“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.
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Katrina vanden Heuvel; Going Bulworth
The New York Times reported last week that President Obama fantasizes with aides about “going Bulworth.”
For those who don’t remember, Bulworth is a brilliant 1998 film by Warren Beatty, depicting a corrupted and suicidal liberal senator from California who is facing a primary challenge while dealing with financial ruin. Unable to sleep or eat, Bulworth suddenly busts out before an African American congregation in a black church in South Central Los Angeles and begins rapping the unspeakable truths about our politics. The Times report has led commentators to speculate on what the president might say if he went “Bulworth.” What’s revealing, however, is how much could be taken directly from the movie itself.
As Republicans and the press hyperventilate about inflated scandals, the president could simply “go Bulworth” by borrowing directly from the movie to talk about what the actual scandals are: [..]
Last fall, Alex Gibney, a documentary filmmaker who won an Academy Award in 2008 for an exposé of torture at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, completed a film called “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream.” It was scheduled to air on PBS on November 12th. The movie had been produced independently, in part with support from the Gates Foundation. “Park Avenue” is a pointed exploration of the growing economic inequality in America and a meditation on the often self-justifying mind-set of “the one per cent.” As a narrative device, Gibney focusses on one of the most expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan-740 Park Avenue-portraying it as an emblem of concentrated wealth and contrasting the lives of its inhabitants with those of poor people living at the other end of Park Avenue, in the Bronx.
Among the wealthiest residents of 740 Park is David Koch, the billionaire industrialist, who, with his brother Charles, owns Koch Industries, a huge energy-and-chemical conglomerate. The Koch brothers are known for their strongly conservative politics and for their efforts to finance a network of advocacy groups whose goal is to move the country to the right. [..]
For decades, federal funding for public broadcasting has been dwindling, and the government’s contribution now makes up only twelve per cent of PBS’s funds. Affiliates such as WNET are almost entirely dependent on gifts, some of which are sizable: in 2010, WNET received fifteen million dollars from James Tisch, the C.E.O. of Loews Corporation, and his wife, Merryl. (James Tisch is now the chairman of WNET’s board.) In New York City, such benefactors inevitably live in lavish buildings. Indeed, several relatives of WNET board members live at 740 Park.
What do a zombie, handcuffs, a steamroller and a legislative luge run for job-killing trade agreements all have in common? They’re all apt metaphors of an expired, scandalously anti-democratic procedure called Fast Track.
And, I should know. I just wrote the book on it. How this little-known but extremely dangerous procedure was first hatched and how it has been used to ram extremely dangerous “trade” agreements through Congress over public opposition is a scary story. This is not a book for the nightmare-prone.
But everyone else should give it a read, because, gruesomely, the Obama administration and some in Congress are looking to bring Fast Track back from the dead.
With a powerful gang of corporations eager to use massive agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), now under negotiation, or the looming U.S.-EU Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) to steamroll policies supported by the public and enacted by Congress, the threats posed by such an extreme procedure are severe.
A recent hate crime in New York City highlights the culture of hate that we have to change to protect people from violence
New York City is the heart of America’s “melting pot” of cultures and ideas. Yet even here, violence against those seen as “other” occurs. This week we mourn the brutal death of Mark Carson, a 32-year-old, shot and allegedly taunted with homophobic slurs by the shooter. The killing happened in Greenwich Village, one of the city’s most famous gay friendly neighborhoods.
In recent years, we at the New York City Anti-Violence Project have seen an increase in reports of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer hate violence throughout the city and the country. From 2010 to 2011, we saw a 13% increase of reports of this violence in New York City, which followed an 11% increase from the year before. In 2011, our National Coalition (NCAVP) reported the highest number of LGBTQ bias-related homicides in its 15 year history.
Yet again after the homicide of Carson, we are left asking what we can do to prevent this violence from ever happening again?
Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford: How America Became a Third World Country (2013-2023)
The streets are so much darker now, since money for streetlights is rarely available to municipal governments. The national parks began closing down years ago. Some are already being subdivided and sold to the highest bidder. Reports on bridges crumbling or even collapsing are commonplace. The air in city after city hangs brown and heavy (and rates of childhood asthma and other lung diseases have shot up), because funding that would allow the enforcement of clean air standards by the Environmental Protection Agency is a distant memory. Public education has been cut to the bone, making good schools a luxury and, according to the Department of Education, two of every five students won’t graduate from high school.
It’s 2023 — and this is America 10 years after the first across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration went into effect. They went on for a decade, making no exception for effective programs vital to America’s economic health that were already underfunded, like job training and infrastructure repairs. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
rebecca Solnit; What Comes After Hope
Too Soon to Tell: The Case for Hope, Continued
Ten years ago, my part of the world was full of valiant opposition to the new wars being launched far away and at home — and of despair. And like despairing people everywhere, whether in a personal depression or a political tailspin, these activists believed the future would look more or less like the present. If there was nothing else they were confident about, at least they were confident about that. Ten years ago, as a contrarian and a person who prefers not to see others suffer, I tried to undermine despair with the case for hope.
A decade later, the present is still contaminated by the crimes of that era, but so much has changed. Not necessarily for the better — a decade ago, most spoke of climate change as a distant problem, and then it caught up with us in 10,000 ways. But not entirely for the worse either — the vigorous climate movement we needed arose in that decade and is growing now. If there is one thing we can draw from where we are now and where we were then, it’s that the unimaginable is ordinary, and the way forward is almost never a straight path you can glance down, but a labyrinth of surprises, gifts, and afflictions you prepare for by accepting your blind spots as well as your intuitions.