Jun 11 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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Ana Marie Cox: Congratulations, David Brat: your win over Eric Cantor is totally meaningless

Beating a House majority leader for the first time in 115 years doesn’t mean Washington needs to hail the conquering Tea Party hero … even if it already has

David Brat ran against Eric Cantor as the epitome of everything that’s wrong with Washington. It wasn’t a bad synecdoche; like the city, Cantor exuded southern efficiency and northern charm. By the standards of the Tea Party, however, Cantor simply wasn’t inefficient enough. They would like less done, please. [..]

So on the morning after, Brat is either the Tea Party’s white knight or its motley fool – at centerstage if also at the edge of the political spectrum.

But come the fall, Brat may be an historical footnote, having beaten the first sitting majority leader since the position was created in 1899, only to have gone on to lose the general election. . . .

Or Brat will be one of dozens of incoming freshmen Congressmen … which is to say, an historical footnote in the making.

Jessica Valenti: The only ‘privilege’ afforded to campus rape victims is actually surviving

Hey, at least we live in a world where victim-blaming misogynist dinosaurs masquerading as important newspaper columnists get the earful they deserve

Rape victims get called a lot of things. Sometimes it’s “slut”. For the 11-year-old gang rape victim in Texas, it was that she was a “spider” luring men into her web. It’s not all bad, though – thanks to anti-violence activists, those who have been attacked also get called “survivors” and “brave”. The last word I ever expected to hear to describe a rape victim is “privileged”.

Yet in the Washington Post late last week, columnist George Will wrote about campus rape, claiming that being a victim in college has become “a coveted status that confers privileges”, and that “victims proliferate” because of all these so-called benefits.

Heidi Moore: Wall Street’s virus has infected your college debt, and Obama’s doing zero

Private student loans reflect the very worst practices of our consumer credit culture. The same deeply system that brought down mortgages is now making personal debt too big not to fail

As President Obama takes to TV and Tumblr to stump for his program to make federal student loans more affordable, there’s another $150bn problem lurking behind the scenes: private student loans, which are built on giving students the worst possible deal.

There has been laser-like attention from Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren to the callous federal student loan system, which controls about $1tn of student debt – and rightfully so, because it is immense and it is broken. Students are taking on too much debt to absorb rising tuition (a more complex issue itself) and the high debt is endangering the economy.

Zoë Carpenter: What Won’t the GOP Do to Keep the Poor Uninsured?

When it comes to healthcare, Southwest Virginia is a desperate place. Many of the state’s poorest and sickest live in that pocket of coal country between US Route 19 and the Kentucky and Tennessee borders, where it’s so hard to see a doctor that a free mobile health clinic held each July at a county fairground draws hundreds. “Southwest Virginia is one of the worst places we go to,” said Stan Brock, the founder and president of Remote Area Medical, which runs that clinic and others throughout the country.

That corner of Virginia also encompasses the district of Phillip Puckett, who served as a Democratic state senator until Monday, when he suddenly resigned. His decision to step down appears to have been the result of a bribe offered by Republican colleagues bent on stopping the expansion of Medicaid. Puckett’s resignation gave Republicans the one seat they needed to take control of the Senate; it also put him in the running for a paid post on a state tobacco commission that is controlled by some of the very same Republicans. And it cleared the way for the chamber to appoint his daughter to a state judgeship. [..]

The question of what prompted Puckett’s mid-term resignation is tantalizing, and potentially important, but it’s also beside the point. The true scandal is that hundreds of thousands of Virginians – including more than 20,000 (pdf of Puckett’s own constituents – will be denied health insurance.

Molly Osberg: Would I like fry cooks and baristas with my $15 minimum wage? Damn right

Seattle’s breakthrough still makes me worry about off-the-books workers of the ‘informal’ economy for whom a living wage is already a fiction

This week’s announcement that Seattle will begin to roll out a minimum wage of $15 per hour – a figure that more than doubles the federal minimum, and would make it one of the highest government-set minimum wages in the world – is a long overdue course correction. And if we’re now in for a rolling battle over living wages on a “city-by-city basis”, as Kevin Roose writes at New York magazine, Bill de Blasio’s New York can’t be too far behind. When that day comes, more than robotic baristas or the high-pitched wails of franchise lawyers, I worry about those employed by the so-called informal economy, the off-the-books workers for whom the minimum wage was already a fiction.

Sadhbh Walshe: Orange is the New Black in real life is a prison epidemic of too many women in jail – and taxpayers like you in the red

The US imprisons more women than any country – and most of them for low-level crimes of poverty and addiction. But there is a better way

Spoiler alert: if the following questions intrigue you, you are caught up on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black – and you’re probably as excited as I am that season two has finally arrived. [..]

Reality alert: the United States female prison population has increased 800% in the last three decades. During that same period, the male prison population also exploded, but only at half the rate of the female one. The result is that today, the US imprisons more women than any other country in the world, two-thirds of whom are low-level, non-violent offenders guilty of crimes of poverty and addiction. They are our real-life Taystees and Pousses and Dayas – small-time offenders who rob stores, or forge checks, or use or sell drugs to feed a habit or feed their kids – and their languishing costs you hundreds of millions of dollars.

So let’s all emerge from our binge-watching and ask a different question: what, exactly, are we achieving with America’s great experiment in mass incarceration?