Nov 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.

Dean Baker: Erskine Bowles: Social Security’s Enemy No. 1?

Nearly everyone following the Social Security debate is familiar with former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, the co-chairman of President Obama’s deficit commission. Simpson, the son of a senator, thrust himself into the national spotlight with an infamous, late-night email. In addition to displaying an ignorance of bovine anatomy, this email displayed open contempt for Social Security and the tens of millions of retirees and disabled people who depend on it.

While Simpson has seized the spotlight, it may prove to be the case that Erskine Bowles, his co-chairman, poses the greater threat to Social Security. The reason is simple: Bowles is the living embodiment of the rewards available to politicians who would support substantial cutbacks or privatization of the program

Jim Hightower: Surprise! The People Speak

The general public doesn’t want to balance the federal budget by putting Social Security on the chopping block.

Michael Duke is the Big Wally of Walmart. As CEO of the low-wage behemoth, he siphons some $19 million a year in personal pay from the global retailer.

How much is $19 million? Let’s break it down in terms that Duke’s own workforce can appreciate. While Big Wally’s workers average about $9.50 an hour, Duke’s pay comes to about $9,500 an hour. He pockets as much in two hours as Walmart workers make in a whole year!

But WalMart doesn’t give a damn about such gross pay gaps between privileged elites and the rest of us. As a spokesman scoffed, “I don’t think Mike Duke…needs me to defend his compensation package.”

Really? If not you, who?

Those who think that the hoi polloi don’t notice or care about America’s growing income disparity, should take a peek at a recent opinion survey run by the right-wing, corporate-funded Peter G. Peterson Foundation. This outfit intended to show that the general public backs the tea party’s agenda of slashing  government spending, which includes balancing the federal budget by putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block.

Marcy Wheeler: Let the Drones Begin

Fresh off exempting Yemen from any sanctions for its use of child soldiers and partly in response to this week’s attempted package bombings, the government appears to be ready to let the CIA start operating drones in Yemen.


Allowing the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command units to operate under the CIA would give the U.S. greater leeway to strike at militants even without the explicit blessing of the Yemeni government. In addition to streamlining the launching of strikes, it would provide deniability to the Yemeni government because the CIA operations would be covert. The White House is already considering adding armed CIA drones to the arsenal against militants in Yemen, mirroring the agency’s Pakistan campaign.


   Placing military units overseen by the Pentagon under CIA control is unusual but not unprecedented. Units from the Joint Special Operations Command have been temporarily transferred to the CIA in other countries, including Iraq, in recent years in order to get around restrictions placed on military operations.


   The CIA conducts covert operations based on presidential findings, which can be expanded or altered as needed. Congressional oversight is required but the information is more tightly controlled than for military operations. For example, when the military conducts missions in a friendly country, it operates with the consent of the local government.

   An increase in U.S. missile strikes or combat ground operations by American commando forces could test already sensitive relations with Yemen, which U.S. officials believe is too weak to defeat al Qaeda. Such an escalation could prompt Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh to end the training his military receives from U.S. special operations forces.

If Saleh is too weak (or ideologically compromised) to get the job done against al Qaeda, then why are we foisting our special ops training on him and the 50% of his military that are children (though the US insists that no children will go through our training)?

And I wonder what would have happened if we responded to the UnaBomber by dropping bombs throughout Montana?

Bob Herbert: Fast Track to Inequality

The clearest explanation yet of the forces that converged over the past three decades or so to undermine the economic well-being of ordinary Americans is contained in the new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer – and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.” . . . .

This hyperconcentration of wealth and income, and the overwhelming political clout it has put into the hands of the monied interests, has drastically eroded the capacity of government to respond to the needs of the middle class and others of modest income.

Nothing better illustrates the enormous power that has accrued to this tiny sliver of the population than its continued ability to thrive and prosper despite the Great Recession that was largely the result of their winner-take-all policies, and that has had such a disastrous effect on so many other Americans.

David Weigel: How Bad Can It Get?

Tomorrow’s spin today: Three ways the Democrats can lose, and how they’ll explain it.

Just how badly are the Democrats about to lose this election? Yes, the likes of Tim Kaine, Joe Biden, and other men with horrible jobs are still promising that their party can win. But no one else is buying it. Charlie Cook predicts that the party will lose 50 to 60 House seats, and if he’s wrong the number will head higher. Nate Silver gives the GOP about an 85-90 percent chance of winning the House.There are many good reasons to buy the doom, and few reasons to disbelieve it. A year ago, Democrats had an inauspicious off-year election, losing the governors’ mansions in New Jersey and Virginia and key county offices in New York. At the time, the generic ballot test found them roughly tied with Republicans nationwide. They’re not tied any more.

