11/19/2014 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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

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Kristina vanden Heuvel: When Mega Corporations Get Mega Tax Breaks, We All Pay

Is corporate CEO pay really out of control? Well, consider Fleecing Uncle Sam, a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government. Of the 100 highest-paid CEOs in the US, the study finds, twenty-nine of them received more compensation than their companies paid in federal income tax.

Take American Airlines, for example. CEO W. Douglas Parker took home $17.7 million in total compensation in 2013, while his company received a $22 million tax refund. It makes you wonder. After all, American didn’t have a lot of income on which to pay taxes-the company’s pre-tax income in 2013 was negative $2 billion-so is AA sending us a message that tax avoidance, and not air transport, is their real business? Parker certainly piloted his company to be more success at the former than he did the latter.

Scott Klinger, Director of Revenue and Spending Policies at the Center for Effective Government, co-authored of the report. “Our corporate tax system is so broken,” he says, “that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives.”

Amanda Marcotte: Satanists elegantly humiliate Christians into ending public school proselytization

Hail Satan! Or Satanists, at least, who have done a bang-up job in exposing the bad faith that was behind the choice of a Florida public school system to use school grounds for attempts to recruit kids into the Christian religion. The Orange County school district was allowing religious groups to distribute Bibles on school grounds, a policy they justified by suggesting that they had not ulterior motive but were just being free and open and all that jazz. So folks decided to test how far they were willing to take it. An atheist group was allowed to distribute pamphlets criticizing religion. (A criticism of the pamphlet itself should be read before fully supporting this move.) And then the Satanists got involved, and that might be the last straw for the Christians who were oh-so-innocently offering a free forum for totally free and non-judgmental discourse about faith that totally wasn’t pushing a Christian agenda.

So now they’re looking to reverse the policy: [..]

So if Christians are doing it, it’s fine. If Satanists or atheists do it, suddenly it’s “out of hand” and they are taking “advantage of the open forum”. Except it’s not an open forum, obviously. An actual open forum is open to all viewpoints. This was a closed forum, and this was easily demonstrated by the fact that the forum closed the second that viewpoints that are critical of Christianity were introduced.

Jessica Valenti: Suggestion: If You Can’t Talk About Rape Without Blaming Victims, Don’t Talk About It

Rape apologists are neither edgy nor new. Why are they given such prominent platforms?

How we think about rape matters. It determines how we talk about rape, it determines how the media writes about rape and, ultimately, it determines what we as a society do about rape.

And right now, we are not doing enough. [..]

So you might think that someone given a platform at the New York Times, like  Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld was in Sunday’s paper, might have done more than simply note that women are attacked “in appalling numbers” and colleges mishandle rape cases.

Instead, what followed that barest of acknowledgements of the epidemic of rape – on the front cover of the Times’ Sunday Review section, ostensibly some lingering bastion of “thought leadership” – was misinformation, cherry-picked research and a series of inflammatory, baseless arguments.

Joanna Rothkopf: Wrong, NRA-Right-to-Carry Laws Actually Increase Gun Violence

New study definitely debunks gun nuts’ crazy theory that more guns make us safer.

A new study from researchers at Stanford University debunks the oft-cited fact that  more guns leads to less crime. In fact, the researchers found, the opposite is the case: right-to-carry laws are associated with higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.

The results of the study are imperfect. Lead author of the study and Stanford law professor  John J. Donohue III said, “Trying to estimate the impact of right-to-carry laws has been a vexing task over the last two decades.” While they specifically found that right-to-carry laws had yielded 8 percent more instances of aggravated assault, that number isn’t set in stone because of a number of confounding factors (such as various drug epidemics). Regardless, Donohue says that 8 percent is a low guess-the reality could be much higher.

Still, the study’s findings are significant in that it pokes a hole in the gun lobby’s main argument.

Amy B. Dean: The labor movement helps Ferguson heal

By highlighting racial injustice, the AFL-CIO is leading an effort to address tensions in working-class America

Given organized labor’s mixed record on race, it may seem hard to imagine that unions can play a vital role in bridging racial divides in working-class America. But some labor activists are insisting that they cannot do anything less.

In 2008 the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, openly criticized union members who were hesitant to vote for then-candidate Barack Obama because of his race. Trumka has since made addressing racial injustice a priority for the country’s largest labor federation. It is not surprising, then, that he has now waded into the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, pledging the AFL-CIO’s support to help address the ongoing turmoil sparked by the Aug. 9 shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. [..]

Such outspoken stances reflect an increasingly important reality: Few institutions in American life bring together as much diversity under one roof as organized labor, and even fewer have the political heft to influence our public policy discussions. This gives labor leaders and grass-roots union activists a unique platform from which they can speak about how our country’s racial divisions might be overcome.

Jill Lawrence: The Democratic comeback plan

Shower money and energy on the states to advance policy and nurture tomorrow’s big names

There’s no getting over a heartache until you plunge yourself into something (or someone) fresh and consuming. That’s what Democrats should do in the wake of their miserable midterm elections. Specifically, party activists and donors should direct their cash and attentions to state legislatures and state ballot initiatives. It’s the smart move both psychologically and politically.

