09/13/2013 archive

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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Paul Krugman: Rich Man’s Recovery

A few days ago, The Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect.

The report illustrated in a nutshell why extreme inequality is destructive, why claims ring hollow that inequality of outcomes doesn’t matter as long as there is equality of opportunity. If the rich are so much richer than the rest that they live in a different social and material universe, that fact in itself makes nonsense of any notion of equal opportunity.

Peter Beinart; The Rise of the New New Left

Maybe Bill de Blasio got lucky. Maybe he only won because he cut a sweet ad featuring his biracial son. Or because his rivals were either spectacularly boring, spectacularly pathological, or running for Michael Bloomberg’s fourth term. But I don’t think so. The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.

To understand why that challenge may prove so destabilizing, start with this core truth: For the past two decades, American politics has been largely a contest between Reaganism and Clintonism. In 1981, Ronald Reagan shattered decades of New Deal consensus by seeking to radically scale back government’s role in the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton brought the Democrats back to power by accepting that they must live in the world Reagan had made. Located somewhere between Reagan’s anti-government conservatism and the pro-government liberalism that preceded it, Clinton articulated an ideological “third way”: Inclined toward market solutions, not government bureaucracy, focused on economic growth, not economic redistribution, and dedicated to equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was lower than it had been when Reagan left office.

New York Times Editorial: Who Will Be Left in Egypt?

Two years after thousands of Egyptian protesters risked their lives to bring down the dictator Hosni Mubarak, the military-controlled government in Cairo is expanding a repressive system that may ultimately be worse than the one Mr. Mubarak built and managed.

On Thursday, with much of the world distracted by Syria, the Egyptian generals and the civilian officials they have appointed extended a countrywide state of emergency for two months. And after overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, two months ago and trying to crush his Muslim Brotherhood allies, security forces have also begun to round up other dissenters, a chilling warning that no Egyptians should feel safe if they dare to challenge authority.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Old Extreme GOP vs. the New Extreme GOP: Whoever Wins, We Lose.

They’re back – and they’re more extreme than ever. GOP House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor are still pushing economic ideas disproved a century ago, peddling deep spending cuts that would inflict more misery on the already-beleaguered majority. But that’s not enough for the even more extreme right, for the politicians named Cruz and Paul and Lee, for the groups with names like “FreedomWorks” and “Club for Growth,” and for the moneyed interests who fund them all.

The new Republican right is a tangled nest of snakes. Legislators and observers reach into it at their own risk.

But however beyond the pale these new forces may seem, remember: The fact that their enemies are extreme doesn’t mean that Boehner and Cantor aren’t.

Jon Stoltz: Why Troops Are Against Syria Strikes

One of the common misnomers in the media, regarding Syria, is that it is dual pressure from the far right and far left, that has pushed Congress to seemingly reject any Use of Force resolution before it even came to a vote. When polling shows that 60 percent of people are opposed to the Congressional resolution, it’s tough to say that’s just made up of peaceniks and Tea Partiers.

But, add one more non-fringe group to that list — those who are and have served in America’s military. According to a survey of Active Duty troops from the Military Times, 80 percent of them oppose authorizing military action in Syria. That closely mirrors our own survey at VoteVets.org, where 75 percent of veterans and military family members also oppose action (overall, nearly 80 percent of our full list of supporters, both veteran and non-veteran, oppose action).

Peter Van Buren: What If Congress Says No on Syria?

At every significant moment in those years, our presidents opted for more, not less, violence, and our Congress agreed-or simply sat on its hands-as ever more moral isolation took the place of ever less diplomacy. Now, those same questions loom over Syria. Facing a likely defeat in Congress, Obama appears to be grasping-without any sense of irony-at the straw Russian President Vladimir Putin (backed by China and Iran) has held out in the wake of Secretary of State John Kerry’s off-the-cuff proposal that put the White House into a corner. After claiming days ago that the U.N. was not an option, the White House now seems to be throwing its problem to that body to resolve. Gone, literally in the course of an afternoon, were the administration demands for immediate action, the shots across the Syrian bow, and all that. Congress, especially on the Democratic side of the aisle, seems to be breathing a collective sigh of relief that it may not be forced to take a stand. The Senate has put off voting; perhaps a vote in the House will be delayed indefinitely, or maybe this will all blow over somehow and Congress can return to its usual partisan differences over health care and debt ceilings.

And yet a non-vote by Congress would be as wrong as the yes vote that seems no longer in the cards. What happens, in fact, if Congress doesn’t say no?

More Poison Please

Monsanto Wins Case Of Seed Patents; Planting Your Own Legally Purchased & Grown Seeds Can Be Infringing

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Mon, May 13th 2013 12:49pm

(T)he key things here. Bowman did not break any license agreement over seeds that he bought. He also legally purchased other seeds that had been legally provided to grain elevators to be sold. All he did was plant those legally purchased seeds, for which he was not violating any license agreement, and then harvest and replant the seeds that came from them. And this, apparently, is illegal under our patent system.

