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Jun 20 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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Heidi Moore: The Fed of magical thinking: why is Janet Yellen ignoring the rest of us?

A two-day diagnosis of the American economy forgot about the very real risk of skyrocketing inflation. Does this country’s central bank really need to pretend everything is just fine?

Americans are experiencing one kind of economy – high unemployment, expensive housing, rocketing food prices and costly medical care – but the US Federal Reserve is seeing another kind of economy: the one in which you shouldn’t believe your own eyes.

It all comes down to inflation: the measure of rising prices that we all experience in our daily lives. And inflation is rising – fast, much faster than the Fed anticipates. Meat prices are rocketing at plus-7.7% in 2014, and dairy is up 4.2%, a considerable hit to family shopping budgets. Shelter – either mortgages or rent costs – are rising at about 3%, while car insurance is up 5%, and tuition costs and public transportation are both up more than 3%. [..]

Yet the Fed, which just wrapped a two-day meeting to diagnose the economy, is dismissing these real-world costs as a trick of the charts – a mere math problem rather than a real snapshot of the challenges facing Americans. And its new leader, Janet Yellen, has now officially risked her reputation on a potential misreading of the concerns of regular people.

Margaret Kimberley: America’s War Crime in Iraq

Beginning in 1991 the United States government brought what has become a never ending hell to Iraq. President George H.W. Bush’s war that year was followed by devastating sanctions which were continued by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It was bad enough that 500,000 children died because of shortages of food and medicine but in 2003 Bush the younger and his henchmen and women rolled the dice on invasion and an occupation that lasted for more than ten years. The Project for a New American Century, the 21st century version of Manifest Destiny, demanded a Pax Americana which set out to make the United States the master of the world.

It is unfortunate that Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and company became the only faces of American aggression. They are indeed responsible for the 2003 invasion but imperialism is still on the move and now has a more shrewd personification in the person of Barack Obama.

Ahmad Shuja: Afghanistan’s journalists betrayed

NSA’s mass surveillance may unfairly implicate the country’€™s courageous reporters for communicating with insurgents

Afghanistan’s journalists, whose professional risks already include kidnapping, insurgent attacks and violent reprisals from Afghan officials’ bodyguards, face a brand new peril: snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency.

On May 23, WikiLeaks revealed that Afghanistan was the previously unnamed country where the NSA conducted mass phone surveillance. The surveillance in Afghanistan goes far beyond the NSA’s controversial metadata collection program in the United States. According to WikiLeaks, since 2013 the NSA has been recording and storing almost all phone calls – including those made by Afghan journalists – in the country and to other countries. Earlier documents released by online news website the Intercept showed that the NSA has been recording all phone calls in the Bahamas as well as gathering all phone call metadata in Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines.

While specific, targeted surveillance may be warranted for national security reasons, collecting the phone calls of an entire nation cannot be justified. The bulk surveillance invades the privacy of millions of Afghans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. And it chills the work of journalists who use phone calls to gather information for their stories.

Jill Filipovic: Global justice for rape survivors demands extraordinary efforts

In places where legal systems routinely fail, alternatives outside law needed

In the city of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a woman I’ll call Camille (all the Congolese women in this story have asked to use pseudonyms) told the story of her rape. Soldiers affiliated with Paul Salada, a militia leader, kidnapped her when she was 16. Held for months, she was raped repeatedly, some days by as many as 10 men. She became pregnant from the rapes and eventually chased out of the camp. Camille gave birth and is raising her child alone.

Two decades of war, millions of deaths and displacements, endemic poverty and perpetually weak governance mean the many Congolese women who are raped every day – one estimate from 2011 put the number at 48 women raped every hour – rarely see their attackers prosecuted. Too often, the victims are ostracized and left to recover with few medical, legal or psychological resources.

But legal systems don’t fail sexual assault survivors just in the DRC. Even nations with entrenched and functional criminal justice systems regularly drop the ball when it comes to violence against women. To be sure, if we are to get serious about helping survivors, we need to strengthen their legal rights. But we should also be looking outside the justice system to help facilitate healing in the many instances where justice is a dream or a farce.

In the city of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a woman I’ll call Camille (all the Congolese women in this story have asked to use pseudonyms) told the story of her rape. Soldiers affiliated with Paul Salada, a militia leader, kidnapped her when she was 16. Held for months, she was raped repeatedly, some days by as many as 10 men. She became pregnant from the rapes and eventually chased out of the camp. Camille gave birth and is raising her child alone.

Two decades of war, millions of deaths and displacements, endemic poverty and perpetually weak governance mean the many Congolese women who are raped every day – one estimate from 2011 put the number at 48 women raped every hour – rarely see their attackers prosecuted. Too often, the victims are ostracized and left to recover with few medical, legal or psychological resources.

But legal systems don’t fail sexual assault survivors just in the DRC. Even nations with entrenched and functional criminal justice systems regularly drop the ball when it comes to violence against women. To be sure, if we are to get serious about helping survivors, we need to strengthen their legal rights. But we should also be looking outside the justice system to help facilitate healing in the many instances where justice is a dream or a farce.

Juan Cole: As US Pressures Maliki to Resign, will Iraqi Gov’t Collapse?

A consensus is forming in Washington that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must resign, as part of accountability for his failures with his Sunni Arab citizens. Because Washington is so good about demanding accountability.

While this analysis is correct, and I have said myself that Iraq would be better off with a different leader, it is not clear that right now is the best time to force al-Maliki out. Washington also has to be careful about trying and failing to get rid of al-Maliki. President Obama and Hillary Clinton wanted to get rid of Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in 2009; they failed, and therefore had bad relations with Karzai ever after.

A potential departure of al-Maliki raises the question of who would take his place. Al-Maliki is the head of the Islamic Mission Party (al-Da’wa al-Islamiyah). This Shiite fundamentalist party won 92 of 328 seats in the parliamentary elections just held. The Da’wa Party was for years covert and still is secretive. We don’t know who is on its politburo. It will likely form the next government with or without al-Maliki.