“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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New York Times Editorial Board: A Powerful Rebuke of Mass Surveillance
For the first time since the revelation of the National Security Agency’s vast dragnet of all Americans’ telephone records, a federal court has ruled that such surveillance is “significantly likely” to be unconstitutional.
In a scathing 68-page opinion (pdf) peppered with exclamations of incredulity, United States District Judge Richard Leon, of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, found that the seven-year-old phone-data collection program – which was established under the Patriot Act and has been repeatedly reauthorized by a secret intelligence court – “almost certainly” violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. [..]
The ruling by Judge Leon, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, was remarkable for many reasons, but mainly because there were real people sitting in open court challenging the government’s lawyers over the program’s constitutionality.
Member states alone cannot combat mass population surveillance, it’s up to the EU – but it has been found wanting
A colleague was in Maidan in Kiev last week and saw for himself Ukrainians, young and old, wrapped in the flag of the European Union in the freezing cold. As a Belarusian, he told me just how powerful the lure of the values we take for granted is. Ukrainians know that joining the EU means signing up to strong protections for human rights, including the right to free expression. Yet, as the Index on Censorship report released today demonstrates, within the EU the right to free speech is under sustained siege.
Europe has seen no co-ordinated action to stop the mass state surveillance of the US and Britain. Journalists face prison for libel. Media monopolies go unopposed. This continent’s history forged the desire to build a new set of European values which actively protected human rights and a club to do so: the European Union. It’s time for the EU to step up, otherwise this siege is likely to become a crisis.
To read some of the headlines over the past few weeks, it is clear that the chattering class in Washington is once again trying to scare the American public about the future of Social Security. These fear-mongers would have you believe that Social Security is driving our nation further into debt, and forcing us to choose between our seniors and their grandchildren. But these arguments are nothing more than worn out attacks on our nation’s most successful social program based on false information and half-truths.
The reality is that nationwide we face an acute retirement crisis, and it is only getting worse. The retirement income deficit — that is, the difference between what people have actually saved for retirement and what they need to have saved at this point to have a secure retirement — is a staggering $6.6 trillion.
Hardworking Americans of all ages — from young people starting a family to older workers thinking about retirement — are deeply worried that they will not have enough money to live on when they stop working. They find it difficult to save, and most lack an employer-provided pension. They look to Social Security as their only reliable lifeline.
E. J. Dione, Jr.: Family Values Hypocrisy
Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.
How often can we hear that government should be more responsive to the problems Americans face now? But the vogue for simply assuming that government cannot-or should not-do much of anything about those problems leads to paralysis. This, in turn, further increases disaffection from government.
For all these reasons, it was exciting last week to see Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduce the FAMILY Act, the acronym standing for their Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The bill would provide partial income for up to 12 weeks of leave for new parents and for other family demands, including care for a sick family member or domestic partner.
Two days before Aetna told Wall Street it would not allow policyholders who received cancellation notices to renew their cancelled policies next year, as President Obama had requested, the company was accused in a lawsuit of sending out false and misleading statements to shareholders about what it was spending to influence public policy.
Mark Bertolini, CEO of the nation’s third largest health insurer, reportedly told shareholders and Wall Street financial analysts at a meeting in New York last Thursday that the company was too busy to provide the information state insurance departments would need before giving Aetna the approval to reinstate the cancelled policies. [..]
The reality is that it might have cost the company some money that otherwise would be available for profits — and shareholders would no doubt take a dim view of that.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) thinks shareholders might also take a dim view of receiving inaccurate information on an issue they would be asked to vote on at the company’s annual shareholders’ meetings. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in New York on behalf of an Aetna shareholder, CREW accuses the company of violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by sending out false and misleading proxy statements to shareholders.