Dec 04 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Climate Denial Was the Crucible for Trumpism

Many observers seem baffled by Republican fealty to Donald Trump — the party’s willingness to back him on all fronts, even after severe defeats in the midterm elections. What kind of party would show such support for a leader who is not only evidently corrupt and seemingly in the pocket of foreign dictators, but also routinely denies facts and tries to criminalize anyone who points them out?

The answer is, the kind of the party that, long before Trump came on the scene, committed itself to denying the facts on climate change and criminalizing the scientists reporting those facts.

The G.O.P. wasn’t always an anti-environment, anti-science party. George H.W. Bush introduced the cap-and-trade program that largely controlled the problem of acid rain. As late as 2008, John McCain called for a similar program to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

But McCain’s party was already well along in the process of becoming what it is today — a party that is not only completely dominated by climate deniers, but is hostile to science in general, that demonizes and tries to destroy scientists who challenge its dogma.

Michelle Goldberg: Why Does Alex Acosta Still Have a Job?

It is the perverse good fortune of Alexander Acosta, Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, to be part of an administration so spectacularly corrupt that it’s simply impossible to give all its scandals the attention they deserve.

Last Wednesday, The Miami Herald published a blockbuster multipart exposé about how the justice system failed the victims of Jeffrey Epstein, a rich, politically connected financier who appears to have abused underage girls on a near-industrial scale. The investigation, more than a year in the making, described Epstein as running a sort of child molestation pyramid scheme, in which girls — some in middle school — would be recruited to give Epstein “massages” at his Palm Beach mansion, pressured into sex acts, then coerced into bringing him yet more girls. The Herald reported that Epstein was also suspected of trafficking girls from overseas.

What’s shocking is not just the lurid details and human devastation of his alleged crimes, but the way he was able to use his money to escape serious consequences, thanks in part to Acosta, then Miami’s top federal prosecutor. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Acosta took extraordinary measures to let Epstein — and, crucially, other unnamed people — off the hook.

Dan Kaufman: Wisconsin Is About to Make a Huge Mistake

Late Friday afternoon, less than a month after a Democrat, Tony Evers, defeated Scott Walker, the incumbent Republican governor, Robin Vos, the Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, followed through on his threat to strip the new governor of some of his power.

That day, an assembly committee released five bills that grant sweeping new authority to the Legislature at the expense of both Mr. Evers and Wisconsin’s new attorney general, Josh Kaul, who also happens to be a Democrat. Drafted in secret, the legislation was rushed to the Joint Finance Committee on Monday for its only public hearing. Legislators and outraged citizens scrambled all weekend to parse more than forty serious changes to state law embedded in the 141 pages of text. The legislature is expected to vote on the bills on Tuesday and Mr. Walker has indicated an openness to signing legislation of this stripe.

No one is really bothering to hide the purpose of this lame duck legislation: to continue the Republicans’ hold on state government, even at the expense of core democratic principles like respect for the separation of powers and majority rule. The legislation would nullify the decision-making of Wisconsin’s voters, who rejected Republicans for every statewide office in the November midterms.

Ronald Wright: Yes, Jury Selection Is as Racist as You Think. Now We Have Proof.

Race, as a matter of constitutional principle, cannot factor into the selection of jurors for criminal trials. But in the American justice system, anyone with a bit of common sense and a view from the back of the courtroom knows the colorblind ideal isn’t true in practice.

Racial bias largely seeps in through what’s called “peremptory” challenges: the ability of a prosecutor — and then a defense attorney — to block a certain number of potential jurors without needing to give the court any reason for the exclusion.

The number of challenges allowed varies by state, but commonly 15 or more are permitted. Folk wisdom, among those familiar with the song and dance, is that prosecutors use these challenges to remove nonwhite jurors, who are statistically more likely to acquit, while defense attorneys — who can step in only after the pool has been narrowed by prosecutors — typically counteract by removing more white jurors.

For a long time, the opacity of court records rendered the dynamic as only that — folk wisdom — which has made it difficult to articulate the urgent need to reform this understudied aspect of our system. But now, this informal knowledge has been empirically confirmed, and the case for change couldn’t be more compelling.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Congress takes critical step toward reasserting its war-powers control

In 1973, as President Richard M. Nixon escalated an unauthorized bombing campaign in Cambodia, Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) asked, “Does the President assert — as kings of old — that as Commander in Chief he can order American forces anywhere for any purpose that suits him?” Later that year, Congress answered unequivocally that he could not, overriding a presidential veto to authorize the War Powers Act.

Forty-five years later, the Senate took an important step last week toward reclaiming the war powers that Congress has abandoned in recent decades, especially as U.S. military adventurism in the Middle East grew in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In a surprising 63-to-37 vote, the Senate advanced a resolution introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s devastation of Yemen. As the first time a war-powers resolution has ever advanced in the Senate, the vote marked a dramatic move toward returning control over matters of war and peace to Congress. It is also a testament to the power of antiwar activism — in the halls of Congress and at the grass roots — to force a reckoning with the consequences of the United States’ endless and unauthorized wars.