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Paul Krugman at The New York Times looks at Interests, Ideology And Climate:

I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.
Owen Jones at The Guardian declares in The CIA's cute first tweet can't cover its bloody tracks:
In the latest CIA coup, America's leading spooks have sent the Twittersphere into a frenzy with their chucklesome debut on social media: "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet." How droll! More than a quarter of a million people have retweeted what has been described as "the best first tweet possible". No wonder: it's one of the world's most secretive organisations being self-deprecating, light-hearted, even – dare I say it?—cute.

Here's a story that isn't quite so cute. My parents were among many South Yorkshire families who took in refugees fleeing Augusto Pinochet's Chile in the 1970s. Sylvia was a Chilean woman with two kids. Her husband had been murdered, she had been tortured and – traumatised – she would end her life by jumping from a Sheffield tower block.

Here was just one victim of a junta installed on 11 September 1973 with CIA support after Henry Kissinger declared: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a county go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people." Dissidents had electrodes attached to their genitals. Thousands were killed, including those crammed into Santiago's National Stadium; among then was Victor Jara – Latin America's answer to Bob Dylan. This was the other 9/11, and the CIA's fingerprints were all over it. [...]

The CIA might try and LOL away its record, but given the world is still dealing with the consequences of its many disastrous postwar interventions, it shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. "Terrorism" is normally used when referring to acts of violence committed by non-white people hostile to the west. But if we're understanding the term to mean acts of terror committed for political ends, then the CIA is surely the greatest terrorist organisation on earth.

Below the fold you will find more pundit excerpts.

Robert J. Samuelson at The Washington Post dissects what he calls The rhetoric of Obama’s climate plan vs. reality:

The truth is that, love it or hate it, the president’s plan would only modestly cut greenhouse-gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide (CO2), from current levels. Assuming no major glitches—a big assumption—the economic effect would be muted. It wouldn’t be a huge net job creator or destroyer. It wouldn’t catapult “renewables” (solar, wind) into major electricity sources. The proposal’s real significance is that, if blessed by the courts, it would create a complex and costly regulatory apparatus that, in the future, might govern much of the U.S. economy.

Obama’s 30 percent target by 2030 is misleading. It overstates the size of the proposed cut, because the reduction is compared with 2005 emissions . Since 2005, there has already been a big shift away from coal; this shrinks the need for added cuts by about half.

Let’s do the math. In 2005, power plants produced 2,402 million metric tons of CO2. A 30 percent reduction is 721 million metric tons. This is the target. But by 2012, CO2 emissions had already dropped to 2,023 million metric tons, a decline of 379 million metric tons. That’s 53 percent of the 2030 target. All of this has occurred without federal regulation of greenhouse gases. [...]

The best approach is to tax carbon emissions. If you want less of something, tax it. Stimulate competition to find ways to conserve energy or produce it without greenhouse gases. An energy tax would also help close U.S. budget deficits. But there’s little public taste for this. Indeed, support for any anti-global warming legislation is weak. In 2009, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate, they could not pass a bill.

Michael O'Hanlon at The Washington Post adopts a jingoist's utilitarian rationalization in arguing that the U.S. should preserve its partnership with Afghanistan:
How can anyone possibly argue that President Obama’s plan to have all operational U.S. military forces out of Afghanistan by the end of his presidency is a mistake? By then, Obama will have presided over eight years of military engagement there, on top of President Bush’s 7½. The effort will be far and away the United States’ longest war, whether one defines the endpoint as December’s termination of NATO’s combat operation or as the 2016 completion of the follow-on mission that will begin immediately thereafter.

The problem with this way of thinking is in the premise. We should not think about Afghanistan, at this point, as a war to end but as a partnership to preserve. For that large majority of Americans tired of this war, and uninterested in further nation-building in the Hindu Kush, the best motivator might not be the modest help in air power or intelligence that Afghan forces—already doing 95 percent of the fighting and dying in defense of their country—might need after 2016. Rather, the best argument is a more nationalistic one about U.S. national security. Without bases in Afghanistan, from where will we fly drones or stage commando raids to monitor, target and occasionally kill any al-Qaeda forces that take sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan or western Pakistan?

Matt Fletcher at The New York Times discusses reparations in American Indians Seek Control, Not Just Payment:
Tribal fights for hunting and fishing rights, education, sacred sites, and natural resources are all rooted in self-determination. When tribes settle claims against federal and state governments, the funds invariably go toward governance. Even Indian gaming, which many people think of as a form of reparations, grows out of tribal government activity, and Congress has mandated that gaming profits be spent on governance.

America’s moral debts to African-Americans and American Indians are shockingly deep and wide. African Americans point to slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and redlining. And American Indians point to land and resources theft, boarding schools, and cultural and religious persecution. But while African-Americans eye individual payments, Indian tribes seek control over lands and natural resources taken from them by the United States and state governments. The advantage in the tribal strategy is to make Uncle Sam the bad guy. African-American strategists should take note.

Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times writes Hillary Clinton's book tour: It's about a lot more than selling books:
But here's the hard choice I'm interested in watching Clinton make during the next few weeks: Is she willing to tackle her negatives head-on, to get them out of the way before the campaign begins?

The passages featured last week in Politico suggest she may be. The leaked chapter deals with the most painful episode of Clinton's tenure—the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans died—and in it, Clinton rebuts her critics with a sober recital of the facts.

"I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans," she wrote. "It's just plain wrong, and it's unworthy of our great country."

But that's just a beginning. She also needs to address other aspects of her time at State.

David Moberg at In These Times writes Privatizing Government Services Doesn’t Only Hurt Public Workers:
If you want to understand how privatization of public services typically works, Grand Rapids, Michigan is as good a place as any to start.

The state operates a nursing home for veterans in the town. Until 2011, it directly employed 170 nursing assistants, but also relied on 100 assistants in the same facility provided by a private contractor. The state paid its direct employees $15 to $20 an hour and provided them with health insurance and pensions. Meanwhile, the contractor started pay for its nursing assistants at $8.50 an hour—still billing the state $14.99—and provided no benefits for employees. This led to high worker turnover, reduced quality of care, and heavy employee reliance on food stamps and other public aid.

Yet despite the evidence from this useful—albeit unplanned—experiment, which showed that any savings the state made through privatization came at the expense of workers and their clients, the new conservative Republican state government decided in 2011 to complete the privatization of the provision of nursing aides to the home.

The experience with privatization at the Grand Rapids nursing home is in many ways typical among the rapidly growing ranks of public agencies in which the staff of private contractors replace government employees. And according to a new report, “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class,” privatization policies around the country have greatly contributed to the nation’s growing economic inequality and to a decline in the quality of public services.

Frank Rich at New York Mag writes Iraq Everlasting: We are still stuck in 2003, and it isn’t (only) George W. Bush’s fault:
Where are we, exactly? As President Obama implicitly reconfirmed in last week’s West Point address calling for a restrained American role abroad, the massive blunder of Iraq remains the nation’s inescapable existential burden two and a half years after our last troops departed. Indeed, the war continues to pile up collateral damage and defeats daily. Without America’s wrong turn into Iraq, perhaps the Taliban would be extinct rather than resurgent in Afghanistan as we head for the exits to meet Obama’s new 2016 pullout deadline. Without the taint of the Iraq debacle, a war deceitfully carried out in the name of 9/11, perhaps ticket sales at the new 9/11 museum would not be moving so slowly that one can imagine them ending up at the half-price booth; perhaps even George W. Bush might have dared to show up for the museum’s opening rather than plead a “scheduling conflict.”

As for Iraq itself, the just-completed election (few photos of purple fingers this time) all but guaranteed a third term for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a mercurial autocrat like the other leaders America sponsored after 9/11, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf. Under Maliki, Iraq is an ally of Iran, its partner in supporting the criminal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And though Iraq was not a terrorist stronghold when “shock and awe” toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, it is today.

Mercer Hall & Gina Sipley at Al Jazeera America writes The greening of the American teacher:
One year of teaching experience is the new normal in America’s classrooms. Nationwide, schools are embracing tenderfoot teachers instead of skilled, veteran educators — what the industry calls master teachers, an informal moniker that denotes expertise in content creation, differentiated instruction and student outcomes in the face of education reform.

According to multiple peer-reviewed studies, the professional longevity of a master teacher — someone who has eight or more consecutive years in the classroom — leads to increased student engagement and academic success. These hallmarks of an exceptional education have become less than visible in the United States’ school system, which has not been deemed exceptional or even satisfactory for quite some time, according to international rankings by the Programme for International Student Assessment. Mediocrity in American education will persist as long as we have a disproportionate number of green teachers. What’s worse is that this mediocrity is easily avoidable and fully intentional.

Several reasons exist for this neophytism, but first among them is the decline of tenure. Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Idaho, South Dakota and Louisiana recently eliminated it. Students First, an educational advocacy group funded by tech titan David W. Welch, is suing the state of California to overturn teacher tenure, and his group plans to bring similar suits in other states. Even in states where tenure remains intact, it is no longer a guarantee. Under New York City’s latest teacher evaluation system, almost half of teachers eligible for tenure in 2013 were denied.

Leonard Pitts Jr. at the Miami Herald writes NRA retreats after rare attack of lucidity:
So say you’re snapping photos at Dealey Plaza, and up sidles some guy with an AK slung over his shoulder.

That sudden dryness of mouth and tightness of sphincter you feel is not reassurance.

“This is terrifying,” a visitor from Washington state told the Dallas Morning News. “We have guns in our house, but we don't walk around with them. ... This is shocking.”

The NRA seemed to agree. In an unsigned online editorial, it stated the obvious, calling the practice of bringing long guns into public places “dubious,” “scary” and “downright weird.”

Days later, having come, well ... under fire, from Texas gun groups, the NRA was in retreat, apologizing and blaming this rare lapse of lucidity on a staff member who apparently failed to drink his full allotment of Kool-Aid. The organization assured its followers that it still supports the right of all people to bring all guns into all places.

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