Jan 21 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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Dean Baker: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Warnings From NAFTA

With the New Year the corporate lobbyists and the Obama administration are stepping up their drive for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the new trade deal being negotiated in secret by the United States and eleven countries in the Pacific region. The key at the moment is Congressional approval of fast-track authority. This would give any agreement a straight up or down vote on an accelerated timetable. [..]

It is likely that many of the provisions in the final agreement would be highly unpopular if they were put up for a vote, but the whole point of getting the deal as a fast-tracked take it or leave it deal is to prevent individual provisions from ever being considered. And there will be enormous pressure to take it.

That is what we saw with the full court press used to pass NAFTA. And twenty years later the media and the economics profession are still covering up on the impact of NAFTA in order to avoid embarrassment to the deal’s supporters. For example, The Washington Post recently wrote about Mexico’s growing middle class which it attributed in part to NAFTA. This is in spite of the fact that Mexico had the second slowest growth on any country in Latin America since the passage of NAFTA.

Juan Cole: Gov’t Used Surveillance of MLK in Bid to Destroy Him: Now They Want Us to Just Trust Them

Among the ironies of Barack Obama trying to sell us the gargantuan NSA domestic spying program is that such techniques of telephone surveillance were used against the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in an attempt to destroy him and stop the Civil Rights movement. Had the republic’s most notorious peeping tom, J. Edgar Hoover, succeeded in that quest, Obama might never have been president, or even served in Virginia restaurants. [..]

That Barack Obama thinks we’re so naive or uninformed about American history that we will buy his assurances that the NSA information on us would never be used is a sad commentary. Indeed, we cannot know for sure that Obama himself and other high American officials are not being blackmailed into taking the positions they do on domestic surveillance. If the American people do accept such empty words, then I suppose they deserve to have Hoover’s pervy successors in their bedrooms.

Eugene Robinson: West Virginia Toxic Disaster Requires More Than Silence

The drinking water in nine West Virginia counties has finally been declared safe, or mostly safe. But many people say they can still smell the licorice-like odor of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol-in the sink, in the shower, in the air, especially in neighborhoods close to the Elk River. [..]

More than a week since the chemical spill in Charleston, the state capital, contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people, there has been little solid information about the danger to human health-and little outrage from officials in Washington, who seem to expect West Virginians to take the whole thing in stride. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if this had happened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or in one of the wealthier ZIP codes of Southern California.

Robert Kuttner: Chris Christie: The End Game

Let me go out on a limb here. Chris Christie will not run for president, and he is very likely not to serve out his term as governor of New Jersey.

The reason is very simple. Given everything we know about Christie’s style of governing, it is inconceivable that he did not know what his underlings were up to. [..]

Of course, it’s still possible that Christie will survive, and that everyone will stick to the story that the governor knew nothing and was not even curious after the fact. It’s possible that Christie will go on to win the Republican nomination for president.

It’s also possible that the missing traffic study will turn up and that global climate change is God’s revenge against homosexuals.

If Christie survives this — if he is not impeached, or forced to resign, or otherwise disgraced — then American democracy is even more damaged than it appears.

Ari Berman: Pennsylvania Ruling Shows the Problem With Voter ID Laws

Judge Bernard McGinley of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled against the state’s strict voter ID law today following a lengthy trial last summer. The law had been temporarily blocked since last October pending a full trial. The ruling is a big win for voting rights and a clear setback for voter ID supporters. [..]

What effect will the Pennsylvania ruling have in other trials against voter ID laws? Not much, argues law professor Rick Hasen. Pennsylvania’s law was blocked in state court, while challenges to voter ID laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas were filed under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the plaintiffs to show persuasive evidence of racial discrimination. Update: The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is also challenging [North Carolina’s voter ID law in state court.]

But the substance here matters a lot. The new Voting Rights Act amendments introduced in Congress yesterday treat voter ID laws differently than other forms of voting restrictions, implying that voter ID laws aren’t as bad. Today’s Pennsylvania ruling suggests just the opposite. “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election,” wrote McGinley. “The Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”

George Zornick: Cuomo v. Schneiderman: Will the JPMorgan Settlement Actually Help New York’s Homeowners?

When the federal government reached a large settlement with JPMorgan Chase over the securitization of shaky mortgages, advocates for distressed homeowners were pleased that billions of dollars were earmarked for states to resolve claims related to the financial crisis. That money seemed destined to help people who had been adversely affected by the bank’s misconduct.

But in New York, a power play by Governor Andrew Cuomo is endangering some of that relief. The New York Times reported this week that Cuomo wants the money sent to New York from the settlement-$613.8 million-to be diverted to the state’s general fund. Cuomo will announce his budget on Tuesday, and needs revenue to pay for a number of initiatives, from his universal pre-kindergarten program to future tax cuts for businesses.

This has set off a furious battle between Cuomo and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that has already apparently gotten personal-and how it is resolved will have huge significance for distressed homeowners in the state. It could also have some non-trivial implications for any potential presidential run by Cuomo.