12/19/2014 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.

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: Dying In, Rising Up

The protesters who lay down in the streets by the thousands across New York City this week, memorializing Eric Garner and calling for policing reform, showed a vivid grasp of symbolism and, despite seething anger, a commitment to peaceable dissent that lent credibility and potency to their demands. [..]

There were those seeking to provoke violence, like the group that attacked police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge, one of them a college teacher who was accused of trying to toss a garbage can at officers and was toting, police say, three claw hammers and a ski mask. They do not represent the vast majority of protesters, or their peaceful spirit.

And then there is the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, whose extremism has been no less abhorrent for being rhetorical. He has tried to recast the Garner tragedy as a story of police victimhood, spreading a false narrative that city leaders disrespect all cops, to the point of urging fellow officers to sign a petition demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stay away from their funerals should they be killed on duty.

Paul Krugmsn: Putin’s Bubble Bursts

If you’re the type who finds macho posturing impressive, Vladimir Putin is your kind of guy. Sure enough, many American conservatives seem to have an embarrassing crush on the swaggering strongman. “That is what you call a leader,” enthused Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine without debate or deliberation.

But Mr. Putin never had the resources to back his swagger. Russia has an economy roughly the same size as Brazil’s. And, as we’re now seeing, it’s highly vulnerable to financial crisis – a vulnerability that has a lot to do with the nature of the Putin regime. [..]

But Russia’s difficulties are disproportionate to the size of the shock: While oil has indeed plunged, the ruble has plunged even more, and the damage to the Russian economy reaches far beyond the oil sector. Why?

Anthony Lowenstein: The lack of any official condemnation for CIA torture ensures it will happen again

The details shocked. Shackled prisoners were treated like cattle, watched by their CIA interrogators. Testimony from one observer stated that men blindfolded and tied “were made to run down a steep hill, at the bottom of which were three throws of concertina barbed wire. The first row would hit them across the knees and they would plunge head first into the second and third rows of wire”.

This wasn’t CIA torture after the September 11 attacks, exposed in detail in a recent Senate report, but the Phoenix programme, instituted by the CIA and US, Australian and South Vietnamese militaries in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972 to “neutralise” the Vietcong. The result was more than 60,000 people tortured and killed. No senior politicians, generals or decision-makers were prosecuted for these crimes. A culture of immunity, despite occasional media and public outrage, thrived across the US. [..]

The ability of the state to retroactively justify illegal behavior when caught is a feature of every nation on earth, not just the US. But demanding other countries abide by international law, when western nations so blatantly ignore it, is the height of hypocrisy. The shocking details in the US Senate report demand accountability but there’s little public appetite for it.

Retired Navy JAG John Hutson warned in 2008 against trials for post 9/11 crimes because “people would lawyer up”, a tacit admission that the legal system is gamed by the wealthy and powerful to escape justice. There’s hardly a more illustrative example of the modern state’s failure.

Marcy Wheeler: Sony hackers’ real crime: Why it’s not an assault on speech – but something worse

“The Interview” could still be released online. What’s really under attack is not speech, but property. Here’s why

Yesterday, Sony Pictures pulled its movie “The Interview” from release on Christmas Day. The movie, which depicts two journalists attempting to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, has been identified as the motive behind a devastating hack of Sony Pictures. That’s partly because, in July, North Korea complained to the U.N., calling the film an “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” Then, hackers threatened “the world will be full of fear” if the movie premiered on Dec. 25, which led first the movie chains and then Sony itself to pull the release. [..]

If the issue is airing the views in the film – and defying the threats of the hackers – such a release would accomplish the goal.

But there’s another issue that seems far more central to this hack than speech: property.

Even before Sony mentioned its filmmakers’ free speech rights, for example, it mentioned the assault on its property rights. “Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material.” And while free release of its movie would assert its right to free speech, it would result in further financial losses, on top of the other movies (such as “Annie” and “Fury”) released on piracy sites after the hack.

Joe Conason: The right’s absurd Cuba outrage: Why Obama’s critics are on the wrong side of history

Listen carefully to the Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls roaring with outrage over President Barack Obama’s courageous decision to normalize relations with Cuba; listen very carefully, because no matter how long or how closely you listen to them, there is one thing you will surely never hear.

