Jul 21 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”.

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Fred Guterl: Searching for Clues to Calamity

SO far 2012 is on pace to be the hottest year on record. But does this mean that we’ve reached a threshold – a tipping point that signals a climate disaster?

For those warning of global warming, it would be tempting to say so. The problem is, no one knows if there is a point at which a climate system shifts abruptly. But some scientists are now bringing mathematical rigor to the tipping-point argument. Their findings give us fresh cause to worry that sudden changes are in our future.

One of them is Marten Scheffer, a biologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who grew up swimming in clear lowland ponds. In the 1980s, many of these ponds turned turbid. The plants would die, algae would cover the surface, and only bottom-feeding fish remained. The cause – fertilizer runoff from nearby farms – was well known, but even after you stopped the runoff, replanted the lilies and restocked the trout, the ponds would stay dark and scummy. [..]

Mr. Scheffer and other scientists are now trying to identify the early-warning signals for climate that precede abrupt transitions. Tim Lenton, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter in England, has identified a handful of climate systems that could reach tipping points in the not-too-distant future. These are not so much related to global average temperatures – the main metric for climate-change arguments – as they are to patterns of climate that repeat themselves each year.

Paul Krugman: Why Iceland Is a Success Story

I was recently alerted to a remarkably stupid attack (and I use that term advisedly) directed at me from the Council on Foreign Relations on the subject of Iceland.

The C.F.R. people take me to task in a blog post titled ” ‘Iceland’s Post-Crisis Miracle’ Revisited” for measuring economic performance in Iceland and the Baltics relative to the pre-crisis peak, which they suggest is some kind of scam. Why not measure relative to the post-crisis trough, under which the Baltics look better?

Oh, boy. Economists have been studying business cycles for something like 90 years, and done comparisons to previous peaks all that time; apparently these guys don’t know about any of that. So let’s try this slowly.

George Zorick: Colorado Shooter Likely Got Guns With Ease

Gun-rights groups have progressively weakened gun laws in Colorado and beyond, and the White House appears uninterested in fighting back.

This morning, as the country digested the terrible events that unfolded in Aurora, Colorado, overnight-where a gunman killed twelve people and wounded 59 others in a packed movie theater-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg immediately called for a renewed conversation on gun control. “You know, soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country,” he said. “There are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop.”

The usual suspects raked Bloomberg over the coals for “politicizing” the shootings, which is nonsense. When there are plane crashes, we talk about flight safety. When there are wildfires, we talk about fire prevention. Terrorist attacks beget huge (often over-reactive) conversations about security measures.

So when one person is able to shoot seventy-one people in rapid succession before police arrive, it’s sensible to talk about whether it should be so easy. Guns aren’t exclusively to blame for the tragedy, but they sure did help make it possible, and multiply the destruction.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Solyndra and the Republican Outrage Machine

It would be easy to miss. Midway through an otherwise worthy report on debates over manufacturing within the White House, a brief but troubling blemish: unexamined, un-rebutted spin. “Romney and Republicans,” wrote the Washington Post, “say there is already an example of Obama’s manufacturing program at work-the ‘green jobs’ program that benefited political donors and lobbyists, such as the backers of the failed solar energy company Solyndra.” A Martian reading the article would come away imagining that Solyndra was a Grade A scandal, and “green jobs” itself was a discredited hoax. Unfortunately, by now the average US news consumer may have that impression too. And Republicans are counting on it.

Reeling from the controversy over his “retroactive” Bain resignation, this week Mitt Romney is mounting a counter-attack. Rather than his own vulture capitalist credentials, Romney wants to talk about the supposed “crony capitalism” of the president, with Solyndra as Exhibit A. Yesterday, the campaign debuted a new ad warning that, “Obama is giving taxpayer dollars to big donors and then watching them lose it.” GOP Senator Ron Johnson went further, comparing green energy investment to Soviet communism, “the lessons of the Soviet Union.” In December, the conservative writer Conn Carroll posited that this election will be about “Bain vs Solyndra.” Wishful thinking? Too soon to tell.

Richard Kim: ‘We Can’t Afford It’: The Big Lie About Medicaid Expansion

Citing deficit woes, at least six Republican governors say they won’t expand Medicaid. But closing tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy would more than pay for the expansion.

In his letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejecting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Texas Governor Rick Perry tells a whopper. Expanding Medicaid, he writes, would “threaten even Texas with financial ruin.”

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country (25 percent), and it stands to enroll some 1.8 million new Medicaid recipients through the expansion. These are some of the poorest people in America, making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level (just $31,000 a year for a family of four). In the first six years of the expansion, from 2014 to 2019, the total cost of insuring these Texans would be about $55 billion-not an inconsiderable sum. But the federal government would pay more than 95 percent of that amount; Texas’s share would be just $2.6 billion. That’s not chump change-but threaten Texas with financial ruin? Not by a long shot.

John Nichols: Romney ‘Goes for the Gold’ in London’s Libor Village

London-In fairness to Mitt Romney, he did not schedule his $75,000-a-plate money grab at the altar of international finance when he heard that – via the Libor bank-rate scandal

– Londoners were practicing his kind of crony capitalism.

Even before the Bain capitalist knew that bankers in London were lying to regulators and fixing interest rates in order to run up their profits-engaging in activities that the governor of the Bank of England said “meet my definition of fraud”-Romney was excited about getting a piece of the London bankster action.

But Romney campaign has has gone to Olympian lengths to make their candidate’s British sojourn seem to be about something other than the looting of London.

The Republican presidential contender’s international fundraising operation-and, yes, he does have an international fundraising operation-scheduled two major events to coincide with the opening of the Olympic Games. As a candidate who is having trouble touting his business experience (Bain Vulture Capital) and his governing experience (RomneyCare), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee calculated that it might be a good idea to take a trip across the pond to highlight his (somewhat less controversial) management of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.