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Feb 16 2012

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”.

Mary Dudziak: This War Is Not Over Yet

THE defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, recently announced that America hoped to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013 as it did in Iraq last year.  Yet at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, the United States continues to hold enemy detainees “for the duration of hostilities.”  

Indeed, the “ending” of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have no consequences for the ending of detention. Because the end of a war is traditionally thought to be the moment when a president’s war powers begin to ebb, bringing combat to a close in Afghanistan and Iraq should lead to a reduction in executive power – including the legitimate basis for detaining the enemy.

But there is a disconnect today between the wars that are ending and the “war” that is used to justify ongoing detention of prisoners. Originally, the war in Afghanistan was part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”  This framing had rhetorical power, but it quickly drew criticism because a war on terror has no boundaries in space or time, and no prospect of ever ending.  

Gail Collins: Congress Has No Date for the Prom

I am shocked to report that Congress, the beating heart of American democracy, is unpopular.

Not unpopular like a shy kid in junior high. Unpopular like the Ebola virus, or zombies. Held in near-universal contempt, like TV shows about hoarders with dead cats in their kitchens. Or people who get students to call you up during dinner and ask you to give money to your old university.

The latest Gallup poll gave Congress a 10 percent approval rating. As Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado keeps pointing out, that’s lower than BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate or banks during the banking crisis.

On the plus side, while 86 percent of respondents told Gallup that they disapproved of the job Congress was doing, only 4 percent said they had no opinion. That’s really a great sense of public awareness, given the fact that other surveys show less than half of all Americans know who their member of Congress is.

Amy Goodman: The Afghan War’s Nine Lives The Afghan War’s Nine Lives

Eight youths, tending their flock of sheep in the snowy fields of Afghanistan, were exterminated last week by a NATO airstrike. They were in the Najrab district of Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan. Most were reportedly between the ages of 6 and 14. They had sought shelter near a large boulder, and had built a fire to stay warm. At first, NATO officials claimed they were armed men. The Afghan government condemned the bombing and released photos of some of the victims. By Wednesday, NATO offered, in a press release, “deep regret to the families and loved ones of several Afghan youths who died during an air engagement in Kapisa province Feb. 8.” Those eight killed were not that different in age from Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, N.J. He was killed two days later, Feb. 10, while on duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. These nine young, wasted lives will be the latest footnote in the longest war in United States history, a war that is being perpetuated, according to one brave, whistle-blowing U.S. Army officer, through a “pattern of overt and substantive deception” by “many of America’s most senior military leaders in Afghanistan.”

Those are the words written by Lt. Col. Danny Davis in his 84-page report, “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort.” A draft of that report, dated Jan. 27, 2012, was obtained by Rolling Stone magazine. It has not been approved by the U.S. Army Public Affairs office for release, even though Davis writes that its contents are not classified. He has submitted a classified version to members of Congress. Davis, a 17-year Army veteran with four combat tours behind him, spent a year in Afghanistan with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, traveling more than 9,000 miles to most operational sectors of the U.S. occupation and learning firsthand what the troops said they needed most.

Eugene Robinson: Drumming up a phony war on religion

At ease, Christian soldiers. There is no “war on religion,” no assault on the Catholic Church. A faith that has endured for thousands of years will survive even Nicki Minaj.

It never occurred to me to evaluate the Grammy Awards show on theological rectitude, but apparently we’re supposed to be outraged at the over-the-top “exorcism” Minaj performed Sunday night. The hip-hop diva, who writhed and cavorted amid a riot of religious iconography, is accused of anti-Catholic bigotry – and seen as an enemy combatant in an escalating “war on religion” being waged by “secular elites,” which seems to be used as a synonym for Democrats.

Seriously? Are we really going to pretend that Christianity is somehow under siege? That the Almighty would have been any more offended Sunday than he was, say, in 2006, when Madonna – who could sue Minaj for theft of intellectual property – performed a song during her touring act while being mock-crucified on a mirrored cross? While wearing a crown of thorns? Even at her show in Rome?

The “war on religion” alarmists are just like Minaj and Madonna in one key respect: Lacking a coherent point to make, they go for shock value.

Robert Sheer: Apple’s China Comes Home to Haunt Us

Four decades ago Richard Nixon, a once famously hawkish Republican president, cut a deal with the Communist overlords of China to reshape the world. The result was a transformation of the global economy in ways that we are only now, with the sharp critiques of Apple’s China operation, beginning to fully comprehend.

At the heart of the deal was a rejection of the basic moral claim of both egalitarian socialism and free market capitalism, the rival ideologies of the Cold War, to empower the individual as the center of decision-making. Instead, the fate of the citizen would come to be determined by an alliance between huge multinational corporations and government elites with scant reference to the needs of ordinary working folk.

Joe Conason: Will Catholic Bishops and the Religious Right Save Obama?

What is most striking about the showdown over contraceptive freedom is not the political victory that President Obama earned by standing up for women’s reproductive rights, although his Republican adversaries are certainly helping him to make the most of it. Those adversaries don’t seem to realize they have fallen into a trap, whether the White House set them up intentionally or not.

While the Catholic bishops and their allies on the religious right insist that this is an argument over the First Amendment, their true, longstanding purpose now stands revealed to the public. They would begin by imposing their dogma on every woman unlucky enough to work for an employer who shares it-an agenda that is deeply unpopular even among the Catholic faithful, let alone the rest of the American electorate. Then they would impose it on everyone, as the theorists of the religious right suggest every time they deny the separation of church and state.

New York Times Editorial: A Rare Deal

There’s nothing like a deadline – and the prospect of acute political embarrassment – to concentrate the mind. With Congress about to go on recess, and with Republicans fearing a voter backlash, negotiators on Wednesday were putting the finishing touches on a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and federal jobless benefits through 2012.

The agreement is imperfect but sound. It will help struggling Americans and the struggling economy. It is also a political win for Democrats and President Obama, who had made extending the payroll tax cut and the jobless benefits a centerpiece of his jobs agenda. We hope that it gives them the courage to stick to that agenda if they face another round of Republican obstructionism.