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Nov 10 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: In Cuba, Misadventures in Regime Change

In 1996, spurred by an appetite for revenge, American lawmakers passed a bill spelling out a strategy to overthrow the government in Havana and “assist the Cuban people in regaining their freedom.” Helms-Burton Act (pdf), signed into law by President Bill Clinton shortly after Cuba shot down two small civilian American planes, has served as the foundation for the $264 million the United States has spent (pdf) in the last 18 years trying to instigate democratic reforms on the island.

Far from accomplishing that goal, the initiatives have been largely counterproductive. The funds have been a magnet for charlatans, swindlers and good intentions gone awry. The stealthy programs have increased hostility between the two nations, provided Cuba with a trove of propaganda fodder and stymied opportunities to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.

The United States should strive to promote greater freedoms on the island of 11 million people and loosen the grip of one of the most repressive governments in the world. But it must chart a new approach informed by the lessons of nearly two decades of failed efforts to destabilize the Castro regime.

Peter van Buren: What Could Possibly Go Right?

The latest American war was launched as a humanitarian mission. The goal of its first bombing runs was to save the Yazidis, a group few Americans had heard of until then, from genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (IS). Within weeks, however, a full-scale bombing campaign was underway against IS across Iraq and Syria with its own “coalition of the willing” and 1,600 U.S. military personnel on the ground. Slippery slope? It was Teflon-coated. Think of what transpired as several years of early Vietnam-era escalation compressed into a semester.

And in that time, what’s gone right? Short answer: Almost nothing. Squint really, really hard and maybe the “good news” is that IS has not yet taken control of much of the rest of Iraq and Syria, and that Baghdad hasn’t been lost. These possibilities, however, were unlikely even without U.S. intervention.

Trevor Timm: Obama is doubling down on an Isis war with no end in sight. Why does he get a free pass?

We have entered the fourth official month of the latest war without end in the Middle East, and the Obama administration has suddenly doubled America’s troop presence in Iraq – yet there is no approved declaration of war in sight. The so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels receiving millions in weapons are now being defeated, and those same weapons are ending up in the hands of al-Qaida – yet there is no public sign of dialing back in the fight again the Islamic State.

You would think the faces of the mainstream American press would start questioning the White House’s strategy of perpetual war, but you’d be wrong. The drumbeat seems louder than ever; the challengers of power are nearly silent.

Fresh off his party’s drubbing in the US midterm elections, Obama appeared Sunday on Face the Nation, as a meek Bob Schieffer of CBS News lobbed weak questions at the president on his Isis war policy. It was a quintessential example of how some in the mainstream American press have refused to ask critical questions about our new Forever War – even as the most important questions stare everyone in the face.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: US voter turnout is an international embarrassment. Here’s how to fix it

Americans should be embarrassed. The low voter turnout on Election Day last week in the United States was an international disgrace.

What has become of a democratic form of government that Abraham Lincoln said was “of the people, by the people, for the people“? Can we be satisfied with a “democracy” when more than 60% of people don’t vote and some 80% of young people and low-income Americans don’t either? Can we be content when poll after poll shows that most Americans can’t even name the political parties that control the US Senate and House – or who their member of Congress is?

Nationwide, preliminary indications show that the total turnout in the US midterms was only 36.6%. If these estimates hold true, 2014 will be the least representative election in modern American history. When billionaires and corporations tilt elections, conservatives suppress voting and crucial voters feel unengaged, what kind of example for the world is that?

Robert Kuttner: The Cure for the Democrats’ Woes — Goldman Sachs!

After the Democrats’ drubbing in the 2014 midterm elections, there have been fervent debates about whether the Party should embrace an economic populism to tap pocketbook frustrations — or move further to the center in the hopes of capturing more independents.

One thing the Democrats did throughout Obama’s nearly six years was move closer to Wall Street — from the economic team Obama appointed, to the administration’s premature embrace of deficit reduction promoted by financial moguls, to a bailout plan that shored up the biggest banks rather than breaking them up.

It was this coziness with big finance that allowed the far-right Tea Party movement to paint Wall Street and Washington with the same brush — and to capture much of the populist rage on display against Democrats in the 2010 midterms and once again on November 4.

So the last thing Democrats need going forward is an even closer affinity with Wall Street, right? Well, the Democrats may soon get even cozier.

Hannah Giorgis: Beyond ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’: what if there’s no indictment in Ferguson?

Black lives matter? It’s tough to keep saying something like that – to shout it in anything but protest – with this impending reality: At some point in the next few days, it’s likely that Darren Wilson will not be indicted, by the US justice department or the state of Missouri, for the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown – an 18-year-old unarmed black man – in Ferguson, in broad daylight, three long months ago. [..]

But to understand a non-indictment in Ferguson as simply par for the course in the United States case is not to say that Brown’s life is unworthy of defending, nor that his death and its international aftermath are unworthy of redress. This reality check simply locates another officer in the context of the white supremacist law-enforcement apparatus that defends him in lieu of protecting its (black) citizens, that operates with impunity. And for the rest of us to view black life as worthy of defending, to unequivocally repeat that black lives matter in a world that insists otherwise, is a radical act – if a tiresome one.

The hard truth about no justice for Mike Brown is that we must reassess our standards for justice to create a kind of peace – for his family, for Ferguson, and for those of whose anger and grief emerge anew each time a black life is taken without consequence.