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 Rosenberg: With a new decade — a new hope? Reasons for optimism in a disordered world

It’s darkest before the dawn: Social scientists say our time of crisis holds hope for change, renewal and rebirth

“Resistance to Trump/ism is an effort to reclaim and reaffirm our higher values from those who are unable and/or unwilling to recognize and respect them.”
Elizabeth Mika

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see”
Theodore Roethke

We live in a dark time. In “September 1, 1939,” his poem on the outbreak of World War II, W.H. Auden called the 1930s a “low dishonest decade,” and the same could well be said of the 2010s. As that decade reaches its end, the good news is that so many people around the country and around the world are not just cursing the darkness, but lighting candles.

We can see this clearly with Greta Thunberg and the worldwide climate strike movement she has ignited. We can see it with the Parkland students who turned devastating tragedy into a watershed change in the gun safety debate, and helped inspire Thunberg as well. We can see it in the #MeToo movement — “It’s hopeful that the world is changing,” says founder Tarana Burke. We can see it in the massive democracy demonstrations around the world, from Hong Kong to Chile to Sudan and beyond. We can see it in the tens of thousands of Americans, disproportionately women, who have become political activists or political candidates since Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Candles alone aren’t enough, of course, as all those I just cited would insist. But they’re a start.

Robert Reich: How Trump has betrayed the working class

Trump’s corporate giveaways and failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day

Trump is remaking the Republican party into … what?

For a century the GOP has been bankrolled by big business and Wall Street. Trump wants to keep the money rolling in. His signature tax cut, two years old last Sunday, has helped US corporations score record profits and the stock market reach all-time highs. [..]

Trump also wants to expand his working-class base. In rallies and countless tweets he claims to be restoring the American working class by holding back immigration and trade.

Most incumbent Republicans and GOP candidates are mimicking Trump’s economic nationalism. As Trump consigliere Stephen Bannon boasted recently: “We’ve turned the Republican party into a working-class party.”

Keeping the GOP the Party of Big Money while making it over into the Party of the Working Class is a tricky maneuver, especially at a time when capital and labor are engaged in the most intense economic contest in more than a century because so much wealth and power are going to the top.

Paul Krugman: Big Money and America’s Lost Decade

Yes, the rich have too much political influence.

Elizabeth Warren has been getting a lot of grief in the news media lately. Some of it, no doubt, reflects campaign missteps. But much of it is a sort of visceral negative reaction to her criticisms of the excessive influence of big money in politics — a reaction that actually vindicates her point.

It’s true that earlier in her career Warren, like just about everyone else, did fund-raisers with wealthy donors. So? Charges of inconsistency — “you said X, now you say Y” — are all too often a journalistic dodge, a way to avoid dealing with the substance of what a candidate says. Politicians should, after all, change their minds when there’s good reason to do so.

The question should be, was Warren right to announce, back in February, that she would halt high-dollar fund-raisers? More broadly, is she right that the wealthy have too much political influence?

And the answer to the second question is surely yes.

Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson: Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell

And he’s on a mission to use the “authority” of the executive branch to stop it.

A deeper understanding of William Barr is emerging, and it reveals something profound and disturbing about the evolution of conservatism in 21st-century America.

Some people have held that Mr. Barr is simply a partisan hack — willing to do whatever it takes to advance the interests of his own political party and its leadership. This view finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In a Nov. 15 speech at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington, he accused President Trump’s political opponents of “unprecedented abuse” and said they were “engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.” [..]

Another view is that Mr. Barr is principally a defender of a certain interpretation of the Constitution that attributes maximum power to the executive. This view, too, finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In the speech to the Federalist Society, he said, “Since the mid-’60s, there has been a steady grinding down of the executive branch’s authority that accelerated after Watergate.” In July, when President Trump claimed, in remarks to a conservative student group, “I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” it is reasonable to suppose this is his CliffsNotes version of Mr. Barr’s ideology.

Both of these views are accurate enough. But at least since Mr. Barr’s infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery,” it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.

Greg Sargent: Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump’s impeachment defenses

If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.

But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.

McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.

The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.