10/24/2012 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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Kristen Breitweiser: Droning On — But Where’s the Dialogue?

This morning the topic of drones was raised on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. I never thought I’d actually agree with Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough, but I do.

Scarborough courageously spoke the truth about the long-term dangerous effects of ANY U.S. President’s use of drones. And he went further by saying that it was time Americans started educating themselves and having a serious dialogue about our nation’s drone use overseas. I couldn’t agree more with him.

Joe Scarborough said what few Democrats or Republicans are willing to say because they either fear publicly criticizing “their own” President or appearing in any degree soft on extremism. [..]

As a 9/11 widow, I am no shrinking violet when it comes to defending ourselves against extremists; I’m all for being tough on terrorists. But, in my opinion, no U.S. President should ever have the sole sweeping power to assassinate anyone without others–including to some degree the rest of the world– looking over their shoulder.

Jessica Valente: Ending Rape Illiteracy

This week, a DC-based feminist group projected the phrase “rape is rape” onto the US Capitol building. The action was meant to highlight survivors’ stories and bring attention to the way rape is often mischaracterized. The sentiment may seem an obvious one-who doesn’t understand what rape is?-but the message, sadly, is much needed. It was only this January that the FBI updated its archaic definition of rape, male politicians’ “gaffes” about rape have become par for the course, and victim-blaming in the culture and courts runs rampant.

Feminists have done a lot to change policies, but not enough to change minds. Despite decades of activism on sexual assault-despite common sense, even-there is still widespread ignorance about what rape is, and this absence of a widely understood and culturally accepted definition of sexual assault is one of the biggest hurdles we have in chipping away at rape culture.

Laura Flanders: What a Difference Other Candidates Make

Haven’t read Lee Fang’s excellent expose on the lobbyists controlling the Presidential Debate Committee? You should. Then imagine what these debates would be like if things were very different. For one thing, there might be more parties’ candidates included.

Thanks to Democracy Now!, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party have been able to take part in three virtually expanded debates. On no occasion was the contrast greater than in the foreign policy debate Tuesday night. While the word clouds over the Obama/Romney debate screamed “crippling, kill, world leader, Israel,” the debate over at Democracy Now! kept coming back to international law, climate change, morality and human rights. [..]

For democracy to flourish, we need not only a corporation-free debate committee, we need a way to break through the monopoly of the two-party system. That problem’s only gotten harder as the wealth gap has grown and the cost of competing for office in this country has skyrocketed. What’s the number-one security threat facing American democracy? If last night’s debate is anything to go by, it’s the narrow range of policy alternatives on basic issues brought to us by Big Money in politcs.

Katrina vanden Heuvel; Paul Wellstone – 10 years later

It’s been ten years since we lost Paul Wellstone, a relentless champion, a true public servant and one of the very few social movement senators we’ve ever had. He was the first politician whose death made me weep. But in an era of craven compromises and bipartisan austerity, it seems almost unfair to call Paul Wellstone a politician at all. [..]

But Wellstone’s legacy is equally clear in the work of an array of grassroots organizations inspired or re-invigorated by his efforts. Among the most significant is Wellstone Action, which happily labors year in and year out, training organizers, activists and candidates (55,000 and counting) in electoral and issue organizing. Wellstone Action Executive Director Ben Goldfarb says that as an alternative to “triangulation,” the group is fostering “the Wellstone triangle: connecting ‘core community organizing,’ ‘engaging directly in elections [as] an arena in which you can actually build and demonstrate power’ and ‘a public policy agenda.’ ” He adds that there are “a lot of folks who believe you can make change in one of those three, or two of those three, and very few who really get how to weave them all together. That was something [Wellstone] showed, and taught and talked about his entire life.”

Leslie Savan: Sweaty vs. Steady: Body Language in the Third Debate

Mitt Romney’s calling card has always been his corporate crispness, at least from the chest up. His finely tailored suit jackets made his shoulders look broad and his chest solid; he was all jaw with a slap of bracing aftershave that you could almost smell through the TV. Fresh and ready to command his morning board meeting, Romney “looked like a president,” as pundits repeatedly declared and as he did, in fact, look in the first debate.

Last night, he was crumpled and rumpled. He forgot Rule #1 for males who sit before TV cameras: sit on the tail of your jacket so it doesn’t bunch up around your shoulders. It bunched. And instead of Old Spice, he wore fresh sweat. [..]

At the end of the debate, Obama was the first to stand up. Romney stood a beat later, and started to come around the back of the table for the ritual handshake and shoulder grab. Obama quickly pointed to the front of the table and walked there.

Romney took his directions and followed.

Jane Gleeson-White: Is GDP’s Reign as the Only Measure of Wealth Coming to an End?

