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Jul 28 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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New York Times Editorial: The Long, Uphill Battle Against AIDS

The international AIDS conference in Washington has already made two points clear. There is no prospect that scientists will any time soon find the ultimate solutions to the AIDS epidemic, namely a vaccine that would prevent infection with the AIDS virus or a “cure” for people already infected with the virus. Even so, health care leaders already have many tools that have been shown in rigorous trials to prevent transmission of the virus, making it feasible to talk of controlling the epidemic within the foreseeable future. The only question is whether the nations of the world are willing to put up enough money and make the effort to do it.

An estimated 34.2 million people around the world are currently infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. According to the United Nations agency that tracks the disease, some 23.5 million of these live in sub-Saharan Africa and another 4.2 million in India and Southeast Asia. About 1.1 million live in the United States.

Eugene Robinson: Bush and His Open Heart

This is a moment for all Americans to be proud of the single best thing George W. Bush did as president: launching an initiative to combat AIDS in Africa that has saved millions of lives.

All week, more than 20,000 delegates from around the world have been attending the 19th International AIDS Conference here in Washington. They look like any other group of conventioneers, laden with satchels and garlanded with name tags. But some of these men women would be dead if not for Bush’s foresight and compassion.

Mark Weisbot: Expiration of Bush Tax Cuts for the 1% Are a Step Forward, But Not Nearly Enough

President Obama is currently confronting mostly Republican opponents over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers.   Between 1979 and 2007, the richest 1 percent received three-fifths of all the income gains in the country.  Most of this went to the richest 10th of that 1 percent, people with an average income of $5.6 million (including capital gains).

So this is a no-brainer in terms of fairness: Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the richest 1 percent of Americans would reverse some of the vast upward redistribution of income that has taken place since the late 1970s. However a couple of caveats are in order.  First, restoring these taxes for the rich and the super-rich would not by itself do anything for the weak economy, nor for the 23 million people who are unemployed, involuntarily working part time, or have given up looking for work.  In fact, by itself it would have a negative impact on the economy and employment in the immediate future if the federal government didn’t use the extra revenue to increase spending.

However, in the current political climate there is much political pressure to reduce the budget deficit, especially over the next few years. So taking back these tax cuts could help us avoid other budget cuts that will hurt people.  Or, alternatively, it could open more space for the federal government to engage in stimulus spending – which is what we need to move closer to full employment.

Joe Nocera: Addressing Poverty in Schools

About two years ago, Dr. Pamela Cantor gave a speech at a Congressional retreat put together by the Aspen Institute. Her talk was entitled “Innovative Designs for Persistently Low-Performing Schools.”

Cantor is a psychiatrist who specializes in childhood trauma. After 9/11, her organization, the Children’s Mental Health Alliance, was asked by New York City’s Department of Education to assess the impact of the attack on the city’s public school children. What she found were plenty of traumatized children – but less because of the terrorist attack than because of the simple fact that so many of them were growing up in poverty.

Steve Horn: Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Supreme Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional. The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation’s Worst Corporate Giveaway” by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

David Sirota: Gold Medalists in Fake Outrage

Fake outrage is a little like pornography-hard to narrowly define, but you know it when you see it. It is the television pundit railing on the supposed “War on Christmas” or the radio host calling a woman a “slut” for the alleged crime of discussing contraception. It is the Democratic partisan pretending to be offended by John McCain’s expensive shoes, or the Republican partisan taking umbrage at President Obama for daring to repeat the truism that “if you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” And when it comes to the 2012 Olympics, it is the typical congressional leader criticizing American athletes’ uniforms for being made in China.

This has been the big story in the lead-up to the games, as top lawmakers from both parties are pretending to be upset that Team USA’s clothing was manufactured far away from home. The operative word, though, is “pretending.”