“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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This week’s unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming a robust Fourth Amendment protection for cellphone data is an enormously important victory for privacy rights in the digital age. It is also a reminder that support as well as opposition to civil liberty these days can come from unexpected quarters. Or maybe it is no longer much of a surprise that our constitutional law professor turned president cares so little for the protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights. [..]
Now, about the NSA and its rummaging, might Edward Snowden come to be viewed as the contemporary James Otis?
Last week I had a fascinating 3:00 a.m. cab ride from San Francisco airport to a hotel in downtown Oakland. My cab driver was an immigrant from Pakistan who was putting two kids through college. After working for years as a driver he managed to save enough money to buy his own cab, and more importantly to buy the medallion that gives him the right to operate a cab in San Francisco. The medallion cost $250,000. He is still paying $2,300 a month on the loan to get the medallion in an addition to annual fee to the city of $1,500. [..]
I apologize for the Thomas Friedman-esque digression, but there is a point. My cab driver was complaining about all of these expenses because he has to compete against two ride services, Uber and Lyft, that have largely escaped the same set of regulations. These companies and their drivers are not subjected to the same set of rules that are imposed on traditional cab services. This has put my cab driver and others like him at an enormous disadvantage, and made Uber the latest Wall Street wonder with an implicit market capitalization of $17 billion.
It shouldn’t be surprising that a business can makes lots of money if it is exempted from the regulations that apply to its competitors. This is largely the story of Amazon’s success. It avoided collecting sales taxes in most states for most of its existence.
For months there have been rumors that the Social Security Administration has a “secret plan” to close all of its field offices. Is it true? A little-known report commissioned by the SSA at the request of Congress seems to hold the answer. The summary document outlining the plan, which is labeled “for internal use only,” is unavailable from the SSA but can be found here.
Does the document, titled “Long Term Strategic Vision and Vision Elements,” really propose shuttering all field offices? The answer, buried beneath a barrage of obfuscatory consultantese, clearly seems to be “yes.” Worse, the report also suggests that many of the SSA’s critical functions could soon be outsourced to private-sector partners and contractors.
We’re winding down conflicts abroad, but America’s militarized police forces have access to a veritable firearms sale funnelling from Washington on down to the local station house
A few years ago, the police chief in Keene, New Hampshire (population: 23,000) announced plans to patrol the hamlet’s “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations” with a 19,000-pound armored vehicle called the BearCat (price tag: $285,933, courtesy of a federal Homeland Security grant).
The cops in nearby Nashua had already purchased one of the so-called “rescue vehicles” – typically reserved for Swat missions and, you know, IEDs – with hundreds of thousands in drug forfeiture money, but given that the town of Keene has had just three homicides in the last 11 years, some locals thought the gun ports, rotating hatch, battering ram and tear-gas deployment nozzle all might just be a little much.
“The police are already pretty brutal,” said one resident. “The last thing they need is this big piece of military equipment to make them think they’re soldiers.”
Consent culture requires that we take it seriously when a woman shares photos of a conservative NSA defender’s private parts
When we think of “revenge porn”, what usually comes to mind is a terrible ex-boyfriend who posts naked pictures or videos of a woman he wants to humiliate online. And to be fair, that’s the most common image of this crime because that’s the form revenge porn most often takes. This week, however, we’ve seen not one but two men lose their jobs (and possibly their careers) after consensually-shared pictures of their genitals were made public by women seeking to embarrass them. [..]
No matter how you feel about these men and their politics or work, let’s be clear: they are being punished for acts of which they were the victims. Jennifer “Ruby” Roubenes Allbaugh, the woman who posted Kuhn’s alleged picture, told a reporter that she was seeking “revenge” and tweeted “I hate you, AJK”. The Twitter user who outed her relationship to Schindler and apparently allowed a third party to post the picture of his penis only refers to herself online as Leslie, but she tweeted on Tuesday, “I wanted to inform his wife & embarrass him”.
Revenge porn, which will soon become illegal in New York state and was already made so in several others, is meant to shame, humiliate and potentially ruin the lives of its victims.
The view of political correctness as humourless language policing is so normalised, it can be used as a cover for bigoted language
“Our world has gone to hell,” declared Gary Oldman in a recent interview with Playboy magazine. These days people won’t take a simple joke about being a “nigger” or a “fucking Jew”, according to Oldman; it’s considered bad form to name women, especially those in positions of power, “fucking useless cunts”, and, when in a rage, you can’t even call gay men “faggots”. What or who can we blame for this awful state of affairs, Gary? Political correctness and the liberal dictatorship, of course. [..]
PC language is widely viewed as an encroachment on individual freedom. In this sense, the persistent rightwing offensive on the concept has won out. The argument goes that offensive language is so because those taking offence choose to; equality, therefore, is the right to demean and abuse minorities if the fancy takes you. Political correctness as humourless language policing is an idea so normalised that blatantly racist, sexist, ableist and homophobic slurs can be protected under the rubric of free speech. It has become banal and even tyrannical to try to argue for language and behaviour that respects women and minorities.