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Sep 29 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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Mary Ellen Hannibal: Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf

THIS month, a group of environmental nonprofits said they would challenge the federal government’s removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. Since there are only about 328 wolves in a state with a historic blood thirst for the hides of these top predators, the nonprofits are probably right that lacking protection, Wyoming wolves are toast.

Many Americans, even as they view the extermination of a species as morally anathema, struggle to grasp the tangible effects of the loss of wolves. It turns out that, far from being freeloaders on the top of the food chain, wolves have a powerful effect on the well-being of the ecosystems around them – from the survival of trees and riverbank vegetation to, perhaps surprisingly, the health of the populations of their prey. [..]

Many biologists have warned that we are approaching another mass extinction. The wolf is still endangered and should be protected in its own right. But we should also recognize that bringing all the planet’s threatened and endangered species back to healthy numbers – as well as mitigating the effects of climate change – means keeping top predators around.

New York Times: An Unfinished Campaign Against Polio

Leaders of the global fight to eradicate polio vowed at the United Nations on Thursday to step up their efforts to eliminate the virus from the three countries where the disease still has a foothold – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The challenge is that those countries are troubled by political unrest, violence and social customs that can interfere with the delivery of vaccines to the children and adults who need protection. [..]

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said he would enlist agencies of the United Nations to make eradication a top priority this year. Ridding the world of polio should be a crucial part of a broad campaign to immunize all children against infectious diseases.

Ira Chernus: Israel Versus Iran: Netanyahu’s Cartoon Version

I was driving home listening to NPR when the top-of-the-hour headlines came on. First item: Just moments earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the UN General Assembly, “warned that by next summer Iran could have weapons-grade nuclear material.” Then a clip of Netanyahu, trying to sound chilling: “At stake is the future of the world. Nothing could imperil our common future more than the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons.”

Nothing?, I wondered. Not even the melting of the polar ice caps, or a huge spike in global food prices, or an accidental launch of one of the many nukes that the U.S. and Russia still keep on hair-trigger alert?

Then I asked myself, Why is this big news? Everyone knew what Netanyahu was going to say. Everyone knows that he’s been beating the war drum for years to build his political base at home. Meanwhile, as everyone knows, he’s alienating the rest of the world. Top U.S. political and military leaders, and many of Israel’s top leaders, want him to cut it out before he stumbles us into a war that no serious person (very possible not even Netanyahu) really wants. There’s nothing new here, though there is something really dangerous in giving these bellicose words top billing when they hardly deserve it.

Frida Berrigan: Sister Act-ivists

Nuns. If the picture that jumps to your mind is from “The Sound of Music” or “Lilies of the Field” or even “Sister Act” (one or two or on Broadway), it is time to take another look at sisterhood. On the picket line, the police line-up, the convention dais, women religious are living their faith out loud.

I started thinking about nuns on the way home from Chicago, where I helped the Eighth Day Center for Justice celebrate 38 years of fighting the good fight. Made up of congregations of nuns, Eighth Day works to end torture (throughout the world, but also right in Chicago, where the police and correctional departments have committed grievous crimes against inmates), organizes to end the war in Afghanistan (they were on the streets every day NATO deployed to Chicago) and supports local union organizing efforts. Back in the day, each congregation sent a nun to participate in Eighth Day organizing, but with so many fewer nuns now, the group is now a hybrid of older women religious (nuns) and young people hired to represent many of the orders. The younger generation brings new energy, flair and ideas to the group, enriching it in many ways. In turn, these young people enter into a real and rich relationship with wise and feisty women. The event was an awesome display of intergenerational cooperation – hip and diverse and never a minute behind on schedule.

Eugene Robinson: Deluded by ‘Skewed’ Polls

Conservative activist circles are abuzz with a new conspiracy theory: Polls showing President Obama with a growing lead over Mitt Romney are deliberately being skewed by the Liberal Mainstream Media so that Republicans will be disheartened and stay home on Election Day.

This is denial and self-delusion, but not of the harmless kind. It’s a false narrative that encourages the Republican Party to take the wrong lessons from this election, no matter the outcome.

The whole atmosphere surrounding the presidential race is different since the party conventions. The Obama campaign has begun warning supporters about the perils of overconfidence. Romney, meanwhile, wages a daily battle to keep the words “beleaguered” and “embattled” from latching onto his candidacy.

David Sirota: The Choice Between Automatons and Leaders

Ask corporate executives what they really want in a legislator, and they probably won’t use words like “principled” or “well-informed.” If the cocktails are appropriately strong and inhibitions are consequently reduced, executives will likely tell you in a moment of candor that the best politician, from their perspective, is the one who is incurious and who possesses very little policy expertise. They don’t want people with inconvenient morals, ethics or brains getting in their way. They want the equivalent of T-1000s from the “Terminator” films: unthinking, fully programmable cyborgs willing and able to shape-shift in order to carry out a mission.

Alas, it is rare to get such an admission in public, and it is even more rare to get said admission in the pages of a major publication. That’s why Businessweek’s recent examination of the country’s marquee U.S. Senate race is so significant. In looking at the Massachusetts matchup between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren, the magazine quotes Brown fundraiser Lawrence McDonald, a former Lehman trader, acknowledging that he and his Wall Street friends hate the idea of an independently informed legislator who might bring her own wisdom to Washington.