re saying is only talk. The debates are an opportunity for them to broadcast campaign promises, but where is the accountability, when past promises have already been left in the dust? [..]

Most Americans agree that the policies of the Green New Deal are exactly what we need. Yet, many voters remain afraid to vote their values. We’ve all been told to vote against politicians, not for policies. And the result has been, year after year, that the politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of: expanding war, the meltdown of the economy, and the dismantling of our civil liberties.

Our society is at a breaking point: we may not survive four more years of Wall Street rule. We must answer the politics of fear with the politics of courage. The Commission on Presidential Debates has attempted to monopolize the discourse and limit our choices. But the debate about America’s future that matters most is the debate that takes place within each of us.

Here is the link to the Green Party Platform 2012

Fairy Tale Artists

Crossposted from DocuDharma

Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can’t be objective about Nixon.- Stockton

Martha Raddatz and the faux objectivity of journalists

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Friday 12 October 2012 09.01 EDT

At best, “objectivity” in this world of journalists usually means nothing more than: the absence of obvious and intended favoritism toward either of the two major political parties. As long as a journalist treats Democrats and Republicans more or less equally, they will be hailed – and will hail themselves – as “objective journalists”.

But that is a conception of objectivity so shallow as to be virtually meaningless, in large part because the two parties so often share highly questionable assumptions and orthodoxies on the most critical issues. One can adhere to steadfast neutrality in the endless bickering between Democrats and Republicans while still having hardcore ideology shape one’s journalism.

The highly questionable assumptions tacitly embedded in the questions Raddatz asked illustrate how this works, as does the questions she pointedly and predictably did not ask.

That Iran is some major national security issue for the US is a concoction of the bipartisan DC class that always needs a scary foreign enemy. The claim is frequently debunked in multiple venues. But because both political parties embrace this highly ideological claim, Raddatz does, too. Indeed, one of the most strictly enforced taboos in establishment journalism is the prohibition on aggressively challenging those views that are shared by the two parties. Doing that makes one fringe, unserious and radical: the opposite of solemn objectivity.

Most of Raddatz’s Iran questions were thus snugly within this bipartisan framework. At one point, she even chided Biden for appearing to suggest that Iran may not be actively pursuing a nuclear weapon: “You are acting a little bit like they don’t want one”.

In sum, all of Raddatz’s questions were squarely within the extremely narrow – and highly ideological – DC consensus about US foreign policy generally and Iran specifically: namely, Iran is a national security threat to the US; it is trying to obtain nuclear weapons; the US must stop them; the US has the unchallenged right to suffocate Iranian civilians and attack militarily. As usual, the only question worth debating is whether a military attack on Iran now would be strategically wise, whether it would advance US interests.

One can say many things about the worldview promoted by her questions. That it is “objective” or free of ideology is most certainly not one of them.

Exactly the same is true of Raddatz’s statements and questions about America’s entitlement programs.

That social security is “going broke” – a core premise of her question – is, to put it as generously as possible, a claim that is dubious in the extreme. “Factually false” is more apt. This claim lies at the heart of the right-wing and neo-liberal quest to slash entitlement benefits for ordinary Americans – Ryan predictably responded by saying: “Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.” – but the claim is baseless.

That Medicare is “going broke” is as dubious and controversial a claim as the one about social security. Numerous economists and fact-checking journalists have documented quite clearly why this claim is misleading in the extreme.

Yet this claim has also become DC orthodoxy. That is because, as the economist Dean Baker has explained, “Social security and Medicare are hugely important for the security of the non-rich population of the United States,” and “for this reason” many Washington media outlets and think tanks “hate them”.

Nonetheless, Raddatz announced this assertion as fact. That’s because she’s long embedded in the DC culture that equates its own ideological desires with neutral facts.

That is what this faux journalistic neutrality, whether by design or otherwise, always achieves. It glorifies highly ideological claims that benefit a narrow elite class (the one that happens to own the largest media outlets which employ these journalists) by allowing that ideology to masquerade as journalistic fact.

These establishment journalists are creatures of the DC and corporate culture in which they spend their careers, and thus absorb and then regurgitate all of the assumptions of that culture. That may be inevitable, but having everyone indulge the ludicrous fantasy that they are “objective” and “neutral” most certainly is not.

Sunday Train: Is Big Oil Striking Back against the California Bullet Train vote?

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

One of the biggest difficulties in the fight for sustainable energy independence is that Big Oil and Big Coal, the entrenched vested interests against our nation’s long term economic survival, have ample resources and ample practice in playing the long game. They have, over decades, built up a network of propaganda mills (Heritage, Cato, Reason), pro-corporate legislative cookie cutter factories (ALEC) and have invested heavily in buying large number of legislatures at both the state and federal level.

So we should not expect victories to come without an effort to strike back coming from Big Oil or Big Coal. It appear that this effort may be underway in California, following Big Oil’s big loss when the California State Legislature approved the California State funding to match the Federal Funding of the HSR Initial Construction Segment.

2012 NL Championship Series- Cardinals at Giants, Game 1


Over on the Seniors’ side they can’t stop talking about the Zombie team comebacks of the Giants and Cards.  They should give out promotional pacemakers instead of bats.

These are both really good teams, the 2 consecutive previous World Champions, and this is the first matchup between teams with these credentials in a League Championship (Braves/Yankees ’58 in the Series).

Most observers rate the Cardinals as favorites despite their inferior record.  I find myself in rare agreement.  They’re a team without many weaknesses.

The Giants, on the other hand, have a problem with pitching and it starts with Bumgarner (16 – 11, 3.37 ERA).  If he’s as ineffective as he was against the Reds it could be a very short series since he’s scheduled to pitch twice including tonight.  They’ve also returned Lincecum to the rotation from Bullpen exile on the basis of his strong performance in long relief and Zito’s unconvincing effort.

The Cardinals start Lynn (18 – 7, 3.78 ERA) and follow with Lohse, Carpenter, and Wainwright.  Lohse in particular is very dangerous, better than anyone left except Sabbathia and Verlander.

We’ll start tonight with the Rally Squirrel since I haven’t had time to check YouTube recently.

Junior League Games will be carried on TBS, Senior on Faux.