Aug 14 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering 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 Legend: It’s time for Louisiana to strip white supremacy from its constitution

It’s been a year since I traveled to Baton Rouge to support a series of reforms to reduce the incarceration rate in Louisiana. Many of those reforms — such as the overhaul of the state’s parole system and modifications to sentencing for less serious offenses — have already proved effective.

But the work is far from over. Still lingering in the state’s constitution is a 120-year-old measure put in place to suppress the rights of African Americans: non-unanimous juries.

Louisiana is one of only two states — the other is Oregon — in which a person can be convicted of a felony and sent to prison without a unanimous vote of the jury. As a result, Louisiana prosecutors do not truly have the burden of proving their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They only need to persuade 10 of 12 jurors to send a defendant to prison, even for life.

The result? A state justice system in which felony trials are held without the full participation of African Americans.

Here’s why: During Louisiana’s all-white constitutional convention in 1898, delegates passed a series of measures specifically designed to “perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana.” Non-unanimous juries were one of those measures, and the intent was clear: If the federal Constitution required that African Americans be allowed to serve on juries, the state constitution would make sure that minority votes could be discounted.

Robert Kuttner: The Economy Won’t Save Republicans In The Midterms

Donald Trump keeps bragging about the economy — an unemployment rate of just 3.9 percent, 3.7 million jobs created since he took office, consumer confidence up. Will this help the Republicans in the 2018 midterms? Probably not.

If anything, the good economic performance paradoxically will hurt the GOP. Why? Because it’s not trickling down to ordinary people. Voters hear news reports and claims about the strong economy but know that their own wages are still lousy. This reinforces their sense that someone else is making off with the gains. And the statistics bear them out. Because of structural changes in the job market, real wages adjusted for inflation are actually flat.

What structural changes? A shift in power from the worker to the boss. A shift to part-time, temp and contract work. An escalation in the war against unions.

This the first time in modern economic history that very low unemployment rates and tight labor markets have not led to higher worker earnings. Regular people may not grasp the finer nuances of labor market theory, but they know when the boss is giving them a good screwing.

Chris Burbank: Ending Police Brutality Starts With Firing Dangerous Cops

This week is the fourth anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, and the protests that spread across the nation after that tragedy.

In the years since Ferguson placed police behavior under the national microscope, confidence in the police has risen and plummeted. Overall mistrust in some communities is a constant, especially among African-Americans. And recent incidents of white people calling the police on black people for simply living their lives haven’t helped the situation.

Our nation is in the midst of a volatile moment, and it’s crucial ― literally a matter of life and death ― that we identify how we got here and how we can get out. I’m a former Salt Lake City police chief. I believe we should start with the officers.

In the last four years, we’ve learned an undeniable truth: America’s police departments do not always hire and retain the best officers. We have to make it easier to fire dangerous cops, the ones who pose a threat to communities and to the profession.

Jennifer Rubin: How Republicans got so mean and clueless

A White House takes on the personality of the president. When the president is cut off from reality, is obsessed with white “anxiety” (racism, that is) and is just plain mean, you get a White House with staff members who lack awareness, who only listen to and look like people like them, and who lack the ability even to fake empathy.

The president’s paranoia, secrecy and contempt for democracy course through the West Wing, spurring those in its offices to behave in bizarre ways that betray their lack of sophistication, common sense and self-awareness. The White House still uses nondisclosure agreements to try muzzling everyone from high-level staff to lowly staffers — all of whom leak incessantly, get gobbled up and spit out before you can say “Reince Priebus,” and show President Trump the same loyalty he shows them (none). When aides leak and write tell-all books and testify to Congress or special prosecutors, the administration goes into a defensive crouch, trying to destroy the people whom Trump once hired and praised. (The use of NDA’s, by the way, is constitutionally suspect and perpetuates the noxious idea that staffers highest loyalty is to this president.)

Trump and his advisers are caught flatfooted again and again because they never seem to talk to anyone who is willing to tell them bad news or to give them a sense of what 60 to 70 percent of Americans think and feel. The administration does not behave like other administrations, in part because it doesn’t look like most workplaces in the United States. Trump’s Republican Party is becoming freakishly isolated and alienated from the experiences of the vast majority of Americans.

Eugene Robinson: Of course Omarosa has tapes

It’s hard to take Omarosa Manigault Newman’s word for anything. But Lordy, she has tapes, and they offer vivid proof that Donald Trump’s White House is part clown show, part nest of vipers.

Omarosa achieved single-name fame as a contestant on Trump’s show “The Apprentice,” where she performed with Shakespearean villainy — lying, cheating, backstabbing, viciously advancing her own interests and sabotaging her rivals. Trump evidently found all of this admirable, because he insisted on bringing her into his administration as a top-level adviser despite her utter lack of experience and qualifications. They deserve each other.

It is no surprise that she wrote a tell-all book after being fired. It’s shocking, however, that she managed to secretly record her dismissal by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly — an encounter that took place in the Situation Room, meant to be a super-secure bunker where the nation’s most closely guarded secrets can safely be discussed. [..]

She claims to have realized only recently that Trump is a “racist, misogynist and bigot.” Yet she heard his bigoted attacks on Latino immigrants and still went to work for his campaign. She heard his misogynistic rant about how he sexually assaulted women and still took a job in his administration. She heard his many appeals to white racial grievance and still vigorously defended him, even after Charlottesville.

So no, I’m not inclined to believe anything she claims without documentary evidence to back it up. But the tapes and the documents have not been disputed. Omarosa may not have obtained them honorably, but the old saying is true: There is no honor among thieves.