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Feb 14 2020

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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: Bernie Sanders Isn’t a Socialist

But he plays one on TV. That’s a problem.

Republicans have a long, disreputable history of conflating any attempt to improve American lives with the evils of “socialism.” When Medicare was first proposed, Ronald Reagan called it “socialized medicine,” and he declared that it would destroy our freedom. These days, if you call for something like universal child care, conservatives accuse you of wanting to turn America into the Soviet Union.

It’s a smarmy, dishonest political strategy, but it’s hard to deny that it has sometimes been effective. And now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination — not an overwhelming front-runner, but clearly the person most likely at the moment to come out on top — is someone who plays right into that strategy, by declaring that he is indeed a socialist.

The thing is, Bernie Sanders isn’t actually a socialist in any normal sense of the term. He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning; he has expressed admiration, not for Venezuela, but for Denmark. He’s basically what Europeans would call a social democrat — and social democracies like Denmark are, in fact, quite nice places to live, with societies that are, if anything, freer than our own.

Eugene Robinson: America, the banana republic

I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth.

I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present.

There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain.

That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before.

Michelle Goldberg: The Right’s Big Lie About Roger Stone

Trump allies are saying Stone didn’t really threaten a witness. They’re wrong.

Randy Credico is the witness from Robert Mueller’s investigation who Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longtime adviser, has been convicted of threatening. A few months ago, Credico texted me, “If Stone goes to jail I’m a walking dead man.” On Thursday, after the president’s intervention to get Stone a lighter sentence convulsed the Justice Department, I spoke to Credico, a left-wing comedian and activist, and he elaborated on what he’d meant. “The guy goes to prison and I’m to blame, and you’re being called a rat, you’re worried about somebody with a red hat, a MAGA hat, doing a Jack Ruby on you,” he said.

His fear has national implications, because a central question in the Stone sentencing is whether Credico truly felt endangered when Stone promised to cause him harm. Despite what the administration’s defenders say, the answer is yes. [..]

Now Credico is in the odd position of both hoping that Stone is spared a long prison sentence, and of being horrified about the way the workings of justice are being manipulated on Stone’s behalf. He’s effusive about the upright decency of the four prosecutors — “guys of integrity” — who’ve since withdrawn from the case, saying it was “agonizing” that his letter undermined them. Said Credico, “These guys were career civil servants, and for Trump to be slamming them is an outrage!”

Outrage seems rather too mild a word. There is now one set of laws in this country for people who serve Trump, and another for everyone else. During Trump’s impeachment trial, the House managers repeated a quote attributed to Ben Franklin over and over again: “A republic, if you can keep it.” We haven’t kept it. The question now is whether we ever get it back.

Catherine Rampell: This latest trick from the Trump administration is one of the most despicable yet

SAN FRANCISCO — After Yolanda was raped, she ran.

She ran from the basement where her attacker had trapped her for three hours. She ran until she found her way to a police station, a place that people such as Yolanda usually avoid at all costs.

Yolanda, a Guatemalan in her 40s, is undocumented. She’s been living in the shadows for more than a decade. But Congress created a program intended to encourage immigrants like her to come forward about heinous crimes like this one: the U-visa, for crime victims who assist law enforcement.

Even so, for several months after her assault, she still agonized about whether to apply, which would requiring turning over information not just to local police but to the Trump administration. But lawyers said she had a slam-dunk case.

Then, unexpectedly, the feds rejected her application. Why? Because … her youngest son doesn’t have a middle name.

If that sounds arbitrary and irrelevant, that’s probably by design. Over the past few months, the Trump administration has quietly been rolling out a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas: If any fields on a form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field.

For example, if “Apt. Number” is left blank because the immigrant lives in a house: rejected. Or if the field for a middle name is left blank because no middle name exists: rejected, too.

P. J. O’Rourke: The New Hampshire primary and the Fort Worth rodeo have more in common than you’d think

In the past 10 days, I attended two quintessentially American events: the annual Fort Worth rodeo and the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. One was a display of remarkable human ability to stay in the saddle, ride violent spins and bucks, dodge powerful kicks and lasso elusive strays.

The other involved a lot of horses and cattle.

The big difference was that in the rodeo, bull riders only have to stay on their bull for eight seconds. [..]

nother difference between the two events was that President Trump did not land in the middle of the Fort Worth proceedings and distract participants by convening 12,000 supporters and telling them, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Democratic presidential candidates.”

Otherwise, the primary and the rodeo were comparable experiences. The rodeo began with a prayer. The primary began with a number of candidates who didn’t have one.

A strong smell pervaded both contests. Although in one case it could be washed out of your clothes the next day.

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