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Sep 02 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.

E.J. Dionne Jr: A speech’s tall order

By insisting Tuesday evening that “it’s time to turn the page,” President Obama was talking about more than the Iraq war, and doing much more than reviving one of his most effective slogans from the 2008 campaign.

He was also trying to turn the page on a period in which he has found himself on the defensive, his party in a perilous position for November’s elections and his reputation for political mastery in doubt.

Obama’s Oval Office speech was resolutely nonpolitical in form but profoundly political in its implications. To rescue his party, Obama had to begin rebuilding his popularity, offer hope in a time of economic despair and restore confidence in the course on which he has set the nation.

Joan Walsh: Bush, Beck and Hagee

The president praises Bush, the media find Beck in bed with a Catholic hater, and deficits become the new WMD

A big news day. I found President Obama’s Iraq speech dispiriting. He deserves credit for withdrawing combat troops when he said he would, but our entanglement there is by no means over, and the growing role of private contractors in every realm of our involvement — including some form of what most people would consider combat — makes it hard to feel like things have fundamentally changed.

I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been, by Obama’s kind words for his predecessor, George W. Bush. I didn’t expect Obama to excoriate the neocon chickenhawks who lied us into war, but I wasn’t entirely prepared for his praising the president who got us into this mess. But he did:

   It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.

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Nicholas D. Kristof: Cleaning the Henhouse

“Food safety has received very little attention since Upton Sinclair,” notes Ellen Silbergeld, an expert on environmental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who is deeply concerned about antibiotic overuse. “The massive economic reorganization of agriculture has proceeded with little recognition of its potential impacts on these aspects of food. Cheapness is all.”

But as Professor Silbergeld notes, unsafe foods are cheap only in a shortsighted way. The Pew commission found that industrial production produces hogs that at first sight are cheaper by six cents per pound. Add in pollution and health costs and that industrial pork becomes more expensive by 12 cents per pound.

Largely for humanitarian reasons, Europe already is moving toward a ban on battery cages. In 2008, California approved a similar ban, and other states are expected to follow.

So let’s hope this salmonella outbreak is a wake-up call. Commercial farming can’t return to a time when chickens wandered unfenced and were prey to foxes (and Irish setters). But we can overhaul our agriculture system so that it is both safer and more humane – starting with a move toward cage-free eggs.

Adam Serwer: Are Republicans ‘co-opting’ gay rights?

Pro-gay rights Republicans seem to be less of an oxymoron these days. Former Solicitor General Ted Olson is, along with Ted Boies, leading the fight in the courts against California’s ban on same-sex marriage and schooling Fox News on what fundamental rights are. Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman has come out and begun raising money  for the pro-equality group Americans for Equal Rights. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who once called Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot,” is headlining a political convention  for gay and lesbian conservatives, and Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, will be appearing alongside other GOP elected officials at a dinner hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans. Even Glenn Beck has said he doesn’t think gay marriage is a “threat to the country.”

Peter Daou: The debate over Markos Moulitsas’ “American Taliban”

A fascinating debate has broken out over Kos’s new book, American Taliban.

Jamelle Bouie sums up his critique and Digby’s rebuttal:

 

Today, I have a review up of American Taliban by Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos. You should read the full thing, but here’s the gist:

   

…ultimately, any similarities are vastly outweighed by incredibly important distinctions and vast differences of degree. I’m no fan of the right wing, but the only possible way it can be “indistinguishable” from the Taliban is if conservatives are stoning women for adultery, stalking elementary schools to throw acid in girls’ faces, and generally enforcing fundamentalist religious law with torture and wanton violence.

   Taking issue with my review, Digby argues that in my attack on Kos’ book, I’m missing the big picture:

   The inconvenient truth here is that these people are dangerous because their worldview is dangerous. Lethal even. And somebody has to have the guts and to call them on it in their own terms. This “tired genre” of “our opponents are monsters” has been decidedly dominated by one side and the consequences have been grave. We have a fight on our hands and the only real question left is whether anyone on our side is willing to wage it.

I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t want to weigh in on the details, but it’s worth keeping in mind that just one facet of rightwing extremism, climate denial, could lead to death and destruction on a scale that dwarfs anything the Taliban can do. So there are deadly consequences to America’s rightward shift and I can see why Markos is illustrating it in such raw terms.

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