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Morning Joe
updated 6/19/2013 1:48:42 PM ET 2013-06-19T17:48:42

The Morning Joe must-read opinion pages for Wednesday, June 19

AN AFGHAN PEACE?
EDITORIAL
WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Obama Administration is eager to midwife peace talks so it can reduce its commitment beyond 2014. But the Taliban will have no incentive to negotiate seriously if they think they can retake Kabul or large chunks of the country after the U.S. leaves. The best chance for peace is to give the Afghan army and police all of the support they need, including helicopters for medical evacuation, so the Taliban conclude they can’t win.

OF RATS AND HIT MEN
MAUREEN DOWD
NEW YORK TIMES
Johnny “The Executioner” Martorano, who turned government witness and copped to killing 20 men and women as part of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang, explained to Whitey’s lawyer Tuesday in federal court here that he was motivated by love of family and friends. If anybody insulted, implicated or roughed up his brother or a friend’s brother, if anybody looked at him funny while he was with a date, if anybody ratted on his fellow gang members, if anybody could eyewitness a crime committed by an “associate,” he grabbed a .38 or a knife, a fake beard, a walkie-talkie or a towel to keep the blood off his car, and sprang into action. And somebody usually ended up in a trunk somewhere, sometimes still groaning.

THE TALIBAN AGREE TO TALK
EDITORIAL
NEW YORK TIMES
The prospect of a peace agreement makes the Afghan election in April all the more critical. If there is a deal, which aims to integrate the militants into the political system, the Taliban could end up participating in some way in elections for president and provincial councils. That is a very long shot, but it may offer the best promise for the country’s future stability.

THE REGULATED STATES OF AMERICA
NIALL FERGUSON
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Instead of joining together to get things done, Americans have increasingly become dependent on Washington. On foreign policy, it may still be true that Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus. But when it comes to domestic policy, we all now come from the same place: Planet Government.

CONGRESS HAS BECOME A RUBBER STAMP FOR THE NSA
DANA MILBANK
WASHINGTON POST
While there’s bipartisan consensus that the programs are valuable, it’s a mystery why more lawmakers don’t question the intelligence officials’ just-trust-us assurances….Congressional overseers have become apologists, assuring the public that the programs are “legal, court-approved and subject to an extensive oversight regime,” as Rogers put it. “This is very important that we get the message out to the American public that what we do is legal,” Ruppersberger concurred…“Do you feel in any way that the FISA court is a rubber stamp?” Ruppersberger asked.
“I do not,” Alexander replied. “The federal judges on that court are superb.” When the executive branch thinks those checking its power are “superb,” it’s time for rebalancing.

THE NSA STATE OF SECRECY MUST END
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL
WASHINGTON POST
The attempts to reform the national security state in the mid-’70s offer cautions for today’s debate. Too many of the reforms served to legitimate activities rather than eliminate them. The secret FISA court, for example, has provided less a curb than a blank check for intelligence agency surveillance. If the agencies are to be called to account, Congress must look to draw sharp limits.

NICKELODEON RESISTS CRITICS OF FOOD ADS
BROOKS BARNES and BRIAN STELTER
NEW YORK TIMES
One year ago, the Walt Disney Company unveiled a strict new set of nutritional standards and said it would ban ads for noncompliant foods from its child-focused cable channels by 2015…Despite continued pressure on Nickelodeon to restrict ads for products like Trix and Cocoa Puffs — four United States senators renewed the pleas in a letter to the company last week — the Viacom-owned network has remained defiant. Nutritional standards, it contends, must be decided by regulators and food companies, not Hollywood…food remains Nickelodeon’s third biggest advertising category (behind movies and toys), accounting for roughly 18 percent of annual sales. At a recent meeting on Capitol Hill, according to legislative aides, Viacom lobbyists reiterated this point and emphasized that their children’s networks — Nick, Nick Jr. and TeenNick — are more reliant on advertising than Disney’s flagship Disney Channel…

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