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Aug 18 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 Board: I Am Republican, Hear Me Roar

To hear most of the Republican candidates tell it, all an American president has to do is talk tough, make demands, send more troops overseas, pour billions more dollars into the Pentagon and the world will fall in line. The notion they’re peddling boils down to this: President Obama is weak, I am strong and America will be great again when I am in the White House. [..]

Republicans have long employed the Democrats-are-weak trope. But it’s harder to make that case after 16 years of Democratic presidents who did not hesitate to intervene forcefully when they thought it necessary – Bill Clinton in Bosnia and in Yugoslavia in defense of Kosovo and Mr. Obama in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and with prolonged drone strikes along the Pakistan border.

But as many people now realize, leadership in today’s multipolar world depends not just on a large army and the threat of force but also on the president’s ability to present America’s democracy as a plausible alternative

to repression and radicalism and to wield all the tools at his disposal, including diplomacy, to achieve the nation’s goals. President George W. Bush’s swaggering approach to leadership and his headstrong use of force, especially in his first term, led to the disaster that still imperils Iraq today.

Dean Baker: China’s Currency Devaluation and the Federal Reserve Board

Discussions of economic issues in policy circles often suffer from a “which way is up?” dilemma; it’s not clear what the problem is that needs to be solved. The massive fretting over China’s devaluation of its currency last week is one such example.

Just to line up the bases, the basic story on China’s devaluation is that a reduced value of China’s currency against the dollar will make Chinese goods and services cheaper relative to goods and services produced in the United States. Other things equal, this means that we will export less to China and import more, thereby increasing our trade deficit. This will mean less growth and fewer jobs in the United States.

All of this should be fairly straightforward. The devaluation of China’s currency means less growth and jobs in the United States. It is also worth mentioning that the lower price of imported goods from China means that, other things equal, the rate of inflation will be lower.

Leo Gerard: China Protects its Workers; America Doesn’t Bother

Confronted with a dire situation, a world power last week took strong action to secure its domestic jobs and manufacturing.

That was China. Not the United States.

China diminished the value of its currency.  This gave its exporting industries a boost while simultaneously blocking imports. The move protected the Asian giant’s manufacturers and its workers’ jobs.

Currency manipulation violates free market principles, but for China, doing it makes sense. The nation’s economy is cooling. Its stock market just crashed, and its economic powerhouse – exports – declined a substantial 8.3 percent in July ­- down to $195 billion from $213 billion the previous July. This potent action by a major economic competitor raises the question of when the United States government is going to stop pretending currency manipulation doesn’t exist. When will the United States take the necessary action to protect its industry, including manufacturing essential to national defense, as well as the good, family-supporting jobs of millions of manufacturing workers?

Norman Solomon: Subverting Illusions: Julian Assange and the Value of WikiLeaks

Three years after Ecuador’s government granted political asylum to Julian Assange in its small ground-floor London embassy, the founder of WikiLeaks is still there — beyond the reach of the government whose vice president, Joe Biden, has labeled him “a digital terrorist.” The Obama administration wants Assange in a U.S. prison, so that the only mouse he might ever see would be scurrying across the floor of a solitary-confinement cell.

Above and beyond Assange’s personal freedom, what’s at stake includes the impunity of the United States and its allies to relegate transparency to a mythical concept, with democracy more rhetoric than reality. From the Vietnam War era to today — from aerial bombing and torture to ecological disasters and financial scams moving billions of dollars into private pockets — the high-up secrecy hiding key realities from the public has done vast damage. No wonder economic and political elites despise WikiLeaks for its disclosures.

David Zirin: The Absurd, Cowardly, and Morally Bankrupt NLRB Decision Against the Northwestern Football Union

The decision by the National Labor Relations Board to overturn a previous decision from March 2014 and deny Northwestern football players the right to unionize was as cockamamie as it was craven.

It was cockamamie because the NLRB’s reasoning was that their decision “is primarily premised on a finding that because of the nature of sports leagues…[granting the Northwestern football team union rights] would not promote stability in labor relations to assert jurisdiction in this case,”  What the hell does that mean? I will try to explain: The NLRB states that since it only has jurisdiction over the seventeen private schools among the 125 Division I football schools, most of which are public institutions, it would be irresponsible to convey a different status onto Northwestern. (State labor boards, not the NLRB, oversee the public universities.) Their argument is that since they would be imposing a different set of rules for the seventeen private institutions, it would send the entire system out of whack, promoting “instability” into a climate that is currently stable.

This is absolute hogwash. Northwestern is its own entity where football players generate huge amounts of revenue and have their own grievances with coaches and administrators (what some might refer to as “management.”) As people who generate income, and as was ruled earlier by the NLRB are “paid” with a scholarship, room, and board, they should have every right to organize themselves to achieve whatever else they feel they are denied, like decent medical care or better concussion protocols. As for state universities, they have the freedom to do exactly what the Northwestern players did and organize themselves in an effort to then approach their own state boards and ask for union recognition. That is how national campaigns work. Different states have different laws, different union freedoms, and unions still make efforts to organize across state lines. The fact that different labor boards would need to be approached is more an argument against the cringe-inducing bureaucracy that engulfs labor law in this country than the efforts by Northwestern players to be recognized as the labor they so clearly are.

Paul Hockenos: US climate policymakers can learn from Germany

President Barack Obama and some of the candidates in the 2016 presidential race have in recent weeks rolled out climate change plans. As policymakers continue to weigh their environmental strategies, it is useful to take a stock of what has worked and what hasn’t in other countries, particularly in Germany. The success of Germany’s Energiewende, which aims to fully transition the country into renewable energy, provides seven important lessons for the United States on how to switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

First, the transition to renewable energy can happen quickly. Germany has moved faster than any other industrialized country in shifting its electricity consumption toward renewable energy. In the past 15 years, it has gone from having only about 5 percent renewables in its power mix (mostly small hydroelectric plants) to generating a third of its electricity from renewables, including on- and offshore wind, bioenergy, hydro, thermal and photovoltaic solar. On July 25, Germany set another new record: Renewables accounted for 78 percent of its electricity. [..]

Second, renewable energy expansion boosts jobs and economic growth. Germany made massive investments in renewables, and its economy was one of the first to crawl out of the recent global recession and has grown steadily from 2004 to 2015. Moreover, the transition has not slowed Germany’s global competitiveness. It exported more in 2014 than ever before and increased its already lopsided trade surplus to $234 billion that year, despite sanctions against Russia and sluggish global growth. In 2013 the renewable sector accounted for about 372,000 jobs in Germany, and other aspects of its environmental policy – such as energy efficiency, alternative mobility, educational and training programs, research and development, the decommissioning of nuclear reactors and grid expansion – have added at least 1.5 million jobs. The most obvious winners from Energiewende are farmers, small and medium-size businesses and citizen groups that invested heavily in renewable energy.