Jun 10 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: America Fails the Marshmallow Test

We lack the will to beat Covid-19.

The marshmallow test is a famous psychological experiment that tests children’s willingness to delay gratification. Children are offered a marshmallow, but told that they can have a second marshmallow if they’re willing to wait 15 minutes before eating the first one. Claims that children with the willpower to hold out do much better in life haven’t held up well, but the experiment is still a useful metaphor for many choices in life, both by individuals and by larger groups.

One way to think about the Covid-19 pandemic is that it poses a kind of marshmallow test for society.

At this point, there have been enough international success stories in dealing with the coronavirus to leave us with a clear sense of what beating the pandemic takes. First, you have to impose strict social distancing long enough to reduce the number of infected people to a small fraction of the population. Then you have to implement a regime of testing, tracing and isolating: quickly identifying any new outbreak, finding everyone exposed and quarantining them until the danger is past.

This strategy is workable. South Korea has done it. New Zealand has done it.

But you have to be strict and you have to be patient, staying the course until the pandemic is over, not giving in to the temptation to return to normal life while the virus is still widespread. So it is, as I said, a kind of marshmallow test.

And America is failing that test.

Mara Gay: Good Riddance to One of America’s Strongest Police Secrecy Laws

In New York and elsewhere, street demonstrations are leading to police reform.

Protest works.

The large street demonstrations in scores of cities and towns across the country are bringing sudden and sweeping changes to police practices and accountability.

Minneapolis is preparing to disband and rebuild its police department.

California is poised to ban the use of police chokeholds.

Dozens of cities are considering redirecting millions in taxpayer funds from America’s heavily militarized police departments to education, health care, housing and other needs of black and Hispanic neighborhoods that have been underinvested in for generations.

New York took a step toward reform with the repeal Tuesday evening of a state law known as 50-a, a decades-old measure that has allowed the police to keep the disciplinary and personnel records of officers secret. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill.

Susan E. Rice: Washington, D.C., Deserves Statehood

Trump transformed my hometown into a war zone, underscoring the imperative that the capital should be the 51st state.

For one long week, Mr. Trump transformed my hometown into a war zone to burnish his “law and order” credentials. Without statehood, Washington was virtually powerless to prevent Mr. Trump from using the capital as a petri dish to intimidate protesters, divide Americans and goad activists into ugly street battles to galvanize elements of his base.

America, beware. Washington was the testing ground, but Mr. Trump could yet find a pretext to invoke the Insurrection Act and send active-duty U.S. military forces into any state over the objections of its governor. He reportedly came close, only to be deterred by Pentagon officials.

Fortunately, when taunted by Mr. Trump’s abuse of power, the people of Washington refused to take the bait. The protests proceeded mostly peacefully, following some early, condemnable looting. Facing down federal forces, my hometown refused to give Mr. Trump any racially charged urban war scenes. So he gave up and ordered troops home.

But not before his actions underscored the imperative that Washington must finally attain statehood.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump’s peddling of a conspiracy theory about Antifa and protesters is part of a right wing trend

Baseless theories are being spread to derail the conversation about racism and police. Here’s how to push back

While some horrible tweets from Donald Trump are surely the result of impulsive decisions made during the president’s extensive “executive time” (read: sitting on the toilet, watching Fox News), there’s sadly good reason to believe that actual deliberation went into Tuesday’s tweet in which Trump smeared Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist who received a horrible head injury as a result of being pushed by police during a protest in Buffalo, New York.

The tweet, which accuses Gugino of being “an ANTIFA provocateur” trying to “black out” police equipment and who “fell harder than was pushed,” has one of the main hallmarks of being written by someone other than Trump, such as a White House staffer: It uses, and even correctly spells, a $5 word — “provocateur” — that is outside of Trump’s extremely limited vocabulary. So while the tweet masquerades as a Trumpian outburst, allowing Republican politicians and some media figures to pretend it’s not important, odds are this was not impulsive at all, but a calculated effort to float a conspiracy theory meant to discredit not just Gugino, but the larger protest movement against police brutality and racism that’s sweeping the nation. [..]

These conspiracy theories allow conservatives to downplay the legitimate concerns and organizing prowess of Black Lives Matter, a grassroots movement without centralized leadership. As the pressure mounts, expect to see more and more of these conspiracy theories proliferate through both right wing media and on social media platforms. It seems some conservatives would rather spend time on these conspiracy theories than talk about the larger problems being highlighted by the protests.

If you find yourself engaging with people who are citing conspiracy theories, avoid getting in a line-by-line argument with people over a narrative’s plausibility. Even getting into a fight over whether Floyd’s murder was “staged” is giving in to the desire to distract from the real issues.

Instead, the better approach is to go meta. Treat it as self-evident that the conspiracy theories are false (as they often are), and instead focus on calling out conspiracy theorists for repeating baseless claims in the service of a racist agenda.