Daily Archive: 01/29/2014

Jan 29 2014

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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Promise of Transpartisanship

On Tuesday, Americans will tune in to watch President Obama’s fifth State of the Union Address. The annual ritual, with its pomp and circumstance, has become an almost grotesque visual of a gridlocked Washington. The president’s party will cheer. The opposition will jeer. A Supreme Court justice might sneer. Since President Obama took office, the partisan rancor has only intensified, reaching its ugliest point in 2009, when Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted at the president, “You lie!”

Things have gotten so distasteful that some members have taken to symbolic gestures, including crossing the aisle to sit together or wearing orange lapel pins as part of the bipartisan so-called “Problem Solvers Caucus,” sponsored by the nonprofit group No Labels.

But if lawmakers really want to reassure cynical Americans, whose disdain for Congress is well documented, they could highlight the genuine cooperation among them. This collaboration is happening across a number of issues, but it’s not bipartisanship; it’s “transpartisanship.” Unlike bipartisanship, which often takes two existing viewpoints and, effectively, splits the difference, transpartisanship encourages solutions that can align with many viewpoints.

April Glaser: Why the FCC Can’t Actually Save Net Neutrality

Network neutrality-the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally-is a principle that EFF strongly supports. However, the power to enforce equal treatment on the Internet can easily become the power to control the Internet in less beneficent ways. Some people have condemned last week’s court decision to reject the bulk of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order as a threat to Internet innovation and openness. Others hailed it as a victory against dangerous government regulation of the Internet. Paradoxically, there is a lot of truth to both of these claims.

Violations of network neutrality are a real and serious problem: in recent years we have seen dozens of ISPs in the U.S. and around the world interfere with and discriminate against traffic on their networks in ways that threaten the innovative fabric of the Internet.

At the same time, we’ve long doubted that the FCC had the authority to issue the Open Internet rules in the first place, and we worried that the rules would lead to the FCC gaining broad control over the Internet. The FCC in particular has a poor track record of regulating our communications services. We are not confident that Internet users can trust the FCC, or any government agency, with open-ended regulatory authority of the Internet.

Cila Warncke: Obama’s Promise Zones will do little to address inequality

The Promise Zones comes with no actual funding, only vows to help cities apply for grants. They are PR stunts, not solutions

On 8 January, the Obama administration announced the selection of five Promise Zones – high-poverty communities chosen to receive special federal attention. They are San Antonio, Texas; Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma; South-eastern Kentucky; Los Angeles, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I used to live in West Philly, one of the administration’s new promised lands, so I was curious about what my old neighbourhood stands to gain from its new status.

Not much, it turns out.

Comb through the White House announcement and beneath the flurry of bureaucrat chat (pdf) about “addressing multiple community revitalization challenges” and “increased access to proven tools” the stark fact emerges that the program does not allocate a single new dollar in aid:

Heather Long: Why is the US a decade behind Europe on ‘chip and pin’ cards?

Perhaps the Target data breach involving 100m credit and debit cards will finally wake up the US on its outdated technology

If you live in the US, you probably heard about the 100m credit and debit card numbers that were stolen from Target’s databases recently. (Target initially stated 40m cards were at risk and then revised the figure up).

While Target tries to limit the damage (they recently sent out an email offering free credit monitoring), the bigger question people are rightly asking is why is the US a decade behind Europe on issuing safer “chip and pin” credit and debit cards? How did we let it get this bad?

I remember arriving in the UK for graduate school in 2004 and being issued credit and debit cards after opening a British bank account. My American colleagues and I were fascinated by these pieces of plastic. They were black and red – we called them “Darth Maul cards” after the Star Wars character – and they had microchips embedded in them, something few of us had ever seen before. It was relatively new technology at the time, used to protect against fraud. It’s now in place across Europe (and beyond) and has greatly reduced data theft (pdf).

Bryce Covert: The Government Is a Terrible Marriage Matchmaker

First it was Senator Marco Rubio: marriage is “the greatest tool” to lift people out of poverty. Then it was Ari Fleischer: the best way to fight income inequality is by “helping the poor realize that the most important decision they can make is to stay in school, get married and have children-in that order.” And then on Sunday it was Ross Douthat: “one of the biggest boosts to opportunity comes from having married parents.”

