Jul 31 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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New York Times Editorial: Obama Administration Ignores Malaysia’s Trafficking Record

After one year on the State Department’s list of countries that are failing to combat modern-day slavery, Malaysia has been upgraded to a higher category. That judgment, part of an annual evaluation of how 188 countries deal with human trafficking, strains credulity, given how little Malaysia has done to address the problem.

The decision has raised suspicions that Malaysia’s status was changed to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal, although the Obama administration denied that was the case. [..]

In June, Congress approved legislation giving Mr. Obama fast-track trade negotiating powers, but prohibited deals with Tier 3 countries. Although American officials denied the trade pact was a factor in the trafficking rankings, leaving Malaysia on the Tier 3 list would disqualify it from negotiating with the United States on the trade pact, which is a critical part of President Obama’s agenda.

Honest appraisals of countries’ records on trafficking are vital to the integrity of a process that is meant to hold nations accountable. That is put at risk by decisions made for political reasons.

Paul Krugman: China’s Naked Emperors

Politicians who preside over economic booms often develop delusions of competence. You can see this domestically: Jeb Bush imagines that he knows the secrets of economic growth because he happened to be governor when Florida was experiencing a giant housing bubble, and he had the good luck to leave office just before it burst. We’ve seen it in many countries: I still remember the omniscience and omnipotence ascribed to Japanese bureaucrats in the 1980s, before the long stagnation set in.

This is the context in which you need to understand the strange goings-on in China’s stock market. In and of itself, the price of Chinese equities shouldn’t matter all that much. But the authorities have chosen to put their credibility on the line by trying to control that market – and are in the process of demonstrating that, China’s remarkable success over the past 25 years notwithstanding, the nation’s rulers have no idea what they’re doing.

Jessica Valenti: The latest anti-choice move: try to take custody of a woman’s fetus

States have tried all sorts of things to prevent women from having abortions. They’ve enacted waiting periods, ultrasound laws and parental notifications. They’ve passed laws that force doctors to lie to women and force women to visit with ideological zealots. Some legislators have even attempted to make women get a man’s consent before obtaining the procedure – a paternalistic permission slip to access their legal rights.

But Alabama has brought efforts to restrict abortion to a whole new level, as the state tried this week to stop a woman from getting an abortion by terminating her parental rights… to her fetus. [..]

Baffling legal maneuvering aside, what’s worst in cases like this one in Alabama – where the state focuses its misogynist ire on the most marginalized women – is that they’re commonplace. Women in prison, women who use drugs, women of color and low-income women have long been targets for anti-choice legislators, not just because they have less support to fight back, but because the people attacking them believe that no one will care. It’s nastiness of the worst sort.

Abortion is legal. And while I’d like to say that no amount of strange, overreaching and insulting litigation or legislation will change that, it has, and it still could. And if it does, we know who will be penalized most.

David Cay Johnston: Blame government policies for the economic slowdown

Our economy is promoting the hoarding of cash and assets at the top

Around the world, financial pages report that the global economy is slowing and might even contract.

Prices of commodities are falling, with copper, cotton, grains and oil all down by about half in the last five years – a strong signal of slowing growth.

Companies are tightening their belts, with fewer perks and fringe benefits. An inadvertently leaked report showed that staff economists at the Federal Reserve are more pessimistic about the near future than the official Fed positions. And big companies with nowhere else to put their piles of cash are buying back their stock or buying up competitors, which means fewer well-paying management jobs.

Yet hardly any of these reports citing official sources and economic data connect the dots to outline what’s behind this unwelcome trend in the U.S.: government policies.

Governments are helping big industries by diminishing competition, providing abundant cheap credit for speculation rather than investment and failing to rein in price gouging. In turn, these policies produce a growing concentration of income and wealth at the top while the vast majority struggle with falling wages, flat incomes, job insecurity and a shrinking slice of investment assets.

Steven W. Thrasher: Samuel DuBose’s killing is a dark cloud with a grim silver lining

There is nothing good, but there is much bad and ugly, about the fact that Samuel DuBose’s killing at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was caught on video by a body camera. He is still needlessly dead.

But there is a silver lining in what it can mean going forward, as Aubrey DuBose, Samuel’s brother, articulated at a press conference on Wednesday. It’s a silver lining when a white prosecutor, Joe Deters, got up in front of the Cincinnati press and unequivocally denounced the “unnecessary” but “purposeful” killing of DuBose as “murder” – without any of the usual equivocation which makes black victims have to defend themselves from beyond the grave. There’s a lining in Deters, the representative of his city, saying that he feels “sorry for his family” and not expressing something crude like, say, blaming him for his death, as the City of Cleveland did with Tamir Rice. There’s a lining in that, unlike Ferguson Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, Deters seemed to want an indictment, got one from a grand jury and swiftly had Tensing in custody. [..]

I feel far more angry than celebratory by this video. I am angered that without the video, DuBose would have been written off as a murderous thug who deserved to die. I am angered that Cincinnati officials placed suspicion on black people citywide for the actions of a police officer. And most of all, I am angry that even wearing a body cam did not stop Tensing from shooting DuBose in the head.

Sen. Jeff Merkley: It’s Time for Shell to Abandon Its Irresponsible Arctic Drilling Plans

At this moment, the damaged Fennica icebreaker is entering the water in my home of Portland, OR, in what could be a make-or-break moment for our environment and our future climate. [..]

Drilling in the Arctic is the height of irresponsibility. If the Chukchi leases are developed and Shell begins operations, a major oil spill is extremely likely. We all remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in billions of dollars in economic damage to coastal communities and devastating pollution from the 4.9 million barrels of oil that were dumped into the warm Gulf waters. The harsh climate and remote location of the Arctic would make cleanup of a comparable spill nearly impossible, and if a spill happens during the winter, months could pass before a well could be plugged.

Additionally, we should not be investing in infrastructure that will lock in decades of production — and carbon pollution — from previously unexploited fossil fuel reserves. The science is clear that we have already discovered five times as much fossil fuel as we can afford to burn if we hope to avert catastrophic climate change. Human civilization already faces enormous challenges from climate change.