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Mar 27 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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New York Times Editorial Board: Giving Up on 4-Year-Olds

A new report released by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, examining the disciplinary practices of the country’s 97,000 public schools, shows that excessively punitive policies are being used at every level of the public school system – even against 4-year-olds in preschool. This should shame the nation and force it to re-evaluate the destructive measures that schools are using against their most vulnerable children. [..]

The fact that minority children at age 4 are already being disproportionately suspended or expelled is an outrage. The pattern of exclusion suggests that schools are giving up on these children when they are barely out of diapers. It runs counter to the very mission of early education, which is to promote school readiness. It harms children emotionally at an age when they are incapable of absorbing lessons from this form of punishment. And it places those children at greater risk of falling behind, dropping out or becoming permanently involved with the juvenile justice system. Federal civil rights officials do not explain why minority preschool students are being disproportionately singled out for suspension.

Robert Reich: The New Billionaire Political Bosses

Charles and David Koch should not be blamed for having more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans put together. Nor should they be condemned for their petrochemical empire. As far as I know, they’ve played by the rules and obeyed the laws.

They’re also entitled to their own right-wing political views. It’s a free country.

But in using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That’s a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share.

Dean Baker: Europe doesn’t need America’s fracked natural gas

The EU’s renewable energy efforts have protected it from Putin more than increased domestic gas production ever could

In the wake of the Russian takeover of Crimea, there have been a number of calls for weaning Europe from dependence on Russian natural gas. Some have suggested that Europe would abandon environmental restrictions on drilling for oil and gas to increase domestic production. To help, the U.S. would continue to massively increase production of oil and gas as well as its capacity to liquefy natural gas and transport it to Europe.

The weaners seem to have the impression that this is yet another case in which the United States has to come to the rescue of those weak Europeans. After all, while we were drilling everywhere, the Europeans were fiddling around with wind and solar energy, all the while making themselves vulnerable to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s machinations.

Reality-based fans of arithmetic see matters differently. The reality is that Europe, especially Germany, has done a huge amount over the last two decades to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels, including natural gas, from Russia. The reduction in fossil fuel use swamps the impact of the drill-everywhere strategy in the United States.

Ralph Nader: Casting Sunlight on Secret Government and Its Contractors

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Indeed, openness and transparency are essential for a healthy and functioning democracy. Unfortunately, despite lofty initial campaign promises by the Obama administration, widespread government secrecy has only worsened in recent years and access to information by journalists and activists is disturbingly limited.

Last week was “Sunshine Week” — an initiative to bring attention and awareness — and light — to the issue of open government. Started in 2005 by The American Society of News Editors, Sunshine Week is an occasion to educate the public by articulating the many challenges faced by those who work to keep a watchful eye on the mechanisms of government. Sunshine Week coincides with “Freedom of Information Day” which happens every year on or around the birthday of founding father James Madison (March 16), who was a staunch advocate for open government.

Sadhbh Walshe: If stillbirth is murder, does miscarriage make pregnant women into criminals?

If stillbirth is murder, does miscarriage make pregnant women into criminals?

Seven and a half years ago, a Mississippi teenager named Rennie Gibbs went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn baby girl named Samiya. Initially, experts attributed the baby’s death to the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But when traces of a cocaine byproduct showed up on the autopsy report, a medical examiner declared the stillbirth a homicide and cited cocaine toxicity as the cause. Shortly afterward, the 16-year-old Gibbs was charged with murder, specifically “depraved heart murder”, a charge that can carry a sentence of up to 20 years to life in prison. [..]

But should women who engage in unhealthy activities during their pregnancies really be criminalized – to life in prison – if they fail to produce a healthy baby? If so, where do you draw that line?

Just think for a second where such a policy could lead us. Like many women of her time, and many women since, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis smoked while she was pregnant. Jackie-O had a history of troubled pregnancies – at least one miscarriage, a stillborn daughter and baby Patrick, who barely survived two days. Those losses caused the Kennedy family enormous pain. Now imagine if an overzealous prosecutor decided that Jackie’s smoking had harmed the babies and indicted the First Lady on murder charges.

Dan Gillmor: Obama’s NSA phone-record law ignores the other (big) data we’re giving away

We are no longer merely creatures of metadata. We are now bystanders to the demise of privacy. Will anyone protect us?

So President Obama is finally ready to do something about the government storage of our phone records, preparing legislation for Congress that would partially change the National Security Agency’s bulk collection. Except he’s missing something much more important: all of the other, much more revealing data we generate simply by living our daily lives. What about all of the other data that internet companies buy and sell, and that yet more companies create and sell without even telling us – indeed, all of the rest of a data retention program that you and I helped build?

Of course we should be skeptical of the new NSA laws – of government objectives and Congressional fears and loopholes the intelligence community will inevitably bake in. Obama says he needs “to win back the trust … of ordinary citizens”. But we can’t even begin to feel reassured about the long-term trajectory of surveillance in America, not when so much of our ordinary communications don’t take place on the usual phone-record system at all.