Conservatives are lately doing some thinking about poverty and income inequality, but the answer they seem to keep landing on is marriage. True, being married certainly is associated with financial benefits. The poverty rate is about five times higher for single parents than for married couples, which can have a significant impact on children’s well-being and future prospects. But to turn that from a statistic to a solution, the next leap would be to push for the government to push people into marriages. Unfortunately for conservatives, the government is terrible at getting people together.

In seeking to push people toward marital bliss, the government uses a carrot and a stick: incentivizing some couples with spending on pro-marriage counseling programs while attempting to penalize others who don’t marry by denying them tax benefits. Neither of these attempts to rig the marriage market work.

Carol Schachet: Today’s Peasant Movement – Sophisticated, Threatened, and Our Best Hope for Survival

The term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.

These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.

“A peasant is a scientist. The amount and quality of knowledge we have been developing and practicing for centuries is highly useful and appropriate,” said Maxwell Munetsi, a farmer from Zimbabwe and a member of the Via Campesina. [..]

The success of peasants means success for all of us, because they are leading the way in feeding the world, counteracting greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally toxic poisons, conserving water and biodiversity and expanding social and economic justice. The peasant movement chant of “Globalize the struggle, globalize the hope” is a roadmap toward a sustainable, dignified future.

Jan 29 2014

The State of Obama 2014

I used to think that he’s intelligent enough that he couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to actually believe that anyone else could possibly be stupid enough to think he makes any sense.

And now?

Well…. now I think he just doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks of him lying through his teeth with a big shit eating grin.

And he’s not overly concerned that no one will ever vote for him again.

Jan 29 2014

On This Day In History January 29

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.

January 29 is the 29th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 336 days remaining until the end of the year (337 in leap years).

On this day in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.

“The Raven” is a narrative poem by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, first published in January 1845. It is often noted for its musicality, stylized language, and supernatural atmosphere. It tells of a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught lover, tracing the man’s slow descent into madness. The lover, often identified as being a student, is lamenting the loss of his love, Lenore. Sitting on a bust of Pallas, the raven seems to further instigate his distress with its constant repetition of the word “Nevermore”. The poem makes use of a number of folk and classical references.

Poe claimed to have written the poem very logically and methodically, intending to create a poem that would appeal to both critical and popular tastes, as he explained in his 1846 follow-up essay “The Philosophy of Composition”. The poem was inspired in part by a talking raven in the novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty by Charles Dickens. Poe borrows the complex rhythm and meter of Elizabeth Barrett‘s poem “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship”, and makes use of internal rhyme as well as alliteration throughout.

Jan 29 2014

The Hedge That Precipitated a Nazi Rant

The other day the Wall Street Journal saw fit to post a now infamous screed by a Silicon Valley billionaire, Tom Perkins, who compared progressive political speech to Kristallnacht, the night of religious violence that led to the death of 91 Jews and paved the way politically for the Nazi Reich and the Holocaust. At Huffington Post, Richard (RJ) Eskow noted that in his rant, Mr, Perkins made some curious efforts to attack the San Fransisco Chronicle in defense of his ex-wife, “bodice ripper” author Danielle Steele. He apparently objected to some criticism that was made about a hedge, specifically this hedge:

<More Hedge photo 628x471_zpsc2466e1b.jpg

Now granted that is one humongous hedge. however, the objection that was made by the Chronicle was that it was obstructing the view of a historic landmark building that just happens to be the residence of Ms. Steele. There was no disparaging comments about her in the article which is barely a paragraph long but according to Mr. Perkins view it was “libelous and cruel attacks” at the orders of those damned lefties of Occupy Wall Street. He later admitted that the hedge issue sparked his poutrage. The fact that this triggered a spurious rant that the 1% are being attacked and tantamount to one of histories worst events casts serious some doubt about Mr. Perkins’ perspective. Just how did someone who is control of billions get this stupid? Too much rarefied air of places like Davos?

