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Nov 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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Time to end the war on drugs

With his final election behind him, and the final attack ads safely off the air, President Obama now returns to his regularly scheduled programming – governing. Yet, the chatter about his second term agenda, from deficit reduction to immigration reform, ignores one critical issue: ending our nation’s inhumane, irrational – and ineffective – war on drugs.

Since its launch in 1971, when President Nixon successfully branded drug addicts as criminals, the war on drugs has resulted in 45 million arrests and destroyed countless families. The result of this trillion dollar crusade? Americans aren’t drug free – we’re just the world’s most incarcerated population. We make China look like Woodstock. We’re also, according to the old definition, insane; despite overwhelming evidence of its failure, our elected officials steadfastly refuse to change course.

Laura Flanders: Austerity: A Violation of Human Rights?

Have you ever wished there was a set of standards by which budgets could be assessed that didn’t have to do with deficit hawks and stimulus sparrows pecking each other’s eyes out in the constricted ring of corporate opinion?

A noble little park opened in New York City last month: Four Freedoms Park. In the coverage of the Louis Kahn structure (which seems to rise like a ship out of Manhattan’s East River), remarkably little was made of the title. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s address to Congress in 1941, “the Four Freedoms” are core requirements for humane political and economic existence [..]

But human rights standards aren’t only for international actors, says economist Radhika Balakrishnan. We could do with some good human rights lawyers in the budget debate in Washington. Balakrishnan is the director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. She is also co-editor of Economic Policy and Human Rights: Holding Governments to Account.

Amanda Marcotte: Ohio Is The Latest Battlefield in the War on Contraception

This year’s UN Population Fund’s annual report reiterates the long-accepted fact that access to contraception is a basic human right, making women’s rights and women’s health at the center of development. The document reflects a growing worldwide understanding that, as bell hooks titled her famous book, feminism is for everybody. When women can control their birth spacing and family size, they and their families have more economic opportunities and can better provide for the children they do have. No duh, right?

Well, unfortunately, the anti-choice movement in the United States presents the biggest obstacle for getting our country to embrace this common sense understanding of the value of contraception. Yes, they are coming for your birth control.  

Heather Mallick: Fiscal Cliff or Austerity Bomb, Time for Obama to Show Courage

The “fiscal cliff” allegedly approaches, as if the U.S.A. spends its days and nights in a Road Runner cartoon. Tax cuts expire but automatic spending cuts kick in, and that just might resend America into recession.

But a better name for it would be the “austerity bomb,” as economist Paul Krugman has written. Americans would be blowing themselves up with a weapon of their own making. Stupidity is a weapon. How ironic it would be if sheer foolishness and the “selfishism” cult did the damage.

Why am I even writing “Americans”? It’s Republicans vs. Democrats and it’s time for the victorious Democrats to start actual governing instead of catering and pandering to the countrified primitives that the Republican party has become.

It’s time for President Barack Obama to take the stand he should have taken in his first term: no more bowing to Tea Party Republicans eager to hammer the economy into the ground to back a disgraced ideology, that taxation is bad, government is emasculating and its spending toxic.

Michelle Chen: Coal Communities at the Pivot of Dirty Industries and Clean Energy

To environmentalists, King Coal is headed for ruin, and the country’s old, dirty coal-powered plants symbolize the industry’s last dying gasps. But in an uncertain economy, coal is the only thing many working-class communities can cling to for stability.

That’s why when environmentalist tout the vision of a renewable energy future–lush with solar panels and wind turbines–regions that have long depended on the coal economy see only a dark cloud on the horizon. A new report from the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which makes a convincing economic and ecological case for phasing out an outmoded component of the coal industry, is unlikely to get a warm reception from them, either.

Tamara Draut: Subprime Students: How Wall Street Profits from the College Loan Mess

Five years after Wall Street crashed the economy by irresponsibly securitizing and peddling mortgage debt, the financial industry is coming under growing scrutiny for its shady involvement in student loan debt.

For a host of reasons, including a major decline in public dollars for higher education, going to college today means borrowing-and all that borrowing has resulted in a growing and heavy hand for Wall Street in the lending, packaging, buying, servicing and collection of student loans. Now, with $1 trillion of student loans currently outstanding, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of the same problems found in the subprime mortgage market-rapacious and predatory lending practices, sloppy and inefficient customer service and aggressive debt collection practices-are also cropping up in the student loan industrial complex.

This similarity is especially striking in the market for private student loans-which currently make up $150 billion of the $1 trillion of existing student loans.

Jennifer Hough; Senseless Death of Irish Woman Exposes Grim Reality for Women

For three days, Savita Halappanavar suffered agonizing pain, asking repeatedly that a 17-week-old dying fetus be removed from her body.

For three days she lay in a hospital bed getting sicker and sicker, until eventually she succumbed to septicemia.

While it sounds like a scene from the Dark Ages, this is what happened to Savita, a 31-year-old Indian immigrant living in Ireland, last month.

Everyone wants to know how could such a thing happen in a modern 21st-century nation. In a society much like Canada’s, with the same values, language, health and social structures.