Aug 08 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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Michael Morell: Putin is afraid of one thing. Make him think it could happen.

Facebook revealed on July 31 that it had discovered a 17-month-long influence campaign to sow political divisiveness on its network, an effort that bore the hallmarks of the Kremlin-connected Internet Research Agency. Two days later at the White House, the nation’s top national security officials said Russia is conducting a pervasive campaign to weaken our democracy and influence this year’s midterm elections. Taken together, these announcements leave no doubt that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s political assault on the United States continues unabated. [..]

Here is what the United States needs to do. In terms of self-defense, it must secure the nation’s elections system, especially the software that holds data on registered voters. Every vote should be tallied on a backup paper ballot that could be used to verify election results, if necessary. New rules and better enforcement are needed to keep foreign money out of U.S. elections. The federal government should work with individual campaigns to fortify the security of the technology and networks they use. Finally, better coordination across the government is needed to protect U.S. elections, which would probably best be achieved by creating a Hybrid Threats Center similar to the National Counterterrorism Center.

Ross Barkin: Ohio’s tight race shows Democrats are ready to do battle everywhere

The Republican of 2018 is in a very peculiar spot. The man who took the party hostage and rapidly remade it in his own image, Donald Trump, is nothing short of a demi-god to a significant slice of the Republican electorate – buck him and conservatives will rise up to devour you.

Yet Trump is also the millstone who may sink Republicans this fall. In special election after special election, Democrats have proven they can win or compete aggressively on turf Republicans are used to dominating. [..]

Trump horrifies Democrats and left-leaning voters. They can mobilize in typically low turnout elections, showing up in ways they never did when Barack Obama was president.

This is what anyone on the right should fear. Trump’s hateful and ludicrous administration has energized Democrats in a remarkable way. Republicans hold fewer and fewer safe seats. Towns and counties that swung dramatically into Trump’s column in 2016 are ready to come right back.

Max Boot: Why can’t Iran’s mullahs dupe Trump?

I recently wrote that Iran’s leaders are smarter than President Trump. Now I’m starting to have second thoughts. If they were as clever as I had suspected, they would not have turned down Trump’s impetuous offer to meet without preconditions — and, as usual, without preparation.

President Hassan Rouhani insists that the sanctions that the United States began to impose this week must be lifted before talks can convene. But there is no better way for Iran to relax U.S. pressure than to stage a summit. If a meeting with Rouhani were to follow the pattern of Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, he would go in breathing fire and brimstone and come out whispering sweet nothings without having gotten much in return aside from a photo op. Which, in fairness, is what he most cares about.

The paradox of Trump is that he is an expert con man — but also easily conned. He can dupe his credulous followers into believing the most fantastic nonsense, e.g., that the special counsel investigation led by a Republican war hero is a “Rigged Witch Hunt.” Just when you’re ready to conclude that Trump is a master manipulator, however, you see how easily he’s manipulated by his interlocutors.

Patrick Gleick: Trump’s nonsense tweets on water and wildfires are dangerous

As if water and wildfire policies in the West weren’t contentious enough, President Trump decided to toss confused and ill-conceived tweets into the mix over the past few days, reigniting fights over water and land use in California.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump said in a tweet Sunday. He was back at it again Monday morning, decrying water that is “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.”

This is unmitigated nonsense and dangerous thinking, especially at a time when severe wildfires are sweeping over the state, more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed, the death toll is rising and more than 10,000 firefighters are risking their lives battling the flames.  [..]

Unsurprisingly, the president’s comments completely ignore the role of human-caused climate change as a growing factor in the extreme fires that the nation is now experiencing. Climate change is worsening long-term drought conditions, adding dry vegetation to fuel the fires and increasing the temperatures and extreme weather that accelerate their spread and intensity. A century of forest fire suppression and inappropriate expansion of communities into high-risk fire areas have also contributed to the rising human and economic costs of wildland fires.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Trump’s privatization plan would destroy the Postal Service

The post office has been woven into the fabric of American society since 1775, when the Second Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general. Today, the U.S. Postal Service is the most popular government agency in the country, with a favorability rating of nearly 90 percent. But now, President Trump is apparently bent on destroying it.

This week, a task force created following an April executive order from Trump, is scheduled to deliver its recommendations for an overhaul of the Postal Service. Led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, the task force is expected to endorse the privatization proposal buried in the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government — a radical assault on the administrative state.

That reorganization plan claimed that “USPS’s current model is unsustainable.” But while the Postal Service is losing money, its financial woes are largely the result of bad policy. Nearly all the agency’s losses over the past decade are attributable to a 2006 law requiring it to pre-fund retiree health benefits for 75 years, an onerous mandate that doesn’t apply to any other agency. As the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General explained in 2015, the pre-funding requirement essentially amounts to a credit card company saying, “You will charge a million dollars on your credit card during your life; please include the million dollars in your next payment.”