Oct 28 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.

Iraq Veterans Against the War: IVAW Statement on the Iraq War Logs – A Call for Accountability

The recent Wikileaks release–The Iraq War Logs–has shed important light on the high rate of civilian death and widespread atrocities, including torture, that are endemic to the war in Iraq. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are outraged that the U.S. government sought to hide this information from the U.S. public, instead presenting a sanitized and deceptive version of war, and we think it is vital for this and further information to get out. Members of IVAW have experienced firsthand the realities of war on the ground, and since our inception we have spoken out about similar atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are asking the U.S. public to join us in calling on our government to end the occupations and bring our brothers and sisters home.  

The U.S. government has been claiming for years that they do not keep count of civilian death tolls, yet the recent releases show that they do, in fact, keep count. Between 2004 and 2009, according to these newly disclosed records, at least 109,032 Iraqis died, 66,081 of whom were civilians. The Guardian reports that the Iraq War Logs show that the U.S. military and government gave de facto approval for hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi soldiers and police officers. These recent revelations, along with the Afghan War Diaries and Collateral Murder footage, weave a picture of wars in which the rules of engagement allow for excessive violence, woven into the fabric of daily life with the U.S. military presence acting as a destabilizing and brutalizing force. The Iraq War Logs, while crucial, are reports produced in real time and themselves may be slanted to minimize the culpability of U.S. forces. Still, they represent an important part of evidence in assessing the reality of the Iraq war, evidence that can only be improved by the further release of documents and information and corroboration by individuals involved. To this end, our members are reviewing both Wikileaks’ Afghanistan War Diaries and the Iraq War Logs to identify incidents we were part of and to shed more light on what really happened.

Joe Conanson: The predictable tsunami of sewer money

Was the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United naively mistaken — or cynically partisan?

The indisputable  idiocy of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United — leading to a midterm tsunami of what we New Yorkers call “sewer money” — is featured on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times. Reporter David Savage begins with the salient quotation from the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and then goes on to explain why that opinion is so grossly flawed:

“With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in January. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

   But Kennedy and the high court majority were wrong. Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say.

Taylor Marsh: Choosing Blue Dogs Over Women

This isn’t just about gender, though it’s clear that women understand aspects of issues like health care more deeply than many men, particularly when the males in question are Blue Dogs. As one of the lone liberal voices out here that supported Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy (which stopped when McChrystal imploded, likely because of this issue), even in foreign policy this is true. After all, it was

But let’s face it, Speaker Pelosi was not a friend to women during the health care debate, and neither was Pres. Obama; you don’t sacrifice overall rights of women’s freedom and then codify it in law, even if you’re giving wider access to others. A Democratic principle is not to sacrifice one person’s fundamental rights over another. This is about choosing female candidates who are stronger on Democratic principles than Blue Dog Dems in Republican districts that will continue the Democratic Party’s slide to the right, while aiding the tilt of the right in general.

Bob Cesca: When in Doubt, They Beat Up Women

Anyone who’s ever spent extended time with very young children will know what I’m talking about here. Whenever a particularly spazzy kid who’s perhaps a little too hepped up on sugary snacks can’t articulate what he or she wants, they tend to act out. Sometimes violently. Spitting, biting, screeching, hitting.

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Despite the fact that they’re probably going to win a considerable number of congressional seats on Tuesday, the far right appears to be unsatisfied with a significant electoral victory and is supplementing its would-be success by physically accosting anyone who isn’t sporting an array of teabags erotically dangled from the brim of a tri-cornered hat.

Daphne Eviatar: Google Searches Undermine Government’s Star Witness in Khadr Case

The government’s star witness in the sentencing hearing of Omar Khadr continued to talk for hours on the stand today, explaining his view of why he believes that the Canadian captured in 2002 at the age of 15 is “highly dangerous.”

But it turns out that much of the information Dr. Michael Welner relied upon, including the judgments that informed the bulk of his opinions about the future dangerousness of Omar Khadr, was based on the highly suspect opinions of a Danish psychologist, Nicolai Sennels, whose work Welner had barely read and to whom he spoke only once on the telephone. Although those opinions were easily retrievable online, Welner said he’d never come across them before.

