Paul Krugman at The New York Times challenges the naysayers in On Inequality:
Not only do the usual suspects continue to deny the obvious, but they keep rolling out the same discredited arguments: Inequality isn’t really rising; O.K., it’s rising, but it doesn’t matter because we have so much social mobility; anyway, it’s a good thing, and anyone who suggests that it’s a problem is a Marxist. [...]E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post asks a question to which he surely knows the answer in Will Congress be as brave as Shinseki?
Which brings me to the latest intellectual scuffle, set off by an article by Chris Giles, the economics editor of The Financial Times, attacking the credibility of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Mr. Giles claimed that Mr. Piketty’s work made “a series of errors that skew his findings,” and that there is in fact no clear evidence of rising concentration of wealth. And like just about everyone who has followed such controversies over the years, I thought, “Here we go again.”
Sure enough, the subsequent discussion has not gone well for Mr. Giles.
Shinseki is a true patriot, and his resignation as Veterans Affairs secretary on Friday calls Congress’s bluff. He played his part in a Washington sacrificial ritual. Will the politicians now be honorable enough to account for their own mistakes?Daniel Ellsberg, a guy who knows, writes at The Guardian, Snowden would not get a fair trial—and Kerry is wrong:
Thanks to Shinseki’s latest selfless act for his country, you can at least hope that we will move on to the underlying questions here, to wit: Why was the shortage of primary care doctors in the VA system not highlighted much earlier? Why did it take a scandal to make us face up to the vast increase in the number of veterans who need medical attention? And why don’t we think enough about how abstract budget numbers connect to the missions we’re asking government agencies to carry out?
On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me again—and said Snowden "should man up and come back to the United States" to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that's not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers.You can read more excerpts from pundits below the fold.
As Snowden told Brian Williams on NBC later that night and Snowden's lawyer told me the next morning, he would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case—in public or in court.
Snowden would come back home to a jail cell—and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). [...]
As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act—or any other statute—for giving information to the American people.
Miriam Markowitz at The Nation writes Millennials Aren’t Generation Y, We’re Generation Omega:
The Millennials, or Generation Y, or whatever they’ve decided to call you—us actually: I’m at the tail end of 1981, so I just barely made the cut—you believe the word revolves around you. You’re ignorant, lazy and entitled. You don’t want to work hard, like your elders did, and you don’t value their wisdom or respect their authority. You—we—are a generation of selfish, mollycoddled, narcissistic brats.David Sirota at In These Times writes, Big Cable’s Almighty Dollar:
Of course you know this story. You’ve seen it on TV and read it in the Style section of The New York Times and heard it repeated incessantly by those elders and betters, the adults. So I imagine it’s pretty familiar to you by now; you might even half believe it. But the thing about this story is that it’s a load of crap. [...]
The conventional wisdom about your generation and mine, the story that’s retold every day in every way as jobs disappear, debt redoubles, superstorms gather and islands—literally entire countries—sink into the ocean, is not just a lie, but a very useful lie for the lying liars of the world—for those who control the means of production and persuasion; who have helped to usher in this harrowing present; and who are most likely to survive and thrive, at least in the short term, a catastrophic future, should it come to pass. Conventional wisdom absolves them of their very real sins against the earth, against the poor and against their children. It’s a distraction, and an easy way to pass the buck. Finally, it’s an efficient method of controlling us, its targets. It’s a way to keep us in line.
There are plenty of reasons to worry about the proposal to combine Comcast, America’s largest cable and broadband company, with Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable firm and third-largest broadband provider.Patrick Cockburn at The Independent writes, The Chilcot inquiry's focus on Bush-Blair secrets distracts us from disaster in plain sight:
For one, there’s ever more consolidated control over content. There’s also the possibility of certain types of content being given special (or worse) treatment based on the provider’s relationship with Comcast and Time Warner Cable. And there’s the prospect of even higher prices. Indeed a Comcast executive recently admitted that the company will not promise bills “are going to go down or even that they’re going to increase less rapidly.”
In the capital of a properly functioning democracy, all of these concerns would prompt the federal government to block the deal. But Washington is an occupied city—occupied by Comcast’s vast army. As Time recently reported, “The company has registered at least 76 lobbyists across 24 firms.” Those figures include neither telecom lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s chief of staff, who was a Comcast vice president and raked in $1.2 million in Comcast payments since taking his government job.
