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Jan 16 2013

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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Yves Smith: Surprise! When Banks Oversee Their Own Review ‘No Harm Found’

More whistleblower leaks on Foreclosure Settlement show both suppression of evidence and gross incompetence

No wonder the Fed and the OCC snubbed a request by Darryl Issa and Elijah Cummings to review the foreclosure fraud settlement before it was finalized early last week. What had leaked out while the Potemkin borrower reviews were underway showed them to be a sham, as we detailed at length in an earlier post. But even so, what actually took place was even worse than hardened cynics had imagined.

We are going to be reporting on this story in detail, since we are conducting an in-depth investigation. But this initial report by Huffington Post gives a window on a good deal of the dubious practices that took place during the foreclosure reviews. I strongly suggest you read the piece in full; there is a lot of nasty stuff on view.

There are some issues that are highlighted in the piece, others that are implication that get somewhat lost in the considerable detail. The first, as stressed by Sheila Bair and other observers, is that the reviews were never designed to succeed. This is something we and others pointed out; this was all an exercise in show. The OCC had entered into these consent orders in the first place with the aim of derailing the 50 state attorney general settlement negotiations. [..]

Laura Flanders: How About Gun Control for the Pentagon?

“There has to be a national conversation” about gun control, says Nancy Pelosi. The killing of school children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut and other shootings since have turned up the heat.

If, after Newtown, it’s all talk and no action, the former House Speaker said this week, “it’ll amount to a dereliction of duty on the part of us in public office.”

Too right. Pelosi wants to see action. The president’s demanding it too. So are state leaders. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has his sights set on the presidency (if you’ll excuse the expression), has proposed not only rewriting the state’s existing assault weapons ban but also more expansive mental health checks and background checks of gun buyers, lower limits on how many bullets a single gun magazine can fire and a new requirement that gun buyers be periodically recertified. [..]

There’s just one piece of the picture missing. Now that lawmakers, DAs, governors and the White House have all agreed that gun violence is wrong, when are we going to start talking about troops and bombs and drones? You think American weapons are a problem in the US? Take a look at what American weapons are dong outside the country.

Jessica Valenti: Asking For It

Americans are very confused about rape. In the last few months-in the midst of high-profile cases and bumbling politicians’ gaffes-the national conversation about sexual assault is front-and-center. But instead of inspiring a proactive discourse on how to stop rape culture, much of the response has been centered around trying to “understand” rapists, or explain away why rape happens with such disconcerting frequency in the United States. We dismiss it as the actions of sociopaths, or insist that it’s just the result of miscommunication in an oversexed world.

Rape is a standard result of a culture mired in misogyny, but for whatever reason-denial, self-preservation, sexism-Americans bend over backwards to make excuses for male violence. This refusal to place responsibility with the perpetrator means we need to place it somewhere else-most often, with the victim. And while victim-blaming is nothing new, its pervasiveness serves as a stark reminder of women’s second class status-where we’re not actual people, just catalysts for men’s actions.

Katrina vanden Heuvel; The NRA and GOP’s Fast and Furious Lies

With days-perhaps hours-to go before President Obama announces recommendations from Vice President Biden’s gun violence task force, battles lines have already been drawn.

Most dramatically, with the heartrending burials of 20 innocent first-graders and six of their heroic educators as a backdrop, NRA top lobbyist Wayne LaPierre issued a belligerent and self-pitying demand for yet more weaponry, and the posting of armed guards at every school in America. But as the nation debates Obama’s proposals-and LaPierre’s-it will be important to reexamine the NRA’s greatest PR victory of the last few years: the greatly overworked, shamefully distorted Fast and Furious scandal. [..]

The Republican-led House, acting in lockstep with the NRA, twisted the facts of the ill-fated gun trafficking investigation in Phoenix to complete almost every item on its political To Do list. It used the scandal to bludgeon and destabilize the ATF, the agency charged with enforcing the nation’s gun laws. It diverted attention from the ineffective gun laws that made the ATF’s job in Fast and Furious nearly impossible. And it emerged with a cherished talking point: that the gun laws on the books right now are more than adequate, and it’s only their enforcement that has flaws.

Eve Ensler: This Global Violence Against Women Will No Longer Be Tolerated

The Delhi Rape, Savile, Ohio – Extreme acts of sexual violence seem to be everywhere. In response, a worldwide day of action has been called

There seems to be two types of risings on the planet right now. One is a sexual violence typhoon that is impacting most countries in the world. It’s been happening forever but, like climate change, it’s suddenly impossible to ignore. I first noticed more ominous waves during the US elections, the extreme and ignorant anti-women policies perpetrated by the Republicans. Then, like climate storms, floods and fires, specific extreme manifestations began to gain attention. A group of boys allegedly raping a girl in Steubenville, Ohio; a 14-year-old girl shot in the head for insisting girls have the right to learn in Pakistan; the gang rape and murder of a girl on a bus in Delhi; and in Britain the revelations that Jimmy Savile was able to abuse hundreds of girls over six decades, while British institutions from the BBC to Broadmoor turned a blind eye.

And, like the response to climate change, first there was an attempt at denial, then there is the blaming of the victim: a woman raped in Dubai fined after telling police she had been drinking; a priest in Italy telling women they are beaten because they don’t clean the house well and wear tight clothes; women in the US military raped by their comrades who then use that as proof that they never belonged there in the first place; raped girls in Rochdale being ignored by police and social workers because they were seen as damaged goods who were “making their own choices”. It goes on and on.

Charlotte Silver: Monsanto vs. The People

Last week Monsanto announced staggering profits from 2012 to celebratory shareholders while American farmers filed into Washington, DC to challenge the Biotech giant’s right to sue farmers whose fields have become contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds. On January 10 oral arguments began before the U.S. Court of Appeals to decide whether to reverse the cases’ dismissal last February.

Monsanto’s earnings nearly doubled analysts’ projections and its total revenue reached $2.94bn at the end of 2012. The increased price of Roundup herbicide, continued market domination in the United States and, perhaps most significant, expanded markets in Latin America are all contributing factors to Monsanto’s booming business.

Exploiting their patent on transgenic corn, soybean and cotton, Monsanto asserts an insidious control of those agricultural industries in the US, effectively squeezing out conventional farmers (those using non-transgenic seeds) and eliminating their capacity to viably participate and compete on the market. (Until the end of 2012, Monsanto was under investigation by the Department of Justice for violating anti-trust laws by practicing anticompetitive activities towards other biotech companies, but that investigation was quietly closed before the year’s end.)