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Jan 11 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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Dean Baker: Donald Trump And His Cabinet Of Criminals

Corruption in high places is hardly a new story in this country, yet Donald Trump seems determined to take corruption to a new level. He, of course, is setting the path himself, refusing to follow a longstanding precedent whereby presidents put their assets in a blind trust so that they are not in a position to profit personally from their policies. Trump has done the opposite, evidenced by including his business partners (i.e. his kids) in important meetings with foreign officials.

Not surprisingly, the lack of concern for ethics in his own dealings has spilled over into his picks for top administration positions. While his cabinet is filled with the incredibly rich who, thanks to Trump’s proposed tax breaks, will be newly incentivized to steal, there are two individuals who stand out: Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, and Andrew Puzder, Trump’s choice for Labor secretary.

These two nominees sat at the top of major corporations that had large scale violations of the law. They may not have known of the illegalities, but as CEOs, they have the responsibility to ensure that their companies are following the law. Furthermore, if both are approved, they will be in a position where they are responsible for enforcing the laws that their own companies violated.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: McConnell And Trump Are Sabotaging The Ethics Office For The GOP’s Billionaire Cabinet

“Ironic” is an overused word. And yet, how else can you describe what’s going on this week in Washington? The Republican president-elect says he wants “extreme vetting” for Syrian refugee families who already face years of scrutiny. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Republican leader is ramming Trump’s well-heeled nominees through the Senate review process in just a few chaotic days.

Forget “extreme vetting.” These nominees won’t even face ordinary vetting. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is greasing the skids for some highly questionable appointees. And he’s doing it by hamstringing the government’s “corruption prevention organization“ — which makes the GOP’s stand on corruption unclear, at best.

House Republicans certainly betrayed a pro-corruption bias last week when they attempted to gut the House Ethics Committee. That effort was beaten back by a wave of voter calls and complaints, but the intent seemed clear: They wanted more freedom to exploit their offices for personal gain (and perhaps to make it harder to investigate fellow House member Tom Price’s questionable dealings before he’s named Secretary of Health and Human Services).

Now, McConnell is pushing appointees through the nomination process before they’ve even completed the disclosure and review process with the Government Ethics Office (GEO).

Lawrence Downes: Trump, Trapped in His Lies, Keeps Lying. Sad!

He hasn’t taken office yet, but Donald Trump is lost, wandering in a labyrinth of lies and trying to drag the country in with him.

Witness his reaction to being called out on Sunday by Meryl Streep. Speaking at the Golden Globes, she said she had been stunned and heartbroken to see him mock a reporter with a physical disability.

It happened at a speech in 2015 in South Carolina. Mr. Trump’s target was Serge Kovaleski, of The Times, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that leaves his right arm and hand bent and rigid. “You ought to see this guy,” Mr. Trump told his audience, flailing his own right arm and hand in the air, making spastic movements, disgracing himself. The act was contemptible, and in a way unbelievable: a future president showing the maturity and schoolyard viciousness of an 8-year-old. [..]

Just more lies upon lies. It all goes back to Mr. Trump’s baseless claim that he saw Muslims dancing in the streets by the thousands after the towers fell on 9/11. Challenged over this, Mr. Trump seized on a 2001 article in The Washington Post, written by Mr. Kovaleski when he was a reporter there, that he said backed up his story. But the article did not do that. It merely reported that the authorities had questioned “a number of people” who were “allegedly seen” celebrating the attack. Nothing has ever come of that “allegedly” — there has never been any evidence to substantiate Mr. Trump’s claim, not then, not now. Mr. Kovaleski did not change his story — not “totally,” not at all. And he did not grovel.

Jill Abramson: Obama’s right: in an age of unreality, democracy is in peril

George Orwell, no doubt, would have approved of President Obama’s farewell speech. Underneath the hopeful rhetoric of “Yes We (Still) Can” and list of the accomplishments over the past eight years lay a bracing, overarching message: when lies can become truth, democracy is in peril.

Orwell penned his dystopian political novel, 1984, from the same fear. “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world,” he wrote. “Lies will pass into history.” In 1984, the Ministry of Truth spews propaganda and the language of Newspeak obfuscates lies. On Tuesday night in Chicago, Obama reinforced that this could happen now unless we can agree that there is accepted truth and that “reason and science matter.”

“Without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point,” President Obama warned, democracy can’t function.

With only 10 days left in office, the president focused on the dangers of the new information age that has taken hold during his tenure. First he cited the “splintering” of the news media so that there is no longer a trusted voice of authority or arbiter of the facts. Then he talked about the so-called filter bubble, the sorting of facts according to social media feeds where “increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.”

This was straight talk, perhaps the last we will get from an American president in a very long while.