May 12 2020

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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: How to Create a Pandemic Depression

Opening the economy too soon can backfire, badly.

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics officially validated what we already knew: Just a few months into the Covid-19 crisis, America already has a Great Depression level of unemployment. But that’s not the same thing as saying that we’re in a depression. We won’t know whether that’s true until we see whether extremely high unemployment lasts for a long time, say a year or more.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration and its allies are doing all they can to make a full-scale depression more likely.

Before I get there, a word about that unemployment report. Notice that I didn’t say “the worst unemployment since the Great Depression”; I said “a Great Depression level,” a much stronger statement.

To understand why I said that, you need to read the report, not just look at the headline numbers. An unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is pretty horrific, but the bureau included a note indicating that technical difficulties probably caused this number to understate true unemployment by almost five percentage points.

If this is true, we currently have an unemployment rate around 20 percent, which would be worse than all but the worst two years of the Great Depression. The question now is how quickly we can recover.

John Gleeson, David O’Neil and Marshall Miller: The Flynn case isn’t over until the judge says it’s over

John Gleeson served as a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of New York and chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in that district. David O’Neil served as the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. Marshall Miller served as the highest-ranking career official in the Criminal Division and as chief of the Criminal Division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District.

The Justice Department’s move to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn does not need to be the end of the case — and it shouldn’t be. The Justice Department has made conflicting statements to the federal judge overseeing the case, Emmet G. Sullivan. He has the authority, the tools and the obligation to assess the credibility of the department’s stated reasons for abruptly reversing course.

The department’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case is actually just a request — one that requires “leave of the court” before it is effective. The executive branch has unreviewable authority to decide whether to prosecute a case. But once it secures an indictment, the proceedings necessarily involve the judicial branch. And the law provides that the court — not the executive branch — decides whether an indictment may be dismissed. The responsible exercise of that authority is particularly important here, where a defendant’s plea of guilty has already been accepted. Government motions to dismiss at this stage are virtually unheard of.

Prosecutors deserve a “presumption of regularity” — the benefit of the doubt that they are acting honestly and following the rules. But when the facts suggest they have abused their power, that presumption fades. If prosecutors attempt to dismiss a well-founded prosecution for impermissible or corrupt reasons, the people would be ill-served if a court blindly approved their dismissal request. The independence of the court protects us all when executive-branch decisions smack of impropriety; it also protects the judiciary itself from becoming a party to corruption. [..]

Flynn’s guilt has already been adjudicated. So if the court finds dismissal would result in a miscarriage of justice, it can deny the motion, refuse to permit withdrawal of the guilty plea and proceed to sentencing.

Charles M. Blow: The Hunger Pains of a Pandemic

Empty stomachs can lead to a dangerous desperation.

Have you ever been hungry? Truly hungry? Not the hunger one gets in anticipation of a meal, but the kind that pinches the stomach when you know no food is forthcoming. It is the kind of pang you take to bed with you, the kind that greets you when you rise. It is a bitter physical deprivation that gnaws at not only the gut but the spirit. It makes you sad. It makes you angry.

I grew up having to stay one step ahead of hunger. It was like running ahead of tireless hounds through a dark wood. [..]

People will be hungry. They already are. And, hunger is not a thing that you simply become inured to. It makes people desperate, and desperation, on the scale that it will likely occur because of this pandemic, is dangerous.

The effect of this pandemic on the vulnerable isn’t limited to America. This is likely to be a world crisis of hunger and instability. As David M. Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, wrote last month in The Washington Post:

The coronavirus pandemic “now threatens to detonate an unprecedented global humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations will be further pushed to the brink of starvation. The numbers are shocking: On any given day, the World Food Program offers a lifeline to nearly 100 million people. This includes about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive. Most of them are trapped in war zones and can’t leave.”

The United States is far from a war zone, and yet we still tolerate an extraordinary level of food insecurity, one of the worst among developed countries.

Jennifer Senior: Does Anyone Actually Work for Trump?

All the holes and temps in the government have led to a permanent crisis.

This we already know: The president has contempt for expertise. During a national emergency, President Trump’s top economic adviser is a former television host; his supply-chain coordinator is his son-in-law, who majored in nepotism and prioritizes the leads and needs of cronies; the chief of staff at his Department of Health and Human Services is a former breeder of Australian labradoodles, an insolently unqualified choice if there ever was one, though at least the man is well versed in the behaviors of lapdogs.

But here we must pause for a moment to consider why the president has assembled this gallery of boobs. Much of the answer comes down to this: Trump never took staffing the federal workforce seriously. The executive branch is riddled with vacancies, especially at the top. Vice President Mike Pence may speak about a “whole-of-government approach” to the pandemic, but what we truly have is a government of holes.

Sherrilyn Ifill: We must confront the inconsistent laws that allow black lives to be taken with impunity

Sherrilyn Ifill is president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

In his seminal work about the rise and fall of black reconstruction, W.E.B. Du Bois described in chilling detail the use of lynching two decades after the Civil War’s conclusion to control black citizenship. Black people could expect to be subjected to lynching because “they were radical; they had attempted to hold elections; [and] they were carrying arms,” but also just because, in the mind of Southern whites, “they were ‘damn ni–ers.’ ” In other words, for any reason a white supremacist could fathom.

The Feb. 23 killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery demonstrates that the use of deadly violence to control black citizenship continues. Arbery was running in a neighborhood where white residents deemed he didn’t belong. A 911 caller simply described Arbery as “a black male running down the street.” Within minutes, he was hunted by white men in a pickup truck, who shot and killed him. A police investigation apparently identified more than a dozen witnesses. Nevertheless, neither the shooter, Travis McMichael, nor any of his accomplices — his father, George McMichael, and apparently one other man — were arrested until a video of the shooting was released two months later, sparking outrage and demands for justice.

Many are skeptical that justice will be served, with good reason. Because in the present-day version of Du Bois’s post-Reconstruction lynching nightmare, the law itself has been hijacked, and it plays a central role in aiding and abetting white people’s ability to kill black people with impunity.

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