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Feb 21 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”

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.

Paul Krugman: Wisconsin Power Play

Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker – demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday – Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”

It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did – after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

Bob Herbert: The Human Cost of Budget Cutting

John Drew believes, quaintly, that we are our brother’s keeper.

President Obama does not seem to believe this quite as strongly. And, of course, many of the Republicans in Congress do not believe it at all.

Mr. Drew is the president of Boston’s antipoverty agency, called Action for Boston Community Development, which everyone calls ABCD. In today’s environment, people who work with the poor can be forgiven if they feel like hunted criminals. Government officials at all levels are homing in on them and disrupting their efforts, sometimes for legitimate budget reasons, sometimes not.

The results are often heartbreaking.

Robert Fisk: These Are Secular Popular Revolts – Yet Everyone is Blaming Religion

Our writer, who was in Cairo as the revolution took hold in Egypt, reports from Bahrain on why Islam has little to do with what is going on

Mubarak claimed that Islamists were behind the Egyptian revolution. Ben Ali said the same in Tunisia. King Abdullah of Jordan sees a dark and sinister hand – al-Qa’ida’s hand, the Muslim Brotherhood’s hand, an Islamist hand – behind the civil insurrection across the Arab world. Yesterday the Bahraini authorities discovered Hizbollah’s bloody hand behind the Shia uprising there. For Hizbollah, read Iran. How on earth do well-educated if singularly undemocratic men get this thing so wrong? Confronted by a series of secular explosions – Bahrain does not quite fit into this bracket – they blame radical Islam. The Shah made an identical mistake in reverse. Confronted by an obviously Islamic uprising, he blamed it on Communists.

Bobbysocks Obama and Clinton have managed an even weirder somersault. Having originally supported the “stable” dictatorships of the Middle East – when they should have stood by the forces of democracy – they decided to support civilian calls for democracy in the Arab world at a time when the Arabs were so utterly disenchanted with the West’s hypocrisy that they didn’t want America on their side. “The Americans interfered in our country for 30 years under Mubarak, supporting his regime, arming his soldiers,” an Egyptian student told me in Tahrir Square last week. “Now we would be grateful if they stopped interfering on our side.” At the end of the week, I heard identical voices in Bahrain. “We are getting shot by American weapons fired by American-trained Bahraini soldiers with American-made tanks,” a medical orderly told me on Friday. “And now Obama wants to be on our side?”

Silas House: My Polluted Kentucky Home

Berea, Ky. Last weekend I joined 19 other Kentuckians in a sit-in at the office of Gov. Steve Beshear. We were there to protest his support of mountaintop removal, a technique used by coal-mining companies that, as its name implies, involves blasting away the tops of mountains and hills to get at the coal seams beneath them.

Since it was first used in 1970, mountaintop removal has destroyed some 500 mountains and poisoned at least 1,200 miles of rivers and streams across the Appalachian coal-mining region. Yet Governor Beshear is so committed to the practice that he recently allied with the Kentucky Coal Association in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to block more stringent regulations of it. In court his administration’s lawyers referred to public opposition as simply “an unwarranted burden.”

The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.

E. J. Dionne, Jr: The Tea Party is winning

They can claim victory in fundamentally altering the country’s dialogue.

Take five steps back and consider the nature of the political conversation in our nation’s capital. You would never know that it’s taking place at a moment when unemployment is still at 9 percent, when wages for so many people are stagnating at best and when the United States faces unprecedented challenges to its economic dominance.

No, Washington is acting as if the only real problem the United States confronts is the budget deficit; the only test of leadership is whether the president is willing to make big cuts in programs that protect the elderly; and the largest threat to our prosperity comes from public employees.

Take five more steps back and you realize how successful the Tea Party has been. No matter how much liberals may poke fun at them, Tea Party partisans can claim victory in fundamentally altering the country’s dialogue.

Robert Kuttner: Wisconsin’s Tunisia Moment

As events in Egypt showed, you never know what will set off mass protest.

Here at home, over-reaching by a novice Republican governor of Wisconsin has finally triggered the protest marches that have been eerily missing during the more than three years of an economic crisis that has savaged the middle and bottom and rewarded the top.

It’s not as if we lack a politics of class. As mega-investor Warren Buffett famously said, there is plenty of class warfare in America, but the billionaire class is winning.

This economic crisis, after all, was brought on by excesses on Wall Street. Yet with the rest of the economy still mired in high unemployment and fiscal crises of public services, Wall Street was first to be bailed out, the first to return to exorbitant profitability, and the last to be held accountable.

Month after month, progressives have been asking each other, where are the mass protests?

Robert Coniff: Species Seekers and Spies

There’s a scene early in the 2002 film “Die Another Day,” where James Bond poses as an ornithologist in Havana, with binoculars in hand and a book, “Birds of the West Indies,” tucked under one arm.  “Oh, I’m just here for the birds,” he ventures, when the fetching heroine, Jinx Johnson, played by Halle Berry, makes her notably unfeathered entrance.

It was an in-joke, of course.  That field guide had been written by the real-life James Bond, an American ornithologist who was neither dashing nor a womanizer, and certainly not a spy.  Bond’s name just happened to have the right bland and thoroughly British ring to it.  So the novelist Ian Fleming – himself a weekend birder in Jamaica – latched onto it when he first concocted his thriller spy series in the 1950s.

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