Mar 19 2014
Mar 19 2014
“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.
Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.
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Katrina vanden Heuvel: After Senate revelations, the CIA should be looking over its shoulder
For the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert warriors, disdain for the law comes with their mandate. From its drone attacks to its destabilization efforts, the CIA is tasked with operating, as former vice president Dick Cheney put it, ” in the shadows,” trampling international law.
The CIA, shielded by secrecy, armored by its national security mandate, pursues its mission with far too little accountability. The agency’s warriors operate on the president’s writ, but presidents generally seek deniability. After Sept. 11, the agency was given a virtually limitless charter to do things that presidents would rather not know about.
Congress set up intelligence committees to provide oversight of the agency, but senators, while generally happy to get a peek behind the curtain of secrecy, know better than to probe too far.
The peril is apparent. The covert warriors who trample laws abroad in the name of national security are likely to scorn legal limits at home. That is what is at stake in the deepening scandal of the CIA’s subversion of the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation of its shameful and unlawful program of torture during the Bush administration.
Smarter sentencing. Fewer people in jail. Fewer people dying. See? Sometimes Limited Government can be a good thing
The flaws of Obamacare continue to overwhelm the news, but it’s time to consider getting rid of another kind of death panel. We need to talk about the people our courts send away to die, and the way we treat every other prisoner as though his life didn’t matter. The United States is currently experiencing a quiet revolution in criminal justice reform – a bipartisan one. So what we need to talk about today is the part Republicans can play on the state and federal level, with or without the cost-cutting justifications that seem to come more easily to conservatives than an argument about human rights.
Criminal justice reform has historically been a bleeding-heart liberal cause. It has provided careerist Democrats an issue to present as proof of their moderate bona fides and given Republicans a chance to condemn any flicker of compassion: think Willie Horton. More recently, this month’s successful campaign to block Obama’s nominee for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Debo Adegbile, depended on conservatives convincing moderate Dems that Adegbile’s role in overturning the capital conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal was tantamount to endorsing the crime he committed.
The panel that eventually found Abu-Jamal’s conviction was majority Republican. The seven Democrats who voted to reject Adegbile might not think that matters. I do.
Conservatives want to make low-income Americans feel bad about babies and diets to cut birth control and food stamps
So many of life’s problems could be solved, according to conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, if the poor could just learn to keep their knees together until they got married – and if their wealthy and educated counterparts just weren’t afraid to shame them into doing so. These pearls of wisdom, particularly the “shaming is good” part, were greeted with loud applause over the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference. [..]
Blaming poverty on the moral failings of the poor and criticizing their sex habits and eating habits has always been a favorite conservative sport, dating back to Victorian times. But it has been alternately sickening and fascinating to watch the current crop of American conservatives, particularly those who claim to be devotees of the original social justice champion – Jesus Christ – jump through hoops to try to find new ways to vilify the poor just so they can feel less bad (or at least appear less bad to their followers) when they do nothing to help them.
Zoë Carpenter: Why the NRA Is Blocking Obama’s Surgeon General Nominee
The post of the surgeon general has been vacant since July, and it looks likely to remain that way for some time thanks to a strident campaign led by the National Rifle Association and libertarian Senator Rand Paul against President Obama’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy. [..]
This isn’t the first time the NRA has held up a nominee: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went without a director for seven years because of opposition from the gun lobby. But never before has the group set itself so strongly against a surgeon general nominee. So why now? The NRA said Murthy’s “blatant activism on behalf of gun control” attracted their attention. [..]
With public health professionals engaging more forcefully on the gun issue, the NRA has a pressing interest in muting their calls for stronger policy. Really, the campaign against Murthy is the continuation of a longstanding effort to make discussion of gun violence taboo. For years the NRA has worked to bury information about gun violence and its public health implications. The NRA has campaigned successfully to ban registries that collect data on guns used in crimes, and in 1996 the group fought for and won legislation that froze federal funding for research on gun violence. Although Obama lifted the restriction last year in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, there’s still very little money-federal and private-for gun research and not enough data, said David Hemenway, an expert on injury at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Charles Murray says it’s not racist to suggest that some ethnic groups are genetically inferior to others.
