Jun 07 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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Paul Krugman: Mar-a-Lago Comes for British Health

Of privatization, cronyism and trade deals.

Probably everyone who followed Donald Trump’s visit to Britain has a favorite scene of diplomatic debacle. But the moment that probably did the most to poison relations with our oldest ally — and undermine whatever chance there was for the “phenomenal” trade deal Trump claimed to be offering — was Trump’s apparent suggestion that such a deal would involve opening up Britain’s National Health Service to U.S. private companies.

It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. He does, however, know what the N.H.S. is — he just doesn’t understand its role in British life.

After all, last year he tweeted that Britons were marching in the streets to protest a health system that was “going broke and not working.” Actually, the demonstrations were in favor of the N.H.S., calling for more government funding.

But never mind what was going on in Trump’s mind. Let’s focus instead on the fact that no American politician, Trump least of all, has any business giving other countries advice on health care. For we have the worst-performing health care system in the advanced world — and Trump is doing all he can to degrade it further.

As it happens, the British and American health systems lie at opposite ends of a spectrum defined by the relative roles of the private and public sectors.

Eugene Robinson: Only Trump can pack this much ignorance into a few words

It is not unfair to point out that President Trump, on many important subjects, is just an ignoramus.

A vivid illustration of this unfortunate fact came this week in London, when it was revealed that Prince Charles, a knowledgeable environmentalist, had tried to educate the president on climate change — and utterly failed.

“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” Trump told “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan in an interview broadcast Wednesday. “Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”

Good Lord, it’s breathtaking that anyone could pack so much ignorance into so few words.

The correct answer for what human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are doing to the planet is, of course, all of the above . There is indeed global warming — the past five years have been the hottest since record-keeping began, and so much sea ice has melted that shipping lanes are being charted across the Arctic Ocean. There is indeed climate change — this March, temperatures in northern Alaska were 30 to 40 degrees above normal, or what used to be normal. There is indeed extreme weather — scientists have long predicted that deadly weather anomalies, such as the widespread outbreak of tornadoes last month, would become more common as the temperature continues to rise.

Trump said his meeting with Charles was supposed to last 15 minutes but went an hour and a half. One wonders how much of that time Charles must have spent gritting his teeth.

Michelle Goldberg: Leave Drag Queen Story Hour Alone!

Trump supporters think men in makeup are a bigger threat to family values than babies in cages.

Recently Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor of The New York Post, saw something online that left him shaken. “This is demonic,” he tweeted. “To hell with liberal order.”

His moral indignation led him to write a much discussed essay in the religious journal First Things. Castigating conservatives who see a possibility of coexistence with the left, he called for a religious Reconquista of American politics. The right, he argued, should “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square reordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

The post that set Ahmari off was not, needless to say, about the spike in miscarriages among detained migrants, or the prenuptial agreement allowing Donald Trump to cut off support for his daughter Tiffany if she joined the military. It was about Drag Queen Story Hour, a public event series founded in 2015 in which drag queens read to children and lead singalongs.

Ahmari’s jeremiad launched a civil war among conservative intellectuals. It revealed a growing crackup of the so-called fusionist consensus on the modern right, which had long united social conservatives, economic libertarians and foreign policy hawks. Some of this debate is serious. But a not insignificant part of the reactionary intelligentsia is obsessing over the following question: How long can conservatives tolerate a political system that victimizes them by allowing Drag Queen Story Hour to exist?

Does it sound like I’m kidding? I’m not. “The effort to ban Drag Queen Story Hour starts when we have the courage to clarify the moral stakes,” Ramona V. Tausz wrote in a follow-up First Things piece. “This requires casting off the civility creeds of the woke liberal left.”

Catherine Rampell: Everyone’s got a climate plan. So where’s the carbon tax?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a big, bold, multitrillion-dollar plan for addressing climate change. So does her rival Joe Biden. Likewise former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. And, of course, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), whose entire campaign is structured around the climate crisis.

These candidates, to their credit, have offered thoughtful solutions for addressing the most pressing policy challenge of our time. Their proposals are highly detailed and thorough, often running to dozens of pages in length.

And it’s precisely because they’re so detailed and thorough that it’s so bizarre none of them explicitly mentions the obvious, no-brainer tool for curbing carbon emissions: putting a price on carbon.

A carbon tax (or its cousin, a cap-and-trade system) is almost universally embraced by economists on both the left and the right. With good reason, too. Taxing carbon means pricing in, upfront, the implicit costs that come from using fossil fuels — especially, though not exclusively, the cost of warming our planet.

This approach has two main benefits.

Greg Sargent: Trump’s latest eruption at Pelosi reveals a terrible truth about this moment

Amazingly, after all we’ve seen, there’s still a tendency in some quarters to treat the falsehoods regularly told by President Trump, and echoed by his media allies, as a somewhat exaggerated but basically conventional form of political dishonesty.

But Trump and certain of his media partisans have long been engaged in something altogether different — something that can only be described as concerted and deliberate disinformation.

Two new televised attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — Trump’s interview with Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity’s follow-up broadcast, both of which aired on Thursday night — provide an occasion to underscore the point.

In his interview with Ingraham, Trump ripped into Pelosi for privately saying she wants to see Trump “in prison.” He blasted Pelosi as a “nasty, vindictive, horrible person” and claimed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report was a “disaster” that produced “nothing” (an incalculable absurdity, given its incredibly damning revelations). [..]

But as Brian Beutler notes, the equivalence is false: Trump actually does face the real possibility of prosecution for campaign finance crimes after he leaves office. He did engage in extensive, documented wrongdoing and (but for Justice Department policy) likely criminal obstruction of justice. The Trump/Hannity narrative seeks to expunge these facts precisely through the act of trying to overwhelm reality with falsehoods.

Yet little of this understanding of Trumpian disinformation, or the deep asymmetries created by it, has penetrated to the broader media. As The Post’s Paul Farhi aptly reports, many in the media are still shy about accurately characterizing Trump’s serial lying. Read press critic Jay Rosen’s acid thread in response, which argues that false balance in the face of this deep disinformation-driven imbalance is itself profoundly distortive.