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Jun 12 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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Laura Murphy and Michelle Richardson: Roll Back the Surveillance State

Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain ‘any tangible thing’ relevant to an investigation. According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, this authority has been used to collect all phone records in the U.S., even those of law-abiding citizens who have no connection to crime or terrorism whatsoever. The administration and a few members of Congress have confirmed and defended this practice as necessary to protect national security.

But there’s no reason to believe that the government’s collection efforts stop there. Last year, there were 212 of these Section 215 orders so the full extent of the NSA’s surveillance is still within the agency’s black box. Some news reports say that these programs include financial data and email records too. This is entirely possible given the breadth of Section 215. The program’s advocates claim that records do not implicate privacy and that the collection of “metadata” does not infringe on anyone’s rights.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Victoria Brittain; Guilty Until Proven Innocent

How to Pre-Convict and Pre-Punish an American Muslim

A four-month hunger strike, mass force-feedings, and widespread media coverage have at last brought Guantanamo, the notorious offshore prison set up by the Bush administration early in 2002, back into American consciousness. Prominent voices are finally calling on President Obama to close it down and send home scores of prisoners who, years ago, were cleared of wrongdoing.

Still unnoticed and out of the news, however, is a comparable situation in the U.S. itself, involving a pattern of controversial terrorism trials that result in devastating prison sentences involving the harshest forms of solitary confinement.  This growing body of prisoners is made up of Muslim men, including some formerly well-known and respected American citizens.

Jessica Valenti: Abortion and Magical Thinking

Anti-choicers think what they believe determines how abortion restrictions are enforced. They’re dangerously wrong.

It takes a special kind of willful ignorance to oppose legal abortion these days. In fact,
being disconnected from reality has become the most definitive characteristic of the anti-choice movement. Pregnancy from rape? The body can “shut that whole thing down.” Birth control? Just another kind of abortifacient. Then there are the made-up “post-abortion syndromes” and unsubstantiated links between abortion and breast cancer. But no kind of anti-choice rhetoric is more dangerous than the fantasy that making abortion illegal will not hurt women.

Letitia Miranda: AT&T’s Deregulation Campaign

As the company moves to Internet-based telephone service, it’s looking to shed regulatory obligations that benefit low-income Americans.

Since 2010, AT&T has been waging a deregulation campaign in several states across the country while aiming to move its traditional, wired telephone services to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services, which transmit voice communications digitally. With the help of corporate “bill mill” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and support from companies like AT&T, state legislators have introduced a series of “model” bills aimed at preventing regulation of IP-based services in more than thirty states across the country, from Idaho to Georgia, Texas to New Hampshire. As the country moves to an IP-based telephone network, AT&T wants to completely retire its wired services and shed critical regulatory obligations that currently apply to legacy services. Now AT&T has taken that mission to the federal level.

Katrina vanden Heuvel; The third Koch ‘brother’ hits North Carolina

There’s something rotten in the state of North Carolina – and it smells like money. Specifically, Art Pope’s money.

In fact, Pope and his cash are responsible for North Carolina’s recent meteoric rise as the poster child for regressive, conservative politics. [..]

Republican donors know that this strategy produces a high return on investment. For just a few million dollars, not only can they affect state policies, but they also can control electoral laws and redraw districts – rigging the deck before it even gets to Washington.

With money to burn, Pope and his cronies are on their way to turning state after state into regressive backwaters while using their bucks to drown out the voices of anyone who disagrees with them. It all happens right under our noses because state legislature races almost never make the cover of The Post or the headlines on CNN.

Leslie Savan: Media Yawn at Barbara Buono, the Only Dem Willing to Take On Chris Christie

State Senator Barbara Buono may be the only New Jersey Dem with the cojones to run for governor against the formidably popular Chris Christie, but she gets no respect from the media. And given the electoral chaos Christie’s whipped up with a $24 million special election to replace the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, she’ll probably be getting even less. [..]

The Beltway media have been so enthralled with Christie since he embraced Obama and barked at Fox News after Hurricane Sandy that they seem to wonder why Buono even bothers to challenge him when powerful players, like Newark mayor Cory Booker and state Senate president Stephen Sweeney, backed down. An emblematic interview came in April when Chris Matthews interrupted Buono fourteen times, mostly to ask about Christie, as the chyron at the bottom of the screen read “DAWN QUIXOTE.”

Anna Lappé: Hey, Non-GMO Activist: Monsanto’s CEO Thinks You’re an Elitist

On May 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people in 36 countries participated in a global “March Against Monsanto.” But according to Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, those who protest against agricultural genetic engineering — including the farmers, students, academics, and more who turned out in March — are “elitists,” fomenting distrust of technology that could save the lives of millions of hungry people.

On May 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people in 36 countries participated in a global “March Against Monsanto.” But according to Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, those who protest against agricultural genetic engineering — including the farmers, students, academics, and more who turned out in March — are “elitists,” fomenting distrust of technology that could save the lives of millions of hungry people.