Daily Archive: 04/18/2013

Apr 18 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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New York Times Editorial Board: The Senate Fails Americans

For 45 senators, the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy. The toll of 270 Americans who are shot every day is not a problem requiring action. The easy access to guns on the Internet, and the inevitability of the next massacre, is not worth preventing. [..]

Newtown, in the end, changed nothing; the overwhelming national consensus to tighten a ridiculously lax set of gun laws was stopped cold. That’s because the only thing that mattered to these lawmakers was a blind and unthinking fealty to the whims of the gun lobby.

Charles M. Blow: The Kids Are (Not) All Right

The United States has done it again – and not in a good way.

According to a Unicef report issued last week – “Child Well-Being in Rich Countries” – the United States once again ranked among the worst wealthy countries for children, coming in 26th place of 29 countries included. Only Lithuania, Latvia and Romania placed lower, and those were among the poorest countries assessed in the study. [..]

We hear so much about what we’re leaving behind for future generations, but not nearly enough about how we are failing them today. It is a failure of parenting, a failure of society, a failure of politicians.

We need smart and courageous parenting, as well as policies that invest time and money, love and understanding in our children.

Failures sown one season will surely bloom the next.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: ‘Divide and Lose’: A Lousy Democratic Strategy for Social Security’

If some pundits have their way, the new blueprint for the Democratic Party will pit generation against generation and ethnicity against ethnicity, fragmenting us into ever-smaller social groups competing for slices of an ever-shrinking economic pie.

Call it “Divide and Lose.”  To observers like Ronald Brownstein and Charlie Cook, it’s shrewd strategy, especially when it comes to the “chained CPI” set of tax hikes and Social Security benefit cuts.

They couldn’t be more wrong. If Democrats try to “divide and conquer,” everyone will lose.

Seamus Milne: It’s Time To Bury Not Just Thatcher – But Thatcherism

She didn’t save Britain or turn the economy round. We need to break with her failed model to escape its baleful consequences

They have only themselves to blame. Protests were always likely at any official sendoff for the most socially destructive prime minister in modern British history. But by turning Margaret Thatcher’s funeral into a state-funded Tory jamboree, puffed up with pomp and bombast, David Cameron and his acolytes made them a certainty – and fuelled a political backlash into the bargain.

As the bishop of Grantham, Thatcher’s home town, put it, spending £10m of public money to “glorify” her legacy in the month benefits are slashed and tax cuts handed to the rich is “asking for trouble”. What’s planned today isn’t a national commemoration, but a military-backed party spectacle.

Dean Baker: Corporate Governance and CEO Pay: The Cesspool at the Top

Top corporate executives have always been well-paid for obvious reasons. Running a major corporation is a demanding job; you would expect to pay a high salary to get and retain talented hardworking people.

But in the last three decades, the pay of CEOs has gone from just being high — say 30 or 40 times the pay of typical workers — to being in the stratosphere. The pay of CEOs at major corporations now averages several hundred times the pay of ordinary workers. Annual compensation packages routinely run into the tens of millions of dollars and can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. [..]

But reining in CEO pay has to be an important part of the story. One way to do this is to pressure corporate directors to actually do their jobs. Rather than being paid off to look the other way as top management pilfers the company, corporate directors should constantly be asking whether they could pay top management less or get comparable managers at lower cost.

To impose this sort of check on CEO pay, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, together with the Huffington Post, will be starting Director Watch. Director Watch is designed to highlight the abuses of corporate directors like Erskine Bowles. Bowles has pocketed millions as a board member of companies like Morgan Stanley, that would have collapsed without a government bailout and General Motors, which did collapse.

Robert Reich: The Disuniting of America

We come together as Americans when confronting common disasters and common threats, such as occurred in Boston on Monday, but we continue to split apart economically.

Anyone who wants to understand the disuniting of America needs to see how dramatically we’re segregating geographically by income and wealth. Today [Wednesday] I’m giving a Town Hall talk in Fresno, in the center of California’s Central Valley, where the official unemployment rate is 15.4 percent and median family earns under $40,000. The so-called “recovery” is barely in evidence. [..]

Many of America’s wealthy don’t see why they should pay more taxes to support the less advantaged because they have no idea what it means to be less advantaged, while many in America’s middle class can’t afford to pay more because their real wages continue to decline.

Apr 18 2013

On This Day In History April 18

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.

April 18 is the 108th day of the year (109th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 257 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, British troops march out of Boston on a mission to confiscate the American arsenal at Concord and to capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington. As the British departed, Boston Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on horseback from the city to warn Adams and Hancock and rouse the Minutemen.

