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Jul 24 2010

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.

Paul Krugman: Addicted to Bush


For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name. In 2008, Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House. After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even to mention the Bush era and its legacy.

The truth, however, is that the only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style – and they want them back. In recent weeks, G.O.P. leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They’ve even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.

Bob Herbert: Thrown to the Wolves


The Shirley Sherrod story tells us so much about ourselves, and none of it is pretty. The most obvious and shameful fact is that the Obama administration, which runs from race issues the way thoroughbreds bolt from the starting gate, did not offer this woman anything resembling fair or respectful treatment before firing and publicly humiliating her.

Moving with the swiftness of fanatics on a hanging jury, big shots in the administration and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News came to exactly the same conclusion: Shirley Sherrod had to go – immediately! No time for facts. No time for justice.

What we have here is power run amok. Ms. Sherrod was not even called into an office to be fired face to face. She got the shocking news in her car. “They called me twice,” she told The Associated Press. “The last time, they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my BlackBerry, and that’s what I did.”

Doyle McManus: Bloated intelligence apparatus is not too smart

The director of national intelligence should be given more authority to coordinate overlapping agencies, while their budget should be trimmed

The U.S. government’s intelligence agencies are out of control again.

Not in the old, rogue-elephant sense of covert operatives running private wars.

Not even in the bureaucratic sense of spending money in unauthorized ways or launching programs Congress didn’t know about.

This time, the loss of control happened in plain sight, with full approval from on high.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. intelligence spending has more than doubled. The country’s 16 major intelligence agencies are poorly coordinated and often duplicate one another’s work. And the White House and Congress have failed to exercise firm control over the proliferation of intelligence-gathering efforts.

The Washington Post cataloged the problem in a comprehensive series of articles this week. Reporter Dana Priest and data squirrel William M. Arkin reported that more than 1,200 government agencies or offices and almost 2,000 outside contractors are involved in counter-terrorism activities, spending almost $75 billion producing about 50,000 intelligence reports each year, far more than the government can effectively digest.

Kathleen Parker: Journolist flap shows a destructive ‘gotcha’ mentality

The current Journolist controversy  that has the blogosphere heaving sparks and Washington even more self-absorbed than usual is weak tea — a tempest in Barbie’s teacup.

At least as concerns the so-called conspiracy itself.

As a larger lesson about the way we search and destroy each other in the political/media world, there may be something darker brewing.

For the millions who have no idea what I’m talking about, a brief history: Journolist was an e-mail list (Internetspeak for watering hole) where liberal-leaning journalists gathered to kvetch.

Started by prodigal blogger Ezra Klein for a few friends, it grew in numbers and popularity, attracting a few mainstream luminaries (Joe Klein of Time magazine) along the way. But mostly it was a consortium of far lesser-known folks (academics, mid- to low-level producers, etc.) who enjoyed the camaraderie of the like-minded.

In the conservative world, we call such people Fox News. (Just kidding, guys, but really.)

Howard Kurtz: Getting the message on Journolist’s controversial postings

To conservatives, it is a pulling back of the curtain to expose the media’s mendacity.

To liberals, it is a selective sliming based on e-mails that were supposed to remain private.

But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans — including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.

Glen Greenwald: Why has the Post series created so little reaction?

Remember how The Washington Post spent three days documenting on its front page that we basically live under a vast Secret Government — composed of military and intelligence agencies and the largest corporations — so sprawling and unaccountable that nobody even knows what it does?  This public/private Secret Government spies, detains, interrogates, and even wages wars in the dark, while sucking up untold hundreds of billions of dollars every year for the private corporations which run it.  Has any investigative series ever caused less of a ripple than this one?  After a one-day spate of television appearances for Dana Priest and William Arkin — most of which predictably focused on the bureaucratic waste they raised along with whether the Post had Endangered the Nation by writing about all of this — the story faded blissfully into the ether, never to be heard from again, easily subsumed by the Andrew Breitbart and Journolist sagas.  

Joan Walsh: The civil rights heroism of Charles Sherrod

Andrew Breitbart sure picked the wrong people to symbolize black “racism.” Taylor Branch and Clay Carson weigh in

People who care about civil rights and racial reconciliation may eventually thank Andrew Breitbart for bringing Shirley Sherrod the global attention she deserves. Really. Her message of racial healing, her insight that the forces of wealth and injustice have always pit “the haves and the have-nots” against each other, whatever their race, is exactly what’s missing in today’s Beltway debates about race. What’s even more amazing, but almost completely unexplored in this controversy, is the historic civil rights leadership role of her husband, Charles Sherrod, an early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who served on the front lines of the nonviolent civil rights movement in the early 1960s.

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