Nov 21 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: The Price of Fear

After the attacks in Paris, the world is again challenged by fear. With every bombing, beheading and mass shooting, the dread spreads, along with the urgency of defeating this nihilism.

But no less a challenge for the civilized world is the danger of self-inflicted injury. In the reaction and overreaction to terrorism comes the risk that society will lose its way. [..]

History will always be kinder to those who are resolute and brave. Like the Japanese-American soldiers of World War II, whose response to injustice was to fight overseas, defending democracy with their lives. Or the leaders today who have been calm in the crisis, willing to see and to say what the mob does not. People like the governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee, who has urged open doors for Syrian refugees, citing the Japanese-American internment as a disastrous precedent. “We regret that,” he said. “We regret that we succumbed to fear.”

Dave Johnson: Shouldn’t Social Security Recipients Get A CEO-Sized Raise?

CEOs got an average 3.9 percent pay increase last year. This increase is subsidized by taxpayers because corporations can deduct it as an expense.

Meanwhile, America’s struggling seniors will receive no cost-of-living allowance (COLA) increase next year because the COLA doesn’t take into account the things seniors need to buy. If only there were some way to make an adjustment that fixes this discrepancy…

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act). If passed, the act would provide a one-time 3.9 percent ($580 on average) payment for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and SSI recipients in 2016. This week, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

Seniors, disabled veterans and others will receive no COLA adjustment next year. This is because the method of measuring living costs – the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers – is not weighted toward seniors. For example, it counts the decrease in gasoline costs for commuters and not the big cost increases in the pharmaceuticals seniors need.

The SAVE Benefits Act would adjust for this in 2016. It would be funded by eliminating a corporate tax deduction that subsidizes CEO “performance pay” increases.

Peter van Buren: US Special Forces in Combat: Nothing New for Iraq and Syria?

The United States recently unveiled a new approach in Iraq and Syria it insists is not new at all: Special Forces will be sent into direct combat. “The fact is that our strategy… hasn’t changed,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said. “This is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago.”

The press secretary is right if you take him at his exact words: the deployment of Special Forces does not change America’s grand strategy, it only changes the on-the-ground tactics.

Tactically, downplaying these moves as intensification, or as somehow not boots on the ground (one imagines American Special Forces hopping from foot to foot to protect Washington’s rhetoric) is silly. America has entered a new stage, active ground combat, and anyone who thinks a handful of Special Forces is the end of this is probably among the same group who believed air power alone would resolve matters a year ago.

Anthony D. Romero: States of Fear

Fear is toxic to a democracy. Fear divides. Fear overreacts. Fear discriminates. It’s a lesson we’ve learned throughout our history, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II to the post-9/11 Patriot Act. And now in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, we’re relearning that lesson again as some of our leaders put forth proposals that would undermine our commitment to a free, pluralistic, compassionate, and open society.

Currently 31 governors are on record opposing resettling any Syrian refugees in their states. These efforts to subvert federal policy would be unconstitutional. Only the federal government has the authority to determine who is allowed to enter the country — the states do not. And once immigrants are admitted, the states cannot restrict them from settling wherever they choose. [..]

It isn’t difficult to stand for freedom, compassion, and tolerance in times of relative peace and security. These basic tenets of the American civic faith aren’t tested until times like these. But we don’t have to give in to hate and fear. We don’t have to compromise our beliefs in freedom and equality. Principle can defeat prejudice if we don’t lose sight of what matters most: protecting the very values and rights that make us Americans, especially in the most trying of times.

Jesse Schwartz: Second Amendment time-traveling: If only the framers could have envisioned the NRA

Imagine it’s 1787 and I am a delegate who has time-traveled from 2015 to consider the adoption of the Constitution (as amended today). I argue for and against the Second Amendment from a more prescient perspective, given the degree of gun violence currently plaguing the nation. The style of writing is a bit tongue-in-cheek and should be read with an old-timey accent in mind.

As I sit here on the eve of the Constitutional Convention, the merits of certain provisions in what will likely become the guiding legal document of a nascent nation have come into question. Few aspects of our lives will escape the reach of this founding charter, either as a result of its clearly delineated powers or those stipulations explicitly limiting its powers. The absence of legal standing to effect change through legislation is, after all, just as powerful – if not more so – as the license to build coalitions and govern by consent. If by present decree, I preclude future citizens of their prerogative to address an unforeseen scourge, am I not depriving them of the very right that I am now exercising, the right to vote and affect one’s own fate? With that ponderous caveat in mind, I am left to ruminate on the benefits of the proposed Second Amendment to the Constitution.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”