Dec 09 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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Bill McKibben: New York State Sends a Blunt Message to Big Oil

The comptroller’s threat to pull billions from fossil fuel investments is a big victory for climate activists.

New York State’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, announced on Wednesday that the state would begin divesting its $226 billion employee pension fund from gas and oil companies if they can’t come up with a legitimate business plan within four years that is aligned with the goals of the Paris climate accord. Those investments have historically added up to roughly $12 billion.

The entire portfolio will be decarbonized over the next two decades. “Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 will put the fund in a strong position for the future mapped out in the Paris Agreement,” he said in a statement.

It’s a huge win, obviously, for the activists who have fought for eight years to get Albany to divest from fossil fuel companies and for the global divestment campaign. Endowments and portfolios worth more than than $14 trillion have joined the fight. This new move is the largest by a pension fund in the United States, edging the New York City pension funds under Comptroller Scott Stringer, who announced in 2018 that the fund would seek to divest $5 billion in fossil fuel investments from its nearly $200 billion pension fund over five years.

But it also represents something else: capitulations that taken together suggest that the once-dominant fossil fuel industry has reached a low in financial and political power.

Robert Reich: To reverse inequality, we need to expose the myth of the ‘free market’

We need an informed public that sees through the poisonous myth billionaires want us to believe: that income is a measure of your market worth

How have a relative handful of billionaires – whose vast fortunes have soared even during the pandemic – convinced the vast majority of the public that their wealth shouldn’t be taxed in order to support the common good?

They have employed one of the oldest methods used by the wealthy to maintain wealth and power – a belief system that portrays wealth and power in the hands of a few as natural and inevitable.

Centuries ago it was the so-called “divine right of kings”. King James I of England and France’s Louis XIV, among other monarchs, asserted that kings received their authority from God and were therefore not accountable to their earthly subjects. The doctrine ended with England’s Glorious Revolution of the 17th century and the American and French revolutions of the 18th.

Its modern equivalent might be termed “market fundamentalism”, a creed that has been promoted by today’s super rich with no less zeal than the old aristocracy advanced divine right. It holds that what you’re paid is simply a measure of what you’re worth in the market.

Chuck Collins and Omar Ocampo: Billionaires made $1tn since Covid-19. They can afford to protect their workers

In a holiday shopping season with rampant rates of Covid-19 infection, we must protect frontline workers before it’s too late

There are few scenes more sordid than the surging wealth gains of the world’s billionaire class during an unprecedented pandemic when millions have lost their lives, health, and livelihoods.

As the US heads into another wave of Covid-19 infections, the wealth of 650 American billionaires has increased by over $1tn since mid-March, the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns.

Who’s generating all this wealth? In many cases, it’s frontline retail, healthcare, and food workers who are underpaid and under-protected from the virus.

These workers risk their lives every day to do the work that increases already obscene corporate wealth. And going into a holiday shopping season with cases exploding, the risk is only increasing.

Who are the prime offenders?

Amanda Marcotte: Trump voters don’t really believe Biden stole the election — but they do want a coup

Conservatives aren’t entirely delusional — they’re trolls arguing in bad faith to delegitimize Democratic voters

Do Republican voters really believe that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump? Do they sincerely see Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as the legitimate actions of a wronged man trying to defend democracy? When they declare “stop the steal,” are they truly unaware that they are the ones trying to steal this election from the rightful winners?

Or are millions of Americans arguing in bad faith, merely claiming to believe Trump is the true winner? Is this all just a disingenuous song-and-dance, meant to put a morally justifiable gloss on what is actually widespread support among Trump voters for a coup? The answer to this question of “delusion or bad faith?” matters quite a bit, as Trump continues to prosecute his futile campaign to steal the 2020 election.

Polls show that a hefty majority of Republican voters — 68%, according to Reuters/Ipsos — say they believe the 2020 election was “rigged” in Biden’s favor. Since the election, more than $200 million has flowed into Trump’s coffers from Republican donors responding to emails promising to “stop the steal.” Are these donors innocent lambs who sincerely believe that Trump is a good man done wrong? Or are they people who are actively seeking to finance a coup, employing the flimsiest of excuses?

Well, as the author of a book called “Troll Nation,” it’s clear where I stand: By and large, Republican voters who claim that Biden stole the election are arguing from bad faith, not delusion.

Richard Wolff: Only in Trump’s Operation Warped Reality is his vaccine leadership a success

The president’s ‘vaccine summit’ was notable for its absentees amid revelations that he had spent $14bn on insufficient doses

Donald Trump leaves office exactly how he entered it: catastrophically clueless about how his own government and country works.

You might think that after grappling with a historic pandemic for most of his final year in office, the hapless and hopeless occupant of the Oval Office would have picked up a little experience.

But no. Here we are, on the verge of rolling out a new vaccine, and the soon-to-be-ex-president can’t get his head around the job.

It’s almost as if this extraordinary triumph of global science has overwhelmed not just the novel coronavirus but a lifetime of play-acting by a small-time property developer with a big mouth.

Trump ran for office in the role of the successful businessman he played on The Apprentice. He ran for re-election in the role of the successful steward of the economy. Until now, the people playing political pundits on TV claimed that Trump had some magical powers of stagecraft that kept the crowds enthralled.

But aside from his incessant tweeting, there was no theatrical or business genius at work. Trump always relied on his TV producers – Mark Burnett for NBC or Roger Ailes for Fox News – to make his performance semi-coherent.

In his final days in the White House, the Trumpian trope of the business executive running a business-like White House has withered away. Just like all those election lawsuits filed by his elite strike force of part-time lawyers and full-time grifters.