Daily Archive: 09/24/2013

Sep 24 2013

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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Mohammad Khatami: This time, the west must not turn its back on diplomacy

President Rouhani’s UN speech can reignite the diplomacy that over a decade ago I saw was the only path to a better world

More than at any other time in history, events in the Middle East and north Africa have taken on global significance, and there is a great shift in the importance of this region. This transformation, which began with Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution – a surprise to many in the international community – intensified with the end of the cold war.

Today the Middle East has become a centre for new political, social and ideological forces as well as a site of collaboration and conflict with powers beyond the region. Almost all the problems facing the Middle East and north Africa today have international implications. Iran’s nuclear issue is but one of these, and certainly not the biggest; but in addressing the Middle East’s other problems, much depends on the manner in which this one is resolved.

Gary Younge: The American dream has become a burden for most

As wages stagnate and costs rise, US workers recognise the guiding ideal of this nation for the delusional myth it is

The self-proclaimed leader of the free world is turning into a low-wage economy with a class system more rigid than most and a middle class that wavers between poverty and precariousness. More than half the people using the food bank in Larimer County, Colorado, that I visited last year were working. More than one in four families in New York’s homeless shelters includes at least one working adult. In the absence of a living wage and an ethical pay structure, the work ethic, on which the American dream is founded, doesn’t work.

Robert Reich: Why the Upcoming Shutdowns and Defaults Are Symptoms of a Deeper Republican Malady

Congressional Republicans have gone directly from conservatism to fanaticism without any intervening period of sanity. [..]

A shutdown would be crippling. Soldiers would get IOUs instead of paychecks. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees would be furloughed without pay. National parks would close. Millions of Americans would feel the effects.

And who will get blamed?

Paul Buchheit: Add It Up: The Average American Family Pays $6,000 a Year in Subsidies to Big Business

$6,000.

That’s over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It’s $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.

The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations. [..]

This is more than an insult. It’s a devastating attack on the livelihoods of tens of millions of American families. And Congress just lets it happen.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why We Should Fear – and Fight – An Entitlement-Cutting “Grand Bargain”

It’s autumn, when a politician’s fancy turns to thoughts of a Grand Bargain.

Right now it looks as if the two sides are at an impasse. But the President’s “no negotiations” posture only applies to the debt ceiling, and his budget still includes the “chained CPI” cut to Social Security. The Republicans who are attempting to force a showdown over Obamacare are still railing against the programs they call “entitlements.”

They’re all looking for a face-saving deal, and Social Security and Medicare could very well become that deal’s Ground Zero.

Dean Baker: The Media’s Complicity in Cutting Social Security and Medicare

US media outlets are disingenuously claiming that social programs are putting Americans in debt.

Most people in the United States have probably heard about the Wall Street efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. There is a vast list of organisations such as Campaign to Fix the Debt, the Can Kicks Back, Third Way, and many more that have, as a central agenda item, cutting back or privatising Social Security and Medicare. When we hear one of these organisations tell us these programmes should be cut it is not a surprise.

The question is why do mainstream news outlets including the New York Times and Washington Post use their news sections to tell the same stories? Last week, when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued new long-range budget projections, both papers were quick to ignore the numbers and to tell readers that we have to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Sep 24 2013

US Spying Lambasted by an Ally

The president of an close US ally, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, told the audience of dignitaries at the annual United Nations General Assembly session that the US is in violation of international law by using the NSA to indiscriminately collect “the personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country’s strategic industries.”

Rousseff’s angry speech was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who was waiting in the wings to deliver his own address to the UN general assembly, and represented the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Rousseff had already put off a planned visit to Washington in protest at US spying, after NSA documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the US electronic eavesdropping agency had monitored the Brazilian president’s phone calls, as well as Brazilian embassies and spied on the state oil corporation, Petrobras. [..]

Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the UN and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted,” Rousseff said, in a global rallying cry against what she portrayed as the overweening power of the US security apparatus. [..]

She warned, using very strong words that the the NSA surveillance was a direct threat to freedom of speech and democracy.

“Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and as such it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” [..]

“Without the right to privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and therefore, there is no actual democracy,” [..]

“A country’s sovereignty can never affirm itself to the detriment of another country’s sovereignty,”

She called for the “establishment of multilateral mechanisms” to protect the internet and the privacy of individuals, businesses and diplomats.

Many countries have denounced the US at the UN, coming mostly from nations that disagree with US international policies. This rebuke, coming from a large influential and close ally was diplomatically painful.

The full transcript of Pres. Rouseff’s speech can be read here and here (pdf).

Sep 24 2013

The Increasing Inequality of the 99%

The income gap between the 99% is has grown to the point that it now as great as it was a the start of the Great Depression. In New York City, Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio built his campaign for mayor around the increased poverty of New Yorkers that he says is creating two cities. According to the US Census Bureau the poverty rate continues to climb in NYC threatening the viability of the city:

The poverty rate rose to 21.2 percent in 2012, from 20.9 percent the year before, meaning that 1.7 million New Yorkers fell below the official federal poverty threshold. That increase was not statistically significant, but the rise from the 2010 rate of 20.1 percent was.

Former Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich has released a documentary, Inequality for All, on the fifth anniversary of the fall of Lehman Bothers and the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street which brought attention to the income gap and change the nation’s conversation about the “American Dream.” Sec. Reich joined Bill Moyers on his show Moyers & Company to discuss his film and the increasing income inequality for all of us.



TRanscript can be read here

“The core principle is that we want an economy that works for everyone, not just for a small elite. We want equal opportunity, not equality of outcome. We want to make sure that there’s upward mobility again, in our society and in our economy.”

By the Numbers: The Incredibly Shrinking American Middle Class

by Karen Kamp, Moyers & Company

A typical American household made about $51,017 in 2012, according to new figures out from the Census Bureau this week. That number may sound familiar to anyone who remembers George H. W. Bush’s first year as president or Michael Jackson in his prime. That’s because household income in 2012 is similar to what it was in 1989 (but back then it was actually higher: you had an extra $600 or so to spend compared to today).

That sobering statistic gives an indication of where the American middle class appears to be headed. Take a look below at a snapshot of where the middle class is now, the problems they face and what our Facebook audience has to say about squeaking out a living these days.

Sep 24 2013

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities”

Sep 24 2013

On This Day In History September 24

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.

September 24 is the 267th day of the year (268th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 98 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1789, The Judiciary Act of 1789 is passed by Congress and signed by President George Washington, establishing the Supreme Court of the United States as a tribunal made up of six justices who were to serve on the court until death or retirement. That day, President Washington nominated John Jay to preside as chief justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson to be associate justices. On September 26, all six appointments were confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Supreme Court was established by Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution granted the Supreme Court ultimate jurisdiction over all laws, especially those in which their constitutionality was at issue. The high court was also designated to oversee cases concerning treaties of the United States, foreign diplomats, admiralty practice, and maritime jurisdiction. On February 1, 1790, the first session of the U.S. Supreme Court was held in New York City’s Royal Exchange Building.