“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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Dean Baker: The Terrible Twos: Central Bank Inflation Targets
The March job numbers came in somewhat worse than most analysts had expected. The slower job growth was largely attributable to unusually bad weather in late February and early March, but most of the commentators seem to be missing this fact. Many are warning that the economy might be weaker than they thought.
These warnings from commentators are in fact good news. They are good news first because it is almost certainly true that the economy is weaker than these analysts thought. Many had been making silly pronouncements about a new American boom that was not based in any real understanding of the economy. It’s always best when the people who are determining economic policy have some idea of the actual state of the economy.
The other reason the warnings are good news is that they may slow down the Federal Reserve Board’s rush to raise interest rates. The business pages have become obsessed in recent months over the date at which the Federal Reserve Board will start raising the short-term interest rate it controls from the zero level it has been at for the last six years. There had been growing pressure on Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other doves to pull the trigger. The recognition of slower growth will help to alleviate the pressure.
Glenn Greenwald: Why John Oliver Can’t Find Americans Who Know Edward Snowden’s Name (It’s Not About Snowden)
On his HBO program Sunday night, John Oliver devoted 30 minutes to a discussion of U.S. surveillance programs, advocating a much more substantive debate as the June 1 deadline for renewing the Patriot Act approaches (the full segment can be seen here). As part of that segment, Oliver broadcast an interview he conducted with Edward Snowden in Moscow, and to illustrate the point that an insufficient surveillance debate has been conducted, showed video of numerous people in Times Square saying they had no idea who Snowden is (or giving inaccurate answers about him). Oliver assured Snowden off-camera that they did not cherry-pick those “on the street” interviews but showed a representative sample.
Oliver’s overall discussion is good (and, naturally, quite funny), but the specific point he wants to make here is misguided. Contrary to what Oliver says, it’s actually not surprising at all that a large number of Americans are unaware of who Snowden is, nor does it say much at all about the surveillance debate. That’s because a large number of Americans, by choice, are remarkably unaware of virtually all political matters. The befuddled reactions of the Times Square interviewees when asked about Snowden illustrate little about the specific surveillance issue but a great deal about the full-scale political disengagement of a substantial chunk of the American population.
What do Bolton, Netanyahu, Graham and a whole host of others in Washington opposing this deal have in common? They were passionate supporters of the Iraq war and continue to hold that view today. [..]
Of course, we all know how this played out: no WMDs, tens of thousands of Americans killed or wounded, countless Iraqi civilians dead, nearly $4 trillion spent, and ISIS on a rampage throughout the Middle East.
Why should we listen to these people again?
The reality is that there is no better Iran deal, and those calling for one never offer a viable plan on how to get there. In fact, the real alternative is war, which will come at tremendous cost.
“After you’ve dropped those bombs on those hardened facilities, what happens next?” former commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Anthony Zinni (ret.) once wondered. “[I]f you follow this all the way down, eventually I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere. And like I tell my friends, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”
John Nichols: Scott Walker Controls Wisconsin’s Executive and Legislative Branches. Now His Minions Are Gunning For the Judicial.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plays politics to win. As a political careerist who has run two dozen primary and general election campaigns since 1990, he leaves nothing to chance. And the partisans who have allied with him have embraced the view that the best way to prevail in politics is to “have it all”-control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
This week, Walker’s allies are focused on securing control of the judicial branch of state government in Wisconsin. The Republican Party of Wisconsin and groups that have consistently backed Walker’s agenda are leading the charge to oust a state Supreme Court justice who has championed judicial independence and to change the way in which the high court is organized-with an eye toward ousting another independent jurist from the position of chief justice.
The Wisconsin fights, which will play out in two statewide votes Tuesday, have received little national attention. Yet they are instructive for those who seek to understand the relentless pursuit of power by Walker and his political allies-and the approach that the all-but-announced Republican presidential contender and his associates would bring to Washington if they realize their national ambitions.
Jeff Biggers: Mountaintop removal mining is a crime against Appalachia
Numerous health studies on strip mining have cleared the way for federal intervention
President Barack Obama’s budget proposal last month for an effective Appalachian regeneration fund opened a new door to the future for ailing coal mining communities. The Power Plus Plan supports reclamation and reforestation projects, job training and transition programs for unemployed coal miners, as well as pension plans for retired miners.
The plan’s focus on diversifying the region’s economy is welcome acknowledgment that it is locked in a “death spiral,” as one analyst recently noted – a result of the coal industry’s shift to the heartland and western coal fields and a rapidly changing global energy market.
But for Appalachia to truly move on, another door must be closed on its deadly past. It’s time for Obama and for Congress to recognize the indubitable scientific data on the mounting health damages of mountaintop removal (MTR) mining and enact a moratorium on all such radical strip mining operations through the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act.