“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.
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Katrina vanden Heuvel: After Senate revelations, the CIA should be looking over its shoulder
For the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert warriors, disdain for the law comes with their mandate. From its drone attacks to its destabilization efforts, the CIA is tasked with operating, as former vice president Dick Cheney put it, ” in the shadows,” trampling international law.
The CIA, shielded by secrecy, armored by its national security mandate, pursues its mission with far too little accountability. The agency’s warriors operate on the president’s writ, but presidents generally seek deniability. After Sept. 11, the agency was given a virtually limitless charter to do things that presidents would rather not know about.
Congress set up intelligence committees to provide oversight of the agency, but senators, while generally happy to get a peek behind the curtain of secrecy, know better than to probe too far.
The peril is apparent. The covert warriors who trample laws abroad in the name of national security are likely to scorn legal limits at home. That is what is at stake in the deepening scandal of the CIA’s subversion of the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation of its shameful and unlawful program of torture during the Bush administration.
Ana Marie Cox: Prison reform is a bipartisan issue now. Why does the GOP still need to ‘win’?
Smarter sentencing. Fewer people in jail. Fewer people dying. See? Sometimes Limited Government can be a good thing
The flaws of Obamacare continue to overwhelm the news, but it’s time to consider getting rid of another kind of death panel. We need to talk about the people our courts send away to die, and the way we treat every other prisoner as though his life didn’t matter. The United States is currently experiencing a quiet revolution in criminal justice reform – a bipartisan one. So what we need to talk about today is the part Republicans can play on the state and federal level, with or without the cost-cutting justifications that seem to come more easily to conservatives than an argument about human rights.
Criminal justice reform has historically been a bleeding-heart liberal cause. It has provided careerist Democrats an issue to present as proof of their moderate bona fides and given Republicans a chance to condemn any flicker of compassion: think Willie Horton. More recently, this month’s successful campaign to block Obama’s nominee for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Debo Adegbile, depended on conservatives convincing moderate Dems that Adegbile’s role in overturning the capital conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal was tantamount to endorsing the crime he committed.
The panel that eventually found Abu-Jamal’s conviction was majority Republican. The seven Democrats who voted to reject Adegbile might not think that matters. I do.
: The right’s poverty plan: shame poor kids and the vaginas that birthed them
Conservatives want to make low-income Americans feel bad about babies and diets to cut birth control and food stamps
So many of life’s problems could be solved, according to conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, if the poor could just learn to keep their knees together until they got married – and if their wealthy and educated counterparts just weren’t afraid to shame them into doing so. These pearls of wisdom, particularly the “shaming is good” part, were greeted with loud applause over the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference. [..]
Blaming poverty on the moral failings of the poor and criticizing their sex habits and eating habits has always been a favorite conservative sport, dating back to Victorian times. But it has been alternately sickening and fascinating to watch the current crop of American conservatives, particularly those who claim to be devotees of the original social justice champion – Jesus Christ – jump through hoops to try to find new ways to vilify the poor just so they can feel less bad (or at least appear less bad to their followers) when they do nothing to help them.
Zoë Carpenter: Why the NRA Is Blocking Obama’s Surgeon General Nominee
The post of the surgeon general has been vacant since July, and it looks likely to remain that way for some time thanks to a strident campaign led by the National Rifle Association and libertarian Senator Rand Paul against President Obama’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy. [..]
This isn’t the first time the NRA has held up a nominee: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went without a director for seven years because of opposition from the gun lobby. But never before has the group set itself so strongly against a surgeon general nominee. So why now? The NRA said Murthy’s “blatant activism on behalf of gun control” attracted their attention. [..]
With public health professionals engaging more forcefully on the gun issue, the NRA has a pressing interest in muting their calls for stronger policy. Really, the campaign against Murthy is the continuation of a longstanding effort to make discussion of gun violence taboo. For years the NRA has worked to bury information about gun violence and its public health implications. The NRA has campaigned successfully to ban registries that collect data on guns used in crimes, and in 1996 the group fought for and won legislation that froze federal funding for research on gun violence. Although Obama lifted the restriction last year in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, there’s still very little money-federal and private-for gun research and not enough data, said David Hemenway, an expert on injury at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Joan Walsh: Meet Paul Ryan’s ‘Inner City Expert’ Who Claims Blacks and Latinos Have Lower IQs
Charles Murray says it’s not racist to suggest that some ethnic groups are genetically inferior to others.
I should no longer be shocked at the intellectual dishonesty of Charles Murray, but I am. On Tuesday Murray made a brief reply to his critics, most notably Paul Krugman, who have accused Murray of racism for much of his work, but especially his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve.” Murray rejoined the news cycle last week, when Rep. Paul Ryan cited him as an expert on poverty and the troubles of “inner city” men, who, in Ryan’s words, are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” [..]
When you’ve spent an entire book arguing that blacks and Latinos have lower IQ, more out-of-wedlock babies and higher reliance on welfare, it’s clear who “the wrong women” are. Oh, and the book also argued for limiting immigration, because unlike earlier waves of immigrants, today’s are coming from countries with a lower national IQ. In what world are those arguments not racist?
Jessica Valenti: Women on the Side: Why Anti-Choicers Won’t Win
As I was giving a speech at a Virginia college recently, there was a visibly annoyed young man in the audience. He shifted around in his seat and scowled. During the Q&A, his hand was one of the first that shot up.
He asked why I kept talking about abortion as a women’s rights and health issue. How could I possibly argue this, he wondered, when abortion was clearly an issue of “children’s rights.” In his mind, women were beside the point. Ancillary, really.
His frustration that I would talk about abortion as an issue of bodily rights and integrity reminded me of why Republicans will never truly win women over. Anti-choicers cannot escape the truth of their movement: despite rhetorical efforts to the contrary, the foundation of fighting against abortion accessibility is the idea that women are less important than the pregnancies they can carry. [..]
Republicans can continue their desperate move to convince Americans that being anti-choice is actually pro-woman. But we are not stupid, and they are not fooling anyone. The more anti-choice politicians, pundits and activists underestimate women by continuing with their rhetorical sleight-of-hand, the more they reveal themselves. The anti-choice movement cannot erase us from our own lives by insisting that abortion isn’t necessary. The more they try, the stronger we’ll get.