The decision to keep secret the full correspondence between George W Bush and Tony Blair instead of allowing the Chilcot inquiry to publish it has been rightly pilloried as a self-serving, dishonest attempt by politicians and civil servants to conceal their role in a disastrous war in Iraq.Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times evaluates what he calls an exception to the Obama Doctrine in Why Obama has changed his mind on Syria:
By focusing public attention on exchanges between Bush and Blair that are to remain secret, the agreement between Sir John Chilcot and Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, gives the impression that there are bodies still buried and yet to be unearthed. This diverts attention from the fact that the most evil-smelling of these bodies have always been in plain sight. Who really thinks that Blair and his coterie were truthful in saying they believed that Saddam Hussein with his weapons of mass destruction was a threat so great that it could not be contained without military action? [...]
British and American policy has been to pretend that we support the “moderate” military opposition, but this no longer exists inside Syria. The anti-Assad rebels are overwhelmingly dominated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, the official representative of what the Americans call al-Qa’ida central, and some other jihadi groups. Only one Syrian provincial city out of 14 has fallen to the opposition. This is Raqqa in the east of country, which is today held by Isis, who recently crucified some of their opponents in the main square.
Obama sees the problem, but his prescription of what to do is only going to exacerbate it. He will avoid direct US military action, but will outsource support for the rebels – now too toxic for the US to arm directly – to countries such as Turkey, across whose 510-mile-long border with Syria extreme jihadis pass without hindrance. The situation is not without precedent: after the overthrow in Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge, the murderers of more than a million of their own people, by the Vietnamese army in 1979, the US, China and Britain backed Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, and recognised his government as Cambodia’s true representative at the UN. It was subsequently revealed that the British covertly gave military training to armed groups associated with the Khmer Rouge.
President Obama's foreign policy speech at West Point last week was in large part a list of all the things he doesn't want to do. He doesn't want to withdraw from the world. At the same time, he doesn't want to use military force to solve every problem. Above all, he doesn't want to get stuck in another war in the Middle East, or anywhere else, for that matter.Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive writes, Obama Bows to American Exceptionalism at West Point:
But there's an exception to the Obama Doctrine of restraint: terrorism. Obama is ready and willing to use U.S. military power—indirectly if possible, directly if needed—against terrorists who pose a threat to the United States.
[President Obama] has approved a gradual but significant escalation of U.S. action on the most complicated and dangerous battlefield of all: Syria.
That's why, even as he has withdrawn troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the president has sent military advisors to Africa. And that's why, almost unnoticed, he has approved a gradual but significant escalation of U.S. action on the most complicated and dangerous battlefield of all: Syria.
Like Bush before him, Obama equated “democracy and market economies,” and he saluted “the World Bank and IMF” as “force multipliers.”Amy Goodman at TruthDig.com writes, Maya Angelou, Still She Rises:
And he genuflected on the altar of American arrogance. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” he said. He also repeated the haughty phrase that was popular both in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Said Obama: “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.” He vowed that it would remain so for 100 years. “That has been true for the century passed, and it will be true for the century to come,” he said.
Such rhetoric only aggravates the American superiority complex, and in an increasingly multipolar world, it surely will be an affront to billions of people the world over.
While some schools and libraries still censor her work for unflinchingly depicting the life she led, it was through my hometown library, while in my early teens, that I first saw Maya Angelou. The library invited her to speak, and speak she did—and danced, and sang, in a display of talent that made us laugh, cry and gasp as she moved her black and white audience of hundreds ... together.The Minneapolis Star-Tribune Editorial Board concludes that Outrage over VA must prompt reforms that include Bernie Sanders's Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act of 2014:
In commemorating Maya Angelou, none can speak as eloquently as she did herself about people who inspired her. At the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, she spoke of Fannie Lou Hamer, who attempted, 40 years earlier, to gain recognition for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Angelou said: “In the most private part of the heart of every American lives a burning desire to belong to a great country. To represent a noble-minded country where the mighty do not always crush the weak and the dream of democracy is not in the sole possession of the strong.”
The political outrage also needs to yield meaningful action. The bipartisan blasting of alleged VA mismanagement ought to have Congress uniting around a bill that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is reviving. The legislation would expand benefits and add up to 27 new VA health care facilities to help address the care backlog. Despite backing by just about every veterans’ advocacy group, the landmark bill was blocked in February by Senate Republicans for being too costly.
With the spotlight on the VA, this also is a time to ask broader questions about its future. One that ought to get a high-profile airing was asked during 1990s health reform efforts. Should the VA remain a separate system or should it morph into a system like Medicare, which covers care for seniors but relies on private-sector providers and hospitals?
Some congressional Republicans are making timely calls to have veterans rely more on care from private providers (the VA recently expanded options to do so, but avenues are still limited). While some see this as an ideological push to dismantle the VA, the idea shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.