The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times laments A slap on the wrist for deadly U.S. attack on hospital that killed 42 civilians:
The heavily redacted Pentagon report released Friday on last year's deadly attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, affirms, as early accounts had suggested, that it was the result of a chain of errors, many of them avoidable. But because the deaths of the 42 civilians — doctors, staff and patients alike, some of them incinerated in their beds — were deemed to be unintentional, the Pentagon has decided the punishments for the perpetrators should be administrative, and that none of those involved will face criminal prosecution for their misdeeds.
That is inadequate. These deaths weren't the result of a single error that led to dropping a bomb in the wrong place, which, although regrettable, also is inevitable in a theater of war. This attack, on a building complex that had been repeatedly reported to the military command as a hospital, lasted more than an hour, even as the crew of the AC-130 gunship expressed confusion over exactly what they were being asked to do, and uncertainty over the target. And the attack continued even though Doctors Without Borders contacted American officials within 12 minutes of its onset. Why did it continue? Because, according to the report, the military officials couldn't confirm for themselves that they were firing at a hospital, not a building full of Taliban fighters.
We won't pretend to substitute our knowledge for the Pentagon's, but the military's own report suggests serious violations of the rules of war.
Eugene Fidell at The New York Times writes—The Wrong Way to Handle the Kunduz Tragedy:
As matters currently stand, there will be no Kunduz trial. Instead, 16 members of the American military, including a general, have received disciplinary action or adverse administrative action, including letters of reprimand, removal from command, transfer out of Afghanistan and requiring recertification in a job specialty. Given the loss of life and damage to a hospital which, by definition, is a protected site under the law of armed conflict, it is hardly surprising that many view these actions are inadequate.
United States Central Command has justified the absence of courts-martial based on the report’s conclusion that, in its words, the errors that led to the attack were unintentional and that “other mitigating factors, such as equipment failures,” affected the mission. Certainly, mitigating factors should be taken into account when deciding on the disposition of charges. But both the process and outcome are open to serious question. [...]
The military code includes several offenses that seemingly apply to the Kunduz attack, including reckless destruction of property and reckless or wanton operation of an aircraft. Murder includes acts that “evince a wanton disregard of human life,” and manslaughter includes unlawfully killing someone “by culpable negligence.” These are major offenses, while the actions ordered in the wake of the attack are of a kind typically reserved for minor offenses. [...]
No one should be content if matters are left where they currently stand. That would be an injustice for the victims not just of this tragic mistake, but of future ones as well
E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes—The irony of celebrity populism:
Trump represents the triumph in politics of what the scholars of postmodernism call “transgressive” art, which violates boundaries, including moral strictures, and commands attention through its shock value. Trump is now the transgressor in chief.
We need to think hard about the multiple weaknesses Trump is exposing in our politics. How has he been able to convert fame and outrage into votes without even a moment of apprenticeship in public service?
One reason is the anger in a large segment of the Republican Party that has been stoked by its leaders. You might say they have now lost control of the beast they were feeding. There is also the utter contempt toward government that their ideology encouraged. Trump has played on the fragility of our media system, which, in its search for ratings, can’t get enough of him, and on a pervasive pain among the many who have been cast aside by our economy. They had been ignored by elites of all kinds.
Trump is what passes for “populism” now, but celebrity populism is a strange creature.
Bob Lord, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, writes at Common Dreams—America's wealth concentration has increased tenfold since Bill Clinton first ran for president.
Imagine, after a deep sleep, you suffered the fate of Rip Van Winkle and woke in the spring of 2040. What might you find?
Among other things, maybe a presidential candidate railing against America’s concentration of wealth. Except this time, it’s not the 1 percent that owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent — it’s the top hundredth of a percent.
Could it get that bad? Yes, quite easily. In fact, that nightmare is already on the way.
To see this better, take a step back in time. If you woke up 24 years ago, you could hear candidate Bill Clinton lamenting the fact that the top 1 percent owned as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
Today, as anyone who’s heard Bernie Sanders give his stump speech knows, it’s the top tenth of 1 percent who owns that much. That’s 10 times more concentrated — and it’s happened over just six presidential cycles. If the trend continues, the scenario I presented at the outset will be a reality.
Charles M. Blow at The New York Times writes—A Trump-Sanders Coalition? Nah:
Trump’s supporters seem to see a country in decline, a government that is out of control and incompetent, an influx of immigrants that represent an existential threat and a culture that is hamstrung by political correctness.
Conversely, Sanders’s supporters see a democracy slipping into oligarchy, a country that has utterly failed to keep pace with its global peers on social structure issues — economic equality, taxation, health care and education — and has gone completely off the rails on many others, like criminal justice and mass incarceration.
