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Jan 09 2015

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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Paul Krugman: Voodoo Time Machine

Many of us in the econ biz were wondering how the new leaders of Congress would respond to the sharp increase in American economic growth that, we now know, began last spring. After years of insisting that President Obama is responsible for a weak economy, they couldn’t say the truth – that short-run economic performance has very little to do with who holds the White House. So what would they say?

Well, I didn’t see that one coming: They’re claiming credit. Never mind the fact that all of the good data refer to a period before the midterm elections. Mitch McConnell, the new Senate majority leader, says that he did it, that growth reflected “the expectation of a new Republican Congress.”

The response of the Democratic National Committee – “Hahahahahahaha” – seems appropriate. I mean, talk about voodoo economics: Mr. McConnell is claiming not just that he can create prosperity without, you know, actually passing any legislation, but that he can reach back in time and create prosperity before even taking power. But while Mr. McConnell’s self-aggrandizement is funny, it’s also scary, because it’s a symptom of his party’s epistemic closure. Republicans know many things that aren’t so, and no amount of contrary evidence will get them to change their minds.

At least Mr. McConnell didn’t do what many of his colleagues have done when faced with inconvenient facts: resort to conspiracy theories.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The GOP’s Social Security Assault Has a Human Cost

It is striking that on their first day — their very first day! — congressional Republicans moved against Social Security’s disability insurance fund, before some of them had even found the restrooms or put out their family photos.

As Jerry Seinfeld might ask, “Who does that?”

Although the move was somewhat secretive, a number of very smart people caught it and brought it to the public’s attention. “The New Republican Attack on Social Security Starts Now!” Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson wrote in The Huffington Post. “House Rule Could Hurt Vulnerable Disability Beneficiaries,” explained Kathy Ruffing at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Republican Congress Launches With Back-Door Attack On Social Security Benefits,” wrote Alan Pyke of Think Progress.

“Well,” said Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, “that didn’t take long.”

No, indeed. And it’s worth remembering that this GOP move doesn’t just hurt an abstract entity called “Social Security.” It hurts people — living, breathing human beings.

This particular move targeted the disabled. Here’s how: The overall Social Security fund is well-funded for the next two decades or so (and easily remedied beyond that point), but the disability insurance trust fund needs a short-term cash infusion from the larger retirement account.

Mark Rufallo: President Obama Needs to Follow the Empire State’s Leadership on Banning Fracking

On December 17, a courageous act by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in the state sent shockwaves around the world. Governor Cuomo followed acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Zucker’s recommendation based on a significant and growing body of scientific studies showing that drilling and fracking put people’s health and the environment at risk.

The impacts include health problems, water contamination, dangerous air pollution, threats to agriculture and soil quality, radioactive releases, earthquakes, and more. [..]

Despite the fact that New York’s decision is based on the best science, President Obama’s administration had the audacity to denounce the decision. Last week Obama’s Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said fracking bans make it “very difficult for the industry to figure out” rules in different areas, and stem from what she sees as bad science and misinformation. That simply doesn’t hold up to the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies from leading scientific researchers and institutions demonstrating problems and harms. And frankly, we would like to see our public officials putting public health before concerns about the oil and gas industry’s confusion.

You may ask why President Obama had Interior Secretary Jewell be the one to publicly push back on New York’s fracking ban. The answer is likely simple. She is currently polishing up regulations to frack our national forests and federal lands, expected soon. This has to stop.

Amy Goodman: lose Guantanamo-Then Give It Back to Cuba

This week marks the 13th anniversary of the arrival of the first post-9/11 prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, the most notorious prison on the planet. This grim anniversary, and the beginning of normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S and Cuba, serves as a reminder that we need to permanently close the prison and return the land to its rightful owners, the Cuban people. It is time to put an end to this dark chapter of United States history. [..]

The United States took Guantanamo Bay by force in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, and extracted an indefinite lease on the property from Cuba in 1903. Returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba will begin to right more than a century of wrongs that the U.S. government has perpetrated there. Most importantly, the return of the Guantanamo Bay prison and naval base will make it harder for any future war criminals, whether in the White House, the Pentagon or the CIA and their enthusiastic cheerleaders in Congress, to use Guantanamo as their distant dungeon, to inflict torture and terror on prisoners, many of them innocent, far from the eyes of the people of the United States, and far from the reach of criminal courts.

Jessica Bulman-Pozen and David Pozen: The NYPD found a more destructive way of protesting than shutting down traffic

Civil disobedience is a familiar protest tactic. From Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr, some of our most iconic reformers have engaged in nonviolent, unlawful social action.

But it isn’t always necessary to disobey the law to defy a legal regime. Critics can also press their point by adhering to directives in ways that are consistent with their literal language but inconsistent with common practice or common sense – a tactic we call “uncivil obedience”.

In the ongoing struggle over police reform, civil disobedience is now being met with uncivil obedience. After protesters outraged by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner shut down streets, bridges and shopping malls, the head of New York City’s largest police union urged officers to pay close attention to the regulations that guide officers’ conduct. Simply by sticking to the “stupid rules”, Patrick Lynch suggested, cops could fight back against their “enemies”.