Apr 11 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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Andrew Malcolm: While we were sleeping, Russia, Iran and Turkey made an ominous deal

There can’t possibly be that many Russians of importance left to sanction. But President Donald Trump has laid more economic restrictions on Russia, Russians and Russian companies, described as the most punitive yet, for a variety of evil-doings in recent years.

Forget for a moment that every president loudly announces such sanctions, which then are largely forgotten by everybody. If there’s any Russian (or Iranian or North Korean) dense enough to still keep assets in these United States, maybe they don’t really care about them. And if President Vladimir Putin has buckled to pull troops out of Crimea after four years of escalating U.S. sanctions, no one’s noticed.

All this, mixed with Trump’s poorly-explained trade tariff tiff with China and his abnormal normal White House chaos, has managed successfully to distract from development of an unholy Middle Eastern alliance that should cause serious concerns, not just for the White House.

Last week Putin, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey’s strongman Tayyip Erdogan completed a successful summit in Ankara by announcing their new partnership to establish a ceasefire in Syria and to start rebuilding the war-ravaged land that is ravaged in large part by their own forces.

Quinta Jurecic: It’s Mueller, Not Trump, Who Is Draining the Swamp

Following the investigation of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is an enduring lesson in humility, and not merely because no one — not the president, not legal analysts or anyone else — has been able to predict what his office will do next. Mr. Mueller is much more than a prosecutor. To many, he has become Mr. Trump’s opposite: an avatar of justice and probity.

As special counsel, he’s also a storyteller, unwinding the tale of what happened during the 2016 election, while revealing only glimpses of the overall narrative. It’s not clear whether he’ll ever make public the whole of what he knows, or whether the regulations governing his appointment even allow him to do so.

The country is living through an astonishing story without a full sense of what that story is. But as the public waits to discover who on the Trump team knew what and when they knew it, Mr. Mueller has been telling another story, about “draining the swamp.” And how that story plays out stands to have a major effect on how our politics moves forward after the investigation is complete.

Walter Mondale: The Civil Rights Law We Ignored

Fifty years ago on April 11, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act, the last of the three great civil rights laws of the 1960s. Along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, it was an attempt by Congress to translate the movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others into enduring statute. But it also has the more dubious distinction of being the most contested, most ignored and, at times, most misunderstood of those laws. [..]

Today, new research shows even more clearly than in 1968 that where you live matters. We know that growing up in an integrated community provides children with a better chance to graduate from high school, attend college, get and keep good jobs, earn a higher income and pass on wealth to subsequent generations.

Yet the Trump administration has sought to delay enforcement of the 2015 HUD integration rules by as much as seven years. Ben Carson, the HUD secretary, has referred to these rules — essential to the act he is supposed to safeguard — as “mandated social engineering.”

This is the story of the first 50 years of the Fair Housing Act: gradual progress and frequent setbacks. If the law’s drafters could have been accused of anything, it was excessive optimism about how easily a segregated society could be unified. But even as the epochal events surrounding its passage fade from collective memory, the Fair Housing Act persists. It remains a bulwark for advocates of justice and equality, as they advance, inch by inch, toward a fairer, more integrated nation.

Lawrence Douglas: The Cohen raid is a game changer: Trump’s reaction tells us so

“It’s a disgrace, it’s frankly a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

So began Donald Trump’s passionate remarks to reporters before an afternoon meeting of the nation’s top military brass and national security officials. On the agenda was how America should respond to the Syrian government’s most recent chemical weapon attack against its own citizens.

But that criminal attack was not the target of the president’s moral outrage. No, instead it was the news that the FBI “broke into” the office of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longstanding personal lawyer. [..]

But the most telling confirmation of the importance of the raid came from the president himself, whose unbalanced diatribe was remarkable even by his standards. We’ve heard the witch-hunt business before: the lasses in Salem had it easy compared to the trials our poor president has had to endure. But in calling a legally authorized raid on the office of his personal lawyer an “attack on our country”, Trump has done more than given strident confirmation to his extravagant narcissism. He has accused the nation’s top intelligence officials and administrators of justice of treason.

We knew this day was coming. Whatever else we might say about Richard Nixon, he went quietly into the night. Not Trump. He will drag us through the misery of a constitutional crisis before, to quote John Brennan, he enters the dustbin of history.

Markos Kounalakis: Facebook and its Global Village need a mayor to represent us

Facebook is the largest community in the world. It is also one of the least democratic institutions on earth. That’s why Facebook needs a mayor.

In non-virtual communities – meaning “IRL” (In Real Life) physical cities and states – where people interact face-to-face daily, societies have developed self-governing structures and policing institutions to serve and protect them. Private companies like Facebook, however, were not organized around democratic ideas or social justice principles. Despite the often lofty mission statements of social media companies, they are businesses put together for one reason: To make money. Oodles of it.

Thanks to the “network-effect,” unplanned, but highly profitable, communities have grown on these internet platforms to number in the billions. Greater in size than any nation-state. More politically powerful than any party or person. They cross borders and span the globe.

As they have grown, so have the scale of their problems and the onus of their responsibilities. The network effect cuts both ways. What has not grown apace has been the capacity to deal with the downside of a digital community’s size and scale. Systems are inadequate to manage communities’ dark side. The bigger these diverse social networks get, the less responsive they are to their complexity and breadth. Worse, they are undemocratic.