“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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Dean Baker: Macho Men, Social Security, and the Chained CPI
In societies across the globe, men demonstrate their manhood in different ways. There are many wonderful tracts on the topic. However, in the culture of Washington, D.C., the best way to demonstrate your manhood is to express your willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security. There is no better way to be admitted into the club of the Very Serious People.
This is the reason that we saw White House spokesman Jay Carney tell a press conference last week that Barack Obama is a macho man. He told the reporters that President Obama is still willing to cut Social Security benefits by using the Chained CPI as the basis for the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). This willingness to cut the benefits of retirees establishes President Obama as a serious person in elite Washington circles.
John Nichols: To Beat Austerity, Obama Must Campaign for Democracy
President Obama, who famously used his 2010 State of the Union address to rip activist Supreme Court Justices for removing longstanding barriers to corporate control of the political discourse, did not mention the Court’s wrongheaded Citizens United decision in his 2012 State of the Union address.
That was concerning.
Not just because the president’s support is needed to expand the campaign to amend the Constitution so that it is clear free speech rights are afforded citizens, not corporations. But because this is a moment when it is essential to explain how Wall Street is using its “money power” to thwart the will of the people when it comes to debt and deficit debates.
Sometimes, the world can be such a simple, black-and-white sort of place. Let me give you an example. Imagine for a moment that the Iranians kidnap an American citizen from a third country. (If you prefer, feel free to substitute al-Qaeda or the North Koreans or the Chinese for the Iranians.) They accuse him of being a terrorist. They throw him in jail without charges or a trial or a sentence and claim they suspect he might have crucial information (perhaps even of the “ticking bomb” sort — and the Iranians have had some genuine experience with ticking bombs). Over the weeks that follow, they waterboard him time and again. They strip him, put a dog collar and leash on him. They hood him, loose dogs on him. They subject him to freezing cold water and leave him naked on cold nights. They hang him by his arms from the ceiling of his cell in the “strappado” position. I’m sure I really don’t have to go on. Is there any question what we (or our leaders) would think or say? [..]
We would call them barbarians. Beyond the bounds of civilization. Torturers. Monsters. Evil. No one in the U.S. government, on reading CIA intelligence reports about how that American had been treated, would wonder: Is it torture? No one in Washington would have the urge to call what the Iranians (al-Qaeda, the North Koreans, the Chinese) did “enhanced interrogation techniques.” If, on being asked at a Senate hearing whether he thought the Iranian acts were, in fact, “torture,” the prospective director of the CIA demurred, claimed he was no expert on the subject, no lawyer or legal scholar, and simply couldn’t label it as such, he would not be confirmed. He would probably never have a job in Washington again.
Robert Reich: Why Obama Must Meet the Republican Lies Directly
The White House apparently believes the best way to strengthen its hand in the upcoming “sequester” showdown with Republicans is to tell Americans how awful the spending cuts will be, and blame Republicans for them.
It won’t work. These tactical messages are getting in the way of the larger truth, which the President must hammer home: The Republicans’ austerity economics and trickle-down economics are dangerous, bald-faced lies. [..]
President Obama has the bully pulpit. Americans trust him more than they do congressional Republicans. But he is letting micro-tactics get in the way of the larger truth. And he’s blurring his message with other messages — about gun control, immigration, and the environment. All are important, to be sure. But none has half a chance unless Americans understand how they’re being duped on the really big story.
Ralph Nader: How to Tame the Corporation
In an interview in the August 20, 1916 edition of the New York Times titled “Why American Business is Constantly Pounded,” James A. Emery, then general counsel for the National Council of Industrial Defense said: “Nothing can illustrate more clearly the characteristic operation of these local and peculiar prejudices than the use that has been made of, and the attitude of mind that has been created toward, the term ‘corporation.’ A mere legal description, it has become upon the lips of some an epithet, and upon those of others an accusation and an indictment that often without a hearing amounts to a conviction of business wrong.”
This was the big business lobby response nearly a century ago to the attacks on the expansion of corporate power. As Mr. Emery puts it, the corporate entity was nothing more then harmless legal speak, even as corporate power and influence rapidly metastasized in the United States in the early 20th century. How many “business wrongs” have been committed by corporations in the past hundred years? What about the past decade alone?
Allen Keller: May I Have the Waterboard Please…
Neither waterboards, nor Zero Dark Thirty, which won but ½ an Oscar for sound editing, received much attention at last night’s Academy Awards. Perhaps the better films won or it was luck of the draw. Perhaps, as British commentator Glenn Greenwald said “The stigma attached to the pro-torture CIA propaganda vehicle, beloved by film critics result(ed) in Oscar humiliation.”
I appreciate such indignation, as well as that by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Chairman Senator Dianne Feinstein and other elected officials who asserted Zero Dark Thirty presents a distorted, inaccurate view about torture’s effectiveness and its role in finding Osama Bin Laden. But if the record is to be set straight, the responsibility lies with our elected officials — not with Hollywood.