Sep 23 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.

Gail Collins: Don’t Ask, Don’t Debate

The legislative process is almost never uplifting. But if you watch the United States Senate in action these days, you come away convinced that the nation has jumped the shark.

On Tuesday, the Senate failed to override a Republican filibuster of a defense authorization bill. This is a new record for dysfunction. Until now, even when politics was at its worst, Congress did manage to vote to pay the Army.

The bill did contain a lot of controversial pieces. It eliminated the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule for gays serving openly in the military. And the majority leader, Harry Reid, tacked on a provision that would allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to win a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or go to college.

So the debate was about … parliamentary procedure.

Nicholas D. Kristof: Boast, Build and Sell

World leaders have flown in first class to the United Nations this week to discuss global poverty over cocktails at the Waldorf Astoria.

The U.N. set eight landmark antipoverty objectives in 2000, so this year’s General Assembly is reviewing how we’re doing after a decade. We’re off-track on most of these Millennium Development Goals, so let me offer three suggestions for how the humanitarian world might do better in framing the fight against poverty:

First, boast more.

Humanitarians have tended to guilt-trip people and governments into generosity by peddling emaciated children with flies on their eyes. But relentless negativity leaves the inaccurate impression that Africa is an abyss of failure and hopelessness. And who wants to invest in a failure?

In fact, here’s the record: antipoverty work saves around 32,000 children’s lives each day. That’s my calculation based on the number of children who died in 1960 (about 20 million) and the number dying now (about 8 million a year).

Twelve million lives saved annually – roughly one every three seconds – is a reminder that global poverty needn’t be a depressing topic but can be a hopeful one. Ancient scourges like Guinea worm, river blindness and polio are on their way out. Modern contraception is more common than a generation ago. The average Indian woman has 2.6 children now, compared with 5.5 in 1970.

Joan Walsh: Privatize Social Security? Hell no!

Cocky Republicans are beginning to spell out their real agenda, and that’s great news for Democrats

I’m excited now that Republicans are starting to reveal their agenda for the midterm elections in November. I enjoy the whole Club for Growth push: “Privatize Social Security? Hell, yeah.” I love it when right-wingers semi-swear, it seems so manly.

Tonight MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out that Wall Street charges five times as much as the federal government does to manage retirement funds. Besides, President Bush went on a road show to push privatization in 2005 and, well, nobody really showed up at his shows. He went away. I remain stunned by the willingness of mainstream Republicans to tamper with Social Security and Medicare,  as the Tea Party gathers strength around just those issues.

But is the Tea Party really gathering strength? A Quinnipiac poll Wednesday found that Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino is only 6 points behind Democrat Andrew Cuomo, but I don’t see that as a harbinger of a Tea Party surge or Democratic weakness. First, the poll may have oversampled Republican voters, and it didn’t include former GOP candidate Rick Lazio, now running on the Conservative Party line, who could take votes from Paladino if he continues to run. I’m also sure Paladino got a bump from upsetting Lazio; everybody loves an underdog, and nobody was excited about a guy last seen on the national political stage losing decisively to Hillary Clinton 10 years ago. Besides, Paladino’s a great story: Can a guy who’s sent racist and pornographic email really become New York governor? Is this a great country, or what? I’m excited to learn the answer to that, even though I’m pretty sure that it’s “Hell, no!”

Joe Conason Imagining Mideast peace with Bill Clinton

At a “special sesssion” of the Clinton Global Initiative, he and his guests conjure the vision of a brighter future

By now the overarching themes of the Clinton Global Initiative  are familiar, from empowering women and girls to strengthening market-based answers to the problems of climate change, healthcare and poverty. Addressing those issues are hundreds of world leaders, corporate chieftains, nonprofit executives and celebrities (including appearances today by Lance Armstrong, Sanjay Gupta and Jim Carrey), with everyone required to make a formal “commitment” to action. By Thursday evening’s closing ceremony, the CGI staff expects the value of new commitments to exceed $6 billion.

Apart from the ongoing conversations, speeches and announcements, this year’s CGI features a significant subplot: the revived peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. With nearly 70 current and former heads of state on hand, Bill Clinton knows how to use the unique forum he has created to serve a very specific purpose, like promoting a sense of optimism and urgency about the Mideast peace negotiations currently overseen by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Jane Hamsher If Democrats Want to Inspire Voters, They Should Take Their Cues From Candidate Obama

Jonathan Martin has a very interesting article in Politico this morning about Democrats who are freaked out about the liberal interest groups that aren’t showing up for them:    

Twice in the past week, House Democrats used closed-door meetings with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver an urgent message: They’re being crushed on the airwaves by outside groups, and they need her to do something about it.

   In the meetings, according to people present, Democrats cited the nearly unmatched advantage Republicans are enjoying from conservative, third-party organizations. A sympathetic Pelosi vowed to pressure liberal groups to do more — and quickly.

Democrats are reportedly “fuming about the lack of financial support they’re receiving after their members have cast a series of tough votes”:  

These officials are particulary angered by the relative absence of support from the environmental and pro-health care groups that were so aggressive in lobbying House Democrats to support energy and health care reform legislation.

What are they, f&#@ing r#%^*ed? That was all corporate lobbying money laundered through foundations and funneled through front groups. Those people are writing checks to Karl Rove now.

Robert Sheer: So Long, Summers

Finally! The announced departure of Lawrence Summers as the president’s top economic adviser is welcome news. Harvard’s loss in taking back its $586,996-a-year professor and “president emeritus,” who is also paid millions by Wall Street on the side, is the nation’s gain. Maybe now Barack Obama, who hopefully will also push out Summers’ protégé, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, will begin to provide an authentic populist alternative to those tea party Republicans who totally absolve Wall Street of responsibility for the economic collapse. But the early signs are not fully reassuring.

As I stated in my column last week, for the umpteenth time urging Summers’ dismissal, I expected the president to have kind words for a man who deserved none if he were to be fired. But Obama’s effusive praise on Tuesday went well beyond the requirements of professional pink-slip courtesy and suggests that he is still in denial over the role of key Democrats like Summers in getting us into this mess:

“I will always be grateful that at a time of great peril for our country, a man of Larry’s brilliance, experience and judgment was willing to answer the call and lead our economic team.”

Arianna uffington: Dear Angry American, Joining the Tea Party Is NOT Your Only Option

The Tea Party is angry! Really, really angry. So we are told again and again by the media. According to the conventional wisdom, it’s the story of the election, and likely the next one: those opposed to Obama are angry and have coalesced around the Tea Party. But like much conventional wisdom, it’s wrong.

There’s no doubt the Tea Partiers are angry. But what’s missing from this narrative is the fact that everybody is angry.

As I discovered when I spoke at the Teamsters Women’s Conference on Saturday, even people who love the president, and who would not dream of voting for anyone other than a Democrat, are angry.

Velma Hart, the African-American woman who was the first questioner at Monday’s town hall meeting on CNBC, gave powerful expression to this anger. After identifying herself as a chief financial officer, a mother, a wife, and a military veteran, said:


I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. And deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting. I don’t feel it yet…. My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but, quite frankly, it’s starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we’re headed again, and, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?

It’s a question tens of millions of Americans are asking themselves right now. And when they do, a mixture of dread and anger rises inside them.

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