Paul Rogat LoebThe Republican War on Reality

Everett Dirksen is one of my heroes. The Senate Republican leader from 1959 to 1969, he pushed strongly for Vietnam escalation and took conservative stands that I’d have strongly disagreed with on economic issues. But he joined Lyndon Johnson in going to the mat to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights bills, and for that I admire him immensely.

Today’s Republicans are far from Dirksen and that’s a shame. Beyond political differences with Obama and the Democrats, they’ve been making war on reality itself, which should be a major issue of the campaign’s final days.

Richard Cohen: Sarah Palin: Ms. Conspiracy for president?

The mind of the demagogue is a foreign country. It has a strange culture, enemies that only the natives can see, a passion about the ridiculous and a blowtorch kind of sincerity that incinerates logical thinking. On Sunday, the custodian of one such blowtorch was on Fox News. I am speaking, of course, of Sarah Palin.

She was charming, amusing and believable. When Chris Wallace asked her about any presidential ambitions, she did not coyly say that she had not given the matter any thought. Instead, she said that if her party needed her, if her country needed her, if the need for her was truly great, then she would sacrifice her freedom of movement, the privacy she enjoys with her family – never mind their tabloid lifestyle and addiction to publicity – and give it all up and run for president. All over the nation, a fair number of Republicans reached for the antacid. Oy!

A Palin presidential candidacy, Politico tells us, would give the GOP establishment a near-fatal case of hives.

Coletta Youngers Proposition 19 Is a Vote Heard ‘Round the World

The world will be watching as Californians go to the polls on Tuesday and vote on Proposition 19, which would legalize and regulate marijuana in that state.  Regardless of the outcome of the vote, however, it has already sparked an intense international debate, particularly in Latin America where the U.S. has long waged its “war on drugs.” Drug war critics and even some who have supported the U.S. approach to date are asking how the U.S. government can continue to call on Latin American governments to implement harsh drug control policies when at least some of those policies are being called into question in the United States itself.

If passed, Prop 19 would allow those over 21 to possess and cultivate small quantities of marijuana for personal use. Local governments would determine how to regulate its sale, production and taxation. Its immediate impact – in a state where possession of small amounts of marijuana is already the equivalent of a traffic violation – would likely be less than its proponents claim. However, its symbolic importance abroad cannot be under-estimated.

Prop 19 has already sparked intense criticism, support – and some confusion. A recent declaration by leaders of key Latin American countries calls for “consistent and congruent” drug policies on the part of consuming nations, pointing out that, “They cannot support criminalizing these activities in this or that country, while at the same time (supporting) the open or veiled legalization of the production and consumption of drugs in their own territories.”

Dana Milbank: Election forecasts cloudy with a chance of being dead wrong

Election results won’t come until Tuesday night at the earliest. But luckily, you don’t have to wait. This is because you have prognosticators.

The Economic Club of Washington hosted three of this species Monday for a luncheon and panel discussion titled “The Mid-Term Election Results a Day Early.”

Pundit No. 1, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, informed the assembled lawyers and business people how many seats Republicans will gain in the House: “at least 55, and I think it could be as many as 85.” While admitting his predictive science is imperfect, Halperin added: “If you want an exact number, 75.2.”

“I’m going with 58,” offered pundit No. 2, ABC News’s Claire Shipman.

Eugene Robinson: What’s behind the Tea Party’s ire?

The first African American president takes office, and almost immediately we see the birth of a big, passionate national movement – overwhelmingly white and lavishly funded – that tries its best to delegitimize that president, seeks to thwart his every initiative, and manages to bring the discredited and moribund opposition party roaring back to life. Coincidence?

Not a chance. But also not that simple.

First, I’ll state the obvious: It’s not racist to criticize President Obama, it’s not racist to have conservative views, and it’s not racist to join the Tea Party. But there’s something about the nature and tone of the most vitriolic attacks on the president that I believe is distinctive – and difficult to explain without asking whether race is playing a role.


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  1. Eddie C

    I just posted a tip jar at DailyKos that will probably be troll rated. Sorry no link to post because I promised myself that after that post I was closing out for life.

    I have enough but I had a rant.  

  2. Cold Blue Steel

    today by the teevee pundits on how Obama needs to work with the GOP, I found this blog post from Robert Reich to be pertinent.

    For the next two years Republicans will try to paint Obama as a big-government liberal out of touch with America, who’s responsible for the continuing bad economy.

    Obama won’t be able to win this argument by moving to the center – seeking to paint himself as a smaller-government moderate. This only confirms the Republican’s views that the central issue is size of government, that it’s been too large, and the economy can improve only if it’s smaller.

    On the Republican playing field, Republicans always win.

  3. TMC

    with Tweetie is painful. I had to mute it.

    PA Gov ED Rendell was on earlier saying that black voter turn out was exceptionally high, higher than 2006, so far. That’s good news for Sestak.

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