Tuesday Morning ReadsPosted: April 17, 2012
The Villagers have returned from their two-week Easter vacation, so there’s a bit more news today than we have had recently.
First up, I want to call attention to an important series of articles the UK Guardian will be running all week on the “Battle for the Internet.” There will be a major story every day this week:
Over seven days
The Guardian is taking stock of the new battlegrounds for the internet. From states stifling dissent to the new cyberwar front line, we look at the challenges facing the dream of an open internet
Day 1: the new cold war
China may have the world’s most internet-savvy government but Beijing has been struggling to keep a lid on bold social networks, writes Tania Branigan
Day two: the militarisation of cyberspace
Internet attacks on sovereign targets are no longer a fear for the future, but a daily threat. We ask: will the next big war be fought online?
Day three: the new walled gardens
For many, the internet is now essentially Facebook. Others find much of their online experience is mediated by Apple or Amazon. Why are the walls going up around the web garden, and does it matter?
Day four: IP wars
Intellectual property, from copyrights to patents, have been an internet battlefield from the start. We look at what Sopa, Pipa and Acta really mean, and explain how this battle is not over. Plus, Clay Shirky will be discussing the issues in a live Q&A
Day five: ‘civilising’ the web
In the UK, the ancient law of defamation is increasingly looking obsolete in the Twitter era. Meanwhile, in France, President Sarkozy believes the state can tame the web
Day six: the open resistance
Meet the activists and entrepreneurs who are working to keep the internet open
Day seven: the end of privacy
Hundreds of websites know vast amounts about their users’ behaviour, personal lives and connections with each other. Find out who knows what about you, and what they use the information for
Be sure to check out this interview with one of Google’s founders: Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google’s Sergey Brin
Next up, lots of news coming out of Columbia, where President Obama participated in the Summit of the Americas. It didn’t go well. Reuters:
President Barack Obama sat patiently through diatribes, interruptions and even the occasional eye-ball roll at the weekend Summit of the Americas in an effort to win over Latin American leaders fed up with U.S. policies.
The United States instead emerged from the summit in Colombia increasingly isolated as nearly 30 regional heads of state refused to sign a joint declaration in protest against the continued exclusion of communist-led Cuba from the event.
The rare show of unity highlights the steady decline of Washington’s influence in a region that has become less dependent on U.S. trade and investment thanks economic growth rates that are the envy of the developed world and new opportunities with China.
Obama also certified the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which will take effect on May 15, despite Colombia’s continuing human rights violations including the murder of labor leaders. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the decision “deeply disappointing and troubling.
Leaders of national labor organizations in Colombia joined Trumka in opposing today’s announcement, saying:
[T]he underlying trade agreement perpetuates a destructive economic model that expands the rights and privileges of big business and multinational corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, and the environment. The agreement uses a model that has historically benefitted a small minority of business interests, while leaving workers, families, and communities behind.
In April 2011, the U.S. and Colombia agreed to an Action Plan on Labor Rights intended to “protect internationally recognized labor rights, prevent violence against labor leaders, and prosecute the perpetrators of such violence” in Colombia. Although the Action Plan includes some measures that Colombian unions and the AFL-CIO have been demanding for years, its scope was too limited: it resolved neither the grave violations of union freedoms or human rights.
Some two dozen Colombian trade union leaders were killed last year alone, and an AFL-CIO report released last fall found that the Action Plan, which was billed as a major step to ending violence against trade unionists and protecting the right of workers to come together in unions “has failed to achieve improvements on the ground for Colombia’s working families.”
And then there was the Secret Service scandal, which keeps on getting worse. The latest from the WaPo:
A probe into the alleged misconduct of nearly a dozen U.S. Secret Service agents has expanded to include more than five military personnel, Defense Department officials said Monday, as the scandal that erupted during President Obama’s trip to Colombia last week put high-level officials on the defensive.
A preliminary investigation by the Defense Department, which included a review of video from hotel security cameras, found that more military personnel than initially thought might have been involved with the Secret Service in the carousing at the center of the probe. Already, 11 Secret Service agents have been placed on leave amid allegations they entertained prostitutes, potentially one of the most serious lapses at the organization in years.
The charges are triggering scrutiny of the culture of the Secret Service — where married agents have been heard to joke during aircraft takeoff that their motto is “wheels up, rings off” — and raising new questions at both the agency and the Pentagon about institutional oversight at the highest levels of the president’s security apparatus.
There’s a lot more detail in that article. Ron Kessler, who used to work for the WaPo and now writes for NewsMax (is that a comedown or a horizontal move?) says the head of the Secret Service should be fired.
Ron Kessler, the author who broke the Secret Service prostitution story in the Washington Post over the weekend, has been making the morning talk-show rounds, saying the director of the agency should be fired after agents were alleged to have solicited local prostitutes ahead of President Obama’s trip to Colombia.
“This is the worst scandal in the history of the Secret Service,” Kessler said on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday. “The Secret Service, under Mark Sullivan, has gone from one debacle to another.”