These are not crowds that are likely to lie down together. Indeed, I would imagine that Trump’s brand of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, misogyny and fascism would not go down easily with the faction of left progressives that swell the ranks of Sanders’s supporters.
Lindy West at The Guardian writes—I hate this US election and the dopey faux-confusion it inspires:
I was chatting with a friend recently – a successful actor who does abortion-rights advocacy on the side—about a big pro-choice fundraiser she’s currently orchestrating. It was past midnight at her house, but she was still up, still working, clacking away at her laptop, tying up loose ends, pushing ticket sales, gathering auction items—her “side” project looking suspiciously like a second full-time job.
“You’re a hero,” I said.
“No, I am not,” she snapped, vehement. “Somebody’s got to do it. It’s a fucking embarrassment that I have to.” [...]
I still think that choosing to take on the exhausting, sisyphean, largely thankless work of abortion advocacy (we are not taught to say “thank you” for abortion; we are taught to never speak of it at all) is heroic. She could choose to leave that work to others, but she doesn’t. That’s significant.
But that reaction—somebody’s got to do it, so I do—triggered a familiar weariness in me. We shouldn’t have to spend our spare time working, pro bono, to remove stigma from a procedure so common that a full third of the women you know have had one; or to raise money to help impoverished pregnant people travel hundreds of miles, to other states, to exercise a legal right; or to convince a supposedly free and enlightened nation, in 2016, that people with uteruses are autonomous human beings deserving of basic medical care. Each of these things should be a given, and we’ve been having this conversation since before my grandmother was born, so why are we still talking about it now? When will the “debate” end so that women can finally be fully invested in their work and passions and lives?
Paul Mones at The Washington Post writes The illusion of justice for sexual abuse victims:
The enduring fantasy that nice guys don’t molest children provides dangerous cover to perpetrators and engenders abject hopelessness in victims. Hiding behind a facade of kindheartedness, child molesters know they are committing the perfect crime, one that silences most of its victims forever. For those few able to muster the strength to come forward years later, it is not their perpetrator but the law itself that denies them justice. Maryland is a case in point: It gives victims just seven years after their 18th birthdays to file civil lawsuits — a period when few victims are yet able to acknowledge the horrific violation they experienced.
Remember, none of [former Speaks Dennis J.] Hastert’s victims ever came forward to report him; it was a banking compliance officer who alerted federal officials to him after noticing unusual account activity. As the U.S. attorney in this case noted, by that point the federal and state statutes of limitations regarding the sexual-abuse-related offenses had long since expired, making it impossible to prosecute Hastert for any of the underlying sexual crimes.
Rebecca Shapiro at The Guardian writes—The world adores Justin Trudeau. In Canada, we're still reserving judgment:
A retired lawyer on the west coast told me that while Canadians are not wholly enthused by the new PM, the nostalgia from his “iconic” connections will allow him a longer honeymoon period. Meanwhile, the president of my synagogue in Vancouver also attributed Justin Trudeau’s electoral success to his last name—she expressed blatant disapproval for his “lightweight” foreign policy and “celebrity” appeal. She did confirm however, with characteristic Canadian politeness, that “he’s a nice kid, don’t get me wrong.”
Canadian millennials, on the other hand, are the demographic supposedly most taken in by Trudeau’s idealism – their vote helped propel him into office, as they mobilized in excitement at the alternative Trudeau posed to the arch-conservative Harper. But these younger voters are also withholding full endorsement, concerned that the government’s heavy spending will mean an insurmountable deficit, and that not enough is being done to make housing affordable.
Scott Lemieux at The New Republic writes—Why Hillary Will Govern More Like Bernie Than People Think:
After Hillary Clinton won four out of five states in Tuesday’s primary, Bernie Sanders issued a quasi-concession statement and announced the layoff of hundreds of staffers. It appeared he had recognized the obvious: Barring force majeure, Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Sanders will—and should—stay in the race, and he has announced his intention to “fight for a progressive party platform” in Philadelphia. Sanders may not have won the war, but the support he’s attracted and mobilized is very important nonetheless, for a simple reason: Coalitions influence and shape the people who lead them. An old associate of Hillary Clinton’s recently provided an excellent illustration.
Last week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that voting rights will be restored for convicted felons who are no longer in prison. If his executive order is upheld, this will enfranchise more than 200,000 citizens of the state who have paid their debt to society and deserve a voice in their state government. It’s a bold, progressive action, exactly the kind of policy core Democratic voters are coming to expect from their leaders.
