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May 11 2011

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day. Scroll down for the Gentlemen.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Why Aren’t the Powers That Be Tackling the Jobs Crisis?

Washington is the only city in America where housing values are going up. That may help explain why the political class is so divorced from the nation’s agonies. Sure, the entire nation celebrated the dispatch of Osama bin Laden, but when it comes to the economy, the Beltway is a world unto itself.

Two years from the official beginning of the “recovery,” America continues to suffer a deep and punishing jobs crisis. One in six Americans of working age is unemployed or underemployed. College students, laden with record levels of debt, are graduating into the worst jobs market since the Great Depression. Long-term unemployment is at unprecedented levels. At current rates of job growth, we won’t return to pre-recession employment levels until 2016. And the jobs that are being created – largely in the service industry – tend to have lower pay and benefits than the jobs that were lost.

Laura Flanders: Have We Forgotten How to End Wars?

Will the death of Osama bin Laden bring change in US policy?  Last week on this show, one by one, our guests said no. Hopes are one thing; likely reality is something else.

Meanwhile, criticizing the killing seems to have become taboo and even progressives who were vociferous against Bush now cheerlead for extrajudicial targeted assassination inside a sovereign state.

President Obama told the country on 60 Minutes, again, that justice was served. Those who disagree, he said, need to have their heads examined.

Daphne Eviatar: Bin Laden’s Death Sparks Rethinking of US Policy in Afghanistan

The death of Osama bin Laden last week is prompting the Obama Administration, members of Congress and the American public to re-think the war in Afghanistan, and to wonder how the demise of the world’s most famous terrorist might hasten its end.

That’s as it should be. But for now, there are still 100,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and some 1700 prisoners that the U.S. is detaining there indefinitely without charge or trial. That’s ten times the number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and almost triple the number imprisoned in Afghanistan when President Obama took office. As I wrote in a new report released today by Human Rights First, based on research in Afghanistan and observation of U.S. military practices there, the United States is not providing its prisoners there even the minimum level of due process required by international law. And that’s ultimately undermining the United States’ ability to put an end to the war there quickly and responsibly.

Dahlia Lithwick: It’s Good for You

A federal appeals court hears arguments about Obama’s health care law-and broccoli.

This lawsuit is not about broccoli. Yes, there were multiple forced servings of broccoli talk at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals this morning, at the first appellate arguments over the Affordable Care Act. But Judge James A. Wynn Jr. was clear on this one metaphysical matter: “Of course, we are not dealing with broccoli here.”

The appeal doesn’t all come down to judicial politics, either, although everyone is already atwitter about the fact that the random, computer-selected, three-judge panel was comprised of three judges appointed by Democratic presidents: Diana Gribbon Motz, nominated by Bill Clinton in 1994, and Andre M. Davis and Wynn, both nominated by Obama in 2009. (Davis and Wynn were also nominated by Clinton in 2000 and 1999, but neither was confirmed.*) The case basically comes down to a search for limiting principles on congressional power and an attempt to understand whether something can be unconstitutional simply because it is unprecedented. The panel struggled for more than two hours about whether the so-called “individual mandate”-requiring people to purchase health insurance by 2014, or pay a penalty-lies far beyond the edges of congressional regulatory authority, or dead at the heart of it.

Bernie Sanders: Single Payer Health: It’s Only Fair

US healthcare is grossly distorted by waste and profit, while millions go uninsured. Americans deserve full universal coverage

The United States is the only major nation in the industrialised world that does not guarantee healthcare as a right to its people. Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on healthcare and, in a wide number of instances, our outcomes are not as good as others that spend far less.

It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American healthcare system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all, single payer health coverage programme.

David Dayen: Man Picked to Make Changes to Social Security Doesn’t Understand Basic Concepts of Social

I mentioned yesterday, and Michael Whitney reinforced, that Alan Simpson denigrated some data on Social Security because he decided the figures came from “the Catfood Commission people.” And that’s a feather in someone’s cap, I guess.

But it’s worth jumping into what that actual data was that Ryan Grim confronted him with. Because it reveals Simpson, as if this needed revealing, to be utterly clueless about the Social Security system and basic demographic realities. So here’s what prompted Ryan’s question:

   Simpson argued that Social Security was originally intended more as a welfare program.

   “It was never intended as a retirement program. It was set up in ’37 and ’38 to take care of people who were in distress – ditch diggers, wage earners – it was to give them 43 percent of the replacement rate of their wages. The [life expectancy] was 63. That’s why they set retirement age at 65” for Social Security, he said.

This is something Simpson has said for some time, and it is based on total ignorance. So Ryan called him on it.

Bill McKibben: Great Floods Aren’t a Fluke — They’re a Taste of a Changing Climate

Last week, at a place called Bird’s Point, just below the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers was busy mining a huge levee with explosives. The work was made dangerous by outbreaks of lightning, but eventually the charges were in place and corps Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh gave the order: A 2-mile-wide hole was blasted in the earthen levee, and a wall of water greater than the flow over Niagara Falls inundated 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland.

The corps breached the levee to ease pressure on other floodwalls; if it hadn’t, the town of Cairo, Ill., might well have been inundated. But it’s not as if the problem has been solved. That water will reenter the Mississippi a little farther downstream as it surges toward the sea. “We’re just at the beginning of the beginning,” Walsh said. Col. Vernie Reichling Jr. of the Memphis District of the corps said: “We’ll have to fight this river all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t see it letting up.”

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