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Sep 06 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: The Fatal Distraction

Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, “My God, what have we done?”

One of these numbers was zero – the number of jobs created in August. The other was two – the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result.

Ever since the acute phase of the financial crisis ended, policy discussion in Washington has been dominated not by unemployment, but by the alleged dangers posed by budget deficits. Pundits and media organizations insisted that the biggest risk facing America was the threat that investors would pull the plug on U.S. debt. For example, in May 2009 The Wall Street Journal declared that the “bond vigilantes” were “returning with a vengeance,” telling readers that the Obama administration’s “epic spending spree” would send interest rates soaring.

The interest rate when that editorial was published was 3.7 percent. As of Friday, as I’ve already mentioned, it was only 2 percent.  

Robert Dreyfuss: A Break in the US-Iran Logjam?

It’s probably too much to hope that talks between the United States and Iran might resume in a positive direction anytime soon, given the exigencies of the 2012 election and Iran’s seemingly frozen internal politics. But the latest statements from Iran about its nuclear research program are a good sign.

Fereydoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, this weekend offered to allow “full supervision” of the program by the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for five years in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. “By lifting the UN sanctions … the International Atomic Energy Agency can have full supervision over Iran’s nuclear work for five years.” What, exactly, he meant by “full supervision” isn’t clear, but it’s long been a demand of the world community for Iran to accede to the IAEA’s additional protocol for oversight of Iran’s activity.

Moustafa Bayoumi: The Long Life of Profiling, Ten Years After 9/11

The Associated Press has been doing some good investigative reporting lately. On August 24, the AP broke the news that the CIA and the NYPD are combining forces to spy on Muslims in New York City. Since the CIA is prohibited by law to collect intelligence on American citizens, this is more than newsworthy. It’s probably unconstitutional, which explains why the NYPD has, according to the report, kept these activities secret.

This is no ordinary program, nor does it seem to be merely about sharing expertise.

According to the report, the NYPD dispatches “rakers,” the NYPD term, into a “human mapping program” to monitor the daily lives of Muslim Americans in the places where ordinary living transpires, such as bookstores, cafés, bars, and nightclubs, without the hint of criminal wrongdoing. The police department also employs “mosque crawlers,” who scrutinize imams and their sermons, and have gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs commonly associated with Muslim workers.

David K. Shipler: Our Vanished Civil  Liberties http://www.thenation.com/artic…

Caricatures created by politics never fit comfortably into the Oval Office. Eisenhower was less deferential to the military than he seemed likely to be, Kennedy was not at all beholden to the pope, George W. Bush was smarter than portrayed and Barack Obama has not led a charge from the left-least of all on behalf of the civil liberties that have eroded since September 11, 2001.

In pursuit of both terrorists and common criminals, Obama has perpetuated so many of the Bush administration’s policies that even Republicans might take heart. Granted, he triggered an outcry on the right when he attempted to close the Guantánamo prison and try the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court, and he repudiated the Bush/Cheney torture policies by ordering interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual. His moderately liberal judicial nominees, including two for the Supreme Court, have not won him points with the Federalist Society, which grooms young conservatives for the bench.

Michael Winship: Eric Cantor: Mean, Ornery and Just Plain Wrong

Cantor’s ideological purity overrules common sense and heart

For Manhattan at least, last week was the weather week that wasn’t. But the minor earthquake and weakened Hurricane Irene served as reminders of the caprice of nature and — only a couple of weeks before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 — the knowledge that at any given moment calamity literally is just around the corner.

Both also should serve as wake-up calls to those know-nothings and kleptocrats who reject the value of government and would like it rendered down to nothingness — the helpless infant that Eric Cantor, Grover Norquist and their pals wish to see drowned in the bathtub.

Harry Shearer: The Two Things Obama Got Wrong  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

August. The month that Democrats seem to think doesn’t count. Think John Kerry in 2004. Think Barack Obama the last two years. Somebody had better look at Washington Democrats’ calendars and circle August in red. It might help.

This August, in addition to the media swoonfest over Michele Bachmann’s meaningless Ames straw poll victory (which even the media polpundits admitted was meaningless), there have been new signs that the economy is swooning, too. Pinch me if I’m dreaming, but isn’t it 2009? It must be, because the president is about to deliver a major speech on jobs.