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.

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Charles M. Blow: Lessons From Lynchings

There’s a through-line from a noose on the neck to a knee on the neck.

There are many appalling narratives emerging from the trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.

There’s the transference of guilt from the people who killed Floyd to those who watched him die. There’s the difference in empathy when a Black person in the inner city is struggling with opioid addiction, compared to when the drug user is a young white person in a suburb or rural America.

But what resonated for me was the sense of powerlessness in Floyd begging, to no avail, for his life, and in the powerlessness of the agitated crowd of bystanders and witnesses to intervene. The power in this dynamic was held by the officers, including Chauvin, and it was wielded to a deadly extreme.

The application of force, a deadly force, even after Floyd was handcuffed, even after he became unresponsive, is to me emblematic of an attempt not only to punish Floyd’s body, but also to demonstrate complete control and demand complete submission. The treatment of Floyd’s body was a message to those in his community: Any perceived disorder or disobedience will be crushed, literally.

Amanda Marcotte: GOP cancel culture targets Georgia: Republicans want to silence critics of their war on voting

Republicans are trying to impose “white people’s Thanksgiving” rules on the entire nation

Donald Trump and Republicans tried to make the 2020 election all about “cancel culture.” Free speech was under attack, they argued, not from government censorship, but something they regarded as much more powerful and oppressive: Liberal disapproval.

Many a tear has been shed over wealthy actors losing plum gigs for embarrassing movie studios with their bigoted tweets, or obscure books by famous authors being delisted voluntarily by their own publishing companies, or people making fun of a paranoid right-wing couple in St. Louis who pulled guns on peaceful protesters, or the librarian whose boss prevented her from humiliating herself by doing a rap presentation to onboard college freshmen. Free speech, they argue, is dependent not just on the absence of censorship, but the absence of any consequences whatsoever, including criticism from others who are using their free speech rights. It turns out there was one caveat to this right to speech unfettered by opposition, criticism, or consequences, however: It is a “right” enjoyed only by those on the right. For those who oppose bigotry, vote for Democrats, or express discomfort at overt racism, there is no limit to what can and should be done to silence them. This was always evident — see how Trump unleashed tear gas on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square — and is only becoming more clear in the fight over voting rights in the state of Georgia.

If ever there was a legitimate case of “cancel culture,” it really should be the anti-voting bill that was signed into law late last month by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. When it comes to the right to express yourself as a citizen, the right to vote is about as fundamental as it gets. Moreover, the entire process of signing the restrictive law was draped in signifiers of the GOP contempt for the right of people of color to the franchise, including the arrest of state Rep. Park Cannon for merely asking for the right to witness Kemp’s signing of the bill.

Robert Reich: Joe Biden as Mr. Fix It

Biden is embarking on a huge and long-overdue repair job on the physical and human underpinnings of the nation while managing to keep most of a bitterly divided country with him.

Joe Biden is embarking on the biggest government initiative in more than a half century, “unlike anything we have seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades go,” he says.

But when it comes to details, it sounds as boring as fixing the plumbing.

“Under the American Jobs Plan, 100% of our nation’s lead pipes and service lines will be replaced—so every child in America can turn on the faucet or fountain and drink clean water,” the president tweeted.

Can you imagine Donald Trump tweeting about repairing lead pipes?

Biden is excited about rebuilding America’s “infrastructure,” a word he uses constantly although it could be the dullest term in all of public policy. “Infrastructure week” became a punchline under Trump.

The old unwritten rule was that if a president wants to do something really big, he has to justify it as critical to national defense or else summon the nation’s conscience. [..]

But Joe Biden is not arousing the nation against a foreign power—not even China figures prominently as a foil—nor is he basing his plans on lofty appeals to national greatness or public morality.

“I got elected to solve problems,” he says, simply. He’s Mr. Fix-it.

Rebecca Solnit: There’s another pandemic under our noses, and it kills 8.7m people a year

While Covid ravaged across the world, air pollution killed about three times as many people. We must fight the climate crisis with the same urgency with which we confronted coronavirus

Covid-19 in the past 15 months. In roughly the same period, however, more than three times as many likely died of air pollution. This should disturb us for two reasons. One is the sheer number of air pollution deaths – 8.7 million a year, according to a recent study – and another is how invisible those deaths are, how accepted, how unquestioned. The coronavirus was a terrifying and novel threat, which made its dangers something much of the world rallied to try to limit. It was unacceptable – though by shades and degrees, many places came to accept it, by deciding to let the poor and marginalized take the brunt of sickness and death and displacement and to let medical workers get crushed by the workload.

We have learned to ignore other forms of death and destruction, by which I mean we have normalized them as a kind of moral background noise. This is, as much as anything, the obstacle to addressing chronic problems, from gender violence to climate change. What if we treated those 8.7 million annual deaths from air pollution as an emergency and a crisis – and recognized that respiratory impact from particulates is only a small part of the devastating impact of burning fossil fuels? For the pandemic we succeeded in immobilizing large populations, radically reducing air traffic, and changing the way many of us live, as well as releasing vast sums of money as aid to people financially devastated by the crisis. We could do that for climate change, and we must – but the first obstacle is the lack of a sense of urgency, the second making people understand that things could be different.