“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.
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Marcy Wheeler: After General Alexander, Obama should split the NSA to make us all safer
The NSA’s aggressive pursuit of Big Data has not only invaded our privacy, but also left us more vulnerable to cyber attack
The NSA is one of its own biggest adversaries in its fight to keep America safe from cyber attacks. To fight this considerable adversary, the president should use the replacement of NSA Director Keith Alexander and his deputy, John Inglis, as an opportunity to split off NSA’s defensive function and rebuild necessary trust.
Commentators have long recognized the NSA had two conflicting missions: one to defend key American networks, and one to collect intelligence on our adversaries. [..]
So long as the NSA prioritizes exploiting data that should be shared for the defense of the country, the agency will be one of America’s most formidable adversaries in the effort to keep the US safe from cyber attacks.
Moira Herbst: Obamacare website woes: another sign of out-of-control private contractors
The Obama team outsourced Healthcare.gov to big corporations that rang up large bills without delivering what they promised
Government outsourcing to private contractors has exploded in the past few decades. Taxpayers funnel hundreds of billions of dollars a year into the chosen companies’ pockets, about $80bn of which goes to tech companies. We’ve reached a stage of knee-jerk outsourcing of everything from intelligence and military work to burger flipping in federal building cafeterias, and it’s damaging in multiple levels. [..]
Fortunately, then, there are alternatives to outsourcing public functions to big corporations padding their profits at taxpayers’ collective expense, and it is time we used them.
: Time for the truth about ‘targeted’ killings and US drones’ civilian victims
The Obama administration is like a reckless hit-and-run driver. Congress must not let John Brennan’s CIA get away with murder
It is time to demand that the US government, and President Obama in particular, tell the whole truth about the US drone program: not just the claimed successes, but the human costs of its failures. Especially over the last two years, journalists and human rights groups have gathered credible documentation of civilian deaths from drone strikes, suggesting that Mamana Bibi’s death is not an isolated incident. Amnesty International released a report Tuesday raising serious concerns about several recent drone strikes that appear to have killed civilians outside the bounds of the law.
The US government has never committed to investigating these cases. It has never even acknowledged responsibility for most of these strikes.
Laura Finley: In Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples
Last I heard, contracts negotiated between two consenting and capable parties are supposed to be binding, with repercussions if one party violates what has been agreed upon and codified into a legal document. That is, of course, unless it is the state entering into such agreements with indigenous peoples. Then these legal documents are little more than lip-service, or so it seems, based on the actions of the U.S., Canadian, and other governments who have and continued to trample the rights of indigenous peoples with impunity. Instead of being held accountable to the legally binding agreements they have signed, these governments continue to deprive indigenous peoples of their land, their livelihoods, and their cultures. Worse yet, they have the gall to point the finger at indigenous peoples and their allies who resist this continued destruction of their land and resources, calling them the criminals. [..]
Indigenous people and their supporters have not and will not be silent about these issues. Groups like Idle No More have organized, taken to the streets, and used traditional indigenous dance and culture as well as teach-ins and other nonviolent direct action to organize communities to speak out about the repressive policies. I was fortunate to hear from representatives from Idle No More recently and to participate in one of their rallies. To call it a humbling experience is an understatement.
Margaret Kimberly: Food Stamp Corporate Welfare
“Discussions about government spending are inherently bogus because the elephant in the room, big business, is absent.”
The federal and state governments operate under a system which is of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. Ordinary governmental functions which could easily be carried out with public money are instead privatized, depriving the public sector of revenue and jobs and making the neediest citizens unnecessarily dependent on the private sector. Governmental largesse on behalf of big business is focused primarily on poor people, the group most at the mercy of the system. Corporations collect child support payments and then imprison the poor people who can’t pay. While imprisoned, another corporation provides what passes for medical care. The crime is a perfect one.
When the Republicans demanded cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, the debate revolved around human need versus the call for fiscal austerity. Scarcely anyone mentioned that JPMorgan Chase, Xerox and eFunds Corporation make millions of dollars off of this system meant to help the poor.
Jill Richardson: Meat So Cheap You Could Die
Even under normal conditions, as the latest tainted chicken scare illustrates, we’re giving food safety short shrift.
Thanks to the shutdown, the government is doing less to protect Americans from foodborne pathogens and deal with the aftermath of outbreaks.
The timing couldn’t be worse.
Ten days after the shutdown began, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico had confirmed cases of salmonella from Foster Farms chicken. Although 42 percent of them had to be hospitalized, thankfully none had died by that point.
The CDC had to bring 30 furloughed employees in its foodborne division back to work to cope with the Foster Farms situation. The Food and Drug Administration has furloughed the majority of its 1,602 investigators.
But even under normal conditions, as the latest tainted chicken scare illustrates, food safety gets short shrift.