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: Trump and the Merchants of Detention
Every betrayal seems to profit the president and his friends.
Is it cruelty, or is it corruption? That’s a question that comes up whenever we learn about some new, extraordinary abuse by the Trump administration — something that seems to happen just about every week. And the answer, usually, is “both.”
For example, why is the administration providing cover for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, who almost surely ordered the murder of The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi? Part of the answer, probably, is that Donald Trump basically approves of the idea of killing critical journalists. But the money the Saudi monarchy spends at Trump properties is relevant, too.
And the same goes for the atrocities the U.S. is committing against migrants from Central America. Oh, and save the fake outrage. Yes, they are atrocities, and yes, the detention centers meet the historical definition of concentration camps.
One reason for these atrocities is that the Trump administration sees cruelty both as a policy tool and as a political strategy: Vicious treatment of refugees might deter future asylum-seekers, and in any case it helps rev up the racist base. But there’s also money to be made, because a majority of detained migrants are being held in camps run by corporations with close ties to the Republican Party.
James P. Donhue: The Federalist Society just became a no-go zone for federal judges
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement issued in November, countering a reference by President Trump to an “Obama judge.”
In my experience, federal judges work diligently to keep their personal views out of the judicial process. They would be appalled by the thought that simply noting the president who appointed them is all the public needs to know about what went into a decision. Yet, as much as Roberts and others on the federal bench bemoan attempts to reduce the judiciary to just another political institution, some judges have themselves contributed to the problem.
They have done so as members of the Federalist Society, a network of conservative and libertarian lawyers and legal scholars — it claims 60,000 members — that calls itself a nonpartisan educational organization but increasingly appears to be a political operation in all but name.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Supermajority aims to amplify women’s voices across race, class and generation
A group of strong, fearless women has captivated the country. They have stared down their opponents, overcome setbacks and won a series of thrilling victories. In times of division and despair, they have united and inspired millions.
That description applies to the U.S. women’s national soccer team, which won its second-straight World Cup on Sunday (proving again that they deserve pay equal to their male counterparts). But the same could be said of progressive women in the Trump era. They have marched in the streets, run for office in record numbers and brought energy and ideas to the Democratic presidential race. They, too, have inspired millions of Americans — and their power is growing by the day.
Now, a new activist group, Supermajority, is working to harness that power and to help it multiply. Launched in the spring, the group is being spearheaded by former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, National Domestic Workers Alliance executive director Ai-jen Poo and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. Drawing on their collective experience leading movements for reproductive, economic and racial justice, the trio is working to build Supermajority into what they envision as “a home for women’s activism” across race, class and generation.
Michelle Goldberg: Jeffrey Epstein Is the Ultimate Symbol of Plutocratic Rot
Powerful elites enabled the financier accused of trafficking underage girls.
In 2003, the journalist Vicky Ward profiled Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted Monday on charges of sexually abusing and trafficking underage girls, for Vanity Fair. Her piece painted him as an enigmatic Jay Gatsby type, a boy from a middle-class family in Brooklyn who had scaled the rungs of the plutocracy, though no one could quite figure out how he made his money. It detailed dubious business dealings and mentioned that Epstein often had lots of beautiful young women around. But it left out Ward’s most important finding. [..]
Over the last couple of months, Ward told me, she’s started going through transcripts of the interviews about Epstein she did more than 16 years ago. “What is so amazing to me is how his entire social circle knew about this and just blithely overlooked it,” she said of his penchant for adolescents. While praising his charm, brilliance and generous donations to Harvard, those she spoke to, she said, “all mentioned the girls, as an aside.”
On Saturday evening, more than a decade after receiving a sweetheart plea deal in an earlier sex crime case, Epstein was arrested after getting off a private flight from Paris. He has been accused of exploiting and abusing “dozens” of minor girls, some as young as 14, and conspiring with others to traffic them. Epstein’s arrest was the rare event that gratified right and left alike, both because it seemed that justice might finally be done, and because each side has reason to believe that if Epstein goes down, he could bring some of its enemies with him.
Jamelle Bouie: Why Isn’t Trump Trying to Win the Center?
In theory, that’s what he should be doing. In practice, forget it.
What is President Trump going to do to win the voters who rejected him in 2016?
It’s a serious question. Roughly 137 million people voted in the last presidential election. Most of them — about 74 million people, or 54 percent of all ballots cast — did not vote for Trump. His self-proclaimed “massive landslide” rests on a thin margin of victory in just three states.
Once in office, Trump abandoned the heterodox Republicanism of his campaign for hard-right policies opposed by most Americans. He fought to repeal the Affordable Care Act. When that failed, he pushed for an unpopular upper-income tax cut. He reveled in cruelty toward immigrants and took the side of racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va. He governs for his base alone, with no sense or understanding of the collective good. [..]
As a result, the narrow coalition that put him in office is even narrower. The 2018 backlash that gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives was built on major gains in Republican-leaning suburbs throughout the country, as a small but still substantial number of 2016 Trump voters either cast a ballot for Democrats or didn’t vote at all.