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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Glen Greenwald: The Indictment of Assange Is a Blueprint for Making Journalists Into Felons

The First Amendment is meaningless if it only protects people the government recognizes as journalists.

The U.S. government on Thursday unveiled an 18-count indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, charging him under the 1917 Espionage Act for his role in the 2010 publication of a trove of secret documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and diplomatic communications regarding dozens of nations. So extreme and unprecedented are the indictment’s legal theories and likely consequences that it shocked and alarmed even many of Assange’s most virulent critics. [..]

With these new charges, the Trump administration is aggressively and explicitly seeking to obliterate the last reliable buffer protecting journalism in the United States from being criminalized, a step that no previous administration, no matter how hostile to journalistic freedom, was willing to take. The U.S. government has been eager to prosecute Assange since the 2010 leaks. Until now, though, officials had refrained because they concluded it was impossible to distinguish WikiLeaks’ actions from the typical business of mainstream media outlets. Indicting Assange for the act of publishing would thus make journalism a felony. By charging Assange under the Espionage Act, the Trump administration proved that the asylum Assange obtained from Ecuador in 2012 — offered in the name of protecting him from persecution by the United States for publishing newsworthy documents — was necessary and justified.

The argument offered by both the Trump administration and by some members of the self-styled “resistance” to Trump is, ironically, the same: that Assange isn’t a journalist at all and thus deserves no free press protections. But this claim overlooks the indictment’s real danger and, worse, displays a wholesale ignorance of the First Amendment. Press freedoms belong to everyone, not to a select, privileged group of citizens called “journalists.” Empowering prosecutors to decide who does or doesn’t deserve press protections would restrict “freedom of the press” to a small, cloistered priesthood of privileged citizens designated by the government as “journalists.” The First Amendment was written to avoid precisely that danger.

Juan Cole: If Trump Really Only Wants ‘No Iranian Nukes,’ Then He Should Just Rejoin the Nuclear Deal

Destroying the JCPOA will simply remove the restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program, the opposite of what you would do if you don’t want them to have weapons

Trump said in Japan that he is not looking for regime change in Iran.

Trump said at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister ABE Shinzo, “We aren’t looking for regime change – I just want to make that clear. We are looking for no nuclear weapons. I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal, and I think that’s very smart of them, and I think that’s a possibility to happen. It has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership.”

Trump breached the treaty the US and other members of the UN Security Council signed with Iran in 2015, which aimed precisely at forestalling Iran from having nuclear weapons. [..]

The CIA has never found any evidence since 2003 of Iran even wanting a nuclear weapons program, much less practically embarking on one. And the four restrictions of the JCPOA make it impossible to establish such a program as long as they are in place.

So if what Trump wanted was “no nukes,” then he already had that in the form of the JCPOA, which he has tried to destroy!

Destroying the JCPOA will simply remove the restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program, the opposite of what you would do if you don’t want them to have weapons.

Iran did not mothball 80% of its enrichment capacity out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because they were promised an end to international sanctions. Instead, Trump has ratcheted up the sanctions far beyond where they were in 2014.

Michelle Chen: Trump’s latest immigration plan proves his policies were never just about ending undocumented migration

The president’s latest idea will harm Americans and legal immigrants. That’s the point.

In between considering a batch of pardons for convicted war criminals and stonewalling a congressional investigation into his own alleged crimes, President Donald Trump last week deigned to lecture immigrants about “personal responsibility,” reminding communities of their duty to be self-sufficient. He announced that he would hold family members of immigrants accountable for whatever social welfare benefits are used by those they sponsor to come to the United States.

But billing immigrant sponsors for their loved ones’ welfare costs is not about responsibility, it’s about assaulting the bonds of family and community at the heart of a democratic society.

The White House memorandum resurrects an obscure and rarely enforced provision of a Clinton-era welfare reform law that mandates the sponsors of new immigrants — primarily citizens who are supporting immigrant family members seeking to resettle in the U.S. — to compensate Uncle Sam for any need-based federal aid that the immigrants receive, such as Medicaid. Though the administration has not spelled out how various agencies running public assistance programs will actually calculate the costs or compel individuals to repay their “debts,” the subtext is clear: The administration wants to prioritize what little is left of the threadbare federal safety net for white, native-born citizens.

Michael Winship: Trump’s Upcoming Yankee Doodle Disaster

I was there the last time a president and his pals tried to use the Fourth of July for partisan purposes.

Years ago, I was interviewing the college roommate of a famous politician who told the story of being sent to a shop by the pol to pick up a large impressive trophy. It would be presented at an official school dinner that night. Is this for the university president, the roommate asked? No, the politician replied, without missing a beat, it’s for me. [..]

Trump’s favorite perks surrounding the office of being president revolve around a similar but exponentially greater grandiosity: he wallows in the overall pomp and circumstance of the job and the receiving of or presenting awards and honors; anything focusing on him that doesn’t take too much mental effort.

So as we enter the official beginning of summer with the Memorial Day weekend, we need to look ahead just a few weeks to the next big holiday and realize, with a shudder, that even the Fourth of July, that most patriotic of American celebrations isn’t safe. Solid ego and id, Trump has decided to make it all about him.

Richard Seymore: Nigel Farage Is the Most Dangerous Man in Britain

He’s the most effective demagogue in a generation. Now he sets the agenda.

Nigel Farage is the British crisis in human form. His party, the unambiguously named Brexit Party, which is hardly a party and didn’t exist six months ago, won nearly a third of the British vote in the recent European Parliament elections, putting it in first place and driving the shattered Conservative Party into fifth. Long underestimated, Mr. Farage has done more than any politician in a generation to yank British politics to the hard, nationalist right. He is one of the most effective and dangerous demagogues Britain has ever seen.

With his last political vehicle, the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, Mr. Farage took an assortment of Tory retirees and a smattering of ex-fascists and other right-wing cranks, and welded them into a devastating political weapon: a significant national party. That weapon tore such chunks out of the Conservatives’ share of the vote that the party leadership felt compelled to call a referendum on Europe — which it then lost. Mr. Farage declared victory and went into semiretirement as a pundit.

Now, almost three years after the Brexit vote, he’s back. His timing could hardly be better. After a “lost decade” of declining living standards and flat wage growth, trust in Parliament and the news media is at rock bottom. The Conservatives are disintegrating; Prime Minister Theresa May is on her way out of office, having failed to secure a parliamentary majority for her Brexit deal. She failed because, rather than seeking cross-party consensus, she tried to placate her own hard right and prevent voters from abandoning the party — again. Unable to do so, she has simply hardened public opinion.