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Mar 30 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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Bruce Schneier: Snoops may soon be able to buy your browsing history. Thank the US Congress

Think about all of the websites you visit every day. Now imagine if the likes of Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon collected all of your browsing history and sold it on to the highest bidder. That’s what will probably happen if Congress has its way.

This week, lawmakers voted to allow internet service providers to violate your privacy for their own profit. Not only have they voted to repeal a rule that protects your privacy, they are also trying to make it illegal for the Federal Communications Commission to enact other rules to protect your privacy online.

That this is not provoking greater outcry illustrates how much we’ve ceded any willingness to shape our technological future to for-profit companies and are allowing them to do it for us.

There are a lot of reasons to be worried about this. Because your internet service provider controls your connection to the internet, it is in a position to see everything you do on the internet. Unlike a search engine or social networking platform or news site, you can’t easily switch to a competitor. And there’s not a lot of competition in the market, either. If you have a choice between two high-speed providers in the US, consider yourself lucky.

What can telecom companies do with this newly granted power to spy on everything you’re doing? Of course they can sell your data to marketers – and the inevitable criminals and foreign governments who also line up to buy it. But they can do more creepy things as well.

Linda Greenhouse: The Empty Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for Judge Neil M. Gorsuch was just plain embarrassing, and not only for the nominee. But let’s begin with him, skipping over his Republican enablers, who had nothing to do but lob softball questions and praise his answers. If Judge Gorsuch wasn’t the least forthcoming Supreme Court nominee ever to appear at a confirmation hearing, it’s hard to imagine one who could be less forthcoming while still breathing. More interesting and less predictable answers could have come from Siri on an iPhone.

The previous contender for the title of least forthcoming was Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016 and whom Judge Gorsuch would replace. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and confirmed unanimously, then-Judge Scalia wouldn’t even tell the Judiciary Committee whether he supported Marbury v. Madison, the landmark 1803 decision in which the court under Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle that federal courts can invalidate unconstitutional statutes.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, then a Republican and later a Democrat, was so irritated by the nominee’s performance that four years later, when President George H. W. Bush nominated David H. Souter to the court, Senator Specter announced in advance that he expected an answer to the Marbury question.

Medea Benjamin: Trump said he’d stop dragging us into war. That’s yet another fat lie

resident Trump told a group of senators this week that the US military was “doing very well” in Iraq. “The results are very, very good,” Trump said. The families of the hundreds of innocents who have been killed in US airstrikes since Trump became president might disagree.

Remember when presidential candidate Donald Trump blasted former president George Bush for dragging the United States into the Iraq war, calling the invasion a “big, fat mistake”? How, then, does that square with now President Donald Trump stepping up US military involvement in Iraq, as well as in Syria and Yemen, and quite literally blasting hundreds of innocent civilians in the process? [..]

Donald Trump loudly criticized President Obama’s air campaign against Islamic State as “too gentle” and called for a reassessment of battlefield rules designed to protect civilians. The US military insists that the rules of engagement have not changed, but Iraqi officers have been quoted in the New York Times as saying that there has been a noticeable relaxing of the coalition’s rules of engagement since President Trump took office.

President Trump has also escalated US intervention in Syria. In March, he authorized the deployment of 400 more troops to fight the Islamic State in Syria, and has upped the number of US airstrikes there.

Joe Cirincione: How Donald Trump Could Blow Up The World All By Himself

President Donald Trump alone controls the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He alone decides whether to use one or one-thousand nuclear weapons. He does not have to check with anyone, not even Steve Bannon.

At a moment’s notice, he can launch some 900 nuclear weapons with the destructive power of 20,000 Hiroshima bombs, and there is nothing anyone could do to stop him.

Thirty minutes after launch, the missiles would hit their targets. Just this fraction of our total active arsenal of some 4,000 weapons would be enough to destroy all humankind has built over the millennia.

Why does he have this power? Why does anyone have this power? [..]

But we have never had a president this unpredictable, this impulsive, in charge of the most powerful nuclear arsenal on the planet.

This is undemocratic. This is un-American. That is why Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu have introduced a bill that would prohibit the president from launching nuclear weapons without a declaration of war from Congress. This would block the president from launching nuclear weapons first in a crisis, unless he gets approval from the most democratic branch of our government.

Bill Moyers: Trump and the GOP in Sickness and Ill Health

The day after Republicans pulled the plug on Trumpcare (or was it Ryancare?), the front-page headline of the tabloid New York Post asked: “Is There a Doctor in the House?

None were in sight, but there were plenty of quacks wielding butcher knives instead of scalpels as they turned the body politic into a bloody mess and left it gasping for life on the floor of the House.

This is the Republican idea of governance?

Based on the howls emitting from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, you might have thought they had amputated the president’s ego. But that would have required a chainsaw while Arnold Schwarzenegger held him down. No, the bellowing and barking from the Oval Office was just the president at his King Kong worst, hurling gorilla dust at Democrats for refusing to self-destruct by voting for the monster of a health care bill the Republicans had engineered in the House, only to turn on their own creation and at the last minute drive a stake through its heart.