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Jan 02 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Can the Economy Keep Calm and Carry On?

On election night 2016, I gave in temporarily to a temptation I warn others about: I let my political feelings distort my economic judgment. A very bad man had just won the Electoral College; and my first thought was that this would translate quickly into a bad economy. I quickly retracted the claim, and issued a mea culpa. (Being an old-fashioned guy, I try to admit and learn from my mistakes.)

What I should have clung to, despite my dismay, was the well-known proposition that in normal times the president has very little influence on macroeconomic developments — far less influence than the chair of the Federal Reserve.

This only stops being true when the economy is so depressed that monetary policy loses traction, as was the case in 2009-10; at that point it mattered a lot that Obama was willing to engage in fiscal stimulus, and it also mattered a lot, unfortunately, that Republican opposition plus Obama’s own caution meant that the stimulus was much smaller than it should have been. By 2016, however, the aftershocks of the financial crisis had faded away to the point that the usual rules once again applied.

Eugene Robinson: We need to change the way we talk about North Korea

My hope for the new year is that the United States doesn’t bluster and blunder its way into a tragic, needless war.

My fear is that the Trump administration is capable of doing just that.

I confess to having paid less attention than I should to the increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric from the administration about the nuclear threat from North Korea. I’m not talking about President Trump’s juvenile tweets calling Kim Jong Un “Little Rocket Man” and making fun of his weight. I mean statements by officials such as H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, who unlike the president is not known for meaningless blather.

The potential for war with North Korea “is increasing every day,” McMaster said last month at a defense forum. “Time is running out” for a peaceful solution, he declared in another public appearance. “I don’t think we can tolerate that risk” of a nuclear-armed North Korea with advanced ballistic missiles, he told CBS in an interview.

What is alarming is that the situation McMaster describes as intolerable is the situation that exists today. And while he warns that time is running out for a peaceful end to the standoff, he has also said that “there can’t be negotiations under these current conditions.”

I worry that with such absolutist rhetoric, the United States is ruling out the realistic options for peace — and putting us on a path that may lead inexorably to war.

Catherine Rampell: America’s own Cultural Revolution

For those unfamiliar, Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a traumatic period of political upheaval, ostensibly intended to cleanse the People’s Republic of impure and bourgeois elements.

Universities were shuttered. Public officials were purged. Youth paramilitary groups, known as Red Guards, terrorized civilians. Citizens denounced teachers, spouses and parents they suspected of harboring capitalist sympathies.

Millions were uprooted and sent to the countryside for reeducation and hard labor. Millions more were persecuted, publicly humiliated, tortured, executed.

All of which is why, when Li first made this comparison — at a lunch with American journalists sponsored by the Asia Society — I laughed. Li is known as a sort of rhetorical bomb-thrower, an expert defender of the Communist regime, and this seemed like just another one of his explosive remarks.

Robert Kuttner: Could The U.S. Pass The EU’s Democracy Test?

You’ve probably read that the European Union, after years of trying to duck the plain reality of Poland and Hungary ceasing to be democracies, has taken the first step towards denying Poland a vote in the European Commission. The EU’s basic treaty requires its members first and foremost to be democracies.

Here’s the backstory. Since Poland’s Law and Justice Party took power in 2015, the Polish ultra-nationalist leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has felt stymied by the independent judiciary. In July 2017, the government drafted legislation to give Kaczynski control of the courts.

Other EU leaders warned of dire consequences, and Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, a close ally of the government, surprised all by refusing the sign the law. Cynics said this was just a ploy to buy some time for a kinder, gentler version of the same scheme ― and they were right. [..]

And where courts are concerned, the Polish government is pretty tame compared to Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. For the last six years of President Obama’s administration, when Republicans controlled the Senate, McConnell slow-rolled Obama’s judicial appointees, leaving a federal bench that will be controlled by Republican judges for a generation or more.

McConnell disgracefully blocked consideration of Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, an ideological moderate, to the Supreme Court. Thanks to this strategy of total blockage, when Trump took office there were 105 vacancies on the federal judicial bench, compared to just 54 when Obama took office.

So courts and legislative districts are increasingly rigged, just as in Poland and Hungary. The United States is still a democracy ― but a narrowed one.

The revulsion against Trump is so broad and deep, that we have a good shot at repairing the several elements that the Republicans have sought to destroy.

Trump gets most of the attention as a would-be dictator. But the “mainstream” Republican Party properly deserves most of the blame.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson: There Are Always More Victims Than One In A Police Killing

This was a TV ad that millions saw during the 2016 presidential campaign. The speaker was then 26-year-old Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner. The s

pot was aired in support of the presidential bid of Democratic contender, Bernie Sanders. Erica made it clear that she endorsed and would work for Sanders because it would, as she put it, get the truth out to tell (Eric Garner’s) side of the story.”

So, it was a shock that just three years after the slaying of her father, the news came of Erica’s death at age 27 from a heart attack.

The tributes poured in from many notables the instant the announcement was made of her death. The tributes were heartfelt and expressed deep appreciation for the activism and political engagement of Garner in the face of monumental adversity. The adversity was the chokehold slaying of her father, Eric, in July 2014, by a New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo. The slaying was videotaped and ignited furor, mass protests, demonstrations and demands for the prosecution of Pantaleo. That didn’t happen. There was some talk that the Justice Department might bring civil rights charges against Pantaleo after the refusal to locally prosecute. That didn’t happen either. However, Garner’s name became a national symbol of the continuing plague of wanton and reckless police violence against unarmed young ― and not so young ― Blacks.

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