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Sep 21 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.

Roger Cohen:  Democracy Still Matters

LONDON – One mystery of the first decade of the 21st century is the decline of democracy. It’s not that nations with democratic systems have dwindled in number but that democracy has lost its luster. It’s an idea without a glow. And that’s worrying.

I said “mystery.” Those who saw something of the blood expended through the 20th century to secure liberal societies must inevitably find democracy’s diminished appeal puzzling. But there are reasons.

The lingering wars waged partly in democracy’s name in Iraq and Afghanistan hurt its reputation, however moving images of inky-fingered voters gripped by the revolutionary notion that they could decide who governs them. Given the bloody mayhem, it was easy to portray “democracy” as a fig leaf for the West’s bellicose designs and casual hypocrisies.

Dean Baker: The Terrible Tale of the TARP Two Years Later

Two years ago, the top honchos at the Fed, Treasury and the Wall Street banks were running around like Chicken Little warning that the world was about to end. This fear mongering, together with a big assist from the elite media (i.e. NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, etc.), earned the banks their $700 billion TARP blank check bailout. This money, along with even more valuable loans and loan guarantees from the Fed and FDIC, enabled them to survive the crisis they had created. As a result, the big banks are bigger and more profitable than ever.

Now, the same crew that tapped our pockets two years ago is eagerly pitching the line that their bailout was good for us. It may be the case the history books are written by the winners, but that doesn’t prevent the rest of us from telling the truth.

Joe Conason: Coalition of fear: Tea Party, the religious right and Islamophobia

At Values Voters summit, anti-Muslim paranoia connects evangelical right with secular Tea Party movement

If the leaders of the religious right aspire to join forces with the Tea Party movement, their hopes were surely encouraged by the Values Voters Summit  in Washington — where such Tea Party celebrities Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint shared the podium with Delaware sensation Christine O’Donnell — all of whom enthusiastically blessed the proposed marriage. Certainly they have much to share in their seething fury at the President and the congressional Democrats.

Bringing together the disparate elements of the right without a charismatic and credible leader like Ronald Reagan remains a challenge, however, since many Tea Party voters are libertarians and independents who have never felt called to the battlements of the culture war. What they seem to share, aside from the perennial aversion to taxes, is a powerful instinct to stigmatize Muslims and seek confrontation with Islam.

Bob Herbert: Neglecting the Base

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it was striking, nevertheless.

The mayor of Washington, Adrian Fenty, one of the so-called postracial black leaders, suffered a humiliating defeat in his bid for re-election last week when African-American voters deserted him in droves. The very same week President Obama, the most prominent of the so-called postracial types, was moving aggressively to shore up his support among black voters.

Mr. Obama, who usually goes out of his way to avoid overtly racial comments and appeals, made an impassioned plea during a fiery speech Saturday night at a black-tie event sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. “I need everybody here,” he said, “to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back your workplaces, to go to the churches and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do.”

It’s no secret that the president is in trouble politically, and that Democrats in Congress are fighting desperately to hold on to their majorities. But much less attention has been given to the level of disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That disenchantment is likely to translate into lower turnout among blacks this fall.

Eugene Robinson: Sharia as the new red menace?

Boy, I really hate it when American judges try to impose harsh Islamic sharia law. You know, with all those grisly lashings, stonings and beheadings. What’s that you say? No such thing is happening, and you wonder where I got such a crazy idea? Why, Newt Gingrich told me.

On Saturday, speaking at the conservative Values Voter Summit, Gingrich issued a thunderous call for action against an imminent threat that exists only in his fevered imagination — or, perhaps, in his political machinations.

“We should have a federal law that says sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States,” Gingrich declared, to a standing ovation.

Okay, but would this include Judge Judy? Because I’ve always suspected that when she gets really mad, and she snaps the heads off both the plaintiff and the defendant, she might be slipping a little sharia into the American subconscious — you know, preparing an unsuspecting nation for the real deal. Maybe we need another law that covers fake judges on daytime television, with punishments that begin with flogging.

Richard Cohen: Republicans under a spell

Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate from lil’ ol’ Delaware, confesses to have once “dabbled into witchcraft” — a fittingly ungrammatical revelation that not only was to be expected but explains what has happened to the Republican Party. Someone — possibly you know who — has cast a spell on it, and now it has a candidate whose main contribution to political thought or, indeed, the plight of the poor is to have railed against masturbation, which she likened to adultery. Only a spell can explain such thinking.

Only a spell also can explain how Newt Gingrich, possibly a presidential candidate, can attribute the politics of Barack Obama to “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.” Obama allegedly picked up this behavior from his father, whom he knew only fleetingly, which is to say almost not at all, and who has long been dead. This, as Gingrich and others under the spell can tell you, is proof of the demonic power that can come out of the grave, enter the White House (look, the gate-crashing Salahis did it) and pervade the very body and mind of the commander in chief. It’s enough to give you the willies.

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