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Apr 07 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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Amanda Marcotte: Wisconsin proves GOP’s war on voting is about ending democracy, not just winning

Republicans exploit pandemic to stop people from voting — and expose their ideological opposition to democracy

The Wisconsin Republican Party has been at the cutting edge of the efforts to make sure few, if any, Democratic voters ever make it to the polls again. Under the guidance of former Republican governor Scott Walker, a stalwart opponent of food having flavor, the state enacted a dizzying program of voter suppression, requiring people to have updated government-issued IDs while simultaneously making those IDs much harder to get, especially for people of color. They also suppressed the college student vote by banning most student IDs as a legitimate form of identification.

From the beginning of this war on voters, which has been spread out across the country,  it’s been understood primarily as a partisan power grab, an attempt to keep certain constituencies from voting because they tend to vote for Democrats. Even Donald Trump, always saying the quiet parts out loud, said recently that if voting by mail becomes widespread, “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”  [..]

But what’s happening in Wisconsin this week defies the usual partisan understanding of voter suppression. Wisconsin Republicans are exploiting the coronavirus to keep everyone from voting. It’s a preview not just of the way Republicans will use this crisis to shut down voting in particular instances, but an expansion of their anti-voting views in general. It’s starting to look like the Republican war on voting isn’t just about partisan gain, but even more about a deep hostility to democracy itself, and an objection to very idea of letting the people choose their leaders.

Samantha Powers: This Won’t End for Anyone Until It Ends for Everyone

Even with Trump in office, other countries will take their cues from America.

Close to 370,000 infections and nearly 11,000 deaths in the United States. Nearly 10 million Americans filing unemployment claims. Unimaginable heartbreak and hardship, with worse to come. Given this still-developing emergency, and the fatal inadequacy of the U.S. government’s domestic preparedness and response so far, it is very hard to focus on the devastation that is about to strike the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

But if President Trump doesn’t overcome his go-it-alone mind-set and take immediate steps to mobilize a global coalition to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, its spread will cause a catastrophic loss of life and make it impossible to restore normalcy in the United States in the foreseeable future. [..]

President Trump is unlikely to be moved by the human cost of what awaits the world’s most vulnerable communities. And he will surely be tempted to imagine that lasting closures of air and land routes will insulate the United States from what happens to them. But the weakest links in the chain will impede our own ability to stem the contagion and begin the recovery process.

That’s because the United States is intricately tied to the rest of the world, thanks to a global supply network that reaches into remote corners of the globe, American family ties to dozens of acutely at-risk nations and trade ties with dozens more.

Michelle Goldberg: Red States Are Exploiting Coronavirus to Ban Abortion

For autocrats everywhere, the crisis is a chance to restrict rights.

While America’s attention has been consumed by the coronavirus crisis, politicians who have long wanted to do away with abortion rights have seized their chance. Since the pandemic began, governors in several red states have tried to use it as an excuse to ban abortion, lumping pregnancy termination in with elective procedures like cataract surgery and joint replacements that need to be postponed to save precious medical equipment. Abortion, perhaps needless to say, can’t simply be put off until this catastrophe is over, but as of this writing, a court has allowed the ban in Texas to go into effect.

Authoritarians all over the world have exploited the coronavirus to scrap civil liberties. In Hungary, where democracy has been eroding for years, Viktor Orban used the pandemic to institute rule by decree. In Jordan and Thailand, leaders have used the pandemic as an excuse for cracking down on the press. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his allies have frozen the Knesset and shut down most courts, postponing Netanyahu’s own arraignment on corruption charges. American autocrats are no less opportunist. With the country in a panic, they saw an opening to suspend the guarantees of Roe v. Wade, at least for the moment, and they took it.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: After this pandemic passes, America needs a reckoning with its national security

After this pandemic passes, there must be a profound reckoning. I’m not referring to President Trump’s abysmal performance in the crisis; the election in November will render citizens’ judgment on that. No, there must be a reckoning with the profound failure of the United States’ domestic and foreign policies and priorities, a failure that was apparent even before covid-19 revealed the catastrophic bankruptcy of our national security strategy.

Less than 30 years ago, with the end of the Soviet Union, the United States basked in the role of the world’s sole superpower. An establishment consensus quickly congealed. Scholars proclaimed the “end of history,” announcing the U.S. model — liberal democracy and market fundamentalism — was the ultimate endpoint of human progress. Corporate-led globalization would bring untold prosperity to the United States and spread it across the globe. America’s unrivaled military dominance would enable it to police an unruly world, spreading the blessings of democracy. Though partisan differences might exist in emphasis and rhetoric, the consensus — and the overweening arrogance — would be unassailable. [..]

The results for the security of Americans have been ruinous. Under the rules rigged by corporations, globalization led to good jobs being shipped abroad, workers losing ground, wages stagnating and insecurity rising while inequality reached grotesque extremes. Trillions of dollars are devoted to building military power that is increasingly irrelevant to meeting the challenges of our time, while fundamental threats — catastrophic climate change, pandemics, mass migrations forced by failed states and endless wars — have been slighted. Americans grow more and more insecure, life expectancy has declined, and an entire generation has been left mired in debt. And the United States remains an outlier among developed countries in its failure to provide basic shared security — universal health care, decent wages, sick leave, first-rate public education and so on.

Catherine Rampell: This could be a long fight. People should be told the truth.

This — that is, all the bad stuff happening right now, including lockdowns, layoffs and daily death tolls — could last awhile. Months, maybe years.

And Americans need to be better prepared for that possibility, because better-managed expectations are likely to produce better outcomes.

To be sure, the paths of the pandemic and the economy are rife with uncertainty. But data-driven models from professionals inside the administration and outside experts suggest that the twin crises could be deep and prolonged.

For instance, the White House coronavirus task force’s model projects that even with maximum social distancing measures, deaths will continue at least through June. President Trump’s former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, among other public health experts, also expects a renewed outbreak in the fall.

Economic forecasts are all over the map, but most analysts appear to expect double-digit output declines this quarter. Unemployment over the same period could range from 10.5 percent to 40.6 percent, according to back-of-the-envelope calculations from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. For context, unemployment during the Great Recession peaked at 10 percent.

Perhaps even more daunting is the anticipated duration of such suffering. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office said it assumes unemployment will be 9 percent at the end of 2021. Yes, more than a year from now.

In other words, no matter how much we will it, a swift economic bounceback doesn’t seem likely.

Karen Tumulty: The problem with Trump’s ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Over the weekend, President Trump judiciously warned the country to brace for “the toughest week” yet, one in which “there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.” It was the right message.

So how to explain why a president who styles himself a wartime commander in chief against the invasion of an “unseen enemy” should tweet this Monday morning: “LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL!”

It is difficult to imagine a poorer, more chilling choice of words. Or one that more illuminates, if inadvertently, the consequences of the mixed-messages that Trump continues to send.

“Light at the end of the tunnel” is not just any old cliche. It is not merely one that invites the threadbare rejoinder: “Yeah, it’s a train.”

As every person of Trump’s generation should know, there is probably no phrase in modern history that so evokes a U.S. government that is not being straight with its people.

During the Vietnam War, the phrase came to symbolize the Lyndon B. Johnson administration’s efforts to create a mirage of progress and a victory that would never happen.

Our litigation-loving president must surely know that those words, in fact, were at the center of one of the most famous libel suits ever: The one that four-star Gen. William Westmoreland and a conservative interest foundation filed against CBS News in 1982 over a 90-minute documentary called “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception.”