“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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George Zornick: The Blotch on Eric Holder’s Record: Wall Street Accountability
Attorney General Eric Holder will announce Thursday he is stepping down from the post he has held for nearly six years-making him one of the longest-serving attorneys general in American history.
Holder was the first African-American to hold the position and will surely be remembered as a trailblazer for civil rights. From sentencing reform to combating voter suppression to investigating some of the country’s most violent police forces, Holder made huge progressive strides. It’s no coincidence Holder called the civil rights icon Representative John Lewis on Tuesday before his resignation became public. White House officials are already pushing out narratives about Holder’s “historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system.”
But there is one area where Holder falls woefully short: prosecution of Wall Street firms and executives. He came into office just months after widespread fraud and malfeasance in the financial sector brought the American economy to its knees, and yet no executive has faced criminal prosecution. Beyond the crash, Holder established a disturbing pattern of allowing large financial institutions escape culpability.
John Nichols: Barbara Lee Was Right in 2001. She’s Still Right Now.
It has been thirteen years since Congresswoman Barbara Lee cast her lonely vote against authorizing President Bush to launch what she warned could be an ill-defined and endless war. Days after she cast that vote, the California Democrat appeared before hundreds of students at Mills College in Oakland and was greeted for the first time by the chant, “Barbara Lee speaks for me.”
At time when media and political elites said Lee had isolated herself politically, she was embraced by Americans who questioned why Congress was not living up to its constitutionally defined responsibility to check and balance the tendency of executives to “blank check” powers for continual warmaking.
So it was, once more, on Tuesday evening, as television screens were filled with reports of airstrikes by the United States and its allies against targets in Syria. Lee appeared at the 2014 convention of National Nurses United in Las Vegas, where she was honored for her championship of peace and justice during the course of her congressional career.
When Lee came to the stage, a thousand nurses spontaneously began to chant, “Barbara Lee speaks for me.”
The first black president turned over his public confrontation of structural racism entirely to his outgoing attorney general. What now?
Where is the first black president’s justifiable anger about racism now that he never has to run for office again? Where is he when another black child, John Crawford, is murdered on camera by police, in five seconds, in the pet-food aisle of a Walmart? What is Obama doing about the prejudice and violence faced by brown people here at home?
As I sat in a New York auditorium Tuesday afternoon, disappointed that my black president had checked out on racism (if he had ever checked in), it became increasingly obvious that Obama has now turned over his public confrontation of racism entirely to another black man: Eric Holder.
The US attorney general may not exactly be the “Obama Anger Translator” dreamed up by Key and Peele, but Holder is Obama’s black id. Whatever fight this administration might have left on systemic racism would be channelled through him. And now that Holder is stepping down, whatever hope might’ve been left in this failed chapter is fading fast.
Richard (RJ) Eskow: Everything That’s Wrong With The NFL Is Wrong With America, Too
The NFL has 1,856 employees and paid $107.7 million per year in salaries last year. Goodell was paid more than $44 million. That means more than 40 percent of the organization’s entire payroll went to one individual. See the problem?
Sexism. A culture of violence. Untrustworthy leadership. Runaway wealth inequality. An indifference to workers’ health. Employees who are above the law. Hush-hush financing. Multimillion-dollar tax breaks.
We’re not talking about corporate CEOs or the Christmas parties on Wall Street. We’re talking about the National Football League.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of Ray Rice’s videotaped brutality has brought the NFL back into the public eye. It’s a sorry spectacle which others have addressed at length, so we’ll just repeat the cliché: It’s the cover-up, stupid.
For my personal assessment of Goodell, we can turn the mic over to Bill Simmons and UltraViolet.
As for the NFL itself, let’s just say it’s America in microcosm.
Robert Borosage: Bill Clinton’s Corporate Fantasy
Bill Clinton predicts corporations will care less about profits and more about workers and communities, without government action. Terrific, but the big companies aren’t with the program. Their CEOs are cashing in and leaving communities and countries behind.
At annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, former President Bill Clinton predicted the corporations would soon care less about maximizing profits and more about employees and society. This would happen without significant government involvement because “of proof that markets work better that way.” Companies would understand that they gain greater overall success by taking care of their employees and doing good for more than only their shareholders.
We should only hope. This revolution in the corporate worldview would be immensely important, to say the least. The focus on “shareholder value” — magnified by lavish executive compensation packages – has driven executives to focus on meeting short-term profit goals, scramble for every tax dodge, trample worker rights, and play communities and countries off against one another in a brutal race to the bottom.
There are socially responsible companies. Many gather at the Social Venture Network. Socially responsible investment funds give investors the ability to screen their investments. The recent movement to divest from fossil fuel companies is an example.
Sadly, there is little to suggest that major corporations have gotten the former president’s message. Current trends suggest the reverse: that CEOs are plundering their companies assets, cashing in their future to reap short-term profits and bonuses.