May 17 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.

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Malcolm Nance: Trump’s reckless chatter with Russia could have fatal consequences

It looks like President Donald J Trump has finally lived up to everyone’s expectations. Throughout the campaign, Trump hammered home the assertion that only he could safeguard classified information. He repeatedly pointed to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as an example of why she couldn’t be trusted with the nation’s secrets. Critics argued that given the chance, Trump would not be able to resist disclosing highly classified information. Has that moment finally come?

Now Trump has admitted that he did just that during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. The Washington Post reported that Trump divulged details of a plot to attack the west by the Islamic State terrorist group.

That information was unilaterally shared with the US in a highly classified program by a Middle Eastern country. So secret was the information that only a handful of Americans knew it. The information was kept away from even our closest allies, including Britain. According to reports, this country trusted the US to safeguard its activity and thus protect the life of its source who brought the information. In a moment of unbridled egoism, the president failed to do that.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: A Progressive Vision For The FBI

A political movement should do more than just react to the day’s events with outrage, although that’s important. It should also offer the vision of a better world.

Many Americans are rightfully outraged at the firing of FBI Director James Comey, just as they were shocked at Comey’s ability to influence political events. But what can we do about it?

Donald Trump will nominate the next FBI director. Barring something unexpected, his nominee will almost certainly be approved. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are powerless. We have the power to imagine a nation run on principles of economic and social justice. We can create a vision so compelling that it brings new people into politics, encourages more activism, and compels our political leaders to fight for it.

That vision can even include the FBI.

Joshua Matz: Many want to know Donald Trump’s state of mind. So do the courts

Donald Trump’s campaign of presidential sabotage accelerates with each passing day. Recent casualties include James Comey (lost his job), Rod Rosenstein (lost his credibility) and some top-secret intelligence (lost to the Russians). Not to mention some pretty important principles, like the rule of law and respect for apolitical law enforcement.

You’ve probably asked yourself: “What is Trump thinking?” You’re not alone. Lawyers and judges, too, have started probing the basis for Trump’s latest acts of constitutional arson. While they have plenty of raw material, they face a major obstacle: to study Trump’s mind is to enter a strange new world where laws of grammar, logic and meaning are always up for grabs and retroactively adjustable

Moreover, on some vital issues, the very concept of “intent” may not really apply to Trump’s outbursts. As David Brooks notes, we appear to be dealing with a man “whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.”

Which raises an important question: in this topsy-turvy world, how do we deal with legal rules that consider state of mind?

Dean Baker: Trump Family And Friends: In Your Pockets

Donald Trump has openly said that he doesn’t care at all about the rules that prohibit the president and those around him from profiting from their government positions. In breaking with longstanding precedent, he is holding on to his business empire and having his children run it as he carries on with the business of being president.

With the government forced to pay the bills for the Secret Service to stay at his golf resorts and hotels, Trump obviously feels no compunction about gouging taxpayers to put more money in his pockets. But this open graft is almost certainly the least important way in which Donald Trump’s family and friends will profit at the expense of the rest of us.

We still don’t know most of the details of Trump’s tax plan, but the main parts of the plan we do know look like it was written to benefit him personally as much as possible. First, it gets rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). This tax was put into law in 1986 to ensure that wealthy people, who can use deductions to drastically reduce their taxes, will still have to pay some amount of tax.

Richard North Patterson: The Democrats’ Liberal Lemmings

Next month I’m returning to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a lovely place and, for progressives, the ultimate “safe space.” It sometimes seems that Republicans need a green card just to visit, and that the island only issues 10 per year.

But this creates a problem: What passes for political wisdom can become, shall we say, insular. As a journalistic eminence murmured after enduring a dinner party where, in his view, progressive piety strangled reality by the throat: “As Martha’s Vineyard goes, so goes Cambridge, Berkeley, and the upper West Side of Manhattan.”

Which puts me in mind of certain Democratic liberals — and lemmings.

Hold the outrage, please. I like to think I’m as progressive as the next guy, including ardent support for voting rights, LGBT rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, and preventing dangerous people from slaughtering innocents with guns. Over the years, I’ve devoted considerable energy to these issues. But, for me, the current ideological fratricide among Democrats evokes the mythic rodents who commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs.