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Paul Krugman at The New York Times trashes a myth in The Undeserving Rich:

The story goes like this: America’s affluent are affluent because they made the right lifestyle choices. They got themselves good educations, they got and stayed married, and so on. Basically, affluence is a reward for adhering to the Victorian virtues.

What’s wrong with this story? Even on its own terms, it postulates opportunities that don’t exist. For example, how are children of the poor, or even the working class, supposed to get a good education in an era of declining support for and sharply rising tuition at public universities? Even social indicators like family stability are, to an important extent, economic phenomena: nothing takes a toll on family values like lack of employment opportunities.

But the main thing about this myth is that it misidentifies the winners from growing inequality. White-collar professionals, even if married to each other, are only doing O.K. The big winners are a much smaller group. The Occupy movement popularized the concept of the “1 percent,” which is a good shorthand for the rising elite, but if anything includes too many people: most of the gains of the top 1 percent have in fact gone to an even tinier elite, the top 0.1 percent.

And who are these lucky few? Mainly they’re executives of some kind, especially, although not only, in finance. You can argue about whether these people deserve to be paid so well, but one thing is clear: They didn’t get where they are simply by being prudent, clean and sober.

Carla Hall at the Los Angeles Times makes A plea to hunter Corey Knowlton: Don't shoot endangered black rhino:
There are so many things wrong about the Dallas Safari Club’s ludicrous auction of a permit to hunt a black rhino in order to raise money for conservation of black rhinos. Let’s just start with the idea that the club has the temerity to call this effort a “fundraiser,” implying some charitable goal -- when the real goal is to offer a clever way to persuade the Namibians to grant a permit outside their country (which they usually don’t do) and get some public relations cover for the safari club. (That has backfired.)

Now, let’s move on to the logic behind buying a permit to kill a member of an endangered species -- by showering money on efforts to conserve that species. It’s like some human sacrifice to mollify the gods and ensure the survival of all the other humans.

Heidi Bogosian at Moyers & Co. writes Why Obama Needs to Overhaul the NSA:
Americans’ confidence in government plummeted in 1971 with disclosures that the CIA and FBI were conducting illicit intelligence operations against citizens. A Senate committee investigated the activities, which led to regulations that limited domestic spying. The head of that committee, Senator Frank Church, warned that the NSA’s “capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

This is the reality we face today. A power-driven government and corporations have profited from a perpetual war on terror in which personal data is collected and sold in blatant contempt of the Fourth Amendment. Compounding this, limits on domestic spying have eroded over the past four decades, all but evaporating after 9/11.

The authors of “Liberty and Security in a Changing World” noted in their report to the president that their goal was to “promote enduring values in a period of rapid change, and to assert that those values are essentially timeless.” Our leaders have an opening—and a responsibility—to do just that.

More excerpts from pundits can be read below the fold.

David Sirota at In These Times writes A Cold, Hard Look at the NSA’s Metadata Program:

Then most recently came a New America Foundation study of the surveillance. Evaluating 225 terrorism cases, the analysis concluded that the metadata programs “had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”

These are the inconvenient truths that NSA defenders do not want the public to know because they threaten to ignite a powerful backlash against the surveillance state. Thus, without countervailing facts of their own, the agency’s defenders are resorting to an age-old public relations trick: They are trying to scream a scary motto (in this case “national security!”) as often and as loudly as possible to either distract everyone's attention or fully drown out any fact-based discourse.

Doyle MacManus at the Los Angeles Times writes President Obama takes a step back from unfettered surveillance.:
The president didn't cancel any existing surveillance programs; indeed, he reaffirmed the government's argument that telephone metadata should still be collected—though with new safeguards.

To many civil liberties advocates, his cautious moves were disappointing. But while Obama's practical steps were small, the conceptual steps were large. Instead of accepting the doctrine that a global war against terrorists justifies almost any expansion of information-gathering, he said the entire U.S. intelligence enterprise should be subject to more public scrutiny and more stringent cost-benefit tests.

Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian writes Obama's NSA 'reforms' are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public:
This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillance abuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary "safeguards": a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community.

But the new court was designed to ensure that all of the government's requests were approved: it met in secret, only the government's lawyers could attend, it was staffed with the most pro-government judges, and it was even housed in the executive branch. As planned, the court over the next 30 years virtually never said no to the government. [...]

The same thing happened after The New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. The US political class loudly claimed that they would resolve the problems that led to that scandal. Instead, they did the opposite: in 2008, a bipartisan Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, enacted a new Fisa law that legalized the bulk of the once-illegal Bush program, including allowing warrantless eavesdropping on hundreds of millions of foreign nationals and large numbers of Americans as well.

Kara Brandeisky at ProPublica discusses Four Questionable Claims Obama Has Made on NSA Surveillance:
Today President Obama plans to announce some reportedly limited reforms to National Security Agency surveillance programs.

Since the first disclosures based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Obama has offered his own defenses of the programs. But not all of the president’s claims have stood up to scrutiny. Here are some of the misleading assertions he has made.

1. There have been no abuses.[...]

2. At least 50 terrorist threats have been averted. [...]

3. The NSA does not do any domestic spying.[...]

4. Snowden failed to take advantage of whistleblower protections.

S. Daniel Abraham at Haaretz warns John Kerry's peace plan is the very last time that Israel will be offered an agreement sympathetic to its concerns:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace mission is approaching its moment of truth, but the Israeli public remains indifferent. Over the years it has experienced American peace envoys arrive with excitement only to leave in bitter disappointment.

This thought pattern leads many in Israel to believe that even after Kerry leaves other U.S. emissaries will try their luck. Such thinking is misguided. For the foreseeable future, Kerry is likely to be the last American who tries to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians. [...]

Israeli interests will not receive as much positive attention as they do when Washington is in charge of the political process. Take, for example, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary Kerry’s tremendous efforts to understand and address Israel’s security needs. They recruited John Allen, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, to lead 160 military and intelligence experts to devise a plan, in consultation with the Israel Defense Forces, to make the border on the Jordan River the most secure in the world.

Amy Wallace at The New York Times notes that male journalists are also attacked but their bodies aren't the target in Life as a Female Journalist: Hot or Not?:
An advocacy group called Food Democracy Now was displeased by an article in The New York Times about public hearings regarding a proposed ban on genetically modified organisms on Hawaii Island; the article pointed out that many of the anti-G.M.O. arguments ignored science. In response, FDN cut off the head of the article’s author, Amy Harmon, and pasted it atop an image of a woman in a leopard-skin bathing suit. [...]

Not long afterward, one commenter wrote, “Evil Bitchweed.” Another taunted, “Hey Amy ... C U Next Tuesday,” an evocation of that C-word, again. When some commenters complained that the image of Ms. Harmon was inconsonant with the values of a group espousing progressive activism, FDN defended it as “satire, not sexism.”

So a few journalists get heckled, you may be thinking. Why should we care? Here’s why: This kind of vitriol is not designed to hold reporters accountable for the fairness and accuracy of their work. Instead, it seeks to intimidate and, ultimately, to silence female journalists who write about controversial topics. As often as not, even if they’ve won two Pulitzers, as Ms. Harmon has, these women find their bodies — not their intellects — under attack.

The Editorial Board of the Denver Post, in a thinly argued commentary, ignores the history of regulatory rule in saying the Court sets right course on net neutrality issue:
To be sure, we are not brushing aside the concerns voiced by free-market critics about the potential for broadband companies to behave badly.

They could block access to competitors. They could squelch voices they don't want heard. They could make access speeds so slow for the cheap seats on the Internet train that emerging businesses are seriously hampered.

But unless and until this happens—and not just a couple of isolated incidents—we don't think the FCC should go the heavy regulation route.

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