Jan 10 2018

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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Ben Smith: I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier

Exactly one year ago BuzzFeed published what’s now known simply as “the dossier”: a set of reports put together by a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign. The 35-page dossier suggested that the Russian government had both compromised and colluded with President-elect Donald Trump.

Our choice to publish the dossier was greeted by outrage from two sources. Journalistic traditionalists didn’t like the idea of sharing an unfiltered, unverified document with the public, whatever the caveats and context. NBC’s Chuck Todd told me on air, “You just published fake news.” Mr. Trump agreed. He described CNN’s reporting on the dossier as “fake news” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”

But a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news. That’s a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish. It has helped journalists explain to their audience the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election. And Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the dossier in their efforts to discredit the special counsel leading the investigation, Robert Mueller.

Ben Cardin: Never before has a president ignored such a clear national security threat

For the better part of 20 years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has engaged in a relentless assault against democratic institutions abroad, universal values and the rule of law. He has carried out these attacks with an asymmetric arsenal: cyberattacks; disinformation; support for fringe political groups; the weaponization of energy resources, organized crime and corruption; and even military aggression.

Putin has used such techniques because he has operated from a position of weakness, hobbled by a faltering economy, a substandard military and few followers on the world stage. And his attacks have grown in intensity and complexity over the past few years, driven by a desire to also repress democratic aspirations among his own citizens. While our European partners have taken steps to better defend themselves, the United States has done little to protect its institutions.

Despite the efforts of some in national security leadership, as well as dedicated career public servants across the executive branch, one person is preventing a strong, government-wide response that holds Russia accountable for its destabilizing activities: the president of the United States. Never before has the White House so clearly ignored a national security threat.

David Leonhardt: A Counter-Conspiracy, Debunked

It can get exhausting to keep track of all of the counter-conspiracy theories that keep coming from President Trump’s allies (many of them in the employ of Rupert Murdoch). But some of those theories get enough traction that they are worth debunking.

To that end, the release of the transcript of Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony yesterday is important. Republicans initially opposed the release, but Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, ultimately made it happen.[..]

We still don’t know how much of the information in Steele’s infamous Trump dossier is accurate. Either way, Steele and Fusion are only supporting players in this story. The main questions are about Trump’s campaign and Russia — not the people trying to figure out what was happening between the campaign and Russia.

Jennifer Rubin: Fusion GPS transcript undercuts GOP attack on Steele and FBI

The decision by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to release the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee did more damage to Republicans on the committee than to President Trump. For starters, it debunked the position of Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that the transcript had to be kept under wraps. Two Republican senators supported Feinstein’s decision. Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) said: “I think that’s a good idea. I’m glad that it was done.” He added, “I respect Chairman Grassley, and I don’t really understand how this happened, but I do think more transparency is important.” Likewise, Sen. John Kennedy (La.) said, “It doesn’t bother me to have the American people know the facts or at least the alleged facts.”

Grassley’s attempt to suppress the transcript comes in conjunction with his entirely inappropriate “referral” to the FBI to investigate Christopher Steele — someone the FBI had already met with, received information from and had an ongoing, respectful and cooperative relationship with. Simpson testified, “My understanding was that they [the FBI] believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.” Why is a referral back to the FBI from two senators who have had no direct contact with Steele remotely necessary or even helpful? All this raises a real question as to Grassley’s credibility. It’s rather obvious that he is acting not as a U.S. senator probing the Russia investigation but as Trump’s ally and enabler in his effort to discredit our own FBI.

Christian Christenesen: You can say what you like on Twitter – as long as you’re US president

hat does it take to get kicked off of Twitter, even for just one day? How about issuing – to 46 million followers – a threat of nuclear holocaust against a sovereign state that will claim an untold number of lives? Not even that if you are an elected leader, it seems.

In a recent blogpost, Twitter wrote that: “Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.” In addition, Twitter management argued that blocking politicians such as Trump, “would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions”. [..]

So, the message is: if you want to threaten someone on Twitter, make sure to get yourself elected as a head of state first. Twitter did not stop there, however: ”We review tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly. No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions.”