Online Opinion Outpost: Sept. 30, 2014

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The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

 

No change in Afghanistan
Ahmed Rashid, The New York Times

On Sunday, after months of bitter wrangling, the two leading candidates in Afghanistan’s presidential election agreed to form a national unity government.
This deal, which was brokered with help from Washington, is yet another makeshift compromise that only reveals the shortcomings of the United States’ 13-year presence in Afghanistan. But rather than admit these failures, American and NATO officials would have us think that democracy is gaining traction in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency has stalled and Al Qaeda is being defeated. All these arguments, of course, serve as an excuse for U.S. troops to start withdrawing at the end of the year, a plan that seemed wrong when it was made in December 2009 and is proving catastrophically wrong now.
John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, apparently is the only official in Washington who dares speak truth to power. In a Sept. 12 speech at Georgetown University, he said that Afghanistan “remains under assault by insurgents and is short of domestic revenue, plagued by corruption, afflicted by criminal elements involved in opium and smuggling, and struggling to execute basic functions of government.”

 

Police body cameras
The Washington Post

Before too long, District police officers on patrol are likely to have miniature, body-worn video cameras as part of their standard gear, in addition to badge, gun, handcuffs and nightstick. That welcome and timely measure, announced Wednesday as a pilot program by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, should go a long way to promoting better interactions between uniformed officers and civilians — and providing critical video evidence when things go wrong.
Union President Delroy Burton, who represents D.C. police rank-and-file officers, cited the case study of the police department in Rialto, Calif., where the number of complaints filed against officers plummeted by almost 90 percent in the first year after the cameras were deployed — even though just half the officers were wearing them in each shift. Incidents involving the use of force by officers also fell sharply, the study found.

 

Climate march
The Washington Examiner

Climate protestors descended upon Manhattan on Sunday to vent their frustrations about a world they don’t understand. On display at the People’s Climate March were ideology and idealism conspiring at the expense of common sense.
Some protesters called for “criminal penalties” against companies that use hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to harvest natural gas from shale formations. Fracking is what is making it possible for America to transition away from carbon-heavy coal-powered electricity, which is something environmentalists also demand. But promoting self-defeating policies comes naturally to many of them.
In short, they demand a world that doesn’t work — one in which jobs are artificially scarce, the poor go hungry, and the developing world stops developing.

 

Holder resigns
The Los Angeles Times

With Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.’s resignation, President Obama faces the loss of someone who is not just a legal advisor and Cabinet member.
Holder is the first African American ever to serve as attorney general, and he got the job, of course, from the first African American president. Almost from the first moments of the administration, however, the president has skittered around fractious conversations of race while Holder has engaged them squarely, if not always skillfully.
Among other things, he has defended embattled voting rights, pressed hard for marriage equality and initiated an important overhaul of federal drug sentencing laws.
There were plenty of disappointments during the Holder years. He tried to put Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on trial in New York, then pulled back in the face of congressional opposition. He tiptoed around the financial crisis, led overzealous attempts to punish officials who leaked to journalists and was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with an investigation of gun trafficking at the border. Holder’s close relationship with Obama — they often vacation together — fueled suspicion among their critics that the attorney general has failed to vigorously pursue allegations of governmental wrongdoing, from the gun trafficking case to the claim that the IRS targeted conservative groups.

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