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Jan 02 2014

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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Michael Moore: The Obamacare We Deserve

Today marks the beginning of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges, for which two million Americans have signed up. Now that the individual mandate is officially here, let me begin with an admission: Obamacare is awful.

That is the dirty little secret many liberals have avoided saying out loud for fear of aiding the president’s enemies, at a time when the ideal of universal health care needed all the support it could get. Unfortunately, this meant that instead of blaming companies like Novartis, which charges leukemia patients $90,000 annually for the drug Gleevec, or health insurance chief executives like Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group, who made nearly $102 million in 2009, for the sky-high price of American health care, the president’s Democratic supporters bought into the myth that it was all those people going to get free colonoscopies and chemotherapy for the fun of it.

Trevor Timm: President Obama Claims the NSA Has Never Abused Its Authority. That’s False

The facts that we know so far – from Fisa court documents to LOVEINT – show that the NSA has overstepped its powers

Time and again since the world learned the extent of what the NSA was doing, government officials have defended the controversial mass surveillance programs by falling back on one talking point: the NSA programs may be all-powerful, but they have never been abused.

President Obama continually evokes the phase when defending the NSA in public. In his end-of-year press conference, he reiterated, “There continues not to be evidence that the [metadata surveillance] program had been abused”. Former NSA chief Michael Hayden says this almost weekly, and former CIA deputy director and NSA review panel member Mike Morrell said it again just before Christmas. This mantra is likely to be repeated often in 2014 as Obama is set to address the nation on government surveillance, and Congress and the president debate whether any reforms are necessary.

There’s only one problem: it’s not true.

Jeff Faux: NAFTA, Twenty Years After: A Disaster

New Year’s Day, 2014, marks the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Agreement created a common market for goods, services and investment capital with Canada and Mexico. And it opened the door through which American workers were shoved, unprepared, into a brutal global competition for jobs that has cut their living standards and is destroying their future. [..]

By any measure, NAFTA and its sequels has been a major contributor to the rising inequality of incomes and wealth that Barack Obama bemoans in his speeches. Yet today — channeling Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton — the president proposes two more such trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership with eleven Pacific Rim countries and a free trade agreement with Europe.

Richard Klass: The Road to Wars

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced legislation that sets the United States on the road to war with Iran and the road to an internal war within the Democratic Party.

If the first-step deal collapses, there will be no problem in quickly instituting new sanctions. And there will certainly be calls for military action, no matter how short-term the results would be. But if the collapse is triggered by a U.S. unilateral action, the coalition now enforcing those sanctions could well collapse. This undermining of the president’s negotiating authority and international cooperation is as unprecedented as it is dangerous.

The second danger in this bill is that it encourages an Israeli attack on Iran.

Robert Sheer: NSA, Benghazi and the Monsters of Our Own Creation

If we are so smart why are we so dumb? I am referring to the “intelligence” that our spy agencies have gathered at great cost in both massive secret black box budgets and, much more important, the surrender of our personal freedom to the snooping eyes of our modern surveillance state. [..]

Take the revelations in The New York Times’ exhaustive six-part investigation published Saturday demonstrating that the devastating 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, was an intelligence disaster. The Times “turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault” that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Instead, a local militia leader on the side of the U.S.-supported insurrection in Libya with no known affiliation with al-Qaida is a prime suspect, and he and others allegedly responsible were not on the radar screen of the 20-person CIA station in Benghazi because they were part of the insurgency the U.S. supported. [..]

The excuse is that this sacrifice of our freedom will make us more secure, as in the misnamed “National Security Agency,” by knowing more about our “enemies.” But the record is unmistakably the opposite, that this relinquishing of privacy and transparency has stifled genuine public debate about the goals of our policy and left us both stupid and weak.