Nov 12 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.

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

New York Times Editorial Board: [Waiting for the Republican Shakeout


Watching Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, with the eight prime-time contenders talking over and past one another, the question arises: Should the party show a few of these candidates the door?

Some fret that this mash-up lacks seriousness. The Republican National Committee says it won’t intervene. It is relying on voters to usher also-rans off the national stage, and that may be a good thing.

Americans won’t pay full attention to the presidential campaign for weeks. By the time they do, debates and media exposure will have made for worthy vetting of these candidates’ attention-getting but illogical tax plans, their dubious statements, and that most symbolic but ridiculous of qualifications, their early biographies. Gov. Scott Walker’s exit suggests that fears of “super PAC” money’s keeping flawed candidates afloat may not materialize. [..]

This is a wild year, and there could be surprises. But there is no reason yet to think that the G.O.P.’s more rational voters, while still in the back seat, won’t be poised to take the wheel.

Trevor Timm: Obama doesn’t need Congress to close Guantánamo – so what’s keeping him?


Just as the Obama administration is finally about to release its long awaited plan to “close” the scourge on our country known as the Guantánamo detention facility this week, Congress has cowardly voted to bar the transfer of any of its inmates to the United States. But don’t just blame Congress for this impasse – the Obama administration is just as guilty for keeping one of the world’s most effective terrorist recruiting tools open more than six years after vowing to close it.

It’s hard to list all of the incidents of censorship and violations of constitutional rights that have taken place under the Obama administration in regards to Guantánamo detainees, along with the many opportunities the White House has had to facilitate the closing of the prison but has declined. [..]

So how does this end? Well, two former Obama administration officials argued in the Washington Post that these challenges need not stand in Obama’s way. They argue that the president has the power to close it himself without approval from Congress. He’s had this power for years, and has continually failed to use it. (This has always been one of the infuriating problems with Obama’s view of executive power – he claims unlimited amounts when he really wants to do something, and claims he’s powerless and that his hands are tied by Congress when he doesn’t.)

Unfortunately, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s increasingly looking like Obama’s vow to end one of the Bush administration’s most damaging legacies will actually live on as his own.

David Cay Johnston: Politicians don’t care about small business


Considering how much politicians of all stripes praise small business as the backbone of America, the crucible of job creation and heart of the economy, what a tiny Washington research group found may surprise you.

Our elected leaders have been throwing massive and growing sums of money at businesses through cash gifts, loan guarantees, property tax exemptions and countless other perks. Five years ago state and local business welfare alone came to $900 for each family of four, an astonishing $70 billion diverted from public purposes to private gain. And then there’s the much larger torrent of subsidies flowing from Washington.

But that money isn’t going to small businesses. In some states big business gets almost every dollar handed out, according to a study of those giveaways that governments disclose in the public record. Other such pork is kept hidden from public view.

Meagan Winter: The Stealth Attack on Abortion Access


A YEAR ago, a mother and self-described “God-fearing woman” called me after she had an abortion. She said that earlier, when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant, she drove straight to what she thought was a comprehensive health care provider near her home in Columbus, Ohio. When she asked about abortion, the staff told her she shouldn’t murder her child. Ohio requires an ultrasound before an abortion, so the woman listened to the staff’s condemnations, taking them to heart, crying. She told me later, “I didn’t know where else to go.”

She had landed at a crisis pregnancy center, a religious nonprofit organization that obstructs women’s access to abortion. In recent years, many more low-income women are finding themselves in her shoes.

Abortion foes are subsidizing these centers with public funds, while pushing to defund comprehensive health care providers. The Republicans who voted in September to block Planned Parenthood’s funding weren’t protesting covering abortion with federal dollars — that’s been restricted since 1977. Instead, they want to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing cancer screenings, ultrasounds, contraception and other services.

Adam Johnson: ‘Assad must go’ is a barrier to peace in Syria


President Barack Obama’s recent deployment of 50 special forces troops to Syria, despite having promised not to put “boots on the ground,” has left virtually everyone unsatisfied. Anti-war activists see it as an escalation; interventionists, as another inconsequential attempt to bolster pro-democratic forces; and Russia and Iran, as needless agitation. However, the move is the logical product of a core contradiction in the U.S. foreign policy consensus: the insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go and the simultaneous insistence that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) must be defeated. Holding both these positions is common in Washington, but it’s increasingly clear that they are incompatible.

To say that Assad must go as a condition for peace in Syria is to argue not for peace but for regime change. In practice, this means either a violent overthrow of Assad or a continuation of the stalemated and horrific proxy war, with Russia and Iran backing the Syrian government and the United States and its Gulf allies funding and arming opposition groups.