10/08/2014 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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Zoë Carpenter: The Battle Over Abortion Access Is Nearing the Supreme Court

Clinics in Texas that were recently forced to stop providing abortions because of sweeping new regulations have filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that the rules put an “undue burden” on women’s rights. [..]

In her decision allowing enforcement of the Texas law to go forward, George W. Bush appointee Jennifer Elrod made a point of mentioning that lower courts had issued conflicting decision on the numerous clinic regulations, something that the Supreme Court considers when deciding whether a case warrants their attention. Highlighting disagreement among circuit courts, writes Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgess, amounts to “a blood-red howler to the Supreme Court telling them to “TAKE THIS CASE!”

If it does, the rights of American women will be in the hands of one man.

Katrina vanden Heeuvel: Eric Schneiderman Is Still Seeking Justice for the Financial Crisis

After six years in office, departing Attorney General Eric Holder will leave behind a strong legacy of defending civil rights. As the first black American to lead the Justice Department, Holder fought to stop voter suppression, to change unfair sentencing policies, and-by refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act-to end discrimination against LGBT couples. Holder’s resignation announcement last month, understandably, has prompted a wave of speculation about who will replace him. That’s an important conversation, but we should be paying equal attention to the states, where attorneys general are elected and have significant influence over the application of the law.

For instance, while progressives were rightly disappointed by Holder’s failure to punish Wall Street for financial crimes leading up to the economic crisis, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been almost single-handedly fighting an uphill battle to hold the banks accountable. Now running for reelection, Schneiderman has devoted much of the past four years to delivering some measure of justice to millions of Americans, in New York and across the country, who suffered as a result of Wall Street’s destructive behavior.

Cale Sarih: Why did the US help the Kurds in Iraq but leave Isis to massacre them in Syria?

The fall of Kobani is a microcosm for a policy that is doomed to fail. It was an avoidable tragedy

Observing fighters for the Islamic State (Isis) march closer and closer toward the key Syrian town of Kobani over the past week has felt like watching a bitterly suspenseful action movie unfold. Unlike other central Syrian towns that have been pounded to the ground mostly out of sight, Kobani’s looming collapse sits in full view of anyone paying attention – journalists, refugees and Turkish military tanks planted over the border, just a couple of miles away. That very border, carelessly drawn a century ago, now determines life or death for the thousands of people on either side. Every day, Isis marches closer to the heart of Kobani, and every day, Kurds across the region grow more exasperated that everyone seems to know what scene comes next – “a terrible slaughter”, with “5,000 dead within 24 or 36 hours”.

With Kobani in hand, Isis will control a strategic stretch of territory linking its self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa to its positions in Aleppo along the border with Turkey, a Nato country. And yet no one seems to be lifting a finger to stop it.

Joan Walsh: Fox News’ weapon of fear: How the right hopes to terrify America before Election Day

For Republicans, public paranoia about Ebola, ISIS and the scary immigrant “other” is a plan to sweep the midterms

Republicans need one last stroke of luck to take back the Senate and sweep the midterms: They have to find an ISIS fighter who crossed the Mexico border as a juvenile asylum-seeker last summer, who’s since come down with Ebola.

No doubt the folks at Fox, along with James O’Keefe, are hard at work searching for their secret weapon. [..]

This is all the right can come up with as a closing argument in the 2014 midterms. They have no policy agenda and demography is against them, but fear will always be with them. Ironically, to the extent that we have anything to worry about in the government’s handling of Ebola, it might have to do with GOP-imposed cuts to the CDC, the NIH and medical research generally. We don’t have a Surgeon General because of GOP obstruction. Republican governors have weakened the public health infrastructure with budget cuts and their petulant rejection of federal Medicaid expansion. And the fear of foreigners, particularly Africans, stoked by Ebola panic is counterproductive, too, because the only way to contain the disease is for the U.S. to support caregivers in the places ravaged by it so they can respond more effectively.

Valerie Braman: The real victims of Tom Corbett’s move to screw over teachers will be the children of Philadelphia

But bashing educators is integral to the political playbook of America’s most vulnerable governor and his Republican party

Philadelphia School Reform Commission chairman Bill Green declared on Monday that my teachers union needs to “share in the sacrifice”.

And then the unelected, unaccountable entity charged with school oversight for the fifth largest city in the United States – in a last-minute meeting that took only 17 minutes and entertained no public comment – voted unanimously to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and demand new healthcare contributions from its employees.

