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.
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Paul Krugman: Donald Trump Is Trying to Kill You
Trust the pork producers; fear the wind turbines.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the legacy Donald Trump will leave behind. And it is, of course, hugely important what happens in the 2020 election. But one thing seems sure: Even if he’s a one-term president, Trump will have caused, directly or indirectly, the premature deaths of a large number of Americans.
Some of those deaths will come at the hands of right-wing, white nationalist extremists, who are a rapidly growing threat, partly because they feel empowered by a president who calls them “very fine people.”
Some will come from failures of governance, like the inadequate response to Hurricane Maria, which surely contributed to the high death toll in Puerto Rico. (Reminder: Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.)
Some will come from the administration’s continuing efforts to sabotage Obamacare, which have failed to kill health reform but have stalled the decline in the number of uninsured, meaning that many people still aren’t getting the health care they need. Of course, if Trump gets his way and eliminates Obamacare altogether, things on this front will get much, much worse.
But the biggest death toll is likely to come from Trump’s agenda of deregulation — or maybe we should call it “deregulation,” because his administration is curiously selective about which industries it wants to leave alone.
Consider two recent events that help capture the deadly strangeness of what’s going on.
Charles M. Blow: Trump to Puerto Rico: Who’s Your Daddy?
The logic seems to go that everyone is better off, even minorities, when white people are calling the shots.
Donald Trump’s lie-filled rage tweets about Puerto Rico this week over disaster aid continue a Trump pattern that mirrors a method that white supremacists have used throughout American history. Particularly present since Reconstruction, this method involves proclaiming that minorities lack the character and capacity to create effective government, and therefore minority-led jurisdictions are a hopeless drain on resources.
He tweeted that Puerto Rico’s government “can’t do anything right” and that the island’s politicians are “incompetent or corrupt” and only “complain and ask for more money,” which they spend “foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA.” He specifically called the mayor of San Juan “crazed and incompetent.”
Point of fact: Puerto Rico is part of the United States. It is a territory. Its citizens are U.S. citizens. The structure of Trump’s comments leaves open the possibility that he doesn’t know that, or conversely, knows it but doesn’t fully accept it or care about it.
If this were a one-off spat with politicians opposed to his conduct, one might reasonably write Trump’s comments off as politics as usual. Instead, this questioning of the competence of black and brown leaders is not anomaly but motif.
Catherine Rampell: Trump’s next possible Fed nominee can’t understand basic policy issues
Nein, nein, nein.
That should be the Senate’s response if President Trump actually nominates his friend Herman Cain, the former pizza magnate turned failed Republican presidential candidate, to the Federal Reserve Board, as Trump said he plans to do.
Cain would be Trump’s second proposed addition to the Fed in as many weeks, the other being longtime partisan operative Stephen Moore. Even before this month, though, Trump had ample opportunity to reshape the Fed in his anti-institutional, anti-intellectual image. Thankfully — surprisingly, in fact — he had refrained.
For other executive branch appointments, Trump seems to have selected nominees based on who would be the absolute worst person for any given position. But until recently, his Fed choices seemed . . . totally reasonable. He has picked four out of the five already-confirmed Fed board members, all of whom are competent, well-qualified professionals — all reliable Republicans, too, but Republicans who have performed their jobs apolitically. Exactly as members of the central bank, which is politically independent, are supposed to do.
Of course, that benign neglect led to some policy outcomes the president has disliked — specifically, higher interest rates. Perhaps hoping to pack the Fed with more pliant appointees, Trump has now homed in on these two.
Jill Richardson: The Death Penalty Is Getting Crueler
A horrific new ruling would let states execute people in more painful ways, even when alternatives are available
For years, most of the U.S. has been changing death penalty laws in the direction of phasing it out, or at least applying it in a more humane way.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that people with intellectual disabilities cannot be executed. In 2005, another ruling held that the U.S. cannot execute anyone for committing a crime as a minor. Twenty states have banned capital punishment.
The most recent to ban it are Washington in 2018, Delaware in 2016, Maryland in 2013, Connecticut in 2012, and Illinois in 2011.
Unfortunately, our newly right wing-dominated Supreme Court recently made a move in the opposite direction.
The Eighth Amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment. Capital punishment has been becoming more unusual over the past decade or so. Now, with the court’s help, it’s becoming more cruel.
The state of Missouri is set to execute Russell Becklew, a man who suffers from a rare condition that will make death by lethal injection unbearably painful. He’s requested to be executed by a different method that will be quicker.
Established precedent was that inmates contesting their method of execution must provide an alternative that would cause less pain. Becklew has.
In the two previous cases that established this precedent, the court ruled that states should try to minimize pain when carrying out executions. In a new decision, Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch has just accepted an interpretation of this — promoted earlier by Justice Clarence Thomas — that it only means that states should not “intentionally” make executions more painful than necessary.
Islamic extremism gets all the press, but Trump is just one of a growing number of Christian extremists in positions of political power
He and his wife have made sure to alert the press on the few times he does attend services, for instance on Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. Otherwise, the president seems to worship regularly only at the Church of the Hole in One. Since inauguration, he has made 165 visits (and counting) to golf courses, often on Sundays.
Trump is like a secular Elmer Gantry, the hot-blooded preacher of Sinclair Lewis’s eponymous 1927 bestseller. Gantry preaches on Sundays about the heavenly virtues even as he drinks, commits adultery, and breaks one commandment after another on every other day of the week. Trump, meanwhile, has acted irreligiously all his life and only recently made any pretense to churchgoing piety. He confines his preaching to the political realm. In both cases, however, loyal congregations gather around these hypocrites, convinced that they are true representatives of God.
Trump a representative of God? During the 2016 presidential campaign, evangelical Christians voted in large numbers for Trump not because of his religious convictions but despite his lack of them. They viewed Trump as an imperfect vehicle for God’s will, which was presumably expressing itself about the composition of the Supreme Court, government funding for abortion, and the eroding wall between church and state.
Give us a virtuous president, the evangelicals trumpeted in true Augustinian fashion, but not yet. In the meantime, they would overlook the Republican candidate’s biblical illiteracy (“Two Corinthians”!) on top of his very public indiscretions with women, money, and gambling.