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May 30 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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Jonathan Turley: The rise of the fourth branch of government

There were times this past week when it seemed like the 19th-century Know-Nothing Party had returned to Washington. President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions in the State Department, or the Justice Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It was as if the government functioned by some hidden hand.

Clearly, there was a degree of willful blindness in these claims. However, the suggestion that someone, even the president, is in control of today’s government may be an illusion.

The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself: It is not just bigger, it is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency.

Robert Reich: A Time for Harry Reid’s Backbone

Senate Republicans under the cynical direction of Mitch McConnell have abused the filibuster system, preventing votes on almost everything the president has wanted.

Harry Reid punted on changing the filibuster rules, but he could — and in my view now should — propose changing them for judicial appointments, which he can accomplish with the votes of 51 senators.

A president’s court picks shouldn’t require 60 Senate votes. The Constitution is quite specific about when “super-majorities” are needed, and makes no mention of super-majorities for court appointments.

Reid is not known for his strong backbone, but here’s an instance where he owes his backbone to posterity. You might even write to him and tell him so.

Richard (RJ) Esjow; A Vision for Social Security

Is our country losing the vision and values which gave rise to Social Security?

Social Security benefits lag far behind those of other developed countries. A new analysis of census data shows that elder poverty is much higher than we first realized. And yet the discussion in Washington is of cutting, not expanding, it. The number of impoverished seniors would rise sharply if that happened, or if the Medicare cuts currently under discussion became law.

The numbers say that Social Security should be increased, not cut, and most Americans agree.

But the Social Security cutters, financed by billions and aided by their network of powerful friends in government and the media, are appealing to the human heart. That’s a bitter irony for a policy prescription that even their own consciences must recognize is heartless.

Robert Sheer: Congress Still Puts Out for Wall Street

What does it take to make a Wall Street banker squirm with shame? Not content with having swindled tens of millions of Americans out of their homes and life savings, the very bankers who caused the biggest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression are now subverting government regulations designed to prevent comparable disasters in the future.

Top of the list of those responsible are the hustlers at Citigroup, once the world’s largest financial conglomerate, and a leading practitioner of the sordid behavior that caused the housing meltdown. Indeed, Citigroup was allowed to form as a merger of the investment banking of Travelers and the federal insured commercial banking of Citicorp only because lobbyists for those institutions successfully engineered the reversal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law that had banned such combinations.

Dave Murphy: The March to Stop Monsanto: Taking Back Our Food, Our Farms, Our Democracy and Our Planet

The march to stop Monsanto is one of the most pressing issues of our time. As a single company, Monsanto is the tip of the iceberg representing the threat that unchecked corporate power has in corrupting our democratic institutions, driving family farmers off the land, threatening human health and contaminating our environment.

The problem with Monsanto is not just their corrosive lobbying practices, but the fact that the products they produce, genetically engineered foods and chemical weed killers, are in more than 70% of the processed foods that we eat and feed our families everyday. [..]

Monsanto’s unchecked power is corrosive to the health of our democracy, our well-being and our planet and it must be stopped. As free citizens, it is our right and our duty to protest their unlawful encroachment into the most basic and fundamental aspect of our lives, the food that we eat and the laws that govern our lives.

Sadhbh Walshe: We Can’t Let Monsanto Win on Genetically Modified Food

Monsanto has been victorious in court, Congress and the White House. Protests will need to grow to stop them.

Last weekend, 2 million people around the world took to the streets to protest genetically modified food, drawing attention to its dangers and the environmental harm caused by its production. Two million people is a pretty good showing by any standard, but especially so when event organizers said they would have considered 3,000 a success. According to Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, the turnout was a welcome sign of a growing safe food movement:

   A decade ago we would have been happy if 10 people showed up at a march about food safety, now if we get less than a million people signing a petition we are disappointed.

Sadly for Kimbrell and other food safety activists, a million signatures on a petition or majority support for food labeling does not guarantee the government will submit to the public will.