Mar 31 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”

Malalai Joya: Kill Teams in Afghanistan: The Truth

The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published last week in the German media, and more recently in Rolling Stone magazine, are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public. All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with the pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians.

I must report that Afghans do not believe this to be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We believe that the brutal actions of these “kill teams” reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation. While these photos are new, the murder of innocents is not. Such crimes have sparked many protests in Afghanistan and have sharply raised anti-American sentiment among ordinary Afghans.

I am not surprised that the mainstream media in the US has been reluctant to publish these images of the soldiers who made sport out of murdering Afghans. General Petraeus, now in charge of the American-led occupation, is said to place great importance on the “information war” for public opinion – and there is a concerted effort to keep the reality of Afghanistan out of sight in the US.

Robert Sheer: Obama’s Fatal Corporate Addiction

If it had been revealed that Jeffrey Immelt once hired an undocumented nanny, or defaulted on his mortgage, he would be forced to resign as head of President Barack Obama’s “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.” But the fact that General Electric, where Immelt is CEO, didn’t pay taxes on its $14.5 billion profit last year-and indeed is asking for a $3.2 billion tax rebate-has not produced a word of criticism from the president, who in January praised Immelt as a business leader who “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”

What it takes, evidently, is shifting profit and jobs abroad: Only one out of three GE workers is now based in the U.S., and almost two-thirds of the company’s profit is sheltered in its foreign operations. Thanks to changes in the tax law engineered when another avowedly pro-business Democrat, Bill Clinton, was president, U.S. multinational financial companies can avoid taxes on their international scams. And financial scams are what GE excelled in for decades, when GE Capital, its financial unit, which specialized in credit card, consumer loan and housing mortgage debt, accounted for most of GE’s profits.

Jeremy Scahill: The Dangerous US Game in Yemen

For months, thousands of Yemenis had taken to the streets demanding that Saleh step down, and the regime had responded consistently with defiance and brute force. But on March 21, a severe blow was dealt to Saleh that may prove to be the strike that sparked the hemorrhaging that ultimately brought down his regime. That day, the most powerful figure in Yemen’s military, Gen. Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, commander of the First Armored Division, threw his support behind the protests and vowed to defend Yemen’s “peaceful youth revolution.” Other senior military figures soon followed suit. Senior civilian officials, including scores of ambassadors and diplomats, announced their resignations. Important tribal leaders, long the most crucial element of Saleh’s grip on power, swung to the opposition.

John Nichols: McCarthy’s Party Revisits His Tactics

William Cronon is about as distinguished an academic as you will find in the United States. The Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas research professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cronon holds degrees from UW, Yale and Oxford. He’s been a Rhodes Scholar and a MacArthur Fellow. His book “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England” was a paradigm-shifting study of American history and ecosystems.

Maintaining the Wisconsin Idea tradition, Cronon has been a public intellectual of the highest order. He and I have shared many microphones over the years, and I have always been honored to be in the company of so serious, so thoughtful and so generous a scholar.

William D. Cohan: The Reform That Wasn’t

From the outset of the recent financial crisis, the government’s often-haphazard response was motivated by an overarching desire to re-establish the status quo on Wall Street as quickly as possible.

The thinking seemed to be that the sooner the surviving big banks got back on their feet and returned to providing the grease that keeps the wheels of capitalism churning, the sooner the broader economy beyond Manhattan would recover from its serious malaise and businesses would take the steps necessary to hire new workers – reducing a stubborn 10 percent unemployment rate – and to invest capital in new plants and equipment.

Not only did the government’s theory fail in practice – unemployment remains relentlessly and historically high and American businesses seem intent on hoarding, rather than spending, the $2 trillion in cash on their collective balance sheets – but it also lost a once-in-a-century opportunity to change the mores of a momentarily chastened Wall Street, which remains badly in need of substantive reform. This is more than a shame; it is prima facie evidence of how deep Wall Street’s hooks have been – and continue to be – into the powers that be in Washington (and vice versa).

Ted Rall: The Devils We Don’t Know: Who is the Libyan Opposition?

Hi. You don’t know me. See that big guy over at the bar? I’m going to pick a fight with him. Wanna back me up?

That’s what we, the American people, are being asked to do in Libya. We’re not picking sides. Picking sides implies that we know what’s going on. We don’t.

Give George W. Bush this: he respected us enough to lie us into war. Obama wants us sign a blank check, no questions asked.

“We do not have any information about specific individuals from any organization that are part of this [war],” Hillary Clinton said on Meet the Press. “But, of course, we are still getting to know the people [rebels] leading the Transitional National Council [TNC].”

“Of course.”

This was over a week into the war.

I don’t know what’s more frightening. That Secretary of State Clinton expects us to believe that the U.S. government is fighting, spending, killing–and soon, inevitably, dying–for a cause it doesn’t know anything about? Or that she may be telling the truth.

Jim Hightower: Japan’s Earthquake Jolts America

he corporate chieftains who’ve relentlessly pushed American factories and our middle-class jobs offshore rationalize their globalization of production by declaring that it’s all about efficiency, as though that’s the highest value to which a civilization can aspire.

Values aside, however, the problem with corporate efficiencies is that too often they are not. Not efficient, that is. While the corporate scheme of moving stuff from A to B to G to Y in order to achieve the narrow goal of maximizing profits can look so simple, sensible and even slick in a boardroom PowerPoint presentation, it’s often calamitous in the real world. The problem with the best-laid plans of corporate globalizers is that they largely ignore inconvenient facts of life. Such as earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns.

Lindsay Beyerstein: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: The Myth of Fiscal Conservatism

Fashionable pundits like to say that the Republican Party has shifted its focus from “social conservatism” (e.g., banning abortion, shoving gays back in the closet, teaching school children that humans and dinosaurs once walked the earth hand-in-claw) to fiscal conservatism (e.g., tax cuts for the rich, slashing social programs). But is that really true? Tim Murphy of Mother Jones argues that the old culture war issues never really went away. Rather, the Republicans have simply rephrased their social agenda in fiscal terms.

For example, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is quite upfront about the fact that he hates Planned Parenthood because the group is the nation’s leading abortion provider. Yet, he seeks to de-fund the Planned Parenthood and the entire Title X Family Planning Program in the name of balancing the budget. Never mind that the federal money only goes toward birth control, not abortion, and research shows that every dollar spent on birth control saves $4 in Medicaid costs alone.