“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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Maureen Dowd: Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Dame
The halo of smoke clears momentarily to reveal America’s newest sensitive man: John Boehner.
The man known as Capitol Hill’s Dean Martin, surrounded by his Cap Pack, is having a late-night clam bake at Trattoria Alberto. [..]
“Buddy boys,” Boehner says, exhaling a Camel Ultra Light, “we’ve got to do something about our trouble with broads. The way I figure it, it’s the four of us cats against this one city.”
His pallies, Senators Richard Burr and Saxby Chambliss and Congressman Tom Latham, nod in agreement as they attack their steaks.
“I don’t know how Jay-Z and Beyoncé can give up meat to go on a vegan cleanse,” marvels Latham, a proud promoter of Iowa beef.
“You know what my idea of a vegan cleanse is?” cracks Boehner. “Staying far away from all the vegans I know.”
The Cap Pack laughs uproariously, but the guys get serious quickly because they know they have trouble. The worst sort of trouble. Dame Trouble.
Connie Rice: Hail to the Police Chief
William J. Bratton’s Record Bodes Well for New York
WHEN I first met Bill Bratton, at a Christmas party in Los Angeles in 2002, I told him that it was nothing personal but I would soon be suing him, just as I had sued several Los Angeles police chiefs before him. That was my job as a civil rights lawyer, and at that time, we had a rogue police force that refused civilian control, rejected court orders, abused people of color and acted with terrifying impunity. [..]
Mr. Bratton laughed at my opening salvo and said that I should shelve my complaint and come help him at the L.A.P.D. That, I soon realized, was typical of how Bill Bratton works. [..]
The mayor-elect’s choice of Mr. Bratton, who has championed the “broken windows” approach of concentrating police resources on problem neighborhoods, is widely seen as an attempt to calm New Yorkers’ nerves about crime. But Mr. Bratton has also pledged to reform stop-and-frisk and improve relations between the Police Department and minority residents. Can he do both?
Katrina vanden Heuvel
: Nelson Mandela and his cause weren’t always revered in the U.S.
Leaders from across the world will gather in South Africa this week to pay tribute to the most extraordinary leader of our lifetime, Nelson Mandela. The chorus of tributes, from across the globe and across the political spectrum, cannot hope to do justice to this remarkable man, who emerged from 27 years in prison with a grace, dignity and will sufficient to transform the brutal apartheid system peacefully and spread hope across the world.
But Mandela was not always universally praised. In fact, U.S. administrations of both parties were far from ardent opponents of South Africa’s apartheid regime or supporters of Mandela and his organization, the African National Congress (ANC). Conservatives in particular long saw the apartheid regime as an anti-communist bulwark in the Cold War. After Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, the conservative National Review magazine defended South African courts for sending up “a batch of admitted terrorists to life in the penitentiary.” Conservative Russell Kirk opined that democratic rule in South Africa would bring “the collapse of civilization,” and the resulting government would be “domination by witch doctors … and reckless demagogues.”
Ellen Brown: Amend the Fed: We Need a Central Bank that Serves Main Street
The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools. [..]
The Federal Reserve Act was drafted by bankers to create a banker’s bank that would serve their interests. It is their own private club, and its legal structure keeps all non-members out. A century after the Fed’s creation, a sober look at its history leads to the conclusion that it is a privately controlled institution whose corporate owners use it to direct our entire economy for their own ends, without democratic influence or accountability. Substantial changes are needed to transform the Fed, and these will only come with massive public pressure.
Congress has the power to amend the Fed – just as it did in 1934, 1958 and 2010. For the central bank to satisfy its mandate to promote full employment and to become an institution that serves all the people, not just the 1%, the Fed needs fundamental reform.
Claudia Campero: Energy ‘Reform’ in Mexico Will Only Pave the Road for Fracking
In Mexico, as in many countries, information on amounts of recoverable shale gas reserves is uncertain. In 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration placed Mexico in fourth place worldwide. In 2013, we slipped to sixth place. Pemex, the Mexican state petroleum company, estimates the quantity to be even more modest. Regardless of how much gas lies beneath our feet, the consequences of the ambitious battle to frack our country is likely to be felt in many communities.
When it comes to hydrocarbon extraction, the context in Mexico is quite different from that in the U.S. In 1938, Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized all oil and gas reserves. For the last few decades, Pemex has been responsible for all fossil fuel extraction in the country. This is central to the government’s income since it represents 32 percent of all federal income. Pemex is so important that it managed to escape the many reforms made to other sectors in Mexico when the country joined the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. However, powerful international energy corporations have been pushing for a share of Mexico’s energy resources over the last decade, and are currently already working with Pemex through service contract arrangements.
But they want much more.
Jessica Weisberg: How Inequality Became as American as Apple Pie
Last week, five days after Black Friday’s Walmart strike and the day before a nationwide fast-food workers strike, President Obama delivered a speech at the Center for American Progress about economic disparity and low wages. The president didn’t mention the strikers,
but his talking points weren’t so different from their rallying cries-he called for a higher minimum wage and supported the right to organize. His speech was too sweeping, too ambitious to focus on the week’s news. He spoke about Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, education and the tax code; he provided statistic after statistic about the severity of inequality in the United States. The thread that tied all these points together was “economic mobility.” (“President Speaks on Economic Mobility,” the banner of the White House website read.) The president may have been speaking to a room full of liberals, but his focus on mobility rather than inequality seemed especially marketed to conservatives. It was Obama at his campaign finest, recasting himself as the great uniter between the two parties. “The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough,” the president said, “But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.” Poverty, in other words, is a sad but inevitable consequence of a competitive economy-it’s “heartbreaking,” but so it goes-while mobility is essential to the American mission. Children, we can all agree, should at least be given the bootstraps by which they can pull themselves up.
Zoë Carpenter: The Deep South Is the Latest Epicenter of the HIV Epidemic
Miami. Baton Rouge. Jacksonville. Columbia, South Carolina: these are not the places that immediately come to mind when considering America’s HIV epidemic. But in the ranking of US cities with the highest HIV rates, they are numbers one, two, three and six, respectively.
On Thursday The New York Times ran an important story by Donald McNeil Jr. about the “new face” of HIV- young, poor black and Hispanic men who have sex with men. One thing not mentioned in the article-which focuses on New York City-is the geography of the epidemic, which is now concentrated and most deadly in the Southern states. While only 37 percent of Americans live in the South, half of new HIV infections originate there. Eight of the ten states with the highest rate of infection are in the South, as are nine of the ten states with the highest AIDS fatalities rates. [..]
There are two policies on the table that could have a profound effect on the rate of new infections in the United States, which has hovered near 50,000 new cases a year for a decade: the expansion of Medicaid, and comprehensive immigration reform. The implications of these policies for HIV are magnified by the fact that their impact would be particularly strong in the South.