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May 09 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: Center Ring at the Republican Circus

The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.

They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. [..]

Democrats who are now debating whether to participate in the committee shouldn’t hesitate to skip it. Their presence would only lend legitimacy to a farce.

Paul Krugman: Now That’s Rich

Institutional Investor’s latest “rich list” in its Alpha magazine, its survey of the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers, is out – and it turns out that these guys make a lot of money. Surprise!

Yet before we dismiss the report as nothing new, let’s think about what it means that these 25 men (yes, they’re all men) made a combined $21 billion in 2013. In particular, let’s think about how their good fortune refutes several popular myths about income inequality in America. [..]

America has a long tradition of imposing high taxes on big incomes and large fortunes, designed to limit the concentration of economic power as well as raising revenue. These days, however, suggestions that we revive that tradition face angry claims that taxing the rich is destructive and immoral – destructive because it discourages job creators from doing their thing, immoral because people have a right to keep what they earn.

But such claims rest crucially on myths about who the rich really are and how they make their money. Next time you hear someone declaiming about how cruel it is to persecute the rich, think about the hedge fund guys, and ask yourself if it would really be a terrible thing if they paid more in taxes.

Ellen Brown: Why 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.

The costs of Wall Street gambling are being thrust on its primary victims. We are given the draconian choice of restoring much-needed services or maintaining austerity conditions in order to pay Wall Street the next time it brings down the economy.

Twiggy Garcia: Tony Blair Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes – Not Just Judged by History

Blair is ‘eel-like’ – but if the Chilcot inquiry is published soon, he might not wriggle off the hook

Boris Johnson’s sympathy isn’t worth much; his sentiments during his LBC interview this week were touching, but he does not have the conviction to back the campaign to see Tony Blair face justice for his crimes. Johnson does, however, offer an insight into Blair’s character which I have experienced first-hand – that Blair is slippery. The London mayor described him as “eel-like” and a “very adept and agile lawyer”. A prosecution for war crimes in Johnson’s words was “not going to happen”.

Currently a prosecution depends on one of two factors: its status before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or its status in domestic law. The ICC calls itself “an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”. In all honesty I have no faith in the ICC bringing a conviction against Blair. The ICC has been accused of bias, and as being a tool of western imperialism, only punishing leaders from small states while ignoring crimes committed by richer and more powerful states. This sentiment has been expressed particularly by African leaders due to the disproportionate focus on their nations.

Amy Goodman: Solitary Confinement Is Not the Answer

There has been much attention, and rightly so, on the CIA’s extensive use of torture, which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is said to have documented in its still-classified 6,000-page report. The use of torture is not limited to the CIA, however. It is all too common across the United States. Solitary confinement is torture, and it is used routinely in jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities here at home. Grass-roots movements that have been pressuring for change are beginning to yield significant results. The coalitions include prisoners, their families, a broad swath of legal and social-justice groups and, increasingly, prison guards and officials themselves. [..]

Most importantly, it’s torture. It’s time to put an end to solitary confinement.

Dan Gillmor: The best way to protest net neutrality’s end is with an Internet-wide slowdown

It’s time to take a page from the SOPA protests and show Americans what a slower Internet would really look like

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, former cable and wireless industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler, may have a battle on his hands over his proposal to create two standards of Internet service and end net neutrality. This is welcome news for anyone who believes in an open Internet.

Now is the time to ratchet up the pressure.

So what’s happened since Wheeler first floated his plan to move toward a two-tiered Internet – where companies would pay Internet service providers for special “fast lanes” to get to you and me? Quite a bit.