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Jul 29 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”.

Paul Krugman: The Centrist Cop-Out

The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats – who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether – have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

Joe Conason: Why China is Laughing All the Way to the Bank

The global impact of the American debt crisis-and the likelihood of permanent damage to American interests-are already visible to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., from his perch as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Indeed, he is not only seeing but hearing those effects.

“The Chinese are laughing all the way to the bank,” said the former Democratic presidential nominee, because a downgrading of U.S. Treasury securities will mean enormous and completely unnecessary increases in our interest payments to the nation’s largest creditor-and our most important competitor in the international arena.

“If we suffer a downgrade of our (U.S. Treasury) debt simply because of the brief time before we have to go through this exercise again,” said Kerry, referring to the House Republican insistence on a debt-limit increase that will expire before next Christmas, “it would mean billions of additional dollars that would have to be paid to the Chinese.”

Moshe Adler: Without a Debt Deal, Obama Can Make the Rich Pay

What we should be talking about when we talk about the debt ceiling is the proper role and size of government. Instead, we are asking whether the government spends too much on programs that alleviate the pain that is the result of government policies in the first place. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and food stamps are all good programs, but all are meant to deal with the consequences of the income inequality that the government makes possible by the laws it passes. Income security programs make up 65 percent of all government expenses, and from this we are asked to conclude that the government is mainly in the business of serving and taking care of common people. But the most profound actions that the government takes, passing laws that make the rich rich, ostensibly cost no money and, because we play along, enforcing them supposedly has no cost.

Any agreement by Congress to cut the income security programs while leaving the main beneficiaries from our government-the rich-untouched, would be unconscionable. If Congress does not reach an agreement, and the deficit remains unfunded, this will give the president an unprecedented opportunity to expose who the government really serves, because it will be up to him alone; no agreement from Congress would be necessary to decide where to cut. Let him first withhold money from the enforcement and the support of laws that enrich the rich. This would lead to higher wages for workers and lower prices for consumers, and it would therefore be a good quid pro quo for the cuts he wants to make in income security programs.  

Timothy Egan: A Madman and His Manifesto

It passed with only scant notice, as with so many of the rude extremes of American life in a kinetic media age. The bodies of those Norwegian children slaughtered by a terrorist had yet to be fully recovered, let alone buried, when Glenn Beck compared the victims to Nazis.

The summer camp where children of the Norwegian Labor Party went for soccer, swimming, political debates and lectures “sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth,” Beck said in his national radio broadcast.

No, Beck wasn’t justifying the killing of 68 people on Utoya Island. He was merely muddying the humanity of those young people executed by Anders Behring Breivik, the self-professed “Christian Knight” who has confessed to the attacks. But Beck’s Web site, The Blaze, was full of justifications for the mass murder of innocents, and provided a sampling of the troubled audience he caters to in this country.

Eugene Robinson: Why progressives need a Big Idea

Those who would chronicle events in Washington can find no richer source of analogy and metaphor than the Three Stooges. These days, I’m thinking of the times when an exasperated Moe, having suffered the indignity of an accidental spritzing or clobbering, turns to Larry or Curly and demands, “What’s the big idea?”

The premise of the debt-ceiling fight is too far-fetched for a Stooges film, since no audience could imagine leaders of a great nation stumbling into such a mess. Moe’s trademark line is still relevant, however, even if it’s not followed by the two-fingered poke in the eyes that our elected officials richly deserve.

It is clear that unless President Obama ends up taking unilateral action to break a hopeless deadlock, Republicans will win. The House, the Senate and the White House are all working within GOP-defined parameters: New tax revenue is off the table, painful budget cuts are a given, everyone seems to accept the principle that a debt-ceiling increase – which allows the Treasury to pay bills Congress has already incurred – must be tied to reductions in future spending.

Terrence Heath: Why the GOP Aims to Sink the Economy

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” ~ Mark Twain ~

If our economy was the RMS Titanic, Republicans would be like an ambitious first mate, so eager to seize power from the captain that he steers the ship of state into an iceberg, thinking he’ll take over when the captain goes down with the ship. Republicans have forgotten – or no longer care – they’re on the boat too, and they’re working very hard to ensure that the country will be nearly ungovernable should they succeed in seizing the reins of government.

If it seems like the White House is arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, the GOP is busy measuring the the captain’s quarters for drapes, even as the ocean pours in. And the tea party orchestra plays on, with just one song on the playlist – “Under the Sea.”

You can take your pick for the moment the GOP noticably went off the rails. I have two favorites: when it fell to Peggy Noonan to be the Republicans’ voice of reason following Sarah Palin’s VP nomination, and when David Brooks warned the GOP that it “may no longer be a normal party”. Together, they’re the political equivalent of Courtney Love showing up at your intervention and Charlie Sheen offering you a ride to rehab. But this Republican party isn’t likely to heed such sane voices as Noonan and Brooks, and would just as soon throw them overboard.

Stephen Rohde: Getting Away With Torture: the Ill Treatment of Detainees

Should the U.S. government officials most responsible for setting interrogation and detention policies following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks be investigated, and if warranted prosecuted, under United States and international law?

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HRW found that “there is enough strong evidence from the information made public over the past five years to not only suggest these officials authorized and oversaw widespread and serious violations of US and international law, but that they failed to act to stop mistreatment, or punish those responsible after they became aware of serious abuses.”

Moreover, although Bush administration officials have claimed that detention and interrogation operations were only authorized after extensive discussion and legal review by Department of Justice attorneys, HRW concludes that “substantial evidence that civilian leaders requested that politically appointed government lawyers create legal justifications to support abusive interrogation techniques, in the face of opposition from career legal officers.”