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Jan 26 2012

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: Rooted in Politics, Austerity Worsens the Greek Tragedy

The Washington Post recently published a heartrending story on the suffering being imposed on ordinary Greeks. So much for the doctrine of expansionary austerity.

I do have a small bone to pick, however. In the article, published on Jan. 10 and titled “In Greece, Fears That Austerity Is Killing the Economy,” there’s the discussion of why such harsh austerity is being imposed: “European powers, led by fiscally conservative Germany, have been insisting that Greece correct years of mismanagement by enacting swift waves of cuts and other major economic reforms to regain the confidence of investors and ensure the integrity of the euro. Slashing the deficit quickly is essential to ushering in a sustainable future, they have argued, and the resulting social pain is necessary to impress on Greek politicians and society that such excesses should never happen again.”

Most of that is right – but not the bit about regaining the confidence of investors – or at any rate, that’s not what it’s about these days. For it’s quite clear that at this point investor confidence is unregainable. Greek borrowing costs aren’t coming down to affordable levels for a very long time.

Amy Goodman: Obama’s Late Payment to Mortgage-Fraud Victims

In his State of the Union address, many heard echoes of the Barack Obama of old, the presidential aspirant of 2007 and 2008. Among the populist pledges rolled out in the speech was tough talk against the too-big-to-fail banks that have funded his campaigns and for whom many of his key advisers have worked: “The rest of us are not bailing you out ever again,” he promised.[..]

Obama is aware that those at the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country include many who were his most active supporters during the 2008 campaign. Does the formation of the new task force signify a move to more progressive policies, as MoveOn suggests?[..]

This is the Occupy Wall Street conflict distilled. Will Eric Schneiderman’s new job lead to the indictment of fraudulent financiers, or to just another indictment of our corrupt political system?

New York Times Editorial: A Mortgage Investigation

In the State of the Union address, President Obama promised a fresh investigation into mortgage abuses that led to the financial meltdown. The goal, he said, is to “hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.” Could this be it, finally? An investigation that results in clarity, big fines and maybe even jail time?

There is good reason to be skeptical. To date, federal civil suits over mortgage wrongdoing have been narrowly focused and, at best, ended with settlements and fines that are a fraction of the profits made during the bubble. There have been no criminal prosecutions against major players. Justice Department officials say that it reflects the difficulty of proving fraud – and not a lack of prosecutorial zeal. That is hard to swallow, given the scale of the crisis and the evidence of wrongdoing from private litigation, academic research and other sources.

Robert Sheer: Obama’s Faux Populism Sounds Like Bill Clinton

I’ll admit it: Listening to Barack Obama, I am ready to enlist in his campaign against the feed-the-rich Republicans … until I recall that I once responded in the same way to Bill Clinton’s faux populism. And then I get angry because betrayal by the “good guys” for whom I have ended up voting has become the norm.

Yes, betrayal, because if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons?

Joe Conason; Mitch Daniels: Bombast From the Past

Why the Republicans chose Mitch Daniels-the Indiana governor who once thrilled right-wing pundits as a 2012 hopeful-to deliver a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address is puzzling. His uninspiring remarks surely killed the Daniels fad, revived lately as Republicans fret over the unappetizing choices available in their primaries.

By shining the spotlight on Daniels, the Republicans risked losing much more than a political rescue fantasy. He isn’t merely a politician who looks like an accountant; he actually was an accountant-or at least he played one during the Bush years, when he served as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Listening to him drone on about fiscal rectitude just might have reminded voters of the true source of our national problems.

William Rivers Pitt: Staring at Empty Pages

The Occupy Wall Street movement should spend today doing a nice little victory lap, because it seemed for all the world like its members were ghost-writers on President Obama’s State of the Union speechwriting staff. Though he never directly mentioned the movement itself, Mr. Obama spent a great deal of time on Tuesday night underscoring many of Occupy’s most central themes: income inequality, tax fairness, and the need to rein in the illegal and immoral behavior of the nation’s largest financial institutions.

Talk is cheap, of course; despite all of Mr. Obama’s high-flown rhetoric, his administration is reportedly prepared to cut a disgracefully easy deal with the five banks most directly responsible for the financial meltdown, giving his so-pretty words a hollow ring [..]

Dan Kaufman: A Judge in the Dock

IN October 1998, British police officers arrested the Chilean general Augusto Pinochet while he was recuperating from back surgery at a London hospital. They were acting on an international warrant issued by the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón seeking General Pinochet’s extradition to stand trial in Spain on charges of torture and murder. After a 17-month legal battle, General Pinochet was released on medical grounds, but Judge Garzón’s warrant paved the way for stripping the former dictator of immunity and prosecuting him in Chile. [..]

Yet Judge Garzón is now himself under legal attack for confronting Spain’s own dark history. He is on trial this week before the Spanish Supreme Court for daring to investigate crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the nearly four-decade dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. The case against him is fueled by domestic political vendettas rather than substantive legal arguments and it could dramatically set back international efforts to hold human-rights violators accountable for their crimes.