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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Max Boot: William Barr’s America vs. reality in 2020

It has become conventional wisdom on the right that religion is under assault from secular liberals — and that the waning of faith is bad for America.

Attorney General William P. Barr, a conservative Catholic, summed up this alarmist outlook last fall during an incendiary speech at Notre Dame. He bemoaned “the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system” and the “growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism. By any honest assessment,” he thundered, “the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.” He went on to cite statistics on rising out-of-wedlock births (“illegitimacy”), along with “record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.”

This tendentious reading of U.S. history ignores reality. By most metrics, the country is far better off than when Barr was a boy. He was born in 1950, when segregation was legal and homosexuality was not. [..]

Indicators suggest that the less religious nations are much better off. Average GDP per capita in the least religious countries is more than five times higher, while the unemployment rate is more than twice as low and the poverty rate is one and a half times lower. The homicide rate is five times lower. Life expectancy is 22 percent higher, and infant mortality is 1,000 percent lower — in part because the least religious nations spend 50 percent more per capita on health care. The least religious countries are also better educated, with a mean 12 years of schooling per capita vs. 7½ years in the most religious countries. Income inequality is 24 percent lower in the least religious countries, and gender inequality (as measured by the World Bank) is more than 400 percent lower. Finally, the least religious countries are freer, with an average score of 87.6 from Freedom House, compared to 56.5 for the most religious countries.

Greg Sargent: Trump’s corruption will get worse. His own advisers just showed how.

The debate over William P. Barr’s future as attorney general is unfolding in an alternate reality — in a place where it’s considered an open question whether President Trump will continue trying to corrupt law enforcement right out in plain sight.

In this magical place, Barr’s loyalists can leak word that, by golly, Barr just might quit if Trump keeps publicly trying to manipulate ongoing cases. This is meant to insulate Barr from Trump’s taint.

But in the real world, here’s what’s staring us in the face: For Trump, the very public nature of his efforts to corrupt law enforcement is a key feature of those efforts, not a byproduct of them that he pathologically can’t control.

Whatever sense of obligation Barr takes from this, if any, it imposes a grave imperative on the rest of us to communicate it to voters and articulate what can be done about it.

Michelle Cottle: You’ve Seen the Ads, Now See the Candidate

After spending over $400 million promoting himself, Michael Bloomberg faces the scrutiny of a debate for the first time.

On Wednesday, the leading Democratic candidates for president will take the debate stage in Las Vegas, three days ahead of the Nevada caucuses. This will be the race’s ninth debate, and many voters may be tempted to skip the show. That would be a mistake.

While many of the candidates and their sales pitches are by now familiar — in some cases painfully so — this will be the debate debut of Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire business mogul and former mayor of New York who has been promoting himself, with the help of his personal fortune, as the one player with “the record & the resources” to topple President Trump. [..]

Rarely has a candidate come so far while revealing so little of himself, making Wednesday’s debate — the first time Mr. Bloomberg will face his primary competitors live and in person — far more significant, and interesting, than most.

Zaid Jilani: Mike Bloomberg has a terrible past. Will his money stop scrutiny of it?

The former New York mayor championed stop and frisk as well as Muslim surveillance programs

During his tenure as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg oversaw one of the most discriminatory surveillance programs in our nation’s history. His police department’s “Demographics Unit” mapped out Muslim American communities and infiltrated and spied on everything from kebab shops to Muslim student whitewater rafting trips.

Not only was the program offensive to American values – even the then New Jersey Republican governor, Chris Christie, an ally of President Trump’s, was outraged upon learning of it – it did nothing to keep New Yorkers safe. The Demographics Unit’s work did not generate a single terror lead.

But Bloomberg himself has always been unapologetic, insisting the program was justified. [..]

Bloomberg’s ability to buy silence presents a challenge not only to the Democrats, but to democracy itself, because while American democracy can’t be snuffed out by brute force, it can be drowned by money.

Dr. Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc: Mike Bloomberg’s education ‘reforms’ would be a disaster for public schools

Like Trump, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country

Nominating Michael Bloomberg would be a disaster for public schools – and for the Democrats’ chances at beating Donald Trump in 2020. Because when it comes to education policy, it is virtually impossible to tell the two billionaire politicians apart.

Like Trump and his inept secretary of education, Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business. [..]

Indeed, Bloomberg succeeded in massively expanding privately run but publicly funded charter schools during his term as mayor, increasing their number from 18 to 183. His controversial push to “increase school choice” closed over 100 schools in low-income communities and entrenched New York City’s education system as the most racially segregated in the country.

In contrast with Bloomberg’s too-little-too-late apology for imposing racist stop-and-frisk policies upon New York City – and its overwhelmingly non-white student body – the former mayor has doubled down on his rightwing education approach in recent years.