May 14 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day,

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Ukraine needs Russia and the West

Violence in Ukraine is spreading. The Ukrainian military and police are splitting apart, a reflection of the fissures in that deeply divided country. Pro-Russian separatists are taking over government buildings and police stations in eastern Ukraine. Pro-government mobs have burned protesters alive. The referenda on self-rule cobbled together by pro-Russian movements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions deepens the divisions. Zealots on both sides could drive the country into a bloody and destructive civil war.

The United States has no direct national security interests at stake in Ukraine, but we do have an interest in a united and functional Ukraine that has stable relations with its European Union neighbors to the west and with Russia to the east. And the United States surely wants to forestall a crisis that could disintegrate into civil war, economic collapse and chaos, possibly destabilizing a weak European economy.

But if the United States is to help stabilize Ukraine and prevent a much larger European crisis, then the American political establishment and much of the mainstream media will need a sober reassessment of reality.

Ana Marie Cox: Karl Rove’s comments about Hillary Clinton’s ‘brain damage’ are an outrage

But is it worse that Rove said it, or that former Obama advisor Robert Gibbs sat on the stage and didn’t say anything about it?

Karl Rove’s recent fiendish theorizing about Hillary Clinton suffering a traumatic brain injury is not just offensive, but tellingly so. He deftly dialed down the accusation in the original report and simultaneously kept the issue alive on Tuesday afternoon, saying “Of course she doesn’t have brain damage” – but that “she is going to have to be forthcoming” about the details of where, how and when her injury happened.

Such inflammatory messaging suggests the depths to which the GOP will go to destabilize Clinton’s earned reputation for competence – ironically, a trait that conservatives had a hand in crafting. It’s the Republicans who repeatedly cast her as an über-manipulative Lady Macbeth, whispering plans and moving pawns and knights into place. Like all successful smear campaigns, that label has stuck because of its relationship to an observable truth: Clinton, while sympathetic as a wronged wife, has never seemed powerless, much less confused. Rove’s grasping at a brain injury diagnosis could have just been a trial balloon for a new anti-Hillary message from the GOP, an attempt to replace “dangerously clever” with “dangerously impaired”.

I doubt it will work.

Jillian C. York: The tech community needs compassion and inclusivity to fight surveillance

We are living amidst a crisis of conscience, politics and action. We must approach surveillance from all angles, taking care not to shame or dismiss people in the process

We’re soon approaching the one-year anniversary of the Snowden revelations, a day that may have changed how we view privacy forever. Although it is perhaps too soon to measure, we have already begun to see societal changes: in the way we talk about surveillance and privacy, in our politics, and in our behavior online.

Just a few short months after the first set of documents were published, the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project released a study stating that 86% of surveyed Internet users have taken measures to avoid being surveilled online. A full 55% of Internet users reported having taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government. While these statistics speak to an awareness of online spying, the PEN American Center’s November 2013 survey of its members discovered an even more chilling effect: one in six members stated that they had avoided writing or speaking publicly on a subject they thought would subject them to further surveillance.

Zoë Carpenter: Despite Shocking Reports of Fraud at Charter Schools, Lawmakers Miss Opportunity to Increase Oversight

Between 2003 and 2008, a Minnesota charter school executive named Joel Pourier embezzled more than $1.3 million from his school, the Oh Day Aki Charter School. While students at Oh Day Aki went without field trips and supplies for lack of funds, Pourier bought houses and cars and tossed bills at strippers. Because his school received federal funding-charter schools are privately run but many receive significant public financing-taxpayers were, in effect, subsidizing his lavish lifestyle.

Pourier’s case is just one of many collected in a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education that documents shocking misuses of the federal funds being funneled into the poorly regulated charter industry. The report examined fifteen states with large networks of charter schools and found that more than $100 million in public money had been lost to fraud, waste and other abuse. “Despite rapid growth in the charter school industry, no agency, federal or state, has been given the resources to properly oversee it,” the report says. “Given this inadequate oversight, we worry that the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Jessica Valenti: Of course the French have better sex if our idea of sex is limited to men’s ideals

But, Paris, at least we’ll always have masturbation

There’s really nothing like a conversation with someone who doesn’t live here to make you remember how puritanical America is when it comes to sexuality – and women’s pleasure, specifically. In a pretty wonderful exchange between New York magazine’s Maureen O’Connor and French GQ sex columnist Maia Mazaurette, the women take on first dates (“There is no first date. There is just first sex”), open relationships and sex toys. Short version: I’ll see you all in Paris.

Mazaurette seems genuinely baffled by the curious coupling of American prudishness and male-centric sex: she worries that any American man she might date would think she was a “slut” based on French norms, and she doesn’t understand why American women give unreciprocated blow jobs. “I don’t pleasure in my mouth. It’s very mysterious to me, why an American woman would do that,” she told O’Connor.

Well, to start – it doesn’t help that the defining porno of all time is about a woman who has a clitoris in the back of her throat.

Michelle Chen: NYU Just Dropped Its Contract With JanSport-Why Is That a Victory for Global Labor Rights?

JanSport might be a high-profile brand on college campuses, but some savvy student activists are exposing the corporate dirt beneath the label. After months of protests, New York University’s Student Labor Action Movement got the the administration to finally act responsibility when doing business with the global fashion industry. The group has persuaded the University to cut its merchandise licensing deal with JanSport “until and unless” the manufacturer signs onto the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

The university was responding to calls by SLAM, similar to those made on many campuses nationwide, to incorporate the Accord into its licensing deals for merchandise makers. The Accord is a landmark independent agreement that imposes binding rules and standards for building safety on the country’s massive and poorly regulated garment shops, aimed at preventing massive disasters like the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which left more than 1,100 people dead a year ago.