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Jul 15 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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: How Obama can hurt the Kochs with one stroke of his pen

During the 2012 election cycle, total spending by super PACs and other outside groups exceeded $1 billion, a staggering number that would have been unimaginable four years earlier. In 2016, the Koch brothers’ sprawling political network is expected to approach the $1 billion threshold all by itself.

This proliferation of outside money was tragically predictable in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. What many did not predict, however, was the explosion of so – called “dark money” https://www.opensecrets.org/ou… – spending by nonprofit groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that are not required to disclose their donors. In total, dark-money groups spent more than $300 million in 2012, nearly as much as all outside spending in 2008. And as the next campaign cycle gets underway, it seems likely that dark money will play a more significant role than ever. [..]

In the last year, Obama has forcefully rejected the notion that he’s a lame duck, picking battles and racking up accomplishments. But, if he wants to truly burnish his legacy, he should take on the scourge of money in politics before leaving office. With the next election well under way, the time has come for the president to live up to his rhetoric. In the battle against dark money, Obama can only lose by doing nothing.

Miranda Katz: Germany Got a Way Bigger Bailout Than It’ll Give Greece-and It Led to a More Peaceful Europe

 In 1953, the London Debt Agreement canceled half of Germany’s debt. Greece will not get quite so generous a deal.

On Sunday night, as European leaders bargained over a third Greek bailout, the hashtag #ThisIsACoup began trending worldwide to protest the extreme conditions of the deal. If Prime Minister Tsipras pushes the agreement through the Greek Parliament, Greece will receive a bailout package of up to 86 billion euros, in exchange for stricter austerity measures than those the nation rejected in their July 5 referendum. Backlash has largely been directed at Germany, who some see as hypocritical for insisting on such a harsh package: Thanks to the generous 1953 London Debt Agreement, Germany itself never repaid much of the massive debt it incurred in reparations from both world wars. In April, Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas even claimed that Germany owes Greece 278.7 billion euros in war debt for the 13 percent of the population lost during the Nazi occupation. This sum would allow Greece to clear nearly all of its existing debt, though German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that there is “zero possibility” of Germany ever making such a payment.

 When asked about any similarities between the current bailout deal and the Treaty of Versailles, whose harsh reparations created a climate of unrest in Germany that arguably paved the way for Hitler’s rise to power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded: “I won’t take part in historical comparisons, especially when I didn’t make them myself.” Yet it is difficult to avoid historical comparisons here, considering European leaders’ benevolence toward Germany in 1953 and their relative lack of sympathy toward Greece today.

Vanessa Rodriguez: John Oliver 1, Big Chicken 0?

John Oliver, comedic anchorman of HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” made feathers fly when he took on the poultry industry in a May 2015 episode. Last week, it became clear that his gripe with Big Chicken had echoed all the way to the Capitol.

Oliver used his HBO show to attack the giant poultry processors – Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Sanderson Farms – for punishing chicken farmers who speak out against terms dictated by the processors (according to a 2001 study, 71 percent of the farmers live below the poverty line) and pitting them against one another through contract farming.

Their efforts, however, may have been in vain this time. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2016 Agriculture bill and, for the first time in years, the bill did not include a GIPSA defunding rider. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to release and debate its version of the 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill this week; historically, the Senate has not attached the defunding rider to its legislation.

As it turns out, Oliver’s beef with the chicken giants may have made a difference.

Kristen Steele: Education: The Next Corporate Frontier

Over the last thirty years or so, private corporations have been steadily taking over school systems all around the world. Going hand in hand with “free” trade and development, the privatization of education is simply another step towards corporate control of the entire economy. If you’re tuned in to education news in the US, you may be familiar with the public school closures in Chicago, the so-called Recovery School District in New Orleans, and the proposed budget cuts in Milwaukee that have brought parents, students and teachers into the streets. But few of us hear about how students in Chile have been protesting for nearly a decade against rampant privatization that has increased economic inequality. Or how the UK government recently passed an education act allowing the conversion of all state schools into privately run “academies”. Or how Structural Adjustment Programs and development aid have paved the way for privatization of schools across Africa, which has resulted in reduced enrollment of girls and exclusion of the poorest children. Or how similar takeovers are happening in Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, India, and many other countries.

Privatization exists in different forms, including vouchers, public private partnerships, low-fee private schools, and charter schools. Whatever it’s called, it amounts to the same thing: private corporations gaining control of and profiting from an essential public function. In every country, the identical argument is used: public schools are failing, reform is needed and big business will do it best, providing choice and efficiency. If the statistics don’t match the argument, they are concealed or doctored to fit.

Katherine Paul: House Ag Committee Says ‘No’ to GMO Labeling, What’s Next?

With no debate and only a voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture today (July 14, 2015) passed out of committee H.R. 1599, a bill to preempt states’ rights to label GMOs. Within hours, it was announced that the bill will go straight to the House floor, as early as next week, with no vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee. [..]

Time and again, independent experts have stated that the cost of labeling GMO foods and ingredients, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers, would be negligible here in the U.S., just as it has been in the more than 60 countries that already require labeling. GMO labels are costless, as pointed out in this Washington Post article. Companies regularly update their food packaging as they come up with new designs or marketing strategies.

And then there was the ultimate lie about GMOs, that they have been “proven safe:”