Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: What is justice?

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia also made a distinction between accountability and justice.


Given the Latin roots of the English word “justice,” I did recall that the greatest Roman orator and lawyer of his time (and probably of all of Roman history), Marcus Tullius Cicero, had quite a bit to say about iūstitia.

Charles Blow of The New York Times sounds off on the mental and emotional toll that cases like the McMichael murder trial can have for African Americans.

I want to applaud possibility.

I want to clap and shout and dance because I need to be assured that while the racism that ails America may be chronic and metastatic, it needn’t be unfailing and terminal.

I, like many Black people and many people of all races and ethnicities who value justice and equity, needed to be reminded that the lives of Black people are valued in this country — at least on occasion.

We have seen so many cases in which those lives appeared not to matter. Trayvon. Tamir. Eric. Breonna. There are so many names over so many years. The drumbeat of injustice is unrelenting. At a certain point, against your own best efforts, your senses begin to grow numb. The spirit and the mind and the body move to protect themselves from the trauma.

You become conditioned to Black pain. You adjust to its ubiquity.

Fabiola Cineas writes for Vox about the necessity of the prosecution team to not broach the subject of race until closing arguments.

But despite all the racial issues that surrounded the core facts of the case, skin color hardly came up during this month’s trial of the three men who were convicted on Wednesday of Arbery’s murder. It wasn’t until the closing argument that prosecutor Linda Dunikoski mentioned Arbery’s race. The McMichaels and Bryan, she said, felt entitled to chase Arbery down “because he was a Black man running down the street.”

Legal experts and activists who spoke to Vox said the avoidance of addressing race in the trial was strategic. The question before prosecutors was stark: “Play it safe” by not offending a nearly all-white jury with talk of race and racism, or take a risk by addressing the elephant in the room.

“The prosecutors walked a thin line in trying to persuade jurors. They’re in the Deep South, so a Confederate flag in a juror’s mind, superficially, may not equate to racism or white supremacy. If you cross that line, you’ve lost them,” said Tiffany Jeffers, a professor of law and legal practice at Georgetown University Law Center.

But some experts argued that the prosecutors’ choice not to mention race in front of a nearly all-white jury suggests that progress on racial justice has been marginal.

Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post reports that there are more and larger gatherings planned for today in spite of the rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in nearly every state.

Infections are rising in nearly every state, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where experts expected upticks because of colder weather driving people indoors. Rubin’s team is monitoring metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast as some of the likeliest spots for spikes in the coming weeks. His team also sees rising hospitalizations in the Minneapolis and Denver areas despite high vaccination rates as a warning sign for hospitals elsewhere.

The obvious difference between Thanksgiving 2020 and Thanksgiving 2021 is vaccination. Six in 10 Americans are now fully vaccinated — and all adults now qualify for boosters while elementary-schoolers are getting their first shots.

Other aspects of the pandemic have grown worse. There are far fewer mitigation measures such as mask mandates and business capacity limits to limit transmission of the virus. The delta variant that is now the dominant strain of the virus infects people far more easily. The delta surge of the summer illustrated how quickly case spikes can overwhelm hospitals and communities, even in highly vaccinated areas.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t been sounding alarms about the potential for Thanksgiving gatherings to accelerate transmission, instead focusing on providing tips for Americans to celebrate more safely. State and local agencies are largely following the CDC’s lead.

The US Congress has created national commissions in the past to investigate events that have severely affected life, such as the 9/11 Commission. That commission gave the country a shared, bipartisan account of what had gone wrong, and why, and its recommendations led to the restructuring of the US intelligence community and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Similar efforts to critique national COVID-19 responses have been undertaken in other countries. For example, both the British House of Commons and the French Sénat have released detailed and critical accounts of their country’s response to the pandemic (5, 6).
The design, composition, and resources of a national commission can determine the depth of its inquiry and the credibility of its conclusions. Congressional proposals for a COVID-19 commission have been modeled after the 9/11 Commission (7). Key features of the 9/11 Commission—robust budget and staffing, subpoena power, and access to previous senior officials at all levels, as well as to classified material, should be features of the COVID-19 commission.

In addition to drawing on lessons from the 9/11 Commission experience, the COVID-19 commission may wish to examine the findings of the House Select Bipartisan Committee on Hurricane Katrina, because many issues raised by the Katrina catastrophe also provide echoes of the COVID-19 experience: failed responses by the federal government despite long-standing plans, warnings, and similar recent events; failure to act on lessons from simulations; tardy exercise of federal authority; and contentious relationships between the federal and state governments.

