Oct 15 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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Joan Walsh: Tea Party’s Ebola paranoia: Why GOP’s fear-mongering is just a cynical turnout strategy

Most Americans think the U.S. can handle the disease, but not Tea Party and rural voters. So the GOP whips up fear

There’s good news in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday night: Most Americans believe the government is ready to handle a possible Ebola outbreak, even as a second Dallas health worker has contracted the disease.  But if you want to understand why the GOP is fear-mongering on the issue, you’ve got to analyze the poll results more closely. [..]

The poll had more good news than bad for the forces of calm and reason: 49 percent of Americans thought the CDC is doing a good job, compared to 22 percent who said it wasn’t. Other polls have given us a little more to worry about: Last week’s Rutgers-Eagleton survey of New Jersey voters found that 69 percent were at least somewhat concerned about the disease spreading here – and that people who were paying the most attention to TV actually knew the least about the disease, and were the most frightened.

Lindy West: We need to stop talking about Ebola like it’s just another Dustin Hoffman germ-thriller

Americans are both taking the outbreak too seriously and not seriously enough – some rage about closing borders while the rest are gripped by a gory scenario that’s unlikely to touch us

I must confess: I was initially concerned that I am perhaps not sufficiently qualified to weigh in on our planet’s current Ebola panic, seeing as I am neither a doctor nor a nurse nor a scientist of any kind nor an African fruit bat nor Dustin Hoffman. [..]

And anyway, there is one area in which I am eminently, objectively pedigreed to comment – relative to famous idiots or not – and that is in my capacity as a human being living in a culture where panic is marketed as both disposable entertainment and a way of life. [..]

Somehow, in America at least, we seem to be taking Ebola both too seriously and not seriously enough. Rightwing xenophobes rage about closing the borders and impeaching #OBOLA (heads up, white Americans: if anyone has a track record of deliberately introducing devastating diseases to the North American continent in order to wipe out the population, it’s not half-Kenyan lawyers), while the rest of us titter proprietarily over the gory doom that we know will almost certainly never touch us; meanwhile, we’ve skimped on funding infectious disease research ever since the 90s Ebola scare lost its lurid lustre, and healthcare workers are paying the price. As Wired reported on Monday: “If there were more infection-prevention research, the nurse in Dallas (and probably the one in Spain, who may have contaminated herself doffing her gear) might not have become infected.” Not only that, but Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, says that, if it wasn’t for funding cuts, we would probably have an Ebola vaccine by now.

Zoë Carpenter: How the ‘War on Women’ Is Deepening Racial Inequality

In 1983, when the Department of Health and Human Services assembled the first task force to examine women’s health issues, the appointed experts made it clear that the defining challenges weren’t only related to differences between men and women but also to inequality between some women and others. One fact the panel noted in its final report was that Hispanic women died in childbirth three times as often as white women; black women died four times more frequently. “If a woman is a member of an ethnic or a cultural minority,” the report (pdf [..]

The state-by-state examination of women’s health disparities suggests that they aren’t just historical holdovers but are exacerbated by a recent political decision: the refusal to expand Medicaid. Most of the states receiving low grades for women’s health in the Alliance report were among the twenty-one that have refused to accept federal money through the Affordable Care Act to expand their Medicaid programs. That decision stranded many people in a coverage gap-too poor to qualify for subsidies on the insurance exchanges and too wealthy to meet their state’s Medicaid eligibility criteria. As The New York Times noted last year, black Americans are disproportionately affected.

Jessica Valenti: Abortion isn’t about the right to privacy. It’s about women’s right to equality

Katha Pollitt is right: we should redefine why we are pro-choice and why the pro-life movement is anti-woman

There are certain polite terms that even the most well intentioned, prudent pro-choice people use when they talk about abortion. The most difficult decision. Tragic. Safe, legal and rare. But as state after state makes abortion effectively illegal in the United States – and as the anti-choice movement prepares for a US supreme court fight to end the right entirely – it’s time for the pro-choice movement to lose the protective talking points and stop dancing around the bigger truth: Abortion is good for women.

In Katha Pollitt’s new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, she argues that, as much as abortion is a private medical decision, it’s also a necessary public good. “We should accept that it’s good for everyone if women only have the children they want and can raise well,” she writes. The Nation columnist and long-time abortion rights supporter continues:


Society benefits when women can commit to education and work and dreams without having at the back of their mind that maybe it’s all provisional, because at any moment an accidental pregnancy could derail them for life.


Thus, as Pollitt and others have argued, the right to an abortion is fundamental to women’s equality, not just our privacy. Pollitt even notes that feminist legal experts – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg among them – believe the supreme court should have made abortion legal on those grounds. After all, reproductive rights don’t end at our bodies.

Michele Goldberg: There Is No Constitutional Right to Harass Women Online

This week, Kathy Sierra published a long, raw and incisive blog post marking the ten years since receiving her first online threat.

If you’ve been following the sordid story of escalating misogynist harassment on the Internet, you know that Sierra was one of the first high-profile women to have her life turned upside down by a sadistic cyber mob. In her case, the mob was enraged less by anything she actually said than by her audacity at daring to build a public profile for herself. She initially came under attack for her popular tech blog, Creating Passionate Users, which had made her a sought-after speaker. The person who first threatened her “wasn’t outraged about my work,” she writes. “His rage was because, in his mind, my work didn’t deserve attention. Spoiler alert: ‘deserve’ and ‘attention’ are at the heart.” [..]

As I wrote recently, laws meant to address the abuse of women online can, at times, run afoul of the First Amendment, as in some state-level revenge porn laws. But there’s no constitutional right to post someone’s Social Security number, bombard their families and friends with naked pictures, libel them or threaten them with murder. The problem is that our laws and policies have lagged behind technology, allowing forms of abuse to proliferate online that we would never tolerate in the real world.