By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government had approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from Great Britain to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against Concord and Lexington.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

On the night of April 18-19, 1775, just hours before the battles of Lexington and Concord, Revere performed his “Midnight Ride”. He and William Dawes were instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the movements of the British Army, which was beginning a march from Boston to Lexington, ostensibly to arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stores in Concord.

The British army (the King’s “regulars”) had been stationed in Boston since the ports were closed in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, and was under constant surveillance by Revere and other patriots as word began to spread that they were planning a move. On the night of April 18, 1775, the army began its move across the Charles River toward Lexington, and the Sons of Liberty immediately went into action. At about 11 pm, Revere was sent by Dr. Warren across the Charles River to Charlestown, on the opposite shore, where he could begin a ride to Lexington, while Dawes was sent the long way around, via the Boston Neck and the land route to Lexington.

In the days before April 18, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the sexton of the Old North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in Charlestown as to the movements of the troops when the information became known. In what is well known today by the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea”, one lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route, while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River. This was done to get the message through to Charlestown in the event that both Revere and Dawes were captured. Newman and Captain John Pulling momentarily held two lanterns in the Old North Church as Revere himself set out on his ride, to indicate that the British soldiers were in fact crossing the Charles River that night. Revere rode a horse lent to him by John Larkin, Deacon of the Old North Church.

There were other riders that night besides Dawes, including a woman, Sybil Ludington. The other men were Israel Bissel and  Samuel Prescott. a doctor who happened to be in Lexington “returning from a lady friend’s house at the awkward hour of 1 a.m.”

Apr 18 2013

Tourniquet: How to Save a Life

Within seconds of the two blasts that ended the Boston Marathon, doctors and emergency personnel were faced with decisions that are only usually made in combat, life or limb. Confronted with horrific lower extremity injuries the life saving device that was used over and over was the tourniquet. Around for millennia but fallen into disfavor years ago, tourniquets were only to be used as a last resort to stop life threatening bleeding from a limb when direct pressure, elevation and pressure above the wound did not work. The common belief was that the prolonged cutting off the blood to the limb would lead to amputation. The problem was that there were no good studies to prove it. So up until recently the tourniquet was a last resort.

Then along came the wars in the Middle East. Studies showed there that the timely use of a tourniquet resulted in survival rates as high as 90 percent. Contrary to past fears, the tourniquets themselves didn’t cause any limb loss, even in the rare cases when patients had to keep them on for two to three hours. Considering that blood loss is the leading cause of death in a trauma patient and a person can bleed to death in three minutes from a severed femoral artery, the large blood vessel in the upper leg, the choice is simple. Every paramedic is now trained to apply a tourniquet. Since 2006, a tourniquet is issued to every soldier.

Here are some simple guidelines to use if you are ever confronted with a major limb bleed:

First, apply direct pressure with your hand or a cloth. Don’t worry about clean, at this point it doesn’t matter. If you’re not alone have someone call 911. If you are alone do it first, you can always put the phone down and yell into it while you’re applying pressure.

Elevate the extremity if possible.

If you’re unable to control the bleeding quickly, or the injury is really big, or an partial or full amputation, then you need a tourniquet. Find something long, strong and pliable. Shirts, pants, something that can be torn onto a long strip; belts (Should be at least 1 1/2 inches wide).

Place the tourniquet around the arm or leg between the wound and the heart.

Tie a half-knot – the same as the first part of the knot when you tie a shoe, but have not finished the knot.

Place a strong stick on top of the half knot. Anything long and rigid will do, improvise. If at home, a large serving spoon or kitchen utensil; in the workshop a screw driver; a pen, pencil, you get the idea.

Tie a full knot over the stick.

Twist the stick until the material is tight around the limb and/or the bright red bleeding has stopped.

If you have enough length, loop the loose ends of the tourniquet over the ends of the stick. Bring the ends around the arm or leg and tie the ends together around the limb. This is so that the tourniquet cannot loosen. Or, tie other material around to hold the stick.

Belts of course can be pulled as tight as needed to stop the bleeding but you may be “married” to holding it tight until help arrives, if it can’t be secured so it won’t come loose.

Outside a controlled hospital setting, this is called damage control, or how to save a life.

Apr 18 2013

They Did Torture and They Should Be Prosecuted

While we were mostly fixed on the aftermath of explosion at the Boston Marathon, a non-partisan 11-member panel, that had been convened by the  legal research and advocacy group, Constitution Project to look into the treatment of detainees after 9/11, released a 577 page report (pdf) on Tuesday.

