“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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Guantánamo has been a pockmark on our society ever since it opened. The detention facility itself is a human rights abomination, but it’s not just the physical center that is a problem – it is the spirit it embodies. The policy of indefinite detention in Gitmo makes a mockery of the US constitution. That’s why, as Barack Obama makes his latest impassioned and forceful plea to close it once and for all, it is shameful that he is leaving in place the practices that enabled it to flourish in the first place.
It’s unlikely that Guantánamo will actually be closed by the time Obama leaves office, given the half measures and hesitations in his first term that allowed Congress to throw up legal roadblocks to transferring prisoners to the US. But, even if Obama succeeds, that won’t be the end of this dark chapter in US history. As long as the unconstitutional policy of indefinite detention and the disastrous military commissions remain, so too will the stain on America’s reputation.
Donald Trump’s victory in the Nevada Republican caucus wasn’t even a close one; he reportedly led in practically every demographic (and listed them in his victory speech). Evangelicals, young, old, Hispanics, the highly educated and “the poorly educated” they all loved him on Tuesday night.
Hispanics? Yes, even Hispanics, even after that line about “drugs and rapists”.
And though establishment toffs like to issue signifying snorts about Trump voters being predominantly “poorly educated”, in the minutes after the caucus even CNN started to come around to the most elusive explanation: Trump’s popularity isn’t about his supporters’ education, their religion or the policies they’d like to see enacted. Trump is popular because of his supporters’ anger. [..]
And as long as people can enjoy the elbow-throwing wish-fulfillment of watching him in action, most of the rest doesn’t matter to them – not the bombast, not the war-mongering, not the unfeasibility of even his signature promises and certainly not the consequences if he keeps them. If the system is already so broken that it abandoned you, its preservation is not your concern. Hell, burning it down might be what you want most.
Anger has a clarity all its own. It renders most detail extraneous, and it animates like nothing else. It is not to be underestimated, and, at this point, we will probably have to wait until November to find out if it truly has been.
If Bill Gates walked into a room with two unemployed laborers, the average income level of the room would skyrocket, but the unemployed folks still wouldn’t have any jobs. This paradox resembles my frustration with many economic assessments. If it doesn’t threaten a national recession, it often doesn’t register as a problem. Yet in a big, diverse country, it’s axiomatic that certain regions can thrive while others experience hardship. In fact, that’s happening right now.
According to economic indexes tracked by Moody’s Analytics, four states – Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming – suffered consecutive quarters of economic contraction at the end of 2015. That means those states met the technical definition of a recession. Another three – Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma – saw economic growth decline in the final quarter of the year, and could be headed toward recession themselves.[..]
In addition, most of these states are currently controlled by Republicans. Louisiana and West Virginia do have Democratic governors, and Alaska’s Gov. Bill Walker is an independent. But Republicans control the state legislatures in those three states. In the other four, only New Mexico doesn’t have unified Republican control of both branches of government; Democrats there control the state Senate.
The point is that you should not expect any strategies to widen the safety net for recession-stricken populations. Even if there were ideological sympathies toward that, state balanced budget requirements restrict the ability to spend to counteract a downturn. And the Republican Congress looks fairly unkindly on bailouts for states, even if they’re composed of their own voters.
Mary Turck: Death by privatization in US prisons
More than 20,000 immigrant prisoners are serving their sentences at 11 privatized, immigrant-only contract prisons run by three companies: the Geo Group, the Corrections Corp. of America and the Management and Training Corp. Many of these prisoners are convicted only of illegal entry.
Private prisons cost less than federal prisons because they provide less. Immigrant prisoners — who are deported after serving time — don’t receive rehabilitation, education or job training, services considered essential for U.S. citizens held in government-operated prisons.
Even worse, these prisons fail to provide minimally adequate health care to inmates, leading to death for some and misery for many. Basic human rights standards require prisons to provide adequate medical care to inmates, regardless of their legal status.
Reports show a pervasive pattern of inadequate medical care at privately run immigrant prisons in the United States. A Jan. 28 report by Seth Freed Wessler, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, analyzed medical records of 103 immigrant prisoners who died in private prisons from 1998 to 2014. It concluded that in at least 25 of those cases, subpar care “likely contributed to the premature deaths of the prisoners.”
If voters get the leaders they deserve, then Donald Trump’s fans in Las Vegas have found an almost perfect match.
Along with their orange tans and sagging plastic surgery, the throng of several thousand Trumpiacs looked and behaved uncannily like their leader, the night before voting began in Nevada’s Republican caucuses.
Some people have bad hair days. And some people just have bad hair dyes. The bulk of Trump’s supporters at the South Point Arena tended towards the latter. They were overwhelmingly old and unhealthy, with a love of thuggery and a disdain of education. They adored their candidate adoring himself, pausing to take several selfies before walking out of the arena early.
When their candidate grew aggressive, they did too. When he spat out his resentment at a world passing them by, they screamed their abuse too. Senators, governors, business executives, Fox News anchors, protesters, Muslims: the long list of enemies was just a call and response in the Vegas chapel of Trump.