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Aug 22 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Our Shrinking Democracy

Last week, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania refused to halt a discriminatory new state law requiring voters to show photo identification.

It was the judicial equivalent of giving democracy the bird.

Since you’re significantly more likely to be struck by lightning than encounter an actual case of voter fraud, the law is really just a solution in search of a problem. Or, rather, a political party in search of a vote to suppress.  

The ruling was rendered only more offensive by its flippant dismissal of the burden that obtaining a photo ID places on people who are young, poor, minority, elderly or some combination of these (read: Democrats). According to Simpson, requiring ID isn’t an unreasonable burden “when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life.” Because, after all, doesn’t everybody get carded at the bar?

Juliet Lapidos; Surveillance, Civil Liberties and Inefficiency

After the Associated Press disclosed the N.Y.P.D.’s Muslim surveillance program, the Times board editorialized against it from a civil liberties perspective. It seemed the police were spying on Muslims-sending plainclothes officers to monitor Muslims at mosques, on college campuses, taking photographs of Muslim-owned businesses, listening to conversations-with no “reason to think anything wrong was going on.” The board acknowledged that “under a federal court decree, it is permissible to collect information from public sources” but argued that “going to public places apparently selected on the basis of religion” was “another matter.”

Now it turns out the spying program is not only constitutionally suspect, but also ineffective. The A.P. reported today that in more than six years of spying on Muslims the police department’s so-called Demographics Unit “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.”

Maureen Dowd: Just Think No

There’s something trying about an unforgiving man suddenly in need of forgiveness.

Yet Todd Akin is right. He shouldn’t have to get out of the United States Senate race in Missouri simply for saying what he believes. He reflects a severe stance on abortion that many in his party embrace, including the new vice presidential candidate. [..]

“I talk about one word, one sentence, one day out of place, and, all of a sudden, the entire establishment turns on you,” Representative Akin complained to the conservative radio talk-show host Dana Loesch on Tuesday as he spurned pleas from Mitt Romney and other G.O.P. big shots to abort his bid. He continued: “They just ran for cover at the first sign of any gunfire, and I think we need to rush to the gunfire.”

He’s right again. Other Republicans are trying to cover up their true identity to get elected. Even as party leaders attempted to lock the crazy uncle in the attic in Missouri, they were doing their own crazy thing down in Tampa, Fla., by reiterating language in their platform calling for a no-exceptions Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.

Bryce Covert: For Some Women, Discrimination Prevents Return to Work

Women have yet to recover in the recovery. While men suffered bloated unemployment levels during the “mancession,” the trends have since reversed. Since the beginning of the recovery (June 2009), men experienced more than quadruple the job gains made by women. This can at least be partially explained by the fact that men were climbing back from low employment levels, plus massive layoffs in some areas, such as education, where women hold the majority of jobs. But can it all be explained that way? A new study helps fill in the picture with what else might be at work: good old-fashioned discrimination.

There are some logical, if preventable, reasons for women’s employment struggles: first and foremost is the fact that austerity and budget cutting has lead to a historic loss of public sector jobs, and women, who are the majority of government workers, have born the brunt of those layoffs. We’ve lost about 600,000 public sector jobs since the recession ended, making for the smallest government workforce relative to our population since 1968. Much of those were public school teachers. For every ten jobs women gained in the private sector during the recovery, they’ve lost more than four public sector jobs. And yes, we might expect men to make faster job gains after experiencing such low levels of employment during the height of the crisis.

Alison Glass: No Person Shall Be Deprived of Life, Liberty or Property… Unless the Oil and Gas Industry Says So

Eminent domain, the government’s right to condemn (or take) private land for “public use,” has at times been a highly contentious topic because it can displace people from their homes to make way for construction of different projects, like highways or roads, civic buildings and other types of public infrastructure. However, what some may not realize is that several states have granted eminent domain authority to certain private entities, including oil and gas companies. These companies are using it as a tool to seize private land, which increases profits and benefits their wallets.

According to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, in order to pursue eminent domain, the land must be taken for “public use” and the private property owners must receive “just compensation.” [..]

Traditionally, the “public use” provision referred to projects like roads, schools, parks and other public facilities that could be directly used by all. However, the meaning of “public use” has been loosely interpreted in recent years.

Jodi jacobson: As Romney and Ryan Dissemble, RNC Prepares Radical Anti-Choice Platform Based on Personhood

As of today, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan may find themselves in a wee bit of a bind.

For the past two days, the pair have been running around trying to assure the press and ultimately women voters that they really do believe in “real rape,” not just “legitimate rape,” that they are not as misogynistic as Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, and that, of course, a Romney-Ryan Administration would never eliminate rape and incest exceptions for abortion.

And, now it appears that, all the while, the people really in charge of the GOP-fundamentalist anti-choicers among them-have been writing a party platform that not only makes all of that a lie, but is in effect a promise to make the personhood of fertilized eggs the law of the land.

Michele Chen: Cultural Miseducation: Knowledge, Power and Ethnic Studies

This summer, Tucson students, educators, and activist did something rebellious: they celebrated books. These weren’t just any books, of course. They were the books that had been deemed contraband by school authorities, vilified as tools of a curriculum that promotes ethnic hatred. In other words, they were works like Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, Mexican White Boy, the play Zoot Suit, and Like Water for Chocolate. Texts that aim to foster critical thinking, political curiosity, and other dangerous behaviors.

The idea that these books are “subversive” was a pretext for a crackdown on Mexican American studies in Tucson. And once the controversy was broadcast across the country, Americans of all backgrounds saw exactly what these programs threatened: an ossified conservative establishment that masks social control as education.

But the school authorities probably weren’t just annoyed that the books contained radical messages. It was who was reading them that was really troubling: it was Latino youth learning about the conflicts and cultural survival that have carried through history. This has triggered an official campaign of oppression, involving a state-led McCarthyesque investigation. This set off a wave of resistance through legal challenges and grassroots protests using creativity and humor, culminating in the youth-led Freedom Summer.