01/30/2014 archive

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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Gary Younge: The State of the Union confirmed only that our union is in a state

The major themes of Obama’s address – inequality, support for the troops and bipartisan compromise -were all too familiar

A state of the union address in the sixth year of a presidency is inevitably buffeted by the crosswinds of time. The president has been in power long enough that their record has already eclipsed their potential. But they have too long remaining to start openly making an appeal for their place in history.

Rhetorically, they can neither be too florid nor too timid. Nobody wants to hear about their pipe dreams – if they were that good they would have heard them already. And yet to talk in too much detail about the work they are going to do is too small bore for such a big occasion.

And so they walk the narrow line between being practical and predictable, utopian and utilitarian. What was most striking about this address was that in most important ways it could have been written at almost any time since Obama took office. The major themes of inequality, support for the troops, bipartisan compromise, climate change, healthcare, international diplomacy, world-class education, tax loopholes were familiar – there was precious little that was new here.

Laura Vecsey: Has American exceptionalism been replaced by sheer bullying?

Threats and brute bluster have become the new norm in American political culture. And Michael Grimm exemplifies it

I’m certain that threats, dirty deals and abuses of power have been part of the political and governmental process going back to Caligula – or Zeus. But some of us prefer our titans of intemperance to be historical figures, dressed up in hyperbole and embellished with mythic meaning, not some 21st century, Tea Party-abetted congressman from Staten Island whose nickname is “Mikey Suits” – like, straight out of Goodfellas or The Sopranos.

Then again, maybe in 300 years, long after the fall of the American empire, when all three of the remaining polar bears have found the last ice floe and Jeff Bezos has set up a small colony of Asperger’s Anonymous to live with their moon-beam powered Kindles on Mars, US Representative Michael Grimm will have earned an enduring place in the pantheon of bullies, crooks and ego-maniacal gods.

Jill Lawrence: The ‘woman problem’ Cathy McMorris Rodgers can’€t solve

Republicans are dismally out of step with what matters to female voters

“Relatable” is the word that comes to mind with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. Though she holds the No. 4 position in the Republican House leadership, her image is all everywoman. Whether she’s sitting on a couch responding to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address or narrating the story of her classic American life in an upbeat video, she comes across as a warm and personable next-door neighbor who always has the coffee on and the time to listen. She was arguably the best person that Republicans could have presented to counter Obama. [..]

McMorris Rodgers asserted Tuesday night that Republicans stand for “an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.” She invoked a party “that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.” But until the GOP lives up to that kind of rhetoric with actual policies, even a messenger as appealing – and, yes, relatable -­ as a three-time mom who raised sheep, sold fruit and cleaned motel rooms as a kid can’t do much to end the gender gap that’s holding back her party.

Stephen Kinzer: Are Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Ambitions Clouding Her Morals?

Whether or not Clinton has formally announced her candidacy, her silence on Iran speaks louder than words

Asked in an interview this week about her presidential ambitions, Hillary Clinton gave an answer that qualified as a howler even by Clinton standards: “I’m not thinking about it.” [..]

One of the surest signs that Clinton is running for the presidency is her refusal to take a position on the greatest geopolitical question now facing the United States. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are engaged in a high-stakes effort to end 35 years of hostility between the United States and Iran. Debate about this initiative is intense in Washington. No one, however, knows the opinion of the woman who was Kerry’s immediate predecessor and is evidently seeking to govern the United States beginning in 2017. [..]

Clinton’s choice is clear. If she opposes détente with Iran, she will look like a warmonger who prefers confrontation to diplomacy. If she supports it, she will alienate a vital part of the base she is relying on to finance her presidential campaign. With this in mind, she has chosen to remain silent on the central foreign policy issue of the age. It is a classic act of political cowardice – the kind that often leads to victory at the polls.

Ray McGovern: No Tears for the Real Robert Gates

n the early 1970s, I was chief of the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch in which Robert M. Gates worked as a young CIA analyst. While it may be true that I was too inexperienced at the time to handle all the management challenges of such a high-powered office, one of the things I did get right was my assessment of Gates in his Efficiency Report.

I wrote that if his overweening ambition were not reined in, young Bobby was sure to become an even more dangerous problem. Who could have known, then, how huge a problem? As it turned out, I was not nearly as skilled as Gates at schmoozing senior managers who thus paid no heed to my warning. Gates was a master at ingratiating himself to his superiors

The supreme irony came a short decade later when we – ALL of us, managers, analysts, senior and junior alike – ended up working under Gates. Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey had found in Gates just the person to do his bidding, someone who earned the title “windsock Bobby” because he was clever enough to position himself in whatever direction the powerful winds were blowing.

Norman Solomon: The State of Phony Populism

Barack Obama put on a deft performance Tuesday night. With trills of empathy, the president’s voice soared to hit the high notes. He easily carried a tune of economic populism. But after five years of Obama in the White House, Americans should know by now that he was lip-syncing the words.

The latest State of the Union speech offered a faint echo of a call for the bold public investment that would be necessary to reduce economic inequity in the United States. The rhetoric went out to a country that in recent years has grown even more accustomed to yesterday’s floor becoming today’s ceiling.

The speech offered nothing that could plausibly reverse the trend of widening income gaps. Despite Obama’s major drumroll about his executive order to increase the minimum wage for some federal contract employees, few workers would be affected. The thumping was loud, but the action was small.

On This Day In History January 30

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 30 is the 30th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 335 days remaining until the end of the year (336 in leap years).

On this day in 1969, The Beatles’ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.

A din erupted in the sky above London’s staid garment district. Gray-suited businessmen, their expressions ranging from amused curiosity to disgust, gathered alongside miniskirted teenagers to stare up at the roof of the Georgian building at 3 Savile Row. As camera crews swirled around, whispered conjecture solidified into confirmed fact: The Beatles, who hadn’t performed live since August 1966, were playing an unannounced concert on their office roof. Crowds gathered on scaffolding, behind windows, and on neighboring rooftops to watch the four men who had revolutionized pop culture play again. But what only the pessimistic among them could have guessed-what the Beatles themselves could not yet even decide for sure-was that this was to be their last public performance ever. . . . . .

When the world beyond London’s garment district finally got to see the Beatles’ last concert, it was with the knowledge, unshared by the original, live audience, that it was the band’s swan song. On Abbey Road Paul had sung grandly about “the end,” but it was John’s closing words on the roof that made the more fitting epitaph for the group that had struggled out of working-class Liverpool to rewrite pop history: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

Oh Baby Please Don’t Go

Life, the Universe and Everything

In a multi-part series, the host of Moyers and Company, Bill Moyers and the popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed the universe, higher beings and science literacy.

Transcript can be read here

Transcript can be read here

Transcript can be read here