Nov 13 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Dan Fromkin: Bush’s Waterboarding Admission Prompts Calls For Criminal Probe

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday joined a growing chorus in the human rights community calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether former president George W. Bush violated federal statutes prohibiting torture.

In his new memoir and ensuing book tour, Bush has repeatedly admitted that he directly authorized the waterboarding of three terror suspects. Use of the waterboard, which creates the sensation of drowning, has been an iconic and almost universally condemned form of torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Except for a brief period during which a handful of Bush administration lawyers insisted that the exigencies of interrogating terror suspects justified its use, waterboarding has always been considered illegal by the Justice Department. It is also a clear violation of international torture conventions.

Robert Reich: Why We Should Beware Budget-Deficit Mania

We’re in for another round of budget-deficit mania.

The first draft of the President’s deficit commission, written by its co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, is a pastiche of ideas – some good, some dumb, some intriguing, some wacky. The only unifying principle behind their effort seems to be to throw enough at the wall that something’s bound to stick.

At their best, presidential commissions focus the public’s attention – not only on the right solution to some important problem but also on the right problem. Sadly, this preliminary report does neither.

As to solution, the report mentions but doesn’t emphasize the biggest driver of future deficits – the relentless rise in health-care costs coupled with the pending corrosion of 77 million boomer bodies. This is 70 percent of the problem, but it gets about 3 percent of the space in the draft.

Paul Krugman: For Lenders, the Name of the Game Is Extend and Pretend

I’m finding it difficult to write about the recent foreclosure mess in the United States.

Amid the revelations in October that so many mortgage lenders might have been sloppy when processing foreclosure paperwork, attorneys general in all 50 states have now announced they are investigating lenders’ foreclosure practices.

It’s clear that there has been massive malfeasance on the part of the banks (again), but it’s less easy to decide what should be done about it.

One thing is obvious: the main argument in favor of turning a blind eye to this whole situation and avoiding a temporary freeze on foreclosures is wrong.

William John Cox: The Youth Vote and the War of 2012

In one of the most striking political comebacks in US history, the Republican Party marched in lockstep to victory in the midterm elections and seized control of the House of Representatives and statehouses across the nation. The Republicans made a battle plan and disciplined their troops and the corporations paid for the ammunition.

Unless the Democrats do something drastically differently during the next two years, the rich and powerful will cement their victory around the body of democracy and dump the barrel of freedom into the deep, dark waters of cash politics, where it will be lost forever.

Bob Herbert: Killing and Dying

In the spring of 2007, American soldiers in the Second Platoon of Battle Company, part of a regiment in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, began a 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. It was one of the most dangerous places in the country.

A feature-length film called “Restrepo” documents the soldiers’ experiences and captures the almost primeval elements – the living, breathing, killing and dying – of a combat tour with a close-up intensity that is, frankly, chilling.

When the guys, many of them unbearably young, show up in the grim, mountainous, sparsely populated landscape, they react with what seems like a combination of awe and dread. One said his mind told him he would die there. Another wondered, “What are we doing here?”

Johann Hari: Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats Have Betrayed Britain

Two months before the general election, Nick Clegg — the leader of the Liberal Democrat party — warned there would be “riots” on the streets if the Conservatives won the election and introduced extreme cuts. Now the riots have begun — and Clegg himself is the chief cutter, installed as Deputy Prime Minister of a slash-and-burn Conservative government.

There was a whiplash moment this Wednesday. Inside the House of Commons, a pale-faced and barely coherent Clegg was championing the trebling of fees for university students at Prime Minister’s Question Time, despite the fact that he promised before the election to “implacably oppose” this move because it would be “a disaster.” Then, in a low rumble, the chants of the 50,000 betrayed and protesting students massed outside began to echo into the chamber. He began to stumble: “We have stuck to our ambition… our wider ambition… ” (Laughter, jeers). “Our policy is more progressive… ” (Hoots from all sides, including his own.) “The truth is before the election we didn’t know… ” The chants got louder, and the excuses got more contorted.

Clegg is one of the great mysteries of British politics. Before the election, he told us “there isn’t a serious economist in the world who agrees with the Conservatives… [that] we should pull the rug out from under the economy with immediate spending cuts.” Now he is one of the leading champions of doing exactly that. In just a few days after the election, he cleared a space in his swanky new ministerial offices and staged a bonfire of his principles.

David Sirota: The High Cost of Low Prices

First, it was the new $200 printer-within hours of being extracted from its bubble-wrap womb, the contraption started making an awful wheezing sound.

Then it was the $10 stopwatch we bought to time my wife’s labor contractions-the moment it was torn out of its blister package, its digital screen flamed out.

Then it was our 3-year-old $500 television-the fuzzy lines started during late-night “Seinfeld” reruns and haven’t stopped.

And finally, it was the $25 lamp for my e-book reader-the light looked so useful … until it started emitting a hideous blue tint.

Welcome to my most recent teeth-clenching weekend spent in return lines at discount electronics stores-a weekend no doubt typical in what journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell calls the current age of “Cheap.” In her new book by that name, she argues that our economy has been reorganized around goods that sacrifice craftsmanship on the altar of low price.

Alexander Cockburn: A Bitter Woman

Americans keep odd things up on the mantelpiece, or in the fridge: Dad’s ashes in a biscuit tin or, in Barbara Bush’s case, as her eldest son has just disclosed on national TV, the fetus she miscarried, put in a mason jar and then handed to the teenage George Jr., to take to the hospital. Imagine! “George, honey, could you hold this while I get the car keys?” “What is it, Mom?”

I interviewed Barbara Bush in 1979, when George Sr. was vainly challenging Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. This was a time when her image handlers were trying to get round the fact that with her defiant white hair, she looked like her husband’s mother. They sold her as “the Silver Fox” — America’s matriarch.

She was horrible. Bitterness seeped out of her like blood from an underdone rib-eye. Every banal question elicited a hiss of derision and contempt.

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