Daily Archive: 05/01/2013

May 01 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Mary Bottari: End Too Big to Fail: New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Prevent Future Bailouts, Downsize Dangerous Banks

Last week, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the first bipartisan legislation aimed directly at putting an end to “too big to fail” financial institutions and preventing future bailouts of America’s behemoth banks. [..]

In explaining the bill, Senator Vitter commented that in bank matters there has been an “overreliance on having regulators and smart people in the room. What I believe would be more effective is simple systemic change.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: [High stakes, no prep: These tests are designed to fail High stakes, no prep: These tests are designed to fail]

Let’s face it – nobody likes taking tests. Exams, by nature, elicit a certain amount of anxiety. Tension. Maybe even fear.

But New York’s high-stakes standardized tests, given to all public school students, have rattled way more than a few nerves. Enough students have actually thrown up on their tests that schools are reportedly circulating procedures on how to handle vomit-covered tests. [..]

It’s no wonder that parents, educators and even students are spearheading a small but growing revolution to opt out of standardized tests. From Seattle to Pennsylvania, more and more students across the country are boycotting tests that many say are increasing stress, narrowing curriculum and, at worst, leading to the kind of cheating exposed in the recent Atlanta Public Schools scandal.

Bryce Covert: Sequestration 101: If a Budget Cut Doesn’t Impact the Wealthy, Congress Won’t Fix It

As thousands of air travelers suffered through flight delays last week, the average American got a lesson in civics: when you cut government spending, it has real life consequences. Americans are fond of saying that they want to slash government spending in the abstract, but loath to point to specific programs that they actually want to cut. With sequestration, this ambivalence has come home to roost. Because the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration affect all programs evenly, the ones that touch middle-class Americans, not just the poor, have suffered equally.

We haven’t just learned a lesson about the effects of budget cutting, though. We’ve also been able to see the priorities of Congress in stark relief. The flight delays, a result of furloughs at the Federal Aviation Administration, were not the first effects of sequestration. Those were visited on the poor. Yet the FAA was the only agency that saw swift and bipartisan action. After Congress was flooded with calls from angry travelers-not to mention, as lawmakers started down flight delays for their own flights home for recess-the Senate and House each passed a bill with overwhelming support within forty-eight hours. When’s the last time you remember that happening for any other issue?

Valerie Strauss: Obama’s Big Second-Term Education Problem? His First Term Policy

President Obama has a big problem in his second term in terms of education policy: his first term.

Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, pushed hard in their first term to have a major impact on changing public schools with a larger-than-ever  federal role in school policy issues that affected every single classroom in the country. And they did, with rare bipartisan support. [..]

Enter the second term. The Obama-Duncan agenda in K-12 is aimed at universal preschool for children from low- and medium-income families, but federal budget cuts make that unlikely to be fully implemented.

What is most prominent is the mess from the first term.

Beverly Bell and Tory Field: Weeding Corporate Power Out of Agricultural Policies: Communities Mobilize for Food and Farm Justice

From the school cafeteria to rural tomato farms, and all the way to pickets at the White House, people are challenging the ways in which government programs benefit big agribusiness to the detriment of small- and mid-sized farmers. Urban gardeners, PTA parents, ranchers, food coops, and a host of others are organizing to make the policies that govern our food and agricultural systems more just, accountable, and transparent. They are spearheading alternative policies on the local, state, national, and international levels. [..]

Despite the activism on the most recent Farm Bill, it was allowed to expire at the end of 2012 due to a stalemate in Congress around payments to farmers and broader budget issues. Congress implemented a nine-month extension, but several important programs were de-funded, including support for new farmers and farmers of color, conservation efforts, research into organic farming, and other progressive initiatives. Organizations of farmers and activists are now pushing for these to be reinstated in the next Farm Bill, which is slated for action in summer 2013.

Frances Moore Lappé: After Boston, Eyes-Wide Open Hope?

How do we know the difference between head-in-the-sand hope and eyes-wide-open hope? One is a killer; the other, a life-giver.

First, it helps to ask, what is hope? [..]

I live in Boston, and in this moment our whole, beautiful city seems to be listening to his truth — using love to block fear.

So, for me, “hope” has nothing to do with wishful thinking; it is a stance toward life we can choose and actively cultivate. It relies on a special type of humility that flows from what I love to call an eco-mind. Thinking like an ecosystem, we see that the nature of reality is that all elements are shaping all other elements moment to moment.

