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Dec 02 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: Killing the Euro

Can the euro be saved? Not long ago we were told that the worst possible outcome was a Greek default. Now a much wider disaster seems all too likely.

True, market pressure lifted a bit on Wednesday after central banks made a splashy announcement about expanded credit lines (which will, in fact, make hardly any real difference). But even optimists now see Europe as headed for recession, while pessimists warn that the euro may become the epicenter of another global financial crisis.

How did things go so wrong? The answer you hear all the time is that the euro crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility. Turn on your TV and you’re very likely to find some pundit declaring that if America doesn’t slash spending we’ll end up like Greece. Greeeeeece!

Peter van Buren: Thought crime in Washington

Federal employees are the only ones who know what’s happening inside the government and their voices are being silenced.

Here’s the First Amendment, in full: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Those beautiful words, almost haiku-like, are the sparse poetry of the American democratic experiment. The Founders purposely wrote the First Amendment to read broadly, and not like a snippet of tax code, in order to emphasise that it should encompass everything from shouted religious rantings to eloquent political criticism. Go ahead, re-read it aloud at this moment when the government seems to be carving out an exception to it large enough to drive a tank through. [..]

As the occupiers of Zuccotti Park, like those pepper-sprayed at UC Davis or the Marine veteran shot in Oakland, recently found out, the government’s ability to limit free speech, to stopper the First Amendment, to undercut the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, is perhaps the most critical issue our republic can face.

If you were to write the history of the last decade in Washington, it might well be a story of how, issue by issue, the government freed itself from legal and constitutional bounds when it came to torture, the assassination of US citizens, the holding of prisoners without trial or access to a court of law, the illegal surveillance of American citizens, and so on. In the process, it has entrenched itself in a comfortable shadowland of ever more impenetrable secrecy, while going after any whistleblower who might shine a light in.

Now, it also seems to be chipping away at the most basic American right of all, the right of free speech, starting with that of its own employees. As is often said, the easiest book to stop is the one that is never written; the easiest voice to staunch is the one that is never raised.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Britain’s Massive Anti-Austerity Strike: Could It Happen Here?

Millions of employees mounted Great Britain’s first General Strike in many years today after the government threatened to impose more cuts in retirement benefits and pay for public workers.

It was a smash success. As many as two million strikers proved that the public’s patience with the unjust fiscal regime known as ‘austerity economics’ has its limits. It highlighted the important role unions can and must play in the fight for a more just and stable economy.

And it raised an important question for the United States: Could it happen here?

Jeffrey L. Fischer: The Bill of Rights Doesn’t Come Cheap

ON Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Williams v. Illinois, the latest in a string of cases addressing whether the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause – which gives the accused in a criminal case the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him” – applies to forensic analysts who produce reports for law enforcement. In other words, should an analyst responsible for, say, a fingerprint report have to show up at trial to face questions about the report?

A logical application of the law produces an easy answer: Yes. The court has defined a “witness against” a defendant as a person who provides information to law enforcement to aid a criminal investigation. That is exactly what forensic analysts do.

Subjecting forensic analysts to cross-examination is also good policy. According to a recent National Academy of Sciences study, forensic science is not nearly as reliable as it is perceived to be. DNA specimens, for instance, are sometimes contaminated; fingerprint, ballistics and even run-of-the-mill drug and alcohol analyses depend on human interpretation and thus are subject to error. Worse, investigations over the past decade have revealed outright incompetence and fraud in many crime labs. So it makes sense to subject the authors of lab reports to cross-examination – a procedure the court has called “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

Jesse Eisinger: Wall Street Is Already Occupied

Last week, I had a conversation with a man who runs his own trading firm. In the process of fuming about competition from Goldman Sachs, he said with resignation and exasperation: “The fact that they were bailed out and can borrow for free – It’s pretty sickening.”

Though the sentiment is commonplace these days, I later found myself thinking about his outrage. Here was someone who is in the thick of the business, trading every day, and he is being sickened by the inequities and corruption on Wall Street and utterly persuaded that nothing had changed in the years since the financial crisis of 2008.

Then I realized something odd: I have conversations like this as a matter of routine. I can’t go a week without speaking to a hedge fund manager or analyst or even a banker who registers somewhere on the Wall Street Derangement Scale.

That should be a great relief: Some of them are just like us! Just because you are deranged doesn’t mean you are irrational, after all. Wall Street is already occupied – from within.

Jason Linkins: Senate ‘Secret Santa’ Effort Won’t Actually Solve America’s Problems, According To Political Science

According to this Reuters report, Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) are trying to set up a “Secret Santa” gift exchange with the members of their august body, and while “no one predicts” the effort “will unleash unprecedented bipartisan tidings of comfort and joy,” it’s still seen as a “political test” of whether senators can do anything at all that does not end in everyone setting fire to one another. So far, Franken and Johanns have signed up 58 members, so this is still two votes short of cloture. [..]

At any rate, I wish our senators all the best in their attempt to manufacture Christmas cheer, but what I’d really like to know is how I can get hooked up with the Federal Reserve’s “Secret Santa” exchange, which seems much, much cooler.