Angelique Chrisafis reports for The Guardian that protests over mandatory French vaccination requirements have begun in the French overseas territory of Martinique.

People in Guadeloupe and Martinique have been angered by a government requirement – also in force in mainland France – for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Compulsory vaccination is a particularly sensitive issue in the two island territories owing to significant mistrust of government science after a long-running health scandal over exposure to toxic pesticides used in banana plantations.

In one of France’s biggest health and safety scandals, the insecticide chordecone was used from 1973 to 1993 on banana plantations in Martinique and Guadeloupe, exposing a significant part of the population to health dangers and related cancers and polluting the soil. The product was banned in the US in 1976 and in France in 1990, but special provisions were made for its continued use in the Caribbean territories until 1993.

In Martinique, protesters demanded not just an end to the mandatory vaccination of health workers but also action to tackle high fuel prices.

The unrest represents a test for the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who has made much of the global footprint given to France by overseas territories that span the Caribbean to the Pacific via the Indian Ocean.

Kemal Kirişci and Berk Esen write for JustSecurity that the Turkish people might—MIGHT—be getting tired of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan had promised that this new form of government would be more efficient in addressing the country’s problems and that it would bring about greater prosperity for the country. In 2018, he was re-elected as president for a five-year term with a comfortable majority and proceeded single handedly to execute the transition to the new system.

However, as the regime evolved to one-man rule, Erdoğan’s promises never materialized. The economy markedly deteriorated. The value of the Turkish currency weakened from 2.18 Turkish Lira (TL) to the U.S. dollar (USD) in August 2014, when he was first elected president, to more than 11 TL by mid-November, losing 70 percent of its value against the dollar since Erdoğan in 2015 warned that those who invest in the U.S. currency would lose money. Such a precipitous drop has also been reflected in the decline of Turkish GDP per capita from more than $12,000 in 2014 to $8,500 in 2020. The Turkish public has had to content itself with ever-falling living standards aggravated by inflation, high unemployment, and poor management of the COVID pandemic.

The political scene is marked by diminished media freedoms, severely weakened judicial independence, and a repressive environment that have placed Turkey at the very top of the list of countries, after Mali, experiencing the sharpest declines in freedoms in the last 10 years. An aggressive Turkish foreign policy based on confrontation rather than diplomacy has left the country isolated regionally – it has no ambassadorial representation in a string of key countries such as Egypt, Syria, and Israel. His most recent move to have 10 ambassadors from the United States, several European countries, Canada, and New Zealand declared “persona non grata” has been described by former diplomats and experts of international relations as “irrational” and “unprecedented,” severely damaging Turkey’s national interests. (The action apparently was prompted by their joint letter calling for the release of a prominent civil society leader.) Finally, his decision to deepen relations with Russia and purchase its S-400 ballistic defense missile system has profoundly damaged relations with Turkey’s traditional allies in NATO, including the United States, developments considered by many analysts as seriously weakening the country’s national security.

The first that I read of an opposition that seemed to be solidifying against Erdoğan was last summer’s report from France24 about the Istanbul Canal Project. Mere criticism of the Istanbul Canal Project was sufficient grounds for Erdoğan to detain at least 10 ex-admirals.

Finally today, Jeffrey Barg The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer that the Rittenhouse trial controversy over the use of the word “victim” to describe Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber (the two protesters that Kyle Rittenhouse killed) may be a little more complex than it seems.

Judge Bruce Schroeder received reams of criticism (and also effusive praise) for many of his decisions throughout Rittenhouse’s trial to slant the proceedings in favor of the defendant. But perhaps none was more scrutinized — or inscrutable — than his decree that prosecutors were not allowed to refer to Joseph Rosenbaum or Anthony Huber — whom Rittenhouse killed with an AR-15-style rifle — as victims.

“The word victim is a loaded, loaded word. And I think alleged victim is a cousin to it,” Schroeder said, indicating that the antiseptic terms complaining witness or decedent were perfectly acceptable replacements. At the same time, he ruled that it was fine to call Rosenbaum and Huber “arsonists,” “looters,” or “rioters.”

The Merriam-Webster definition of victim — “one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions” — seems to plainly describe Rosenbaum and Huber, making Schroeder’s decision seem baffling.

But not all dictionaries agree. And the Oxford English Dictionary could cause some to say that just maybe, Schroeder has an argument.

Everyone have a great Turkey Day (or whatever you are eating!)

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