“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”.
Jonathan Turley: 10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free
Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.
Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own – the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?
Paul Krugman: How Fares the Dream?
“I have a dream,” declared Martin Luther King, in a speech that has lost none of its power to inspire. And some of that dream has come true. When King spoke in the summer of 1963, America was a nation that denied basic rights to millions of its citizens, simply because their skin was the wrong color. Today racism is no longer embedded in law. And while it has by no means been banished from the hearts of men, its grip is far weaker than once it was.
To say the obvious: to look at a photo of President Obama with his cabinet is to see a degree of racial openness – and openness to women, too – that would have seemed almost inconceivable in 1963. When we observe Martin Luther King’s Birthday, we have something very real to celebrate: the civil rights movement was one of America’s finest hours, and it made us a nation truer to its own ideals.
The year 2011 will be remembered as the time when many ever-optimistic Americans began to give up hope. President John F. Kennedy once said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But now, in the receding tide, Americans are beginning to see not only that those with taller masts had been lifted far higher, but also that many of the smaller boats had been dashed to pieces in their wake.
In that brief moment when the rising tide was indeed rising, millions of people believed that they might have a fair chance of realizing the “American Dream.” Now those dreams, too, are receding. By 2011, the savings of those who had lost their jobs in 2008 or 2009 had been spent. Unemployment checks had run out. Headlines announcing new hiring – still not enough to keep pace with the number of those who would normally have entered the labor force – meant little to the 50 year olds with little hope of ever holding a job again.
New York Times Editorial: On the Trail of Mortgage Fraud
President Obama should form a task force to investigate and pursue potential civil and criminal wrongdoing by institutions and people whose conduct had the greatest economic impact.
Queens has been harder hit by foreclosures than any other New York borough, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes it has found a culprit. Last July, the F.B.I. accused Edul Ahmad, a local broker, of a $50 million mortgage fraud, saying he lured fellow immigrants into subprime mortgages, inflated the values of their properties and concealed his involvement in deals that were ruinous for scores, if not hundreds, of borrowers. Mr. Ahmad pleaded not guilty, and posted $2.5 million bail. Now, according to court papers, as reported in The Times, he is plea-bargaining with federal prosecutors.
Whatever Mr. Ahmad did or did not do, one thing is sure: he did not act alone. The attention Mr. Ahmad has drawn highlights the relative lack of scrutiny of the big banks and their senior executives. Big banks created demand and provided credit for dubious mortgage loans, which they bundled into securities and sold to investors. If not for reckless lending and heedless securitizing, there would have been no mortgage bubble and no mortgage bust – and, in all probability, no Edul Ahmad.
Eugene Robinson: The Dream That Came True
He would be an elder statesman now, a lion in winter, an American hero perhaps impatient with the fuss being made over his birthday. At 83, he’d likely still have his wits and his voice. Surely, if he were able, he would continue to preach, and to pray-and to dream.
For the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dreaming was not optional. It was a requirement of citizenship to envision a fairer, more prosperous nation no longer shackled by racism and poverty. It was a duty to imagine a world no longer ravaged by senseless wars. His most famous speech was less an invitation to share his epic dream than a commandment.
In these sour, pessimistic times, it is important to remember the great lesson of King’s remarkable life: Impossible dreams can come true.
When the Congress of Industrial Organizations launched “Operation Dixie” in the aftermath of World War II, with the goal not just of organizing unions in the states of the old Confederacy but of ending Jim Crow discrimination, Southern segregationists moved immediately to establish deceptively named “right-to-work” laws.
These measures were designed to make it dramatically harder for workers to organize unions and for labor organizations to advocate for workers on the job site or for social change in their communities and states.
In short order, all the states that had seceded from the Union in order to maintain slavery had laws designed to prevent unions from fighting against segregation. The strategy worked. Southern states have far weaker unions than Northern states, and labor struggles have been far more bitter and violent in the South than in other parts of the country. It was in a right-to-work state, Tennessee, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while supporting the struggle of African-American sanitation workers to organize a union and have it recognized by the city of Memphis.
Christopher Brauchli: The Senate’s Holiday
Although the Senate is much given to admiring in its members a superiority less obvious or quite invisible to outsiders, one Senator seldom proclaims his own inferiority to another, and still more seldom likes to be told of it.
– Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
The Republicans’ newest way of countering criticism that Congress spends more time on recess than it does working occurred when it went home for the Christmas holidays. The criticism occurs because in 2011 Senate and House Members were in session for 112 days, according to the Library of Congress, leaving them 253 days of free time. (These numbers are imprecise. They may have inadvertently worked a few more days than shown.) To counter the impression that they do not work very hard the Republican Senators agreed to pretend they were working when most of them were spending the holidays away from Washington. They agreed that when they were gone they would not be gone.