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Aug 10 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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New York Times Editorial Board: A Weak Agenda on Spying Reform

President Obama, who seems to think the American people simply need some reassurance that their privacy rights are intact, proposed a series of measures on Friday that only tinker around the edges of the nation’s abusive surveillance programs. [..]

If all Mr. Obama is inclined to do is tweak these programs, then Congress will have to step in to curb these abuses, a path many lawmakers of both parties are already pursuing. There are bills pending that would stop the bulk collection of communications data, restricting it to those under suspicion of terrorism. Other measures would require the surveillance court to make public far more of its work. If the president is truly concerned about public anxiety, he can vocally support legislation to make meaningful changes, rather than urging people to trust him that the dishes are clean.

Dean Baker: Fiddling with Fannie and Freddie Only Sets Us Up for Another Crash

Best leave the mortgage market in government control or abolish Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac entirely and let moral hazard rule

President Obama’s announcement of his plans for a restructured mortgage market was painful for those who remember the bubble and crash. It seems as though he learned nothing from this disaster.

he key problem in the bubble years was the ability of private actors to profit by taking huge risks in issuing and securitizing bad mortgages, while handing the downside risk to taxpayers. This was the story with Countrywide, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and the rest.

It was also the story with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their prior incarnation, before the collapse of the bubble sent them into conservatorship. The pre-conservatorship Fannie and Freddie were run as for-profit companies. Their top executives made Wall Street-type salaries, pocketing tens of millions of dollars a year.

Charles M. Blow: ‘A Town Without Pity’

America was once the land of Lady Liberty, beckoning the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

No more.

Today’s America – at least as measured by the actions and inactions of the pariahs who roam its halls of power and the people who put them there – is insular, cruel and uncaring.

David Sirota: The Creative Destruction of Misguided Ideology

Stripped down to its fundamentals, the insurance business is the business of assessing risk. Regardless of what is being insured, a successful insurer is one that analyzes the risk of having to pay out benefits, and then adjusts coverage rates to make sure more money is coming in than is going out. The more accurate the assessment of risk, the more financially successful an insurance company tends to be.

Because of this model, private insurance is the conservative ideologue’s favored method of assessing danger and managing risk, for it is a purely free-market instrument. Indeed, as a right-wing activist would readily admit, private insurance focuses exclusively on the dollars and cents of actuarial analyses, and it bases prices on data and empiricism, not on fact-free political ideology and poll-tested platitudes.

So, then, what happens when the insurance industry so touted by the conservative movement starts saying things that wholly contradict that movement’s talking points?

Gail Collins: Playing Post Office

Today, let’s tackle a big national problem. Something that’s been going on for so long that everybody’s exhausted and has lost all hope of resolution in their lifetimes. (Like the baseball career of Alex Rodriguez.)

The Postal Service. Yes! Let’s fix the Postal Service, which lost more than $15 billion last year. Lately, things have been going better, but we’re still talking about a problem that’s actually way worse than A-Rod. More like something between a plague of locusts and a small, localized zombie invasion.

And it’s not all the management’s fault. You would be losing money, too, if your core product had been totally undermined by the Internet and you were required to be a self-supporting business except for the part where each and every move required special Congressional approval.

Jim Horn: Who’s Lying to Whom? Duncan, Bloomberg, and the Rotted Common Core

Yesterday Mike Bloomberg called the new test score basement that all NY schools have rushed into “very good news,” and he blamed the media for noticing that it was happening.  With State and City schools-at least the ones with poor kids-once more crushed under the boot (Rochester had 5% of kids passing reading and math) of new tests and new cut scores, the Prince followed up with this: “We have to make sure that we give our kids constantly the opportunity to move towards the major leagues.”

Really?  Is that what you are making sure of, Mike? Or are you not really making sure that poor kids and poor schools that have been sawed and savaged for a dozen years at least stay right where they are?  That is at the bottom, where the racist and classist standardized tests place them, except that from here forward these poor kids, re-demoralized by yet another round of failure assurance, will be taken housed in the segregated corporate reform schools that the charter traders and hedge fund managers on Wall Street are so heady about.  Isn’t that what you know is really going on, Mayor?

Arne Duncan tried yesterday to swoop in to help rescue Bloomberg from those reporters reporting the news and finally asking questions, but all the  the lead lummox could manage was to parrot his own voice recording that, in the present context of the new Common Core testing-delivery system, sounded even more hollow from an even hollower man: “Too many school systems lied to children, families and communities. . . .Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable as educators.”