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Dec 01 2017

Pondering the Pundits

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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Paul Krugman: Republicans’ Tax Lies Show the Rot Spreads Wide and Runs Deep

On Thursday morning, The New York Times revealed that Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has been lying for months about Republican tax plans. Mnuchin has repeatedly claimed the existence of a Treasury report that — unlike every independent, nonpartisan assessment — found that these plans would pay for themselves, increasing growth and hence revenues so much that the deficit wouldn’t rise. But there is no such report, and never has been; Treasury staffers weren’t even asked to study the issue. {..]

Later that day the joint committee delivered its predictable verdict: Like all other reasonable studies, its review found that the Senate bill would do little for U.S. economic growth, while directly hurting tens of millions of middle-class Americans, blowing up the deficit, lavishing benefits on the wealthy and opening up new frontiers for tax avoidance. But thanks to the moral collapse of McCain and other supposedly principled Republicans, at the time this column was filed the bill nonetheless seemed on track to clear the Senate.

But aren’t politicians always cynical? Not to this degree.

Eugene Robinson: This is getting worse

How long are we going to pretend that President Trump is fully rational? How long are we going to ignore the signs that he is dangerously out of control?

Trump’s supporters comfort themselves with the idea that he’s being crazy like a fox — that all the outrageous lies, abrupt reversals, bizarre pronouncements and vicious personal attacks are calculated to achieve some rational goal. He’s just playing to his base, perhaps, or distracting everyone from unpopular legislation cutting taxes for the rich, or trying to deceive other world leaders into thinking he might be unhinged and therefore should be accommodated.

But what evidence is there of calculation? Congress may indeed pass a slapped-together tax bill, but there is no indication Trump even knows what’s in it. That would be his first and only significant legislative accomplishment. His approval rating plummeted after the inauguration and has been stuck at 40 percent or below since June, according to Gallup. He has managed to alienate our closest allies — even drawing a rare rebuke this week from British Prime Minister Theresa May — and created a vacuum in world leadership that China is happily beginning to fill.

The logical thing to do, at this point, would be to come up with a new strategy. But Trump stays his wild and erratic course, as if he simply cannot help himself.

Catherine Rampell: Apparently Republicans want to kick the middle class in the face

It’s not enough to give money to rich people. Apparently, Republicans want to kick the poor and middle class in the face, too.

I used to think the Republican Party’s obsession with top-heavy tax cuts was about pleasing wealthy donors and maybe also fulfilling some misguided Randian fantasy. If the poor and middle class happened to be collateral damage, so be it.

But it’s starting to look like shafting the little guy has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP’s budget-busting tax plan. [.]

Income inequality is near record highs, and yet Republicans’ regressive tax and spending plans forge forward. It’s time for voters to ask their elected officials: How much upward distribution of wealth will ever be enough?

Trevor Timm: The future of American privacy rights will be defined this year

If you care about privacy, whether it’s online or on your smartphone, the coming weeks will define the scope of privacy rights for Americans for the next decade or more. Two issues – whether the police can track on our cellphone location 24/7 without a warrant, and the potential to curtail some of the NSA’s most controversial powers to spying on Americans – will be decided by Congress and the US supreme court, and it’s hard to overstate their significance.

On Wednesday, the US supreme court heard a landmark cellphone privacy case called United States v Carpenter. The case, brought by the ACLU, ostensibly involves only one defendant: someone accused of participating in a series of robberies, where the police collected location data from cellphone towers to determine where he was over a series of months.

But as the ACLU made clear in oral arguments before the court today, how the nine justices rule in Carpenter will affect the privacy rights of virtually every single American: critically, the police did not get a warrant to access the information, and they argue that they never need one to access any American’s location any time they want.

Trita Parsi and Ryan Costello: Cotton, Pompeo And Trump Are A Recipe For War With Iran

In March 2015, the junior Senator from Arkansas ― Tom Cotton ― was derided for writing a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader in the midst of sensitive negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, warning that any deal with Iran could be revoked by the next U.S. President “with the stroke of a pen.” The letter, signed by 46 of his colleagues, was unprecedented, helping to blur the lines between partisan politics and serious national security matters and potentially delivering a fatal blow to the notion that politics stops at the water’s edge. It provoked a strong outcry, with many casting the letter as traitorous and Cotton as in over his head. Few could imagine, however, that by today Cotton would be poised to become the next potential director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under a President even more committed to laying waste to the norms of Washington, Donald Trump.

As bad as the Trump administration has been, it can always get worse. And that is precisely what will happen if the Trump administration follows through with a reported plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and nominate Tom Cotton to take Pompeo’s old position. Both Cotton, a protege of Iraq war champion Bill Kristol who received nearly a million dollars from Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel in his 2014 Senate campaign, and Pompeo, a former Tea Party Congressman from Kansas until his elevation to CIA Director earlier this year, have been pioneers in blurring the lines between political hackery and national security, a terrifying notion for the potential chief diplomat and a top spymaster. If the moves are finalized, Cotton and Pompeo will do untold damage to U.S. national security, and their first order of business will almost certainly be to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and lay the groundwork for a disastrous war with Iran.

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