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.

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Charles M. Blow: ‘Awful but Lawful’

Our legal system allows for extrajudicial killings by the police without real consequence.

Along with many others, I have long argued that the reason so few police officers are ever charged in their killings of unarmed Black people (and few of those charged are ever convicted) is that our legal system has effectively rendered those killings legal. This is the case regardless of how horrendous the killings are or how much evidence, including video, makes clear what took place.

The defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd raised this very concept Wednesday when questioning Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department use-of-force expert who was a witness for the prosecution.

Eric Nelson, an attorney for Chauvin, asked if Sergeant Stiger had ever had anything to do with a training called “awful but lawful, or lawful but awful.” He said that he had. Nelson continued his questioning: “The general concept is that sometimes the use of force, it looks really bad, right, and sometimes it may be so, it may be caught on video, right, and it looks bad, right?”

Sergeant Stiger responds, “yes.”

Nelson then says, “But, it is still lawful.”

The officer concludes, “Yes, based on that department’s policies or based on that state’s law.”

This concept seems, on its face, morally depraved: The bar for actions, and in this case use of lethal force, isn’t propriety or decency, but the likelihood of legal exposure and jeopardy.

But the very existence of “awful but lawful” training reminds us that this concept isn’t new.

Paul Waldman: We’re all Joe Manchin’s prisoners

If you want to know what will happen, figure out what the West Virginia senator wants.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is happy to drive you crazy. And he’s going to make sure that at least through 2022 and perhaps beyond, he’ll be the one to decide not only the substance of what legislation gets passed, but the procedures by which the Senate runs.

So what does he want?

It’s not always clear; Manchin can be cagey, sometimes almost self-contradictory. He has signaled that he might be open to some reform of the filibuster. But now Manchin has written an op-ed for The Post declaring: “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.”

Instead, Manchin says, “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

Which is kind of like me saying, “The time has come to make me the starting point guard for the Washington Wizards, where I’ll average 35 points and 15 assists per game.” I might like that to happen, but there are some pretty good reasons it won’t. [..]

There are a couple of ways to look at what Manchin says about the filibuster. One is that he can’t grasp what’s right in front of his face, and he’s so absurdly nostalgic for a long-gone era of comity and cooperation that he has blinded himself to the reality of modern partisan politics and the past 20 years of history.

Amanda Marcotte: Republicans are waging war against US children: Anti-trans bills part of longstanding GOP campaign

The attack on trans kids is the latest front in the multi-decade Republican war on children

Republicans, having lost their decade-long fight to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, are now targeting an even more vulnerable population for the next round of culture war hysterics: Trans children.

The GOP is clearly convinced that the way to win the 2022 elections is by stirring people up with lurid, false tales of predatory trans people. They’ve recently passed a slew of state-level bills attacking trans rights, especially in public schools. The victims are some of the people least able to protect themselves: Minor children, many who are already struggling with difficulties stemming from being trans, queer, or otherwise gender nonconforming — a category so broad that it could capture most kids, depending on the interpretation. [..]

The primary targets of this onslaught of legislation are trans kids, of course, who are in serious danger of being denied medical care and being bullied by institutions in ways that can be severely detrimental to their mental health. Trans kids are at alarmingly high risk for suicide, but medical treatment and accepting environments can do a lot to save their lives. By trying to deny kids these things, Republicans are sending a strong message that they would rather these kids die than live as their true selves.

The broad language in the North Carolina bill also points to a secondary purpose behind these bills: It’s part of the long-standing GOP war on children’s rights.

Robert Reich: Don’t Be Fooled, Corporate America Is Crushing the Working Class

Today’s largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying far less per hour and routinely exploiting their workers, who have little recourse.

The most dramatic change in the system over the last half-century has been the emergence of corporate giants like Amazon and the shrinkage of labor unions.

The resulting power imbalance has spawned near-record inequalities of income and wealth, corruption of democracy by big money, and the abandonment of the working class.

Fifty years ago, General Motors was the largest employer in America. The typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars and had a major say over working conditions.

Today’s largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying far less per hour and routinely exploiting their workers, who have little recourse.

The typical GM worker wasn’t “worth” so much more than today’s Amazon or Walmart worker and didn’t have more valuable insights about working conditions.

The difference is those GM workers had a strong union. They were backed by the collective bargaining power of more than a third of the entire American workforce.

Today, most workers are on their own. Only 6.4% of America’s private-sector workers are unionized, providing little collective pressure on Amazon, Walmart, or other major employers to treat their workers any better.

Fifty years ago, the labor movement had enough political clout to ensure labor laws were enforced and that the government pushed giant firms like GM to sustain the middle class.

Today, organized labor’s political clout is minuscule by comparison.