Feb 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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Paul Krugman: The Stimulus Tragedy

Five years have passed since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the “stimulus” – into law. With the passage of time, it has become clear that the act did a vast amount of good. It helped end the economy’s plunge; it created or saved millions of jobs; it left behind an important legacy of public and private investment.

It was also a political disaster. And the consequences of that political disaster – the perception that stimulus failed – have haunted economic policy ever since. [..]

In other words, the overall narrative of the stimulus is tragic. A policy initiative that was good but not good enough ended up being seen as a failure, and set the stage for an immensely destructive wrong turn.

Heidi Moore: Forget the minimum-wage job losses: it’s government cuts that’ll get you mad

When it comes to unemployment, Washington will manipulate any number beyond recovery. But in one case, that’s good news.

One of the the worst things you can do to a politician is hand him some economic statistics, because any politician worth his salt in Washington will inevitably twist them into a mess of bad motives and bad policy. It happened last month when conservative lawmakers yelped that Obamacare would cost some 2.3 million jobs. (It won’t). This week we have two more examples of twisted job figures, on the minimum wage and the unemployment rate. [..]

So, here’s the not-so-simple question: if everyone’s so angry about losing 500,000 jobs while paying the average worker more per hour, where’s the unstoppable outrage about the 2m jobs that already seem lost to austerity?

There simply is no outrage, and that illuminates the consistent hypocrisy around unemployment on today’s political scene. No matter what the economic number, it will inevitably end up twisted beyond recovery once it gets into the hands of the average lawmaker.

Amy Goodman: The monstrous merger of Comcast and Time Warner must be stopped – now

We must confront connected regulators and force them to pull the plug. Our democracy depends on it

Comcast has announced it intends to merge with Time Warner Cable, joining together the largest and second-largest cable and broadband providers in the country. The merger must be approved by both the Justice Department and the FCC. Given the financial and political power of Comcast, and the Obama administration’s miserable record of protecting the public interest, the time to speak out and organize is now. [..]

As for the regulators, the news website Republic Report revealed that the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, William Baer, was a lawyer representing NBC during the merger with Comcast, and Maureen Ohlhausen, a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, provided legal counsel for Comcast before joining the commission. If you wonder how President Obama feels about the issue, look at who he appointed to be the new chairperson of the FCC: Tom Wheeler, who was for years a top lobbyist for both the cable and wireless industries.

Robert L. Borosage: Fast Track to Nowhere: America’s Failed Trade Policy

The Obama administration continues to push a fast track to nowhere. U.S. Trade Representative Michael B. Froman now has launched charm offensive, meeting with legislators, consumer, union and environmental groups to try to defuse growing opposition to fast track trade authority.

Fat chance. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says he has no intention of bringing fast track up on the Senate floor (at least before the election). House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t even round up a Democratic co-sponsor for the bill. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has voiced her opposition. [..]

Instead, the administration is pursuing trade negotiations in an outmoded and failed mold, behind closed doors with corporations at the table. We know that this model has failed us miserably over the last decades. President Obama was elected in the wake of the global collapse with the promise to develop a new foundation for growth. Isn’t it time to stop pursuing a fast track when the train is already off the rails? Isn’t it long past time to take another look and think anew?

Norman Solomon: Why Amazon’s Collaboration With the CIA Is So Ominous — and Vulnerable

As the world’s biggest online retailer, Amazon wants a benevolent image to encourage trust from customers. Obtaining vast quantities of their personal information has been central to the firm’s business model. But Amazon is diversifying — and a few months ago the company signed a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency to provide “cloud computing” services.

Amazon now has the means, motive and opportunity to provide huge amounts of customer information to its new business partner. An official statement from Amazon headquarters last fall declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.” [..]

Amazon now averages 162 million unique visitors to its sites every month. Meanwhile, the CIA depends on gathering and analyzing data to serve U.S. military interventions overseas. During the last dozen years, the CIA has conducted ongoing drone strikes and covert lethal missions in many countries. At the same time, U.S. agencies like the CIA and NSA have flattened many previous obstacles to Big Brother behavior.

And now, Amazon is hosting a huge computing cloud for the CIA’s secrets — a digital place where data for mass surveillance and perpetual war are converging.

Dan Gillmor: Beware the WhatsApp hype: Mark Zuckerberg is no benevolent overlord

What’s Facebook really up to? Same thing Silicon Valley does with every big deal, people: try to take over the world

By now there have may have been about as many words written about this week’s blockbuster technology deal – Facebook’s $16bn-plus acquisition of the WhatsApp messaging service – as there have been dollars spent. The tech chattering class and the jealous masses are speculating wildly, even as Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum hold pretty close to the vest their long-term plans, discussed over years’ worth of coffees and long walks and dinners.

But there’s got to be more to this partnership than a shared goal “to make the world more open and connected“, right? Koum has long been an evangelist of free speech, while Zuckerberg has said recently that he wants to “build great new experiences that are separate from what you think of as Facebook today”.

Indeed, from those billions of words emerge some early clues about the future of a very rich Facebook, which suggest even bigger changes to the future of what we hold in our hands. Not all of them are so utopian.