Dec 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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John Scott and Robert Zaretsky: Why Machiavelli Still Matters

FIVE hundred years ago, on Dec. 10, 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli sent a letter to his friend Francesco Vettori, describing his day spent haggling with local farmers and setting bird traps for his evening meal. A typical day for the atypical letter writer, who had changed from his mud-splattered clothes to the robes he once wore as a high official in the Florentine republic.

Toward the end of the letter Machiavelli mentions for the first time a “little work” he was writing on politics. This little work was, of course, “The Prince.” [..]

Machiavelli has long been called a teacher of evil. But the author of “The Prince” never urged evil for evil’s sake. The proper aim of a leader is to maintain his state (and, not incidentally, his job). Politics is an arena where following virtue often leads to the ruin of a state, whereas pursuing what appears to be vice results in security and well-being. In short, there are never easy choices, and prudence consists of knowing how to recognize the qualities of the hard decisions you face and choosing the less bad as what is the most good.

New York Times Editorial Board: A Breakthrough Agreement at Risk

President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran both spent time last weekend trying to sell the Iran nuclear deal to skeptics among their constituents. In Mr. Obama’s case, that meant addressing pro-Israel supporters at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a Washington think tank. Mr. Rouhani’s speech to a university audience in Tehran was televised nationally. While either side could undermine the November interim agreement, and with it the best chance in 30 years for a genuine thaw in Iranian-American relations, the more serious threat seems to be on the American side. [..]

The outcome of these efforts is unclear. What is clear is that they are not only unproductive but unnecessary because Congress could, at any point in the future, order tougher sanctions if any deal falls apart. Equally clear is that they will almost certainly enrage the Iranians. The interim deal stated that no further sanctions should be imposed while it was in force. New penalties would betray that agreement, feed Iranians’ deep mistrust of Americans, deny Mr. Obama negotiating flexibility and, most likely, crush any hope that a diplomatic solution is possible.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson: GOP Turns Predictable Deaf Ear to Plea to Close Income Inequality Gap

President Obama gave it the good old college try when he virtually implored Congress to take a hard, long look at the surging income inequality gap in America. This was a step to put a partial brake on the widening gap by increasing the minimum wage, and limit slashes on spending programs that aid the poor and lower income workers. But Obama’s plea fell on the GOP’s deaf ears. House Speaker John Boehner lashed out that whatever poverty and income inequality there is can be blamed on Obama’s programs. This was not just the standard bash Obama dig from Boehner. He spoke for the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

In a Pew Research Center survey in March a substantial majority of Republicans flatly said that the economic system is fair to most people. And by a whopping margin, they denied that the income inequality gap was a “big problem.” In contrast a big majority of Democrats said just the opposite. Boehner’s blast at Obama and Republican’s deaf ear on income inequality was a pro forma rehash of the attacks on Obama for the problem.

Robert Creamer: Progressives Must Stand Up Against the Right Wing War on Public Employees

It’s time for Progressives — and Americans of all stripes — to wake up and smell the coffee. Without a robust, efficient, well functioning public sector, our economy will fall behind in the world and our standard of living will drop.

Government is the name we give to the things we choose to do together.

We have to attract the best and the brightest to staff our government. That requires that the teaches, firefighters, police officers, maintenance people, researchers, clerks, constituent service workers, programmers, air traffic controllers, managers, construction workers, corrections officers, policy analysts, and everyone else who works for our governments must be respected, well compensated, and have the right to collectively bargain over the wages and working conditions.

It’s time for us all to stand up against the Right Wing war on public sector employees.

Wendell Potter: Big Corporations Abandoning Conservative Group That Pushes Changes in State Laws

It’s amazing how a little sunlight will change the behavior of some of the biggest names in corporate America — sunlight here meaning greater transparency and accountability.

Over the past several decades, one of the country’s most influential political organizations — the 40-year-old American Legislative Exchange Council — was able to operate largely under the radar. Never heard of it? That’s by design. Founded in 1973 by conservative political operatives, ALEC has been successful in shaping public policy to benefit its corporate patrons in part because few people — including reporters — knew anything about the organization, much less how it went about getting virtually identical laws passed in a multitude of states.

That began to change two years ago when an insider leaked thousands of pages of documents — including more than 800 “model” bills and resolutions, showing just how close ALEC is with big corporate interests and revealing how it goes about getting laws passed to enhance the profits of its sponsors, usually at the expense of consumers.

Leo W. Gerard: ALEC Demands Lawmakers Pledge Allegiance – to ALEC

Witch hunter Joseph McCarthy would be proud of ALEC. So proud! Like McCarthy, the shadowy corporate lobby group wants oaths of allegiance.

McCarthy demanded loyalty pledges to the United States. ALEC, by contrast, wants its lawmaker members to vow first allegiance to ALEC.

ALEC (All Legislation Enhancing Corporations) asked the legislators it appoints as state directors to raise their right wings and swear: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”

ALEC first. Before the lawmaker’s constituents. Before the interests of the lawmaker’s state. Before the constitution of the United States. ALEC asked its lawmakers to forsake their oaths of office and swear fidelity instead to the organization that wines, dines, indulges and indoctrinates them with buckets full of corporate cash. The ALEC loyalty oath clarifies the allegiance of the 1,810 state legislators that ALEC claims as members. They see their primary duty as serving corporations, specifically the corporations that give millions to ALEC.

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