I agree with Mr, Eskow who wrote:

Even as global financial leaders fret over inequality at Davos, Tom Perkins is using extremist rhetoric to shut down such talk among his social inferiors. After an ugly screed, inspired in part by a gardening dispute, one hesitates to imagine what Perkins has in mind for more progressive-minded one-percenters like those at Davos and Kleiner Perkins — a Night of the Long Pruning Shears, perhaps?

Perkins may not like to hear it, but rising wealth inequality is shattering our society, as San Francisco’s plight so amply demonstrates. There is no room left for middle-class life in a society dominated by excessive wealth. Perkins may choose to become outraged over trivial as well as serious offenses, but he’s in the process of losing the one treasure which money can’t guarantee yet: the respect of others.

Problem is, I don’t think Mr. Perkins cares if we respect him. We don’t occupy his world.

 

Jan 29 2014

The Tangled Web of the Koch Brothers

Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations are people and protected under the First Amendment, the flood gates of private money from billionaires to shape the future of politics everywhere from Washington, DC to state and local local elections. Two of the biggest sources of this money are the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have a combined wealth of $34 billion. The brothers are the founders of Americans for Prosperity that financed the ironically named, Tea Party. They initially denied their involvement but you can run but you can’t hide from some intrepid journalists determined to keeping the public informed.

As a matter of fact, they get quite upset about it when their attempts to manipulate the political stage are exposed, often sending nasty letters. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been one of the most intrepid journalists who has dug into the vast network of Koch-funded groups and initiatives to show their influence on conservative politics, undeterred by nasty letters.

The Koch Party

By The Editorial Board of The New York Times

Only a few weeks into this midterm election year, the right-wing political zeppelin is fully inflated with secret cash and is firing malicious falsehoods at supporters of health care reform.

As Carl Hulse of The Times reported recently, Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. The ads take aim at House and Senate candidates for re-election who have supported the health law, and blame them for the hyped-up problems with the law’s rollout that now seem to be the sole plank in this year’s Republican platform. [..]

In 2012, as The Washington Post reported, the Koch network raised $407 million, which was secreted among 17 groups with cryptic names and purposes that were designed to make it impossible to figure out the names of donors the Kochs worked with. As one tax expert told The Post, “it’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going.” [..]

The clandestine influence of the Kochs and their Palm Springs friends would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine.

The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.

Koch World 2014

By Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico

If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond.

The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country’s richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.

It’s the cash that can possibly kick Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall and shape the philosophy and agenda of the GOP conference – not to mention the 2016 presidential field.

The Koch political operation has become among the most dominant forces in American politics, rivaling even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections. But it’s mostly taken a piecemeal approach, sticking to its sweet spots, while leaving other tasks to outsiders, or ad hoc coalitions of allies.

That’s changing. This year, the Kochs’ close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.

The shift is best illustrated in the expansion of three pieces of the Koch political network expected to be showcased or represented at the three-day meeting in Palm Springs, whose evolving roles were described to POLITICO by several sources.

The Koch’s agenda to influence politics needs more than sunshine, it needs bleach.

Jan 29 2014

State of the Union Open Thread

I have a sneaking suspicion that many regular readers of this site will be as little interested in #6 as they were in the previous 5.  If you feel compelled to share your outrage or something unexpectedly interesting occurs you’re more than welcome to share it below.

On the other hand perhaps you’re just looking for some alternative programming-

ABC Family Ravenswood AMC The Bourne Identity
BBCA ST: TNG CBS Sports Women’s College Hoopies, Louisville @ Rutgers
CMT Smokey and the Bandit Discovery Moonshiners
Disney XD Jessie Encore Independence Day
ESPN Men’s College Hoopies Kentucky @ LSU ESPN2 College Throwball All Star Challenge
Food Chopped FX X-Men: First Class
G4 Heros History Counting Cars
Hub The Karate Kid IFC Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie
Vs. NHL Hockey Capitals @ Sabres Nick Full House
Nicktoons Fairly OddParents Science Survivorman
Spike The Day After Tomorrow SciFi Face Off
TBS Big Bang Theory Turner Classic Movies Gambit
TNT Castle

(listings from Zap2It)