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May 07 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Katrina vanden Huevel: The Most Popular Tax in History Has Real Momentum

The European Financial Transaction (a k a Robin Hood) tax scored a big legal victory on April 30, when a challenge regarding the legality of the tax brought by the British government was thrown out by the European Court of Justice. The ECJ has struck a serious blow for fairness, as the dismissal essentially chastises the British government for championing the interests of the UK’s financial industry over those of its citizens. David Hillman, spokesperson for the Robin Hood campaign, told The Guardian, “This futile legal challenge tells you all you need to know about the government’s misguided priorities: it would rather defend a privileged elite in the City than support a tax that could raise billions to tackle poverty and protect public services.” [..]

The Robin Hood Tax is, as European FTT campaigners say, the “most popular tax in history,” and such high regard-even for something as seemingly unromantic as a 0.1 percent tax-isn’t difficult to understand: FTT revenue can be used to create jobs; spur economic development beyond the financial industry; and combat climate change, global poverty and HIV/AIDS. One measure of the tax’s popularity is that this week’s announcement about the FTT’s first phase has been scheduled to occur during the lead-up to the European Parliament elections of May 22-25, and support for the tax is expected to be a major vote-getter. Not exactly an American-election-style “October Surprise” to be sure, but certainly a signal to candidates: Robin Hood matters to European citizens. You can lend your name to the movement, too, by signing the “1 Million Strong” petition.

Zoë Carpenter: Climate Deniers: The House Is On Fire, but They’re Staying Put

“Oklahoma is burning, both literally and figuratively,” the state’s climatologist reported Monday, as temperatures soared into the triple digits and draught-stricken grasslands provided tinder for wildfires in several counties. The western part of the state faces the worst of the heat wave; grab the panhandle, and it will singe your palm. In Oklahoma, this is supposed to be the wettest part of the year.

“I don’t know what to tell ya,” the climatologist wrote. He linked to a state drought map from May of 2011, which shows similar swaths of red in the west. “Look familiar?”

Across the United States, the abnormal has become a new normal. “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” scientists affirmed in the National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated report released on Tuesday. Its authors found that climate disruption is already evident in every region of the country.

Molly Knefel: Cecily McMillan’s guilty verdict reveals our mass acceptance of police violence

The hyper-selective retelling of events mirrors the popular narrative of Occupy Wall Street – and how one woman may serve seven years while the NYPD goes free

The verdict in the biggest Occupy related criminal case in New York City, that of Cecily McMillan, came down Monday afternoon. As disturbing as it is that she was found guilty of felony assault against Officer Grantley Bovell, the circumstances of her trial reflect an even more disturbing reality – that of normalized police violence, disproportionately punitive sentences (McMillan faces seven years in prison), and a criminal penal system based on anything but justice. While this is nothing new for the over-policed communities of New York City, what happened to McMillan reveals just how powerful and unrestrained a massive police force can be in fighting back against the very people with whom it is charged to protect. [..]

It’s impossible to understand the whole story by just looking at it one picture, even if it’s McMillan’s of her injuries. But that is exactly what the jury in McMillan’s case was asked to do. They were presented a close up of Cecily McMillan’s elbow, but not of Bovell, and asked to determine who was violent. The prosecutors and the judge prohibited them from zooming out.

This is, of course, how police brutality is presented to the public every day, if it is presented it at all: an angry cop here, a controversial protester here, a police commissioner who says the violence of the NYPD is “old news”. It’s why #myNYPD shocked enough people to make the papers – because it wasn’t one bruised or broken civilian body or one cop with a documented history of violence. Instead, it was one after another after another, a collage that presented a more comprehensive picture – one of exceptionally unexceptional violence that most of America has already accepted.

Heather Weaver: Supreme Court Turns Blind Eye to Exclusionary Prayers at Government Meetings

This morning, the Supreme Court issued a disappointing and troubling decision upholding a town board’s practice of opening its meetings with Christian prayers. For more than a decade, the town board of Greece, New York, has started meetings with prayers delivered by local clergy, all of whom, with a few brief exceptions, have been Christian. The Court’s decision today allows the town to continue these official prayers despite the fact that they exclude local citizens of minority faiths and divide the community along religious lines.

The news is not all bad, however. While the outcome in this case was disheartening, the Court did make clear that there are limits on legislative prayers. They may not “denigrate non-believers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion,” and they must remain consistent with the purported purpose of such invocations-to solemnize and lend gravity to the occasion.

Still, as Justice Kagan points out in her powerful dissent, today’s ruling reflects “two kinds of blindness.”

Diane Ravitch: What Powerful and Greedy Elites Are Hiding When They Scapegoat the Schools

Our economy is changing in ways that are alarming. Income inequality and wealth inequality are at their highest point in many decades; some say we are back to the age of the robber barons. Most of the gains in the economy since the great recession of 2008 have benefited the 1 percent, or even the 1 percent of the 1 percent. The middle class is shrinking, and we no longer have the richest middle class in the world. The U.S. has the highest child poverty rate of any of the advanced nations of the world (and, no, I don’t count Romania as an advanced nation, having visited that nation, which suffered decades of economic plunder and stagnation under the Communist Ceausescu regime).

Forbes reports that there were 442 billionaires in the U.S. in 2013. Nice for them. Taxes have dropped dramatically for the top 1 percent since the 1970s. But don’t call them plutocrats. Call them our “job creators,” even though they should be called our “job out-sourcers.” [..]

We need to spend more to reduce poverty. We need to spend more to make sure that all children get a good start in life. We need to reduce class sizes for our neediest children. We need to assure free medical care for those who have none. We have many needs, but we won’t begin to address them until we change our tax codes to reduce inequality.

Ellen Brown: In California, Robbing Main Street to Prop Up Wall Street

Why Gov. Jerry Brown’s rainy day fund is a bad idea

Governor Jerry Brown is aggressively pushing a California state constitutional amendment requiring budget surpluses to be used to pay down municipal debt and create an emergency “rainy day” fund, in anticipation of the next economic crisis.

On the face of it, it is a sensible idea. As long as Wall Street controls America’s finances and our economy, another catastrophic bust is a good bet.

But a rainy day fund takes money off the table, setting aside funds we need now to reverse the damage done by Wall Street’s last collapse. The brutal cuts of 2008 and 2009 shrank the middle class and gave California the highest poverty rate in the country. [..]

There is another alternative – one that California got very close to implementing in 2011, before Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. AB750, a bill for a feasibility study for a state-owned bank, passed both houses of the state legislature but the governor refused to sign it. He said the study could be done by the Assembly and Senate Banking Committees in-house; but 2-1/2 years later, no further action has been taken on it.