Dec 30 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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New York Times Editorial: Police Respect Squandered in Attacks on de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio has spent weeks expressing his respect and admiration for the New York Police Department, while calling for unity in these difficult days, but the message doesn’t seem to be sinking in. [..]

The New York Police Department is going through a terrible time, and the assassinations of those officers only underscore the dreadful dangers that rank-and-file cops face every day. And, in truth, there is some thanklessness to being a cop. Officers often feel beleaguered, jerked around by supervisors and politicians, obligated to follow rules and policies that can be misguided, held responsible for their mistakes in ways that the public is not, exposed to frequent ridicule and hostility from the people they are sworn to serve. It has always been that way with cops.

But none of those grievances can justify the snarling sense of victimhood that seems to be motivating the anti-de Blasio campaign – the belief that the department is never wrong, that it never needs redirection or reform, only reverence. This is the view peddled by union officials like Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association – that cops are an ethically impeccable force with their own priorities and codes of behavior, accountable only to themselves, and whose reflexive defiance in the face of valid criticism is somehow normal.

It’s not normal. Not for a professional class of highly trained civil servants, which New York’s Finest profess to be. The police can rightly expect, even insist upon, the respect of the public. But respect is a finite resource. It cannot be wasted. Sometimes it has to be renewed.

Peter Dreier: Focus on the NRA, Not Mayor de Blasio, for Deaths of NYC Cops

In an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani urged current Mayor Bill de Blasio to apologize to the New York Police Department for “[giving] the police the impression that he’s on the other side” – in other words, that he’s siding with the protesters over law enforcement during recent protests over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.   Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has been grabbing headlines by blaming de Blasio for creating an anti-police atmosphere that may have encouraged Brinsley to target the two police officers, gunned down while they sat in their squad car outside a Brooklyn housing project. Some NYPD officers even turned their backs on de Blasio during  Ramos’ funeral on Saturday. [..]

If Giuliani and Lynch want to point the finger of blame for policies that put police in harm’s way, they should focus on the NRA, not de Blasio.  For decades, the NRA has fought every effort to get Congress and states to adopt reasonable laws that would make it much less likely that people like Brinsley would be able to obtain a gun.  The NRA even  defends the right of Americans to carry concealed weapons in bars, churches, schools, universities, and elsewhere.  This poses a huge threat to police and civilians alike. [..]

Every American grieves for the families and friends of the two police officers killed in New York City on December 20.  But until we tame the power of the NRA, we can expect more killings like this – a part of the deadly daily diet of murders throughout America committed by angry gun-toting people whose “freedom” to own weapons of mass destruction the NRA defends.

David Cay Johnston: The success of Obamanomics

What’s not to like about the economic record of this president?

By a host of measures, the U.S. economy has done exceptionally well under President Barack Obama. So why does he receive such poor approval ratings, especially from the most prosperous and economically conservative Americans? [..]

So what’s not to like about the economic record of this president?

What most people know is that they are working hard and getting nowhere and that even if they perform well, their jobs can evaporate in an instant.

Median household income was $59,139 last year, about $4,500 below 2007 but up all of $189 from 2012. As I showed in a previous column, the median wage last year was at its lowest level since 1998, and the average wage remains below its 2007 peak.

Therein lies a key to understanding dissatisfaction with Obama’s economic policies.  While about 10 million jobs have been added since the low point a year into his first term, wages have stagnated. [..]

Had congressional Republicans cooperated with the president, our economy would be larger by 3 percent, or about $529 billion, the St. Louis Federal Reserve and other researchers estimate. Unrealized economic output is a terrible waste, especially when it results from petty political animus.

Now that the economy is expanding at the fastest rate we’ve seen in more than a decade, public perception about Obama’s economic policies is beginning to improve. But whatever Americans ultimately conclude about Obama, they should view his economic policies in a light that balances his broad successes and failures with the declared determination of Republican congressional leaders to oppose Obama’s policies at all costs.

