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Feb 18 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: Have Zombies Eaten Bloomberg’s and Buttigieg’s Brains?

Beware the Democrats of the living dead.

MADRID — I’m in Spain right now, talking about zombie ideas — ideas that should have been killed by evidence, but just keep lurching along. In the modern United States, most important zombie ideas are on the right, kept undead by big money from billionaires who have a financial interest in getting people to believe things that aren’t true.

But sometimes zombie ideas also manage to eat centrists’ brains. Sure enough, some of the most destructive zombies of the past dozen years have shambled their way into the Democratic primary fight, where a couple of centrists are repeating ideas that were thoroughly debunked years ago.

And as it happens, the experience of Europe, and Spain in particular, provides some of the bullets we should be using to shoot these particular zombies in the head.

So let’s start with the origins of the 2008 financial crisis, a topic that remains relevant if we want to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Ron Wyden: Corporations are working with the Trump administration to control online speech

Some of the biggest corporations in the United States are brawling over the future of the law that allows free speech and innovation to thrive online. Under the guise of getting rid of lies and protecting children, they’re working with the Trump administration and top Republicans to undermine Americans’ rights and give the government unprecedented control over online speech.

Special interests trying to influence federal laws and regulations are nothing new in Washington. Big banks and drug companies have been wildly successful at working the system to discourage competition and stay on top. Occasionally, however, Congress actually passes a law that protects the less powerful elements of our society, the insurgents and the disrupters. That’s what it did in 1996 when it passed a law I co-authored called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 was written to provide legal protection to online platforms so they could take down objectionable material without being dragged into court. It lets companies remove posts from white supremacists or trolls without being sued for bias or for limiting individuals’ First Amendment rights. If a website wants to cater to the right wing, it can. If it wants to ban Trump supporters, it can do that, too.

Robert Reich: ‘Trump justice’ is an oxymoron — thanks to the president’s GOP enablers: Robert Reich

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain is reputed to have said.

My first job after law school was as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. I reported for work September 1974, just weeks after Richard Nixon resigned.

In the years leading up to his resignation, Nixon turned the Justice Department and FBI into his personal fiefdom, enlisting his political appointees to reward his friends and penalize his enemies. Reports about how compromised the Justice Department had become generated enough public outrage to force the appointment of the first Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. [..]

Watergate also ushered into politics a young man named Roger Stone, who, under the Committee for the Re-election of the President (known then and forevermore as CREEP), helped devise lies and conspiracy theories to harm Democrats.

After Nixon resigned, the entire slimy mess of Watergate spawned a series of reforms. During the years I worked at the Justice Department, regulations were put into place to insulate the FBI and DOJ from political interference. [..]

Now we’re back to where we were 50 years ago. Donald Trump seems determined to finish Nixon’s agenda of rigging elections and making the Justice Department a cesspool of partisanship. In Trump’s 2016 campaign, even Stone was back to his old dirty tricks of issuing lies and conspiracy theories directed at a Democratic opponent.

Jamelle Bouie: The Trumpian Liberalism of Michael Bloomberg

He may be running as the anti-Trump, but when it comes to the politics of racial control, there is a resemblance.

Donald Trump is who he is as a politician because of his unapologetically racial vision of the American nation. Trump’s America is white, and he sees his job as protecting that whiteness from black and brown people who might come to the country or claim greater status within it. That’s what it meant to “make America great again.” And he’s delivered, using the power of the office and the force of the state to attack and stigmatize black and brown people, from outspoken celebrities to ordinary immigrants.

If that’s our lens for understanding Trump — if the heart of his movement and ideology is racial control — then it appears we finally have a Democratic equivalent, a figure who works on the same signal albeit at a different frequency. It’s Michael Bloomberg, the other New York billionaire in American politics, who is currently campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. [..]

And in the same way that liberals fear for the future of democracy under four more years of Trump, they should fear for the implications of giving four years, period, to Bloomberg. Given his record, he’s someone who might try to consolidate Trumpism — moderating its hostilities into less disruptive form — rather than reject it wholesale.

Yes, Bloomberg might be the one to beat Trump at the ballot box. But he’s also the one who might put a Trumpist stamp on American liberalism.

Eugene Robinson: Democratic candidates are doing Trump’s job for him

President Trump’s playbook for the general election is obvious: demonize the Democrat who runs against him. Democratic primary hopefuls need to stop doing the job for him.

Attacking isn’t the only way to campaign. This should be the cycle when the difference between “drawing contrasts” and “going negative” becomes meaningful, not just rhetorical.

Somebody, eventually, is going to win the Democratic nomination. If the candidates are sincere when they say this is the most important election of our lifetimes and ousting Trump must be the top priority — and I believe they are — then how does it make sense to generate so much fodder for Trump campaign ads in the fall?

Look, I know that politics ain’t “Kumbaya.” It would be insane to go through the grueling experience of running for president without trying to win, and that means convincing voters you’re the best for the job. There’s a difference, though, between making the most effective case for yourself and arguing that your opponents are so flawed as to be disqualified for office.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Down-ballot races are critical to turning Texas blue

The nation — or at least the media — is fixated on the Democratic presidential nomination battle. Although that campaign could be a defining moment for progressives, it isn’t the whole story. The top of the ballot must be met by transformation at the bottom.

As the right has already learned, down-ballot races are critical to shaping the nation. [..]

In the states, congressional district maps are on the line as the 2020 Census will trigger redistricting. Democrats’ only hope to guard against the sort of gerrymandering that has taken place in Ohio and North Carolina is to win big in state legislatures.

One state to watch is Texas, where Democrats need to pick up nine seats in the state House to end a nearly 20-year Republican hold on the legislature.

If Texas Democrats continue to gain momentum, 2018 will be seen as a turning point. Former representative Beto O’Rourke nearly defeated Ted Cruz in Texas’s closest U.S. Senate race in 40 years. O’Rourke’s momentum and his campaign’s success in appealing to new voters helped Texas Democrats clinch victories in the U.S. House, the Texas State House and important local offices, including judgeships.