Jul 18 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.

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Yves Smith: The Sucking Sound of Air Leaving the Economy

I’ve refrained from commenting much on the state of the economy over the last couple of years because it seems to have been largely irrelevant to the direction of many widely followed markets. While bonds, particularly the highest quality bonds, have continued to rally over time, par for what you’d expect in an economy facing deflationary pressures, on a day to day basis, bipolar risk on/off reactions have held sway. And even though there is no reason to expect anything better that a weak recovery in the wake of a balance sheet recession afflicting the world’s advanced economies, a peculiar tendency to look to ordinary recessions for comparisons plus undue faith in the confidence fairy has led many commentators to draw trend lines through improving data series and declare it to be a recovery. However, we seem to be at or may even have passed an inflection point, and policy makers seem remarkably unprepared to take action.

While the result may indeed be a technical recovery, with official unemployment at over 8%, and U-6, the broad measure of unemployment, showing more deterioration of late than the headline figure (it’s now at 14.9%), there was hardly much cause for cheer. Both in 2010 and 2011, improvements in economic performance that were hailed as real recoveries faltered. With youth unemployment high, working young adults saddled with high student debt loads, household formation low due to more multi-generational households and older adults contending with diminished wealth thanks to hits to home prices and retirement savings, consumers were not able to be the drivers of renewed growth unless their wage and employment situation improved in a marked fashion. And that just isn’t happening.

Ann Wright: America’s Drones Are Homeward Bound

Americans have been protesting and getting arrested at U.S. drone bases and research institutions for years, and some members of Congress are starting to respond to the pressure.

But it’s not that drones are being used to extrajudicially execute people, including Americans, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that has U.S. lawmakers concerned. Rather it’s the possible and probable violation of Americans’ privacy in the United States by unlawful drone surveillance that has caught the attention of legislators.

Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., says “there is distrust amongst the people who have come and discussed this issue with me about our government. It’s raising alarm with the American public.” Based on those discussions, Landry has placed a provision in a defense spending bill that would prohibit information gathered by drones without a warrant from being used as evidence in court.

Two other legislators, Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced identical bills to bar any government agency from using a drone without a warrant to “gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a regulation.”

No one in Congress, however, has introduced legislation requiring the government to provide to a neutral judge evidence of a criminal act committed by a person to be targeted for assassination by a drone, or allowing such a person the right to defend himself against the U.S. government’s allegations.

Marjorie Cohn: Immigration, Racism, and the Supreme Court

In a victory for those who support a humane immigration policy, the Court overturned three sections of SB 1070: Arizona cannot criminalize unlawful presence in the United States, or working without papers; and the decision to arrest someone for unlawful presence in the U.S. is solely a federal issue. The Court made clear that the enforcement of immigration law is reserved to the federal government.

But unfortunately, the Court unanimously upheld the most controversial provision of SB 1070, at least for the time being. Section 2(b) requires state officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain or arrest if they have “reasonable suspicion” the person is an undocumented immigrant. Although the Court didn’t address racial profiling in its opinion, how can this statute possibly be enforced without considering skin color, language and clothing?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Unleashing the power of real girls

In a 1993 article published in the media watch group FAIR’s Extra! magazine, 17-year-old intern Kimberly Phillips criticized Seventeen magazine’s preoccupation with fashion and beauty, and its failure to encourage young women to think about important issues. Balking at the criticism, Seventeen’s managing editor responded with a defensive letter to the editor, insisting that the magazine’s focus on appearance was consistent with the interests of its adolescent readers.

Nearly 20 years later, almost nothing had changed – until now. Within the span of two months, a 14-year-old Maine girl named Julia Bluhm mobilized more than 80,000 supporters to lobby Seventeen to commit to a more modest goal: printing one photo spread per issue without an unaltered image. Bluhm’s efforts are part of Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge or SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement that is demanding an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media.

Bryce Covert: If States Opt Out of Medicaid Expansion, Over 4 Million Women Could Remain Uninsured

It can seem like just a mirage created by the summer heat: only a few weeks ago the Supreme Court actually handed down a decision that progressives could celebrate. It held that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, including the individual mandate, meaning that implementation can roll on full steam ahead. I was one of the first to celebrate, in particular for all the ways that the law will help women who need healthcare (which is all of us). As Katha Pollitt recently wrote here, women will benefit dramatically from the ACA. The law bars practices like charging women more just for being women, dropping women’s coverage if they become pregnant or sick, and denying coverage due to “pre-existing conditions” like having had breast cancer or being a victim of domestic violence. It adds new benefits like birth control coverage at no cost to the patient, expanded coverage of preventative services like prenatal care, mammograms, pap smears and bone-density screenings through Medicare, and requiring insurance companies to cover maternity care.

But one aspect of the Supreme Court’s decision could have some very bad results for women: the ruling that states can opt out of the Medicaid expansion. While this could end up harming men and women, women in particular stand to suffer if states refuse to participate in the program.