The only scandal that comes close to this one, Kessler said on CNN, was in 2009, when Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the state dinner at the White House.
“It goes back to a culture of laxness in the Secret Service,” Kessler said. “Corner cutting. Just a lax attitude which contributes to this kind of thing.”
Funny, I would have thought that Secret Service agents getting drunk the night before the JFK assassination and then not doing much to protect him would have been the worst scandal, but what do I know?
Now that Congress is back in session, the Senate didn’t waste any time dumping the President’s proposed “Buffet Rule” that would have made millionaires pay something resembling a fair share of taxes.
By a near party-line 51-45 tally, senators voted to keep the bill alive but fell nine votes short of the 60 needed to continue debating the measure. The anti-climactic outcome was no surprise to anyone in a vote that was designed more to win over voters and embarrass senators in close races than to push legislation into law.
At the White House, Obama denounced the vote, saying Republicans chose “once again to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few Americans at the expense of the middle class.” In a statement issued after the vote, he said he would keep pressing Congress to help the middle class.
Another victory on the road to serfdom.
And of course there’s the new media meme: because of a poorly worded remark by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, the Republican War on Women is over and the Democrats have declared a War on Motherhood.
Never mind that the War on Women is real–based on horrible Republican anti-abortion, anti-family planning, anti-Planned Parenthood policies that have been implemented in state legislatures around the country. Never mind that the “War on Motherhood” is based on hysterical pearl-clutching by cynical Romney campaign strategists. The media has swallowed the fairly tale bait hook, line, and sinker.
And so the horrendous insult to poor little Ann Romney was a prime topic on the Sunday news shows. Meet the Press’s idiot host David Gregory had a whole panel discussion on it. Naturally Charlie Pierce had a great writeup on that yesterday.
the panel, which included my man Chuck Todd and complete political failure Harold Ford, Jr., was talking about Hilary Rosen and hookers. Savannah Guthrie said that the Obama administration moved so quickly to distance themselves from Hilary Rosen, Warrior Queen Of All Liberals:
In some ways it had the equal and opposite effect. They worked so hard to disown Hilary Rosen that you almost felt, well, they must own her, they must be allied with her. It didn’t betray a lot of confidence about their position with women.
See that rock at your feet? Pick it up. Throw it as far as you can. Remember, though, the farther you throw it away, the closer it is to hitting you in the head. Savannah Guthrie, Theoretical Physicist. (Later, she talked about how the administration wanted to draw a line in the sand so that “six months from now,” if somebody said something about Michelle Obama etc. etc. Six months from now? Has Guthrie been on Tuvalu for three years?) My head was descending rapidly toward my desk when Harold Ford chimed in, and it accelerated downward faster than it ever has before. Harold liked very much what his nutty former colleague said about how stay-at-home moms are more attuned to the economy than they are the attempts by a bunch of white men to make sure there’s a little more mommin’ to be done while they stay at home. It’s truly hard to believe that, in a Democratic wave election, the people of Tennessee rejected this titan….
“I thought Michele Bachmann, whom I don’t often agree with, made some pretty valid points. This issue here is more powerful in some ways that the conversation about contraception… No one goes around talking about that. People go around talking about raising their kids. Wome are insulted if you say if they stay at home instead of working then something’s different about them.
It is important to remember that these people wouldn’t even be discussing a whopping 19-point gender gap if it weren’t for Republican attempts to control the unauthorized use of ladyparts, the Dildos Mandating Dildos legislation in the various states, and all that other stuff that Harold Ford, Jr. says women don’t talk about.
Sorry about the long quote, but I just had to use that whole section. It’s perfect!
Anyway, as everyone knows by now, the Romneys blew it bigtime by talking too loud at a $50,000-a-plate fund raiser in Palm Beach. They didn’t realize the press could hear them when they gloated about what a great “gift” Hilary Rosen had given them.
Mrs. Romney acknowledged Republicans’ deficit at present with female voters, and urged the women in attendance to talk to their friends, particularly about the economy. She also discussed the criticism she faced this week, and her pride in her role as a mother.
“It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it,” Mrs. Romney said.
Gov. Romney went further in engaging the so-called “war on moms” that followed in the media — upon which his campaign has been aggressively fundraising — calling it a “gift” that allowed his campaign to show contrast with Democrats in the general election’s first week.
Um…no one was critical of you as a mother, Ann.
But maybe it wasn’t such a “gift” after all, because women voters are apparently not as stupid as the Romneys think they are. According to a CNN poll taken two days after Rosen dropped her bomblet and the the Republicans took to the fainting couch, Obama still leads among women by 16 points and he is even ahead among men by 3 points.
But the Romneys still think they won something, and they’re using it to raise money with a new video in which Romney waxes as poetic as a robot can about his beloved wife Ann. For the brave souls among us, here’s the Romney campaign’s “Happy Birthday, Mom” video. Don’t watch it unless you have a strong stomach and normal blood sugar levels.
As an antidote, please read this NYT op-ed by Nancy Folbre, an economist from U. Mass. Amherst on the real meaning of the gender gap.
Those are my suggested reads for today. What are yours?