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Sep 11 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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Heidi Moore: Syria: the great distraction

Obama is focused on a conflict abroad, but the fight he should be gearing up for is with Congress on America’s economic security

The president is scheduled to speak six times this week, mostly about Syria. That includes evening news interviews, an address to the nation, and numerous other speeches. Behind the scenes, he is calling members of Congress to get them to fall into line. Secretary of State John Kerry is omnipresent, so ubiquitous on TV that it may be easier just to get him his own talk show called Syria Today.

It would be a treat to see White House aides lobbying as aggressively – and on as many talk shows – for a better food stamp bill, an end to the debt-ceiling drama, or a solution to the senseless sequestration cuts, as it is on what is clearly a useless boondoggle in Syria.

Helena Cobban: The Russia-Syria Deal: What It Means and What Now?

Watching Syrian FM Walid Muallem on the TV news announcing his country’s acceptance of Russia’s plan to consign all Syria’s CW stockpile to international control and then destruction was an amazingly powerful sight. With this one stroke, all the air went out of the campaign Pres. Obama has been ramping up, to win public and Congressional support for a U.S. “punitive” military attack against Syria. (Shortly after Mouallem’s announcement, the Democratic leader of the senate, Harry Reid, withdrew the war resolution from consideration there…) [..]

The Moscow-Syria deal gives Syria’s people the best chance they’ve had for 28 months to find a negotiated resolution to their  differences. Finding that resolution won’t be easy- though there is a good chance that a high degree of war weariness has already set in. Those of us who are outside Syria who detest war and foreign domination should be cheering Syria’s people on in their effort to negotiate with each other, and giving them all the humanitarian help their tattered country needs. The very last things they need now is more war. Big thanks to everyone who has helped the world step back from that terrible brink.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: From ‘Inequality for All,’ a challenge for America

“Inequality for All,” directed by Jacob Kornbluth and set to be released nationwide on Sept. 27, comes at a critical moment for America. Sept. 15 marks the five-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers – fueled by a toxic combination of deregulation, subprime lending and credit-default swaps – that precipitated the 2008 global economic crisis and laid bare the rot at the heart of our economic system. It was largely this orgy of greed that led the first Occupy Wall Street protesters to Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, two years ago next week.

In the half-decade since Wall Street’s self-induced crash, the country has hovered between outrage (that the perpetrators walked off scot-free and bonus-laden) and apathy (that anything will ever break the iron bond between Congress and the financial industry). [..]

Democracy is not a spectator sport, this film reminds us. And in this case, neither is movie-going.

Allison Kilkenny: The Hidden Rot: We Don’t Fully Understand the Consequences of Budget Cuts

Back in June, when the effects of the sequestration were first starting to settle in, certain media outlets like The Washington Post printed that the Obama administration had exaggerated their budget cut predictions.

“[Sequestration] has not produced what the Obama administration predicted: widespread breakdowns in crucial government services,” David Fahrenthold and Lisa Rein wrote in The Washington Post.

The general consensus appeared to be that since planes were still taking off from the major airports and poor people weren’t starving to death in the streets, the budgets cuts simply weren’t that bad.

But as the months continue to roll by, we’re now beginning to see that the consequences of austerity are very real, and only getting worse.

Nationwide, states are making severe cuts to their social safety net programs.

Frances Beinecke: New NOAA Report Confirms Climate Change Is Intensifying Extreme Heat and Storms

When an extreme heat wave blasted the country last summer, I grew concerned about my father’s health.  Medical experts say hot weather takes the heaviest toll on senior citizens, and I knew my father would have a hard time managing the spike in temperature. He wasn’t alone. Young children and people with heart and lung illnesses are also vulnerable during heat waves. Diabetics, the obese, and people using common medications also face a greater risk when the heat rises. In other words, tens of millions of Americans are vulnerable to extreme heat.

That’s troubling news in the age of climate change.

According to a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, extreme heat waves like we saw in 2012 now happen four times as often because of global warming pollution.

Wenonah Hauter: For the USDA, Chicken is Just Politics

When you purchase chicken at the grocery store, you might have the perfectly reasonable expectation that the poultry you are buying was raised on an American farm, and that it was inspected by a government official. Well, lower your expectations: if the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gets its way, poultry inspections will be left to the very same people that process the poultry-corporations-in a privatized poultry inspection scheme that is bad for workers and food safety. Furthermore, the agency appears to be paving the way for processed poultry imports from none other than China, the birthplace of several egregious food safety scandals. [..]

It has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. (which has been closed since 2003 due to the diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.) Once again, trade trumps food safety.

But some things are more important that profits. The safety of the food we feed our families is one of them. These two actions by the USDA serve industry interests-not the public interest. President Obama should assure that the USDA reverses course and serves consumers, not corporations. Take action today to send this message to the President and the USDA, and ask them not to privatize chicken inspections.