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Mar 03 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”.

The New York times: Crushing Homs

After a month of merciless bombardment, the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria have taken Homs, the main rebel stronghold. Many of the brave residents have fled the city or been killed, adding to a death toll now estimated at more than 7,500 since the unrest began. [..]

The United States, Europe, the Arab League and Turkey need to make that case to China and Russia every chance they have. And they need to keep tightening their own sanctions. At some point, the Syrian military and business elites will decide that backing the dictator is a losing proposition. The United States and its allies also need to use all of their influence and coaching to help the opposition form a credible, multiethnic government, one that will respect all Syrians.

Robert Resich: Bye Bye American Pie: The Challenge of the Productivity Revolution

Here’s the good news. The economic pie is growing again. Growth in the 4th quarter last year hit 3 percent on an annualized rate. That’s respectable – although still way too slow to get us back on track given how far we plunged.

Here’s the bad news. The share of that growth going to American workers is at a record low.

That’s largely because far fewer Americans are working. Although the nation is now producing more goods and services than it did before the slump began in 2007, we’re doing it with six million fewer people.

Why? Credit technology. Computers, software applications, and the Internet are letting us produce more with fewer people.

Hooman Majd: Starving Iran Won’t Free It

THERE’S an old saying, attributed to the British Foreign Office in colonial days: “Keep the Persians hungry, and the Arabs fat.” For the British – then the stewards of Persian destiny – that was the formula for maintaining calm; it still is for Saudi Arabian leaders, who simply distribute large amounts of cash to their citizens at the first sign of unrest at their doorstep.

But in the case of Iran, neither America nor Britain seems to be observing the old dictum. Keeping the Persians hungry was a guarantee that they wouldn’t rise up against their masters. Today, the fervent wish of the West appears to be that they do exactly that. Except that the West is doing everything in its power to keep the Iranians hungry – even hungrier than they might ordinarily be under the corrupt and incompetent administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mark Engler: Obama’s Broken Resolutions

In June 2007, on a warm Sunday in San Antonio, Texas, presidential candidate Barack Obama rolled up his white shirtsleeves and addressed a crowd of 1,000: ‘We’re going to close Guantánamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus,’ he said. The assembly cheered.

The senator repeated his vow the next month, and in subsequent campaign stops: ‘As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.’

In November 2008, after being elected, Obama went on the news show 60 Minutes. ‘I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantánamo,’ he stated, ‘and I will follow through on that.’

It is now 2012. The US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba – which has held hundreds of prisoners without trial and has been the site of torture and abuse – remains open. In December, President Obama signed into law a National Defense Authorization Act that, according to the New York Times, will ‘make indefinite detention and military trials a permanent part of American law.

Subhankar Banerjee: How “Drill, Baby, Drill” and “Yes We Can” Got Married

American military prefers to make preemptive strikes. We know this. In America, corporations have enormous influence over the government-these days they essentially run the government. We know this too. And now a giant corporation has made a preemptive strike against nonprofit organizations. “Arctic Ocean drilling: Shell launches preemptive legal strike” is the title of a recent Los Angeles Times article. Shell’s legal attack is against REDOIL-a small indigenous human rights organization in Alaska and 12 environmental organizations fighting to stop dangerous drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Arctic Alaska-Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society. This is historic.

On Thursday, I requested Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, D.C. about how she would respond. Following is the email statement I received from her:

   “In a true-life David vs. Goliath parable, Royal Dutch Shell, a foreign company that makes millions of dollars in profits per hour, is forcing Alaska Wilderness League, a grassroots-based nonprofit with the sole purpose of advocating for Alaska’s lands, waters and native people, into court-and seeking fees and costs against us. I suppose if you’re like Shell, and you have billions of dollars to throw around, you can engage in this desperate ploy, instead of proving on the ground that you can actually clean up an oil spill in Arctic conditions.

   My response to Shell is this: Alaska Wilderness League will not be bullied. We will take the time we need to evaluate whether Shell’s oil spill response plan, for the most aggressive course of Arctic Ocean drilling ever proposed in history, meets the letter of the law. We owe that much to the Iñupiat people who have thrived on Alaska’s Arctic coast for thousands of years, and the extraordinary Arctic ecosystem that is among the most vital in the world.

How did we get here? I’d suggest through a cruel marriage of two phrases. You perhaps never thought that two phrases could marry, right? And, that they can even produce babies, right? In America, anything is possible.

Charles M. Blow: Santorum and the Sexual Revolution

Rick Santorum wants to bring sexy back … to the 1950s, when he was born.

That is because Santorum seems to have an unhealthy fixation with, and passionate disdain for, the 1960s and the sexual freedoms that followed.

To fully understand Santorum’s strident rejection of the 1960s, it’s instructive to recall a speech and question-and-answer session he gave in 2008 to a course on religion and politics at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in Washington.

The speech was interesting, but the answers he gave to the questions that followed were truly illuminating.