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Aug 17 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”.

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New York Times Editorial; The Right to Counsel at Guantánamo Bay

Lawyers for the government and for detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are scheduled to square off in federal court in Washington on Friday over new rules imposed this spring by the Obama administration restricting access to counsel for prisoners not actively challenging their detention. They are neither fair nor constitutional. [..]

The rules are unconstitutional because they deny detainees an essential right and meaningful court review. By giving such discretion to the Guantánamo commander, the Obama administration asserts virtually unbridled executive power. It has taken a regrettable step in undermining the rule of law.

Tom Hayden: The Geopolitics of Asylum

The British made a “huge mistake” in threatening to extract Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy after the Latin American country granted political asylum to the WikiLeaks foundaer yesterday, says international human rights lawyer Michael Ratner. “They overstepped, looked like bullies, and made it into a big-power versus small-power conflict,” said Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview with The Nation today. Ratner is a consultant to Assange’s legal team and recently spent a week in Ecuador for discussions of the case.

The diplomatic standoff will have to be settled through negotiations or by the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Ratner said. “In my memory, no state has ever invaded another country’s embassy to seize someone who has been granted asylum,” he said, adding that there would be no logic in returning an individual to a power seeking to charge him for political reasons.

Peter Van Buren: How Not to Reconstruct Iraq, Afghanistan — or America

A Guide to Disaster at Home and Abroad

Some images remain like scars on my memory. One of the last things I saw in Iraq, where I spent a year with the Department of State helping squander some of the $44 billion American taxpayers put up to “reconstruct” that country, were horses living semi-wild among the muck and garbage of Baghdad. Those horses had once raced for Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein and seven years after their “liberation” by the American invasion of 2003, they were still wandering that unraveling, unreconstructed urban landscape looking, like many other Iraqis, for food.

I flew home that same day, a too-rapid change of worlds, to a country in which the schools of my hometown in Ohio could not afford to pay teachers a decent wage. Once great cities were rotting away as certainly as if they were in Iraq, where those horses were scrabbling to get by. To this day I’m left pondering these questions: Why has the United States spent so much money and time so disastrously trying to rebuild occupied nations abroad, while allowing its own infrastructure to crumble untended? Why do we even think of that as “policy”?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: On Social Security, Say It IS So, Joe!

What Vice President Joe Biden said today was, to use his now-famous phrase, “a big effin’ deal.” No, we’re not talking about his “chains” comment which, as usual, has fascinated a press corps obsessed with taking statements out of context and playing “gotcha” games. We’re referring to the comments he made about Social Security in a Virginia coffee shop.

From a press corps pool report, as relayed by NBC News:

   “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security,” Biden said after a diner at The Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart, Va., expressed his relief that the Obama campaign wasn’t talking about changing the popular entitlement program. “Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security,” Biden said, per a pool report.

As if that weren’t enough, Biden said it one more time:

“I flat guarantee you.”

What does it mean when those words come from the Vice President of an Administration that’s been talking for years about a deal to cut Social Security? A lot.

Joe Sestak and Marc Gilmore: Principal Reductions Can Save the Economy… By Saving Homes

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s recent announcement that it would bar Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from reducing principal for borrowers at risk of foreclosure has brought attention to an almost certain means to fix an economy that over the past few years has taken halting, unsteady steps towards recovery. Distinct signs of progress have been observed in several areas. Manufacturing productivity has increased, hiring has picked up, and the unemployment rate has fallen from more than 10 percent to roughly 8 percent. Despite these signs of progress, though, there is one prominent segment that continues to undermine the economic recovery: the housing market. The problems in the housing market will continue to impose a serious drag on the economic recovery until that market is stabilized.

The failure to prevent the millions of troubled mortgages from becoming delinquent and being foreclosed causes damage not only to individual borrowers who lose their homes, but also to their communities and to the economy as a whole. When borrowers default on their mortgages and are not provided effective modifications, their homes are eventually sold through short sales or foreclosure sales at substantial losses to the lenders and investors who funded the purchase of the home. For the past two years, those distressed property sales have comprised 30 percent of all home sales, on average, and have sold at an average discount of 30 percent less than the contemporary market value of non-distressed properties. Because they sell for so much less than other properties, those distressed properties drive down the values of the other homes in their neighborhoods, across their community, and throughout their metropolitan areas. These are the headwinds that continue to hold the housing market back.

Leslie Savan: How Paul Ryan Makes It Easier for Republicans to Steal the Election

Everybody, even the Republicans, is talking about how choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate has made winning the election just that much harder for Mitt Romney. But maybe the choice makes it just a little bit easier to steal.

Sure, some down-ballot Republican candidates are scrambling to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to strangle Medicare; and behind the scenes, many Beltway GOP operatives worry that with Ryan on the ticket, “Romney has practically ceded the election,” as Politico writes. But these scaredy-cats are forgetting that even issues like Medicare may ultimately prove irrelevant as long as their vast system of voter suppression is up and running. As if to remind them, a Pennsylvania judge yesterday upheld that state’s draconian voter ID law, which could keep hundreds of thousands of registered minority, urban and elderly voters from the ballot box-enough to hand this Obama-leaning state to Romney.

And Paul Ryan is the GOP’s best bet that such a theft would be greeted with a nationwide shrug.

Here’s why: [..]