Jul 24 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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Helen Thomas’s Legacy

In his refreshing appearance at the 2006 White House Correspondents Association dinner, comedian Stephen Colbert showed a parody video in which he “auditioned” for the position of press secretary. In it, he refuses to answer a question from real-life White House correspondent Helen Thomas and spends the rest of the video trying to escape her dogged questioning.

It was a brilliant turn, not only for its skewering of a Washington press corps that was asleep while President George W. Bush took us to war in Iraq but for its implicit praise of the tenacious, shoe-leather reporting of Thomas, who died Saturday at the age of 92.

Born two weeks before women officially had the right to vote, Thomas broke glass ceiling after glass ceiling as a woman journalist, including by becoming the first female member of the White House Correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club. She fought, with characteristic perseverance, to join these organizations. It wasn’t because she saw being in the room as an end itself. Rather, she understood that she needed to have access to power in order to question that power.

Ruth Rosen: Why the Relentless Assault on Abortion Rights in the US?

Americans have grown more supportive of same -sex marriages, gun control, immigration reform and even taxes on the wealthiest individuals. Why, then, have the cultural and political wars over abortion accelerated?

Americans have become more liberal, despite the rise of the Tea Party and the election of some of their right-wing politicians.  Teenagers can now buy “morning after” emergency contraception pills without consulting a physician or a pharmacist. The Supreme Court recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex marriages. It also upheld the right of same-sex couples in California to wed. As of July 2013, there are now 13 states that permit same-sex marriages. Despite the gridlock caused by Republicans in Congress, more Americans than ever support gun control, immigration reform, same-sex marriage and taxes on the wealthiest individuals. This is why Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

Why then, does state after state attempt to restrict women’s access to abortion?

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz: As a Driver of Tar Sands Expansion, Keystone XL Fails President Obama’s Climate Test

In June President Obama laid out a plan for the U.S. to tackle climate change including a climate test for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. A new economic and environmental analysis from NRDC makes it clear that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the President’s climate test. Industry analysts agree that Keystone XL is a critical piece of the puzzle for the tar sands industry to build new extraction projects. Tar sands oil production causes the release of huge amounts of carbon pollution from its energy-intensive extraction methods and refining processes.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would add 935 million to 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution to our atmosphere-a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions-over the 50-year life span of the project. Expansion of the very energy-intensive and costly tar sands are not in our national interest and the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should be rejected.

Mary Bottari and Rebekah Wilce: ALEC in 2013: Rightwing Legislative Group Fuels Race to the Bottom in Wages and Worker Rights

Just How Low Can Your Salary Go?

At least 117 bills introduced in 2013 fuel a “race to the bottom” in wages, benefits, and worker rights and resemble “model” bills from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to a new analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of ALECexposed.org.

As working Americans speak out for higher wages, better benefits, and respect in the workplace, a coordinated, nationwide campaign to silence them is mounting — and ALEC is at the heart of it. ALEC corporations, right-wing think tanks, and monied interests like the Koch brothers are pushing legislation throughout the country designed to drive down wages; limit health care, pensions, and other benefits; and cripple working families’ participation in the political and legislative process.

Emily Masters: As the NSA Follows You, We Follow the Money

Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has witnessed the rapid growth of an intelligence-industrial complex that fuses government and corporate power. According to the Project on Government Oversight, $300 billion a year is now spent on a “shadow government of private contractors.” At the center of this arrangement is an interlocking web of current and former high-level government officials, major corporations, D.C. think tanks and other inside-the-Beltway operators who have benefitted from the rise of the surveillance state. Here are a few of the most notable: [..]

Bryce Covert: Is This the Big Moment for Better Work/Family Balance Policies?

Those of us who have been pushing for better work/family policies know the story of how we almost had universal childcare all too well. In 1971, Congress passed the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act on a bipartisan vote. It would have meant the first step toward a universal childcare system, offering all parents a free, high-quality place to send their kids while they worked. As Nancy L. Cohen reports, Congress authorized five times what it currently spends on Head Start to finance the program.

Then, before President Nixon signed the bill, the evangelical right staged an intense backlash as part of the brand new culture wars, which wormed its way into Nixon’s ear through special assistant Pat Buchanan. Nixon ultimately vetoed the bill, saying it would “commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against the family-centered approach.” Thus the “family values” crowd was born and the bipartisan idea that the government should support working women by taking some of the parenting burden off their shoulders died.

Zoë Carpenter: Senate Poised to Raise Interest Rates on Future Student Loans

The Senate will vote this week on a proposal to change the way the government sets federal student loan rates, in the hopes of ending weeks of stalemate.

Don’t be fooled by any triumphant rhetoric. The plan the Senate is voting on-to peg interest rates on federal student loans to the financial market-promises low rates in the short term, and nearly guarantees that they will rise above current levels in a matter of years. [..]

The fix on the table now is permanent, and it allows both parties to dodge blame for the sudden rate hike that occurred July 1, when subsidized Stafford rates jumped from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. The plan does bring rates back below 4 percent for Stafford loans in the coming year, benefitting new undergraduates quite a bit.

But it won’t keep the rates below that threshold for long; instead, the Senate plan puts rates on track to exceed 6.8 percent in only four years.