Dec 19 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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John Collins Rudolph: Real Christmas trees are the greener choice

A fake Christmas tree has some obvious advantages over the real thing. There’s no sticky sap. No needles shedding everywhere. It never needs watering, and at the end of the season, it can be folded up, or disassembled (depending on the model) and stowed away in a closet, basement or attic until next year’s Yuletide rolls around.

What’s more, machine-made pines are evolving, steadily gaining ground on their biological forebears. Every year, more realistic models emerge, with fuller branches, softer needles and subtler, more life-like colors. One day, it may take the arboreal equivalent of a Voight-Kampff test to separate the real from the faux.

It’s no surprise then that the fake tree business has boomed into a billion dollar industry, with sales figures fast approaching those of real Christmas trees.

But what about the environmental impact? Is it possible a plastic pine might not be that bad for the planet? Could it even do some good?

Sherrilyn Iffil: It’s time to face the facts: Racism is a national security issue

Two newly released reports from the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election have been nothing short of revelatory. Both studies — one produced by researchers at Oxford University, the other by the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge — describe in granular detail how the Russian government tried to sow discord and confusion among American voters. And both conclude that Russia’s campaign included a massive effort to deceive and co-opt African Americans. We now have unassailable confirmation that a foreign power sought to exploit racial tensions in the United States for its own gain.

Ever since U.S. intelligence agencies reported that the Russian government worked to sway the 2016 election, foreign election meddling has been one of our nation’s top national security concerns. But our discussions about Russian interference rarely touch on the other major threat to our elections: the resurgence of state-sponsored voter suppression in the United States. In light of these disturbing new reports, it is clear we can no longer think of foreign election meddling as a phenomenon separate from attempts to disenfranchise Americans of color. Racial injustice remains a real vulnerability in our democracy, one that foreign powers are only too willing to attack.

Greg Sargent: Worried about Trump’s fragile ego, Republicans negotiate the terms of his surrender

A delegation of House Democrats just took a tour of the stretch of southern border, where 7-year-old migrant Jakelin Caal crossed with her father before perishing of dehydration and liver failure. The Democrats reported horrible conditions at this particular Border Patrol station, with one claiming migrant children are “stacked” in tight conditions and huddled on floors.

Those conditions underscore the degree to which Central American migrations have overwhelmed the border, resulting in what the Democrats on the tour described as a humanitarian crisis. This is a complex, multifaceted problem that — according to even some members of Trump’s own administration — calls for more resources devoted to overhauling the current border infrastructure and to attacking the crisis’ root causes.

Yet even as we speak, lawmakers in Washington are devoting time and energy to finding ways to spend billions of immigration-related dollars assuaging President Trump’s bruised and tender ego.

John Podesta: Ryan Zinke is leaving — but his departure is just the beginning

The Trump administration is among the most chaotic in U.S. history, but it is also among the most unethical, at least since that of President Warren G. Harding. The latest example came on Dec. 15 with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s resignation amid a cloud of scandal as more than a dozen investigations closed in on him.

Zinke’s mismanagement of America’s public lands, natural resources and relationships with tribal nations lasted just 21 months — the shortest tenure of any president’s first interior secretary in decades (shorter, even, than James G. Watt’s in the 1980s) — but the damage will linger long after he leaves at year’s end.

Like former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July under similarly ignoble circumstances, Zinke is exiting to cheers of good riddance. But his leaving is not by itself a cure-all for the agency’s problems. Zinke is leaving behind a toxic culture of cronyism in the highest ranks of its political appointees. Nothing less than a full housecleaning is needed to restore public trust in the Interior Department’s leadership.

Richard Wolffe: Taking stock: Flynn is yet another Trump aide facing prospect of jail

You can surely understand the unseemly haste from Sarah Sanders. If you were the White House press secretary, you’d definitely want to wrap up your rare media briefing after just 15 minutes. You’d also want a shiatsu massage, a large hot toddy and the best lawyer money can buy.

“Do your job Sarah,” shouted one reporter, clearly frustrated by a press secretary whose last on-camera briefing was 21 days ago. But she was doing her job, guys. Her job is to dodge all the pesky questions, so 42 seconds of daily briefing time seems about right.

Rarely has a White House seemed so festive and so felonious at the same time. Tuesday was the day Team Trump released an utterly heartfelt and heart-warming photo of Donald and Melania holding hands, surrounded by a small forest of Christmas trees festooned with enough scarlet baubles to decorate Red Square. [..]

But the season of goodwill to all men did not extend all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the US courthouse. There, yet another senior aide to the president found himself staring at a now familiar fate for those who get too close to Trump: swapping the White House for the Big House.

For Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, the prospect of jail time is even more rich than a tin plate of plum pudding. General Flynn famously led the pitchfork mob at the 2016 Republican convention in a charming chant of “Lock Her Up!”