Challenges to the supremacy of gross domestic product, which ignores natural and household contributions, are growing

Britain has now posted three consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product – the most recent figures show the economy has shrunk by 0.5%. With the latest set of GDP figures due to be released later this week, the nation remains sunk in the longest recession since the second world war.

But GDP is also coming under a different sort of scrutiny in these days of economic woe. GDP measures all legal transactions in the financial economy – no more and no less. And yet, since its inception in the 1930s, it has become the single most important policy tool for governments, financial institutions and corporations. Governments and many people believe that only this one miraculous figure can really show whether things are getting better or getting worse.

But GDP is a partial and misleading measure of national wealth and wellbeing. The problem is that it does not measure key goods in our economy, those unpriced but priceless services carried out by domestic workers and by nature – for example, the coastal defence of coral reefs, the pollution-filtering of wetlands, the nutrient recycling done by the soil and the unpaid work we do in our homes.

On This Day In History October 24

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 24 is the 297th day of the year (298th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 68 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Desiring to secure her later years financially, she decided she would be the first person to ride Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor used a custom-made barrel for her trip, constructed of oak and iron and padded with a mattress. Several delays occurred in the launching of the barrel, particularly because no one wanted to be part of a potential suicide. Two days before Taylor’s own attempt, a domestic cat was sent over the Horseshoe Falls in her barrel to test its strength. Contrary to rumors at the time, the cat survived the plunge unharmed and later was posed with Taylor in photographs.

On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, the barrel was put over the side of a rowboat, and Taylor climbed in, along with her lucky heart-shaped pillow. After screwing down the lid, friends used a bicycle tire pump to compress the air in the barrel. The hole used for this was plugged with a cork, and Taylor was set adrift near the American shore, south of Goat Island.

The Niagara River currents carried the barrel toward the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, which has since been the site for all daredevil stunting at Niagara Falls. Rescuers reached her barrel shortly after the plunge. Taylor was discovered to be alive and relatively uninjured, save for a small gash on her head. The trip itself took less than twenty minutes, but it was some time before the barrel was actually opened. After the journey, Annie Taylor told the press:

If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.

She briefly earned money speaking about her experience, but was never able to build much wealth. Her manager, Frank M. Russell, decamped with her barrel, and most of her savings were used towards private detectives hired to find it. It was eventually located in Chicago, only to permanently disappear some time later.

Annie Taylor died on April 29, 1921, aged 82, at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, New York. She is interred in the “Stunters Section” of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.

Barofsky on Pandit and Obama Failures: Part 1

In a web exclusive interview, Neil Barofsky, the former Special Inspector General for the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), talks with Bill Moyers about the resignation of Citibank CEO, Vikram Pandit and his disappointment with President Barack Obama’s choice to protect the big banks instead of regulating them.

“I think that you have to view [Pandit’s] career through that prism of being one of the worst-performing of a group of bad banks. To receive all that money and really to accomplish what he accomplished was mostly because of taxpayer generosity and the incredible political connections that Citigroup had in Washington. And basically cashing out those connections,” Barofsky tells Bill. [..]

“I thought that if there was ever going to be a political figure that would take on the interests of Wall Street, it was going to be President Obama. And that just didn’t happen,” Barofsky says. “It was the exact opposite of that… He had the same ideology as Secretary Geithner and, frankly, the same ideology as a lot of those people who came from Wall Street.””

This is the first of two parts and focuses on Mr. Pandit’s sudden departure.

Live Stream: 3rd Party candidates Debate

This is the first of two debates that feature candidates for president who were shut out by the Commission on Presidential Debates. A second debate will be held on October 30.

Third-party candidates set for US debate

Representatives of the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and Justice parties to hold presidential debate in Chicago.

Four third-party candidates, who were not invited to the presidential debates between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, are to face other in Chicago.

Tuesday’s debate is hosted by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, a group promoting a more open electoral process, and will be moderated by talk show host Larry King.

“It’s a two-party system, but not a two-party system by law,” King said. Obama and Romney were also invited, but declined to attend.

The participants include former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who ran against Romney in Massachusetts in 2002.

Since 1988, candidates have only been invited by the Commission on Presidential Debates to participate if polls find they have more than 15 per cent support.

So far, only one candidate has met that criterion, the billionaire Ross Perot, who debated Bill Clinton and George H W Bush in 1992.

Alternative presidential debates for third-party candidates have been held since 1996, but George Farah, author of No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates, says he “[doesn’t] remember one getting this much attention, having Larry King moderate it.”

A second third-party match-up will be held on October 30.

Up Date: C-Span will broadcast the debate live starting at 9 PM EDT.

Follow debate on Twitter #thirdpartydebate