Jun 20 2019

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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Dahlia Lithwick and Susan Matthews : The AOC–Liz Cheney “Concentration Camp” Fight Might Just Be a Distraction

Should we call concentration campsconcentration camps” if they exist inside of America? This is the debate currently raging across the internet, which, in its purest incarnation, pits Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against Rep. Liz Cheney. Their original exchange, in which Ocasio-Cortez cited a prominent Holocaust scholar and Cheney accused her of not knowing the basic details of the Holocaust, went like this:

Hell essentially broke loose from there. Dictionaries were referenced, with Merriam-Webster helpfully offering that a concentration camp is “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard—used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners.” The Auschwitz Museum weighed in. Yad Vashem weighed in. The Wiesenthal Center weighed in. And once again, a fight about whether families should be held in overcrowded freezing cages without access to sanitation or adequate health care was reduced to an argument, via Twitter, over word choice.


Charles M. Blow: Reparations: Reasonable and Right

It is America’s responsibility to undo the trauma it has inflicted upon black people for hundreds of years.

This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked his opinion on the paying of reparations to the descendants of slavery in America, and he came down solidly on the side of “no” and on the side of being intentionally obtuse.

Here is his answer in full:

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently are responsible, is a good idea. We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African-American president. I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that.

“And, I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. We’ve had waves of immigrants as well who come to the country and experienced dramatic discrimination of one kind or another. So no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.”

Everything McConnell said was fundamentally wrong — factually and morally.

Let’s start at the beginning: Chattel slavery in America is not merely “something that happened” 150 years ago. This year happens to be the 400th anniversary of when the first enslaved African arrived on our shores, and slavery became an indescribably horrific institution that thrived for nearly 250 years.

And the unpaid, unrewarded labor of those enslaved Africans is in large part what made America an economic powerhouse, and now one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And yet, the enslaved reaped none of the benefits of the wealth they created.

Gail Collins: Trump’s Running Again. Still.

Somebody seems to miss Hillary Clinton.

Hell of a busy time for concerned citizens. Donald Trump just kicked off his re-election campaign, leaving his supporters cheering while less enthusiastic citizens kept yelling “That’s just not true!” at the television.

Meanwhile, we’re racing toward the big Democratic presidential debates. People, are you ready? Some of you may be concerned that you don’t know the names of all the candidates. Some of you who do know all the names may be concerned that means you have no life.

Relax. Everything political is interesting right now.

The Democratic setup is more evenhanded than the Republican debates in 2015, when lower-ranking contenders were relegated to what was unkindly known as the “kids’ table.” Afterward, many of them vanished from view forever. However, Rick Santorum is still around, now busy promoting the idea of a Catholic cryptocurrency. And Rick Perry is one of the few early Trump cabinet members who has not had to resign to spend more time with his family.

Everybody gets a fair shake next week, and the Democrats who do well will be elevated to a whole new level on the Trump enemies list, assigned a dumb nickname and attacked in the rants our president thinks of as speeches.

He’s in desperate need of new material. Trump spent a good part of his big kickoff rally attacking Hillary Clinton (“33,000 emails deleted! Think of it!”). His speech was pretty much the same one he’s been making to his fans for the last four years.

The only fresh information Trump brought to the party was an announcement that he’s retiring his Make America Great Again slogan, since, of course, that has been accomplished. The successor will presumably be Keep America Great. Try to imagine all those KAG hats floating around. It suggests either a drunkenly misspelled beer bash or a hitherto unknown arm of the Russian secret police.

So, KAG everybody! Otherwise the president’s big address was a combination of over-the-top attacks — the Obamacare individual mandate was “one of the worst things anybody’s ever had to live through” — and semi-insane boasts about what he’s accomplished.

Katrina vanden Heuvel The Democratic differences on foreign policy that no one’s talking about

The upcoming Democratic Party presidential debates will be a test not only for the candidates but also for the moderators. Will the hosts rely on “gotcha” questions that might create big ratings and viral clips? Or, will they probe the substantive policy and strategy differences that might help voters get a clearer sense of where the candidates stand? When it comes to foreign policy issues, it seems there’s little reason to hope.

One central question, for example, is what Fareed Zakaria calls the “self-destruction of American power.” In summary, how did the U.S. blow its end of history, “unipolar,” “indispensable nation” moment at the end of the Cold War and instead bumble into one folly after another, leaving us mired in endless wars without victory, headed into a new arms race against both Russia and China, and chasing terrorists across the world, all while lavishing hundreds of billions on a military that seems unable to win a war? An accounting is called for, as well as a clear inquiry of what the candidates would change going forward.

Yet to date, the mainstream media has been remarkably impervious to this reality. Instead, the candidates who have indicted the past failures — particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — have been strafed. Meanwhile, those calamities’ champions — former vice president Joe Biden, among many other contenders — have largely been given a pass.

Harry Litman: Paul Manafort’s transfer from Rikers Island shows how corrupt the DOJ really is

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s legal troubles didn’t end when he was convicted on bank and tax fraud charges in 2018. He’s facing state-level mortgage fraud charges, and because his case is going to trial in New York City, he needed to be transferred between penitentiaries. That is a routine matter and regularly results in the defendant’s transfer to a state penitentiary, here Rikers Island.

But in this case, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen intervened, forwarding to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. a letter from Manafort’s attorney suggesting that it would not be safe for Manafort to be held on Rikers Island. The result? Manafort will be housed at a federal penitentiary rather than going to Rikers. Should we really care? [..]

Consider first the magnitude of the favor that the department provided Manafort. Any prisoner would greatly prefer incarceration in either of the two institutions where Manafort will remain to Rikers’ Island, which is a notorious hellhole. (Why Rikers continues to operate at all in its current state is a subject for another column.) Manafort would surely be kept in isolation for his own protection in Rikers, but the difference in the overall conditions at these facilities is enormous.

Now consider how rare it is that Manafort’s request was granted and the role that Rosen, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, played in facilitating it. It is not simply unusual but unprecedented. I have canvassed colleagues with combined decades of service at the Justice Department, and to a person they aver that they have never heard of a similar situation.