Jan 12 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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Eugene Robinson: Trump has no idea what he thinks (except about those ‘shithole’ countries)

If you want to know President Trump’s position on any given policy issue, the last person you should ask is President Trump. He has no idea what he thinks.

Let me amend that. He does know that he wants more immigrants from places such as Norway and fewer from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador, which he called “shithole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers Thursday, according to The Post. So in terms of racism, he’s crystal clear. On most other things, though, he’s fuzzy to the point of cluelessness. [..]

Needless to say, this is no way to run a country. But it may be all the Trump administration is capable of.

Trump had no ideas for reshaping the health-care system, with the result that Obamacare is still in place. He had no ideas for reshaping tax policy except “cut, cut, cut,” with the result that Republicans came up with a bill that balloons the national debt while offering caviar to the rich and peanuts to the middle class.

They say ignorance is bliss. Trump must be very happy.

Paul Krugman: Dollars, Cents and Republican Sadism

Democrats want to strengthen the social safety net; Republicans want to weaken it. But why?

G.O.P. opposition to programs helping the less fortunate, from food stamps to Medicaid, is usually framed in monetary terms. For example, Senator Orrin Hatch, challenged about Congress’s failure to take action on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a part of Medicaid that covers nearly nine million children — and whose federal funding expired back in September — declared that “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.”

But is it really about the money? No, it’s about the cruelty. Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that the suffering imposed by Republican opposition to safety-net programs isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Inflicting pain is the point.

To see what I mean, consider three stories about health care policies.

Trevor Timm: Democrats Just Handed Trump More Domestic Surveillance Powers. They Should Know Better.

Democrats have been all over the airwaves recently accusing Donald Trump of abusing the Justice Department to go after his political enemies —most notably his former opponent Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, which the Department of Justice is reportedly currently investigating based on allegation made during the 2016 presidential campaign. So you’d think they would oppose handing Donald Trump any more power with which he could potentially use against all sorts of Americans who attract negative attention from his administration.

Yet, with the help of some Democrats, the House of Representatives voted today — and the Senate will do so sometime in the next week — to extend a controversial NSA surveillance power that potentially affects millions of Americans’ privacy rights.

The bill is an extension of what’s known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the NSA to warrantlessly target people in other countries who are communicating with Americans — which means that the collect the personal communications of Americans without their knowledge. Currently, the NSA has over 100,000 foreign nationals under this type of surveillance now, but it also has the communications of the potentially millions of Americans they’ve talked to, texted with and emailed over the course of the surveillance. The FBI has access to this vast database of information and regularly searches it like Google without a warrant, for crimes that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism..

Richard Eskow: When Will Democrats Start #Resisting GOP Voter Suppression?

Remember all those pictures of smiling Iraqi citizens proudly holding up their blue, ink-stained fingers when they voted for the first time after the fall of Saddam Hussein? The Republicans – and far too many Democrats – who had supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq hoped those vivid images would appeal to the democracy-loving instincts of the American people.

Americans do love democracy, at least in principle, although they’ve long abandoned their support for that misguided war. So how is it that the party that distributed those photos of blue fingers has also been able to engage in a decades-long assault on democracy at home, without paying a political price? And why isn’t the party at the losing end of those machinations doing more about it?

Christine Emba: On ‘shitholes’: When it comes to Trump’s values, something surely smells

During an Oval Office discussion on Wednesday about potentially restoring protected status for refugees from El Salvador, Haiti, and African nations, President Trump let fly his latest superlatively sensitive bit of commentary:

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested the United States should instead bring in more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he also met with on Wednesday.

Oh, where to begin. [..]

It’s also more than likely that decades of U.S. policy — occupations, blockades, electoral interference and meddling in internal conflicts — might have something to do with the struggles of countries such as Haiti and El Salvador. Granting their immigrants refuge from crises we may have helped seed is the least we could do.  And with our own internal conflicts — Sky-high infant and maternal mortality rates! Escalating nuclear conflict! Extreme poverty, to the degree that the United Nations has begun to investigate! — maybe now isn’t the best time to be calling anyone else names.

Yet all this, somehow, is secondary. What is most disheartening about our president’s statement is that it betrays the values we used to be proud to defend.