Jun 18 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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Tom Shorrock: Put the Spies Back Under One Roof

For decades, the N.S.A. relied on its own computer scientists, cryptographers and mathematicians to tap, decode and analyze communications as they traversed phone lines and satellite networks. By the 1990s, however, advances in personal computing, the growth of the Internet, the advent of cellphones and the shift in telecommunications to high-speed fiber-optic lines has made it difficult for the N.S.A. to keep up.

As the commercial world began to surpass the N.S.A., some in the agency began looking to the private sector for solutions. In 2000, thanks in part to an advisory committee led by James R. Clapper Jr., now the director of national intelligence, the N.S.A. decided to shift away from its in-house development strategy and outsource on a huge scale. The N.S.A.’s headquarters began filling with contractors working for Booz Allen and hundreds of other companies. [..]

Congress must act now to re-establish a government-run intelligence service operating with proper oversight. The first step is to appoint an independent review board – with no contractors on it – to decide where the line for government work should be drawn. The best response to the Snowden affair is to reduce the size of our private intelligence army and make contract spying a thing of the past. Our democracy depends on it.

Roger Cohen: Obama’s German Storm

Germany is normally a welcoming place for American leaders. But President Barack Obama will walk into a German storm Tuesday provoked by revelations about the Prism and Boundless Informant (who comes up with these names?) surveillance programs of the U.S. National Security Agency.

No nation, after the Nazis and the Stasi, has such intense feelings about personal privacy as Germany. The very word “Datenschutz,” or data protection, is a revered one. The notion that the United States has been able to access the e-mails or Facebook accounts or Skype conversations of German citizens has been described as “monstrous” by Peter Schaar, the official responsible for enforcing Germany’s strict privacy rules. When the German bureaucracy starts talking about monstrous American behavior, take note.

Dean Baker: Celebrate the Defeat of the Granny Bashers!

It isn’t often that progressives in the United States have much to celebrate. After all, the news has swung between bad and worse for most of the last three decades. That is why we should be celebrating the victory over the Campaign to Fix the Debt and its efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. [..]

The result will be a somewhat smaller share of the pie for those on top and a larger share for everyone else. And it will almost certainly also mean a more rapidly growing economy. The latter would especially be true if we could reverse the sequester and other pointless austerity measures.

But the move to offense is not about to happen right now. And with all the money it has available, we can’t even assume the CFD effort will stay dead.

Jon Soltz and Sen. Tom Udall: President Obama Has Three Questions to Answer on Arms to Syria

In light of recent findings regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the President has decided to send arms to the rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad, but the full scope of this new intervention is unclear. There is a growing fervor for military intervention. As one of just three senators on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to vote against arming unorganized rebels, and as an Iraq War Veteran, we urge a different course.

A number of experts are warning that the options to intervene in Syria are misguided, and could prove damaging to America’s strategic interests. Despite these concerns, many who advocated for previously disastrous Middle East interventions are pushing loudly to arm groups we know little about, and declare war through air strikes on another Middle Eastern country.

This rush to judgment is dangerous. We should learn from history, not repeat it.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: We Need a New Deal For Millennials

What kind of society abandons its own young? What kind of society allows the generations in power to favor themselves over those who follow them, and then lets them claim they’re doing it out of selflessness?

Look around you.

This weekend we reviewed nine ways an extreme-right right social agenda has harmed the Millennial Generation.  But there’s a cure for that, a formula that’s rational, sane, wise, and fair. It involves time-tested techniques for jobs, growth, and education – a New Deal for Millennials.

And a New Deal starts with new values.

Mark Weisbrot: Domestic Dissent Can Change US Foreign Policy for the Better

From the Vietnam era to the Iraq war, it’s clear that the moral authority of protest has altered US government behaviour

The current revelations of a vast, secret NSA surveillance program are, of course, a continuation of what our government has been doing for the past century – the main difference being that the dragnet has gotten much larger due to change in communications technology. But there is an often-overlooked political reason for this mass intrusion on our personal communications: the government is gathering actionable intelligence in order to use it against those who oppose unpopular, unjust, and often criminal policies of that same government. And it has good reason to do so, because that opposition can be quite effective.

It is well-known that a mass protest movement, as well as its lobbying of Congres,s helped get us out of Vietnam. It is less widely known that the movement against the Central American wars in the 1980s, which involved hundreds of thousands of people, succeeded in cutting off congressional funding for the war against Nicaragua. And perhaps more historically significant, that result caused major problems for then-President Reagan, when his government turned to illegal funding and got caught, resulting in the infamous “Iran-Contra” scandal.