David Dayen: The Super Bowl doesn’t need terrorism insurance. Here’s why

In its final week, the 113th US Congress managed to pass a spending bill loaded with policy giveaways to special interests, and a year-long extension of mostly corporate tax breaks.

But they couldn’t finish off the lobbyist Triple Crown. There was one task Congress couldn’t tackle: approve an extension of the Terrorist Risk Insurance Act, known as TRIA. The bill provides lucrative government bailout protection for the insurance industry in case of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or, as Hollywood has feared, retribution for American entertainment choices by North Korea. [..]

But perhaps the expiration of TRIA can shed some light on its necessity.

Supporters claim new real estate development will collapse without affordable terrorism coverage; let’s see if that’s the case. They argue that the economy will suffer; we can certainly find out. They claim that no other solution but a government guarantee exists; we can test that theory.

In fact, we already have some evidence that the industry caterwauling is overblown: the NFL has said they will not need to cancel the Super Bowl in the wake of the failure to pass TRIA, despite news reports to that effect.

Congress rarely gets the chance to run a natural experiment on whether the policies they enact make sense in the real world. The bungling of TRIA provides that opportunity. It’s up to them whether or not they seize it.

John Nichols: Bill de Blasio Is Not the First New York City Mayor to Clash With Police Unions

The leaflet was meant to highlight anger on the part of police officers with the mayor of New York. It encouraged officers to fill their names in on a document that read, “I, . . ., a New York City police officer, want all of my family and brother officers who read this to know [that] in the event of my death [the mayor and his police commissioner should] be denied attendance of any memorial service in my honor as their attendance would only bring disgrace to my memory.”

That’s how deep the divisions ran.

Yes, “ran.”

The leaflet mentioned above was distributed in 1997. The mayor in question was Rudolph Giuliani, and The New York Times reported on rank-and-file members of the powerful Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association urging fellow officers to sign the documents. Though the union did not officially sanction the jab at the mayor, its circulation among officers “demonstrates the depths of their discontent,” reported the Times in an article on a contract dispute in which Giuliani was taking a hard line against pay increases. [..]

In his eulogy for Officer Ramos, Mayor de Blasio preached a gospel of reconciliation that sought to reduce the current animosity, describing how police officers “help make a place that otherwise would be torn with strife a place of peace.” The mayoral olive branch was not accepted Saturday, just as previous efforts by previous mayors to ease tensions with the PBA have hit rough spots. This is a part of the story of big-city policing and politics. But it is not the whole story. The whole story tells us that it is possible for a strong mayor to get through hard times that include clashes with a strong police union, to propose and implement reforms that the mayor, many police officers and most citizens know to be necessary, and to survive politically. This is the historical reality, as opposed to the media-frenzy spin of the moment. And it is this reality that Mayor de Blasio would do well to keep in mind through the weeks and months to come.

Eugene Robinson: Economic Facts Get in the Way of Presidential Ambitions

Uh-oh. Now that the economy is doing well, what are Republicans-especially those running for president-going to complain about? And what are Democrats willing to celebrate?

Last week’s announcement that the economy grew at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter of 2014-following 4.6 percent second-quarter growth-was the clearest and least debatable indication to date that sustained recovery is no longer a promise, it’s a fact. [..]

GOP candidates face a dilemma. To win in the primaries, where the influence of the far-right activist base is magnified, it may be necessary to continue the give-no-quarter attacks on Obama’s record, regardless of what the facts might say. But in the general election, against a capable Democratic candidate-someone like Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run-pretending that up is down won’t cut it. [..]

Likewise, Elizabeth Warren charges that the administration’s coziness with Wall Street helps ensure that the deck remains stacked against the middle class. Warren says she isn’t running for president but wants to influence the debate. She has. Clinton’s speeches have begun sounding more populist, in spite of her long-standing Wall Street ties.

You know the old saying about how there’s no arguing with success? Our politicians are about to prove it wrong.