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Sep 19 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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Richard (RJ) ESkow: Want to Save the Planet? Flood Wall Street

This is a critical week for the planet. A United Nations conference on the climate will be followed on Saturday by the People’s Climate March, which is expected to be the largest environmental march in history. But it would be a grave mistake, for the planet and for ourselves, to overlook another event that is to take place on Sunday. That’s when the Flood Wall Street rally will target the role of global capitalism in our environmental crisis.

The profit economy is a root cause — make that the root cause — of climate change.

Wall Street is, in a very real sense, the epicenter of our environmental crisis. To ignore that fact is to risk dooming our other climate efforts to failure, or to use them merely as palliatives for troubled consciences. There’s no other way to say this: Capitalism, as practiced on Wall Street today, is an existential threat to humanity.

Martin Kettle: Scotland votes no: the union has survived, but the questions for the left are profound

The immediate political question now suddenly moves to London: a new constitutional settlement needs to be on the table by the end of next month

Like the battle of Waterloo, the battle for Scotland was a damn close-run thing. The effects of Thursday’s no vote are enormous – though not as massive as the consequences of a yes would have been. [..]

But the battlefield is still full of resonant lessons. The win, though close, was decisive. It looks like a 54%-46% or thereabouts. That’s not as good as it looked like being a couple of months ago. But it’s a lot more decisive than the recent polls had hinted. Second, it was women who saved the union. In the polls, men were decisively in favour of yes. The yes campaign was in some sense a guy thing. Men wanted to make a break with the Scotland they inhabit. Women didn’t. Third, this was to a significant degree a class vote too. Richer Scotland stuck with the union – so no did very well in a lot of traditonal SNP areas. Poorer Scotland, Labour Scotland, slipped towards yes, handing Glasgow, Dundee and North Lanarkshire to the independence camp. Gordon Brown stopped the slippage from becoming a rout, perhaps, but the questions for Labour – and for left politics more broadly – are profound.

Paul Krugman: Errors and Emissions

Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free?

This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?

I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.

But you know that such assessments will be met with claims that it’s impossible to break the link between economic growth and ever-rising emissions of greenhouse gases, a position I think of as “climate despair.” The most dangerous proponents of climate despair are on the anti-environmentalist right. But they receive aid and comfort from other groups, including some on the left, who have their own reasons for getting it wrong.

David Sirota: Too big to punish: Why America’s banks are still above the law

The Obama administration is now reducing sanctions on Credit Suisse. So much for the lessons of the Great Recession

A few months ago, in a press conference about the felony conviction of Credit Suisse, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “This case shows that no financial institution, no matter its size or global reach, is above the law.”

Yet, earlier this month, the Obama administration announced its proposal to waive some of the possible sanctions against Credit Suisse. The little-noticed waiver, which was outlined in the Federal Register, comes amid criticism that the Obama administration has gone too easy on major financial institutions that break the law. [..]

Under existing Department of Labor rules, the conviction could prevent Credit Suisse from being designated a Qualified Professional Asset Manager. That designation exempts firms from other federal laws, giving them the special status required to do business with many pension funds. The Obama administration’s is proposing to waive those anti-criminal sanctions against Credit Suisse, thereby allowing Credit Suisse to get the QPAM designation needed to continue its pension business.

David Dayen: The real Olive Garden scandal: Why greedy hedge funders suddenly care so much about breadsticks

Remember that “hilarious” report last week ripping the chain eatery to pieces? The back story will infuriate you

Last week, you may have noticed a kooky story about a hedge fund named Starboard Value chastising Olive Garden for handing out too many unlimited breadsticks at a time, and failing to salt its pasta water. The snarky 294-page presentation highlighted everything wrong with Olive Garden, along with recommendations to fix it. And there was much laughter. [..]

The story had all the proper elements for our Twitter-fueled “you won’t believe what happened next” media age. Readers could mock that silly chain restaurant they remember from their childhoods in the suburbs, and the silly hedge fund that took the time to write the world’s worst review.

Except Starboard Value does not spend its time crusading for better mid-market Italian meals for no reason. It owns a bunch of shares in Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, and wants to take control of the company’s board. The scheme it’s concocted to increase its share price has little to do with breadsticks and pasta water. It really wants to steal Olive Garden’s real estate, and make a billion dollars in the process.

Barron H. Lerner: When Medicine Is Futile

MY father would have been thrilled to read “Dying in America,” a new report by the Institute of Medicine that argues that we subject dying patients to too many treatments, denying them a peaceful death. But he would have asked what took us so long. A physician from the late 1950s to the late 1990s, my dad grew increasingly angry at how patients died in this country, too often in hospitals and connected to machines and tubes he knew would not help them.

He placed some of the blame for the situation at the feet of bioethics and patients’ rights, two movements that I, as a young physician, had fiercely advocated. Doctors, he believed, had abrogated their duties in preventing – and, if necessary, thwarting – patients from pursuing inappropriate end-of-life interventions. We should heed my father’s advice. Physicians need to reclaim some of the turf they have ceded to patients and families.