10/02/2014 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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New York Times Editorial Board: Paying Afghanistan’s Bills

By the end of the year, Congress will have appropriated more money for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, when adjusted for inflation, than the United States spent rebuilding 16 European nations after World War II under the Marshall Plan. [..]

A staggering portion of that money – $104 billion – has been mismanaged and stolen. Much of what was built is crumbling or will be unsustainable. Well-connected Afghans smuggled millions of stolen aid money in suitcases that were checked onto Dubai-bound flights. The Afghan government largely turned a blind eye to widespread malfeasance. Even as revelations of fraud and abuse stacked up, the United States continued shoveling money year after year because cutting off the financial spigot was seen as a sure way to doom the war effort.

If the flow of money is to keep going, the Afghan government has to prove that it can be trusted. And, for its part, Congress should not hesitate to cut off the aid if corruption remains unabated.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite: President Obama: It Is a Moral and Strategic Mistake to Exempt Syrian Airstrikes From Civilian Protections

The White House has acknowledged for the first time that the strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.

This is a tragic error. One of the worst mistakes the United States can make is to respond to the horrors of the conduct of ISIS, especially its wanton killing of civilians, by killing civilians in response. We are meeting horror with horror and it will come back to haunt us, both morally and strategically. [..]

In addition, this new information from the White House undermines a substantial part of the argument for the morality of the drone program, since the drone program has been sold to the American people as a way for the U.S. to kill terrorists without substantially endangering local populations.

For the administration to claim it is “just” to use drones, it must abide by the rules for the conduct of war. These rules, called “Just War Theory,” specifically call for the protection of civilians, i.e. non-combatants, from armed combat. In this theory on waging war it is considered unfair and unjust to attack indiscriminately since non-combatants or innocents are deemed to stand outside the field of war proper.

Lawrence Lessig: We Should Be Protesting, Too

This week, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents turned out to protest China’s plan for bringing democracy to that city. Rather than letting voters pick the candidates that get to run for chief executive, Beijing wants the candidates selected by a 1,200 person “nominating committee.” Critics charge the committee will be “dominated by a pro-Beijing business and political elite.” “We want genuine universal suffrage,” Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party demanded, “not democracy with Chinese characteristics.”

But there’s not much particularly Chinese in the Hong Kong design, unless Boss Tweed was an ancient Chinese prophet. Tweed famously quipped, “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.” Beijing’s proposal is just Tweedism updated: a multi-stage election, with a biased filter at the first stage.

The pattern has been common in America’s democracy too. Across the Old South, the Democratic Primary was limited to “whites only.” That bias produced a democracy responsive to whites — only. The battle for equal rights was a fight to remove that illegitimate bias, and give African Americans an equal say in their government.

Gail Collins: Securing Social Security

There was this at the Senate debate in Iowa on Sunday:

“I will fight hard to protect Social Security and Medicare for seniors like my mom and dad because our Greatest Generation has worked so hard for the American dream for our families,” said Republican Joni Ernst.

Like many conservatives, Ernst supports some sort of privatization in the Social Security program. She’s a little hazy on the details. But we do know that the Greatest Generation is the name Tom Brokaw gave to the Americans who came through the Depression and spent their young adulthood fighting World War II. They would actually be Joni Ernst’s grandparents. [..]

Conservative Republicans still tend to hew to the theory that the system is “going bankrupt” and needs to be turned into some kind of private retirement investment account. They also generally promise to protect people 55 or over from any change.

Amy Goodman: A Force More Powerful in Jefferson County, Colo.

“Don’t make history a mystery” read one of the signs at a rally in Jefferson County, Colo. High-school students in this suburban district, referred to locally as “JeffCo,” have been walking out of class en masse this past week, protesting the planned censorship of the district’s Advanced Placement (AP) United States history curriculum by the local school board. The board proposed a committee that would review the course, and others, adding material to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights,” as well as eliminating anything the board thought could “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” The student walkout coincided with several days of “sick-outs” by teachers. Ironically, the school board’s attempts to stifle teaching about the history of protest in the United States has provoked a growing protest movement. [..]

The power of school boards is often underestimated. “I’ve been paying attention to the school board for the past year, and I have been increasingly concerned about what’s been going on,” Ashlyn Maher told me. She is a senior at Chatfield High School who helped organize the student walkouts. Civil disobedience has a long and storied role in U.S. history. The Declaration of Independence itself, so cherished by conservatives and progressives alike, instructs “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” Maher says that disobedience is “the foundation of our country. I took AP U.S. history myself, and all I was presented with were the facts. And then I made the opinions based on those facts. I was never told what to think.”

