Sep 16 2015

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hawks Aren’t Giving the Iran Deal a Chance

Bellicose posturing too often ends up isolating the United States-and undermining our security.

The Iran nuclear agreement-characterized by The Washington Post‘s editorial board as the “most consequential US diplomatic agreement in decades”-will go forward, as all but four Senate Democrats rallied to fend off Republican efforts to torpedo it. The difficult and concrete achievement of diplomatic compromise has overcome the vacuous fantasies of military bluster. The question now is: What comes next?

Led by the early support of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Martin O’Malley and pressured by grass-roots activists, Democrats in the House and Senate lined up to defend the agreement (with a notable exception of Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who aspires to lead the very caucus he abandoned).

But now, opponents and supporters threaten to hamstring it at birth. Instead of building on the agreement to explore new areas of cooperation, the administration and its critics are pivoting quickly to threatening Iran in anticipation of it cheating on the agreement. While the agreement calls for lifting multilateral sanctions focused on foreign companies, most US sanctions against Iran will remain in place. The administration and senators of both parties are now proposing new sanctions and military maneuvers to ratchet up the pressure on Iran. Not surprisingly, that has precipitated a harsh reaction from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This could quickly snatch defeat from the hands of victory, foreclosing any broader transformation of US-Iranian relations and locking the United States into a continuation of its failed Middle East strategy.

Bianca Jagger: President Obama’s Mortal Sin

President Obama’s approval of Shell’s Arctic oil drilling has tarnished his environmental legacy.

President Obama is the first incumbent US President to cross the Arctic Circle. The purpose of his expedition was to “witness first-hand the impact of climate change on the region” and to announce new measures to address it. Speaking at the Glacier climate summit in Anchorage Obama recognised the role of the US “in creating this problem.” He also stated “we embrace our responsibility to help solve it” because failure to do so will “condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair.” Yet less than one month ago his administration gave the green light to Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic.

President Obama must know that it is impossible to protect the Arctic while allowing Shell to drill for oil 70 miles off the coast of Alaska. He cannot have it both ways. His policies and proclamations are irreconcilable.

Phyllis Bennis: What America Owes the Refugees Pouring Into Europe

Here’s how the U.S. can leverage its wealth, safety, and diplomacy to serve the refugees it helped to create.

The vision of hundreds of thousands of desperate human beings fleeing airstrikes, terror, and violence from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and beyond has brought the stark human cost of today’s “anti-terror” wars to the front pages. The heart-breaking photo of one small boy, still clad in a “red shirt, blue jeans, and little sneakers,” as a now-viral poem goes, washed up on the Turkish shore, has brought the horror of that stark reality into our hearts.

Indeed, the refugee crisis growing out of the multi-faceted Syrian war and others is now a full-blown global emergency. It’s not only an emergency because it’s now reaching Europe. It’s an emergency several years in the making as conditions have deteriorated throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to Syria, refugees are also pouring into Europe – or dying as they try – from Libya, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and beyond.

But it’s the war in Syria – now involving a host of regional, sectarian, and global actors all fighting their own wars to the last Syrian – that lies at the bloody center of the current crisis. And here the United States bears no small responsibility.

Jessica Valenti: Many shootings are not called by their proper name: domestic violence

A shooting this week in Mississippi – where a teacher at Delta State University allegedly shot and killed his live-in partner and another professor – has been called a shooting spree and a “love triangle”. What we haven’t really heard it called, however, is perhaps the most important descriptor: domestic violence.

Shannon Lamb, the alleged killer, is believed to have killed Amy Prentiss, the woman he lived with, and a colleague, professor Ethan Schmidt. Lamb was later found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gun wound.

No matter what police eventually determine that the motive was, this is domestic violence. And until we start talking seriously about the intersection of gun violence and intimate partner violence, we will continue to watch as murders – many of them preventable – are perpetrated again and again.

Jess Zimmerman: What if the mega-rich just want rocket ships to escape the Earth they destroy?

The early capitalists once had to breathe the air that they polluted in pursuit of their wealth. Now, perhaps, they can escape it by leaving the planet

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the latest tech billionaire to invest his money in spaceships: on Tuesday, he debuted his space travel company Blue Origin’s newest rocket. Now, those who want to cruise the galaxy can choose between the sleek new rocket and the stubbier model Bezos announced in April – or they can opt to ride with Tesla founder Elon Musk on a SpaceX ship, or hop on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

At this rate, would-be space travelers will be able to choose their favorite tech company, find its richest guy and buy a ticket on his craft of choice. Why does everyone who achieves economic dominance over the planet immediately turn around and try to get off it?

Katie Halper: Are Colbert’s New Politics Softer, or Just More Subtle?

A political comedian reviews the first of the new Late Show.

It was a no-brainer that Stephen Colbert as The Late Show host would be less politically edgy or hard hitting than he was on The Colbert Report. After all, The Colbert Report was arguably the most relentlessly, fiercely political, and, dare I say, partisan (in a good way) television show ever. Because Colbert never broke character, nearly every sentence he uttered was a political statement in which he simultaneously mocked right-wing values, or lack thereof, and implicitly advanced his own humanism and progressive political orientation. As Colbert explained in his Late Show debut, “I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit-now I’m just a narcissist.”

But it’s not just that he’s taken off the character mask. Colbert has gone from cable to a major network. Cable is always less restricting than network television, but on top of that, Comedy Central, a channel dedicated exclusively to, well, comedy, is especially irreverent. Strong political opinions aren’t as tolerated on network television, which is why NBC (the network) has MSNBC (the cable channel) and Fox (the network) has Fox News (the cable channel). (I’m in no way equating MSNBC and Fox News, by the way-Fox News is a lot further from the center and from the facts than its so-called liberal counterpart.)

So, given these limitations, how did Stephen Colbert as political critic fare this past week? As expected, the first week of the show revealed a more politically restrained Colbert, and even some clichéd bipartisan statements and gestures. But given the new context, he managed to keep the show’s politics fairly pointed. And maybe, just maybe, his more bipartisan tone will prove to be a strategic way for him to deliver his more politically daring messages. A girl can dream.