This major progressive reform didn’t come out entirely of the blue, either. On his first day in office, McAuliffe signed an executive order banning discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation. In an action that foreshadowed his enfranchisement of felons, McAuliffe removed questions about criminal history from government job applications. He has been limited by a Republican-controlled legislature—his valiant fight to accept the Medicaid expansion ultimately failed—but he’s been a solidly progressive governor.
Emma Foehringer Merchant at The New Republic writes—Why Methane Is Having a Moment: The greenhouse gas hasn't gotten the attention such a potent carbon-polluter deserves. But that's about to change:
The majority of methane emissions comes from the industry that produces what is now America’s largest power source: natural gas. In 2014, natural gas systems released 176 million metric tons of methane, nearly a quarter of total emissions. The second largest source was cattle digestion, which accounted for 22.5 percent of emissions. (Petroleum systems contributed 9.3 percent.)
Energy experts, energy companies, and even some environmentalists tout natural gas as an essential fuel to combat climate change—as a way to bridge the energy gap during a transition from reliance on coal to renewable sources. But many environmentalists say methane’s extreme warming potential undermines any of natural gas’s benefits. “The promise of natural gas as a lower carbon alternative to coal depends fundamentally on addressing methane emissions,” says Matt Watson of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate and Energy Program. “Methane emissions undermine the climate advantage that natural gas can have over coal—that’s just a basic fact.” [...]
Stringent rules in some states—such as in Colorado or Wyoming—are picking up some of the slack where federal guidelines fall short. But if the EPA’s final rules for new gas and oil sources, and the agency’s forthcoming regulations on existing operations, bind companies to stringent standards and monitoring, the results would be monumental.
Paul Krugman at The New York Times writes—The Diabetic Economy:
Suppose that Greece blows up again, or the British public votes to leave the European Union, or China’s economy goes off a cliff, or whatever. What could or would European policy makers do to offset the blow? Nobody seems to have any idea.
The thing is, it’s not hard to see what Europe should be doing to help cure its chronic disease. The case for more public spending, especially in Germany — but also in France, which is in much better fiscal shape than its own leaders seem to realize — is overwhelming.
There are large unmet needs for infrastructure and investors are essentially begging governments to take their money. Did I mention that the real 10-year interest rate, the rate on bonds that are protected from inflation, is minus 0.8 percent? [...]
But doing the right thing seems to be politically out of the question.
Steve Philips at The Nation writes— Bernie Sanders and His Supporters Should Do What the Democratic Party Won’t: Advocate for Candidates of Color:
Bernie Sanders and his supporters are uniquely positioned to advance a political revolution by doing the thing many Democrats won’t do: throwing down, in a real way, with people of color. Although for reasons relating to strategy, familiarity, and message, voters of color across the country chose Hillary Clinton over Sanders, much of the Democratic Party establishment has yet to reciprocate that loyalty in meaningful ways. Many Democratic leaders pay a lot of lip service to people of color, but the revenues rarely match the rhetoric. If Sanders focuses the forces and resources he’s accumulated in his historic campaign on supporting progressive leaders and organizations of color, he could upend progressive politics and significantly strengthen the cause of combating income and wealth inequality in America. [...]
Elevating the right candidates into elected office is only part of the battle. Ultimately, the entire Democratic Party needs to be transformed. The only Democratic National Committee Chairperson of color in history has been Ron Brown, an African-American who came out of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign. After Howard Dean’s inspiring 2004 candidacy, Dean took control of the Democratic Party, appointing people of color to the very top leadership posts, and implementing the 50-state strategy. The Sanders movement can and should focus on pushing the party back towards the people by insisting on the hiring and promotion of leaders of color and a massive financial commitment to grassroots organizing and infrastructure, especially in the growing communities of color that make up nearly half of Democratic voters.
Bruce Vail at In These Times writes—Tuesday’s Baltimore Primary Results Mean a $15 Minimum Wage Is Likely Coming Soon:
In a Democratic Party primary election that selected candidates for both a new mayor and a new majority of the city council, supporters of a city-wide minimum wage law of $15 an hour appear to have won enough offices to see it enacted. The push is underway now to get it passed this year, and almost certainly will be passed by early next year, at the latest, activists say.
Because of a large Democratic majority in the city, the spring party primary is considered tantamount to final victory in the November general election. Only an unprecedented political upheaval could prevent the candidates selected this week from taking office in January 2017.
Fight for 15 supporters are mobilizing behind a bill introduced earlier this month by City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D). Clarke’s bill would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, and also eliminate the subminimum “tipped wage.”
Worker activists are pleased that the new Democratic candidate for mayor, Catherine Pugh, is committed to signing a $15 bill, says Charly Carter, executive director of the political party Maryland Working Families. The new city council will include a strong majority who have already committed to supporting the higher minimum wage, so the path to final passage seems clear, she says.