04/09/2013 archive

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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John Nichols: How Many FDR Democrats Will Oppose ‘Chained-CPI’ Social Security Cut?

US Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Mark Takano and leaders of organizations that oppose President Obama’s anticipated assault on Social Security will go to the White House Tuesday to present petitions signed by more than one million Americans who reject the president’s proposal for “chained-CPI.”

The “chained-CPI” scheme would restructure cost-of-living adjustments in a way that cuts Social Security benefits for millions of seniors and veterans.[..]

The advocacy is important, as Obama has yet to submit his budget. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, couples his outspoken opposition to the “chained-CPI” proposal with a message, “It’s not too late to stop this.”

It is the hope that Harkin is right that has inspired the dramatic response to news of the president’s proposal. Americans really are, as Democracy for America’s Jim Dean notes, rising up in passionate opposition to any cut in Social Security-but, especially, to a cut proposed by a Democratic president.

Robert Reich: The Stealth Sequester

So far, the much-dreaded “sequester” — some $85 billion in federal spending cuts between March and September 30 — hasn’t been evident to most Americans.

The dire warnings that had issued from the White House beforehand — threatening that Social Security checks would be delayed, airport security checks would be clogged, and other federal facilities closed — seem to have been overblown.

Sure, March’s employment report was a big disappointment. But it’s hard to see any direct connection between those poor job numbers and the sequester. The government has been shedding jobs for years. Most of the losses in March were from the Postal Service.

Take a closer look, though, and Americans are starting to feel the pain. They just don’t know it yet.

Dean Baker: Indian Drug Ruling Strikes a Blow for Free Enterprise

Last week India’s Supreme Court rejected the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis’ patent on the cancer drug Gleevec. While the immediate issue was the ability of Novartis to charge its patent-protected price for the drug in India, the decision will have an enormous impact on the future of public health not only in India, but around the world.

The key issue is whether we will follow a pattern in which patent monopolies are continually lengthened and strengthened. This has been the goal of the U.S. government in trade negotiations led by both Democratic and Republican presidents. The TRIPs provisions of the Uruguay Round of the WTO negotiations were the clearest manifestation of this drive. These provisions, which were added at the request of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, require countries throughout the world to adopt U.S.-type patent laws. In addition, the United States has sought to further strengthen patent protections in all the bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that it has negotiated over the last two decades.

Ira Chernus; Social Security Cuts: More Than Money At Stake

I’m old enough to remember when Social Security was the “third rail” of American politics — too dangerous for even the most conservative politician to touch. You’re probably old enough to remember that, too. It wasn’t very long ago. As recently as the 2012 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney defended Social Security against attacks from other candidates (notably Rick Perry), and Romney emerged the GOP standard-bearer.

How things have changed in just a year. It’s not merely that a Democratic president is offering, very publicly, to cut Social Security benefits. There’s something much more important: In the mainstream of American political conversation, this revelation was not treated as very big news.

Jared Berstein: Underemployment Is Also the Right Target (Not Just Unemployment)

If we wanted to target the persistent slack in the labor market, though I can’t see any signs that we do, we shouldn’t just target the unemployment rate; we should also go after the underemployment rate. Since it captures the important dimension of not just do you have a job, but are you getting the hours of work you want, it’s a more comprehensive measure of the extent to which workers are underutilized — i.e., slack — in the labor market.

The difference is pretty well known by now: the underemployment rate includes various groups of underutilized workers or job seekers who are left out of the official rate. The largest difference is the inclusion of part-time workers who would rather have full-time jobs. Most recently, there were about eight million such folks, elevating this measure of underutilization to around 14 percent compared to about 8 percent for unemployment (2013Q1). Other components of this rate include discouraged workers who’ve recently looked for work but given up, and some other smaller groups that are neither working nor looking for work but remain marginally attached to the job market.

David Sirota: Suddenly, NYPD Doesn’t Love Surveillance Anymore

Law enforcement agencies monitor our most basic acts. But try assigning them a watchdog and they resist with fury.

