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Dec 01 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”.

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand: Time to Listen to Our Military and Repeal DADT

This is a historic week in our quest to strengthen our armed forces and secure equality for all Americans.

Today, the Pentagon has released its yearlong study of how to implement repeal of the corrosive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. This report makes it unambiguously clear that the risk of repeal on military effectiveness is minimal, that any risks can be addressed by implementing the report’s recommendations, and that a clear majority of active duty servicemen and women have no problem with repeal. It should come as no surprise that the men and women who serve bravely in our military don’t care about the sexual orientation of their fellow servicemembers, they just want to serve their country proudly and believe others should be able to do the same.

Bob Herbert: Broken Beyond Repair

You can only hope that you will be as sharp and intellectually focused as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens when you’re 90 years old.

In a provocative essay in The New York Review of Books, the former justice, who once supported the death penalty, offers some welcome insight into why he now opposes this ultimate criminal sanction and believes it to be unconstitutional.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Among the wealthy, a new voice for fiscal sacrifice

President Obama’s discussion Tuesday with leaders of both parties about the expiring Bush tax cuts comes at a time when a growing chorus of progressives and other reasonable-minded Americans have been ramping up pressure on the White House to allow the cuts for millionaires to end – as intended – at the end of the year. Last week that chorus was joined by a group of unlikely, albeit welcome new singers: the millionaires themselves.

Paul Krugman: Ireland and the Euro: Is It Time to Part?

This is the way the euro ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bank run.

OK, I’m overstating the case – we are still a long way from Ireland’s exiting the euro. But in thinking about the ongoing Irish mess, I realized we are drifting closer to the kind of scenario I wrote about earlier this year during the Greek debt crisis.

I used to be a full believer in the economist Barry Eichengreen’s theory of euro irreversibility: no European nation can even discuss leaving the euro because the anticipated devaluation will lead people to move deposits to other euro-zone banks, leading to the mother of all bank runs. But I’ve been reconsidering this stance, because while the Eichengreen argument explains why nations should not plan on leaving the euro, what if the bank runs and financial crisis happen anyway? In that case, the marginal cost of a nation’s leaving the euro falls dramatically, and in fact, the decision may effectively be taken out of policy makers’ hands.

Dana Milbank: Slurpee Summit full of empty calories

A large 7-Eleven Slurpee has upward of 550 calories, 142 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.

So it is appropriate that the first meeting between President Obama and Republican leaders since the election would be called the “Slurpee Summit” – a thing of no nutritional value. The name, embraced by Obama, refers to his line during the campaign about how Republicans stood on the sidelines, “sipping Slurpees,” while Democrats pushed the economy out of a ditch.

The Slurpee Summit on Tuesday produced precisely what everybody knew it would: nothing but an agreement to keep talking about areas of disagreement. Indeed, the two sides couldn’t even agree on logistics for the empty-calorie summit.

Timothy Karr Comcast Busted: New Tolls for Netflix Aren’t All You Should Worry About

In the past 24 hours Comcast has been exposed committing blatant abuses of its power over all things media.

The New York Times reported last night that the cable giant has threatened to block popular online movie service Netflix unless the company that streams its films paid new and extortionate tolls. Earlier in the day, Comcast was caught red-handed trying to smother the marketplace for competitive Internet modems designed for use on its network — a violation of fundamental Net Neutrality principles that allow you to choose what devices you want to use.

These are just the latest domino in a history of abuse by a company determined to become the 21st century’s media gatekeeper. If Comcast gets away with these violations, it will be the beginning of the end of the experiment in information democracy called the Internet. What more reason does the Federal Communications Commission need to step up — for once — and protect the openness that is central to a better, more participatory and diverse media.

Taken as a whole, these abuses show us what a media monopoly looks like in the Internet age — one company, consolidating its media power to squash competitors, to stifle innovation and free speech, and to gouge consumers.

Amy Goodman: WikiLeaks and the End of U.S. ‘Diplomacy’

By Amy Goodman

WikiLeaks is again publishing a trove of documents, in this case classified U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. The whistle-blower website will gradually be releasing more than 250,000 of these documents in the coming months so that they can be analyzed and gain the attention they deserve. The cables are internal, written communications among U.S. Embassies around the world and also to the U.S. State Department. WikiLeaks described the leak as “the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain [giving] an unprecedented insight into U.S. government foreign activities.”

Critics argue, as they did with earlier leaks of secret documents regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, that lives will be lost as a result. Rather, lives might actually be saved, since the way that the U.S. conducts diplomacy is now getting more exposure than ever-as is the apparent ease with which the U.S. government lives up (or down) to the adage used by pioneering journalist I.F. Stone: “Governments lie.”

Eugene Robinson: Tough Times for Superpowers

The secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks leave one overriding impression: It’s hard out there for a superpower.

As of Monday, fewer than 250 of a promised 251,287 confidential State Department messages had been made public. Perhaps somewhere in that enormous trove is evidence to the contrary, but what we’ve see thus far shows that post-Cold War rumors of American global hegemony are vastly overstated. If ever there was a time when being a superpower meant never having to say you’re sorry, that time is long gone.

The headline-grabbing catty personal assessments of world leaders revealed in the cables are juicy but not really surprising. I mean, it’s highly entertaining to read about Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s many and varied eccentricities-his fear of flying, his reluctance to stay above the first floor of hotels, his dependence on a Ukrainian nurse described as a “voluptuous blonde” who alone “knows his routine.” But Gaddafi has been daffy for a long time.The secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks leave one overriding impression: It’s hard out there for a superpower.

As of Monday, fewer than 250 of a promised 251,287 confidential State Department messages had been made public. Perhaps somewhere in that enormous trove is evidence to the contrary, but what we’ve see thus far shows that post-Cold War rumors of American global hegemony are vastly overstated. If ever there was a time when being a superpower meant never having to say you’re sorry, that time is long gone.

The headline-grabbing catty personal assessments of world leaders revealed in the cables are juicy but not really surprising. I mean, it’s highly entertaining to read about Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s many and varied eccentricities-his fear of flying, his reluctance to stay above the first floor of hotels, his dependence on a Ukrainian nurse described as a “voluptuous blonde” who alone “knows his routine.” But Gaddafi has been daffy for a long time.

Richard Reeves: Dr. Strangelove Redux

NEW YORK-And now a quote that could come from Dr. Strangelove:

“A lot of people fear artificial intelligence. I will stand my artificial intelligence against your human any day of the week and tell you that my A.I. will pay more attention to the rules of engagement and create fewer ethical lapses than a human force.”

That is from John Arquilla, executive director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “Dr. Arquilla,” reports The New York Times, “argues that weapons systems controlled by software will not act out of anger and malice and, in certain cases, can already make better decisions on the battlefield than humans.”

Aren’t we lucky that software never makes mistakes?

Dr. Arquilla, a Stanford product and a true patriot, I’m sure, is one of the most dangerous men in the world. And there are many more like him. He is one of the best and the brightest who think they are advancing science and are in the business of reducing the pain of war by substituting robots and other electronic killers for actual human beings. Their philosophy is that machines don’t get angry like soldiers do, so they make better decisions than actual men and women on the ground. Their goal is to make starting wars more easy than, say, the Constitution of the United States intended.

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