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Mar 10 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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Trevor Timm: Republicans are mad about Hillary Clinton’s emails. So pass FOIA reform

To all the members of Congress complaining about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address while Secretary of State, here’s an idea: pass a law so it can never happen again. Whether you’re a Republican in Congress trying to capitalize on the controversy, or a Democrat trying to put an end to it, why not quickly vote on robust Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform in both the House and the Senate? [..]

As John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation, told me yesterday: Congress can easily “pass clearer requirements governing the use of official email, and create strong oversight and enforcement authority to ensure the law is followed”. It’s also the perfect time to quickly pass the FOIA Improvements Act, which Congress came within a hair’s breadth of doing last December.

Instead of both parties competing over who can be more secretive, like they did in the 2012 presidential campaign, this is also a great opportunity for 2016 presidential candidates to debate about who can deliver the most transparent White House. That doesn’t mean just voluntarily releasing emails you want the public to see – though that’s a start – but implementing lasting policy changes and laws that will change the trajectory of US secrecy law, which has grown out of control in the past decade.

Raúl M Grijalva and Keith Ellison: We won’t just rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Workers deserve better

Progressives believe that fair trade agreements are possible – but not if the administration follows the old model for negotiations

The United States is currently negotiating with eleven other nations to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – one of the biggest trade deals in history – which will set the standard for international trade deals for decades to come. America faces a clear choice: will we continue the job-killing policies of recent deals, or will we create a new model for trade that puts working families first?

We in Congress don’t precisely know, because the rules governing negotiations mean we don’t have access to full draft texts and staff cannot be present when we see individual sections. We also cannot provide negotiating objectives for the US Trade Representative. The administration’s request for “fast track” authority is a request for Congress to rubber-stamp a text that more than 500 corporate representatives were able to see and influence.

Robert Creamer: GOP Letter to Iran: Breathtaking Attempt to Sabotage U.S. Foreign Policy, Stampede U.S. Into War

Their action is a brazen, breathtaking attempt to sabotage U.S. foreign policy and stampede America into another war in the Middle East.

While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to negotiate the most critical elements of a deal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and avoid war, the Republicans are actively trying to undermine his efforts to get a deal.[..]

If the Iranians are unwilling to sign a verifiable agreement with the international community to limit the application of their nuclear know-how to peaceful purposes, the U.S. will be left with two horrible options: a nuclear Iran or war.

Unbelievably, these GOP senators are actively discouraging Iran from signing such a deal by arguing that the United States cannot be trusted to keep up our end. That is shocking. It’s like someone interfering with negotiations being conducted by a hostage negotiator by trying to convince a hostage taker not to surrender because he will shoot him anyway.

Paul Buchheit: How to Become a Conservative in Four Embarrassing Steps

Not that we’d want to. But many Americans, perplexingly, have taken that path in the last ten years, as 27 percent of those polled now consider themselves ‘mostly’ or ‘consistently’ conservative, up from 18 percent in 2004. (Conservatives were at 30 percent in 1994. Liberals increased from 21 to over 30 percent in the 1990s and have remained approximately the same since then.)

The language of true conservatives often turns to denial, dismissal, and/or belligerence, without verifiable facts of any substance. There is also evidence for delusional thinking and a lack of empathy. Here are four ways to be just like them.

Dave Johnson: How Our Trade Policies Kill Jobs

Trade is great. We all trade. A lot of us trade labor for money that buys other things. A farmer trades corn for money that buys other things, and so on. No one is “against trade.”

But is anything called “trade” always good for all involved? Imagine you’re a farmer and you make a deal to trade corn and wheat to get money for a new tractor. So the farmer orders a new tractor, but the “trade partner” never buys any corn or wheat. After a while the “trade partner” shows up with a big bill, saying the farmer owes money for the tractor. And then the farmer finds out that the “trade partner” plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the tractor to grow their own corn.

In modern terms, we would say that the farmer was “running a trade deficit.” How much damage do you think that “trade deficit” is doing to that farmer, and the farmer’s ability to make a living in the future? How long do you think that farmer would let that “trade agreement” continue?

John Atcheson: Partners in Stupidity and the War on Terror

Casus belli anyone? So Obama wants Congress to authorize a war on ISIS. They’ll do it, of course, but not before the usual partisan sniping.

So far the “debate” has been a festival of irrelevance. Should it be sun-setted? Is three years right? What about the open-ended authorization for Al-Qaeda from 1991? Does it limit a future President’s options?

Oh, the self-satisfied sagacity of these people. Why, they’ve thought of everything … well almost everything.

Among the things that’s missing in this discussion is the Casus Belli … you may remember the search for the missing Casus Belli just before we hurdled headlong into the Iraqi War – you know, the one that created ISIS in the first place? The one that gave them arms, motivation and a modicum of training?

There’s also no acknowledgement that the “war on terror” approach to terrorism has been a complete, utter and abject failure. In fact, it encourages terrorism as a tactic, and serves as a recruitment tool. Here’s why.