Jan 19 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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Ed note: I’ll be traveling for the next week. Pundits will be abbreviated, like today.

Trevor Timm: Chelsea Manning did the right thing. Finally, Barack Obama has too

There is no one who has suffered more under the US government’s crackdown on leakers and whistleblowers than Chelsea Manning. But now, after President Obama commuted her unjust 35-year jail sentence on Tuesday, she will, amazingly, soon be able to walk free.

Manning, who provided journalists a historic treasure trove of documents and the public an unparalleled window into world diplomacy, will no longer have to spend the rest of her life behind bars. She will be released from prison on 17 May instead of the unconscionable 2045. It’s a cause for celebration, but also a time for reflection – not just about what she has gone through but what her case represents.

At the time of her revelations, she was the most important whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg. Upon hearing the news today, Ellsberg said this: “Once in a while, someone does what they ought to do. Some go to prison for it, for seven years; some accept exile for life. But sometimes even a president does it. And today, it was Obama.”

Stephen Colbert: The WERD: Repeal and Erase

It’s President Obama’s last week and he’s determined to protect his entire legacy. Republicans are just as determined to make his entire legacy that time he wore mom jeans.

Jeremy Scahill: Trump Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Lied to the Senate

There are many reasons Betsy DeVos’s nomination to serve as Donald Trump’s education secretary could be justifiably quashed by the U.S. Senate. Her long public record indicates she is a religious Christian zealot who does not believe in the actual separation of church and state, wants public monies funneled into religious schools, and has contributed through family foundations to bigoted groups with a militant anti-gay agenda. During her confirmation hearing she gave disturbing answers to questions about her views of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, standardized tests, and school vouchers. She also suggested guns have a place in American schools, though her claim that they were necessary to defend students from grizzly bear attacks was not very compelling. [..]

During Tuesday’s hearing, the Democratic senators protested Republican chair Lamar Alexander’s unprecedented ruling that senators would only be permitted one round of questioning. Nonetheless, several senators pressed DeVos on the contributions made by her and other family members through their foundations. DeVos, clearly prepared for such questions, assured the committee that she has nothing to do with the contributions made by her mother’s foundation, the Prince Foundation (formerly known as the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation). DeVos said that her immediate family — presumably meaning her husband and children — had nothing to do with the financing of anti-gay causes and groups and that she has never supported “conversion therapy” for gay people.

Newly elected Democratic Sen. Margaret Hassan pressed DeVos on these claims. She asked DeVos directly if she was on the board of her mother’s foundation during the period in which large donations were made to Focus on the Family. DeVos said that she was not on the foundation’s board.When I heard that, I pulled up the 990 tax documents of the Prince Foundation, which I investigated for my book “Blackwater.” Betsy DeVos was clearly listed as a vice president of the foundation’s board, along with her brother Erik, for many years, at least until 2014. DeVos was a vice president during the precise period Hassan was referring to.

Dana Milbank: Dr. Price’s marvelous medicine for your stock portfolio

Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services, has found a miracle cure for ailing investment portfolios.

Price, a Georgia Republican, did some creative investing while leading the House Budget Committee last year. He bought stock in a maker of joint replacements a week before he introduced legislation that would help the company — which then made a campaign contribution to Price.

Nothing to see here, says the Trump team: A broker bought the shares without Price’s knowledge.

Also last year, Price himself bought shares in an Australian immunotherapy company after hearing about it from fellow congressman Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who is on the company’s board and is a member of Trump’s transition team. Price was included in a private placement of stock not available to the public, and Price’s price was right: His investment is reportedly up 400 percent.

Nothing to see here, either, Price told a Senate panel Wednesday: He paid the same price as all the others who were let in on the private deal (including Collins, his staff chief and a lobbyist).

It all feels a bit, well, swampy.

Richard Eskow: Booker and the Big Pharma Dems Have No Excuse. This Vote Proves It.

It’s devastating, and potentially lethal, when Americans can’t afford life-saving drugs because their elected representatives are in thrall to Big Pharma. It’s disappointing when Democrats offer implausible excuses for their votes, as Sen. Cory Booker and twelve other senators did last week.

And it’s downright outrageous when those same Democrats claim their votes were driven by drug safety concerns, since all twelve voted to lower drug safety standards when they supported the 21st Century Cures Act.

If Booker and the others hadn’t broken with their party and ignored the needs of the American people, a budget amendment from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar would have paved the way for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they cost far less than they do in the United States.

This was a rare opportunity for bipartisan progress. Twelve Republicans broke with their party to support the amendment. If these Democrats hadn’t moved the other way, it would have passed. Their betrayal crushed one of the few remaining rays of hope for the millions of Americans whose health and financial security are endangered by the new Republican Congress.