Obviously Democrats can’t ignore the 2016 House, Senate, gubernatorial and presidential elections. But party movers and shakers must also understand the potential payoff of a forceful presence well below those levels. There’s a diminishing bench of prospects for the higher offices that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up and a policy agenda that is making more progress through direct, state-specific appeals to voters than in Congress. Think of the possibilities: Minimum wage hikes today, Medicaid expansion tomorrow? [..]

The urgency for Democrats can’t be overstated. They need to start now if they want to have solid candidates and policies on state ballots in 2016, when they may be able to capitalize on the high turnout and friendlier electorate of a presidential year. If any further incentive is needed, how about the prospect of a second round of Republican-dominated redistricting after the 2020 census? The last remapping locked in today’s House GOP majority. It’s up to Democrats to unlock it and in the process show the country that they are a capable, competitive party.

TBC: Morning Musing 11.19.14

I have 3 articles for you this Wednesday morning!

First, on media complicity in framing our drone victims:


Since its 2012 report, the Times itself has tended to avoid the “militant” language in its headlines, but often lends credence to dubious official claims, as when it said this about a horrific U.S. drone strike last December on a Yemeni wedding party that killed 12 people and wounded at least 15 others, including the bride: “Most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to Al Qaeda, according to tribal leaders in the area, but there were also reports that several civilians had been killed.” Other U.S. media accounts of that strike were just as bad, if not worse. The controversies over the definition of “militant” are almost never mentioned in any of these reports.

A new article in The New Yorker by Steve Coll underscores how deceptive this journalistic practice is. Among other things, he notes that the U.S. government itself-let alone the media outlets calling them “militants”-often has no idea who has been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan. That’s because, in 2008, George W. Bush and his CIA chief, Gen. Michael Hayden, implemented “signature strikes,” under which “new rules allowed drone operators to fire at armed military-aged males engaged in or associated with suspicious activity even if their identities were unknown.” The Intercept previously reported that targeting decisions can even be made on the basis of nothing more than metadata analysis and tracking of SIM cards in mobile phones.


A Community Assaulted by the Police

Glenn Ford of Black Agenda Report on The Real News.

All Eyes on Ferguson as Gov. Nixon Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Grand Jury Decision


On This Day In History November 19

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.

November 19 is the 323rd day of the year (324th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 42 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address.

On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing.  The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee’s defeat and retreat from Gettysburg marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army’s ultimate decline.

Charged by Pennsylvania’s governor, Andrew Curtin, to care for the Gettysburg dead, an attorney named David Wills bought 17 acres of pasture to turn into a cemetery for the more than 7,500 who fell in battle. Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery’s dedication. Almost as an afterthought, Wills also sent a letter to Lincoln-just two weeks before the ceremony-requesting “a few appropriate remarks” to consecrate the grounds.

Text of Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

TDS/TCR (Nobody can fake being such an annoying dick all the time)


Water, Water, Everywhere, But not a drop for the poors (ah, let’s just face it) Black People.

Bernie Sanders

The real news, Laura Poitras’ 2 part web exclusive extended interview, and this week’s guests below.

Ratmach Needs Our Help

Our dearest friend poor ratmach is trapped under ten feet of snow in Buffalo.

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Poor guy.

What a shitty time to be a fucking Bills fan!

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Can the US political system deal with climate change?

The American “system” has been a bit tardy in its response to climate change. Experts tell us that the longer it takes to make needed changes, the more difficult it will be to make them.

As 350.org’s Bill McKibben puts it:

We’re talking about a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn’t care less if precipitous action raises gas prices, or damages the coal industry in swing states. It could care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China, or made agribusiness less profitable.

Physics doesn’t understand that rapid action on climate change threatens the most lucrative business on Earth, the fossil fuel industry. It’s implacable. It takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands.

We could postpone healthcare reform a decade, and the cost would be terrible — all the suffering not responded to over those 10 years. But when we returned to it, the problem would be about the same size. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all.

Unless you understand these distinctions you don’t understand climate change — and it’s not at all clear that President Obama understands them.

There are lots of reasons why the response of the system has been so slow. There is significant resistance in the system to the sort of changes that need to be made. That resistance has manifested itself in a number of ways, from President Obama using the spies at the NSA to kill global agreements on climate change to the bipartisan popularity of climate change denial in Congress, the media and the public relations industry, despite virtually indisputable scientific evidence.

Resistance is created by a variety of groups based on their perceived interests. Enormously wealthy, powerful corporations and individuals who want to preserve their profits from fossil fuels and related industries, people who rely on jobs created or enabled by fossil fuel industries, people who fear economic chaos and the loss of their comforts due to actions to stop climate change, and politicians whose fortunes depend upon the money and other resources of the fossil fuel industry are some huge sources of systemic inertia.