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Feb 22 2014

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 Board: Coping With Infectious Disease

The list of infectious diseases that could leap from remote areas of the world to strike countries thousands of miles away is growing. A warning of what can happen occurred a decade ago when an outbreak in China of a mysterious new viral disease, known as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, was covered up by the Chinese authorities, allowing infected airline passengers to carry the virus to more than two dozen other countries. The disease killed nearly 800 people and caused large economic losses in Asia and Canada.  [..]

A pilot project in Uganda last year, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that biological specimens from sick patients could be gathered in remote areas of the country and carried by motorcycle and overnight delivery service to a well-equipped central laboratory, and the test results could be transmitted back by cellphone to the remote areas. A new technology currently being tested in Uganda is a dipstick, like those used for pregnancy tests, that can diagnose pneumonic and bubonic plague at the patient’s bedside in 20 minutes. [..]

Congress ought to approve that money. A five-year program to extend assistance to 30 countries to protect their populations could cost the United States up to $1.5 billion, which would be worth spending if the initial projects prove successful. Other advanced nations need to contribute money and expertise, too. Diseases know no borders, and a health crisis in one country could, without control, become our own.

Jon Walker: The Biggest Progressive Victory of 2014 So Far Was Against Obama, Not With Him

Since we are only seven weeks into 2014 I feel confident calling President Obama’s decision to remove the chained-CPI Social Security benefit cut from his budget the biggest victory for progressives so far this year. [..]

It is a sad comment about the current state of politics that the biggest progressive victory so far this year wasn’t a victory with the Democratic President, but a victory against him. While Obama did technically remove chained-CPI, he was the one who put it there in the first place. He is the one who has been consistently pushing for a grand bargain for years. He was the one who forced the Democratic party to temporarily back such a destructive and deeply unpopular position.

Zoë Carpenter: The Men We Kill, and the Men We Don’t

When an American drone fired four Hellfire missiles at a convoy of cars travelling from a wedding in Yemen last December, who died? [..]

The questions raised by the wedding attack go beyond identity, beyond compliance. Another debate to be had is about the existence of the killing program-its legal basis, its strategic benefits, its moral implications-not just adherence to its rules. This is a conversation the administration has tried to avoid. Although Obama has proposed shifting the CIA’s drone program to the Pentagon to increase transparency, the White House has brushed off Congress’s attempt to broaden its oversight. Last week, the administration forbade CIA officers from attending a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and refused to grant security clearances to committee members so they could be briefed.

We may not know whom we’re killing, but the people left behind know who is responsible for their losses. “We have nothing, not even tractors or other machinery. We work with our hands. Why did the United States do this to us?” the groom asked in a video shown to HRW researchers. No one, so far, has a real answer for him.

Patrick Smith: Nuland and the Ukraine: The Message Beneath the Vulgarity

As Ukraine reaches a breaking point, there’s a lot more to discuss about U.S. policy than a simple F-bomb.

Every time we overhear U.S. diplomats talking when we are not supposed to, the conduct of American foreign policy sounds less imaginative, more reckless, and astonishing in its fidelity to eras many of us thought would never come again. Who would have thought Obama’s conduct abroad would recall so closely Eisenhower’s – the years when the Dulles Brothers, Allen at the CIA and John Foster at State, made sheer havoc in the name of American security – and thus reproduce an eternal state of insecurity?

Allergic to history, American administrations can learn nothing from it. Einstein’s thought on insanity – doing the same thing incessantly and wanting a new result – is the default position. No wonder America’s relations in the Middle East and across both oceans have deteriorated since the Germans took down the Berlin Wall.

The latest lifting of the lid occurred earlier this month, when a covert recording was released via YouTube. The revelations are better than some in the unprecedented tidal wave of material that Wikileaks released in the summer and autumn of 2010.

Jim Haber: Plowshares Sentencing Shows US Government Afraid of Peace Activists

Outside the courthouse in Knoxville, Tenn. where three anti-nuclear activists were severely sentenced on February 18, Michelle Boertje-Obed, the wife of one of the three Transform Now Plowshares members, encouraged everyone to see Judge Amul Thapar’s ruling in a positive light. Despite her husband Greg having just received over 5 years in prison for infiltrating the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility on July 28, 2012 and damaging federal property – along with Michael Walli and 84-year-old Catholic nun Megan Rice – Michelle pointed out that the judge could have easily given them much longer sentences, as recommended by the prosecution. [..]

Sr. Rice was at her most eloquent when addressing the court. “The problem with this trial is that people don’t know the law,” she said. “There is an alternative to nuclear weapons – common sense… If you resist nuclear weapons, you are upholding the law… The need to expose crimes pushed us to our action… To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor this court could bestow on me.”

She pointed out that nuclear weapons were declared illegal under international law and hence aren’t “legitimate property.” Additionally, the three members of the Transform Now Plowshares felt called to uphold their view of God’s law, and called for love and peacemaking, rather than nuclear threats and war.

Yet, these motivations were never allowed to be spoken during the trial itself, thereby preventing the jury from truly understanding their actions. As unjust as this – and the harsh sentences – may seem, it shows that the government actually sees civil resistance and organizing for the power and capacity it truly represents. The powers that be should be afraid of the likes of the Transform Now Plowshares. They’re not alone.

Charles M. Blow: Accommodating Divisiveness

Ted Nugent, a.k.a. the Motor City Madman, an ex-rocker who’s off his rocker, is at it again. [..]

Now, Nugent is a bit player, a bomb-thrower not worthy of much attention in his own right, but the fact that he and so many like him feel at home within the Republican Party and aligned with conservative causes is.

By no means are all, or even most, Republicans this extreme, nor do they condone this level of extremism. But far too many extremists seem to seek – and find – a home within the Republican ranks. There exists a foul odor of accommodation. [..]

With people like that under the Republican tent, they may as well fold it up where minorities are concerned.