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Sep 13 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”.

DeanBaker: Thomas Friedman Thinks the Tea Partiers Are Extremists of the Left

Thomas Friedman is once again orthogonal to reality. In his column today he urges a “grand bargain” where the Republicans abandon extremists of the right and agree to tax increases and Democrats abandon extremists of the left and agree to cut Medicare and Social Security (euphemistically referred to as “entitlements”). There is one little problem with Friedman’s story.

Support for Social Security and Medicare is not confined to extremists of the left. Overwhelming majorities of every group, including Republicans and self-identified supporters of the Tea Party, are opposed to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The only people who seem to support such cuts are wealthy people like Mr. Friedman.

The reality is that Social Security is easily affordable as everyone familiar with the projections knows. According to the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office the program can pay every penny of benefits for more than a quarter century with no changes whatsoever. To make the program fully solvent throughout its 75-year planning horizon would require a tax increase is equal to 5 percent of the wage growth projected over the next 30 years. This is why people familiar with the program’s finances are generally unwilling to support cuts in Social Security benefits, unlike Mr. Friedman.

Timothy Wise and Kevin Gallagher: The False Promise of Obama’s Trade Deals

’21st-century’ trade deals proposed by the Obama administration won’t help American workers – and will hurt foreign ones

It is bad enough that President Obama is reversing his campaign pledge and supporting Bush-era trade deals with Korea, Colombia and Panama. Starting this week in Chicago, the US will be hosting the first major trade negotiations since the “Battle in Seattle” World Trade Organisation talks came here in 1999. This occasion is for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with a wide range of industrialised and developing Pacific Rim countries.

It is bad enough that President Obama is reversing his campaign pledge and supporting Bush-era trade deals with Korea, Colombia and Panama. Starting this week in Chicago, the US will be hosting the first major trade negotiations since the “Battle in Seattle” World Trade Organisation talks came here in 1999. This occasion is for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with a wide range of industrialised and developing Pacific Rim countries.

Glen Greenwald: We Refuse to Live in Fear!

President Obama, in his weekend radio address to the nation:

   They wanted to terrorize us, but, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear.

ABC News, yesterday:

   Fighter planes were scrambled, bomb squads were called, FBI command centers went on alert and police teams raced to airports today, but in the end two separate airline incidents were caused by apparently innocent bathroom breaks and a little “making out,” federal officials said.

Earlier this year, the Obama White House reversed the Attorney General’s decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his alleged crimes in a federal court in New York, and Congress prohibited Guantanamo detainees generally from being tried on U.S. soil, due to fears that the Terrorists would use their heat-vision to melt their shackles and escape or would summon their Terrorist friends to attack the courthouse and free them into the community — even though none of that has ever happened, and even though almost every other county on the planet that suffered similar Terrorist attacks (Britain, Spain, India, Indonesia) tried the perpetrators in their regular courts in the cities where the attacks occurred.  In 2009, President Obama demanded the power to abolish the most basic right — not to be imprisoned without having been convicted of a crime  — by “preventively detaining” people who, in his words v], “cannot be prosecuted yet {} pose a clear danger.”  During the Bush years, The Washington Post quoted a military official [warning Americans that the most extreme security measures are needed against Guantanamo detainees because these are “people who would chew through a hydraulic cable to bring a C-17 down.”

Jeff Biggers: Arizona’s AG says Ethnic Studies “Must Be Destroyed”

Speaking on a public panel in Phoenix on Saturday, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne invoked the infamous words of warfare by Roman statesman Cato and called for the destruction of Tucson’s Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies Program.

In front of a sparse crowd at the Phoenix Marriot Hotel, Horne’s chilling admonition was part of a special panel on the Mexican Americans Studies program hosted by the so-called “Arizona Mainstream Project,” a Tea Party offshoot that hails “America’s Exceptionalism” and peddles books by Glenn Beck and notorious right-wing extremist Cleon Skousen on its website. The panel was also broadcast live via streaming online.

“The only thing they can do to come into compliance is to terminate the program,” Horne told a questioner from the audience, who had asked how the program could meet the demands of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal to adhere with Arizona’s controversial Ethnic Studies ban. Horne said the program must be “destroyed,” invoking Cato’s obsessive call for warfare as a punch line, “Carthage must be destroyed.”

Josh Eidelson: [CREDO Mobile, Warren Buffet, and the Limits of Progressive Business]

Two web petitions showed up in progressive inboxes last week. One, organized by Daily Kos in support of striking Verizon workers, was blasted out by “alternative” cell service provider CREDO Mobile. The second, organized by MoveOn, was a call for taxing the rich, piggybacking on a recent op-ed by billionaire Warren Buffett. Though neither petition itself is objectionable, together they illustrate a harsh reality: It’s easier to get the wealthy to share their money than their power.

CREDO offers customers wireless service with an added appeal: a small fraction of each phone bill gets donated to progressive organizations. The company gives customers the chance to vote on which liberal group gets a cut of their check and employs a campaign manager who emails customers with e-activism alerts, like the one promoting the Verizon strike. CREDO runs an aggressive media campaign calling out its competitors’ right-wing donations. What it doesn’t advertise is who gets the rest of your check. CREDO re-sells mobile service from Sprint, which is as right-wing as AT&T or Verizon and viciously anti-union when it comes to its own employees. There are no Sprint union members on strike right now, because there are no Sprint union members at all.

J. Bradford DeLong: Ben Bernanke’s Dream World

Berkeley – US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke is not regarded as an oracle in the way that his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was before the financial crisis. But financial markets were glued to the speech he gave in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 26.  What they heard was a bit of a muddle.

First of all, Bernanke did not propose any further easing of monetary policy to support the stalled recovery – or, rather, the non-recovery. Second, he assured his listeners that “we expect a moderate recovery to continue and indeed to strengthen.” This is because “[h]ouseholds also have made some progress in repairing their balance sheets – saving more, borrowing less, and reducing their burdens of interest payments and debt.” Moreover, falling commodity prices will also “help increase household purchasing power.”

Finally, Bernanke claimed that “the growth fundamentals of the United States do not appear to have been permanently altered by the shocks of the past four years.”

Frankly, I do not understand how Bernanke can say any of these things right now.

Malcolm Fraser: America’s Self-Inflicted Decline

Melbourne – If the broad post-World War II prosperity that has endured for six decades comes to an end, both the United States and Europe will be responsible. With rare exceptions, politics has become a discredited profession throughout the West. Tomorrow is always treated as more important than next week, and next week prevails over next year, with no one seeking to secure the long-term future. Now the West is paying the price.

President Barack Obama’s instincts may be an exception here, but he is fighting powerful hidebound forces in the United States, as well as a demagogic populism, in the form of the Tea Party, that is far worse – and that might defeat him in 2012, seriously damaging America in the process.

Anthony Worthington: The “Worst of the Worst”? 9/11, Guantanamo and the Failures of US Corporate Media

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush deliberately discarded domestic and international laws, creating an experimental facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There prisoners would be deprived of the protections of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, held without rights as “unlawful enemy combatants” in a world-wide program of extraordinary rendition, secret prisons and torture. Corporate media largely failed to hold the government responsible for this authoritarian response.

From the beginning, the corporate media generally belittled those who raised concerns about the abuses at Guantánamo. Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball (1/17/02) told a guest from Human Rights Watch who had criticized the open-air cages of Camp X-Ray: “Back when I was a kid, I used to go down there and sleep out in places like the Virgin Islands overnight, and I loved it. I slept in tents. I thought it was great. And you’re making it sound like harsh conditions.”