“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: A Broken Military Justice System
On Monday, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair avoided prosecution on sexual assault charges that could have brought him a life sentence. In an agreement with the prosecutor, General Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including mistreating his accuser, an Army captain and his former mistress.
The deal followed a stunning ruling by a military judge last week suggesting that by holding out for more severe punishment, and by rejecting an earlier plea deal, the senior Army officer overseeing the prosecution might have been improperly influenced by political considerations in bringing the most severe charges against the general because of a desire to show new resolve in the military against sexual misconduct. The prosecution had also been badly shaken by revelations that the general’s accuser may have lied under oath.
The episode offers a textbook example of justice gone awry, providing yet another reason to overhaul the existing military justice system, which gives commanding officers with built-in conflicts of interest – rather than trained and independent military prosecutors outside the chain of command – the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. In the Sinclair matter, the commanding officer appears to have ignored his colleagues’ reservations in an effort to look tough on sexual assaults and avoid criticism at a moment when the military is under pressure to address its sexual assault crisis.
Dean Baker: Paul Ryan isn’t the wonk of Washington – it’s time to listen to more good ideas
Sure, the new budget from the left won’t pass. But DC’s double standard anoints false kings
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released its budget last week. As usual, it was almost completely ignored by the major media outlets. As a result, we know very little about the actual ideas in the budget, but we know a lot about the media. [..]
Which brings us to the sad reality that the CPC budget was almost completely ignored in the media. The reporters and editors and the major news outlets undoubtedly justify ignoring the budget proposal by the apparent reality that it has no prayer of being passed into law. While this is true, there have been numerous budgets and budget items from the right that have no chance of being passed into law that have gotten considerable attention from the media.
Days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, he pledged to have his administration create an “unprecedented level of openness in government.” Then-chief of staff, Jack Lew, later contended the administration was the “most transparent administration ever.” At a rally in 2010, Obama told the public, “We have put in place the toughest ethics laws and toughest transparency rules of any administration in history.” But this slogan suggesting the Obama administration is the “most transparent” ever has been nothing but a marketing ploy, the product of an administration that Advertising Age recognized as “marketer of the year” in 2008.
The Associated Press conducted its annual review of government data related to the Freedom of Information Act. It found that the “government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.”
While the AP could not tell if the public was simply requesting more sensitive information than the previous year, the administration claimed a record number of “national security” exemptions. A record number of times the administration also withheld information and cited a “deliberative process” exemption, claiming it dealt with “decision-making behind the scenes” so could not be released.
E. J. Dionne, Jr.: No Hope Politics
Listlessness is bad politics. Defensiveness is poor strategy. And resignation is never inspiring.
You can feel elements of all three descending around President Obama as he fends off attack after attack from his conservative foes who vary the subject depending on the day, the circumstance and the opportunity.
Obama and his party are in danger of allowing the Republicans to set the terms of the 2014 elections, just as they did four years ago. The fog of nasty and depressing advertising threatens to reduce the electorate to a hard core of older, conservative voters eager to hand the president a blistering defeat.
American politics has been shaken by two recent events that hurt first the Republicans and then the Democrats. Republicans have recovered from their blow. Democrats have not.
Thomas Frank: There is no meritocracy: It’s just the 1 percent, and the game is rigged
The game is rigged: We elected Obama to hold the 1 percent accountable. So why are they still running everything?
The big news after President Obama’s State of the Union address in January was that he didn’t really talk about the issues of inequality that everyone expected him to talk about. Instead, he shifted the “conversation,” as we call it, toward the subject of opportunity. He shied away from the extremely disturbing fact that when you work these days only your boss prospers, and brought us back to the infinitely less disturbing fact that sometimes poor people do get ahead despite it all. In a clever oratorical maneuver, Obama illustrated this comforting idea by referencing the success stories of both himself-“the son of a single mom”-and his arch-foe, Republican House Speaker John Boehner-“the son of a barkeep.” He spoke of building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” a phrase that has become a trademark for his administration. [..]
If you’re in the right mood, you might well agree with him. In the distant past, “opportunity” used to be something of a liberal buzzword, a way of selling welfare-state inventions of every description. The reason was simple: true equality of opportunity is not possible without achieving, well, greater equality, period. If we’re really serious about opportunity-if we’re going to ensure that every poor kid has a chance in life that is the equal of every rich kid-it’s going to require a gigantic investment in public schools, in housing, in food stamps, in infrastructure, in public projects of every description. It will necessarily mean taking on the broader problem of the One Percent along the way.
Paul Buchheit: The Untaxed Americans: The Speculators, Hustlers, and Freeloaders of Wall Street
Purchases of American products generally come with a sales tax, and often an excise tax, and possibly state and local add-on taxes. A consumer can avoid all this by limiting purchases to food and prescription drugs, or by shopping online. There’s one more way-by visiting a nearby financial exchange and buying a million dollars worth of derivatives.
There is currently no U.S. tax on the purchase of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments. The rest of us pay up to a 10 percent sales tax on the necessities of daily life. A tiny financial transaction tax of perhaps a tenth of a percent on the trading of financial securities would begin to correct this inequity, while generating billions of dollars of revenue.
There are at least five good reasons why our country is ready for such a financial transaction tax (FTT).