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Jan 27 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: Making the Rust Belt Rustier

Donald Trump will break most of his campaign promises. Which promises will he keep?

The answer, I suspect, has more to do with psychology than it does with strategy. Mr. Trump is much more enthusiastic about punishing people than he is about helping them. He may have promised not to cut Social Security and Medicare, or take health insurance away from the tens of millions who gained coverage under Obamacare, but in practice he seems perfectly willing to satisfy his party by destroying the safety net.

On the other hand, he appears serious about his eagerness to reverse America’s 80-year-long commitment to expanding world trade. On Thursday the White House said it was considering a 20 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico; doing so wouldn’t just pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, it would violate all our trading agreements.

Why does he want this? Because he sees international trade the way he sees everything else: as a struggle for dominance, in which you only win at somebody else’s expense.

Eugene Robinson: We ignore Trump at our peril

Where to begin? That’s the daily question for anyone trying to follow the words and deeds of the new administration, which is like drinking from two fire hoses — one gushing policy, the other spewing insanity.

Neither stream can be ignored. I wish I could agree with those who say we should pay little attention to President Trump’s verbal eruptions and focus only on concrete actions, but I can’t. It matters that the most powerful man in the world insists on “facts” that are nothing but self-aggrandizing fantasy. It matters that the president of the United States seems incapable of publicly admitting any error. It matters that Trump’s need for adulation appears to be insatiable. [..]

My point is that Trump’s off-the-wall statements and Twitter rants cannot be dismissed as mere attempts to distract. We have a president who is obsessed with his public standing, given to outlandish statements, eager to believe in conspiracy theories and unwilling to admit when he is wrong. To our peril, his character and moods will shape his policies.

Francine Prose: A top White House official told the media to ‘keep its mouth shut’. That’s a threat

Anyone who cares about language has been repeatedly appalled by the crudeness of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and by the thuggishness of the directives issued by Trump and his cohorts. They have instructed the American people on what to believe, whom to hate and how badly they can behave. And yet we continue to be surprised by each bullying pronouncement, most recently by chief White House strategist Stephen K Bannon’s suggestion that the “humiliated” media might do well to “keep its mouth shut”. [..]

Now that our mainstream newspapers have given up on finding a fair and balanced way to report the president’s lies, now that the country has watched NBC’s Chuck Todd barely conceal his astonishment at Kellyanne Conway’s reference to “alternative facts”, it’s no wonder that the administration’s antipathy toward the press should have become more openly vehement and reckless.

But what’s newly disturbing is the phrasing and tone of Bannon’s statement. Telling an institution to “keep its mouth shut” is, quite simply, a threat – entirely different from expressing the hope that the media might want to temper its criticism and scrupulously check its facts.

By ordering the media to shut its mouth, Bannon is implying that what he would really like to do is discredit, censor and silence the press: to shut our mouths for us.

John Paul Brammer:
Donald Trump’s wall: a fitting monument for an unfit leader

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to build a massive southern border wall, fulfilling a key campaign promise he made to his supporters during his presidential campaign.

Or so he would like them to think.

No matter the “alternative facts”, Trump can’t sign a wall into existence with an executive order. He still needs Congress to approve the $20bn price tag in federal funds. Environmental hurdles like deserts and mountains must also be overcome. Ranchers and private landowners probably won’t roll over and just give the government their land without putting up a fight in court.

Even if these problems magically went away, experts say that such an undertaking could take up to 16 years. We as a country swang from Barack Obama to Tweety McTangerine in half that time. Assuming we survive that long, it seems unlikely that Trump’s vanity project will have the time it needs to be built. He didn’t even take office with a popular mandate, after all.

As for Mexico paying for it, well, as we say in Spanish: “No.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean nothing will happen. He will probably beef up border security. Deportations will probably increase. If he does manage to get funding for the wall, it will be at the expense of us taxpayers. Most tragically, families will be ripped apart.

But don’t let Trump get away with pulling off this publicity stunt on his own terms. Let’s instead see this executive order for what it is: yet another unhinged act of aggression in his ongoing war against reality.

Howard Stoffer: Donald Trump may pose an existential threat to the United Nations

Thanks to Donald Trump, the United Nations may now be facing its greatest existential crisis. According to some reports, there exist draft executive orders reducing US funding to the United Nations and other international organizations by at least 40% overall. That would reshape the organization, whose aim is world peace and international cooperation, unalterably.

The UN is no stranger to criticism, having recently braved a round of bashing from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. While the organization is certainly overdue for serious internal changes, it is still concretely in the interest of Trump, his administration, and the American people to actively participate in, and fully fund its share of, the UN.

Constant whispers of the US leaving or defunding the UN have now become shouts. In addition to the draft executive orders, recent tweets by Trump have referred to the UN as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”. And even as Nikki Haley was confirmed as the next US ambassador to the UN, Alabama representative Mike Rogers was proposing a bill to “terminate” the US’s UN membership.