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Aug 08 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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John Kiriakou: Obama’s Abuse of the Espionage Act is Modern-Day McCarthyism

Shame on this president for persecuting whistleblowers with a legal relic, while administration officials leak with impunity

The conviction of Bradley Manning under the 1917 Espionage Act, and the US Justice Department’s decision to file espionage charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden under the same act, are yet further examples of the Obama administration’s policy of using an iron fist against human rights and civil liberties activists.

President Obama has been unprecedented in his use of the Espionage Act to prosecute those whose whistleblowing he wants to curtail. The purpose of an Espionage Act prosecution, however, is not to punish a person for spying for the enemy, selling secrets for personal gain, or trying to undermine our way of life. It is to ruin the whistleblower personally, professionally and financially. It is meant to send a message to anybody else considering speaking truth to power: challenge us and we will destroy you.

Mark Weisbot: Mass Media Helps Keep Americans in the Dark About U.S. Foreign Policy

The United States still has military spending that is higher in real, inflation-adjusted terms than it was during the peak of the Reagan Cold War build-up, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War. We seem to be in a state of permanent warfare, and — we have recently learned — massive government spying and surveillance of our own citizens. This is despite an ever-receding threat to the actual physical security of Americans. Only 19 people have been killed acts of terrorism in the United States since September 11, 2001; and none or almost none of these were connected to foreign terrorists. And there are no “enemy states” that pose a significant military threat to the United States — if any governments can be called “enemy states” at all.

One of the reasons for this disconnect is that most of the mass media provide a grossly distorted view of U.S. foreign policy. It presents an American foreign policy that is far more benign and justifiable than the reality of empire that most of the world knows. In a well-researched and thoroughly documented article published by the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), Keane Bhatt provides an excellent case study of how this happens.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 7 Things About Prosecuting Wall Street You Wanted to Know (But Were Too Depressed to Ask)

President Obama’s Justice Department, under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder, hasn’t indicted a single bank executive for the massive Wall Street crime wave that devastated the economy. The regulatory reform which followed the 2008 crisis wasn’t nearly enough, and yet Republicans are trying to weaken even that.

And just this week there were several news stories about bank crime. What do they mean? Why haven’t any bankers gone to jail? What’s going on in this country?

Here are seven things about Wall Street crime and Washington “justice” you might have wanted to know, but were probably too depressed to ask. It’s true that there’s a shortage of justice where bankers are concerned. But don’t get depressed. Get serious – about demanding change.

Juan Cole: How the GOP Libya Witch Hunt Made Us Close Our Mideast Embassies and Crippled U.S. Diplomacy

About those US embassy closures in the Middle East:  they make the US look like a wimp. [..]

As with George Mitchell and Northern Ireland, the most effective uses of American power have been diplomatic.  But hawks in Washington always want to drag us into foreign wars, in part to benefit their buddies in the arms industry.  The current GOP is divided on the issue of US power abroad, with Libertarians like Rand Paul viewing foreign wars as a waste of money and a fruitless enterprise, but hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham failing to discover a potential war that they don’t just love to death.

But the GOP is inadvertently pushing the US into a posture of dangerous diplomatic weakness.  This weakness is clear in the unprecedented closing of 21 US embassies in the Middle East this weekend because of a vague terrorist threat apparently emanating from “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” based in Yemen.

Jared Berstein: [Threatening to ‘Reform’ the Earned Income Tax Credit Threatening to ‘Reform’ the Earned Income Tax Credit]

Devoted readers know that I’m careful not to shoot everything that moves, but the more I hang around the DC tax debate, the more I’m exposed to deeply misguided thinking that seems largely motivated by the conviction that poor people — in this case, the working poor — have too much money and the wealthy have too little.

That’s the lesson from a report by the Tax Foundation on the “benefits” of getting rid of the Earned Income Tax Credit — a wage subsidy for low-income workers — and giving everybody else a tax break.

Jim Hightower: Forget Student Loans — Make Higher Ed Free

Well, finally! Hard-right congressional leaders and the Obama White House have agreed that interest rates on student loans should not double to nearly 7 percent, as they let happen early in July. Instead, college students will be billed at a rate that will steadily rise higher than 8 percent.

This is progress?

Temporarily, yes, because the new law drops this year’s rate to 3.8 percent. But, for the longer run, obviously not. Even capping the interest rate at 8.25 percent, as the White House demanded, is too high, for it still saddles students with a crushing debt of some $20,000 to $40,000 for a four-year degree, just as they’re getting started on their economic path.