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Nov 17 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: Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda

Government officials are wasting no time in attempting to exploit the tragedy in Paris to pass invasive anti-privacy laws and acquire extraordinary new powers that they have wanted for years. In the process, they are making incredibly dishonest arguments and are receiving virtually no pushback from the media.

Absent any actual information or evidence so far about intelligence failures leading up to the deplorable terrorist attack in Paris, pundits spent the weekend speculating that Edward Snowden and surveillance reform were to blame for the fact that the attack went undetected. Then on Monday, in an epic episode of blame shifting, the CIA director, John Brennan, reportedly said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists. [..]

The fact that officials are so eager to push for extraordinary new powers in the wake of this attack is not surprising. It was just a couple of months ago that the Washington Post published leaked emails from the general counsel for the director of national intelligence, Bob Litt, in which he said that although the legislative environment is very hostile today “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement” and that there’s value in “keeping our options open for such a situation”.

Now we are faced with that situation. We are all appalled by the shocking events in Paris, but let’s not use them as an excuse to change our way of life and strip so many law-abiding citizens of their rights.

Dean Baker: President Obama’s Forum: High Theater on High Drug Prices

The Obama administration is sponsoring a forum this week on the problem of high drug prices. The purpose is presumably to express concern about a rapidly growing problem for both people in the United States and around the world. It seems likely that the point is to quite literally express concern, as opposed to taking substantive steps towards addressing an enormous problem that not only takes an economic toll, but threatens people’s health and lives.

The reasons for skepticism are obvious. First and foremost, the Obama administration has placed higher drug prices at the center of its trade agenda. As was widely reported, the last major sticking point in reaching an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was the Obama administration’s insistence on longer periods for maintaining the exclusivity on test data for biosimilar drugs.

This exclusivity means a monopoly period in which drug companies can charge high prices because there are no competitors. The Obama administration went to the mat for the pharmaceutical industry on this issue, putting aside concerns in other areas. For example, the pursuit of the pharmaceutical industry’s agenda meant that currency management – which has led to the huge U.S. trade deficit and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs – was not an item addressed in the TPP.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 5 Reasons Why Glass-Steagall Matters

The Glass-Steagall Act came up as a major point of disagreement between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate. The Act, which was originally enacted in 1933, separated risky trading and investment from traditional banking activities like business lending and consumer finance.

1933 — Anthony Adverse and Magnificent Obsession were topping the bestseller lists. King Kong and the Marx Brothers were big at the box office. What does a law passed back then have to do with the 21st century economy?

As it turns out, a lot.

Bernie Sanders wants to implement a new version of the Act, which was repealed in 1999 after having been in effect for more than 75 years. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is not calling for its reinstatement.

Sen. Sanders is right. Here are five reasons why it is important to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.

David Stockman: Blowback — the Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home to Roost

Exactly 26 years ago last week, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. The Berlin Wall—the symbol of a century of state tyranny, grotesque mass warfare and the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over the planet—had come tumbling down on November 9, 1989.

It was only a matter of time before the economically decrepit Soviet regime would be no more, and that the world’s vast arsenal of weapons and nuclear bombs could be dismantled. [..]

Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, foreign aid vendors, military bases, grand poobahs and porkers of the Congressional defense committes, think tanks, research grants and much more——were all suddenly without an enemy and raison d’etre.

As it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism”.

But the everlasting truth is that the relative handful of suicidal jihadi who have perpetrated murderous episodes of terror like 9/11 and this weekend’s carnage in Paris did not exist in November 1989; and they would not be marauding the West today save for the unrelenting arrogance, stupidity, duplicity and mendacity of Imperial Washington.

Robert Creamer: GOP Demagoguery Over Refugees Sinks to New Low

Imagine that you and your family have been displaced from your homeland by an oppressive government. Imagine that if you are forced to return to that homeland you will likely be subjected to persecution — and potentially death.

Now imagine that the world’s democracies close their doors and refuse to give you asylum.

That is exactly what happened to thousands of Jews who were targeted for persecution and ultimately extermination by Hitler’s Germany. [..]

What if we found ourselves on the other side of that equation? What if that child’s body on that Greek beach were one of our children? What would we expect and hope for from our fellow human beings?

It certainly is not the unforgivable demagoguery that flooded the airwaves on Monday from 24 GOP governors who issued statements saying they would “not take in” Syrian refugees in their states and would deny any aid to resettle them.