Feb 19 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”

Warning: While I disagree with Mr. Milbank that Medicare is a “major driver” of our debt crisis. the rest of his column is, well, both hysterically funny and ironically saddening. That said Do Not Eat or Drink While Reading

One other short comment, today’s Pundits were prolific and prophetic. The decision who to put above the fold was not easy

Dana Milbank: Serious budget cutting? The House has other fish to fry.

To say that our lawmakers are carping at trifles gives them too much credit. In fact, they are carping at carp.

“Asian carp [are] one of the world’s most rampant invasive species,” Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, proclaimed on the House floor, 35 hours into the debate over budget cuts. “Weighing up to 100 pounds, spanning over six feet and eating half their body weight daily, Asian carp have the ability to decimate fish populations indigenous to the Great Lakes.”

That certainly stinks for Great Lakes fish and Great Lakes fishermen. But if you think the federal budget will be balanced on the backs of the Asian carp, you’re all wet. And that’s what makes Camp’s carping emblematic of the current debate over budget cuts. The whole exercise is less about improving the nation’s fiscal balance than about parochial concerns and political volleys.

FSM, I wish this was snark. It’s not

Michael Winsap: Across the US, GOP Lawmakers Build States of Denial

Forced at gunpoint this weekend to clean out a lot of old paper files in anticipation of some home improvements, I ran across some articles and obituaries I had saved following the death, a little more than five and a half years ago, of the late, great Ann Richards, former governor of Texas.

One of them related the story of how Governor Richards was approached by the ACLU, which was disturbed by the presence of a Christmas crèche on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin. “You know,” she replied, “that’s probably as close as three wise men will ever get to the Texas Legislature, so why don’t we just let them be.” . . . . .

This comes to mind in the wake of this week’s release of “Texas on the Brink,” a pamphlet published annually by the Texas Legislative Study Group, a group of Democratic state lawmakers. According to their research, much of it corroborated by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Legislative Budget Board, in 2011, “Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas has America’s dirtiest air… Those who value tax cuts over children and budget cuts over college have put Texas at risk in her ability to compete and succeed.”

Over the years, such statistics and other damned shenanigans have led many to debate whether Texas is indeed the rightful landlord of the nation’s worst statehouse. As someone with a mother’s Lone Star blood flowing through his otherwise anemic northeastern veins, I write this with no small amount of perverse pride. But in the last couple of weeks a lot of other states have been giving Texans a run for their money.

John Nichols: ‘First Amendment Remedies’: How Wisconsin Workers Grabbed the Constitution Back From the Right-Wing Royalists

When Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate walked out on Capital on Thursday – denying the Republican majority quorum that was necessary to pass the legislation — they were attacked by Walker and his cronies.  The governor called the boycott a “stunt” and claimed the Democrats were disrepecting democracy.  

After all, Walker’s backers noted, the governor and his Republican allies won an election last Novembe  

That is true.  

But Wisconsin’s greatest governor, Robert M. La Follette, declared: “”We have long rested comfortably in this country upon the assumption that because our form of government was democratic, it was therefore automatically producing democratic results. Now, there is nothing mysteriously potent about the forms and names of democratic institutions that should make them self-operative. Tyranny and oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other. We are slow to realize that democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle. It is only as those of every generation who love democracy resist with all their might the encroachments of its enemies that the ideals of representative government can even be nearly approximated.”  

La Follette’s point, apparently lost on Walker, is that democracy does not end on Election Day. That’s when it begins.  Citizens do not elect officials to rule them from one election to the next. Citizens elect officials to represent them, to respond to the will of the people as it evolves.

(emphasis mine)

Please read below the fold, there is so much more to consider

Charles M. Blow: Empire at the End of Decadence

It’s time for us to stop lying to ourselves about this country.

America is great in many ways, but on a whole host of measures – some of which are shown in the accompanying chart – we have become the laggards of the industrialized world. Not only are we not No. 1 – “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” – we are among the worst of the worst.