The report relying solely on public records, interviews with detainees, military officers and interrogators, concluded that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” under the Bush administration:

The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

At emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler points out the report contains a “number of errors, repetition of dangerous misinformation, and incomplete reporting” but it is still important and comprehensive and its conclusion valuable:

Because even this cautious, bipartisan, institutionalist report concludes the following (among other findings):

   Finding #1: U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.

   Finding #2: The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders.

   Finding #3: There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.

   Finding #16: For detainee hunger strikers, DOD operating procedures called for practices and actions by medical professionals that were contrary to established medical and professional ethical standards, including improper coercive involuntary feedings early in the course of hunger strikes that, when resisted, were accomplished by physically forced nasogastric tube feedings of detainees who were completely restrained.

   Finding #19: The high level of secrecy surrounding the rendition and torture of detainees since September 11 cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security.

   Finding #21: The Convention Against Torture requires each state party to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The United States cannot be said to have complied with this requirement.

The panel was formed after Pres. Barack Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and others. “Look forward, not backward”, the president said. included former Senator Asa Hutchinson (R-AL), who served in President George W. Bush’s administration from 2003-2005 as the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security in the Department of Homeland Security, and former Representative James Jones (D-OK) who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico from 1993-1997.  Among the other members were a three-star general and former president of the American Bar Association.

Significantly the New York Times article notes this:

The United States is a signatory to the International Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims. [..]

While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it calls excessive secrecy. It says that keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees. [..]

The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries.

The report compares the torture of detainees to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. “What was once generally taken to be understandable and justifiable behavior,” the report says, “can later become a case of historical regret.”

Laura Pitter, counterterrorism adviser at Human Rights Watch, joined Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh to discuss the report,s “indisputable” evidence that the Bush administration tortured.

What Marcy said:

In short: it was torture, it was illegal, it was not valuable, and it still needs to be prosecuted.

Instead, The Justice Department instead chose to prosecute Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou, who refused to participate in torture and helped exposed the torture program. Mr. Kiriakou was sentenced to prison while the torturers he exposed walk free. Nice job, Barack.

Apr 18 2013

Boston: The Unraveling and a Plea for the Healing of Our Society

I find it hard to write about anything after this happened. Boston is a great city I had the pleasure to visit in a field trip in 2006 while I was in school. There was so much life in that city and there still is despite this attack. It’s still affected me even though I don’t live there because of that fond memory. Senseless acts of violence like this shouldn’t happen. It’s hard enough just to get by.  

I feel a sense of panic and uneasiness as if the fabric of society is breaking and it is; all the record inequality fueling human breakdown; the wars; the bombing of other countries fueling human breakdown. Human breakdown is caused by those that show indifference to their state of being thus breaking down barriers of sanity that keeps one non violent and functioning. Nothing excuses these actions whatsoever and I don’t care about the reasoning of whoever did this; it’s despicable and abhorrent act of violence that killed a child and 2 other human beings and more than 170 were injured many permanently disabled.

That being said, we can try to change the society that breeds these types of people and actions instead of enabling the void. That’s what protects people from terrorism and acts of violence in the aggregate. It may have been impossible to stop this incident, and not all can be prevented. However, given the overall breakdown of society and the marginal extremes that causes within the minds of the population, I have to think every one of our problems contributed to it. Every few months there is either a shooting or something like this. That’s why I talk of the unraveling of society.

Instead of overreacting in the war on terror sense that killed the 4th amendment, I hope we acknowledge that as a country full of desperate people without resources breeds the kinds of conditions for senseless violence to take place. I also hope we realize that this is something the people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have to deal with all the time. We cannot continue to think we are isolated from it. I pray and mourn for all the victims, their families, and to the people that will find it even harder than death to move on with missing limbs. I hope you find it within yourself to keep going.

I hope we as a society are able to give you some semblance of happiness so you can smile through all the tragedy, at least, sometimes. I hope we use these tragedies to FIGHT to become a society that lifts people up and gives them the resources they need to deal with the blow back of the angry indifferent society we have become. This cannot continue.

We as a country are NOT taking care of our people and we must realize that. Some people also need to stop enabling this whether by making excuses and lying about the merits of or the inevitability of war and how a useless police state killing our rights and failing all of us is “necessary.” All of this has turned us into an angry violent society; social darwinism at its worst. This is our sad reality and it’s time to get real. I hope this is acknowledged sooner rather than later, instead of just a hallow speech on the day of tragedy. RIP.

Here’s how you can help the marathon victims in Boston.