I should no longer be shocked at the intellectual dishonesty of Charles Murray, but I am. On Tuesday Murray made a brief reply to his critics, most notably Paul Krugman, who have accused Murray of racism for much of his work, but especially his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve.” Murray rejoined the news cycle last week, when Rep. Paul Ryan cited him as an expert on poverty and the troubles of “inner city” men, who, in Ryan’s words, are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” [..]
When you’ve spent an entire book arguing that blacks and Latinos have lower IQ, more out-of-wedlock babies and higher reliance on welfare, it’s clear who “the wrong women” are. Oh, and the book also argued for limiting immigration, because unlike earlier waves of immigrants, today’s are coming from countries with a lower national IQ. In what world are those arguments not racist?
Jessica Valenti: Women on the Side: Why Anti-Choicers Won’t Win
As I was giving a speech at a Virginia college recently, there was a visibly annoyed young man in the audience. He shifted around in his seat and scowled. During the Q&A, his hand was one of the first that shot up.
He asked why I kept talking about abortion as a women’s rights and health issue. How could I possibly argue this, he wondered, when abortion was clearly an issue of “children’s rights.” In his mind, women were beside the point. Ancillary, really.
His frustration that I would talk about abortion as an issue of bodily rights and integrity reminded me of why Republicans will never truly win women over. Anti-choicers cannot escape the truth of their movement: despite rhetorical efforts to the contrary, the foundation of fighting against abortion accessibility is the idea that women are less important than the pregnancies they can carry. [..]
Republicans can continue their desperate move to convince Americans that being anti-choice is actually pro-woman. But we are not stupid, and they are not fooling anyone. The more anti-choice politicians, pundits and activists underestimate women by continuing with their rhetorical sleight-of-hand, the more they reveal themselves. The anti-choice movement cannot erase us from our own lives by insisting that abortion isn’t necessary. The more they try, the stronger we’ll get.
Mar 19 2014
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.
March 19 is the 78th day of the year (79th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 287 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, is activated.
The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. Formally, they were the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, African Americans in many U.S. states still were subject to racist Jim Crow laws. The American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subject to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction. Although the 477th Bombardment Group “worked up” on North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, they never served in combat; the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group was the only operational unit, first sent overseas as part of Operation Torch, then in action in Sicily and Italy, before being deployed as bomber escorts in Europe where they were particularly successful in their missions.
The Tuskegee Airmen initially were equipped with Curtiss P-40 Warhawks fighter-bomber aircraft, briefly with Bell P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts (June-July 1944), and finally the fighter group acquired the aircraft with which they became most commonly associated, the North American P-51 Mustang (July 1944). When the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-47’s red, the nickname “Red Tails” was coined. Bomber crews applied a more effusive “Red-Tail Angels” sobriquet.
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African American had become a U.S. military pilot. In 1917, African-American men had tried to become aerial observers, but were rejected, however, African American Eugene Bullard served as one of the members of the Franco-American Lafayette Escadrille. Nonetheless, he was denied the opportunity to transfer to American military units as a pilot when the other American pilots in the unit were offered the chance. Instead, Bullard returned to infantry duty with the French.
The racially motivated rejections of World War I African-American recruits sparked over two decades of advocacy by African-Americans who wished to enlist and train as military aviators. The effort was led by such prominent civil rights leaders as Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, labor union leader A. Philip Randolph, and Judge William H. Hastie. Finally, on 3 April 1939, Appropriations Bill Public Law 18 was passed by Congress containing an amendment designating funds for training African-American pilots. The War Department managed to deflect the monies into funding civilian flight schools willing to train black Americans.
