Dec 18 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”.

Bruce Fein American Exceptionalism Is Un-American

“American exceptionalism” — the narcissistic soundtrack of several presidential aspirants for 2012 — is Un-American. The boast betrays ignorance of the Founding Fathers and the tarnished history of the United States. In any event, to overlook faults because other nations are more flawed is juvenile, and leads nowhere.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney scribbles in, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” that, “This reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism is misguided and bankrupt.” Congressman Mike Pence (R. Ind.) similarly addressed the Detroit Economic Club on “Restoring American Exceptionalism: A Vision for Economic Growth and Prosperity.” And the brilliant but sub-literate Sarah Palin, features a chapter in her book, America by Heart, entitled “America the Exceptional.”

Although none of the three specifically define the term, “American exceptionalism” conveys three wrong or empty ideas: that Americans are blessed with morally superior DNA which immunizes them from the vices or ill-humors of human nature; that the history of the United States is morally irreproachable; or, that the United States, despite its warts, is less immoral than other wretched countries.

John Nichols: Obama Gets His Tax Deal, Reanimating Reaganomics

Supply-side economics prevailed-at least politically-late Thursday, as the US House grudgingly approved President Obama’s deal with congressional Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts for billionaires, creates broad estate-tax exemptions for millionaires and shapes economic policies based on tax cuts rather smart investment in job-creating infrastructure projects, schools and an engaged public sector.

The House vote ended two weeks of wrangling over the deal that was generally popular with Republicans who almost giddy at prospect that a Democratic president would make tax cuts so central to his economic agenda, but was sharply criticized by leading Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders as a reanimation of Reaganomics that would widen the gap between rich and poor, starve federal, state and local programs of needed resources, expand deficits and potentially undermined Social Security.

Gail Collins: The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas

The calendar is collapsing. Only a week until Christmas! Only a month until the beginning of the presidential election!

Yes, the race for the White House is practically under way. Already, there are at least seven Republican presidential primary debates on the schedule. The way this is going, the Republican presidential hopefuls will eventually be on television every single minute. Possibly they can be convinced to do something more entertaining than talk about earmarks. Maybe race around the world in teams of two, or compete at ballroom dancing, or agree to all be locked in a house together for several months with no contact with the outside world.

I know; you’re liking the last one already.

But today let’s look at their books. Almost every potential Republican presidential nominee has written at least one, and they could make excellent stocking stuffers for the public affairs mavens on your shopping list.

Richard RJ) Eskow: Negotiating Against America: Why Obama Shouldn’t Listen to David Brooks

Uh-oh. David Brooks is offering the President advice again. Since we’re told that Brooks is one of President Obama’s favorite columnists, there’s always the chance that his latest idea will gain traction in the White House. Brooks is smart, and he’s a good salesman, so his ideas may resonate with a lot of other powerful Democrats, too.

That would be a very, very bad thing indeed. He’s using new catchphrases to dress up some very bad, very old, and very unpopular ideas.

Two old paradigms ain’t worth forty cents.

The Brooks proposal may sound fresh, but it’s really only a mash-up of two stale notions: That “bipartisanship” happens whenever well-heeled Democratic and Republican politicians cut a deal, and that “transformation” is always exciting and positive – no matter what you’re transforming from or to.

Les Leopold: The Wall Street Tax Debate That Never Was

This tax “reform” bill is as stunning for what it ignores as for what it proposes. . .

What is entirely missing from the debate and from the bill is any recognition that a large portion of the super-rich gained their wealth from the financial sector. And that money is highly suspect:

Wall Street elites “earned” much of it by creating bubbles and toxic assets that had little or no real economic value to begin with–and that ultimately crashed our economy. (If you still have any doubts, please see The Looting of America.)

Have we forgotten how angry we were only a year or so ago when we realized that our tax dollars were going to bail out financial industry high rollers? Remember how galling it was to see $13 billion in tax dollars go to Goldman Sachs to cover its bad bets (at full value) with AIG? And how appalling it was that afterwards when that money went right back into their enormous bonus pool?

It’s hard to believe that just a short while ago I naively thought the country was ready to rein in Wall Street.

Johann hari: The Right to Protest Is Under Serious Threat in Britain

So now we know. When Britain’s politicians complained over the past few decades, in a low, sad tone, that our young people were “too apathetic” and “disengaged”, it was a lie. A great flaring re-engagement of the young has take place this year. With overwhelmingly peaceful tactics, they are demanding policies that are supported by the majority of the British people — and our rulers are trying to truncheon, kettle and intimidate them back into apathy.

Nicky Wishart is a 12-year-old self-described “maths geek” who lives in the heart of Prime Minister David Cameron’s constituency. He was gutted when he found out his youth club was being shut down as part of the cuts: there’s nowhere else to hang out in his village. He was particularly outraged when he discovered online that Cameron had said, before the election, that he was “committed” to keeping youth clubs open. So he did the right thing. He organized a totally peaceful protest on Facebook outside Cameron’s local offices. A few days later, the police arrived at his school. They hauled him out of his lessons, told him the anti-terrorism squad was monitoring him and threatened him with arrest.

The message to Nicky Wishart and his generation is very clear: don’t get any fancy ideas about being an engaged citizen. Go back to your X-Box and X-Factor, and leave politics to the millionaires in charge.

Michael Moore: Dear Government of Sweden …

Dear Swedish Government:

Hi there — or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your Volvos, your meatballs, your hard-to-put-together furniture — we can’t get enough!

There’s just one thing that bothers me — why has Amnesty International, in a special report (described in detail here by Naomi Wolf), declared that Sweden refuses to deal with the very real tragedy of rape? In fact, they say that all over Scandinavia, including in your country, rapists “enjoy impunity.” And the United Nations, the EU and Swedish human rights groups have come to the same conclusion: Sweden just doesn’t take sexual assault against women seriously. How else do you explain these statistics from Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape:

– Sweden has the HIGHEST per capita number of reported rapes in Europe.

– This number of rapes has quadrupled in the last 20 years.

– The conviction rates? They have steadily DECREASED.

Axelsson says: “On April 23rd of this year, Carina Hägg and Nalin Pekgul (respectively MP and chairwoman of Social Democratic Women in Sweden) wrote in the Göteborgs [newspaper] that ‘up to 90% of all reported rapes [in Sweden] never get to court.'” . . .

So imagine our surprise when all of a sudden you decided to go after one Julian Assange on sexual assault charges

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