May 11 2016

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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Trevor Timm: If Facebook hides conservative news, a Senate inquiry is a bad idea

Many people were rightly disturbed earlier this week when Gizmodo revealed that Facebook employees allegedly suppressed conservative news stories on the whim of their employer’s political leanings. As alarming as that story is, a new congressional investigation into Facebook for those editorial choices is arguably worse.

Gizmodo’s Michael Nunez provoked a firestorm of criticism towards Facebook on Monday when he reported that a former Facebook staffer accused its news team of refusing to include conservative news outlets like Breitbart and RedState in its influential “trending news” section on the front page – which generates huge traffic for those outlets included. Even if you despise the likes of Breitbart and RedState, the idea of such a dominant corporation controlling what you do and don’t see online should alarm people of all political persuasions.

But now Republicans on the Senate commerce committee have opened an inquiry into Facebook’s editorial decisions, which encroaches on the first amendment in a way that represents a clear and present danger to their free speech.

Jessica Valenti: North Carolina’s bathroom law: an exercise in hypocrisy

There’s a pro-choice saying about the Republican party: government so small it fits in your uterus. Over the years, that aphorism could be applied to any of the small spaces the GOP has shouldered its way into: doctor’s offices, classrooms, bedrooms.

It seems appropriate, then, that the hill some Republicans want to die on resides in a toilet stall. The last gasp of their flailing culture war – HB2, North Carolina’s law banning transgender people from deciding what bathroom is most appropriate and safe to use – stinks. And the justification for the law reeks of the insincere protectionism the GOP routinely uses as an excuse to discriminate.

Republicans insist that HB2 simply protects little girls from predators – just as they claim that laws limiting abortion access protect women from ourselves and our doctors, or that immigration policies protect women from “rapists”.

It’s amazing how much the GOP seems to care about women’s wellbeing! Given the extraordinary concern Republicans claim to have over sexual violence, you’d think they would be working hard to end it across the board.

Dave Shilling: Paul Ryan: creep, failure, hero of the hour

“Somebody said the paparazzi is going crazy over that meeting,” Donald Trump told the New York Times today, referencing his upcoming sitdown with Republican congressional leaders. It’s a curious thing to have a politician referencing the photographic scourge of high-wattage celebrities. I might not have polling data from Nate Silver to back this up, but I’m certain the average tabloid reader isn’t foaming at the mouth to see candid photos of Mitch McConnell sunbathing.

Trump’s statement is even odder when you consider that the object of that paparazzi attention includes Paul Ryan – a man who, in addition to looking like the manager of a Subway sandwich shop on a college campus, is an unsuccessful vice presidential nominee and the public face of a Congress with a 79% disapproval rating, according to a recent Gallup poll. [..]

Looking like he should be important has allowed him to continually fail upwards in politics. They say dress for the job you want, but Paul Ryan took it a step further and was simply born like that. In true American style, he’s blundered his way to prominence – first as a freshman congressman, then a disastrous vice presidential nominee, and now an unpopular Speaker of the House. At this rate, Speaker Ryan has a decent shot of being named Supreme Galactic Emperor before his time is up.

Trump has shown no particular interest in moderating his stance. In that same New York Times article, he’s quoted as saying “You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series — you gonna change? People like the way I’m doing.” He uses his electoral mandate as justification for telling the GOP establishment to lock themselves in a panic room until November.

The only hope of the congressional contingent is that Paul Ryan channels his inner Subway manager — firm, resolute, unyielding.

Lucia Graves: Hillary Clinton may have lost West Virginia by a landslide. The truth is, she doesn’t need it

Hillary Clinton’s resounding loss in West Virginia on Tuesday may not mean much for her delegate count, but that there’s plenty to worry those concerned with optics.

After all, just eight years ago, she beat Obama in the overwhelmingly white state of West Virginia by one of the biggest margins of the primary season. This year it was she who lost in a landslide to Bernie Sanders.

The trouble for the Clinton naysayers here is that she doesn’t need to win over white America to become the next president. She doesn’t even need to come close.

In 2012, Obama lost white men to Mitt Romney, 35% to 62%. He also lost white women, 42% to Romney’s 56%.

Clinton’s numbers with women will likely be better, and the proportion of the electorate that’s white has gotten smaller since 2012. Trump may well beat her handily among white people. But, quite simply, if Clinton keeps her command with minorities and women, it won’t matter.

Heather Digby Parton: “This is the ultimate reality TV show”: This is what really enabled the rise of Donald Trump

In the midst of all the hoopla over the Republicans nominating someone whose slogan, “Make America Great Again,” includes bringing white nationalists back into the mainstream of the party, the political press is undergoing one of its periodic soul-searching exercises, asking whether it bears any responsibility for the rise of Donald Trump. The answer, of course, is yes. The amount of free airtime devoted by all three cable news networks to broadcasting his every utterance is estimated to be worth over a billion dollars in campaign ads he didn’t have to run. [..]

It’s not entirely fair to blame them for doing this. The days when the networks thought of their news divisions as loss leaders in the name of civic duty is long gone. Journalism is being squeezed in all directions and the prospect of big ratings was a temptation no producer responsible for the bottom line could be expected to pass up. They were giving the people what they wanted — politics as entertainment. And say what you will about it, it has been entertaining, in a horrifying, exploding Hindenberg sort of way.

But let’s be honest. Nobody forced Republican voters to pull the lever for Trump. The Party offered up a dozen and a half candidates and the networks gave them what seemed like hundreds of televised debates. It’s not as if they had no exposure to the rest of the field or didn’t understand exactly what they were voting for in Trump. But that leads to a bigger question of why they like him so much, and the press is doing some navel gazing about that as well.