Aug 31 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.

Bob Herbert: We Owe the Troops an Exit

Wars are not problems that need managing, which suggests that they will always be with us. They are catastrophes that need to be brought to an end as quickly as possible. Wars consume lives by the thousands (in Iraq, by the scores of thousands) and sometimes, as in World War II, by the millions. The goal when fighting any war should be peace, not a permanent simmer of nonstop maiming and killing. Wars are meant to be won – if they have to be fought at all – not endlessly looked after.

One of the reasons we’re in this state of nonstop warfare is the fact that so few Americans have had any personal stake in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no draft and no direct financial hardship resulting from the wars. So we keep shipping other people’s children off to combat as if they were some sort of commodity, like coal or wheat, with no real regard for the terrible price so many have to pay, physically and psychologically.

Not only is this tragic, it is profoundly disrespectful. These are real men and women, courageous and mostly uncomplaining human beings, that we are sending into the war zones, and we owe them our most careful attention. Above all, we owe them an end to two wars that have gone on much too long.

Eugene Robinson: The Iraq war leaves a fog of ambiguity

Now that the Iraq war is over — for U.S. combat troops, at least — only one thing is clear about the outcome: We didn’t win.

We didn’t lose, either, in the sense of being defeated. But wars no longer end with surrender ceremonies and ticker-tape parades. They end in a fog of ambiguity, and it’s easier to discern what’s been sacrificed than what’s been gained. So it is after seven years of fighting in Iraq, and so it will be after at least 10 years — probably more, before we’re done — in Afghanistan.

Stanley Fish: We’ve Seen This Movie Before

In the first column I ever wrote for this newspaper (“How the Right Hijacked the Magic Words”), I analyzed the shift in the rhetoric surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing once it became clear that the perpetrator was Timothy McVeigh, who at one point acknowledged that “The Turner Diaries,” a racist anti-government tract popular in Christian Identity circles, was his bible.

In the brief period between the bombing and the emergence of McVeigh, speculation had centered on Arab terrorists and the culture of violence that was said to be woven into the fabric of the religion of Islam.

But when it turned out that a white guy (with the help of a few of his friends) had done it, talk of “culture” suddenly ceased and was replaced by the vocabulary and mantras of individualism: each of us is a single, free agent; blaming something called “culture” was just a way of off-loading responsibility for the deeds we commit; in America, individuals, not groups, act; and individuals, not groups, should be held accountable. McVeigh may have looked like a whole lot of other guys who dressed up in camouflage and carried guns and marched in the woods, but, we were told by the same people who had been mouthing off about Islam earlier, he was just a lone nut, a kook, and generalizations about some “militia” culture alive and flourishing in the heartland were entirely unwarranted.

This switch from “malign culture” talk to “individual choice” talk was instantaneous and no one felt obliged to explain it. Now, in 2010, it’s happening again around the intersection of what the right wing calls the “Ground Zero mosque” (a geographical exaggeration if there ever is one) and the attack last week on a Muslim cab driver by (it is alleged) 21-year-old knife-wielding Michael Enright.

Dahlia Lithwick: The Mother of All Grizzlies

Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows how feminism is done. Again.

Anyone who didn’t already believe Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be fashioned of pure steel was reminded of the fact Friday night as she delivered a speech  to a group of lawyers and judges that was meant to have been delivered by her husband. Martin Ginsburg had been invited to deliver his remarks at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., but he died in late June  of metastatic cancer. As Ginsburg explained Friday evening, “He had his speech all written out.” And so she read it-with a handful of interpolations-in its entirety to several hundred rapt listeners.

The speech, “How the Tenth Circuit Got My Wife Her Good Job,” described the only case the Ginsburgs ever worked on together-a 1972 tax case called Moritz v. Commissioner, challenging the denial of a dependent-care deduction allowed to women, widowers, or divorced men but denied to a single man who was caring for his ailing mother. According to Martin Ginsburg, as read by his widow, in the 1960s, while he worked as a New York tax lawyer, she toiled as a law professor at Rutgers. And when he entered her adjoining study in their apartment one night-“her room was bigger”-with a report on the Moritz case and the excited suggestion that she might represent the pro se litigant on appeal, his bride apparently retorted, “I don’t read tax cases.” She read it, and they took the case.

David Swanson: Comparing Democratic and Republican Blood

This coming March 19th we’ll have two occasions to mark. One will be the start of the ninth year of occupying Iraq. And, if my math is correct, within a few days of that anniversary we’ll reach the point at which the Democratic House of Representatives and Senate have funded more days of occupying Iraq than those chambers did when they had a Republican majority. In funding days of occupying Afghanistan, the Democrats already have a big lead in the Senate but trail far behind in the House.

It’s true that the Republicans started these wars. Or rather, it would be true if it weren’t false. The Democrats had a majority in the Senate for both of those catastrophic decisions, while the Republicans had a majority in the House. But it is true that the vast bulk of the blood spilled has been Iraqi blood spilled while the Republicans had majorities in both houses. However, there is an ongoing crisis for millions of Iraqi refugees that cannot be solved while the occupation continues, and the Democrats have just funded an escalation in Afghanistan.

When it comes to the kind of blood that congress members and the U.S. corporate media care about, namely American blood, the Democrats have already overseen 70 percent of the official U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan and a third of those in Iraq . . . and rising.

Joe Conason: Is Glenn Beck mobilizing the religious right for November?

Beck’s vacuous but pious rally may have served to inaugurate a pre-election bid for power by the evangelical right

If Glenn Beck’s Washington extravaganza seemed strangely empty of political content, filled with vacuous pieties and fetishes rather than protest, then perhaps it should be seen as the opening act in a renewed campaign to assert the power of the religious right. A series of four mass prayer events, featuring many of the most prominent figures in the Republican Party’s theocratic wing, will occur between Labor Day and Election Day, starting with an arena rally in Sacramento, Calif., and ending with perfect symmetry on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Behind these events, under the rubric “Pray and A.C.T.,” is Newt Gingrich’s organization, Renewing American Leadership, although the frontmen for this particular initiative are former Watergate conspirator Charles Colson and evangelist Jim Garlow, who now works for Gingrich. Endorsers include top evangelical and political leaders such as Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, who took over from James Dobson; Princeton University professor Robert George; Fox News host and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; Cindy Jacobs of the Generals of Intercession; Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, who attended the Lincoln Memorial rally at Beck’s invitation; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; and Tim Wildmon, who is taking over the American Family Association from his father, Don. Also among the endorsers of Pray and A.C.T. or Renew America are Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., who was featured at the Beck rally, and David Barton, the pseudo-academic who argues that America was founded as a “Christian nation” and is often touted by Beck on television (and who headlined Beck’s “Divine Destiny” pre-rally Friday evening at the Kennedy Center in Washington).

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