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May 18 2021

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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Michelle Goldberg: Kushner’s Absurd Peace Plan Has Failed

There’s no ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.

“We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Jared Kushner crowed in The Wall Street Journal two months ago.

He was surveying the results of the Abraham Accords, the ersatz Middle East peace plan he helped negotiate under Donald Trump. At the heart of his supreme self-assurance, and of the accords themselves, was the deadly fiction that the Palestinians were so abject and defeated that Israel could simply ignore their demands.

“One of the reasons the Arab-Israeli conflict persisted for so long was the myth that it could be solved only after Israel and the Palestinians resolved their differences,” wrote Kushner. “That was never true. The Abraham Accords exposed the conflict as nothing more than a real-estate dispute between Israelis and Palestinians that need not hold up Israel’s relations with the broader Arab world.”

To circumvent that dispute, the United States set about bribing other Arab and Muslim countries to normalize relations with Israel. The United Arab Emirates got an enormous arms deal. Morocco got Trump to support its annexation of the Western Sahara. Sudan got taken off America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

But the explosion of fighting in Israel and Palestine in recent days makes clear something that never should have been in doubt: justice for the Palestinians is a precondition for peace. And one reason there has been so little justice for the Palestinians is because of the foreign policy of the United States.

Alexis Goldstein: These Invisible Whales Could Sink the Economy

Regulators have shockingly little insight into the inner workings of funds like Archegos. Here’s how to fix that.

Before he almost lost everything overnight, Bill Hwang was having a comeback.

In 2012, Mr. Hwang, a former hedge fund manager, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and settled insider trading charges. But he started over in 2013, using $200 million from his shuttered hedge fund to create Archegos Capital Management — a so-called family fund. The scandal-tainted Mr. Hwang then turned that $200 million into some $20 billion, betting big on a portfolio of high-flying media and tech stocks.

But Mr. Hwang built those riches on a mountain of debt — and when his bets went bad, it wasn’t just Archegos that paid the price: The banks that lent Mr. Hwang money, including Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, lost over $10 billion, while the stocks he gambled on shed $33 billion in value.

From regulators to the financial press, everyone seemed mystified by the implosion of Archegos. In part, this is because when Congress passed the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which brought new measures of oversight to private money managers, they exempted family funds like Mr. Hwang’s. Hedge funds must publicly report certain stock and option positions every quarter, filing a Form 13F with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But family funds don’t need to file a 13F, so their portfolio positions remain hidden.

For the average American dealing with the ravages of life under Covid, the story of Bill Hwang and Archegos may seem like just another Wall Street fat cat who got too greedy. But there may be many more Archegos-size risks — hidden from regulators, lawmakers and traders alike — now threatening to spark the next financial crisis.

Amanda Marcotte: No, the media can’t “move on” from Trump’s Big Lie — not until Republicans end their war on voting

Journalists should not give into GOP bullying to ignore the full-scale war Republicans are waging on democracy

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw was pretty angry with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday’s episode of “Meet the Press.” Todd was uncharacteristically determined to hold the Republican’s feet to the fire, calling him out for his support of Donald Trump’s Big Lie.

Republicans are increasingly circling around this talking point. They insist that the coup is ancient history and that it’s churlish to keep rehashing who did and did not join in efforts to overturn democracy. It’s the favored justification for the ouster of Wyoming’s Rep. Liz Cheney from House GOP leadership, with Republicans claiming it’s not that she refuses to support Trump’s election lies so much as that she just keeps going on about it. And it was the line that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., trotted out last week, while trying to wave off media inquiries about the GOP’s increasingly fierce backing of Trump’s Big Lie: “I don’t think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with, we’re sitting here with the President today.”

The problem with this “water under the bridge” approach is twofold. First, it should be self-evident that seditious behavior should not be so easily forgotten or forgiven. Second, Republicans themselves have not moved on from the attempted insurrection or the lies that Trump used to justify it. On the contrary, Republican leaders have spent the past four months actively moving not just to turn Trump’s Big Lie into GOP canon but to use it to justify laying the groundwork for Trump or some other GOP nominee to successfully steal the 2024 election.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Democrats can claim the ‘family values’ mantle with paid leave and affordable child care

For young American families, having both kids and healthy finances can feel nearly impossible.

The American family is shrinking. And not necessarily by choice. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that births in the United States fell by 4 percent in 2020. The pandemic is likely compounding this decline, but the trend began long before the current crisis: Last year’s census showed that the U.S. population increased by just 7.4 percent in the 2010s — the slowest rate of growth since the 1930s.

It’s no surprise why. For young American families, having both kids and healthy finances can feel nearly impossible. Thanks to our uniquely byzantine health-care system, the average delivery costs more than $4,500 with insurance. To make matters worse, parents may not get any paid time off, since the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without paid family leave. When parents return to work, they’re saddled with exorbitant care costs, with center-based infant care averaging over $1,200 a month. And many balance these expenses with crushing debt; the average student loan borrower has over $39,000 in loans.

Clearly, American society is not structured to help families thrive. Democrats have an important chance to change that by meeting the two most obvious needs for parents: paid family leave and affordable child care.

Leana S. Wen: The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination

The vaccinated may be well-protected, but let’s not forget our obligation to those who do not yet have immunity.

For months, I have been criticizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being too cautious with its guidance for what fully vaccinated people can do. I saw little incentive for people to be vaccinated against covid-19 if they had to keep wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and refraining from nonessential travel. On Thursday, the CDC abruptly reversed course, announcing that fully vaccinated people can essentially resume all aspects of pre-pandemic life.

This announcement would be very welcome if not for one big problem: There is no concurrent requirement for proof of vaccination. Without it, the CDC announcement could end up increasing confusion, removing incentives for those yet to be inoculated and delaying the eventual goal of herd immunity that would get society truly back to normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky that there is extensive and growing evidence that those who are vaccinated are very well protected from becoming ill and spreading the coronavirus to others. In fact, the most recent data from the CDC reports only 9,245 infections in 95 million fully vaccinated people, an infection rate of less than 0.01 percent. As I’ve written before, if you’ve reached the two-week threshold after inoculation, you should feel free to be rid of restrictions for yourself.