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David Dennis at The Guardian writes about an old, still-unresolved media problem in —Politico's 2014 'journalists to watch' list doesn't have a single person of color:

A few months ago, I wrote a commentary for the Guardian about how unpaid internships create an unfair funnel system to media outlets. They create a homogenous voice that excludes those who don't have the money or privilege to work for free. This, to me, is the biggest challenge facing the media. Cities like New Orleans, Chicago's South Side or Gary, Indiana are underrepresented or misrepresented in the media because there aren't enough journalists who come from those or similar areas to tell the stories.

The proof of the "blacking out" of the media has shown its face again in a Politico list of US journalists to watch in 2014. The list doesn't have a single person of color on it. Politico's list spans almost every major publication or media outlet in the country from ESPN to CNN and beyond. The Politico article mentions these reporters' great work in the areas of politics, sports, and more, but where is the diversity? Do we honestly not have any journalists of color in the upper tier?

Paul Krugman at The New York Times writes—Fiscal Fever Breaks:
the intransigence of the right wasn’t the only disease troubling America’s body politic in 2012. We were also suffering from fiscal fever: the insistence by virtually the entire political and media establishment that budget deficits were our most important and urgent economic problem, even though the federal government could borrow at incredibly low interest rates. Instead of talking about mass unemployment and soaring inequality, Washington was almost exclusively focused on the alleged need to slash spending (which would worsen the jobs crisis) and hack away at the social safety net (which would worsen inequality).

So the good news is that this fever, unlike the fever of the Tea Party, has finally broken.

E.J. Dionne Jr. at the Washington Post writes—2013 wasn’t as bad as you might think:
“Has this been the worst year of your presidency?” [...]

Obama, for good reason, avoided a direct answer. But I’d suggest that 2013 was not his worst year. That distinction should be reserved for 2011, when the president emerged from the summer looking weak after protracted negotiations with House Republicans over a debt-ceiling increase.

By the measure of Obama’s ambitious State of the Union address, this was a year disheartening enough to justify Julie Pace’s question. But on a longer view, 2013 could be remembered as the year when the far right began to weaken, the forces of obstruction began to recede and the country began moving toward at least the possibility of constructive government.

Below the fold are more excerpts from pundits.

John Nichols at The Nation writes—Holiday in Austerity Land: 1.3 Million Americans Lose Jobless Benefits:

There is little debate that Ryan defined the scope and character of the budget negotiations that played out in November and early December. Yes, he would have gone further if Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and other Democrats had not been in positions to constrain his ambitions. But Ryan bragged that the deal reflected his bottom line: no new taxes on the extraordinarily wealthy, no closing of loopholes for corporations, no economic stimulus, continuation of many of the worst of the sequester cuts and an austerity calculus that unburdened billionaires, while resting the responsibility for reducing debts and deficits on the shoulders of federal employees and military personnel who must pay more for their benefits.

Though Murray and many of the leading lights of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate were involved in the budget negotiations, Ryan was the definitional player. And he shaped a plan that embraces his fiscal ethic of erring consistently on the side of Wall Street speculators, “golden parachute” CEOs and million-dollar campaign donors.

Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble at The Los Angeles Times write—Americans favor not isolationism but restraint:
A recent Pew Research poll finds that historically high numbers of Americans want their government to do less abroad. That worries many foreign policy elites, who fear that bad wars and growing debt are reviving old-fashioned isolationism.
But the public is neither isolationist nor misguided when it comes to foreign policy.

Americans do not want to withdraw from the world; they just prefer not to try to run it with their military. A security strategy made to match those preferences — what we and others call restraint — would keep us out of avoidable trouble and husband our resources, ultimately making us safer and richer.

Amanda Marcotte at Slate writes—Fox News Spent 2013 Worrying About "Wussification":
Conservatives live in constant fear of "wussification": That is the lesson one would learn from watching Fox News in 2013. Media Matters compiled a hilarious list of the top 10 times the word wussification—usually attached to the phrase of America—cropped up on Fox News this past year. The metaphorical testicles of America were lost to a myriad of causes, including the move to change the name of the Washington, D.C., NFL team and the push to end unpaid internships. Unmentioned as a symptom of wussification, interestingly enough, was the use of the term wussification in place of the grittier street alternative that starts with a p. Considering that Fox worried that suspending a cop for cursing at a bunch of children leads to wussification, you would think they would summon the testicular fortitude to use the word that they really mean.

