Apr 10 2019

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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Robert Reich: The Myth of Meritocracy

A prestigious college packed with the children of wealthy and well-connected parents is now the launching pad into the stratosphere of big money.

Most Americans still cling to the meritocratic notion that people are rewarded according to their efforts and abilities. But meritocracy is becoming a cruel joke.

The Justice Department recently announced indictments of dozens of wealthy parents for using bribery and fraud to get their children into prestigious colleges.

But the real scandal isn’t how far a few wealthy parents will go to get their kids admitted (apparently $1.2 million in illegal payoffs), but how commonplace it has become for them to go almost as far without breaking any laws – shelling out big bucks for essay tutors, testing tutors, admissions counselors, and “enrichment” courses (not to mention sky-high tuition at private schools feeding into the Ivy League).

Inequality is lurking behind all this, and not just because the wealthy can afford it. Researchers Daniel Schneider, Orestes Hastings, and Joe LaBriola found that in states with the biggest gaps between rich and poor, well-to-do parents spend the most trying to get their children into elite colleges.

America’s unprecedented concentration of wealth combined with seemingly bottomless poverty have increased parental anxiety – raising the stakes, and the competition, for admission.

Joseph Stiglitz: Trump will leave a legacy of selfishness and dishonesty

The president’s attack on every pillar of society jeopardises the US’s continued prosperity and ability to function as a democracy

Kirstjen Nielsen’s forced resignation as US secretary of homeland security is no reason to celebrate. Yes, she presided over the forced separation of families at the US border, notoriously housing young children in wire cages. But Nielsen’s departure is not likely to bring any improvement, as Donald Trump wants to replace her with someone who will carry out his anti-immigrant policies even more ruthlessly.

The president’s immigration policies are appalling in almost every aspect. And yet they may not be the worst feature of his administration. Indeed, identifying its foullest aspects has become a popular American parlour game. Yes, he has called immigrants criminals, rapists and animals. But what about his deep misogyny or his boundless vulgarity and cruelty? Or his winking support of white supremacists? Or his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty? And, of course, there is his war on the environment, on healthcare, and on the rules-based international system.

This morbid game never ends, of course, because new contenders for the title emerge almost daily. Trump is a disrupting personality, and after he’s gone, we may well reflect on how such a deranged and morally challenged person could have been elected president of the world’s most powerful country in the first place.

Michelle Cottle: Stephen Miller Can’t Act Alone

The Trump administration’s vicious immigration policies didn’t implement themselves.

s President Trump continues his mad purge of the Department of Homeland Security, a sinister figure is emerging as the driving force behind all the chaos: Stephen Miller, the president’s top immigration adviser.

A fierce restrictionist, Mr. Miller seems to have rarely met an immigrant he didn’t want to deport. He is among the hardest of hard-liners, known for spurring his boss to pursue ever more draconian measures. [..]

Bottom line, Stephen Miller is a man whose anti-immigration zeal remains unfettered by concern for the law, international norms or basic humanity.

And yet. The portrait of the 33-year-old policy adviser as a figure of singular evil is both overly simplistic and counterproductive. Sure, the guy is a force for darkness, easing the president ever further into nativism. But no matter how much of the administration’s immigration agenda Mr. Miller has been responsible for, it’s taken a village to make that vision a reality. Giving too much credit to any one person builds up Mr. Miller, undeservedly, as a Machiavellian genius and lets many other folks off the hook.

A society does not fall because of a small coterie of bad actors. Widespread rot requires legions of enablers, many of whom are driven by varying blends of personal ambition, ideological expedience and the self-aggrandizing delusion that, through their invaluable counsel, they can save the state from total destruction.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Our crisis of democracy is taking center stage in the 2020 campaign

Will the Constitution survive these troubled times? Should it? These are the questions at the center of Heidi Schreck’s powerful new play, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which made its Broadway debut on March 31. Raw, righteous and brimming with humor, the play has become an improbable sensation, a sign of the collective anxiety that many Americans currently are feeling. “It is not just the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but also the most important,” wrote Jesse Green, theater critic for the New York Times, who added, “It restarts an argument many of us forgot we even needed to have.” [..]

The United States’ crisis of democracy is taking center stage in the 2020 presidential campaign. At the same time that Democratic candidates are staking out bold stances on policies such as Medicare-for-all, they are also increasingly focused on the need to fix a broken political system. While it’s still early, voters seem to agree. Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., has surged into contention with a reform agenda that includes abolishing the electoral college, granting statehood to the District of Columbia and expanding the number of Supreme Court justices. “Every other issue that I care about — from gun violence to climate change — isn’t going to get better as long as our democracy is this warped,” he contends.

Buttigieg is not alone. As The Post reports, at least eight Democratic candidates have called for the elimination of the electoral college, which has awarded the presidency to the loser of the national popular vote twice in the past five presidential elections. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rightly points out that, in addition to distorting electoral outcomes, the current system deprives vast swaths of the country an opportunity to hear directly from those running to represent them. “We get to the general election for the highest office in this land, and no presidential candidate comes to Alabama or Mississippi,” she says. “They’re not going to Massachusetts or California, either. They are not coming because we are not the states that are in play.” In a speech Friday, Warren also endorsed abolishing the Senate filibuster, an idea that has provoked mixed feelings from other senators in the race. The leading candidates are unified in their support for overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Ricahrd Wolffe: Spare us the self-serving excuses, Kirstjen Nielsen. You were the worst

The former homeland security secretary deployed the skills of a careerist technocrat in the cause of Trump’s inhumanity

Of all the charlatans, sycophants and moral sellouts surrounding Donald Trump, no one comes close to Kirstjen Nielsen.

Not Steve Bannon, the neo-fascist strategist who glued a thin veneer of ideology on top of the particle board flakes that fill the cranium of a bankrupt property developer.

Not Paul Manafort, the ostrich jacket-loving former campaign chairman now serving seven years for being a liar and fraud after servicing a motley crew of tyrants.

Not even Mike Pence, the “evangelical Catholic” vice-president who set a new land-speed record for praising this genital-grabbing, porn star hush money president.

No, there is no one quite like the departing secretary of homeland security, who forced some of the world’s most vulnerable people to pay any price and bear any burden to assure the survival of her own career.

In Trump’s ninth circle of hell, there may be more ideological hardliners than Nielsen and there certainly are more wingnut sociopaths.