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”.

William Rivers Pitt: A Looming Betrayal

Exactly what the hell is going on around here?

On Thursday, headlines on both the Washington Post and the New York Times announced that President Obama had put both Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, as part of some “grand bargain” with House Speaker Boehner and the GOP to cut the deficit and avoid blowing the August 2 debt limit deadline. The deal, as reported, would also include as much as $1 trillion in “new revenue” to be raised by closing off and eliminating loopholes in the tax code. No tax increases of any kind were on the table.


This is a matter of honor, plain and simple. An ocean of blood, sweat and tears has been spent bringing these all-important programs to life, and even more has been spent protecting and defending them. If this president consents to throw all that over in an act of political triangulation, he will be marked in my book for all time as a failure, a betrayer, and a disgrace.

In my book, and in many other books besides.

New York Times Editorial: Safe, Not Sorry, on Drilling

The Cuomo administration seems prepared to strike the right balance between environmental protection and economic development as it writes the rules that will govern hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique used to extract natural gas from shale formations.

A long-awaited report issued July 1 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recognizes hydraulic fracturing’s potential dangers to water supplies and recommends a flat ban on drilling inside New York City’s sprawling watershed. It would ban drilling in the Syracuse watershed, in aquifers used by other cities and towns, and in state parks and wildlife preserves.

The report, however, is merely a draft. The final environmental assessment and the detailed regulations to follow must be tightly drawn before New Yorkers can be confident that the gas will be extracted with minimum risk.

A. C. Grayling: From the Gutter, Into the Sewer

One anomalous feature of British journalism is its long history of scurrilous, muckraking weekly scandal-sheets, the tabloids or “gutter press,” which since the Victorian era have delighted blue-collar readers with stories of murders and sexual misconduct.

Mr. Murdoch’s achievement was to take the tabloid press from the gutter into the sewer, widening its range from coverage of celebrity scandals to the performance of criminal acts. Some of the latter, such as hacking into the phones of crime victims and their families, were appalling.

There is no redeeming feature in the scandal that has engulfed Mr. Murdoch’s British fief, News International, other than that it has now killed his biggest-selling newspaper, The News of the World. This tabloid made its money by regularly crossing the line of decency; the revelation that it also regularly crossed the line of legality surprises no one, for no one expected any better. What has horrified the British public is the nature of the illegalities. Murdoch journalists not only hacked into the phones of child murder victims and their parents, but of the families of victims of terrorist attacks and of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

David R. Row: Death Penalty, Still Racist and Arbitrary

LAST week was the 35th anniversary of the return of the American death penalty. It remains as racist and as random as ever.

Several years after the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, a University of Iowa law professor, David C. Baldus (who died last month), along with two colleagues, published a study examining more than 2,000 homicides that took place in Georgia beginning in 1972. They found that black defendants were 1.7 times more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants and that murderers of white victims were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks.

What became known as the Baldus study was the centerpiece of the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in McCleskey v. Kemp. That case involved a black man, Warren McCleskey, who was sentenced to die for murdering a white Atlanta police officer. Mr. McCleskey argued that the Baldus study established that his death sentence was tainted by racial bias. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that general patterns of discrimination do not prove that racial discrimination operated in particular cases.

Joe Conason: Obama’s Raw Deal?

Suddenly Republican leaders in Congress, after months of staring down the Democrats over a potentially disastrous debt default, began blinking so fast that they might be signaling in Morse code. Although their message is muddled and illogical — with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., saying he can accept closing tax loopholes only if such measures are “revenue neutral,” thus canceling their budgetary value — the Republicans now appear to understand that they will be blamed by voters if the negotiations collapse.

And Democrats appear to understand that they have the political advantage, as they voiced support for a proposal by Senate Budget Committee chair Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to reduce future deficits by $4 trillion with an even split between increased revenues and reduced spending.

But just when the Republicans are showing fear and losing momentum, there is one important Democrat who seems to think it is time to wave the white flag — and give his enemies a historic victory on the eve of his own re-election bid.

David Sirota The Finland Education Phenomenon

When I heard the news last week that the Department of Education is aiming to subject 4-year-olds to high-stakes testing, all I could do is shake my head in disbelief and despondently mutter a slightly altered riff off “The Big Lebowski’s” Walter Sobchak.

Four-year-olds, dude.

You don’t have to be as dyspeptic as Walter to know this is madness. According to Stanford University’s Linda Darling-Hammond, who headed President Obama’s education transition team, though we already “test students in the United States more than any other nation,” our students “perform well below those of other industrialized countries in math and science.” Yet the Obama administration, backed by corporate foundations, is nonetheless intensifying testing at all levels, as if doing the same thing and expecting different results is innovative “reform” rather than what it’s always been: insanity.

John Nichols: As Unemployment Spikes, Obama’s Got a Bigger Problem Than the Debt Ceiling

The big story out of Washington-and rightly so-is the debt ceiling fight that President Obama seems to be coming very close to losing. If the president abandons his 2008 campaign promise to be an absolute defender of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, he will have very little indeed to run on in 2012.

But that won’t be what beats him.

Because the biggest story in America is a different one from the biggest story in Washington. Americans are not that into the debt ceiling debate. Polling has suggested that less than a quarter of Americans are “closely following” the fight. Those numbers will rise a bit as the deadline gets closer and as the media hype the issue.

The issue that Americans have been following closely, and will continue to follow straight through the 2012 election cycle, the issue that tops the polls on the list of concerns, is the jobs crisis. Americans are worried about unemployment and underemployment.

And on Friday they got a lot more worried.

1 comment

    • TMC on 07/09/2011 at 19:57

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