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Aug 09 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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Krugman: Phony Fear Factor

We live in a golden age of economic debunkery; fallacious doctrines have been dropping like flies. No, monetary expansion needn’t cause hyperinflation. No, budget deficits in a depressed economy don’t cause soaring interest rates. No, slashing spending doesn’t create jobs. No, economic growth doesn’t collapse when debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P.

And now the latest myth bites the dust: No, “economic policy uncertainty” – created, it goes without saying, by That Man in the White House – isn’t holding back the recovery. [..]

And the policy moral is clear: We need to stop talking about spending cuts and start talking about job-creating spending increases instead. Yes, I know that the politics of doing the right thing will be very hard. But, as far as the economics goes, the only thing we have to fear is fear-mongering itself.

New York Times Editorial Board: Breaking Through Limits on Spying

Apparently no espionage tool that Congress gives the National Security Agency is big enough or intrusive enough to satisfy the agency’s inexhaustible appetite for delving into the communications of Americans. Time and again, the N.S.A. has pushed past the limits that lawmakers thought they had imposed to prevent it from invading basic privacy, as guaranteed by the Constitution.  [..]

It turns out, as Charlie Savage revealed in The Times on Thursday, that the N.S.A. went far beyond those boundaries. Instead, it copies virtually all overseas messages that Americans send or receive, then scans them to see if they contain any references to people or subjects the agency thinks might have a link to terrorists.

Amy Goodman: Please Read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 on Your Vacation, Mr. President

Senator Obama’s objection to ‘a dumb war’ won him nomination. As commander-in-chief, he has reneged on opposing militarism

As the Obama family heads to their annual summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps the president should take along a copy of Catch-22 for some beach reading. Joseph Heller’s classic, satirical anti-war novel, published in 1961 and based on his experiences as a bombardier in the second world war, is sadly relevant today, as Obama’s wars, in Afghanistan and beyond, drag on. [..]

Heller’s protagonist in Catch-22, Captain Yossarian, holds a wounded comrade – named Snowden, coincidentally – who dies in his arms. The experience cements Yossarian’s opposition to war. Bradley Manning, too, went to war, and hated what he saw. He took action, leaking documents to spark a national debate.

Heller’s depiction of war – grim and stark – was fiction, though based on his own experience. Obama’s wars, his drone strikes, his war on whistleblowers, are all too real.

Mark Weisbrot: The More Nefarious US Foreign Policy, The More It Relies on Media Complicity

Americans are shielded from the ugly consequences of US military power by our journalists’ self-censorship

The US 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 by acts of terrorism in the US since 11 September 2001, and none or almost none of these was connected to foreign terrorists. Also, there are no “enemy states” that pose a significant military threat to the US – if any governments can be called “enemy states” at all.

Michael T. Klare: How to Fry a Planet

The Third Carbon Age: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy

When it comes to energy and economics in the climate-change era, nothing is what it seems.  Most of us believe (or want to believe) that the second carbon era, the Age of Oil, will soon be superseded by the Age of Renewables, just as oil had long since superseded the Age of Coal.  President Obama offered exactly this vision in a much-praised June address on climate change.  True, fossil fuels will be needed a little bit longer, he indicated, but soon enough they will be overtaken by renewable forms of energy.

Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  All this sounds promising indeed.  There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down.  The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables.  Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves.

Diana Ravitch: Punishing Kids for Adult Failures

The massive score drop on tough new New York tests gives us an opportunity–and obligation–to change course

Test scores across New York State have collapsed, new results released Wednesday showed. Last year, 55% of students in the state passed the reading test; 65% passed the math test. This year, only 31% passed both subjects. In New York City, the proportion passing the state tests fell from 47% in reading and 60% in math to only 26% in reading and 30% in math.

Did the students suddenly get stupid? Did their teachers become incompetent overnight? Did schools fail en masse? [..]

he leaders of the state seem intent on discouraging students, teachers and principals. Why do they want public schools to look bad? That is a question for them to answer.

The madness must end. Next spring, parents should keep their children home on testing day. Or send them to school with a note saying that they are opting out of the state testing. They should exercise their rights as citizens and send a message to the state: “Not with my child.”