War Department tradition and policy mandated the segregation of African-Americans into separate military units staffed by white officers, as had been done previously with the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry Regiment and 25th Infantry Regiment. When the appropriation of funds for aviation training created opportunities for pilot cadets, their numbers diminished the rosters of these older units. A further series of legislative moves by the United States Congress in 1941 forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black combat unit, despite the War Department’s reluctance.
Due to the restrictive nature of selection policies, the situation did not seem promising for African-Americans since, in 1940, the U.S. Census Bureau reported only 124 African-American pilots in the nation. The exclusionary policies failed dramatically when the Air Corps received an abundance of applications from men who qualified, even under the restrictive requirements. Many of the applicants already had participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, in which the historically black Tuskegee Institute had participated since 1939.
Mar 19 2014
The politics of hopelessness
E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post
Sunday, March 16, 7:52 PM
Obama and his party are in danger of allowing the Republicans to set the terms of the 2014 elections, just as they did four years ago. The fog of nasty and depressing advertising threatens to reduce the electorate to a hard core of older, conservative voters eager to hand the president a blistering defeat.
The most telling fact about the Democrats’ defeat in Florida’s special House election last week was the party’s failure to get its voters to the polls. This owed to many factors, but one of them is disaffection in Democratic ranks.
The recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll pegged Obama’s approval rating at 41?percent, his disapproval at 54 percent. But the most disturbing finding to him ought to have been the 20 percent disapproval he registered among Democrats. Winning back three-quarters of those discontented Democrats would, all by itself, bump up his overall approval rating by more than six points. It’s where he needs to start.
With more than two and a half years left in his term, Obama has already begun to convey a sense of resignation that his largest achievements (except, perhaps, for immigration reform) are behind him.
Thanks for nothing.
Mar 19 2014
Like joanneleon, friend of the site.
Former NSA Official Thinks A Blog Containing Nothing But His Own Tweets Is ‘Defamatory’
by Tim Cushing, TechDirt
Tue, Mar 18th 2014 12:19pm
Many people have varying ideas as to what exactly composes defamatory content. Some mistake statements of opinion (“this product sucks”) for defamation. Some feel anything that doesn’t describe their products or services in glowing terms is defamatory. Some feel any sort of criticism is defamation, even if the criticism is based on known facts.
But John Schindler (whose strange foray into Wikileaks/Snowden conspiracy theories we’ve covered here previously), former NSA officer and holder of a PhD in history (just ask him!) has gone far beyond any of these misperceptions. According to him, things he actually said are defamatory if published by a third party.
I have no idea how someone as self-assuredly brilliant as John Schindler would make this error but here’s the chain of events. Schindler routinely berates anyone who questions his claims, calling them “stupid” and refusing to advance the argument past endless appeals to his own authority (the aforementioned PhD). Someone took notice of Schindler’s tactics and crafted a Tumblr blog containing nothing but screenshots of actual Schindler tweets.
Which proves that Professors with PhDs can be thin skinned pompous self important bullying assholes, QED.
Way to go joanneleon.
Mar 19 2014
Wells Fargo foreclosure manual under fire
By Danielle Douglas, Washington Post
Published: March 17
In the course of defending a New York homeowner facing foreclosure, (bankruptcy lawyer Linda) Tirelli said she found a 150-page manual instructing Wells Fargo lawyers how to process foreclosures when a key document, known as an endorsement, is missing. Lenders need endorsements to prove that they own the mortgage, before they can foreclose on a homeowner.
The manual, reviewed by The Washington Post, outlines steps for obtaining the missing document after the bank has initiated foreclosure proceedings. It also lays out what lawyers must do in the event of a lost affidavit or if there is no documentation showing the history of who owned the loan, paperwork the bank should already have.
“This is a blueprint for fraud,” said Tirelli, who attached a copy of the manual as evidence in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y. “The idea that this bank is instructing people how to produce these documents is appalling.”