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.

Maureen Dowd: Heart of Darkness

When the gentleman from North Carolina mentioned “Uncle Chang,” it hit with an awkward clang.

“We are spending $10 billion a month that we can’t even pay for,” said Congressman Walter Jones, that rarest of birds, a Southern Republican dove. “The Chinese – Uncle Chang is lending us the money to pay that we are spending in Afghanistan.”

On Tuesday morning, members of the House Armed Services Committee tried to grill Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the commander in Afghanistan who succeeded David Petraeus, about the state of the mission.

The impossible has happened in the past few weeks. A war that long ago reached its breaking point has gone mad, with violent episodes that seemed emblematic of the searing, mind-bending frustration on both sides after 10 years of fighting in a place where battle has been an occupation, and preoccupation, for centuries.

Katrina vanden Heuvel; The man blocking America’s recovery

He is the most powerful federal employee you’ve never heard of. Edward DeMarco has slowed the economic recovery with the stroke of a pen. His actions are costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, forcing millions of homeowners to lose their homes, and contributing to the falling housing prices that are a brake on the recovery.

Not bad for an obscure “acting director” who should have departed his position long ago.

Edward DeMarcoheads the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). He’s a temp, in office only because – no surprise – Senate Republicans, led by Richard Shelby (Ala.), refused even to allow a vote on the man President Obama nominated for the post.

And DeMarco is philosophically opposed to the common-sense solutions needed to deal with the housing crisis.

When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – holders or guarantors of about 60 percent of housing mortgages – were bailed out, the FHFA was tasked with supervising their activities, with a mandate to minimize taxpayer losses. That gives DeMarco extraordinary power.

Daphne Eviatar: Latest Afghan Torture Report Casts Shadow on U.S. Transfer Plans

Over the weekend, independent human rights advocates in Afghanistan released yet another report documenting systematic torture by Afghan police and security services. The report from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and Open Society Foundations reveals evidence that U.S. forces in Afghanistan have continued to transfer suspected insurgents to Afghan authorities despite previous warnings of torture from the United Nations, which issued its own report on systematic torture by Afghan authorities last October. And, the report continues, although NATO forces created a remediation plan and inspection regime for monitoring detainees it transfers to the Afghan government, U.S. forces that operate under their own non-NATO command do not adhere to that monitoring plan. In fact, the U.S. government, for all we know, does not monitor the detainees it transfers to the Afghans at all.

To those in the U.S. government eager to withdraw from Afghanistan and get this whole war over with, the treatment of Afghans suspected of participating in the insurgency may seem unimportant. But it’s quite important under international law. The United States is legally obligated not to transfer captives to the government if they face a risk of torture. According to this latest report, that risk is very real.

Michelle Chen; Makers, Takers and $2-a-Dayers

One official measure of poverty around the world is surviving on $2 per day or less. It’s a condition many Americans could barely imagine living in. And yet the official data suggests that while politicians insist the U.S. is insulated from such deprivation, a large share of the country is feeling a cold draft from the “Third World.”

A set of new analyses from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), drawing from a study of income data (pdf) by the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center, shows that for well over a million households, many of them with children, are besieged by hardship of an epic magnitude:

   The number of U.S. households living on less than $2 per person per day — which the study terms “extreme poverty” — more than doubled between 1996 and 2011, from 636,000 to 1.46 million, the study finds… The number of children in extremely poor households also doubled, from 1.4 million to 2.8 million.

The World Bank’s $2-per-day metric derives from a perennial cliché in humanitarian circles, generally used to describe poor countries in the Global South. But while some question the usefulness of such simplistic measures, the phrase has a unique application in a country that’s historically represented the top of the human development scale. And one reason why the U.S. has so many people stuck at the bottom is because in many communities, this inequality is practically written into the law, with public assistance programs virtually enforcing the extreme poverty line.

Liliana Segura: Will the Supreme Court Toss Life Without Parole for Juveniles?

“A throwaway person.” That’s how Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg characterized the societal status of a 14-year-old who is sentenced to life without parole, as oral arguments in Jackson v. Hobbs wound down on Tuesday. She was responding to the claim by Little Rock Assistant Attorney General Kent Holt, representing the Arkansas Department of Corrections, that condemning a teenager to die in prison for murder “reinforces the sanctity of human life.”

“You say the sanctity of human life,” Ginsburg pushed back, “but you’re dealing with a 14-year-old being sentenced to life in prison, so he will die in prison without any hope.” In other words, aren’t kids’ lives still worth something even when they’ve committed a grievous wrong?

This was the fundamental question before the Court as it heard arguments in Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama, which were argued back-to-back. Civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson believes they are; representing defendants in both cases, he stressed that teenagers are works in progress, and cannot possibly be judged in the same way as adults. Not only does science back this up-teenagers’ brains are still developing, particularly the parts that affect judgement and impulse-the Court itself has concluded the same thing in such cases as Roper v. Simmons, which struck down the death penalty for children under eighteen on Eighth Amendment grounds. “What this Court has said is that children are uniquely more than their worst act,” Stevenson argued.

Jessica Pieklo: How Conservatives Use Campaign Finance Law to Promote Anti-Choice Agenda

By now it should come as no surprise that anti-choice activists are engaged in a targeted and specific legal strategy to roll-back abortion rights. After all, it has proven to be more successful to slowly and steadily chip away at access to abortion care via judicial opinion than through any attempts at outright bans in state legislatures.

But what might come as more of a surprise is the fact that a key part of that legal strategy involves attacking campaign finance law. In fact the pro-corporate personhood movement and the anti-woman, anti-choice movement share the same attorney: conservative campaign-finance crusader and abortion-rights foe James Bopp Jr.

Bopp is most famous as the legal architect behind the Citizens United decision but his ties to the anti-choice world run deep. Bopp’s clients include the National Organization for Marriage, National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, and Focus on the Family, just to name a few. And it’s worth remembering that the Citizens United crusade started as an anti-Hilary Clinton smear campaign dressed up as a free speech movement. Bopp is, by all accounts, the principle litigator for conservative causes.


  1. I am confused.  Karzai claims that the US is torturing Afghan detainees in prisons and they negotiated the turnover of the prisons to their control.  Now it is reported that it is the Afghan national forces doing the torturing?

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