«

»

Mar 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: Lobbyists, Guns and Money

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy – and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society – and our democracy.

New York Times Editorial: When Other Voices Are Drowned Out

The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United in 2010 was shaped by an extreme view of the First Amendment: money equals speech, and independent spending by wealthy organizations and individuals poses no problem to the political system. The court cavalierly dismissed worries that those with big bank accounts – and big megaphones – have an unfair advantage in exerting political power. It simply asserted that “the people have the ultimate influence over elected officials” – as if campaigns were not in the business of influencing and manipulating voters.

The flood of money unleashed this election season is a direct consequence of this naïve, damaging view, which has allowed wealthy organizations and individuals to drown out other voices in the campaign. The decision created a controlling precedent for other legal decisions that made so-called super PACs the primary vehicles for unlimited spending from wealthy organizations and individuals. In theory, they operate independently of candidates. In reality, candidates are outsourcing their attack ads to PACs, so financing a PAC is equivalent to financing a campaign.

Stephen Rattner: The Rich Get Even Richer

NEW statistics show an ever-more-startling divergence between the fortunes of the wealthy and everybody else – and the desperate need to address this wrenching problem. Even in a country that sometimes seems inured to income inequality, these takeaways are truly stunning. [..]

The only way to redress the income imbalance is by implementing policies that are oriented toward reversing the forces that caused it. That means letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy and adding money to some of the programs that House Republicans seek to cut. Allowing this disparity to continue is both bad economic policy and bad social policy. We owe those at the bottom a fairer shot at moving up.

Robert Kuttner: Health Reform’s Day in Court: Don’t Bet the Farm on the Mandate

The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the subject of three days of oral argument before the Supreme Court beginning Monday, could well turn on whether the Court concludes that Congress can compel a citizen to buy a commercial product, in this case health insurance.

At the heart of the Act is the “individual mandate” which President Obama campaigned against as a candidate, and then turned around and supported as president. The mandate was part of a deal with the health insurance industry, which stopped ferociously opposing the Administration’s bill once it became a source of additional business.

The Administration and its supporters contend that requiring people to purchase health insurance is a natural extension of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. If government can regulate health insurance at all, they say, it can legitimately use a mandate as a policy instrument.

Jeff Goodell: Lessons from Obama’s Keystone Cave-In

Last week, President Obama stood in front of a pile of big green pipes – yes, green pipes – in Cushing, Oklahoma, and promised to expedite approval of federal permits for the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.  It was a crushing defeat for enviros and clean energy activists, many of whom have waged a long and pitched political battle over the fate of the pipeline [..]

In any crass political calculation, drilling for oil will always win more votes than putting a price on carbon.  But if I recall what I was taught in fifth-grade American government class, we elect presidents to do more than crass political calculations.  Obama wants to be thought of as the president who freed us from foreign oil.  But if he doesn’t show some political courage, he may well be remembered as the president who cooked the planet.

Elizabeth Grossman: Scientists Warn of Low-Dose Risks of Chemical Exposure

A new study finds that even low doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals – used in everything from plastics to pesticides – can have serious effects on human health. These findings, the researchers say, point to the need for basic changes in how chemical safety testing is conducted.

Since before the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring 50 years ago, scientists have known that certain synthetic chemicals can interfere with the hormones that regulate the body’s most vital systems. Evidence of the health impacts of so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals grew from the 1960s to the 1990s. With the 1996 publication of Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and J. Peterson Myers, many people heard for the first time how such exposures – from industrial pollution, pesticides, and contact with finished consumer products, such as plastics – were affecting people and wildlife. Since then public concern about these impacts has grown.