“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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That is what the headlines would say if anyone really believed that the anti-union laws passed last week in Michigan actually had anything to do with the rights of workers. When the legislature outlawed contracts requiring workers who benefit from union representation to pay for that representation, it explicitly exempted the police and firefighters’ unions. If this law was actually about the “right to work,” the Republican legislature and Governor Snyder were effectively denying the right to work to the state’s police officers and firefighters.
Of course this law has nothing to do with the right to work (RTW), as everyone involved knows; that is just the spin from the anti-labor coalition. This is why police unions and firefighters’ unions were exempted. The Republicans were trying to buy off these workers with special favors, not singling them out for punishment.
There is no issue of rights involved in this dispute. The question is whether workers, through their union, can sign a contract that imposes conditions on employment, just as the employer can impose conditions on employment.
New York Times Editorial: Reason to Hope After the Newtown Rampage
This is a country that has a history of facing tragedy and becoming better for it. It is a country that recoiled in horror at the Triangle shirtwaist factory and took steps to protect the lives of factory workers. It is a country able to rethink deeply seated beliefs – as it did with discrimination against blacks and women and is now doing with antigay discrimination. [..]
So we have found real reason to find hope in the determination to effect change that followed the murders of 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. President Obama said it unequivocally on Sunday – the enormity of controlling the culture of guns and the epidemic of gun violence “can’t be an excuse for inaction.”
Yes, Mr. Obama has said that before, after two previous mass killings during his tenure, and did nothing. The hurdles are just as big as they were before, but there are signs that people are willing to rethink their views.
DISCUSSING the federal budget negotiations should come with a warning label: “Caution – talk of the ‘fiscal cliff’ may induce hyperventilation, blurry policy vision and confusion.”
Take the last of these. According to a recent poll, Americans believe that, if there’s no negotiated settlement between President Obama and Republicans in Congress, the budgetary changes set to take effect on Jan. 1 will enlarge the federal deficit. In truth, going over the cliff – that is, accepting the “last ditch” spending cuts agreed to in August 2011 as well as the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts – would have the opposite effect: it would reduce the deficit. That, after all, has been the aim all along.
But even those who understand this often misjudge the likely impact of these automatic program cuts, known as the sequester, and the tax changes. Indeed, a closer look at this much-feared budget buzz saw reveals it’s better for the country than any likely deal would be.
Darryl Li: Khaled el-Masri and empire’s oblivion
By allowing surrogate countries to take the blame, America can conveniently forget about being responsible for torture.
Two of last Thursday’s headlines together provide a good example of the work of imperial forgetting. On the front page of the New York Times, a story about the depiction of torture in the forthcoming national revenge flick Zero Dark Thirty shows how little debates have advanced over the past decade. “Reasonable” interlocutors in the Beltway remain stuck in the inane exercise of sparring over whether some utterance extracted by waterboarding in 2003 somehow contributed to the chain of events that led to Navy SEALs shooting an unarmed man in the face at point-blank range in 2011. Torture was bad, but perhaps it was a good thing after all, so no need to investigate the whole truth and hold people accountable. Moving on…
This is where we run into the second headline. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France issued its long-awaited and unanimous decision (summary here (pdf)) in a suit filed by Khaled el-Masri against Macedonia. El-Masri’s ordeal is one of the best-known horror stories of the war on terror: A German citizen of Lebanese origin, el-Masri was arrested in Macedonia on New Year’s eve in 2003, held incommunicado and interrogated in a hotel for several weeks at the behest of the United States, and then handed over to CIA personnel at Skopje airport. [..]
In the American empire, officially sanctioned torture and meager justice for it are both quarantined to unfold in distant lands, headaches primarily for other sovereigns. Meanwhile, in the homeland, the process of national forgetting can move ahead. All that’s left is for a few stale debates and some popcorn propaganda to relegate tales like Khaled el-Masri’s to the footnotes of history.
This electoral cycle saw more effort to disenfranchise voters than at any time since the Jim Crow era. We must be ever-vigilant
This is a crucial moment for the progressive movement in America. But if we want to make real, lasting changes in the American way of life, we need to make some fundamental changes in how our democracy works. That means much-needed election reform; fighting the corrosive power of corporate money; and fixing the United States Senate.
2012 was a banner year for progressives. We brought racial profiling and the death penalty back into the national conversation. Marriage equality made great strides, with four states legalizing same-sex marriage or failing to make it unconstitutional. Despite attempts at voter suppression and an ailing voting infrastructure, a diverse electorate loudly rejected the anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-equality agenda offered by an increasingly radical right wing.
But last week’s sneak attack on organized labor in Michigan reminded us that the enemies of democracy are still very much empowered and in power. The same groups that funded voter suppression again flexed their financial muscle to cripple worker’s rights at their core. If we become complacent now, we risk losing all we have gained this year and more.
Robert Reich: Remember the Children
America’s children seem to be shortchanged on almost every issue we face as a society.
Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.
We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.
And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.