Of course, Green’s words sounded awfully familiar: Republican governor Tom Corbett said the same in August, when he declared – not for the first time – that it was up to the teachers of Philadelphia’s public schools to fix the funding crisis that Corbett created through tax breaks for corporations, his refusal to tax Marcellus Shale drillers, the abandonment of an equitable state school funding formula and $1bn in budget cuts to education funding in Pennsylvania (in which poorer districts like Philadelphia were disproportionately hit). [..]

Starving the public education system and demanding that teachers personally make up the shortfall is not about the kids or the classrooms, or some considered ideological position, or even about budgetary savings. Cancelling contracts for people who educate your kids is about politics, plain and very cynical.

Karuna Jaggar: The NFL’s breast cancer scam sells bunk science to profit off pink clothes

Ribbons and shoes aren’t just a distraction from the league’s sexism, misogyny and violence against women. Its Breast Cancer Awareness stunt is based on deadly misinformation

Like many other large brand names, the National Football League has long tried to use its alleged commitment to breast cancer to distract the public from its misdeeds around this time of year – particularly concerning women. Don’t look at the unchecked domestic and sexual violence, the extraordinarily high rates of brain disease that ruin careers and families, or the poor pay and working conditions for cheerleaders. Look over here at this enormous pink ribbon on the field! Look at the players wearing pink helmets and gloves and shoes! You can even buy your own! See how much we care about women?! [..]

If the NFL truly cares about the health of its female fans, it will stop spreading bunk science to women at cancer risk. If the league cares at all about the health of its own employees, league officials will confront concussions and ensure that their cheerleaders are fairly paid. And if Roger Goodell and Co really care about the health of all women, it will focus on violence against women at the hands of some of those employees and stop using pink ribbons as a distraction. Because the NFL may be good at selling little pink footballs and forcing players to wear pink cleats, but it’s terrible at public health.

TBC: Morning Musing 10.8.14

Today I have 2 articles for your perusal.

First up is an interview with Noam Chomsky. It covers a variety of issues and is long but well worth the read:

Chomsky: U.S. Spawned a Fundamentalist Frankenstein in the Mideast

For decades now, Noam Chomsky has been widely regarded as the most important intellectual alive (linguist, philosopher, social and political critic) and the leading US dissident since the Vietnam War. Chomsky has published over 100 books and thousands of articles and essays, and is the recipient of dozens of honorary doctorate degrees by some of the world’s greatest academic institutions. His latest book, Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures, 1969-2013, has just been published by Haymarket Books. On the occasion of the release of his last book, Chomsky gave an exclusive and wide-ranging interview to C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout, parts of which will also appear in The Sunday Eleftherotypia, a major national Greek newspaper.


So, uhhmmm….

I like to suggest to all the open carry nutjobs out there in the land of the free and the home of the brave that it’s way past time for them to take their ak-47’s over to Washington and shoot the gummint, eh?

After all that’s what they’re for, right? Nutjobs, I mean.

Why they haven’t taken back the country yet is beyond me. lol. snort.

The Great Irony Of Our Time

Black Prophetic Fire: Cornel West on the Revolutionary Legacy of Leading African-American Voices


President Obama Doesn’t Belong on Any Shirt with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X


The state of Black America in the age of Obama has been one of desperation, confusion and capitulation

Cornel West, Salon

Sunday, Oct 5, 2014 06:59 AM EST

The great irony of our time is that in the age of Obama the grand Black prophetic tradition is weak and feeble. Obama’s Black face of the American empire has made it more difficult for Black courageous and radical voices to bring critique to bear on the U.S. empire. On the empirical or lived level of Black experience, Black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality. How do we account for this irony? It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a postracial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America.

The leading causes of the decline of the Black prophetic tradition are threefold. First, there is the shift of Black leadership from the voices of social movements to those of elected officials in the mainstream political system. This shift produces voices that are rarely if ever critical of this system. How could we expect the Black caretakers and gatekeepers of the system to be critical of it? This shift is part of a larger structural transformation in the history of mid-twentieth-century capitalism in which neoliberal elites marginalize social movements and prophetic voices in the name of consolidating a rising oligarchy at the top, leaving a devastated working class in the middle, and desperate poor people whose labor is no longer necessary for the system at the bottom.

