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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New York Times Editorial Board: Julian Assange’s Indictment Aims at the Heart of the First Amendment

The Trump administration seeks to use the Espionage Act to redefine what journalists can and cannot publish.

On Thursday, the Justice Department charged Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with multiple counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act for his role in publishing tens of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The indictment supersedes an indictment unsealed in April on narrow grounds of attempting to help an Army private surreptitiously break into a government computer to steal classified and sensitive documents.

The new indictment goes much further. It is a marked escalation in the effort to prosecute Mr. Assange, one that could have a chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations. It is aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment.

The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time. They did it with the Pentagon Papers and in countless other cases where the public benefited from learning what was going on behind closed doors, even though the sources may have acted illegally. This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.

Michelle Goldberg: Impeaching Trump Is Risky. So Is Refusing To.

Nancy Pelosi’s case against impeachment is growing incoherent.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump stormed out of a meeting on infrastructure with Democratic leaders and held a tantrum of a news conference. He was indignant that the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had said earlier in the day that he was engaged in a cover-up, and insisted he wouldn’t work with Congress unless it stops investigating him. “You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with,” he said.

Shortly afterward, Pelosi was interviewed onstage at a conference of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “The fact is, in plain sight, in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice and he’s engaged in a cover-up, and that could be an impeachable offense,” she said, to applause from a crowd full of Democratic operatives and donors. She pointed out that the third article of impeachment against Richard Nixon involved his refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas, which, of course, Trump has done as well. A few moments later she described Trump as an “existential threat to our democracy.”

Yet even as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers are calling for an impeachment inquiry, Pelosi insists that the time has not yet come for such a serious step. The “House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment,” she told reporters on Thursday.

This position is increasingly incoherent. If Trump’s outrageous misdeeds are visible for all to see — and they are — you don’t need further investigation to justify beginning an inquiry into whether impeachment is justified. Pelosi has suggested that impeachment will distract from the affirmative Democratic agenda, but the Republican-controlled Senate is no more going to pass progressive legislation than it will vote to remove Trump. And now the president has ruled out action on bipartisan initiatives like infrastructure investment, essentially refusing to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities whether he’s impeached or not.

Jamelle Bouie: Trump Is Using His Pardon Power to Reward Violence and Cruelty

His vision of how to act “tough” extends from war crimes to police brutality and doesn’t stop there.

Last year, a federal jury in Washington convicted Nicholas Slatten, a former security contractor, of first-degree murder for his role in killing one of 14 Iraqi civilians who died in 2007 in a shooting that also injured more than a dozen others. Matthew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret, was charged late last year with the murder of an unarmed Afghan man during a 2010 deployment. Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who served in Iraq, was reported to authorities by his own men, who witnessed him “stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death,” “picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost” and “indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.”

There are others — all accused of war crimes while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Trump apparently wants to give them a presidential pardon, timed for Memorial Day. Trump is not responding to a groundswell of public support for these men. Nor are current and former military leaders calling for leniency. Just the opposite: They have urged the White House to abandon this plan. “Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the law of armed conflict seriously,” Martin Dempsey, a retired general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Twitter. [..]

There’s a reason the president has nearly unlimited power to pardon. “The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in the favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 74. The pardon power was meant to correct wrongs, to forgive offenders and show mercy, to promote virtue and affirm the best values of our society. But in Trump’s hands it has become, like so much of our constitutional system, a tool for vice.

Jimmy Tobias: Republicans aren’t just climate deniers. They deny the extinction crisis, too

Republican officials and their industry benefactors are sowing doubt about the wildlife extinction crisis that threatens as many as one million species

Maybe you’ve read King Lear and remember this famous line: “‘Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.” The words were written more than 400 years ago as a comment on the deadly consequences of greed, delusion and political folly, but they could serve just as well as a Republican party slogan today. They’re a fitting description of the Republican party’s delusional campaign to deny the environmental crises that threaten our planet and our civilization.

For decades now, Republican politicians and their patrons in the fossil fuel industry have used thinktanks, front groups and public relations operatives to promote faulty science and perpetuate the myth that the climate crisis is a hoax. This campaign of climate deception, which is elegantly documented in books like Merchants of Doubt, has exacted a huge toll on the planet and its people – it has sabotaged domestic and international efforts to combat greenhouse gas pollution and exacerbated a crisis that is acidifying oceans, melting polar ice caps, supercharging storms and making the Earth less hospitable to human and animal life. We have a name for the purveyors of this deceitful campaign: we call them “climate deniers”.

Catherine Rampell: The Trump administration’s war on statistics isn’t slowing down

Don’t like the numbers? Invent new numbers instead.

Or make it harder to collect trustworthy numbers next time.

Or just put the squeeze on the number crunchers themselves.

Slowly but surely, the Trump administration has been chipping away at the independence and integrity of our federal statistical agencies, whose data is critical to keeping our democracy functioning and our economy healthy. So far as we know, the administration still hasn’t managed to pierce the citadel of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the independent agency that releases jobs and inflation numbers) or Bureau of Economic Analysis (the independent agency that tabulates gross domestic product). But around the edges, it’s trying to compromise lots of other official government data.

This week, the New York Times reported that the Environmental Protection Agency plans to massage the model it uses to determine how many people die of pollution. The goal is to make the rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan look significantly less deadly than the current models suggest. This is also part of a broader administrative effort to downgrade official estimates of environmental harm resulting from the administration’s deregulatory agenda.