Jun 06 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Margaret Kimberley: Freedom Rider: Criminal Injustice System

If police states are ranked by the number of persons imprisoned, then the U.S. is the world’s worst and biggest police state. The system runs on greed and racism. “Being ‘tough on crime’ is a metaphor for keeping black people under control.” It is a place where being a “big black guy” means conviction, and where “prosecutors routinely overcharge defendants with long sentences, and force innocent people to plead guilty in order to avoid decades behind bars.”

There are so many things amiss in the United States that one hardly knows where to begin discussing them all. Yet of all the calamitous situations faced by Americans, the cruelest by far is the criminal justice system. America is the world’s prison capital, and just one state, Louisiana, has an incarceration rate 13 times higher than China’s and 5 times higher than Iran’s.

Bryce Covert: How the Paycheck Fairness Act Can Help Democrats Win Elections for Years to Come

The latest shot across the bow in the battle for women’s hearts and votes: a push for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate will begin debate on the bill later today now that it’s back in session, with a vote lined up for tomorrow. The bill is expected to fail, and it looked even more doomed after the House voted not to consider it on Thursday. Yet this bill doesn’t just make policy sense for all the women earning less than their male counterparts. It makes political sense for Democrats, giving women a reason to head to the polls and, perhaps more important, more financial firepower to spend on political campaigns for years to come.

The act is undoubtedly sound policy. The gender wage gap has barely budged in recent decades, and the bill aims to help reduce it by protecting workers from retaliation if they compare wages. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that nearly half of all workers are either forbidden or strongly discouraged from sharing that information, yet “pay secrecy makes it difficult for women and men to find out whether they are paid fairly, and undermines attempts to reduce the gender wage gap.” As Irin Carmon wrote last week, this secrecy is likely a root cause of the lack of pay discrimination cases brought against employers. It may be illegal to pay women differently for the same work, but they’ll be in the dark about what’s going on unless they can compare their pay to their coworkers’.

Maureen Dowd: Is Pleasure a Sin?

It’s hard to say what is weirder:

A Sister of Mercy writing about the Kama Sutra, sexual desire and “our yearnings for pleasure.”

Or the Vatican getting so hot and bothered about the academic treatise on sexuality that the pope censures it, causing it to shoot from obscurity to the top tier of Amazon.com’s best-seller list six years after it was published.

Just the latest chapter in the Vatican’s thuggish crusade to push American nuns – and all Catholic women – back into moldy subservience.

Even for a church that moves glacially, this was classic. “Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret Farley – a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar – came out in 2006.

Michelle Chen: Unwelcome Guests: Work Visa Programs Cheat Global Labor, Build Global Capital

When immigration comes up in Washington, politicians either politely ignore the issue or engage in lively debate on how best to punish and get rid of undocumented workers. Yet lawmakers give a strikingly warm embrace to certain types of immigrants. Those are the “legal” ones who enter with special visas under the pretext of having special skills or filling certain labor shortages–like Silicon Valley tech jobs or seasonal blueberry harvesting. So what makes one kind of immigrant valuable and another kind criminal?

So-called guestworker programs attest to the arbitrary politics of immigration that has generated a perfectly legal, global traffic in migrant labor. A new report by the advocacy group Global Workers Justice Alliance reveals how various federal visa programs funnel workers into special high-demand sectors, like amusement park staff or computer programmers. Like their “illegal” counterparts, these workers are inherently disempowered: they may be dependent on employers for legal status in the U.S., have their wages regularly stolen, or suffer sexual or physical abuse. Many lack the access to the health care and overtime pay that citizen workers often take for granted. As products of globalization, they’re sometimes compelled to endure virtual indentured servitude to provide critical wage remittances to their families back home.

The economic logic is simple, according to the report: externalize the costs to those who can’t afford to challenge authority.

Liz Dwyer: American Students Need to Copy Canada’s Tuition Protests

In the past four months, the Canadian province of Quebec has become a hotbed of Occupy Wall Street-style protests-marches with hundreds of thousands of protesters, and battles with tear gas throwing, pepper-spraying police. And it all started over proposed tuition increases at Quebec’s public universities.

Indeed the Quebec Spring first blossomed in February when the government proposed hiking tuition from $2,168 to $3,793 over the next five years. Thousands of students went on strike and the government, led by Premier Jean Charest, decided to play hardball and crack down with the now-infamous Bill 78, a law that limits protest rights.

Since then the protests and student boycotts have only grown. Nearly 200,000 students across the province have gone on strike. And the situation has revealed deeper frustrations with the government’s willingness to bail out businesses but not help the average student-or citizen. On May 22nd nearly 400,000 people-a full quarter of Montreal’s residents-participated in a protest march.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz: Black Out, Speak Out: Canadians Protest War on Nature and Democracy

After the fall of the Berlin wall, I worked with environmental groups in Eastern Europe. They were looking at good examples of democracy and free speech from around the world to help build their own democratic societies. Canadian freedom of speech, respect for environmental laws, and ability of the public to participate in decision-making was a shining model. Over the last decade that I have worked with partners in Canada how things have changed. I have seen firsthand how the expanding tar sands bubble in Alberta has not only skewed the economy of Canada, but also pushed the government, environmental laws and even free speech and democracy to bow to the oil industry. Today NRDC will black out our webpage – along with hundreds of other groups across North America – to speak out and protest what in Canada has become an all out attack on democracy and nature in order to safeguard the interests of the tar sands oil industry. See, Black Out, Speak Out in Canada for more. Tar sands oil is expensive and puts us all on a path of worsening climate change at a time when people across America are suffering from unusual heat, floods, tornados and other extreme weather. When tar sands starts to take away basic individual rights, it is past time to call a halt and focus on cleaner forms of energy.