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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After staying distanced and getting vaccinated, we’ve earned this reemergence.
The details of the new guidance on covid-19 from federal health officials may be a bit confusing, but the gist is clear: If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume something that resembles normal life. And having done so myself, let me assure you: It is glorious.
Some basic cautions remain. Don’t do anything you know is stupid. Keep a mask handy, and wear it when appropriate. Be kind, and do your best not to make other people uncomfortable. Realize that unforeseen circumstances, among them the emergence of vaccine-resistant virus strains, could set us back. But for now, those of us who are vaccinated can come out of our bunkers and reengage with the world, assuming we remember how. [..]
Mask-wearing likely will be fairly commonplace in U.S. cities, the way it has been in some Asian metropolises for many years. If I have a cold or the flu and I have to take public transportation, why shouldn’t I wear a mask to protect others? It’s a shame that the mere sight of masks appears to drive some people crazy, fueling unnecessary conflict.
We’ll deal with all of that later. For now, join me in celebrating the return of the handshake and the hug (when appropriate). I used to take human contact for granted. I’ll never underestimate the pleasures of a friendly dinner or a round of golf again.
Jeremy Scahill: Why Biden Is Right to Leave Afghanistan
The president should ignore the powerful voices in Washington pushing him to reverse course and not end our longest war.
When Joe Biden assumed the presidency in January, he embarked on a mission to reverse a slew of policies put in place by former President Donald Trump while leaving untouched the elite foreign policy consensus. Mr. Biden issued 42 executive orders in his first 100 days — more than than any other president since Franklin D. Roosevelt — and has waged a methodical campaign against Mr. Trump’s agenda. With one major exception: Afghanistan. [..]
Mr. Biden announced that while he did not agree with all of the particulars of Mr. Trump’s plan and timeline, he would move forward with them. “It is perhaps not what I would have negotiated myself, but it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something,” Mr. Biden said. [..]
Once the United States pulls out its conventional military forces, hawkish figures in the American security and foreign policy establishment will use every subsequent incident of Taliban violence to argue that withdrawal was a mistake. In his speech announcing the withdrawal, Mr. Biden seemed to understand this dynamic, and he offered a pre-emptory argument: “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result.”
For now, Mr. Biden deserves credit for continuing the course set by his deeply flawed predecessor and making the case to his supporters that the war must end. He must remain steadfast and end America’s longest war.
Paul Krugman: Technobabble, Libertarian Derp and Bitcoin
Rising asset prices don’t mean that silly ideas make sense.
A number of readers have asked me to weigh in on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, whose fluctuations have dominated a lot of market news. Would I please comment on what it’s all about, and what’s going on?
Well, I can tell you what it’s about. What’s going on is harder to explain.
The story so far: Bitcoin, the first and biggest cryptocurrency, was introduced in 2009. It uses an encryption key, similar to those used in hard-to-break codes — hence the “crypto” — to establish chains of ownership in tokens that entitle their current holders to … well, ownership of those tokens. And nowadays we use Bitcoin to buy houses and cars, pay our bills, make business investments, and more.
Oh, wait. We don’t do any of those things. Twelve years on, cryptocurrencies play almost no role in normal economic activity. Almost the only time we hear about them being used as a means of payment — as opposed to speculative trading — is in association with illegal activity, like money laundering or the Bitcoin ransom Colonial Pipeline paid to hackers who shut it down. [..]
But I’ve been in numerous meetings with enthusiasts for cryptocurrency and/or blockchain, the concept that underlies it. In such meetings I and others always ask, as politely as we can: “What problem does this technology solve? What does it do that other, much cheaper and easier-to-use technologies can’t do just as well or better?” I still haven’t heard a clear answer.
William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: A Cry of ‘I Can’t Breathe’ United a Generation in a Gasp for Justice
Dr. Barber is the president of Repairers of the Breach and a co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Mr. Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of “Revolution of Values: Reclaiming Public Faith for the Common Good.”
Emmett Till’s death helped inspire America’s Second Reconstruction. George Floyd’s galvanized the third.
In Elizabeth City, N.C., the morning after a jury in Minneapolis found the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd, a unit from the county’s Sheriff’s Department dressed in tactical gear arrived at the home of Andrew Brown Jr. They were there to serve drug-related arrest and search warrants.
Within minutes, 42-year-old Mr. Brown was dead, shot at the wheel of his car. He was hit by five bullets, including one shot to the back of his head. The North Carolina prosecutor in the case has called the shooting “justified.”
If George Floyd forced America to face the question of whether an officer who abuses power can be held accountable, Andrew Brown Jr.’s blood cries out from the ground of eastern North Carolina for deeper change. Justice demands systemic and enduring transformation — something that younger generations will see and trust as authentic. We call it the Third Reconstruction. [..]
The Third Reconstruction is about more than any single bill or the agenda of a political party. It is about building power to fundamentally reimagine what is possible in our society. Both the First and Second Reconstructions in American history happened because moral movements reclaimed the promises of democracy and a new, expanded electorate insisted on new priorities. If the Trayvon Martin generation has pricked the nation’s conscience and sparked a moral movement, we believe a coalition of poor and low-income people who have historically been “low-propensity” voters has the potential to shift the political landscape. We must organize around an agenda that lifts from the bottom so that everyone can rise.
No single verdict or election can bring about the racial reckoning America needs after 400 years of building systems that have rested upon white supremacy. But the generation of young people who saw themselves in Trayvon Martin knows that whatever the color of their skin, their lives will not matter in this society until Black lives matter in our public policy.
McConnell declared that “100% of our focus” is on “stopping” progress — time for Biden to take him seriously
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is worried. Congressional Republicans have tied up President Joe Biden and other Democrats in endless “negotiations” over the American Jobs Plan and Gillibrand, for good reason, believes Republicans are just trying to hamstring the administration. Speaking with Politico for a piece published Wednesday morning, the Democratic senator from New York called on Biden to end negotiations and pass a bill through the budget reconciliation process, which would only require Democratic votes, instead of endlessly compromising to snag Republican votes that are never coming.
“I do not think that the White House should relegate recovery to the judgment of Mitch McConnell, because he will not function in good faith,” Gillibrand explained. [..]
Even now, Republicans are playing this game with the creation of a commission to investigate the insurrection on January 6. Democrats met all the demands laid out by Republican leaders in drafting the plans for the commission, but the vast majority of Republicans in the House nonetheless voted against it, and the Senate GOP leadership has made it clear they plan to kill it with a filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already admitted that stalling and killing Biden’s ambitions is his plan. He told reporters earlier this month that “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” reminiscent of when he said, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” As many with a Twitter profile quoting the poet Maya Angelou would say, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”