Second, this neoliberal shift produces a culture of raw ambition and instant success that is seductive to most potential leaders and intellectuals, thereby incorporating them into the neoliberal regime. This culture of superficial spectacle and hyper-visible celebrities highlights the legitimacy of an unjust system that prides itself on upward mobility of the downtrodden. Yet, the truth is that we live in a country that has the least upward mobility of any other modern nation!

Third, the U.S. neoliberal regime contains a vicious repressive apparatus that targets those strong and sacrificial leaders, activists, and prophetic intellectuals who are easily discredited, delegitimated, or even assassinated, including through character assassination. Character assassination becomes systemic and chronic, and it is preferable to literal assassination because dead martyrs tend to command the attention of the sleepwalking masses and thereby elevate the threat to the status quo.

Turn Your Head And Cough

Why We Allow Big Pharma to Rip Us Off

Robert Reich

Sunday, October 5, 2014

America spends a fortune on drugs, more per person than any other nation on earth, even though Americans are no healthier than the citizens of other advanced nations.

Of the estimated $2.7 trillion America spends annually on health care, drugs account for 10 percent of the total.

(W)hile other nations set wholesale drug prices, the law prohibits the U.S. government from using its considerable bargaining power under Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower drug prices. This was part of the deal Big Pharma extracted for its support of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

The drug companies say they need the additional profits to pay for researching and developing new drugs.

But the government supplies much of the research Big Pharma relies on, through the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, Big Pharma is spending more on advertising and marketing than on research and development – often tens of millions to promote a single drug.

And it’s spending hundreds of millions more every year lobbying. Last year alone, the lobbying tab came to $225 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That’s more than the formidable lobbying expenditures of America’s military contractors.

In addition, Big Pharma is spending heavily on political campaigns. In 2012, it shelled out over $36 million, making it the biggest political contributor of all American industries.

(W)e’ve bought the ideological claptrap of the “free market” being separate from and superior to government.

And since private property and freedom of contract are the core of the free market, we assume drug companies have every right to charge what they want for the property they sell.

Yet in reality the “free market” can’t be separated from government because government determines the rules of the game.

It determines, for example, what can be patented and for how long, what side payoffs create unlawful conflicts of interest, what basic research should be subsidized, and when government can negotiate low prices.

The critical question is not whether government should play a role in the market. Without such government decisions there would be no market, and no new drugs.

The issue is how government organizes the market. So long as big drug makers have a disproportionate say in these decisions, the rest of us pay through the nose.

On This Day In History October 8

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 8 is the 281st day of the year (282nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 84 days remaining until the end of the year.


On this day in 1871, flames spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, igniting a 2-day blaze that kills between 200 and 300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings,leaves 100,000 homeless and causes an estimated $200 million (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion in 2007 dollars) in damages.

The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration  that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about 4 square miles (10 km2) in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S.  disasters of the 19th century, the rebuilding that began almost immediately spurred Chicago’s development into one of the most populous and economically important American cities.

On the municipal flag of Chicago, the second star commemorates the fire. To this day the exact cause and origin of the fire remain a mystery.

The fire started at about 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, in or around a small shed that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street.[3]  The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that he had made it up because he thought it would make colorful copy.

The fire’s spread was aided by the city’s overuse of wood for building, a drought prior to the fire, and strong winds from the southwest that carried flying embers toward the heart of the city. The city also made fatal errors by not reacting soon enough and citizens were apparently unconcerned when it began. The firefighters were also exhausted from fighting a fire that happened the day before.

After the fire

Once the fire had ended, the smoldering remains were still too hot for a survey of the damage to be completed for days. Eventually it was determined that the fire destroyed an area about four miles (6 km) long and averaging 3/4 mile (1 km) wide, encompassing more than 2,000 acres (8 km²). Destroyed were more than 73 miles (120 km) of roads, 120 miles (190 km) of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property-about a third of the city’s valuation. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 90,000 were left homeless. Between two and three million books were destroyed from private library collections. The fire was said by The Chicago Daily Tribune to have been so fierce that it surpassed the damage done by Napoleon’s siege of Moscow in 1812. Remarkably, some buildings did survive the fire, such as the then-new Chicago Water Tower, which remains today as an unofficial memorial to the fire’s destructive power. It was one of just five public buildings and one ordinary bungalow spared by the flames within the disaster zone. The O’Leary home and Holy Family Church, the Roman Catholic congregation of the O’Leary family, were both saved by shifts in the wind direction that kept them outside the burnt district.

TDS/TCR (NeoCons)


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