You will never hear a new idea – or any idea – about bringing liberty, democracy and prosperity to the suffering Cuban people.

Instead, the furious denunciations of the president’s initiative from his adversaries reveal only an intellectual void on Capitol Hill, where the imperatives remain partisan and cynical. Everyone paying attention has known for decades that the frozen relationship between the United States and Cuba has accomplished nothing – except possibly the prolongation of the Castro regime, which has long considered the embargo a plausible excuse for its own economic failures and viewed the United States as a politically convenient enemy.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Hillary’s Choice: ‘Anti-Gridlock’ or ‘Anti-Wall Street’?

We’re told that Hillary Clinton is spurning something her advisors call the “anti-Wall Street” movement and will run instead on a platform of “working across the aisle” with Republicans. Her camp is suggesting, without much evidence and against the lessons of recent history, that she will be more effective at this endeavor than her predecessor. And now they’re using that claim to fight against the Democratic Party’s rising populist wing.

Is Hillary Clinton about to repeat Barack Obama’s biggest mistake?

In the first two years of his presidency Obama spoke of compromise, protected Wall Street, and resisted the populist wing of his own party. Democrats lost the House of Representatives, but Obama kept offering “Grand Bargains.” The GOP rejected most of his overtures, even the Social Security benefit cuts they had long championed, and didn’t hesitate to use them against Democrats on the campaign trail.

By selling himself as someone who could get things done with Republicans, Obama gave them the power to make him a success or failure. Unsurprisingly, they chose the latter option. Is Hillary Clinton about to make the same mistake — and will voters buy it if she does?

Cranberry Canes

A holiday tradition at my house, I enjoy them any time of year.

Cranberry Canes are basically a stuffed yeast bread roll up, like a Cinnamon Roll.  It’s the presentation of twisting the prepared strips and putting a crook at one end that gives them their distinctive appearance.  There are 3 basic elements-


Scald 1 Cup Milk, cool to lukewarm
In a large bowl combine:

4 Cups Unsifted All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest

Cut in 1 Cup (2 Sticks) Margarine until like coarse meal
Dissolve 1 Package of Dry Yeast in 1/4 Cup Warm Water
To Flour Mixture add Yeast, Milk, 2 Beaten Eggs.  Combine lightly, dough will be sticky.
Cover dough tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.  When ready to bake prepare filling.


In a pot or pan combine:

3 Cups finely chopped Cranberries (about 2 12 oz. bags, freeze before chopping)

1 Cup Rasins (about a 16 oz box)

2/3 Cup Chopped Pecans

2/3 Cup Honey

3 Teaspoons Grated Orange Zest

2 Cups Sugar

Bring to a smimmer over Medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Cool.


A basic buttercream flavored with some frozen concentrated Orange Juice.


Divide dough in half.  On a floured board roll out the half into an 18″ x 15″ rectangle.
Spread half the filling on the dough.  Fold dough into a 3 layer strip 15″ long and about 6″ wide.
Cut dough into 1″ strips.
Holding the ends of each strip twist lightly in opposite directions.  Pinch ends to seal.  Place on greased baking sheet, shaping the top of each strip to form a cane.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake in a hot oven, 400 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes or until done.
Cool on racks and frost.

The Breakfast Club (Who Knows Where? Who Knows When?)

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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This Day in History

President Bill Clinton impeached; General George Washington opens camp at Valley Forge; Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol” is first published; Apollo 17 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean; ‘The Music Man’ opens on Broadway.

Breakfast Tunes

Farewell, Stephen. We’ll meet again.

On This Day In History December 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.

December 19 is the 353rd day of the year (354th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 12 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Thomas Paine publishes The American Crisis.

These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

When these phrases appeared in the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal for the first time, General George Washington’s troops were encamped at McKonkey’s Ferry on the Delaware River opposite Trenton, New Jersey. In August, they had suffered humiliating defeats and lost New York City to British troops. Between September and December, 11,000 American volunteers gave up the fight and returned to their families. General Washington could foresee the destiny of a rebellion without an army if the rest of his men returned home when their service contracts expired on December 31. He knew that without an upswing in morale and a significant victory, the American Revolution would come to a swift and humiliating end.

