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May 23 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: Crisis of the Eurocrats

A century ago, Europe tore itself apart in what was, for a time, known as the Great War – four years of death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Later, of course, the conflict was renamed World War I – because a quarter-century later Europe did it all over again.

But that was a long time ago. It’s hard to imagine war in today’s Europe, which has coalesced around democratic values and even taken its first steps toward political union. Indeed, as I write this, elections are being held all across Europe, not to choose national governments, but to select members of the European Parliament. To be sure, the Parliament has very limited powers, but its mere existence is a triumph for the European idea.

But here’s the thing: An alarmingly high fraction of the vote is expected to go to right-wing extremists hostile to the very values that made the election possible. Put it this way: Some of the biggest winners in Europe’s election will probably be people taking Vladimir Putin’s side in the Ukraine crisis.

New York Times Editorial Board: A Surveillance Bill That Falls Short

A year ago, it would have been unimaginable for the House to pass a bill to curtail the government’s abusive surveillance practices. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, finally shocked lawmakers from both parties into action, producing promises that they would stop the government from collecting the telephone data of ordinary Americans and would bring greater transparency to its domestic spying programs.

Unfortunately, the bill passed by the House on Thursday falls far short of those promises, and does not live up to its title, the U.S.A. Freedom Act. Because of last-minute pressure from a recalcitrant Obama administration, the bill contains loopholes that dilute the strong restrictions in an earlier version, potentially allowing the spy agencies to continue much of their phone-data collection.

Still, the bill finally begins to reverse the trend of reducing civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, as embodied in various versions of the Patriot Act. And if the Senate fixes its flaws, it could start to rebuild confidence that Washington will get the balance right.

Julian Sanchez: The Pentagon report on Snowden’s ‘grave’ threat is gravely overblown

NSA defenders still won’t tell the whole truth, but a newly revealed damage assessment offers a window into government damage control – not any actual damage done by Snowden

For months, defenders of America’s spy agencies have been touting a classified Pentagon report as proof that Edward Snowden’s unprecedented disclosures have grievously harmed intelligence operations and placed American lives at risk. But heavily redacted excerpts of that report, obtained by the Guardian under a Freedom of Information Act request and published on Thursday, suggest that those harms may be largely hypothetical – an attempt to scare spy-loving legislators with the phantoms of lost capability.

The first thing to note is that the Pentagon report does not concern the putative harm of disclosures about the National Security Agency programs that have been the focus of almost all Snowden-inspired stories published to date. Rather, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s damage assessment deals only with the potential impact of “non-NSA Defense material” that the government believes Snowden may have obtained. Any harm resulting from the disclosure of NSA-related material – in other words, almost everything actually made public thus far – is not included in this assessment.

In fact, the unredacted portions of the report don’t discuss published material at all. Instead, the Pentagon was assessing the significance of the information “compromised” by Snowden – all the documents they believe he copied, whether or not they ever see the light of day.

Andrea J. Prasow: The year of living more dangerously: Obama’s drone speech was a sham

We were promised drone memos. And a case for legal targeted killing. And no more Gitmo. We’re still waiting

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot can’t.

Twelve months ago today, Barack Obama gave a landmark national security speech in which he frankly acknowledged that the United States had at least in some cases compromised its values in the years since 9/11 – and offered his vision of a US national security policy more directly in line with “the freedoms and ideals that we defend.” It was widely praised as “a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America“.

Addressing an audience at the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, the president pledged greater transparency about targeted killings, rededicated himself to closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and urged Congress to refine and ultimately repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which has been invoked to justify everything from military detention to drones strikes.

A year later, none of these promises have been met. Instead, drone strikes have continue (and likely killed and wounded civilians), 154 men remain detained at Guantanamo and the administration has taken no steps to roll back the AUMF. This is not the sort of change Obama promised.

Jessica Valenti: You can’t cut open pregnant women because you disagree with their choices

The same thinking behind ‘personhood’ arguments is being used to force pregnant women to have surgery against their will

Having a doctor perform surgery on you without permission – literally cutting into you while you protest – is the stuff of which horror movies are made. Yet that’s just what happened to 35-year-old Rinat Dray when a doctor at Staten Island University Hospital performed a C-section on the Brooklyn mother, against her will and verbal protests.

Her right to bodily integrity and freedom was taken away with a swipe of a pen – the director of maternal and fetal medicine, Dr James J Ducey, wrote in Dray’s medical records, “I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section.” Dray is suing the hospital and doctors for malpractice.

It sounds like a no-brainer – you can’t force someone to have surgery. But thanks to American policy that trumps “fetal rights” over women’s personhood, Dray’s case may not be as clear cut as it seems.

David Lidington: We should trust Ukrainians to make the right choice in Sunday’s elections

Ukraine is trying to find democratic solutions to the challenges it faces, and the international community must give it time to do so

Trust in the ability of people to make decisions about their own future is a fundamental tenet of democracy. On Sunday, the citizens of Ukraine go to the polls to elect a new president in one of the most important elections of their history. Every voter in Ukraine should have their say on the future they want for their country. And as our foreign secretary, William Hague, said in his video message to Ukrainian voters this morning, they have the UK’s strong support.

I am encouraged that polling is set to take place in more than 90% of the polling districts across Ukraine except Crimea, and is likely to be unhindered in the majority of the country’s 25 regions. It is also good news that the Ukrainian parliament is making special arrangements for those who live in Crimea to vote.