“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: Shunting the Homeless From Sight
Is homelessness a crime? The question was answered forthrightly in the negative last month by a federal appeals court ruling that struck down a Los Angeles ban on citizens’ living out of their automobiles as a desperate necessity in hard times. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit pronounced the ban – an important part of the city’s anti-homelessness campaign – to be a “broad and cryptic” law that “criminalizes innocent behavior.”
The ruling was an emphatic signal that the nation’s burgeoning problem of homelessness cannot be dealt with by simplistic attempts to criminalize behavior driven by the need to survive. Don’t count on the decision becoming the instant law of the land, however; a new study has exposed a rush by more and more cities to resort to punitive, unreasonable new laws to force the homeless out of sight and out of mind. [..]
But the crackdown laws and arrests are not, the study found, cost effective ways of dealing with homelessness. A Utah housing survey concluded that the cost of jail time and medical care for a homeless person was $16,670 a year against $11,000 for an apartment and care by a social worker. Affordable housing is clearly a wiser alternative.
For all the tough new laws, the homeless are still present. Local governments must face this fact with something better than punitive denial.
Richard (RJ) Eskoa: Are Disabled Americans Pawns in a Larger Social Security Game?
William Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal about a Republican senator’s plans to force a confrontation on government disability benefits. Though Mr. Galston doesn’t seem to see it this way, it sounds as if Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to hold benefits for disabled Americans hostage in order to force Social Security cuts on everyone.[..]
Right-wing wars of disinformation and demonization can be a wonder to behold, but the attacks on disabled recipients of Social Security benefits have been especially mean-spirited. Claims of “fraud” in the disability program are, simply put, counterfactual. There are other claims, too — that there’s an epidemic in malingering exacerbated by overly generous benefits, that poor screening and lax rules allow abled-bodied people to collect benefits, that there’s a widespread “double-dipping” problem, and that loopholes allow people to collect benefits while working.
How is a concealed-carry gun permit OK to get in the voting booth, but an elderly woman’s Medicare card is not? Liberals have argued. Now it’s time for a verdict
This week, the US Department of Justice and the state of Texas started arguments in the first of what will be a summer-long dance between the two authorities over voting rights. There are three suits being tried in two districts over gerrymandering and Texas’s voter identification law – both of which are said to be racially motivated. In its filing, the DoJ describes the law as “exceed[ing] the requirements imposed by any other state” at the time that it passed. If the DoJ can prove the arguments in its filing, it won’t just defeat an unjust law: it could put the fiction of “voter fraud” to rest once and for all.
These battles, plus parallel cases proceeding in North Carolina, hinge on proving that the states acted with explicitly exclusionary intent toward minority voters – a higher standard was necessary prior to the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) back in January. Under Section 3, the DoJ had wide latitude to look at possible consequences of voting regulation before they were even passed – the “preclearance” provision. Ironically, because the states held to preclearance had histories of racial discrimination, some of the messier aspects of the laws’ current intentions escaped comment.
Robert Reich: The Rise of the Non-Working Rich
In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”
In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.
The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.
In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.
The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech entrepreneurs.
It’s going to their children, who did nothing except be born into the right family.
The government stokes fear and fails to understand the Muslim world. But inside at least one courtroom remains an unusual precedent: context can be served
Sitting and waiting in US District Court here on Wednesday, you got the undeniable sense that something unusual was about to happen.
Here was the end of a terrorism trial with two men who had already pled guilty – the British citizen Babar Ahmad to providing material support for terrorism by way of administering a website that called on Muslims to devote themselves to jihad, which he did, and the British-born Talha Ahsan to helping him, despite being a mailman for the site for five months in 2001 – but both of whom still looked nervous in that familiar shackle-and-jumpsuit uniform of so many Muslim foreigners in this country over the past 13 years. [..]
Yet here was a terrorism trial about non-operational terrorism – about a website, and Ahmad’s visit to an Afghan training camp in 1999, and ultimately about over-aggressive prosecutors seeking 25 and 15 years, respectively – and here it was coming to a close not under the specter of xenophobia so much as all-American common sense.
No, Judge Janet Hall was not willing to entertain the Fox News-ification of terrorism. “There is no way to rationalize the sentences” the government had recommended, she said, at least not based on claims that two men promoted “violent jihad” and provided what is known as “material support” for terrorists. “In my view,” the judge said, “jihad does not equal terrorism. In a perversion of what Islam teaches, terrorists have misappropriated the concept of jihad from its true meaning – struggle. But jihad is not what happened on 9/11.”
The renewed focus on university sexual assault policies can’t blind us to the broader culture that allows rapists to operate with impunity
Recently, a friend told me about a campus rape case that actually ended well. The victim, who didn’t want to pursue the case with law enforcement, went to the college’s administrators. They investigated, began proceedings against the accused, and generally made all the right moves. The accused attacker didn’t admit to anything, but withdrew from school rather than be found guilty – and the campus now feels like a safe place for his victim.
As for the rest of the world, well: it just gained a sexual predator with no record to speak of.
Rape on college campuses is finally getting the attention it deserves – a White House task force, increased activism, an ongoing wave of media attention – and the concentration on such high rates of campus sexual assault as well as administrations’ typically poor response is especially needed.
But we can’t allow the renewed focus on campus rape to blind us to the broader culture that enables rapists to target victims – often without serious legal or social repercussions. And I mean everywhere, not just at college.