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.

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New York Times Editorial Board: [Reducing Risks After the Germanwings Crash Reducing Risks After the Germanwings Crash]

There is a lot we still don’t know about the tragic crash of the Germanwings plane in France. But what we do know suggests that airlines can take steps to reduce the risk of pilots deliberately or inadvertently crashing a plane.

French investigators believe the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was conscious, but we may never know for sure. We do know that things might have turned out differently had there been another person in the cockpit. The chief executive of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said on Thursday that European regulators do not require two people to be in the cockpit at all times. [..]

No safety policy will ever anticipate every situation. But requiring two people to be in the cockpit during flight is a sensible step to reduce the risk that comes with leaving the lives of dozens or hundreds of people in the hands of just one pilot.

Sen Sheldon Whitehouse: The GOP Budget: Every Tax Loophole Is Sacred

Every tax loophole is sacred.

That’s the prime guiding principle of the budget Republicans are trying to push through the Senate. Republicans claim to be concerned with reducing the federal deficit, which their Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) described as a “dangerous financial crisis.” But are they willing to sacrifice a single tax loophole to solve the problem? No. And that’s telling about their real priorities. [..]

But for all its smashing and slashing of programs low- and middle-income families depend on, it would keep in place each and every tax deduction, exclusion, and credit that benefits wealthy individuals and big corporations. This Republican budget is a clear confession that the so-called “dangerous financial crisis” is actually less important to them than protecting special tax treatment for the rich and powerful.

John Nichols: This Is What a ‘People’s Budget’ Looks Like

A proper budget is a moral document, which well expresses the values and aspirations of a civil society.

As such, the measure of any budget is its combination of fiscal and social responsibility.

By this measure, there was only one proper budget proposal floated in the current Congress. And it did not get very far.

Only ninety-six House Democrats voted Wednesday for the People’s Budget, as it was proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The budget was opposed by 330 House members, including eighty-six shame-on-them Democrats and 244 Republicans.

The record of Wednesday’s roll call is worth reviewing, especially because it identifies the Democrats who got this most important vote wrong.

Of course, no one expected the People’s Budget to be enacted. But that is not a poor reflection on the CPC plan, which better met the tests of fiscal and social responsible than any of the other official or alternative proposals that are currently in play. It is a reflection on this Congress, which cannot get anything right, and on a political process that is now so flawed-because of gerrymandering, big money and failed media-that the United States ends up with, well, this Congress.

Despite the fact that if it was not expected to prevail, the People’s Budget was serious.

Amy Goodman: The Costs of War, the Price of Peace

What price would you pay not to kill another human being? At what point would you commit the offenses allegedly perpetrated by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was charged Wednesday with desertion and “misbehavior before an enemy?”

Bowe Bergdahl was a private when he left his post in Afghanistan, under circumstances that are still unknown to the public, and was captured by the Taliban. They imprisoned him for five years, until he was released in a controversial prisoner swap negotiated by the Obama administration. Five Taliban members who were held for years at Guantanamo Bay were released to house arrest in Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl. He now faces a court-martial and potentially life in prison. Meanwhile, the architects of the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain untried, while a new report asserts that up to 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the first 10 years of the so-called war on terror.

The report is called “Body Count” and is published in the U.S. by Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It has been politically important to downplay Allied forces’ responsibility for the massive carnage and destruction in the region,” writes San Francisco doctor Robert M. Gould in the report’s foreword. He told me: “We need to take full responsibility for the true cost of war as we are preparing to continue our involvement in Afghanistan and deepen our involvement in Syria and Iraq. There’s great anger throughout the region about our involvement and the underplaying here of what the true costs are in terms of death and destruction.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Tell the Election Success Stories, Too

“I had a college degree, a decade of experience, and the only job I could get was making $8 an hour at the local convenience store in my neighborhood,” Maine state Representative Diane Russell (D) said in January, recalling her unlikely path to public office. “I have no business being in politics. I was not groomed for this. But thanks to public financing, I have a voice. And thanks to public financing, a gal who takes cash for the convenience store for selling sandwiches can actually talk about the stories that she’s learned from behind the counter.” Russell was speaking at an event on the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling that set off an avalanche of money in politics. After her state’s “clean elections” system propelled Russell into office in 2008, she quickly became a force in Maine politics. Her progressive record of defending voting rights and workers, for example, led The Nation to recognize her as its “Most Valuable State Representative” in 2011. [..]

These stories are undeniably important, as are the long-term battles to overturn the Citizens United decision, pass a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform and eliminate the corrosive influence of money in politics. But there is another story being written that deserves our attention, too, in which progressive activists and lawmakers are working to make our elections more democratic-a story less about containing the influence of billionaires and corporations than empowering small donors and unlikely candidates-candidates like Diane Russell.

Alastair Cooke: Why the Conflicts in Tikrit and Yemen Signal a New Middle Eastern War

With the Iranian involvement against the Islamic State in the assault on Tikrit, and the Saudi invasion of Yemen to stem the tide of Iranian influence, we have entered a new Middle Eastern war.

Tikrit has become something of an augury and symbol of ISIS’ prospective fate. The suggestion in much of the commentaries is that the Iranian-directed offensive in Tikrit has stalled. Indeed one can detect a certain pleasurable rubbing of hands at the very prospect of an Iranian setback.

“If this leads to the Iranians forced to concede defeat, that would be a satisfactory outcome,” one U.S. defense official told the The Daily Beast. An ISIS victory, then, is “satisfactory” to the U.S.? [..]

If Tikrit was the precursor, then the fall of Aden was the trigger.

“The Saudi default position on Yemen,” Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes, “can be best described as paranoia.” And thus we have a new Middle Eastern war — one which will complicate the region greatly.