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Dec 17 2014

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’s Say.

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: The Criminal Justice System Is Broken. Here’s How to Start Fixing It.

When a grand jury decided not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Brooklyn resident Jon Robinson declined to join the public protests. Two weeks later, when a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict the New York police officer who was filmed choking Eric Garner to death, Robinson marched through the night, though he remained uncertain of what the protests would accomplish. “I’ve got this rage and hunger for change,” he told a reporter. “But I also don’t know how you really cause change when you’ve got a system so broken.”

That sense of despair is understandable, given the recent spate of incidents in which black lives have been stolen without any justification or justice. But there are signs that the passion in the streets, which was on display this past weekend as tens of thousands of protesters marched through New York, the District and other cities across the country, could translate into meaningful policy changes. Last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to give his office the power to investigate and prosecute cases in which police officers kill unarmed citizens, a possible model for national reform that could help restore the public’s trust. [..]

Indeed, we are now seeing a crisis of confidence in our justice system, which has left black communities in particular fearing that police can torment them with impunity. “This type of independent oversight is a critical first step in making sure officers who brutalize or kill Black New Yorkers are held accountable,” the civil rights group ColorofChange.org said in a statement praising Schneiderman’s request. “The relationship between police and district attorneys is far too close and AG Schneiderman’s request would go a long way to avoid the systemic corruption, cronyism, and failed justice that often results when local prosecutors investigate police abuse involving Black victims.”

Heather Digby Parton: Torture report’s hidden fiasco: How Mark Udall revealed a little-noticed smoking gun

Buried in the “Panetta Review” is proof that the CIA repeatedly lied to the top levels of government. Here’s why

After Sen. Mark Udall lost his seat last November a number of Americans, including yours truly, tried to persuade him to release the Torture Report on his own if it looked like the Intelligence Committee was going to lose its nerve. As we all know, the Executive Summary was released yesterday and was as explosive as many of us who’ve been following this story closely have known for a long time that it would be. Many of these details were known, of course, although some of them, like “rectal feedings” are uniquely awful. (Truthfully, some of that had been hinted at before as well.) Still, it’s an official document and that does make a difference.

So Sen. Udall was spared the risk of having to go to the floor to release a classified document that, in this environment, could have easily bought him some very unpleasant legal trouble.  Yes, the Senate speech and debate clause is supposed to protect him. But anyone who counts on such things should have a chat with some of the whistle-blowers and reporters who’ve been harassed and persecuted by the government these last few years. These things are hardly clear-cut.

However, despite the risk, Udall did reveal some very important classified information anyway. And for inexplicable reasons, nobody seems to have noticed. I’m talking about information contained in the classified  “Panetta Review,” which was the document the CIA was allegedly looking for when it infiltrated the computers of the Senate staffers doing the investigation.

Joan Walsh: Make this monster pay a price: Why we needed to hear from Dick Cheney one last time

He’s the horrible face of American torture. Here’s why Cheney’s defense of his war crimes was important to record

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s time is about up, in many senses. For a Republican Party trying to look forward, he shouldn’t be a go-to voice for the media on national security policy. His sneering attacks on President Obama aren’t news anymore. The man who famously said, “It’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart,” about the donor to his taxpayer-funded heart transplant should have lost the power to shock us by now. Unless he has a sudden attack of conscience, and apologizes for his career, he has nothing to say worth hearing. [..]

Except on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. There’s been some anger on the leftthat Cheney took his seat yet again on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, but I think he belonged there, one last time. Let the American people hear from the man who claims that interrogation methods we prosecuted after World War II, as well as others even more depraved, aren’t actually torture.

Cheney is such a monster that he couldn’t even keep himself from defending “rectal feeding.” While he acknowledged that it “was not one of the techniques that was approved,” he sanctioned it nonetheless. “I believe it was done for medical reasons. … It wasn’t torture in terms of it wasn’t part of the program.”

That would seem to imply that anything that was “part of the program” was torture, which of course Cheney denies.

Alice Slater: Time to Ban the Bomb

Global Momentum is building for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. While the world has banned chemical and biological weapons, there is no explicit legal prohibition of nuclear weapons, although the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that there is an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations for their total elimination.   The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), negotiated in 1970 required the five existing nuclear weapons states, the US, Russia, UK, France and China (P-5) to make “good faith efforts” to eliminate their nuclear weapons, while the rest of the world promised not to acquire them (except for India, Pakistan, Israel, who never signed the NPT).  North Korea relied on the NPT Faustian bargain for “peaceful” nuclear power to build its own bomb, and then walked out of the treaty. [..]

One way to slow down this process to negotiate a legal ban on nuclear weapons would be for the NPT nuclear weapons states to promise at this five year NPT review conference to set a reasonable date to bring to a conclusion time-bound negotiations and effective and verifiable measures to implement the total elimination of nuclear weapons.   Otherwise the rest of the world will start without them to create an explicit legal prohibition of nuclear weapons which will be a powerful taboo to be used for pressuring the countries cowering under the nuclear umbrella of the nuclear weapons states, in NATO and in the Pacific, to take a stand for Mother Earth, and urge that negotiations begin for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Suzanne Goldenberg: Jeb Bush may be ‘the smart brother’ – but he’s as much of a climate denier as any conservative

The first Republican presidential candidate for 2016 is ‘not a scientist’ – and you can bet Democrats won’t back off the environment

In Bush family lore, Jeb was always supposed to be the smarter, more level-headed one.

As with many media constructs, of course, that’s just not true. When it comes to climate change, Jeb Bush is a lot more radical than his brother.

Jeb doesn’t just want to keep burning fossil fuels while the planet burns. He’s an out-and-out flat-earther – just like the other Republicans seen as leading contenders in the 2016 presidential race – and he’s been on the record denying climate science for years.

“I think global warming may be real,” Jeb Bush said in 2011, in what seemed like a promising start to the subject in a Fox interview. But he followed it up with the false statement that there is some kind of dispute among scientists about the causes of climate change – which there is not [..]

Those comments put Jeb Bush in lock-step with the other climate deniers in the Republican party – and now that has become the party’s first (almost) declared candidate, they should help set early battle lines for climate change as a major campaign issue.