Dec 16 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”.

Ari Berman: Senate Priority #1: Fix the Filibuster

Last night, Rachel Maddow ran a very interesting segment on the broken nature of the US Senate, which I’m posting below.

We’ve become accustomed to reading headlines like “DADT Repeal Fails in Senate, 57 to 40,” but that doesn’t make them any less surreal. Only in the Senate does winning by 17 votes constitute defeat. That’s because Republicans now require that every piece of legislation in the body receive 60 votes before it even comes up for a formal vote, let alone becomes law. The incessant misuse of the filibuster has turned the Senate into an increasingly dysfunctional body where, quite frankly, it’s miraculous that anything ever gets done.

John Nichols: After Overwhelming House Vote Against Bigotry, Will Senate Finish the Job of Ending DADT?

After the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow the openly gay and lesbian Americans serve in the military, it fell to Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank to bang the gavel that closed the vote.

Then Frank had a message for Senate Republicans: It is “delusional” to claim that there has not been enough debate about gays and lesbians serving in the military.

Responding to Republican demands that the Senate vote be delayed until further hearings, committee reviews and debates can be held, Frank noted that the repeal measure had already been approved by by the full House and the Senate Armed Services Committee and said the Congress has followed the proper order of business.

“We’ve gone through triple regular order,” said Frank, after the 250-175 vote.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: Labels Aren’t the Problem

The “No Labels” group that held its inaugural meeting this week in the name of the political center fills me with passionate ambivalence. My attitude is moderately supportive and moderately critical-accented by a moderate touch of cynicism.

Who can disagree with a call to put aside “petty partisanship” and embrace “practical solutions”? Let’s cheer the group’s insistence on “fact-based discussions.” Too much political talk these days is utterly disconnected from what’s actually true. Fact-based always beats fantasy-based.

. . . . . so what’s my problem with these neo-restive-majority types?

The basic difficulty arises from a false equivalence they make between our current “left” and our current “right.” The truth is that the American right is much farther from anything that can fairly be described as “the center” than is the left.

Robert Sheer of the Great Triangulator

The sight of Bill Clinton back on the White House podium defending tax cuts for the super-rich was more a sick joke than a serious amplification of economic policy. How desperate is the current president that he would turn to the great triangulator, who opened the floodgates to banking greed, for validation of the sorry opportunistic hodgepodge that passes for this administration’s economic policy? A policy designed and implemented by the same Clinton-era holdovers whose radical deregulation of the financial industry created this mess in the first place.

Eric R. Havian: Don’t Let Wall Street Get Away With It! Protect and Reward SEC Whistleblowers

The American experiment with whistleblower laws is now almost 150 years old. The first attempt was the “False Claims Act” or “Lincoln Law,” passed in 1863 to address fraud against the Union Army by war profiteers who sold the Army sawdust rather than gun powder, and, in place of healthy horses, “spavined beasts and dying donkeys.” Based on the idea of “setting a rogue to catch a rogue,” the False Claims Act provided a reward to anyone who came forward with proof of fraud or “false claims” made against the United States government – a bounty hunter provision.

Nearly a century and a half later, the SEC is at a critical point in setting up an SEC whistleblower reward program that it successfully lobbied Congress to pass earlier this year. It is considering regulations that will determine whether the SEC whistleblower program will be either a revolutionary enforcement tool or another eviscerated government effort to protect investors. Many have predicted that this new law will generate an avalanche of reporting of financial fraud that otherwise would have remained hidden. As the SEC begins to implement that program, it is a fair question whether the agency will heed the lessons learned since 1863. History shows that properly implemented whistleblower programs can return billions of dollars of ill-gotten gains to the Treasury and deter the loss of billions more, but also that whistleblower programs can be stifled by restrictive practices and interpretations of the law by entrenched bureaucrats.

Laura Flanders: Harry Potter and the Bailed-Out Banks

There’s a new blockbuster out just in time for the holidays: Harry Potter and the Bailed-Out Banks. Here’s a synopsis:

While students in London spend hours in the cold protesting tuition fees that may soon triple, RBS, a bank that took a huge government bailout, throws a party commemorating one famous British student: Harry Potter. (Of course, Potter went to an exclusive private school.)

It’d be funny except it’s exactly what just happened in London. Perhaps the bank thinks the money that came from the government appeared by magic or goblins instead of by taxpayers, who still technically own 84 percent of the bank. The taxpayers-particularly those facing steep government cuts-know better.

Tom Hayden: Swedish State on Trial in Assange Case?

Sweden’s appeal of a British magistrate’s decision to grant bail to Julian Assange is likely to be decided tomorrow. The first hearing on Sweden’s demand for extradition is scheduled for January 11 in London.

The feeling is growing among WikiLeaks watchers that “someone is pushing Sweden,” as one attorney says.

John Nichols: Antonin Scalia, R-Supreme Court, Joins Michele Bachmann’s New Caucus

Ten years ago, in a display of judicial activism unprecedented in American history, Justice Antonin Scalia engineered the Bush-v-Gore ruling that handed the presidency to a Republican who had lost the nation’s popular vote and was threatened with defeat in a Florida recount. Scalia’s moves removed any serious doubt about his partisan preference.

Now, however, the justice has removed any doubt about his ideological preference within the Republican Party, with an announcement that he will be meeting with-and, undoubtedly, providing talking points for-Michele Bachmann’s Tea (Party)-stained “Constitutional Conservative Caucus.”

Naomi Wolf: Sweden’s Serial Negligence in Prosecuting Rape Further Highlights the Politics Behind Julian Assange’s Arrest

As I have been making the case on media outlets in the past few days that the British and Swedish sex crime charges related actions against Julian Assange are so extraordinarily and unprecedentedly severe — compared to how prosecutors always treat far more cut-and-dry allegations than those in question in this case worldwide, including in the Scandinavian countries, and that thus the pretext of using these charges against Assange is a pimping of feminism by the State and an insult to rape victims — I have found myself up against a bizarre fantasy in the minds of my (mostly male) debating opponents.

The fantasy is that somehow this treatment — a global manhunt, solitary confinement in the Victorian cell that drove Oscar Wilde to suicidal despair within a matter of days, and now a bracelet tracking his movements — is not atypical, because somehow Sweden must be a progressively hot-blooded but still progressively post-feminist paradise for sexual norms in which any woman in any context can bring the full force of the law against any man who oversteps any sexual boundary.>

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