“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.
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Robert Dreyfuss: The Iran Talks Bombshell
Don’t take too seriously the furious denials coming from Washington and Tehran about this weekend’s bombshell New York Times story reporting that the United States and Iran have agreed “in principle” to have direct, one-on-one talks after the election.
Both countries’ leaderships, sadly, have reasons to deny any such agreement, in public.
But the report ought to be filed under good news, since presumably the whole point of President Obama’s tough talk on Iran, keeping the military option “on the table,” imposing harsh economic sanctions, and meanwhile seeking talks was designed for precisely this result: that Iran’s ruling ayatollahs sit down with US diplomats. (Until now, all negotiations have been conducted under the auspices of the clumsy P5+1 world powers and Iran, but everyone knows that the real dispute was between Washington and Tehran. The Times reports that the agreement they report followed “intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials” over a prolonged period.)
In the real world, however, Obama won’t trumpet the notion that talks might take place, for exactly the reason that they’re reportedly scheduled to be held after the election: because the assemblage of hawks, neoconservatives, erstwhile Romney ‘advisers,” and the Romney campaign itself-including the bumbling, often confused candidate-would use the idea of talks as a weapon to mobilize ignorant American voters against the president.
Dean Baker: Clinton Criticizes Voters for Not Appreciating the Great Economy He’s Given Them
Bill Clinton is undoubtedly the greatest politician of his generation. He is also a thoroughly reprehensible character.
Last week he had the gall to complain to people in Wisconsin about “impatient voters.” According to a news account, at an Obama rally in Green Bay he said:
“This shouldn’t be a race … The only reason it is, is because Americans are impatient on things not made before yesterday and they don’t understand why the economy is not totally hunky-dory again.”
This is infuriating for two reasons. First, Clinton uses the term “impatient” like he is describing people waiting for their dinner to be served at restaurant. That’s not the story of the current economy. The story of the economy is people who do not have jobs or do not have jobs that give them enough hours or a high enough wage to allow them to pay their bills each month.
This is an economy where people are losing their homes and being evicted from their apartments. It is one where people can’t afford medical care or decent food and clothes for their kids. That is not story of impatience; it’s a story of real suffering.
Remember Falluja? That city in central Iraq was the scene of two furious attacks in 2004 by American Marines. That spring, they went on a bombing, shooting rampage to avenge the murder and mutilation of four American mercenaries. Instead of targeting the estimated 2,000 insurgents, the Marines almost leveled the city of 300,000, without conquering it. Seven months later, they attacked again with artillery and bombs in what was described as the bloodiest urban warfare involving Americans since the Vietnam War.
Remember Basra? That southern Iraqi city has been suffering since the first Gulf War, in 1991. Radioactive residue from the 800 tons of bombs and 1 million rounds of ammunition used was soon showing up in babies born with huge heads, abnormally large eyes, stunted arms, bloated stomachs and defective hearts. Later in the 1990s, Basra was hit as part of maintaining the American no fly zone on Saddam Hussein. It was attacked yet again in the 2003 American-British invasion and subsequent occupation.
Now we see that the children of Falluja and Basra are suffering a staggering rise in birth defects, primarily from the metals released by bombs, bullets and shells – the dust that gets into food, water, air, soil and crops.
Kristin Moe; Alberta Tar Sands Illegal Under Treaty 8, First Nations Charge
In 1899, First Nations in northern Alberta signed a treaty with Queen Victoria that enshrined their right to practice traditional lifeways. Today, it’s the basis for a legal challenge to Shell Oil’s mining of tar sands.
Fort Chipewyan is a small indigenous community on the edge of vast Lake Athabasca in Alberta’s remote north, accessible only by plane in summer and by snow road in winter. The town is directly downstream from the Alberta tar sands-Canada’s wildly lucrative, hotly debated, and environmentally catastrophic energy project.
Residents say that tar sands mining is not only dangerous but illegal because it violates the rights laid out in Treaty 8, an agreement signed in 1899 by Queen Victoria and various First Nations. Their legal challenge to the tar sands project could have a powerful impact on the legal role of treaties with First Nations people.
Karen Greenberg: Will the Apocalypse Arrive Online?
How Fear of Cyber Attack Could Take Down Your Liberties and the Constitution
First the financial system collapses and it’s impossible to access one’s money. Then the power and water systems stop functioning. Within days, society has begun to break down. In the cities, mothers and fathers roam the streets, foraging for food. The country finds itself fractured and fragmented — hardly recognizable.It may sound like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie or the first episode of NBC’s popular new show “Revolution,” but it could be your life — a nationwide cyber-version of Ground Zero.
Think of it as 9/11/2015. It’s Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s vision of the future — and if he’s right (or maybe even if he isn’t), you better wonder what the future holds for erstwhile American civil liberties, privacy, and constitutional protections.
Tom Junod; The Lethal Debate: Questions About Killing
The question that should be asked in tonight’s foreign-policy debate won’t be. The question that should be asked would have to do with the killing of American citizens in the name of foreign policy, and would go something like this: “President Obama, just over a year ago an American drone killed a 16-year-old American citizen named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Despite your personal involvement in America’s targeted killing programs, you have never acknowledged nor addressed the circumstances of his death. How do you justify such secrecy under the United States Constitution and do you, Governor Romney, also believe that such secrecy is justified?”
The question won’t be asked because the administration has done its utmost to convince the American public that it can’t be asked – to convince the American people that all information regarding the fate of an American-born teenager should remain classified, and that they are threatened not by the bulwark of official silence but rather by its breach. The question won’t be asked because the administration has managed the trick of taking credit for targeted killings in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and elsewhere without revealing its hand in them, and because debates, after all, are not press conferences or instruments of investigation. We should not expect the Lethal President to reveal aspects of the Lethal Presidency while engaged in a spitting contest with a Republican challenger who has given every indication that his would not just be a Lethal Presidency but also a torturing one.
Sasha Lyutce: Turning “Big Ag” into “Better Ag”
As the stereotype goes, Americans like things BIG. Big cars. Big houses. And big mounds of produce to pick through at the supermarket. But when it comes to where that produce comes from, many American shoppers don’t like the idea of their fruits and vegetables coming from big farms. Indeed much of today’s movement around reforming our food system is focused on smaller, more local farming.
Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with small and local farms. In fact, we probably need more small and medium-sized farms in every region of the country growing a greater diversity of crops-and there is actually some great news on this front. According to the Census of Agriculture, after declining for some time, the number of farms in the U.S. is actually on the upswing.
But our focus on size alone all too often misses the larger challenge (or opportunity, depending on your point of view). Rather than pitting big agriculture against small agriculture, we need to improve farming practices on all the acres where agriculture is taking place. And this means paying more attention to the vast majority of acres being farmed “conventionally” today, even if they ultimately fall short of a pastoral ideal. Ignoring conventional agriculture-the dominant means by which we produce food in this country-means missing a critical opportunity to improve environmental outcomes for our health, our soils, air, and water, and to drive broader reforms in our food system.