Lest you think this is simply Fox News employees overcompensating for working within a stone's throw of so many Broadway musicals, rest assured that this nonstop conservative anxiety about keeping things manly is hardly limited to Fox. For their last great push of freaking out over nothing this year, the culture warriors all over the right-wing media threw a major fit because an ad for Obamacare online pictured a man wearing eyeglasses and pajamas. Real men sleep in cargo pants and forsake being able to read rather than admit to needing the assistant of an optometrist, which is a word that nearly rhymes with gynecologist, after all.

Stuart Jeanne Bramhall at Dissident Voice writes—Honoring the Real Nelson Mandela:
In “The Mandela Barbie,” BBC journalist and investigative reporter Greg Palast’s eulogy of Nelson Mandela provides a rare breath of sanity in the media stampede to remake a legendary Marxist revolutionary into an icon of free market capitalism. According to Palast, “The ruling class creates commemorative dolls and statues of revolutionary leaders as a way to tell us their cause is won, so go home.”

Al Jazeera America also offers a fairly balanced assessment of Mandela’s accomplishments. In “Mandela Sought Balance Between Socialism and Capitalism,” Martin O’Neill and Thad Williamson acknowledge that Mandela and the African National Congress totally failed to deliver on economic provisions – freedom from poverty, genuine equality of opportunity and a fair share of national wealth – in the ANC’s 1955 Freedom Charter. They also note that despite the advent of majority rule, poverty and living standards are much worse for black South Africans under the ANC.

I frankly expected Democracy Now, The Nation, Mother Jones and other “alternative” media outlets to do a better job of distinguishing between superficial ballot box democracy and the genuine freedom that can only come from true economic democracy. Instead they were all happy to ape CNN and the New York Times in celebrating the cosmetic reforms masking the reality of brutal South African living conditions.

Conor F McGovern at TruthOut laments the impact of—The Graying of Our Incarceration Nation:
The incarceration of vast swaths of the American public is now an aging issue. Our prisons have increasingly become homes for the aging, as there are now some 125,000 prisoners age 55 or older, nearly quadruple the number there were in 1995. Many of these prisoners are serving life sentences, but others soon will be released into society facing special hardships because of their age. They will join a massive and steadily increasing population of aging ex-offenders who always will bear the scars to their mental, physical and financial well-being that come with having been a prisoner in America. [...]

While many vulnerable older Americans can turn to public assistance programs for help, the options for former felons are often much more limited. Certain felons cannot receive federal housing assistance in many jurisdictions. Twelve states, including two of the three states with the largest prison populations in the country, ban people convicted of a drug felony for life from SNAP (formerly food stamps). Twenty more have modified disqualification, such as by requiring a drug test or restoring eligibility after a specified number of years. [...]

In effect, our country's broken criminal justice system has condemned substantial parts of whole generations to impoverishment and ill-health of mind and body in their old age. Add to this voter disenfranchisement laws in many states, and we have fashioned a human rights disaster - a permanent under-caste of poor old people who are denied even the tiniest voice in our democratic system.

Catherine Tumber at In These Times writes—Beware mayoralphilia: For every visionary mayor, there are a dozen Rob Fords.:
A strange new condition has seized the political imagination across our broken land. Let us call it “mayoralphilia,” a newfound faith in the office’s redemptive powers that would have made “Big Bill” Thompson, who treated the city of Chicago as his personal fiefdom, break out in belly laughs. It can be detected in a rash of recent books, including Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley’s The Metropolitan Revolution. And it has kindled unlikely mayoral ambitions, as when Rahm Emanuel ditched Washington for a post as hizzoner of Chicago and when billionaire Michael Bloomberg—who had the means to do whatever he wanted—lunged at an unprecedented third term as boss of New York City. Then there’s Thomas Friedman—bellwether of neoliberal groupthink—declaring flatly in a recent New York Times column, “I Want to Be a Mayor.”

Benjamin Barber’s If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities is perhaps the most giddy among the growing pile of briefs on the subject.

The Editorial Board of Haaretz concludes that there is No partner for peace in Israel:
“Don’t delude yourselves. We don’t have a partner on the Palestinian side for a two-state solution.” That was how Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon summarized his take on the peace negotiations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a group of business leaders taking part in an initiative to promote a peace agreement. There was nothing new in Ya’alon’s declaration. It was in keeping with statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing colleagues, for whom any Palestinian who does not adopt their policies precisely as given is clearly anti-peace.[...]

Rejection of the Palestinian partner is a deception aimed to delude the public into thinking the Israeli government’s hands are clean. It is amazing how Israeli politicians who are steadfast in their mantra of “no partner” fail to comprehend a basic fact about negotiations between adversaries: Partners do not grow on trees, they are created through hard work; that building process is their job.

When a senior minister in a government that is conducting peace talks calls them a futile trick that we must recognize and put aside, it is not an exaggeration to say that it is the Israeli side that is not a partner for peace.

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