Thomas Paine was similarly astute. His Common Sense was the clarion call that began the revolution. As Washington’s troops retreated from New York through New Jersey, Paine again rose to the challenge of literary warfare. With American Crisis, he delivered the words that would salvage the revolution.

The American Crisis was a series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution by eighteenth century Enlightenment philosopher and author Thomas Paine. Thirteen numbered pamphlets were published between 1776-1777 with three additional pamphlets released between 1777-1783. The writings were contemporaneous with the early parts of the American Revolution, during the times that colonists needed inspiring.

They were written in a language the common man could manage and are indicative of Paine’s liberal philosophies. Paine signed them with one of his many pseudonyms “Common Sense”. The writings bolstered the morale of the American colonists, appealed to the English people’s consideration of the war with America, clarified the issues at stake in the war and denounced the advocates of a negotiated peace.

The Justice Department’s War on Freedom of the Press

In this chapter of the Obama administration’s war on freedom of the press, the cast of character are:

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, an former employee of the CIA, was indicted, arrested, and charged with violating the Espionage Act in 2010.

James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist for The New York Time, is the author of the book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, which was discussed CIA operations, specifically Operation Merlin.

Mr. Risen was subpoenaed to testify at Mr. Sterling’s trial and would have been asked if Mr. Sterling was the source for the Operation Merlin. He refused and fought the subpoena through the courts. In July 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Risen would have to testify. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Mr. Risen said that he would not comply and was willing to go to jail. That was not the end of Mr. Risen’s fight to protect a confidential source.

Then in October 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder stated “no reporter’s going to jail as long as I’m attorney general.” On December 10, a federal court judge told prosecutors that they had a week to decide whether they enforce the subpoena.  On this Tuesday, it was announced that Mr. Risen would be subpoenaed to answer questions before the trial but there is some confusion about what those questions are:

Prosecutors say they will not ask James Risen if ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling was his anonymous source for part of the 2006 book “State Of War” that detailed a botched CIA effort to cripple Iran’s nuclear program. However, they do want to know if the two had a prior, on-the-record source relationship.

Risen’s lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, said at Tuesday’s hearing that he is not sure whether his client is willing to answer the questions that prosecutors want to pose.

Furthermore, defense attorneys indicated they may also have their own questions, which puts Risen at risk of being found in contempt of court if he refuses to answer. {..}

On Tuesday, though, as prosecutors detailed what they would seek from Risen, it was unclear whether Risen would agree to the limitations. And it became equally clear that Risen may have as much to fear, if not more, from defense lawyers, who would be free to cross-examine Risen and could even seek to subpoena him themselves.

Edward MacMahon, one of Sterling’s lawyers, told Brinkema that “the notion we can sanitize this by limiting (his testimony) to two or three questions is hard for us to fathom.”

He declined comment after the hearing on whether he may seek to subpoena Risen.

Prosecutor James Trump said there is much more uncertainty about the questions Risen might face from the defense than there is about what prosecutors will seek.

Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González spoke to Marcy Wheeler, investigative blogger who runs EmptyWheel.net and writes for ExposeFacts.org.

The transcript can be read here

In Plan for Risen Subpoena, Government Raises Sixth Amendment Interests of Jeffrey Sterling

Marcy Wheeler, Expose the Facts

December 16, 2014

The government has now submitted its explanation for the limited information it will seek from James Risen in the Jeffrey Sterling trial and pre-trial hearings.

It will ask him to confirm that:

  •    He has  confidentiality agreement with his source or sources on the Merlin story (though they will not ask who those sources are)
  •    He authored the Merlin chapter of his book State of War, but also one article in which he explicitly and another the government claims he relied on Sterling as a source
  •    He worked with Sterling for one of those earlier stories in a non-confidential relationship


The last line of the filing, however, suggests ExposeFacts may have correctly predicted their plan. The government raises the possibility Risen will refuse to answer Sterling’s questions.

It’s obvious that the DOJ is behind the eight ball and is praying that the they will not be the reason Mr. Risen ends up behind bars.

