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Dec 24 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: Could A.I.G. Happen Again?

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, policy makers in Washington, London and elsewhere began working to address the shortcomings exposed by A.I.G. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank reform law that imposes new controls on financial activity but leaves it to regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to fill in the details.

While those agencies have made some progress, like requiring derivative trades to be more transparently traded and reported, they have completed just one-third of the rules required by the law. The things regulators have yet to finish include imposing limits on the size of bets investors can make using credit default swaps and other exotic financial instruments, and also requiring investors to maintain sufficient reserves to make good on all of those bets.

Paul Krugman: When Prophecy Fails

Back in the 1950s three social psychologists joined a cult that was predicting the imminent end of the world. Their purpose was to observe the cultists’ response when the world did not, in fact, end on schedule. What they discovered, and described in their classic book, “When Prophecy Fails,” is that the irrefutable failure of a prophecy does not cause true believers – people who have committed themselves to a belief both emotionally and by their life choices – to reconsider. On the contrary, they become even more fervent, and proselytize even harder.

This insight seems highly relevant as 2012 draws to a close. After all, a lot of people came to believe that we were on the brink of catastrophe – and these views were given extraordinary reach by the mass media. As it turned out, of course, the predicted catastrophe failed to materialize. But we can be sure that the cultists won’t admit to having been wrong. No, the people who told us that a fiscal crisis was imminent will just keep at it, more convinced than ever.

Mark Weisbrot: U.S. Military Needs to Leave Afghanistan and Stop Widening Drone Strikes

Our country and our media have too much reverence for the U.S. military and the CIA, which are not making us safer but rather helping to create new threats. As the Washington Post reports, some of our generals have an “array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards.” Even worse, many officers later join the boards and executive suites of military contractors, where they rake in millions making corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman richer at taxpayer expense, and sometimes promoting war itself on the network news. Our military-industrial complex is as corrupt and rotten as any institution of America’s broken democracy, and more deadly than most in its consequences.

We need to end this war in Afghanistan and the other operations that are making Americans less secure and recruiting new enemies daily. Then we can focus on fixing our broken economy at home.

Robert Kuttner: The Zombie Party

Public opinion is steadily moving away from the Republican Party, as is America’s demographic future. President Obama’s three-point re-election win understated that reality, while events since Election Day have underscored it.

Public opinion dramatically favors restoring higher tax rates on the top 2 percent. Large majorities oppose cutting Social Security or Medicare. Acceptance of same-sex marriage is increasing, and is already the overwhelming majority view of those under 40 — the future electorate. Most Americans don’t support the absence of any regulation of combat weapons. [..]

And yet a Republican Party, as personified by the House Majority, is the zombie that has been overtaken by public opinion but will neither change nor get out-of-the-way.

So reforms desired by most American voters will be a long time coming.

David Paul: The Absolutist Politics of Norquist and LaPierre Will Destroy the Republican Party

National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre really out-did himself this week. Speaking in response to the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, LaPierre concluded that armed guards in the schools were the answer. Like those old time liberals he so disdains, LaPierre’s solution to mass murder in schools was to throw money at the problem, demanding that Congress “appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.” [..]

Better that he had kept his mouth shut.

In one week, the two major planks of the Republican Party have demonstrated later stages of rot. Even more than its anti-abortion stance, the Republican Party is bound to its anti-tax pledge and pro-gun commitments. And those two political shibboleths are enforced by the organizational and political skills of the two men who are their public personae: Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist and LaPierre.

Robert Parry: The Real Rationale for the 2nd Amendment, That Right-Wingers Are Totally Ignorant About

A big obstacle to commonsense gun control is the Right’s false historical narrative that the Founders wanted an armed American public that could fight its own government.

Right-wing resistance to meaningful gun control is driven, in part, by a false notion that America’s Founders adopted the Second Amendment because they wanted an armed population that could battle the U.S. government. The opposite is the truth, but many Americans seem to have embraced this absurd, anti-historical narrative.

The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison. [..]

The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 weren’t precursors to France’s Robespierre or Russia’s Leon Trotsky, believers in perpetual revolutions. In fact, their work on the Constitution was influenced by the experience of Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786, a populist uprising that the weak federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, lacked an army to defeat.