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Jan 03 2011

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”.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: Celebrating the New GOP Majority

Welcome to the Republicans who take over the House of Representatives this week. Since it is a new year, let us be optimistic about what this development means for our nation.

There is already a standard line of advice to Speaker-to-be John Boehner and his colleagues that goes like this: Democrats overreached in the last Congress by doing too much and ignoring “the center.” Republicans should be careful not to make the same mistake, lest they lose their majority too.

This counsel is wrong, partly because the premise is faulty. Democrats did not overreach in the last Congress. On the contrary, they compromised regularly. Compromise made the health care bill far more complicated than it had to be and the original stimulus bill too small. Democrats would have been better off getting more done more quickly, and more coherently.

New York Times Editorial: Reform and the Filibuster

The new Senate will face one of its most momentous decisions in its opening hours on Wednesday: a vote on whether to change its rules to prohibit the widespread abuse of the filibuster. Americans are fed up with Washington gridlock. The Senate should seize the opportunity.

A filibuster – the catchall term for delaying or blocking a majority vote on a bill by lengthy debate or other procedures – remains a valuable tool for ensuring that a minority of senators cannot be steamrollered into silence. No one is talking about ending the practice.

Every returning Democratic senator, though, has signed a letter demanding an end to the almost automatic way the filibuster has been used in recent years. By simply raising an anonymous objection, senators can trigger a 60-vote supermajority for virtually every piece of legislation. The time has come to make senators work for their filibusters, and justify them to the public.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: How to Stay Friends With China

The visit by President Hu Jintao of China to Washington this month will be the most important top-level United States-Chinese encounter since Deng Xiaoping’s historic trip more than 30 years ago. It should therefore yield more than the usual boilerplate professions of mutual esteem. It should aim for a definition of the relationship between the two countries that does justice to the global promise of constructive cooperation between them.

I remember Deng’s visit well, as I was national security adviser at the time. It took place in an era of Soviet expansionism, and crystallized United States-Chinese efforts to oppose it. It also marked the beginning of China’s three-decades-long economic transformation – one facilitated by its new diplomatic ties to the United States.

Chris Hedges: ‘The Left Has Nowhere to Go’

Ralph Nader in a CNN poll a few days before the 2008 presidential election had an estimated 3 percent of the electorate, or about 4 million people, behind his candidacy. But once the votes were counted, his support dwindled to a little over 700,000. Nader believes that many of his supporters entered the polling booth and could not bring themselves to challenge the Democrats and Barack Obama. I suspect Nader is right. And this retreat is another example of the lack of nerve we must overcome if we are going to battle back against the corporate state. A vote for Nader or Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2008 was an act of defiance. A vote for Obama and the Democrats was an act of submission. We cannot afford to be submissive anymore.

“The more outrageous the Republicans become, the weaker the left becomes,” Nader said when I reached him at his home in Connecticut on Sunday. “The more outrageous they become, the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats.”

David Cole: Chewing Gum for Terrorists

Did former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Tom Ridge, a former homeland security secretary, and Frances Townsend, a former national security adviser, all commit a federal crime last month in Paris when they spoke in support of the Mujahedeen Khalq at a conference organized by the Iranian opposition group’s advocates? Free speech, right? Not necessarily.

The problem is that the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a “foreign terrorist organization,” making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support. And, according to the Justice Department under Mr. Mukasey himself, as well as under the current attorney general, Eric Holder, material support includes not only cash and other tangible aid, but also speech coordinated with a “foreign terrorist organization” for its benefit. It is therefore a felony, the government has argued, to file an amicus brief on behalf of a “terrorist” group, to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group’s “terrorist” designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances.

Gary Hart: Will the Commons Become Tragic?

It is quite possible that the greatest human challenge in this century will be how or whether we humans can fairly share what belongs to all. Aristotle stated the issue: “… what is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest.” Garrett Hardin summarized this issue for the present age: “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.”

Our economic system is built on the proposition that markets allocate resources best. But what is true of private resources may not also be true of public resources, those we hold in common. The conservative response to this is, of course, privatize all public resources. 20 years ago this was accomplished in Russia, and about a dozen and a half oligarchs ended up with most of the public assets.

In the industrial age we let private interests allocate our most precious public resources, our air and water, and we see how that worked out. In this century we are now competing with the rest of the world as to how and whether together we can prevent carbonization of our very climate from fundamentally altering life on earth

Robert Fisk: Bombs Make No Moral Distinctions Where They Fall

To Mannheim for its annual film festival and I am gripped by Armadillo, a documentary on a Danish NATO unit in Afghanistan, real bullets whizzing past one of the bravest directors of photography in the world, real soldiers falling wounded, one with a Wilfred Owen pallour of death on his face.

But he survives. Others don’t. After storming a Taliban position, the Danes find at least three Afghans, apparently still alive. There is a crack of gunfire and they are dead. “We eliminated them in the most humane way possible,” one of the Danes says afterwards, right there on the soundtrack.

I am stunned. The words “war crimes” are in my mind. Then I stumble out into the cold afternoon to walk back to my hotel past the back of the 19th-century Kunstalle and there are shrapnel gashes up the red stone walls, deep wounds in the brickwork of the school next door, a slash in the basement window casing. Was this from the British fire raid of 1940, or the first attempt to raze the city on 16 April 1943, or the American raids of 1944? Well protected with underground bunkers, only 1,700 Germans were killed here, a mere 0.6 per cent of its residents. War crimes?

1 comment

  1. TMC

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