Jun 28 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: The S Word, the F Word and the Election

Guess which party is really un-American.

What did you think of the bunch of socialists you just saw debating on stage?

Wait, you may protest, you didn’t see any socialists up there. And you’d be right. The Democratic Party has clearly moved left in recent years, but none of the presidential candidates are anything close to being actual socialists — no, not even Bernie Sanders, whose embrace of the label is really more about branding (“I’m anti-establishment!”) than substance.

Nobody in these debates wants government ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism used to mean. Most of the candidates are, instead, what Europeans would call “social democrats”: advocates of a private-sector-driven economy, but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance. They want America to be more like Denmark, not more like Venezuela.

Leading Republicans, however, routinely describe Democrats, even those on the right of their party, as socialists. Indeed, all indications are that denunciations of Democrats’ “socialist” agenda will be front and center in the general election campaign. And everyone in the news media accepts this as the normal state of affairs.

Which goes to show the extent to which Republican extremism has been accepted simply as a fact of life, barely worth mentioning.

Richard L. Hansen: The Gerrymandering Decision Drags the Supreme Court Further Into the Mud

Ignoring the racial redistricting problem won’t make it go away.

The Supreme Court decision on Thursday in Rucho v. Common Cause purports to take federal courts out of the business of policing partisan gerrymanders and leave the issue for states to handle. But the decision will instead push federal courts further into the political thicket, and, in states with substantial minority voter populations, force courts to make logically impossible determinations about whether racial reasons or partisan motives predominate when a party gerrymanders for political advantage. It didn’t have to be this way.

For more than a decade, federal courts have struggled with the question of whether there are standards for separating permissible from impermissible partisan considerations in drawing district lines. They struggled because Justice Anthony Kennedy had kept the door open to having federal courts hold some districting plans unconstitutional.

With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, a solid five-justice conservative majority firmly shut the door in the Rucho case, saying that there were no judicially manageable standards to apply. For a court that regularly uses court-created standards — such as those determining when someone has acted with racially discriminatory intent or when a monopolist created “substantially anticompetitive effects” — the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts is disingenuous.

Catherine Rampell: Trump’s proposed tennis ball tariff represents a grand slam of terrible trade policy

It represents a sort of grand slam of terrible trade policy.

Head Penn Racquet Sports, a division of Colorado-based Head USA Inc., makes the best-selling tennis ball in the United States. It sells about 65 million balls under its “Penn” brand each year, representing nearly two-thirds of all branded tennis ball sales in the United States.

Like other brands, Penn balls used to be made in the United States. One by one, though, all the factories left.

Why? Because tennis balls are low-price, low-margin products, basically commodities. And they exhibit high “elasticity” not just in their bounciness but in their price: That is, tennis ball buyers tend to be very sensitive to small changes in price, and they don’t have a lot of brand loyalty. If Ball A is 50 cents cheaper than Ball B, most customers will buy Ball A. So trimming costs — for example, by cutting labor costs — confers a huge advantage.

About a decade ago, racquet sports division president Greg Mason says, Head became the last U.S.-based tennis ball manufacturer to move production abroad. It invested about $25 million in building a state-of-the-art facility in China, which makes around 100 million balls each year for the global market.

Then, last month, Trump announced plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports so far untouched by his trade war. The thousands of items on the list are primarily consumer products, including clothes, shoes, toys, cellphones — and yes, the humble tennis ball.

Karen Tumulty: One Texan had a breakout night. The other had the roughest.

In Wednesday night’s first Democratic presidential debate, two candidates who happen to come from the same state gave a vivid demonstration of what to do — and what not to — when the pressure is on.

Though the stage was crowded, one of them showed how a well-prepared underdog can seize an opportunity to elevate his stature and define his rationale for running. The other did pretty much the opposite, trying to coast on platitudes more suitable for stump speeches and reinforcing growing doubts as to whether he is truly ready for the endeavor he has undertaken.

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, barely registering in the polls, badly needed this breakout moment. Castro, who also served five years as mayor of San Antonio, created it by arriving ready to press his case on immigration, where he has put forward the most far-reaching plan of any candidate to overhaul the nation’s laws.

It was a good time to do it: The nation’s conscience has been seized by headlines about the deplorable conditions under which helpless children are being held in federal detention centers, and by the horrifying image of a Salvadoran migrant father and his toddler daughter lying drowned in muddy water.

Jennifer Rubin: Kamala Harris hits a home run

Thursday’s debate provided the first time to see several top presidential candidates — former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — as well as an assortment of lesser known and, in some cases, improbable figures face off on the same stage. The result was, at times, explosive and surprising, a tough contest between several tough competitors.

Harris, not unlike several middle-tier contenders last night, had the chance to mightily improve her standing (as former HUD secretary Julián Castro and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey did during Wednesday’s debate). And boy did she. She was the clear standout on the stage, mixing righteous anger, biographical stories and prosecutorial toughness. She demonstrated just how her toughness and prosecutorial experience could be wielded — not just against Democrats but eventually against President Trump.

From the first answer sketching out her economic plans to stepping in to chide her bickering colleagues (“America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we’re going to put food on their table”), to a devastating attack on Biden’s record on busing (invoking her own experience as a child bused to integrated schools), to separating herself from the deportation policies of the Obama administration, and to chastising Buttigieg for not integrating South Bend’s police force, she was virtually pitch-perfect. Though she put up her hand for Medicare-for-all, she wasn’t grilled on details; instead, she told a story of mothers sitting in a parking lot afraid to go into the emergency room. By the end of the debate, I was left wishing for a Harris standoff with Elizabeth Warren.