And that means that nothing — including you or me — is stuck.

May 01 2013

The Internationale

Arise ye workers from your slumbers

Arise ye prisoners of want

For reason in revolt now thunders

And at last ends the age of cant.

Away with all your superstitions

Servile masses arise, arise

We’ll change henceforth the old tradition

And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction

On tyrants only we’ll make war

The soldiers too will take strike action

They’ll break ranks and fight no more

And if those cannibals keep trying

To sacrifice us to their pride

They soon shall hear the bullets flying

We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

No saviour from on high delivers

No faith have we in prince or peer

Our own right hand the chains must shiver

Chains of hatred, greed and fear

E’er the thieves will out with their booty

And give to all a happier lot.

Each at the forge must do their duty

And we’ll strike while the iron is hot.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

A DocuDharma tradition.

May 01 2013

On This Day In History May 1

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.

Click on images to enlarge

May 1 is the 121st day of the year (122nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 244 days remaining until the end of the year.

   

On this day in 1786, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro premieres in Vienna

By 1786, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was probably the most experienced and accomplished 30-year-old musician the world has ever seen, with dozens of now-canonical symphonies, concertos, sonatas, chamber works and masses already behind him. He also had 18 operas to his name, but none of those that would become his most famous. Over the final five years of his life (he died in 1791), Mozart would compose four operas that are among the most important and popular in the standard repertoire. This remarkably productive period of creative, critical and popular success for Mozart began with Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), which received its world premiere in Vienna, Austria, on May 1, 1786.

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May 01 2013

MA Special Senate Election

Massachusetts voters went to the polls yesterday in a special primary to select the Democratic and Republican candidates who will vie for the seat vacate by John Kerry when he became Secretary of State. This should be a no brainer but never underestimate the stupidity if the electorate.

Representative Edward J. Markey, who has spent almost four decades in the House, has cleared the first hurdle in his drive to become a United States senator, easily defeating a fellow congressman, Stephen F. Lynch, in Massachusetts’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

On the Republican side, Gabriel E. Gomez, a former member of the Navy SEALs and a newcomer to politics, won a three-way primary. [..]

Mr. Markey, 66, who has one of the most liberal voting records in Congress, has promised to continue his fight for gun control, a clean environment, abortion rights and Mr. Obama’s health care law.

Mr. Gomez, 47, ran more on an outsider platform of institutional reform. He promised he would “reboot” Congress by imposing a pay freeze, term limits and a lifetime ban on lobbying.

This is from Charles P. Pierce at Esquire’s Political Blog:

Gabriel Gomez, a former SEAL and a businessman who, according to Tiger Beat On The Potomac, is campaigning for political office on the grounds that he is largely apolitical.

   “I’m running against two fine men … but combined, they’ve got 40 years of political experience. On the Democratic side, there are two guys with 60 years of combined political experience…I’ll wear it with a badge of honor that I have zero political experience.

He also has taken a position on Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s legal status on the grounds that he, Gomez, is not a lawyer.

   “I didn’t need to be a lawyer or a career politician to come to the conclusion right away that we need to hold this person as an enemy combatant,” said Gomez.

If you don’t understand how inexpertise can become a political boon, especially on the Republican side, you haven’t been paying attention for three decades. Of course, Gomez isn’t quite the political naif that he’s selling to the Commonwealth. He was the spokesman for the group of SEALS who accused the president of using the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed for crass political purposes. He even made an ad to that effect, and the organization that sponsored it is raising money for his current campaign. He also wrote a letter to Governor Deval Patrick in which he auditioned to be appointed to the seat in question when John Kerry left to become Secretary Of State. This is called playing both ends against the middle. Guess what, Gabriel? You’re a politician. Ask around.

Yeah, thank the dog, he’s not a lawyer and his business, private equity. This should be interesting. The special election is June 25. Stand by, there is more to come.

May 01 2013

Guantanamo: Hunger Strike

President Obama renewed his years-old vow to shutter the prison in Cuba after “medical reinforcements” arrived to help force-feed inmates protesting their detention without trial.

At a press conference, Pres. Obama answered questions about the closing of Guantanamo detention center and the hunger strike that started almost a month ago and now involves 100 of the 166 detainees. “I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama said, “Obviously the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this?”

