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Jan 17 2013

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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Norman Solomon: King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone.

A simple twist of fate has set President Obama’s second Inaugural Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years ago — but since then, in word and deed, the president has done much to distinguish himself from the man who said “I have a dream.”

After his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, King went on to take great risks as a passionate advocate for peace.

After his Inaugural speech in January 2009, Obama has pursued policies that epitomize King’s grim warning in 1967: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.”

But Obama has not ignored King’s anti-war legacy. On the contrary, the president has gone out of his way to distort and belittle it.

Bruce Dixon: Obama’s Race To The Top Drives Nationwide Wave of School Closings, Teacher Firings

A nationwide epidemic of school closings and teacher firings has been underway for some time. It’s concentrated chiefly in poor and minority communities, and the teachers let go are often experienced and committed classroom instructors, and likely to live in and near the communities they serve, and disproportionately black.

It’s not an accident, or a reflection of changing demographics, or more educational choices suddenly becoming available to families in those areas. It’s not due to greedy unionized teachers or the invisible hand of the marketplace or well-intentioned educational policies somehow gone awry.

The current wave of school closings is latest result of bipartisan educational policies which began with No Child Left Behind in 2001, and have kicked into overdrive under the Obama administration’s Race To The Top. In Chicago, the home town of the president and his Secretary of Education, the percentage of black teachers has dropped from 45% in 1995 to 19% today. After winning a couple skirmishes in federal court over discriminatory firings in a few schools, teachers have now filed a citywide class action lawsuit alleging that the city’s policy of school “turnarounds” and “transformations” is racially discriminatory because it’s carried out mainly in black neighborhoods and the fired teachers are disproportionately black.

How did this happen? Where did those policies come from, and exactly what are they?

Jim Hightower: Who’s Behind “Fix the Debt”?

Look out, the “fixers” are coming.

Top corporate chieftains and Wall Street gamblers want to tell Washington how to fix our national debt, so they’ve created a front group called “Fix the Debt” to push their agenda. Unfortunately, they’re using “fix” in the same way your veterinarian uses it – their core demand is for Washington to spay Social Security, castrate Medicare and geld Medicaid.

Who’s behind this piece of crude surgery on the retirement and health programs that most Americans count on? Pete Peterson, for one. For years, this Wall Street billionaire, who amassed his fortune as honcho of a private equity outfit named Blackstone, has runs a political sideshow demanding that the federal budget be balanced on the backs of the middle class and the poor. Fix the Debt is just his latest war whoop, organized by a corporate “think tank” he funds.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: How Extreme Is the Business Roundtable? Check Out Its Attack on the Elderly

Here’s a thought experiment: What if a group of Social Security and Medicare recipients wanted to increase their benefits by, say, 1,000 percent, and proposed seizing rich people’s assets –houses, cars, boats, whatever — to pay for it? And whenever anybody suggested that was extreme, they rolled their eyes and said “We’re pragmatists.”

But isn’t it unfair to just take other people’s stuff? “Ideologues like you are the reason Washington lacks the political will to adopt our practical solutions.”

Now imagine the reverse: Rich CEOs have used every tax loophole in the book to add to their own wealth, have been bailed out directly or indirectly by the American taxpayer, and have rigged corporate governance so that they make far more than they’re worth.

Now, to make sure the milk and honey keeps flowing their way, they want to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits for the beleaguered American majority. Sounds crazy, right?

Meet the CEOs of the Business Roundtable.

Slavoj Žižek: The West’s Crisis is One of Democracy as Much as Finance

In austerity-driven Europe, the ‘blind are leading the blind’

n one of the last interviews before his fall, Nicolae Ceausescu was asked by a western journalist how he justified the fact that Romanian citizens could not travel freely abroad although freedom of movement was guaranteed by the constitution. His answer was in the best tradition of Stalinist sophistry: true, the constitution guarantees freedom of movement, but it also guarantees the right to a safe, prosperous home. So we have here a potential conflict of rights: if Romanian citizens were to be allowed to leave the country, the prosperity of their homeland would be threatened. In this conflict, one has to make a choice, and the right to a prosperous, safe homeland enjoys clear priority …

It seems that this same spirit is alive and well in Slovenia today. Last month the constitutional court found that a referendum on legislation to set up a “bad bank” and a sovereign holding would be unconstitutional – in effect banning a popular vote on the matter. The referendum was proposed by trade unions challenging the government’s neoliberal economic politics, and the proposal got enough signatures to make it obligatory.

The idea of the “bad bank” was of a place to transfer all bad credit from main banks, which would then be salvaged by state money (ie at taxpayers’ expense), so preventing any serious inquiry into who was responsible for this bad credit in the first place. This measure, debated for months, was far from being generally accepted, even by financial specialists. So why prohibit the referendum? In 2011, when George Papandreou’s government in Greece proposed a referendum on austerity measures, there was panic in Brussels, but even there no one dared to directly prohibit it.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: This time, the moderate is willing to fight

President Obama went big in offering a remarkably comprehensive plan to curb gun violence, and good for him. But his announcement Wednesday is only the beginning of a protracted struggle for national sanity on firearms. Extremists have controlled the debate on guns for many years. They will do all they can to preserve a bloody status quo. The irrationality of their approach must be exposed and their power broken.

Far from acting as if his work was now done, the president made clear that he is fully invested in seeing his agenda realized – and fully prepared to lead a national movement to loosen the grip of resignation and cynicism in the face of brutality and carnage. Gun violence is not some “boutique” issue, as it is occasionally called. We are in danger of having mass shootings define us as a nation. As a people, we must rise up against this obscenity.