Feb 01 2011

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”

Paul Krugman: A Cross of Rubber

Last Saturday, reported The Financial Times, some of the world’s most powerful financial executives were going to hold a private meeting with finance ministers in Davos, the site of the World Economic Forum. The principal demand of the executives, the newspaper suggested, would be that governments “stop banker-bashing.” Apparently bailing bankers out after they precipitated the worst slump since the Great Depression isn’t enough – politicians have to stop hurting their feelings, too.

But the bankers also had a more substantive demand: they want higher interest rates, despite the persistence of very high unemployment in the United States and Europe, because they say that low rates are feeding inflation. And what worries me is the possibility that policy makers might actually take their advice.

To understand the issues, you need to know that we’re in the midst of what the International Monetary Fund calls a “two speed” recovery, in which some countries are speeding ahead, but others – including the United States – have yet to get out of first gear.

Jeremy Scahill: Washington’s Sudden Embrace of Al Jazeera Won’t Erase Past US Crimes Against the Network

If it weren’t for Al Jazeera, much of the unfolding Egyptian revolution would never have been televised. Its Arabic and English language channels have provided the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands-down. Despite the Mubarak regime’s attempts to shut it down, Al Jazeera’s brave reporters and camera crews have persevered. Six Al Jazeera journalists were detained briefly on Monday, their equipment seized. The US responded swiftly to their detention with the State Department calling for their release. “We are concerned by the shutdown of Al Jazeera in Egypt and arrest of its correspondents,” State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley tweeted. “Egypt must be open and the reporters released.”

The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the US. Thousands of Americans-many of whom likely had never watched the network before-are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That’s because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials.

Laura Flanders: Inequality Drives Egyptians to Streets, But Ours Worse

It’s amazing what inequality can drive people to, eventually. Just look at Egypt.

“These big guys are stealing all the money,” one 24-year-old textile worker standing at his second job as a fruit peddler told a reporter this weekend. “People are desperate.”

“I wish we could be like the United States with a democracy, but we cannot,” said another.

And so they protest, regardless of police batons, curfews and shootings. With over a 150 estimated dead, a march of millions is scheduled for Tuesday.

In spite of what some on Fox News (and the Israel lobby’s camp) sought to argue this weekend, namely that the protests were all the work of Islamist radicals, every report from the ground contradicts that. As in Tunisia, the protesters are driven by fury at poverty, lack of options and the looting of their state by the super-powerful.

It’s an equation we understand-elsewhere: a massive gap between rich and poor is inconsistent with democracy. But before you get carried away with third world conditions there, try here. On Friday a guest blogger at Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism blog noted a remarkable fact: the US actually has much greater inequality than Egypt-or Tunisia, or Yemen.

Dean Baker: Debts Should be Honored, Except When the Money Is Owed to Working People

This seems to be the lesson that our nation’s leaders are trying to pound home to us. According to the New York Times, members of Congress are secretly running around in closets and back alleys working up a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy.

According to the article, a main goal of state bankruptcy is to allow states to default on their pension obligations. This means that states will be able to tell workers, including those already retired, that they are out of luck. Teachers, highway patrol officers and other government employees, some of whom worked decades for the government, will be told that their contracts no longer mean anything. They will not get the pensions that they were expecting.

Depending on the specific circumstances, they may find their pensions cut back 20 percent, 30 percent, perhaps even 50 percent. There would be no guarantees if a state goes into bankruptcy.

John Nichols: Conservative “Judicial Activism on Steroids”: Federal Judge Rules Health Reform Unconstitutional

In a development that was immediately decried as “judicial activism on steroids, a Florida federal judge on Monday ruled the health-care reform — as enacted last year by Congress and signed by President Obama — is unconstitutional.

“Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority,” wrote U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a Reagan appointee who is the senior federal judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Vinson embraced the argument of conservative state attorney generals and allied right-wing groups that the federal goverment does not have the power to require Americans to buy health insurance.

Barry Lando: The Food Bomb

On the face of it, the protests currently sweeping across the Arab world have been driven by overwhelmingly leaderless, frustrated, impoverished, unemployed youths battling geriatric dictatorial regimes that are supported by pampered militaries-and the United States. Fueling all these protests, from Egypt to Yemen to Jordan to Tunisia to Algeria, is another common factor, one that also fueled the French Revolution: rocketing food prices.

A perfect storm of natural disasters around the globe, rising oil prices and rapacious speculators have produced the current dramatic rise in food prices, but even had these events not occurred, food prices would be spiraling upward, and roiling the planet, no matter who was governing.

Dana Milbank: The government’s bloated new dietary guidelines

Here’s more evidence, as if you needed it, that the federal government just can’t trim the fat.

In the late 1970s, before the government began telling us what to eat, 15 percent of adults and 4 percent of children were obese. Now, after 30 years of Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines, 34 percent of adults and 20 percent of children are obese.

This means one of two things: Either we are not eating what the government is telling us to eat, or the government is telling us to eat the wrong stuff.

Operating under the assumption that it is the former, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was a nutrition evangelist Monday morning as he rolled out the latest version of the dietary guidelines at George Washington University.

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