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Jan 31 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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Paul Krugman: Talking Troubled Turkey

O.K., who ordered that? With everything else going on, the last thing we needed was a new economic crisis in a country already racked by political turmoil. True, the direct global spillovers from Turkey, with its Los Angeles-sized economy, won’t be large. But we’re hearing that dreaded word “contagion” – the kind of contagion that once caused a crisis in Thailand to spread across Asia, more recently caused a crisis in Greece to spread across Europe, and now, everyone worries, might cause Turkey’s troubles to spread across the world’s emerging markets.

It is, in many ways, a familiar story. But that’s part of what makes it so disturbing: Why do we keep having these crises? And here’s the thing: The intervals between crises seem to be getting shorter, and the fallout from each crisis seems to be worse than the last. What’s going on? [..]

So Turkey seems to be in serious trouble – and China, a vastly bigger player, is looking a bit shaky, too. But what makes these troubles scary is the underlying weakness of Western economies, a weakness made much worse by really, really bad policies.

The New York Times Editorial: Football, Pain and Marijuana

The National Football League prohibits the use of marijuana as part of its broader, longstanding program to prevent substance abuse. It also imposes stiff penalties on players caught breaking the rules.

In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, in which it so happens both teams hail from states that recently legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, pressure is mounting on the league to reconsider its ban. A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol. [..]

Players, of course, have access to other painkillers, including prescription drugs. Yet as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has argued, “marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.” As public opinion and state laws move away from strict prohibition, it’s reasonable for the N.F.L. to do the same and let its players deal with their injuries as they – and their private doctors – see fit.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: On Wall Street, Sounds of Silence From the President

How did Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech resonate on Wall Street? Sometimes the old saying is literally true: Silence is golden.

Here are some of the words and phrases that did not appear in President Obama’s speech: “Wall Street,” “bank,” “regulation,” “fraud,” “settlement,” “investigation,” “too big to fail,” and “Glass-Steagall.” He didn’t mention the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill. He didn’t discuss the cynical attempts to roll back financial reform in Congress — attempts that are supported by members of both parties — much less insist that those attempts be defeated.

Although the president discussed the economic plight of the majority of Americans, he made no mention of the financial industry’s central role in the devastating 2008 financial crisis, which made that plight so much worse. He talked of wage stagnation, but did not explore the financial industry’s role in the increasingly unjust economic redistribution of recent decades. Inequality doesn’t just happen. It’s produced by many forces, most of which either originate on Wall Street or are heavily influenced by it.

Stephan Richter: NSA and Obama: Yes, We Can

Why is President Obama so permissive with regard to excesses of US intelligence apparatus?

Few of his supporters would have ever thought that Barack Obama’s famous 2008 presidential campaign slogan would end up turning into the collective mantra of the US intelligence community during his term in office. But here we are: “Yes, We Can” is the best way to describe the arrogant attitude of the more than 50,000 spooks employed by the US government, whenever they are faced with any questions pertaining to the legitimacy of their actions.

Their arrogance is as breathtaking, as are their mostly phony protestations of operating under a carefully calibrated web of checks and balances. And Mr Obama’s timidity in tackling both phenomena is astonishing for a man who is a constitutional lawyer by training.

At this stage, the memory of the Church Committee is not just faint, but depressing. In 1975, Idaho Senator Frank Church chaired a special committee – the forerunner of the Senate Intelligence Committee – and mounted a vigorous, no-holds-barred investigation of the overreach of the spying agencies during the Nixon era.

The idea that a similarly vigorous defence of the vitality of American democracy, much needed though it is, could be mounted is simply unimaginable today. By whom? California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the current Senate Intelligence Committee chair?

Jill Filipovic: Nice try Republicans, but marriage isn’t the solution to poverty

If conservatives want to help the poor they should improve education, cut inequality, and ensure access to contraception

It’s time for marriage promotion programs to die.

The first problem is that they don’t actually convince people to get married; nor do they get fathers to spend more time with their children, make children more emotionally secure, encourage parents to stay together or make families more financially stable. The second is that, contrary to right-wing narratives, marriage doesn’t fix poverty – yet those same conservatives demand that the federal government continue to funnel money into failed marriage promotion programs, and even encourage politicians to curb reproductive rights to force couples into marrying. It’s bad policy stacked on bad policy, with women and their children being made the primary victims.

Juan Cole: Obama as Unreliable Narrator on Climate Action: From SOTU to NSA Spying at Copenhagen

When President Obama looked us in the eye and said that the US is not engaged in electronic surveillance for economic reasons, but only for the sake of security and anti-terrorism, he was lying through his teeth. He should be careful. His approval ratings have tanked in some large part because he has lost those who care about the 4th amendment and personal privacy. Reagan also became unpopular with Iran-Contra, when it became clear that he was lying to us what weapons he sold to Iran and what he did with the black money.

Lying is not fatal to a political career, but for the public to come to realize that you are systematically lying to them about something they care about- that is deadly.

Laura Poitras broke the story in a Danish newspaper and The Huffington Post also reported it, late Wednesday. The United States National Security Agency spied on delegates to the 2009 Climate Summit and used the knowledge they gained to game the negotiations in favor of the US (one of the world’s two major carbon polluters).