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Dec 25 2015

Punting the Pundits

“Punting 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 “Punting the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial: Moments of Grace in a Grim Year

Humanity being what it is, the world remains a place of suffering and calamity. In 2015, catastrophes in the Middle East spread misery and terror the world over. The United States was brutalized, as ever, by the tyranny of gunfire. Our coarsened politics, so expert at keeping the populace fearful and distraught, got ever louder and cruder in the heat of a presidential race. The strutting and fretting promise only to get worse in 2016.

There is ample reason to feel weary and ill at ease. Today, though, it might help to look skyward, upon the Christmas full moon and, through an act of willful optimism, to swivel the mind away from the worst of this fading year. To tune out the rancor and find reasons to believe in the persistence of better values: humility, conciliation, kindness, dignity and reason.

The evidence was all around in 2015, nearly everywhere you looked.

Paul Krugman: Things to Celebrate, Like Dreams of Flying Cars

In Star Wars, Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs; in real life, all the Falcon 9 has done so far is land at Cape Canaveral without falling over or exploding. Yet I, like many nerds, was thrilled by that achievement, in part because it reinforced my growing optimism about the direction technology seems to be taking — a direction that may end up saving the world.

O.K., if you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Falcon 9 is Elon Musk’s reusable rocket, which is supposed to boost a payload into space, then return to where it can be launched again. If the concept works, it could drastically reduce the cost of putting stuff into orbit. And that successful landing was a milestone. We’re still a very long way from space colonies and zero-gravity hotels, let alone galactic empires. But space technology is moving forward after decades of stagnation.

And to my amateur eye, this seems to be part of a broader trend, which is making me more hopeful for the future than I’ve been in a while.

Rachel Maddow: A leading presidential candidate embracing the fringe? That’s nuts — and new.

Leadership has its burdens. Among them is the necessity of correcting and redirecting the well-meaning folks on your own side who are attracted to dangerous conspiracy theories.

There will always be someone out there cooking this stuff up and selling it to the unhinged and gullible. But that just makes it a workaday responsibility of political leaders to make sure this stuff doesn’t get mainstreamed. I’m not saying we’ve always been great at that, but at the level of presidential nominees, we’ve at least recently had the benefit of candidates who see it as their responsibility to try.

Who will take on that role in the 2016-era Republican Party if and when it decides that the wild-eyed conspiratorial fringe isn’t just welcome on the edges of their party anymore ; it’s in charge? Who can?

David Cay Johnston: Congress gives Americans a lump of coal for Christmas

Congress used the tax and spending bill enacted this holiday month to wrap a lot of valuable presents. Lawmakers did not work from a list of who was naughty and nice. Instead they delivered big gifts to the political donor class, especially the big corporations enjoying record profits, while finding clever ways to mislead or mollify voters about what they were doing.

An examination of the list of tax favors shows that unlike the jolly fellow in the red suit who gives selflessly, Capitol Hill’s Santas are calculating investors.

The rising influence of corporate values, especially marketing and advertising, in setting government policy is evident in the misleading name of the bill: the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, or PATH.

Several tax-rate hikes are built into the new law, hidden in the fine print of the bill and some official pronouncements.

Robert Creamer: The Real Attack on the Spirit of Christmas — 2015

Once again it’s Christmas. Time for Fox News and the entire rightwing chorus to recite their patently absurd allegation that Progressives have launched a “War on Christmas”.

Never mind that the White House is bursting at the seams with Christmas decorations and Christmas music surrounds us.

This year the big Right Wing data point was the startling discovery that Starbucks would toss aside that “deeply-held” Christmas tradition of putting snow flakes on their cups during the holiday season – and had opted instead for using the “Christmas colors” of red and green. Of course, last I looked, snowflakes were not a “sacred” symbol of the season – but to some Right Wing commentators, it represents an attack on Christmas nonetheless.

There is no “War on Christmas.” But there is a war on the spirit of Christmas — and it is coming squarely from the American Right. That has been true for many years — but this year the Right Wing war on the spirit of Christmas has gone into overdrive.