TDS/TCR (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead)


If you’ve been watching Comedy Central at all today it’s been pretty hard to ignore that tonight is Stephen’s last Colbert Report and like many of you I suppose I’m a little sad to see him go.

The Colbert Report has been airing since about the time I started writing on the Internet (well, as ek hornbeck at least, my character is as much an artificial construct as Stephen’s and like him I never break it) and I won’t pretend that I noticed either The Daily Show or The Colbert Report before that time.  Instead I watched Cable News (lots of it) and considered myself reasonably well informed (I also read 3 or 4 daily newspapers so I didn’t get all my news from TV).

Being on the ‘Tubes was an eye opening and radicalizing experience for me.  I have always wanted to be a writer, and have always written.  I was an editor at my High School Alternative Newspaper and won a couple of Awards from the Columbia School of Journalism, one for the paper and an individual Columnist Award.  I took a term or so at the Boston University School of Journalism and worked a couple of years for my local Weekly.

Journalism is a low trade and a habit worse than heroin, a strange seedy world of misfits and drunkards and failures.

And did I mention that it pays poorly?  So I did some other things with my life, some of which had nothing at all to do with writing (working with the severely learning disabled, Supervisor of Shipping and Receiving) and then cheap micro-computers came out.

I had sworn that computers were the work of the Devil (and they are) and that I would never, ever use one.  You can see how the latter turned out.

So for I while I wrote poetry for machines, stacks and stacks of it, and there’s something satisfying about composing originals following a very strict syntax and grammar in a foreign language for an absolutely literal minded and unforgivimg audience.

For amusement my friend and I formed a small multimedia enterprise to advance our political position in our Club.  In addition to countless newsletters, pamphlets, training manuals, flyers, posters, and reports and meeting materials, we did some DJing and wrote, produced, and directed videos, ran training seminars, and did the public speaking thing.  He was the candidate, but after he was defeated he lost interest.  I never gave up and became Capo di Tutti.

And I ran things with an iron fist (velvet gloves are for sissies) for about 5 years before I got bored and quit for good.

I golfed for a while, but it’s a tedious game.  I wouldn’t garden, I’ve seen The Godfather.

In April of ’05 I was tired of Cable and ventured out on the ‘Net (another thing I swore I’d never do because of totally reasonable caution) as ek.  I thought I had found a home, a place where I didn’t need to be afraid to let it slip I was a Democrat and I suppose it was a home for a while.  While there I discovered this little corner of it called The Daily Show/The Colbert Report Spoiler Thread which we affectionately know today as TDS/TCR, the Sausage Grinder of Snark (my idea, at least the tag is).  At the time it was under the stewardship of a lovely lady that it’s my great pleasure to know, TiaRachel.

Occasionally she needed a replacement for a break and, having by that time built my own reputation to the point that I no longer cared about writing blockbusters, I was happy to fill in.  In a moment of weakness during a particularly long hiatus for the programs, I succumbed to the entreaties of PerfectStormer to cover the off periods.

And thus things were until my first banishment (over the very same pictures of U.S. prisoner abuse that Barack Obama refuses to release today ironically) and after my reinstatement, which I never sought nor have I ever apologized for my words and actions, I returned to the same routine.  TDS/TCR was the only damn thing I missed about that place anyway.

After a while TiaRachel retired and I took over the franchise which I ran for about a year and a half before my second banishment (for defending a friend against bullying which I don’t regret either).  Because of the presentation limitations of that place I had already established the series here and while others have continued the tradition elsewhere (and good for them) I contend that we also maintain Apostolic Succession.

Now I don’t know what they are planning on doing, this is my plan.  During the holiday break I’ll be running some specials related to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  When Jon resumes live broadcasts we will live blog those.  When The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore starts we will cover that too.

When Stephen Colbert takes over The Late Show (sometime after May) we will promote the guests, but will not live blog (hey, I gotta sleep sometime).

Will I miss The Colbert Report?  Of course.  And however dead he kills the character, in the incestuous zombie culture of reunion re-boot happy media I expect it to re-emerge at some point or another.

In a way it marks the end of an era for me, but I’m not going anywhere and you can count on my continuing to plumb new depths of obnoxiousness for some time to come.

Lucky you.


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