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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Phyllis Bennis and Jesse Jackson: From War to Peace: Forceful Diplomacy, Not Military Force in Syria

Today we have the possibility to turn the threat of war around. There is renewed hope that the global community can make that turn now, today.

The President’s remarks reflect the extraordinary events unfolding in the last two days that demonstrate that forceful diplomacy – not military force – should guide international efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria. Russia proposed a diplomatic solution to address Syria’s chemical weapons, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded, “We fully support Russia’s initiative concerning chemical weapons in Syria, and we are ready to cooperate. As a part of the plan, we intend to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.” This could mean an important strengthening of that vital treaty. [..]

The Russian proposal and these new diplomatic initiatives turn night into mid-day, and we should leave no stone unturned to seize the light.

Robert Reich: Happy Anniversary Lehman Brothers, and What We Haven’t Learned About Wall Street Over the Past Five Years

While attention is focused on Syria, the gambling addiction of Wall Street’s biggest banks is more dangerous than ever.

Five years ago this September, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and the Street hurtled toward the worst financial crisis in eighty years. Yet the biggest Wall Street banks are far larger now than they were then. And the Dodd-Frank rules designed to stop them from betting with the insured deposits of ordinary savers are still on the drawing boards — courtesy of the banks’ lobbying prowess. The so-called Volcker Rule has yet to see the light of day.

To be sure, the banks’ balance sheets are better than they were five years ago. The banks have raised lots of capital and written off many bad loans. (Their risk-weighted capital ratio is now about 60 percent higher than before the crisis.)

But they’re back to too many of their old habits.

New York Times Editorial Board: More Mistakes at the N.S.A.

A fresh trove of previously classified documents released on Tuesday provides further evidence – as if any more were needed – that the National Security Agency has frequently been unable to comprehend, let alone manage, its vast and continuing collection of Americans’ telephone and Internet records. The documents, made available by the agency in response to lawsuits by two advocacy groups, revealed that in 2009 a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court severely reprimanded the agency for violating its own procedures for gathering and analyzing phone records, and then misrepresented those violations to the court. [..]

Senator Leahy is right, particularly given that the intelligence court has no adversarial process and is at the mercy of the government’s competence at ferreting out its own incompetence. As Judge Walton told The Washington Post in August, the court “is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided” to it. President Obama has said he welcomes an open debate on the balance between protecting national security and preserving civil liberties, but how can that debate ever be truly open when the government insists on policing itself and hiding the results?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Recovery for the Rich, Recession for the Rest

Five years after the financial crisis, it’s become increasingly apparent that the government didn’t rescue “the economy.” It rescued the wealthy, while doing far too little for everyone else.

That didn’t happen by accident. Our government’s response was largely designed by — and for — the wealthiest among us, and it shows. Here’s one highlight from a new analysis: The highest-earning Americans saw their income rise by nearly one-third in a single year, while the needle barely moved for 99 percent of us.

This post-crisis inequality is amplifying an ongoing wealth grab which was already decimating middle-class and lower-income Americans.

Leslie Harris: Ignoring Democracy in the Name of Security

Last week’s revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) is building vulnerabilities and backdoors into the Internet’s core infrastructure is beyond alarming. Ultimately, the NSA has made our country’s critical infrastructure less secure in the name of security, while showing blatant disregard for the democratic process. While the fact that the NSA decrypts encrypted data should not itself be cause for outrage by the American public – cracking codes is the core job of the NSA – its approach is what’s outrageous. [..]

Perhaps we need to have the public debate again about the balance between a secure network and surveillance capacities in light of 9-11 and the new Internet landscape, however the NSA’s actions show they have very little respect for an open, transparent democratic discussion. Congress and President Obama have much work to do to restore the trust of its citizens and the world.

William Pfaff: While Russia Offers Peace, U.S. Grasps at Credibility

President Obama’s speech on Syria on Tuesday evening was a curious affair, a call to go to war that ended by saying: yes, but not now. He might as well have said, “But as for the future, if ignored, I shall do such things as to make the world tremble!” A perfect example of how to say yes and no in the same speech.

Barack Obama should be thanking Vladimir Putin for getting him out of a dilemma that would have ruined his presidency. His attack on Syria, as it was (and is) programmed, and if Congress had voted (or does yet vote) in favor of it, would have been or will be no “shot across the bow.” The plan is to “degrade” Syria’s entire military and supporting infrastructure, so as to tip the civil war’s balance-as Baghdad was “degraded” in 2003. It would make the civil war far worse, with thousands more dead, by triggering a rebel offensive, covertly supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to take Damascus (or its ruins).