Dec 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:

This month, President Obama announced the latest winners of the annual lottery otherwise known as the presidential clemency process.

This year, the lucky ones were 95 federal prisoners whose absurdly long sentences — mostly for relatively minor drug offenses — the president commuted on the grounds of “justice and fairness.” Mr. Obama also pardoned two people for long-ago financial crimes. Each of these grants of clemency is wonderful news for those individuals. But they are drops in a very large bucket.

After seven years in office, Mr. Obama has issued a total of 184 commutations and 66 pardons — more grants, as the White House wasted no time in pointing out, than the last six presidents combined. But that’s a pitifully low bar, since Mr. Obama’s most recent predecessors all but abandoned the practice.

Trevor Timm: Lawmakers only care about others’ privacy when their own is at stake

The Wall Street Journal published an extensive investigation on Tuesday night detailing how a large NSA spying operation targeting the Israeli government and its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, also swept up communications of sitting members of Congress. [..]

It shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise that the NSA is spying on Israeli leaders, given Israel has attempted to sabotage US foreign policy objectives like the Iran nuclear deal, and the fact that the Israeli intelligence services are notoriously aggressive in their own spying on the US government (See Newsweek reporter Jeff Stein’s excellent series on the extreme lengths Israel will go to spy on United States officials). But this latest story demonstrates the startling powers the NSA holds to collect the communications of other branches of government without repercussion. And it’s a prime example of how innocent Americans often end up in the databases of the world’s most powerful spy agency.

David Cay Johnston: In 2015, we missed an opportunity to invest in our future

2015 offered extraordinary opportunities to strengthen America’s economy. Sadly, our elected leaders failed to do much to take advantage of opportunities to build a widely prosperous future.

Let’s take a look at where America’s leaders could do better in 2016.

Our economy suffers because we neglect investment in commonwealth goods and services, the foundation on which private wealth is built. Government investments are, and always have been, crucial to economic prosperity. Yet starving our public sector has become widely accepted policy.

Jeb Lund: Trump’s Bill Clinton ‘misogyny’ barbs are hypocrisy. His base won’t care

Not many rules from the sociopathic, agoraphobic slap-fights that make up the internet translate well to our physical universe where the grownups live. But here’s a one that does: never attack someone for a transgression you have committed yourself.

So the first reaction to misogynist blowdried dust bunny Donald Trump criticizing Bill Clinton’s scuzzy personal record with women should be, Good luck with that. But Trump is waging political war the way that Patriots coach Bill Belichick wins football games: take away the opponent’s best weapon, then play to your strengths.

It just happens that playing to Trump’s strengths involves sounding like an abusive comment thread with the long-term memory of a mosquito.

Amy B. Dean: This year, bright spots for workers came from below

Unions continued a fight for their lives in 2015, and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come. The Supreme Court is currently poised to hear a case that could significantly weaken one of the movement’s last remaining strongholds: public sector unions. And there’s little help to be found in Congress: Republican majorities refuse to raise the minimum wage — much less pass pro-worker legislation to allow workers to more easily organize collectively.

Given the gridlock and fierce ideological partisanship that pervades Washington these days, it is not surprising that many of the most positive developments from this year have happened at the local level. Although progress on the local level can sometimes seem small or disjointed, innovations in cities and states are together beginning to shape a national agenda for how to confront inequality, restore the American middle class and refashion the increasingly tattered workplace contract offered by many American employers. From the Fight for $15, to winning campaigns for paid sick leave, to local ordinances banning abusive scheduling on the part of employers, 2015 brought some signs of hope.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: For 2016, let’s keep on arguing

At year’s end, I want to offer a word to my conservative and libertarian readers whose patience I try regularly.

Perhaps you read me to have someone to yell at, or in search of evidence for how dumb liberals can be. No matter. I’m glad you’re there.

I am not someone who believes that if only we understood each other better, we would find our way to agreement. Indeed, sometimes people get to understand each other better and the results are disastrous. They learn that the distance between them is even greater than they assumed.

But more fundamentally, people disagree because they have honest differences over what matters most. We might all claim to believe in liberty, justice, equality, community, security and personal responsibility. But we can still quarrel because we put different weights on each, or because we define some of these concepts differently.