Thor Benson: Shrinking the Global Income Gap

John Steinbeck allegedly once said: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

That’s part of what activists like the Occupy movement see as the problem in this country today. Americans have been jailed and abused, as we saw in the case of Cecily McMillan, in their efforts to bring the issue of income inequality into the spotlight. Ever since the Occupy movement amplified the battle cry of the 99 percent, the country has been appraised of the fact that a small group of people, to whom we refer as the 1 percent, controls almost 40 percent of the wealth in the U.S. The Fight for $15 movement is still going strong among employees of fast-food restaurants and other low-paid workers, and the debate doesn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon.

Afghanistan: The Forever War, Forever Forgotten

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor  

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

Obama called Tuesday “a historic day” for the US and Afghanistan, as the security pact, which puts US troops beyond the reach of Afghan law, “will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan.”

Good News on XL?

Why It Matters That Statoil Just Shelved Its Multi-Billion-Dollar Tar Sands Project

by Emily Atkin, Think Progress

September 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Statoil is putting the project on hold for a few reasons, but the most notable is the company’s assertion that there is “limited pipeline access” for the oil. In other words, Statoil is not sure there is enough pipeline capacity for it to actually get the oil out of northern Canada. According to Reuters, Statoil is the first company to explicitly cite pipeline access as a reason for delaying or cancelling a project.

The momentum surrounding opposition to Keystone XL has done more than just delay the one pipeline – it’s made companies extremely wary of pursuing pipeline projects that cross the border to bring Canadian tar sands oil into the United States. According to Leach, that broader fact is now making some companies rethink tar sands production projects.

Because of Statoil’s postponement, some have called into question the accuracy of the State Department’s claim that building Keystone XL would not impact global greenhouse gas emissions, because the oil produced in Canada would get to market anyway. But as Leach points out, the State Department’s assessment only looked at the 800,000 daily barrels of oil that would be produced by Keystone – not the ripple effect approval might have on other cross-border pipeline projects.

Another reason Statoil may have put its project on the shelf is because of its shareholders. Unlike most Canadian-based oil companies, stockholders of the Norwegian energy company have put a decent amount of pressure on the company to make environmentally-friendly investments.

“Statoil has been under a lot of pressure at home in terms of their oil sands investments,” Leach said. “For them, building a new oil sands project is going to be difficult given the opposition … They won’t be able to push ahead if it’s even slightly risky.”

The Breakfast Club (Family)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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ek is visiting family. He’ll be back next week with TechSci Thursday

This Day in History

Mohandes Gandhi born; President Woodrow Wilson suffers stroke; Thurgood Marshall sworn in as US Supreme Court justice; Rock Hudson dies; Peanuts comic strip debut.

Breakfast Tunes

On This Day In History October 2

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.

October 2 is the 275th day of the year (276th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 90 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, “The Twilight Zone” premiered on CBS television.

The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising plot twist and was usually brought to closure with some sort of message. The series was also notable for featuring both established stars (e.g. Cliff Robertson, Ann Blyth, Jack Klugman) and younger actors who would later became famous (e.g. Robert Redford, William Shatner, Mariette Hartley, Shelley Fabares). Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host, delivering on- or off-screen monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. During the first season, except for the season’s final episode, Serling’s narrations were off-camera voiceovers; he only appeared on-camera at the end of each show to promote the next episode (footage that was removed from syndicated versions but restored for DVD release, although some of these promotions exist today only in audio format).

The “twilight zone” itself is not presented as being a tangible plane, but rather a metaphor for the strange circumstances befalling the protagonists. Serling’s opening and closing narrations usually summarized the episode’s events in tones ranging from cryptic to pithy to eloquent to unsympathetic, encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had “entered the Twilight Zone”.

TDS/TCR (Hacked)


Wilford Brimley Oatmeal Folksy

Sometimes the Cat Door is closed

Yay!  No web exclusive Affleck content so I’m not compelled to repeat it.  The real news and this week’s guests below.

Sr. League Wildcard Play In: Giants @ Pirates

Argh matey, them scurvy dogs of the Steel City be makin’ a post season appearance agin fer the first time since last year’s Division Series, but ‘twer a long score of years before that where they couldn’t even post a winning record.

The Giants on the other hand were the first team in New York,  but left the same year as the Dodgers (1957) and have thus earned the emnity of every Sr. League fan (there are some of us) in the Tri-State area for eternity.

So it be easy to see, even with but a single eye, who I be rootin’ fer.

The Giants will be sending up Madison Bumgarner (L, 18 – 10, 2.98 ERA).  The Pirates will counter with Edinson Volquez (R, 13 – 7, 3.04 ERA).

The game will be broadcast at 8 pm on ESPN.