“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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Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s Terrorism Speech: Seeing What You Want To See
Some eager-to-believe progressives heralded the speech as a momentous change, but Obama’s actions are often quite different than his rhetoric
The hallmark of a skilled politician is the ability to speak to a group of people holding widely disparate views, and have all of them walk away believing they heard what they wanted to hear. Other than Bill Clinton, I’ve personally never seen a politician even in the same league as Barack Obama when it comes to that ability. His most consequential speeches are shaped by their simultaneous affirmation of conflicting values and even antithetical beliefs, allowing listeners with irreconcilable positions to conclude that Obama agrees with them.
The highly touted speech Obama delivered last week on US terrorism policy was a master class in that technique. If one longed to hear that the end of the “war on terror” is imminent, there are several good passages that will be quite satisfactory. If one wanted to hear that the war will continue indefinitely, perhaps even in expanded form, one could easily have found that. And if one wanted to know that the president who has spent almost five years killing people in multiple countries around the world feels personal “anguish” and moral conflict as he does it, because these issues are so very complicated, this speech will be like a gourmet meal.
At this point everyone who follows economic policy debates knows about the famous Reinhart-Rogoff spreadsheet error uncovered by a University of Massachusetts graduate student. When the error is corrected, there is nothing resembling the growth falloff cliff associated with a 90 percent debt-to-GDP ratio that had been the main takeaway from the initial paper. [..]
The silly spreadsheet error was important in the debt debate controversy because it allowed for a real debate. Ordinarily Harvard economists don’t engage their less credentialed colleagues at places like the University of Massachusetts. (Hey, they never even responded to my emails requesting their data.)
Unfortunately, even the best reporters at the most prestigious news outlets rarely feel sufficiently knowledgeable to challenge pronouncements from prominent economists. This means that the profession must rely on internal policing to weed out bad arguments. The Reinhart-Rogoff 90 percent cliff was widely accepted policy wisdom for more than three years, which suggests the internal policing in the economics profession is pretty damn weak.
There is a striking contrast between how the eurozone and the United States are handling their financial crises
The eurozone recession is now the longest on record for the single currency area, according to official statistics released last week, as the economy shrank again in the first quarter of this year. A comparison with the US economy may shed some light on how such a profound economic failure can occur in high-income, highly-educated countries in the 21st century. [..]
The contrast between the US and Europe is all the more striking because Europe has much stronger labour unions, social democratic parties, and a more developed welfare state. Yet the eurozone has implemented policies far to the right of the US government, causing needless suffering for millions more people. How does this happen? The answers have little to do with a “debt crisis” but everything to do with macroeconomic policy, ideology, and – perhaps most importantly – democracy. As such these questions are relevant not only to the populations of both of these economic superpowers, but to most of the world.
Simple concept: people who consume food should have information about what’s in their food.
And if foods contain genetically modified organisms, consumers surely have a right to know.
Who could disagree? Most senators, that’s who.
While sixty-four countries around the world require labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients, while the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have passed resolutions supporting this sort of labeling in the United States, the Senate voted 71-27 to keep Americans in the dark.
Norman Solomon: Our Twisted Politics of Grief
In the “endless war,” some kinds of grief are more useful than others
Darwin observed that conscience is what most distinguishes humans from other animals. If so, grief isn’t far behind. Realms of anguish are deeply personal-yet prone to expropriation for public use, especially in this era of media hyper-spin. Narratives often thresh personal sorrow into political hay. More than ever, with grief marketed as a civic commodity, the personal is the politicized.
The politicizing of grief exploded in the wake of 9/11. When so much pain, rage and fear set the U.S. cauldron to boil, national leaders promised their alchemy would bring unalloyed security. The fool’s gold standard included degrading civil liberties and pursuing a global war effort that promised to be ceaseless. From the political outset, some of the dead and bereaved were vastly important, others insignificant. Such routine assumptions have remained implicit and intact.
Justin Doolittle: Pakistanis: We Want the US Out; New York Times: No, You Don’t.
The A1 story in Sunday’s New York Times, written by Declan Walsh, is titled “U.S. Shift Poses Risk to Pakistan.” The story argues that, with the United States gradually dwindling down its political and military engagement with Pakistan, the latter faces a highly uncertain future. Walsh tells us that the disengagement will “diminish” the “prestige” and “political importance” Pakistan held as a (Photo: Al Jazeera)”crucial player in global counterterrorism efforts” and could very well “upset its internal stability.”
It’s a piece that is revealing because one voice is noticeably left out of the analysis: that of the Pakistani people. Arguably the most salient fact about the U.S.-Pakistan dynamic is that Pakistanis – you know, the actual human beings who live in that country – despise the U.S. government and think the interaction between the two countries does more harm than good. Gallup conducted polling on these matters in Pakistan last year. An amazing 92% of Pakistanis expressed disapproval of U.S. leadership (i.e. Obama), while 4% approved. In a separate poll, 55% of Pakistanis reported that interaction with the West constitutes “more of a threat”; just 39% thought it was “more of a benefit.”