But it’s not just the Danish psychologist’s opinions that cast doubt on the objectivity of the government’s expert. In fact, although not raised on cross-examination, Dr. Welner himself has stated opinions in an online magazine that reflect a deep-seated fear and mistrust of Muslims, calling into question the reliability of his assessment of Omar Khadr as a dangerous “radical Islamist.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson: Haiti: Our Promise, Our History, Our Neighbor

The devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti has brought the small, impoverished country back into the international spotlight. After the tragic earthquakes that shook Port-Au-Prince and surrounding cities in the beginning of the year, millions of people from around the world responded by donating money, medicine and other relief resources.

Despite the initial overwhelming support, there has been too little follow through. Our inability to turn from emergency relief to long-term reconstruction has left Haitian citizens susceptible to disease, further disaster, and despair.

The cholera epidemic compounds the state of emergency and requires international mobilization, led by the United States, now. Many donors have not honored their commitment to Haiti, and the crisis is deepening. We need a full time czar and a plan for reconstruction.

Laura Flanders: Campaign Cash, Corruption, Corporate Power

Campaign cash-we’re drowning in a flood of it. As Katrina vanden Heuvel noted yesterday on GRITtv, this is on track to be a $5 billion election-and it’s not over.

We used to have words for spending like that on politicians: bribery. Remember all that quaint anti-colonial talk about “Independence”? As Zephyr Teachout commented in a meeting I was part of, hosted by the Coffee Party, those founding fathers were all about independence from corruption and prosecuting bribery. Remember the phrase “anti-Trust”?

Now it seems the most we can hope for is “transparency.”  Well, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is out now, and it’s pretty transparent: The U.S. has dropped in the world rankings to 22nd, below Chile and just above Uruguay.   “The world’s most peaceful countries score the best” reports The UK Guardian-places like Denmark and New Zealand-hmm. Maybe there’s a connection. (You’ll be relieved to know we’re above Somalia.)

Just think how far we’ve come. Once tea partiers fought corporate power.  Now they live off it. Once corruption and bribery were the Axis of Evil. Today they’re Supreme Court-confirmed law. It’s trust-busting that the courts can’t stand.

Melvin A. Goodman: Panetta and Obama Gut CIA Oversight

President Barack Obama and CIA Director Leon Panetta have managed to accomplish what the Bush administration and three CIA directors failed to do over a five-year period – significantly compromise the position of the CIA’s statutory Inspector General (IG) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG). In announcing the completion of the CIA’s internal review of the tragic suicide bombing at an agency base in Afghanistan in late December, Panetta acknowledged that the review was prepared by senior officers of the CIA’s counterintelligence division, that the report would be provided to the OIG in “keeping with past practice,” and that – despite the deaths of seven agency operatives and contractors – no one would be held accountable.

Even before the review was undertaken, it was obvious that gross negligence had taken place and that basic operational tradecraft had been observed in the breach. The review, however, concluded that the failure was “systemic,” and Panetta ascribed the failure to too much zeal. This is the same Leon Panetta who told agency employees after his confirmation last year that the CIA’s task was to “tell it like it is, even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.”

William Rivers Pitt: Now We Know

I’ve been writing about the war in Iraq for going on ten years now. My first words on the subject were published eight months before the invasion was undertaken, and the war has been a grim drumbeat in my work ever since. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those writers who were tasked to cover the war in Vietnam. After ten years chronicling the same grim topic, did they wish for a day when they could write about something else, finally? I know I do. Iraq has been like a tumor in my mind, always there, always growing, and by all appearances totally inoperable and incurable.

My job over this last decade was to hammer home the fact that the rhetorical preamble to the invasion, the invasion itself, and the occupation were and remain bullshit of the purest ray serene. George W. Bush and his pack of thugs used September 11 against the American people to frighten them into supporting an unnecessary, costly and ultimately criminal war. They lied about weapons of mass destruction, they lied about al Qaeda working with Iraq, they lied about virtually every aspect of the conflict, and they got what they wanted: a big, fat payday and an excuse to bulldoze our constitutional rights.

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