“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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: A progressive’s lament about the Trans-Pacific Partnership
It has come to this. To sell his trade treaty – specifically the fast-track trade authority that would grease the skids for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), President Obama is mobilizing a coalition anchored by corporate lobbies, the Chamber of Commerce and Republican congressional leadership. He is opposed by the majority of Democratic legislators, the labor movement and a broad array of mainstream environmental, consumer and citizen organizations.
Democrats are stunned by the intensity of the lobbying effort mounted by the administration. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a staunch supporter of the president, noted that Democrats have been “talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more Cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama’s been president. That’s just sad. I wish they put the same effort into minimum wage. I wish they put the same effort into Medicare at 55. I wish they put the same effort into some consumer strengthening on Dodd-Frank.” [..]
This president has often exhibited less patience with criticism from his base (what his former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, once scorned as the “professional left“) than from the right. I met Obama when he was a candidate for president. On learning that I was editor of the Nation, he said to me, “The perfect is the enemy of good.” Perhaps he expected me to disagree. I don’t. I accept the need, at times, to accept half a loaf if that is all that is possible. But the compromise has to be based on principle; the half step forward has to be pointing in the right direction.
On the TPP, however, President Obama’s critics aren’t making the perfect the enemy of the good. They are raising fundamental questions about the thrust of our trade policies. The compromises won’t help when we’re headed in the wrong direction.
Faiza Patel: NSA data collection program must end
Senate Republicans are seeking to extend controversial section of the Patriot Act. It should be allowed to expire
The Senate’s Republican leadership has convinced itself that the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden were just a bad dream. Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chairman of the Senate’s powerful Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced a bill that would extend the NSA’s program to amass a database of Americans’ telephone records for five years. Unlike the numerous bills that have been introduced since Snowden disclosed this operation, the McConnell-Burr measure makes no effort to address the bipartisan concerns raised by policymakers and experts. [..]
Americans understand the risks these programs pose to their privacy. Several polls have been conducted to gauge people’s attitudes about electronic surveillance. While the results vary somewhat, the clear trend in the last two years is that the public is increasingly uneasy about digital intrusions of unprecedented scale.
The United States faces a range of threats, and intelligence and law enforcement agencies should have the tools to face them. But such tools should be effective and constitutional. The phone records program being pushed by the Senate leadership is neither. Instead of wasting the limited time left before Congress goes on recess, McConnell and Burr should be working to fix the Patriot Act, not blindly endorse it.
After Saturday’s full day of peaceful protests in Baltimore calling for justice for Freddie Gray – the 25-year-old who recently died of a spinal injury suffered while in police custody – some protesters opted Saturday evening and Sunday to pursue more hands-on expressions of frustration. On Monday, the day of Gray’s memorial service, public tensions led to rioting in West Baltimore that continued into the evening. [..]
When crowds turned to rioting on Monday, CNN legal analyst and New Yorker contributor Jeffrey Toobin took the opportunity on Anderson Cooper 360 to denounce the city. “Protest is an honorable thing; looting and criminality are not,” he said. “Baltimore disgraced itself today.” For Toobin, it’s as if nothing disgraceful or criminal happened before Monday, as if the city’s long history of racist police violence weren’t disgrace enough to be worth comment. On the receiving end of that violence have been teenagers, pregnant women, and octogenarian grandmothers.
Finally, the media found, the protesters were behaving according to the script – the one that casts black communities in America as powder kegs that can be contained only by the cops. Never mind that chucking hot dog buns and condiments at police and smashing up police vehicles and store windows is inherently less destructive, at least in terms of human life, than fatally severing a person’s spinal cord or shooting an unarmed man multiple times in the back. The latter two operations were performed under the sanction of U.S. law enforcement, whose behavior, no matter how outrageous, is still defended from public outrage by media and politicians alike.
Guinevere E. Moore: US border agents shouldn’t have the courts’ permission to shoot people in Mexico
If you shoot an unarmed teenage boy in the head, 3 days of administrative leave isn’t nearly enough punishment
A United States court has all but declared open season on Mexican nationals along the US-Mexico border. Border patrol agents may shoot foreign nationals in Mexico with impunity – provided that those at whom they aim are standing within feet of US territory.
According to a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last week, agents who shoot and kill people in Mexico while standing on US soil will never be held to account, except before their administrative agencies. No court will ever review these actions and the families of the victims will be left with no avenue for justice. An agent’s actions will not be governed or restrained by the constitution nor subject to review by US courts.
This isn’t a hypothetic situtation: all of this has already happened.
Michelle Chen: Is the Tide Turning Against Water Privatization?
The rusty pipes running through the rough neighborhoods of Lagos reveal how Nigeria’s flood of petrol dollars trickles down: as much as 80 percent of the water is estimated to be “stolen” in a system plagued by mismanagement and failed privatization schemes. But now help is coming accidentally from the World Bank-the financial institution better known for financing mass displacement of slum residents. Its investment arm is inadvertently bringing a small spark of hope to Lagos-not because of what it’s funding, but what it isn’t. Apparently, it’s finally starting to back off the agenda of corporatizing the city’s water. [..]
These programs are fueled by a neoliberal development model based on the notion that private markets are the most rational way to distribute resources. But, while privatization is certainly an efficient way for rich companies to extract wealth from the poor, many experts say that, in fact, public, municipally managed water systems tend to work more effectively and distribute water services more equitably among those who most need them.
The collapse of the World Bank’s Lagos PPP talks may point toward a global trend toward remunicipalization of water services in recent years, as many localities that have experimented with privatization have found that public services are actually more cost-efficient in the long run.
Dani McClain: Black Women Aren’t Just Secondary Casualties of Aggressive Policing
Last week, The New York Times published a much-discussed analysis of Census data under a headline claiming that 1.5 million black men are “missing” from daily life in America. Because of punitive and racially targeted criminal justice policies and factors leading to premature death (including declining but high homicide rates), huge swaths of black men are tucked away in prison cells or early graves. The study found that for every 100 black women in the United States who are not in jail, there are 83 black men in the same category. Among white Americans there’s barely a gap, with just one missing man for every 100 women.
The Times‘ graphics and reporting are fascinating, but analysis veered off into shallow and well-trod territory, concluding that a primary outcome of these “disappeared” men is that black families are set up for dysfunction because too few men are around to be husbands and fathers. Through this lens, the systemic assault on black lives hurts black women because they’re left alone in to raise families on their own.