Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium 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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Elle Hunt: New Zealand felt removed from the global voices of hatred. No longer

New Zealand has never been the perfect country you might imagine from afar, from the quirky stories about lovelorn gannets and avocado heists, but it is generally safe, and stable, apart from the earthquakes. In these times, that makes it an idyll. It is telling that three days ago, the greatest threat in the island nation – the headline news – was an outbreak of measles.

Then, in a matter of hours on Friday, 49 people were shot dead in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, their deaths livestreamed on Facebook. Explosive devices were found attached to cars, and the city was put on lockdown. There was no creeping threat, no public debate: New Zealand’s terror-risk level went from a perceived zero to an unequivocal high.

Paul Krugman: Don’t Blame Robots for Low Wages

The other day I found myself, as I often do, at a conference discussing lagging wages and soaring inequality. There was a lot of interesting discussion. But one thing that struck me was how many of the participants just assumed that robots are a big part of the problem — that machines are taking away the good jobs, or even jobs in general. For the most part this wasn’t even presented as a hypothesis, just as part of what everyone knows.

And this assumption has real implications for policy discussion. For example, a lot of the agitation for a universal basic income comes from the belief that jobs will become ever scarcer as the robot apocalypse overtakes the economy.

So it seems like a good idea to point out that in this case what everyone knows isn’t true. Predictions are hard, especially about the future, and maybe the robots really will come for all our jobs one of these days. But automation just isn’t a big part of the story of what happened to American workers over the past 40 years.

We do have a big problem — but it has very little to do with technology, and a lot to do with politics and power.

Rebecca Solnit: Thank you, climate strikers. Your action matters and your power will be felt

I want to say to all the climate strikers today: thank you so much for being unreasonable. That is, if reasonable means playing by the rules, and the rules are presumed to be guidelines for what is and is not possible, then you may be told that what you are asking for is impossible or unreasonable. Don’t listen. Don’t stop. Don’t let your dreams shrink by one inch. Don’t forget that this might be the day and the pivotal year when you rewrite what is possible.

What climate activists are asking for is a profound change in all our energy systems, for leaving fossil fuel in the ground, for taking action adequate to the planet-scale crisis of climate change. And the rules we are so often reminded of by those who aren’t ready for change are not the real rules. Because one day last summer a 15-year-old girl sat down to stage a one-person climate strike, and a lot of adults would like to tell you that the rules say a 15-year-old girl cannot come out of nowhere, alone, and change the world.

Michelle Goldberg: Status Anxiety and the Scam Economy

Scammers and cheats are the paradigmatic figures of our age, and not just because a con man is president of the United States. Again and again in recent years, people who’ve scaled the cultural heights have been revealed as audacious frauds. The systems and institutions that confer status in our society keep being exposed as Ponzi schemes. Grift is turning into our central national narrative.

There are cons in every period — in the 2000s we had Enron, Bernie Madoff, and James Frey’s pseudo-memoir “A Million Little Pieces.” But there’s something distinct and era-defining about the current crop of high-profile scams. They hinge on the buying, selling and stealing of cultural capital, taking advantage of preconceived ideas of what success looks like. They’re made possible by the ephemerality of an economy where, to quote Ivanka Trump, heiress to a scamming dynasty, “If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.”

Greg Sargent: Trump rages as fresh signs of his weakness emerge

There is probably no better way to demonstrate one’s manly strength and control than firing off a tweet in capital letters. So it is that, when a dozen GOP senators defied President Trump’s orders and voted to terminate his declaration of a national emergency, his powerful Twitter thumbs sprang into action: “VETO!”

The thrilling message to his supporters: Trump’s got this. He’s totally in command of the situation.

But we are now learning new details about just how personally involved Trump was in trying to prevent defections among GOP senators. It turns out Trump aggressively sought to make this vote all about himself — frequently warning that he would unleash the cult-like wrath of his voters if the Senate didn’t do his bidding — and raged as that effort failed.

What makes this so odd is that even though the Senate and House have now voted to terminate Trump’s national emergency, he actually can veto the measure, and his emergency will proceed. So why the histrionics? One possible answer is that, for Trump, even this interim loss represented an unacceptable display of weakness — with ominous portents for the future.