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Jun 11 2019

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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PAul Krugman: Donald and the Delusion Discount

Markets are treating Trump as crazy but harmless.

The events of the past few weeks destroyed whatever credibility Donald Trump may still have had on economic policy. And investors are celebrating. At this point, evidence that Trump tweets are sound and fury signifying nothing is, in effect, good news.

Let’s review what happened. First, having gone to great lengths to get a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada — an agreement that was very similar to the existing agreement, but one he could slap his own name on — Trump basically blew up his position by threatening to impose new tariffs unless Mexico did something about border issues that have nothing to do with trade.

This obviously weakens if it doesn’t destroy Trump’s ability to negotiate future agreements, on trade or anything else. After all, what’s the point of making deals with an administration that reneges on its promises whenever it feels like it?

But then, barely a week later, Trump called the whole thing off in return for a statement by Mexico that it would do … things it had already agreed to months earlier.

Michelle Gold berg: Congratulations on Fixing the Border, Mr. President!

Should we pretend that Donald Trump made a real deal with Mexico?

Remember that time when Donald Trump was going to win the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the threat of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula?

It was almost exactly a year ago. The president was about to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Singapore. A group of House Republicans nominated the president for a Nobel Peace Prize. The crowd chanted “No-bel!” at a Trump rally.

In the end, the main achievement of the summit, a propaganda victory for North Korea, was mollifying Trump, who’d been threatening nuclear holocaust. Kim Jong-un agreed to work toward denuclearization, but as even casual news consumers know, the North Korean definition of denuclearization includes the lifting of the American nuclear umbrella over Northeast Asia. Actual North Korean concessions were minimal. [..]

Nevertheless, from the right arose a thundering, bullying demand that Trump be given credit. And a few progressives cautioned against making too much of the summit’s inadequacy, arguing, in part, that it was better for Trump to get suckered and claim victory than to lash out. Democratic critics of the summit, wrote The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart, risked becoming “de facto allies of ultra-hawks like John Bolton,” who wants to discredit diplomacy with North Korea.

It was a fair enough point, but also a tacit acknowledgment of the inescapable degradation of living under this president, which often feels like being stuck in a house with an unstable and abusive father. You can either placate him by humoring his delusions, or puncture them and risk unpredictable fallout. The choices are complicity or destruction.

Jamelle Bouie: Pelosi and Schumer Are Playing Too Nice

Maybe they are right to be cautious, but keeping the base at a distance could make it easier for Trump to win again.

If the triumph of Trumpism is the most important recent development in American political history, then the second most important is the mobilization of liberal and left-wing voters to challenge the president’s authoritarian politics.

This mobilization drove the Women’s March, where a day after Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands came to Washington to protest against his nascent administration. Millions of others joined them in cities across the country — a remarkable demonstration of opposition to a new president. It stiffened Democratic resolve to oppose the president at a time when some of the party’s leaders were looking for bipartisan cooperation. It helped halt the Republican drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act — peeling critical support away from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — and last year powered an electoral wave that gave the Democratic Party its first majority in the House of Representatives since 2010.

If Democrats can be confident ahead of 2020, it’s because of grass-roots activists who have strengthened the party’s political position time and time again. And yet key Democratic leaders are still reluctant to follow their lead.

Regina Rini: Deepfakes Are Coming. We Can No Longer Believe What We See.

It will soon be as easy to produce convincing fake video as it is to lie. We need to be prepared.

On June 1, 2019, the Daily Beast published a story exposing the creator of a now infamous fake video that appeared to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drunkenly slurring her words. The video was created by taking a genuine clip, slowing it down, and then adjusting the pitch of her voice to disguise the manipulation.

Judging by social media comments, many people initially fell for the fake, believing that Ms. Pelosi really was drunk while speaking to the media. (If that seems an absurd thing to believe, remember Pizzagate; people are happy to believe absurd things about politicians they don’t like.)

The video was made by a private citizen named Shawn Brooks, who seems to have been a freelance political operative producing a wealth of pro-Trump web content. (Mr. Brooks denies creating the video, though according to the Daily Beast, Facebook confirmed he was the first to upload it.) Some commenters quickly suggested that the Daily Beast was wrong to expose Mr. Brooks. After all, they argued, he’s only one person, not a Russian secret agent or a powerful public relations firm; and it feels like “punching down” for a major news organization to turn the spotlight on one rogue amateur. Seth Mandel, an editor at the Washington Examiner, asked, “Isn’t this like the third Daily Beast doxxing for the hell of it?”

It’s a legitimate worry, but it misses an important point. There is good reason for journalists to expose the creators of fake web content, and it’s not just the glee of watching provocateurs squirm. We live in a time when knowing the origin of an internet video is just as important as knowing what it shows.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Elizabeth Warren is proving her doubters wrong

Two months ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential hopes appeared to be fading. The Massachusetts Democrat’s poll numbers were stuck in the mid-single digits, placing her fourth or fifth among Democratic candidates. After swearing off high-dollar fundraisers, she had brought in less money in the first quarter than South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a relative unknown who was still building a national profile. Media coverage of Warren’s campaign focused less on her bold ideas than her perceived lack of “electability.” Summing up the conventional wisdom, one CNN headline proclaimed, “Why is Elizabeth Warren struggling? Democrats aren’t looking for policy.”

Yet, to borrow a phrase, Warren persisted. And with the first debate quickly approaching, she has jumped in the polls and emerged as the clear leader in the Democratic “ideas primary.”  [..]

Warren is certainly not the only Democrat in the field running on innovative, important ideas. Sanders, in particular, has built on his transformative 2016 campaign, with bolder proposals for public education and Medicare-for-all. One also hopes that Warren will show the same audacity and vision in foreign policy as the campaign continues. But no matter what happens, it’s now obvious that pundits who argued that Warren had missed her moment were wrong. The presidential race is better because she is in it.