Sep 03 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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Trevor Timm: David Petraeus’ bright idea: give terrorists weapons to beat terrorists

The latest brilliant plan to curtail Isis in the Middle East? Give more weapons to current members of al-Qaida. The [Daily Beast reported v] that former CIA director David Petraeus, still somehow entrenched in the DC Beltway power circles [despite leaking highly classified secrets v], is now advocating arming members of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, an offshoot of al-Qaida and a designated terrorist organization. Could there be a more dangerous and crazy idea? [..]

Let’s put aside for a second that there’s not much difference between arming al-Nusra and arming “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra.” How the US can possibly “peel off” fighters from a terrorist group is a complete mystery. In Iraq – Petraeus is apparently using part of the largely failed Iraq “surge” as his blueprint here – he convinced some Sunni tribes to switch sides temporarily, but that was with over 100,000 US troops on the ground to do the convincing. Does Petraeus think we should invade Syria to accomplish the same feat?

The idea that we should add more weapons to the equation, let alone give them to militants who the US considers terrorists, is preposterous at this point. Depressingly, escalating our involvement is the dominant talking point in Washington’s foreign policy circles these days.

Mark Weisbrot: Fed talk of raising interest rates is irresponsible

Grass-roots organizing and unprecedented public debate aim to hold Fed accountable

Economists know that when the Fed raises short-term interest rates, it throws people out of work by reducing spending in the economy in order to put downward pressure on wages. The Fed and its supporters say that this chain of events is necessary to keep inflation under control. At any moment – including the current one – that last piece of the argument, that inflation would otherwise get too high, can be debated. But if more people knew about what the Fed is actually doing, there would be more political resistance and perhaps even public outrage.

This is especially true right now, with inflation running at nearly zero – 0.2 percent for the consumer price index over the past year. The Fed’s preferred indicator of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures deflator, is at 1.2 percent (excluding food and energy). This is still quite a bit below the Fed’s inflation target, 2 percent, which many economists argue is too low.

Yet the Fed’s No. 2, Vice President Stanley Fischer, indicated last week at the Fed’s annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that the Fed is likely to stick to its plan to raise interest rates before the end of the year. This is despite falling commodity prices, the recent turmoil in financial markets and the weakness of the global economy.

Robert Reich: Labor Day 2028

In 1928, famed British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would advance so far in a hundred years — by 2028 — that it will replace all work, and no one will need to worry about making money.

“For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

We still have thirteen years to go before we reach Keynes’ prophetic year, but we’re not exactly on the way to it. Americans are working harder than ever.

Brian Root: The ‘anchor baby’ myth

Having children who are US citizens is rarely a factor in immigration decisions

On Aug. 19, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called for greater border enforcement, ostensibly to prevent pregnant mothers from coming to the United States to deliver “anchor babies,” an offensive term for children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants. The comment has drawn sharp criticism from Latinos, Asians and immigrant rights advocates. Bush has fumbled his response to the controversy.

Beyond its dehumanizing consequences, the myth of the “anchor baby” perpetuates the mistaken notion that having a U.S. citizen child is an effective means for unauthorized parents to stay in the United States. The fact is, having children who are U.S. citizens is rarely a factor in immigration decisions and the U.S. routinely rips families apart.

Separating a family through deportation can inflict severe trauma on children. But during his first six years in office, President Barack Obama’s administration deported more than 2 million immigrants under a legal framework that makes little to no consideration for family ties.

David Cay Johnston: New York’s electricity market is a scam

State operators rig prices not to fall, thanks to lax regulators

If you agree with legislators in about half the states that the most efficient way to provide electricity is through wholesale auctions, take a leap down the rabbit hole into world of the New York Public Service Commission.

Electricity should be cheap in New York because the state’s capacity to generate power far outstrips demand. Its surplus is huge, as much as 63 percent in May, and never less than 4.6 percent, New England Power Coordinating Council reliability reports show.

Prices should fall when demand is below capacity. But when capacity falls short of demand by even 1 percent, electricity market prices soar. Demand in New York is falling, primarily because of “a decrease in upstate industrial” electricity use, the Northeast Power Coordinating Council’s latest report shows.

Yet instead of enjoying cheaper power, New Yorkers pay 40 percent more than the average for the 48 contiguous states, federal pricing data show. Adjusted for inflation, electricity in New York costs almost 17 percent more than a decade ago (though it is down a bit from last year).