Given the fire power that came out in support of Monsanto — including the federal government — it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the Supreme Court just gave a complete and total victory to Monsanto. The key issue was whether or not this was a case of “patent exhaustion.” There was a key case a few years ago that mostly said that once a patent holder sells a product, the patent is “exhausted” so that the patent holder can’t demand licensing fees up and down the supply chain. However, they distinguish this case by saying that this is different because it’s a “copy” of the legally purchased seed. I could see how that would make sense if we were talking about someone building a copy of a machine in a garage or something, but this is a seed. Copying itself is what seeds do. That’s kind of their entire purpose.

Yet, throughout the decision, the court (with a decision written by Justice Kagan) acts as if Bowman just built a replica. But that ignores the fact that this is nature we’re talking about seeds that replicate themselves naturally, because that’s what seeds do. The court has no problem with this, but it seems somewhat ridiculous that someone can legally buy something, have it do what it naturally does (and has done for nearly all of history) and then be told that violates a patent. When addressing Bowman’s point concerning the fact that seeds by nature, replicate themselves, they basically brush that aside by noting that Bowman then harvested them. As if he’s supposed to ignore what’s happening?

Another thing to note is that the bio-engineering in question is the so-called “Roundup Ready” gene that renders plants immune to one of Monsanto’s main products, the herbicide “Roundup”.  You can decide for yourself how much you like poison saturated produce.

People have been lied to so many times…

Rania Masri and Chris Hedges On Obama’s Syria Address


Chris Hedges and Rania Masri On What the Future May Hold For Syria


Exclusive: Interview with Congressman Grayson on Syria


On This Day In History September 13

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 13 is the 256th day of the year (257th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 109 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1814, Francis Scot Key pens Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from “Defence of Fort McHenry”, a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. “The Anacreontic Song” (or “To Anacreon in Heaven”), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key’s poem and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner“, it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the song has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today, with the fourth (“O thus be it ever when free men shall stand…”) added on more formal occasions. In the fourth stanza, Key urged the adoption of “In God is our Trust” as the national motto (“And this be our motto: In God is our Trust”). The United States adopted the motto “In God We Trust” by law in 1956.

The Star-Spangled Banner” was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889 and the President in 1916, and was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. ยง 301), which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom. “Hail, Columbia” served this purpose at official functions for most of the 19th century. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee“, whose melody was derived from the British national anthem, also served as a de facto anthem before the adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Following the War of 1812 and subsequent American wars, other songs would emerge to compete for popularity at public events, among them “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Game, Set, Match

Just how really stupid do these two think we are?

Obama’s Syria address: do we look that dumb?

by Michael Cohen, The Guardian

The president marred his chance to lay out a principled position to the American people with patronising dog-whistling

Upholding and enforcing the longstanding global norm against chemical weapons – while deterring Bashar al-Assad from using them again against his own people – offers a compelling rationale for even a punitive use of force by the United States against Syria. Tuesday night, Barack Obama made a semblance of that argument; but he lathered it in so much threat-exaggeration and maudlin imagery that it was virtually impossible to take his case for war seriously.

If anything, the fact that Obama was forced to rely on contradictory and deceptive arguments to sell the American people on the idea of military intervention in Syria did more to undermine the case for intervention than reinforce it. [..]

Finally, what is the justification for condemning one violation of international law (the use of chemical weapons) with the violation of another (fighting a war in Syria without a UN security council mandate)? Does this set a troubling precedent for conflicts down the road?

To be sure, there are reasonable answers to these questions, but in failing even to try to answer them, and instead, raising red-herring issues and making dubious claims – such as, attacking Syria will “make our own children safer over the long run” – Obama offered the American people a confusing and ultimately misleading rationale for military action.

What Vladimir Putin didn’t tell the American people about Syria

by Anna Neistat, The Guardian

Russia’s leader poses as a champion of the rule of law in a New York Times op-ed, but his record as Assad’s backer is shameful

It’s not what Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed says that’s so worrisome; it’s what it doesn’t say. As a Russian and as someone who has been to Syria multiple times since the beginning of the conflict to investigate war crimes and other violations, I would like to mention a few things Putin overlooked …

There is not a single mention in Putin’s article, addressed to the American people, of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government and extensively documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry, local and international human rights groups, and numerous journalists: deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. His op-ed also makes no mention of Russia’s ongoing transfer of arms to Assad throughout the past two and a half years. [..]

Finally, the sincerity of Putin’s talk about democratic values and international law is hard to take seriously when back home his own government continues to throw activists in jail, threatens to close NGOs, and rubber-stamps draconian and discriminatory laws.

President Putin should give more credit to his audience: Russia will be judged by its actions, both on the international arena and domestically. So far, Russia has been a key obstacle to ending the suffering in Syria. A change towards a more constructive role would be welcome. But a compilation of half-truths and accusations is not the right way to signal such a change.

Neither of these two men are honest brokers to end the Syrian conflict, nor are they exceptional.