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Jan 15 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”.

Robert Naiman: Tunisian Protests Move Hillary’s Line on Democratic Reform

Yesterday, Secretary Clinton delivered what the New York Times called a “scalding critique” to Arab leaders at a conference in Qatar.

“The region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” Clinton said, calling for “political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives.” Those who would “prey on desperation and poverty are already out there,” Clinton warned, “appealing for allegiance and competing for influence.”

As Secretary Clinton made her remarks, the Times noted, “unrest in Tunisia that threatened its government while serving to buttress her arguments” was among the events that “echoed loudly in the background.”

Today, Tunisian president Ben Ali has reportedly fled the country and the Tunisian prime minister says he is now in charge.

Popular protest can bring down the government in an Arab country. Who knew?

Paul Krugman: A Tale of Two Moralities

On Wednesday, President Obama called on Americans to “expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” Those were beautiful words; they spoke to our desire for reconciliation.

But the truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. By all means, let’s listen to each other more carefully; but what we’ll discover, I fear, is how far apart we are. For the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it’s about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice.

And the real challenge we face is not how to resolve our differences – something that won’t happen any time soon – but how to keep the expression of those differences within bounds.

Bob Herbert: Helpless in the Face of Madness

In case we hadn’t noticed, a photo and a headline on the front page of The New York Times this week gave us some insight into just how sick our society has become. The photo showed 11-year-old Dallas Green weeping and using his left arm to wipe his eyes during the funeral for his sister, Christina-Taylor Green, who was 9 years old and was killed in the attack in Tucson that took the lives of five other people and left Representative Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded.

Beneath the photo was the headline: “Sadness Aside, No Shift Seen On Gun Laws.”

What is the matter with us? Are we really helpless in the face of the astounding toll that guns take on this society?

More than 30,000 people die from gunfire every year. Another 66,000 or so are wounded, which means that nearly 100,000 men, women and children are shot in the United States annually. Have we really become so impotent as a society, so pathetically fearful in the face of the extremists, that we can’t even take the most modest of steps to begin curbing this horror?

Where is the leadership? We know who’s on the side of the gun crazies. Where is the leadership on the side of sanity?

Michelle Chen: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Call for Peace as Racial Justice Still Rings

I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. “broke the silence” on the war on Vietnam in 1967, he shattered the establishment rhetoric on America’s mission in Southeast Asia. His speech, “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence,” delivered at Riverside Church in upper Manhattan, still has revolutionary ring to it as we approach MLK Day more than 40 years later.

Taking a politically risky and unpopular stance, and bucking the advice of some of his most trusted advisors, King drew a link between the destruction of war in Vietnam and the devastation of America’s stratified society. He framed the independence struggle of the Vietnamese as the freedom struggle of communities of color at home.

Willaim K. Black: The Anti-Regulators Are the “Job Killers”

The new mantra of the Republican Party is the old mantra — regulation is a “job killer.” It is certainly possible to have regulations kill jobs, and when I was a financial regulator I was a leader in cutting away many dumb requirements. But we have just experienced the epic ability of the anti-regulators to kill well over ten million jobs. Why then is there not a single word from the new House leadership about investigations to determine how the anti-regulators did their damage? Why is there no plan to investigate the fields in which inadequate regulation most endangers jobs? While we’re at it, why not investigate the areas in which inadequate regulation allows firms to maim and kill. This column addresses only financial regulation.

Deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization (the three “des”) created the criminogenic environment that drove the modern U.S. financial crises. The three “des” were essential to create the epidemics of accounting control fraud that hyper-inflated the bubble that triggered the Great Recession. “Job killing” is a combination of two factors — increased job losses and decreased job creation. I’ll focus solely on private sector jobs — but the recession has also been devastating in terms of the loss of state and local governmental jobs.

David Sirota: Finding the Forgotten Majority

“There is a need for some reflection here: What is too far now? What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”

Those were the words of an unnamed Republican senator after America’s latest shooting rampage, this one a political assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz. How sad-and telling-that the lawmaker refused to attach his or her name to such an important truism.

But that is the larger story of the slaughter’s aftermath. As conservative pundits spent the week insisting that their violent political rhetoric is somehow unrelated to political violence; as Sarah “Don’t Retreat, Reload” Palin scrubbed her website of rifle-sight graphics targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; as right-wing radio hosts sanitized the Tucson shooter as a “lone gunman” rather than a “terrorist”-in the midst of all this obfuscation, few public figures found the courage to acknowledge truths that so desperately need to be aired.

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