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Apr 11 2017

Pondering the Puntits

“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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Bryce Covert: In Sexual Harassment Cases, What Are We Settling For?

For more than a decade, women have publicly lodged sexual harassment complaints against the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. In 2004, a producer on his show, Andrea Mackris, filed a lawsuit accusing him of harassing her with sexually explicit phone calls. Tabloids and late-night TV hosts seized on the lurid details, which included telling her to buy a vibrator, calling her while apparently masturbating and engaging in one-sided phone sex entailing loofas — some of which Ms. Mackris said she recorded.

But the case was settled without a trial or much public insight into what actually happened. Mr. O’Reilly has continued in his role as a prime-time host at the network all these years since, making tens of millions of dollars.

He is in a more precarious place now. In the past week, at least 52 advertisers have pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s program, including Advil, Mercedes-Benz and Jenny Craig.

What changed?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Syria strike follows Washington’s failed foreign-policy playbook

“There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow,” then-President Obama said last year, defending his decision not to unilaterally strike Syria in 2013. “It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions.”

Last week, by impulsively ordering a military strike against a Syrian air base, President Trump both followed the playbook and fell into the trap. To be clear, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun is a heinous crime. Almost six years of civil war in Syria have led to nearly half a million dead and millions more displaced, a humanitarian crisis worsened by the Trump administration’s cruel and senseless attempts to ban Syrian refugees. The human suffering has been horrific to watch. Yet despite the fervor of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, which fetishizes the purported “credibility” that accompanies the use of force, it remains folly to think that Trump’s military action will help end the carnage. [..]

But there is little evidence that the strike accomplished anything beyond a temporary popularity boost for a flailing president. If Trump’s goal was to punish Assad for using chemical weapons, the punishment was effectively nothing more than a timeout, as Syrian warplanes resumed use of the targeted air base less than 24 hours after it was hit. And if Trump has a coherent strategy for what happens next, he has failed to communicate it to the American people or the international community.

Dean Baker: Major Breakthrough On Capitol Hill: Government May Stop Making Drugs Expensive

In keeping with their commitment to being ineffective, liberals have largely ceded the terms of major policy debates to conservatives. In particular, liberals have been happy to let the right say that they are the ones who want market outcomes, while the liberal do-gooders want the government to intervene to pursue their social agenda.

This is horrible politics and happens not to be true. Conservatives want the government to intervene in all sorts of ways, but their goal is to redistribute income upward, not to ensure people a decent standard of living. (Yes, this is the topic of my book, Rigged.)

The right’s interest in intervention is especially obvious in the case of prescription drugs. They want the government to make drugs expensive with longer and stronger patent monopolies.

The right’s love of government monopolies is challenged by a bill introduced in the Senate last month by Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and several other prominent Democrats. This bill includes measures such as drug importation, which directly lower prices, but more importantly provides funding for research so that in the future, drug companies will not have patent monopolies on newly developed drugs.

Eugene Robinson: No one should feel good about Trump’s attack on Syria

The United States has become a combatant in Syria’s horrific civil war. The Trump administration, which intervened with deadly military force, gives no sign of knowing what it’s doing or why.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has absurdly tried to suggest that nothing has changed. He is wrong. Fifty-nine cruise missiles constitute a policy shift. So what is the administration’s strategic vision? What is its desired outcome? How does it get there? And what happens next?

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Sunday that the administration cannot envision “a peaceful Syria” with dictator Bashar al-Assad still in power. Tillerson went on a different Sunday show to say that Assad’s fate is up to “the Syrian people.” Neither statement had much grounding in the reality of a heartbreakingly brutal war that has killed about 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

Who’s going to make Assad leave? “The Syrian people” have been trying to get rid of him for about six years, yet he remains. The Obama administration believed it had at least negotiated the surrender of Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons, but last week’s sarin attack demonstrates otherwise. There is no political process through which Syrians can express their will. There is only a grinding, multi-sided conflict that has allowed the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, to seize huge swaths of territory.

Steven W. Thrasher: Thanks to United Airlines, is flying while Asian something to fear?

After a man was violently dragged from a United Airlines flight, there will no doubt be defenses of the company along the lines of, “Well, if the man had obeyed he wouldn’t have been dragged off the plane.” In frank terms, this is bull.

The fear aboard United Express flight 3411 should alarm all thinking people about how the American mind has been trained to obey above all else. Obedience is a relentless message in the US, drilled into the populace via education, business, government – and, of course, the threat and reality of police violence.

As George Carlin put it, the American ruling class doesn’t “want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking”. Rather, it wants “obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs”.

Was this was an act of racial violence? Let’s look at what we know.