Force feeding isn’t the answer, it violates their human rights. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the American Medical Association stated that “force feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession.”

In the letter (AMA President Dr. Jeremy) Lazarus advised Hagel that the AMA opposes force-feeding a detainee who is competent to decide for himself whether he wants to eat.

“Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” Lazarus said, adding that the AMA took the same position on force-feeding Guantánamo prisoners in 2009 and 2005.

“The AMA has long endorsed the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo, which is unequivocal on the point: ‘Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.’

The procedure is carried out by corpsmen, enlisted sailors trained to carry out medical procedures, usually supervised by a doctor or a nurse. It is unknown who determines which prisoner is to be force fed. The prisoner is strapped to a chair and his head, arms and legs restrained. A feeding tube is forced through the nose into the stomach and liquid nutrient (Ensure) is poured through the tube. This can be quite painful since it is being done involuntarily.

In an article at FDL’s Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola enumerated the actions Pres. Obama could have taken and didn’t

At any moment in the past months, Obama could have, according to Human Rights First, appointed “a high-level White House official with responsibility to ensure timely and effective implementation of the president’s plan to close Guantanamo.” It has not been done. Obama could have directed the secretary of defense, in “concurrence with the secretary of state and in consultation with the director of national intelligence, to certify detainee transfers and issue national security waivers, to the fullest extent possible consistent with applicable law.” To the public’s knowledge, that has not been attempted.

Obama tied his hand behind his back when the executive branch issued a moratorium on releasing Yemeni prisoners. Ninety of the 166 prisoners in Guantanamo are Yemeni. Twenty-five of the Yemeni prisoners have been cleared for release by Obama’s own review task force he had setup by executive order in 2009.

The Yemen government is demanding Yemeni prisoners be returned to Yemen. Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, president of Yemen, has said, “We believe that keeping someone in prison for over 10 years without due process is clear-cut tyranny. The United States is fond of talking democracy and human rights. But when we were discussing the prisoner issue with the American attorney general, he had nothing to say.”

Obama could direct the secretary of defense to initiate Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings that were supposed to take place to determine if prisoners no longer posed a threat. As HRF described, “The executive order mandated that each detainee shall have an initial review, consisting of a PRB hearing, no later than March 7, 2012. Yet, nearly nine months after the deadline, not even a single PRB hearing is known to have been completed.”

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! spoke with Carlos Warner, an attorney with the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Ohio, who represents 11 Guantánamo prisoners.

Full transcript is here

“Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo,” Warner says. “The president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. But he doesn’t have the political will to do so because 166 men in Guantánamo don’t have much pull in the United States. But the average American on the street does not understand that half of these men, 86 of the men, are cleared for release.”

More from Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel:

Now, Obama does need Congress’ help to close Gitmo. He needs Congress’ help (though didn’t, when Eric Holder initially decided to try the 9/11 plotters in NY) to try the actual terrorists in civilian courts, to get them in Florence SuperMax in cells down the hall from Faisal Shahzad and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whom he cites.

But most of the detainees at Gitmo won’t ever be tried in civilian courts, either because they were tortured so badly they couldn’t be tried without also admitting we tortured them (and, presumably, try the torturers), or because we don’t have a case against them.

Trying detainees who don’t pose a threat in civilian courts won’t solve the problem as they’re not guilty of any crime.

Moreover, Obama dodges what his Administration has done himself to keep detainees in Gitmo, notably the moratorium on transferring detainees to Yemen and the appeals of Latif and Uthman’s habeas cases so as to have the legal right to keep people based solely on associations and obviously faulty intelligence documents.

Obama doesn’t mention that part of Gitmo’s legacy. Obama says 10 years have elapsed and we should be able to move beyond the fear keeping men at Gitmo.

3 years have elapsed since he issued the moratorium on Yemeni transfers; 19 months have elapsed since he killed Anwar al-Awlaki, purportedly (though not really) the big threat in Yemen. It’s time to move on in Yemen, as well as generally.

Congress may have blocked Pres. Obama from closing the prison, which he signed into law, it didn’t stop him from treating those who are there humanely with dignity, especially those who have been held with no trails because there is no evidence to charge them. But force feeding the hunger strikers because he doesn’t want them to die? Outrageous. How about stop treating those who can be released as prisoners, let them contact their families through the Red Cross. Better yet let those who can go home.