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.

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John Kiriakou: Let’s End Torture in U.S. Prisons

Solitary confinement is exactly what it sounds like.

A prisoner is kept in a small cell — usually 6 feet by 10 — alone, for 23 hours a day.

For one hour a day, he or she may be taken into a small cage outside, with the opportunity to walk in circles before being taken back in. Even the outdoor cage can usually be opened and closed remotely.

The idea is to keep the prisoner from having any human interaction. Those who’ve been through it call it a “living death.” The United Nations calls it torture.

The practice is widespread in the United States. And until recently, it was applied even to juveniles in the federal prison.

In January, President Barack Obama banned solitary confinement for federal inmates under the age of 18. He also ordered new limits on the amount of time prisoners of any age can be caged up alone.

These are great steps forward for human rights in the federal prison system. But they won’t help most of the prisoners currently in solitary, who languish in lower jurisdictions.

Representative Jim McGovern: America Cannot Afford an Endless War in Afghanistan

President Obama never wanted an endless war in Afghanistan, but that is exactly what America is currently facing.

Just last week, the Washington Post reported that “Top U.S. military commanders… are now quietly talking about an American commitment that could keep thousands of troops in the country for decades.” [..]

After decades of war, the United States learned the hard way that we could exit Vietnam and be stronger for it. A perpetual war in Indochina ended when we were chased out, with helicopters rescuing Americans from rooftops.

Today in Afghanistan, we are at a crossroads similar to the one we faced in Vietnam. We must remember the lessons we learned and stop Afghanistan from becoming another endless war.

In Afghanistan, there is no clear end game and no clear formula for success. This is the longest war in our country’s history and another five or 10 or 25 years are not likely to bring about democracy, a stable government or a definitive end to the Taliban’s threat to Kabul.

Richard Wolffe: At the Clinton-Sanders debate, both came prepared to fight – and they did

For once, a televised political debate lived up to its breathless hype. The first head-to-head debate of the 2016 election cycle on Thursday night was a spirited, direct exchange of personal attacks, policy differences and at times, plain old agreement between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Both candidates seemed unusually well-prepared for combat. Bernie Sanders had combed his normally unruly hair, in perhaps the clearest sign that he is the runaway favorite in New Hampshire. He also sported an unidentifiable lapel pin, suggesting his status as a sitting member of Congress. For an anti-establishment candidate, it was an unusually establishmentarian sartorial statement.

Clinton’s preparation was of an entirely different kind: she and her campaign executed several well-planned attacks and counterattacks on some of Sanders’ best-used debate lines.

William K. Black: Hillary, the Banksters Committed ‘Fraud,’ Not ‘Shenanigans’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her debate with Senator Sanders minutes ago, said that she went to Wall Street and told them to stop their “shenanigans.” The context was that she was being asked to respond to the complaint that she was too close to on Wall Street billionaires. She had every incentive, therefore, to demonstrate how tough she would be on Wall Street. [..]

Hillary cannot bring herself to use the “f” word in the context of Wall Street CEOs leading the largest and most destructive fraud epidemics in history – frauds that made them spectacularly wealthy. A few minutes later, Bernie said that “fraud” was Wall Street’s business model.

Hillary then said that we should end systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) “if” they posed “systemic risk” and praised President Obama for supporting Dodd-Frank provisions that provide a convoluted process for doing so that a new president likely could not use effectively. There can be disputes on the margins as to whether the 25th largest U.S. bank is systemically dangerous, but there is no question but that the largest 20 banks in the U.S. pose a systemic risk. There is no question but that President Obama has not, and will not, force a single one of them to shrink to the point that they no longer pose a systemic risk.

Dave Johnson: Sanders Vows To Kill TPP If Elected. Will Clinton?

As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free-trade” agreement was signed in New Zealand by representatives of the 12 participating countries, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders strongly voiced his opposition and committed to doing what he can to kill the deal if he is elected president.

Rival Hillary Clinton has also stated opposition to the TPP, but will she also vow to kill it if elected?

Saying that TPP follows in the footsteps of failed trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, Sanders promised to “fundamentally rewrite our trade policies to benefit working families, not just the CEOs of large, multinational corporations.”

He said that supporters of these agreements have sold them as creating jobs, but over and over again, they have been proven dead wrong.