Mar 13 2017

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.

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Paul Krugman: Facts Are Enemies of the People

The U.S. economy added 10.3 million jobs during President Obama’s second term, or 214,000 a month. This brought the official unemployment rate below 5 percent, and a number of indicators suggested that by late last year we were fairly close to full employment. But Donald Trump insisted that the good news on jobs was “phony,” that America was actually suffering from mass unemployment.

Then came the first employment report of the Trump administration, which at 235,000 jobs added looked very much like a continuation of the previous trend. And the administration claimed credit: Job numbers, Mr. Trump’s press secretary declared, “may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Reporters laughed — and should be ashamed of themselves for doing so. For it really wasn’t a joke. America is now governed by a president and party that fundamentally don’t accept the idea that there are objective facts. Instead, they want everyone to accept that reality is whatever they say it is.

Jason Linkins: Paul Ryan’s Wonk Shtick Is Getting Old

I have a very strong aversion to self-plagiarism, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is at it again, and so, my hand has been forced and I must remind everybody all over again that Ryan is mostly a bundle of shtick, wrapped in a suit, and topped by what must be said is a comparatively decent haircut, when you consider it alongside the combover farm from which most of the rest of Congress seems to have sprung.

Lord, have mercy, I have said all of this before. Paul Ryan: the man whose plans to balance the budget do not balance the budget. Paul Ryan: somehow credited with being a deficit hawk despite having his fingerprints all over any number of deficit-busting policies. Paul Ryan: he will provide growth by closing tax loopholes, despite the fact that an insufficient amount of the same exist. Which is why he’ll never tell you which ones he’s aiming to close.

And now, he’s Paul Ryan ― the guy who doesn’t understand how health insurance works. This week, Ryan dazzled the media with a PowerPoint presentation in which he tried to lay out the nuts and bolts of his Affordable Care Act “replacement” bill, which almost everyone from across the political spectrum hated the moment it was let out of the closet in which he’d stashed it. One moment that caught everyone’s attention was this statement: “The whole idea of Obamacare is that the people on the blue side pay for the people on the red side,” he said, pointing to his slide before clarifying, “The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick.”

This is not “the whole idea of Obamacare.” This is the whole idea of health insurance.

Jessica Valenti: The week in patriarchy: International Women’s Day was a rare bright spot

It was International Women’s Day this week, and despite the never-ending stream of bad news, it was heartening to see the day make such an impact in the US. It’s always struck me as a bit sad that IWD is a big deal across the world while only usually marked in America with a White House press release and a few articles compiling feminist quotes.

Maybe it’s Trump, maybe it’s feminism’s meteoric rise in cultural power – but this year was different. Women across the country went on strike against paid and unpaid labor, and women across the world marched against sexism. It was a rare moment of joy that couldn’t even be ruined by Trump tweeting out how much he respected women or the news that he promised not to defund Planned Parenthood so long as they stopped providing abortions.

Hopefully we can hold on to that optimism a little bit longer; we’re going to need it.

Charles M. Blow:: Trump and the Parasitic Presidency

We have now passed the 50-day mark of the Donald Trump administration and one thing is clear: There is no new Trump.

There is only the same old Trump: Dangerous and unpredictable, gauche and greedy, temperamentally unsuited and emotionally unsound.

If you were trying to create in a lab a person with character traits more unbecoming in a president, it would be hard to outdo the one we have.

He continues to have explosive Twitter episodes — presumably in response to some news he finds unflattering or some conspiracy floated by fringe outlets — that make him look not only foolish, but unhinged. [..]

In these fits of rage, he generates a lie or repeats one, which shifts the burden of proof to the legitimate media to swat it down and defend the truth. This exercise is already getting old.

Trump’s assaults on the truth are not benign. Presidential credibility is American credibility. There is no way to burn through one without burning through the other.

And when he’s not making explosive charges, he’s taking destructive actions.

Isaac Stone fish: Despots are embracing Donald Trump’s ‘war on the media’ with open arms

George W Bush’s ‘war on terror’ gave cover to despots around the world – from China, to Turkey and Russia – for violent crackdowns of minority groups seeking greater freedoms. Once these groups were re-cast as ‘terrorists’, it was hard for the West to criticize the states that used heavy-handed tactics against them. Now, Washington DC has invented another ‘war’ that has regimes across the world delighted: the war on the media.

In mid-February, Venezuela booted CNN En Espanol from the airwaves, claiming, in a fancier version of Trump’s language, that CNN’s reports “defame and distort the truth.” After the White House in late February barred several news outlets, including the New York Times and Politico, from attending a routine briefing, a government spokesman in Cambodia cited that as an inspiration – and threatened to expel news outlets that don’t follow Phnom Penh’s orders.

Also in late February, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website launched a page featuring foreign media reporting that it claims contains false information. The Ministry decorated each article – which come from outlets including The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, and the tiny Santa Monica Observer, among others – with the word ‘Fake.’ (“Stop spreading lies and false news,” a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson told a CNN reporter in early March.)

These attacks serve two main purposes. They intimidate the media, and strive to ingratiate the country’s government with Trump.