Aug 21 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.
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Paul Krugman: The G.O.P.’s Climate of Paranoia

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Truth isn’t truth.

Rudy Giuliani’s latest bon mot is a reminder, if anyone needed it, that calling the Trump administration Orwellian isn’t hyperbole, it’s just a statement of fact. Like the ruling party in “1984,” Donald Trump operates on the principle that truth — whether it involves inauguration crowd sizes, immigrant crime or economic performance — is what he says it is. And that truth can change at a moment’s notice.

For example, not long ago, Republicans insisted that Russia was our greatest threat, and that Barack Obama was betraying America by not confronting Vladimir Putin more forcefully; now Putin is one of the good guys, and the base has gone along with the change. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

And if you thought you heard something different from the Trumpian version of reality, blame evil conspirators and saboteurs, whom you get to denounce in the Two Minutes Hate, chanting “lock her up.”

But how did this happen to the whole Republican Party? And it is effectively the whole party: There is no serious G.O.P. opposition to Trump or his vision. Why did the party’s belief in objective reality collapse so suddenly and completely?

Eugene Robinson: ‘Truth isn’t truth’ is the Trump era’s epitaph

Whenever the Trump administration ends, we already have its shameful epitaph: “Truth isn’t truth.”

President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani made that unintentional confession of method and purpose Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” From the beginning of the campaign, this whole enterprise has been a lie, a fraud, a grift, a cruel deception — a sustained and increasingly frantic attempt to obscure inconvenient truth.

Earlier in the interview, as if to illustrate the point he was about to make, Giuliani told what can only be called a bald-faced lie. He claimed that when Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman met at Trump Tower in 2016 with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, “all they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them. They didn’t know she was a representative of the Russian government.” But in email traffic setting up the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. was told that the promised “information that would incriminate Hillary” constituted “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Giuliani claimed Monday that his declaration about the nature of veracity was just a clumsy way of describing “he said, she said” situations in which the facts cannot be ascertained. But he had tried to peddle what White House counselor Kellyanne Conway once called “alternative facts” about the Trump Tower meeting. “Truth isn’t truth” should be taken as a suspect’s blurted admission of guilt.

Constant, relentless, shameless lying is not ancillary to the Trump administration. It is not a sideshow; it’s the main event. We have become inured to the fact that the president of the United States and his aides and associates simply cannot be relied upon to tell the truth.

Catherine Rampell: Our politicians have no idea how the Internet works

Here’s the bad news: We can’t trust Silicon Valley to police itself. That has become abundantly clear from the many scandals involving Russian disinformation campaigns, Cambridge Analytica, Twitter bots, secret data breachesGoogle geo-tracking and the like.

Here’s the other bad news: We can’t trust Washington politicians to police it, either.

The expansive Luddite Caucus has no idea how 21st-century technology actually works, nor any apparent motivation to learn.

President Trump and other Republicans have lately complained that tech companies are allegedly muzzling, purging or “shadow-banning” conservative voices. Most recently, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), aspiring speaker of the House, tweeted on Friday: “Another day, another example of conservatives being censored on social media.” He added the hashtag “#StopTheBias” and called for Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey to “explain to Congress what is going on.”

The cause of McCarthy’s complaint?

He was annoyed that a tweet by Fox News host Laura Ingraham, retweeting a Drudge Report missive, wasn’t immediately visible to him because Twitter said it contained “potentially sensitive content.” As a Twitter executive pointed out, this was due to two factors: The Drudge Report has flagged its own tweets as “potentially sensitive”; and McCarthy had set his Twitter account preferences to hide any tweets flagged this way.

In other words, McCarthy was censoring his own Twitter feed, something he could easily reverse by changing his account settings. Confronting face-palming mockery, McCarthy nonetheless doubled downstill claiming political persecution.

This is hardly the only time that politicians have flaunted their digital illiteracy.

Robert Reich: Musk, Trump, and the Second Gilded Age

I’ve long admired Elon Musk as a technological visionary. But I worry about his sense of responsibility to the public.

Last week Musk announced on Twitter that he intended to turn Telsa, the electric-car maker he founded, into a private company. He said the funding was “secured” – a claim that sent Telsa stock skyrocketing – yet he produced no evidence that the funding was nailed down.

There are laws against corporate officials making these sorts of untethered claims, because if untrue they could hurt lots of innocent bystanders – including unwary investors and employees.

Does Musk’s behavior remind you of any other powerful person who also makes unfounded claims on Twitter that send heads spinning?

Donald Trump is no Elon Musk. Musk seems to genuinely care about the future of humanity.

But, like Trump, Musk loves to upend the status quo by breaking norms and maybe even some laws.

Richard Wolffe: How US Politics Sustains US Capitalism

Until their contradictions explode coexisting economic and political systems sustain one another. “Normal” politics includes precisely the process of working out social conflicts such that the economic system is sustained. Whatever its form, the state’s tasks include that sustenance. When politics and the state can no longer perform adequately, the system totters. Only then can movements for system change seriously contest the existing system and press for transition to another.

Capitalism displays this pattern in general and particularly in the United States. To see this, we divide the US population into three groups. The first comprises the 1 % richest, mostly corporate directors, etc. The second is the 9% below them who are mostly professional assistants and servants to the 1%. Below them, the third group includes 90% of the population split between the poorest 45% and the remaining 45%. (henceforth the “middle”). The top 10% are the dominant funders, leaders, etc. of both major parties, Republican (R) and Democrat (D). Separately and in comfortable oscillation, both parties sustain US capitalism.