Aug 24 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Eugene Robinson: The right-wing, blinded by its own hysteria

When did the loudmouths of the American right become such a bunch of fraidy-cats and professional victims? Or is it all just an act?

The hysteria over plans for an innocuous Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan — two blocks from Ground Zero, amid an urban hodgepodge of office buildings, eateries and strip clubs — is wildly out of proportion. It would be laughable if it didn’t threaten to do great harm to the global campaign against Islamic terrorism.

It is by now firmly established that the project, dubbed Park51, is promoted by a peacenik Muslim cleric whose sermons often sound a bit like the musings of new-age guru Deepak Chopra. It is also undisputed fact that the imam in question, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is such a moderate that the U.S. government regularly sends him as an emissary to Muslim countries to preach peace, coexistence and dialogue.

Yet right-wing commentators and politicians have twisted themselves in knots to portray the Park51 project as a grievous assault — and “the American people” as victims. Victims of what? Rauf’s sinister plot to despoil the city with a fitness center, a swimming pool and — shudder — a space for the performing arts?

Media Matters for America:

No. 2 shareholder of Fox News’ parent company has funded Park51 planner

News Corp. double standard: Saudi funding OK for them but not for Park51

News Corp. partners with Saudi prince who Fox News lambasted

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

David Sirota: Let Us Now Return to Those Thrilling Mistakes of Yesteryear

Out of all the famous quotations, few better describe this eerily familiar time than those attributed to George Santayana and Yogi Berra. The former, a philosopher, warned that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The latter, a baseball player, stumbled into prophecy by declaring, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”


Vietnam showed us the perils of occupation, then the Iraq war showed us the same thing – and yet now, we are somehow doing it all over again in Afghanistan. The Great Depression underscored the downsides of laissez-faire economics, the Great Recession highlighted the same danger – and yet the new financial “reform” bill leaves that laissez-faire attitude largely intact. Ronald Reagan proved the failure of trickle-down tax cuts to spread prosperity before George W. Bush proved the same thing – and yet now, in a recession, Congress is considering more tax cuts all over again.

These are but a few examples of mistakes being repeated ad infinitum. In a Yogi Berra country, the jarring lessons of history are remembered as mere flickers of déjà vu – if they are remembered at all. Most often, we forget completely, seeing in George Santayana’s refrain not a dark warning, but a cheery celebration. And the logical question is: Why? Why have we become so dismissive of history’s lessons and therefore so willing to repeat history’s mistakes?

John Dickerson: Let It Lie

Why won’t any Republicans condemn the “Obama is a Muslim” myth?

With so much traffic on the low road in American politics, you’d imagine a politician or two might take the high road simply to beat the congestion. Sunday on Meet the Press, Mitch McConnell was asked about the Pew poll that showed 31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim. He said, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word. I don’t think that’s in dispute.” If you only paid attention to his first two sentences, as some pundits did, you might think McConnell was trying to keep doubt alive by suggesting the matter was one of debate. If you were patient enough to listen to the last sentence, you heard him say that the matter is not one of debate at all.

If McConnell wasn’t trying to stir the pot, he also wasn’t trying to lower the boil. What you didn’t hear McConnell say was that the whole notion that Obama is a Muslim is ridiculous because by any standard we use to evaluate the religious beliefs of our leaders, President Obama is a Christian. Nor did he go on to say that any politician who tries to benefit from this urban legend-by courting either Islamophobes or conspiracy nuts who think Obama is engaged in some kind of systematic deception-should be ashamed of himself.

Richard Cohen: No compromise on religious freedom

When it comes to the mosque that’s neither too close to Ground Zero for its proponents nor far enough away for its opponents, the disturbing word “compromise” is now being tossed around. It has been suggested by New York Gov. David Paterson, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and, in Sunday’s Post, Karen Hughes, once an important adviser to George W. Bush. These are all well-meaning people, but they do not understand that in this case, the difference between compromise and defeat is nonexistent.

Julie Samuels: Steve Jobs Is Watching You: Apple Seeking to Patent Spyware

It looks like Apple, Inc., is exploring a new business opportunity: spyware and what we’re calling “traitorware.” While users were celebrating the new jailbreaking and unlocking exemptions, Apple was quietly preparing to apply for a patent  on technology that, among other things, would allow Apple to identify and punish users who take advantage of those exemptions or otherwise tinker with their devices. This patent application does nothing short of providing a roadmap for how Apple can – and presumably will – spy on its customers and control the way its customers use Apple products. As Sony-BMG  learned, spying on your customers is bad for business. And the kind of spying enabled here is especially creepy – it’s not just spyware, it’s “traitorware,” since it is designed to allow Apple to retaliate against you if you do something Apple doesn’t like.

Bob Herbert: A Hero Named Bobby

I was surprised – but probably shouldn’t have been – that so many people had never heard of Bobby Thomson, who died at his home in Savannah, Ga., last week at the age of 86.

Thomson was among a small handful of public figures whose names have resonated most strongly with me through nearly my entire life. I was fresh out of kindergarten when he hit the most famous home run in history – the “shot heard round the world” that deeply traumatized the Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans and propelled the New York Giants into the 1951 World Series against the Yankees.


My parents explained the game to me, and I became obsessed with the players on that team, not just Thomson but guys like Sal Maglie, known as “The Barber,” and Monte Irvin and Whitey Lockman and a 20-year-old rookie who was on deck when Thomson hit the homer, Willie Mays.

There was an outfielder on that team named Hank Thompson. Bobby Thomson was white and Hank Thompson was black. I asked my father if they were brothers. He laughed and said: “No. You know how you can tell they’re not brothers?”

I said I didn’t. He said, “Hank Thompson spells his last name t-h-o-m-p-s-o-n. Bobby Thomson doesn’t have a ‘p’ in his last name. If they were brothers they would spell their names the same.”

It was years before I realized what a terrific thing that was to say to a kid.

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