“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.
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Richard (RJ) Escow: Look Out, Wall Street, the New Populism Is Coming
Even as the Campaign for America’s Future prepares for its May conference on the New Populism, attacks on populism keep coming from all directions. One of the latest salvos to be publicized comes in the form of an anecdote about Bill Clinton. As Tim Geithner told Andrew Ross Sorkin, Clinton sarcastically told the Wall Street-friendly Treasury Secretary how to “pursue a more populist strategy”:
“You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley,” Clinton said, “and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again.”
Clinton was always effective at belittling people with whom he disagrees — even when, as in this case, his own position is morally indefensible. The president and his economic team deregulated Wall Street to disastrous effect, then became very wealthy there after leaving office. [..]
It is precisely this sort of sneering insider indifference to public opinion — not to mention good governance and fair play — which has given rise to today’s populist mood. And make no mistake about it: the public’s mood, despite years of attempts by most Republicans and many Democrats to placate them, is distinctly populist. And much of that populist sentiment is directed toward the financial institutions which have so badly damaged our economy.
One year after Snowden, the government is defending – in not-so-plain sight – the ‘paramount’ power to spy on every call and email between you and your friends abroad
Modern American privacy law begins with Charles Katz, an accused gambler, making a call from a Los Angeles phone booth. In a now-famous opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan concluded that the US Constitution protected Katz’s “expectation of privacy” in his call. American phone booths are now a thing of the past, of course, and Americans’ expectations of privacy seem to be fast disappearing, too.
In two significant but almost-completely overlooked legal briefs filed last week, the US government defended the constitutionality of the Fisa Amendments Act, the controversial 2008 law that codified the Bush administration’s warrantless-wiretapping program. That law permits the government to monitor Americans’ international communications without first obtaining individualized court orders or establishing any suspicion of wrongdoing.
It’s hardly surprising that the government believes the 2008 law is constitutional – government officials advocated for its passage six years ago, and they have been vigorously defending the law ever since. Documents made public over the last eleven-and-a-half months by the Guardian and others show that the NSA has been using the law aggressively.
Tomorrow is an important day for the future of the Internet. That’s when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will cast a crucial vote that could send us down a dangerous and misguided path toward destroying the Internet as we know it. That path could end with an Internet of haves and have-nots, with big corporations deciding who falls into which camp, all based on the amount of money they pay. I’m urging the FCC to take a different course — one that preserves the Internet as an open marketplace where everyone can continue to participate on equal footing, regardless of one’s wealth or power.
Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s chairman, has a proposal that would undermine net neutrality, the principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally. Net neutrality is embedded in the foundational architecture of the Internet, and it has served us well. Because of net neutrality, an email from my constituent in rural Minnesota gets to me as quickly as an email from my bank. Because of net neutrality, the website for the small neighborhood hardware store loads just as quickly as that of a major retail chain. Because of net neutrality, you were able to access this op-ed, even if your Internet provider doesn’t like what I have to say.
Once again, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are challenging the Obama administration over its national security policies. At issue now are secret legal opinions sanctioning the government’s targeted killing program, some of which were written by a Harvard law professor named David Barron, who is President Obama’s nominee for a prominent judicial position. At least two of the memos written by Barron when he worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Council concern the extrajudicial killing of American citizens abroad. [..]
Just how many memos related to drones Barron produced during his time at the Justice Department is unclear. (He worked at the OLC from 2009 to 2010.) Most of the controversy around Barron has focused on two memos, the one at the heart of the court case mentioned above, and a shorter one also reportedly related to targeting Americans. Those two documents were particularly pertinent in the decision to target an American named Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Interestingly, majority leader Harry Reid indicated on Tuesday that the White House has provided senators with a second memo, presumably the other one of the two. “As far as I know, they’re down there,” Reid said when asked if the proper documents were available in the secure area. “I’ve looked, there’s two of them.”
The killing of American citizens abroad without due process is a critical issue, but so is the policy of assassinating non-Americans away from the battlefield. Many other memos have been written about the drone program beyond its application to US citizens; it’s unclear whether Barron contributed to any of them. With the White House claiming it has given senators access to the information they’ve requested regarding the targeting of American citizens, the question of whether Barron analyzed any other aspects of the drone program may now become the focus of the debate.
There aren’t many things that Barack Obama, Eric Holder, the Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist, Ted Cruz and Sheldon Whitehouse agree on. One of those rare things is the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bill that has broad transpartisan both houses of Congress — but is currently stuck there for no other reason than partisan gridlock.
Four years ago, a similar coalition came together when everyone agreed that drug sentencing disparities had a deeply unfair application that resulted in black and Latino offenders serving much longer sentences for possessing the same amount of crack cocaine than a white person who was more likely to possess powder cocaine.
Their efforts resulted in the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2010. It did not, however, retroactively change things for people who were already serving draconian sentences under the old law.
The Smarter Sentencing Act would fix that problem as well as many other things that would dramatically reduce our seriously overcrowded prison population, which has quadrupled since the 1970s.