Oct 07 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.

Glenn Greenwald Times Square bomber: Cause and effect in the War on Terror

Faisal Shahzad was sentenced by a federal judge to life in prison yesterday for his attempted bombing of Times Square, a crime for which he previously pleaded guilty.  Aside from proving yet again how uniquely effective our real judicial system is (as opposed to military commissions or lawless detention) in convicting and punishing Terrorists (see this NYT Editorial on that issue this morning), this episode sheds substantial light on what I wrote about on Monday:  namely, how our actions in the Muslim world — ostensibly undertaken to combat Terrorism — do more than anything else to spur Terrorism and ensure its permanent continuation. . . .

When he pleaded guilty in June, this is what he told the baffled and angry Judge about why he did what he did:

If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, “we will be attacking U.S.,” adding that Americans “only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die” . . . .

Our national foreign policy seems boiled down to this premise:  we must and will continue to bomb, invade and control Muslim countries until they stop wanting to attack and bomb us or, at least, are unable to continue to do so.  Obviously, though, if we continue to engage in that behavior, that day will never come, given that this behavior is precisely what fuels most of it.  Just ask them and they’ll be more than happy to explain it, as Faisal Shahzad has spent months attempting to do.

New york Times Editorial: Civil Justice, Military Injustice

Supporters of the tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who insist military justice, not the federal courts, is the best way to deal with terrorists, should pay close attention to Tuesday’s events in a United States District Court in Manhattan. Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment, five months and four days after he tried to blow up his car in Times Square.

When Mr. Shahzad was arrested, and later given a Miranda warning, the “tough on terrorists” crowd screamed about coddling and endangering the country’s security. They didn’t stop complaining, even after Mr. Shahzad cooperated with investigators and entered a guilty plea with a mandatory life sentence. All of this happened without the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department breaking laws or violating Constitutional protections.

This is the choice: Justice in long-established federal courts that Americans can be proud of and the rest of the world can respect. Or illegal detentions and unending, legally dubious military tribunals. It is an easy one.

(emphasis mine)

Nicholas D. Kristof: Senator Jim DeMint and Morality

I’m stunned by what Senator Jim DeMint says about moral requirements for teachers. Not only is he against gay teachers, but also against single women who sleep with their boyfriends. Not clear what he thinks of those boyfriends having sex before marriage, but they don’t seem to alarm him so much. Here’s how he was quoted in the Spartanburg, S.C., newspaper:

   DeMint said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend – she shouldn’t be in the classroom.

   “(When I said those things,) no one came to my defense,” he said. “But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn’t back down. They don’t want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion.”

To me, job discrimination against people on the basis of private sexual practices, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is what is truly immoral. Senator DeMint’s first comment plays into larger anti-gay bigotry and the second into anti-women narratives.

Joe Conason: Debating the “mendacity” of Barack Obama

Roger Hodge accuses the president of deceiving his supporters. Jonathan Alter says that’s naive — and destructive

The fairest measure of Barack Obama at midterm can probably be found somewhere between Roger Hodge’s accusations and Jonathan Alter’s explanations — but the deeper issue raised by both authors in a debate last night was how progressives, from the White House to the grass roots, fecklessly ceded ground to the Republican right over the past two years.

Hodge, author of “The Mendacity of Hope,” a scathing new critique of Obama and all his works, and Alter, author of “The Promise,” a balanced but generally favorable report on Obama’s first year, clashed under the auspices of the Agenda Project in New York City. Their lively, live-streamed, intelligent discussion, moderated by Erica Payne, will also be televised on C-Span’s BookTV later this month — just in time to further dispirit (or possibly inspire) Democratic voters.

For Alter, the sense of disillusionment among Obama’s supporters is merely the latest display of the persistent naiveté that afflicts “movement” progressives, whom he distinguished from more pragmatic liberals like himself. Both kinds are useful and important, and most progressives combine aspects of both. But the movement types, like Hodge, don’t comprehend the necessity of compromise, although their venerated icon, FDR, certainly did. Alter objected to the title of Hodge’s book because “accusing other liberals of mendacity is destructive to the liberal project in America.”

Robert Reich: The Emerging Anti-Trade Coalition, and Its Dangers

Smoot-Hawley here we come.

Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot, you may recall, sponsored the Tariff Act of 1930 that raised tariffs to record levels on more than 20,000 imported goods. The duo said this would protect American jobs and revive the economy. It did the reverse, plunging the nation into an even deeper depression. Other nations retaliated. Global trade plummeted. Americans got poorer, as did millions of others around the world.

Why do I think we’re on the way back to Smoot-Hawley? Because with Republicans and blue-dog deficit hawks gaining ground after November 2, the chance of boosting the economy with an “infrastructure bank,” another big spending package, or even a big round of middle-class tax cuts is roughly nil. This means a lousy economy – possibly for years.

And that leaves trade as a sitting duck.The Emerging Anti-Trade Coalition, and Its Dangers

Michael Moore: Dems Come Alive! …a follow-up from Michael Moore


OK! We’re halfway through the week and we’re off to a great start. Last week I gave the spineless Dems five friendly suggestions for things they could do on the off chance they were interested in winning the midterm elections on November 2nd: . . . .

1. Dems have started running tough, killer ads that have balls and SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. . . .

2. Foreclosure Moratorium fever among the Dems has amazingly swept the nation in the last week! . . . .

3. Prosecute the bastards! Looks like that’s what they’re maybe finally going to do. Check out this stunning letter sent to Attorney General Holder yesterday by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and 30 other members of congress (PDF):

“…we urge you and your respective agencies to investigate possible violations of law or regulations by financial institutions in their handling of delinquent mortgages, mortgage modifications, and foreclosures. … The excuses we have heard from financial institutions are simply not credible three years into this crisis. … It is time that banks are held accountable for their practices that have left too many homeowners without real help.”

According to the New York Times, banks will likely face a “wide range of government investigations” for years. Judges may ask for them to be indicted for perjury or obstruction of justice. The Justice Department could prosecute banks for mail and wire fraud, or for making false statements to the government. And the SEC could open civil investigations.

Now we need to hear the Justice Department announce their investigation.

Cenk Uygur: The Big Republican Lie on Tax Cuts

Republicans have repeated the lie that tax cuts are always good for the economy so often that all of Washington seems absolutely convinced that it’s true. The conventional wisdom is so established on this that all a Republican has to say is, “Everyone knows you don’t raise taxes in the middle of a recession…” Or in good times or in mediocre times or ever. All tax cuts are always good.

Republicans add another layer of absurdity to this as they say that tax cuts always lead to more revenue for the federal government because of supply-side economics. The economy expands, people make more money and the government collects more in taxes even though it takes a smaller percentage. Great theory — how about if we cut taxes down to 1 percent? Would the government still get more revenue?

The question isn’t whether tax cuts or tax increases are always the right answer. The question is at what level of taxes do we stimulate the economy, collect enough revenue to run a functioning government and let people keep as much of their income as we can. No one, not even the world’s biggest liberal, wants to pay more in taxes personally. We just want to find the right balance so that everyone wins.

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