Yet this reality and the urgency that it ushers in is too hard for many Americans to digest. They would prefer to continue to bathe in platitudes about America’s greatness, to view our eroding empire through the gauzy vapors of past grandeur.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: A Time for Resistance

A friend e-mailed me this morning, “Do you think events taking place in Wisconsin might be as important as what’s happening in Cairo, if the media really got the word out? Might it be the spark to halt the Tea Party Express?” Another friend e-mailed, “It’s possible that this labor strike in Wisconsin could become our Uncut.” (In response to Britain’s draconian public spending cuts, citizens there formed UK Uncut, a Twitter-organized movement, to protest wealthy tax evaders. If the rich paid for their fair share of taxes, the movement argues, the pressure on the state budget would diminish or disappear.)

Wisconsin’s Republican governor and Republican-dominated legislature are moving to destroy organized labor, moving to abolish democratic rights that were the essence of the New Deal, and treating working-class Americans as though they were meaningless in our country’s mosaic. Meanwhile, those who are responsible for the catastrophic financial crisis are riding high–and in the name of deficits they largely caused, they insist that those who worked a lifetime to build and own their homes, to send their children to public schools, to have security in their retirement years, to have decent medical care–that those citizens should pay the price for budgetary crises in honor, dignity and decency.

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. Justice v. the World

In March, 2002, American citizen Jose Padilla was arrested in Chicago and publicly accused by then-Attorney-General John Ashcroft of being “The Dirty Bomber.”  Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to a military brig in South Carolina, where he was held for almost two years completely incommunicado (charges with no crime and denied all access to the outside world, including even a lawyer) and was brutally tortured, both physically and psychologically.  All of this — including the torture — was carried out pursuant to orders from President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials.  Just as the Supreme Court was about to hear Padilla’s plea to be charged or released — and thus finally decide if the President has the power to imprison American citizens on U.S. soil with no charges of any kind — the Government indicted him in a federal court on charges far less serious than Ashcroft had touted years earlier, causing the Supreme Court to dismiss Padilla’s arguments as “moot”; Padilla was then convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Padilla — like so many other War on Terror detainees — has spent years in American courts trying unsuccessfully to hold accountable the high-level government officials responsible for his abuse and lawless imprisonment (that which occurred for years prior to his indictment).  Not only has Padilla (and all other detainees) failed to obtain redress for what was done to them, but worse, they have been entirely denied even the right to have their cases heard in court.  That’s because the U.S. Government has invented — and federal courts have dutifully accepted — a whole slew of legal doctrines which have only one purpose:  to insulate the country’s most powerful political officials from legal accountability even when they commit the most egregious crimes:  such as imprisoning incommunicado and torturing an American citizen arrested and detained on U.S. soil.

Nikolas D, Kristof: In Bahrain, the Bullets Fly

A column of peaceful, unarmed pro-democracy protesters marched through the streets here in modern, cosmopolitan Bahrain on Friday. They threatened no one, but their 21st-century aspirations collided with a medieval ruler – and the authorities opened fire without warning.

Michael Slackman and Sean Patrick Farrell of The New York Times were recording video, and a helicopter began firing in their direction. It was another example of Bahrain targeting journalists, as King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa attempts to intimidate or keep out witnesses to his repression.

The main hospital here was already in chaos because a police attack nearby was sending protesters rushing inside for refuge, along with tear gas fumes. On top of that, casualties from the shootings suddenly began pouring in. A few patients were screaming or sobbing, but most were unconscious or shocked into silence that their government should shoot them.

Gail Collins: Sacred Cows, Angry Birds

The House of Representatives has been cutting like crazy! Down with Planned Parenthood and PBS! We can’t afford to worry about mercury contamination! Safety nets are too expensive!

But keep your hands off the Defense Department’s budget to sponsor Nascar racers.

“It’s a great public/private partnership,” said Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican.

The Defense Department claims racecar sponsorships are an important recruiting tool for the Army. The House agreed – although this might be news to the Navy and Marines, which decided a while back that a Nascar presence wasn’t worth the money.

“What makes U.S. Army’s motorsports initiatives successful?” Ryan Newman, driver of No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet asked his Facebook readers as he urged a show of support for the program. “In a 2009 study among fans nationwide, 37% feel more positive about the Army due to its involvement in motorsports.”

Let’s stop right here and think about this posting. Is it likely that racing fans would think less of the Army for sponsoring racecars? Actually, wouldn’t you expect the percentage to be higher? Also, how many of you believe Ryan Newman actually wrote those sentences. Can I see a show of hands?

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