The Big Brother theory of surveillance goes something like this: pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide. Those who subscribe to this theory additionally argue that the widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.

I don’t personally agree that this logic is a convincing justification for the American Police State, and when I hear such arguments, I inevitably find myself confused by the contradiction of police-state proponents proposing to curtail freedom in order to protect it. But whether or not you subscribe to the police-state tautology, you have to admit there is more than a bit of hypocrisy at work when those who forward the Big Brother logic simultaneously insist such logic shouldn’t apply to them or the governmental agencies they oversee.

This contradiction is now taking center stage in New York City, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly wage a scorched-earth campaign to prevent the public from being able to monitor its own police force. And in that crusade comes the frightening assumption about how the terms “safety” and “security” are now defined.

On This Day In History April 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 9 is the 99th day of the year (100th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 266 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House. In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller.

At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Final


Seed Score Team Record Region Seed Score Team Record Region
(1) 72 Louisville 34-5 Midwest 68 (9) Wichita State 30-9 West
(4) 56 Syracuse 30-10 East * (4) 61 Michigan 31-7 South


Time Network Seed Team Record Region Seed Team Record Region
9 CBS (1) Louisville 34-5 Midwest (4) Michigan 31-7 South

Congressional Game of Chicken: Mitch and Harry, a Love Story

It would seem by now that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) realized that the filibuster “gentleman’s agreement” with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is as much of a farce as “bipartisanship.” Since Last January’s deal, the Republicans have filibuster two cabinet nominees, unprecedented in the past, blocked numerous judges and other nominees. Now a group led by Sen. Rand Paul, Mitch’s compatriot from the Blue Grass State, have threatened to filibuster a bill that hasn’t even been written.

Once again, Harry has tossed out another idle threat to fix the filibuster, this tilw by invoking the dreaded “nuclear option.” In an interview with Nevada Public Radio, Harry said that “he has not ruled out altering Senate rules to speed up Senate judicial nominations.”

“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary,” Reid says. [..]

“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid says. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”

E.J. Dionne makes some very salient points in his Washington Post op-ed, where he asks is this the end of majority rule? He points out three facts first that universal background checks are overwhelming supported by Americans; second, “the Morning Joe/Marist poll last week showing 64 percent of Americans saying that job creation should be the top priority for elected officials.” Third, “only 33 percent said their focus should be on reducing the deficit.” Yet, congress has completely ignored these facts allowing the NRA and the minority deficit hawks of the far right to control what is debated in the House.

Dionne goes on to say:

In a well-functioning democracy, the vast majority of politicians – conservative, moderate and liberal – would dismiss such views as just plain kooky. But here is the problem: A substantial portion of the Republican Party’s core electorate is now influenced both by hatred of Obama and by the views of the ultra-right. Strange conspiracy theories are admitted to the mainstream conversation through the GOP’s back door – and amplified by another fight for market share among talk radio hosts and Fox News commentators.

That’s because the Republican Party is no longer a broad and diverse alliance but a creature of the right.[..]

And our Constitution combines with the way we draw congressional districts to over-represent conservatives in both houses. The 100-member Senate is based on two senators per state regardless of size. This gives rural states far more power than population-based representation would. The filibuster makes matters worse. It’s theoretically possible for 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the population to block pretty much anything.

The American people deserve better than this. There should be at least on functioning segment of the government that represents the people, that needs to be the Senate.

Harry, drop the bomb. Go for the nuclear option. Let Mitch squeal how his party has been wronged and how the Democrats will pay. Take the soap box away from the likes of radical loons like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Then pass approve some judges and nominees, pass bills the right wingers will hate but Americans will love. Tell President Obama that there will be no Social Security or Medicare cuts in the budget passed by the Senate. Tell the president that there will be a stimulus package to create jobs, an end to subsidies for oil companies and banks, as well as, tax reform and revenue increases.

Stand up to the right wing so-called Democrats, like Max Baucus, Harry. End your destructive “love affair” with Mitch. End filibuster.

I have a dream. Harry Reid could make it a reality.