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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Katrina vanden Heuvel: A Make-or-Break Moment for Democracy

President Obama’s decision to endorse super-PAC money as part of his re-election effort exposed the enduring divisions within the progressive community between pragmatism and idealism. Robert Reich, for example, put his disappointment bluntly: “Good ends don’t justify corrupt means.” Jonathan Chait disagreed, writing that “if you want to change the system, unilateral disarmament seems like a pretty bad way to go about it.”

The ambivalence is palpable-and understandable. I’ve felt it myself. On the one hand, we are seeing our worst fears realized. When the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United decision, the concern was not just that one party would take advantage of it but that both parties would decide they had to adapt to it. The president has never held high moral ground on campaign finance (he withdrew from public financing in the 2008 campaign) but his willful, if reluctant, decision to submerge himself further in a system that actively stains our democracy is troubling.

Maria Tomchick: States Settle for…a Poke in the Eye

The $26 billion settlement that state authorities wrangled out of the nation’s five biggest banks amounts to peanuts compared to the damage that was done to homeowners across the country.

The five banks who’ve agreed to the settlement are Bank of America (who purchased the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial), JP Morgan Chase (who bought Bear Stearns), Wells Fargo (who bought Wachovia), Citigroup (who was a major recipient of federal government bailout money), and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC and now majority owned by the US Treasury).

Are you seeing a pattern here? All of these banks have been the recipient of federal bailout funds and some, like Ally Financial, are still dependent on US taxpayers. Nevertheless, they’ve stockpiled enough cash that they could pay the $26 billion settlement today and not take a hit to their bottom lines. But that’s not what they’ll have to do. The settlement terms are much sweeter than that.

Miranda Spencer: Natural Gas and the News: Fracking Messages ‘Brought to You by Our Sponsors’

When it comes to natural gas extraction via “fracking,” TV journalism has some serious competition: energy industry commercials.

Like ads for political candidates that run concurrently with broadcast news coverage of the presidential race, ads promoting natural gas (and other fossil fuels) have long been running in concert with news segments about the topic, most recently touting the prospect of a “boom” made possible by the controversial extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing of the shale sprawling beneath more than 30 U.S. states.

During the past three years, Extra! found, there has been exponentially more propaganda for the wonders of natural gas on our screens each night than theoretically objective news segments about natural-gas extraction.

Marian Wright Edelman: Still Hungry in America

“There were some times where, you know, we wouldn’t have that much food, and I would tell my mom, ‘I’m not hungry, don’t worry about it,’ and I lost a lot of weight. I remember I used to be a size five, and I went from a size five to a size zero,” a New York high school senior said in December.

In 1967, as a young civil rights lawyer in Mississippi, I was asked to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Manpower, and Poverty in Washington about how the anti-poverty program in Mississippi was working. The Head Start program was under attack by the powerful Mississippi segregationist delegation because it was operated by church, civil rights, and Black community groups after the state turned it down. After defending the Head Start program, I told the committee I had become increasingly concerned about the growing hunger in the Mississippi Delta. The convergence of efforts to register Black citizens to vote, Black parents’ challenges to segregated schools, the development of chemical weed killers and farm mechanization, and recent passage of a minimum wage law covering agriculture workers on large farms had resulted in many Black sharecroppers being pushed off their near feudal plantations which no longer needed their cheap labor. Many displaced sharecroppers were illiterate and had no skills. Free federal food commodities like cheese, powdered milk, flour, and peanut butter were all that stood between them and starvation. I invited the Senators to come to Mississippi and hear directly from local people about the positive impact the anti-poverty program was making. They did.

Kathy Kelly: Cold, Cold Heart

It’s Valentine’s Day, and opening the little cartoon on the Google page brings up a sentimental animation with Tony Bennett singing “why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart.”

Here in Dubai, where I’m awaiting a visa to visit Afghanistan, the weather is already warm and humid. But my bags are packed with sweaters because Kabul is still reeling from the coldest winter on record. Two weeks ago, eight children under age five froze to death there in one of the sprawling refugee camps inhabited by so many who have fled from the battles in other provinces. Since January 15, at least 23 children under 5 have frozen to death in the camps.And just over a week ago, eight young shepherds, all but one under 14 years of age, lit a fire for warmth on the snowy Afghan mountainside in Kapisa Province where they were helping support their families by grazing sheep. French troops saw the fire, and acted on faulty information, and the boys were all killed in two successive NATO airstrikes. The usual denunciations from local authorities, and Western apologies, followed. (Trend News, February 10, 2012).

So I’m thinking about warmth, and who we share it with and who we don’t.

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez: An Unlikely Environmental Evangelist

I was not raised in any religion, nor do I follow any religious practices now.  I don’t believe in God as a benevolent white man in the sky, nor do I believe that one needs to sit in a particular building, listening to a particular preacher, to reach out to the divine.

But I have always felt a deep spiritual connection to the natural world.  When I was 8 or 9, I used to go out into the woods and sit alone in my “spot,” which was a circle of mossy stones at the top of a big stone ridge, ringed by maples and centered around a grassy glade.  It was a small circle, no bigger than 10 feet in diameter.  I would just sit there and look and listen to the birds in the trees above me, the small insects on patrol in the grass, feeling the wind ruffling against my face and a kind of inner exultation and delight that I can only describe as religious ecstasy.

No one taught me to do this, and it wasn’t until much later, reading personal narratives by indigenous elders, that I was able to put this early spiritual connection with nature into a broader polytheistic cultural framework.

I believe that everything in our world is tinged with spiritual significance.  And I believe that human beings, because we are unique among animals in being able to see the effects of our actions on the larger landscape of the planet, and to both predict and alter the future, have a special moral imperative to do what we can to be the responsible stewards of the natural world of which we are a part.