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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Eugene Robinson: For Trump, incompetent bribery is still bribery

The Republican goalposts on impeachment were last seen crossing the Mississippi River and speeding onto the Great Plains. When they reach the Pacific Coast and can be moved no further, it appears they will teeter on a lonely, wind-whipped cliff: the contention that President Trump and his enablers tried to make a “drug deal” with Ukraine but were too clumsy and clueless to pull it off.

“Drug deal” is the metaphor former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly used to describe Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into smearing Democratic front-runner Joe Biden. A more precise term is bribery — demanding manufactured dirt on Biden in exchange for release of nearly $400 million in military aid — and federal law makes clear that seeking such a trade is just as illegal as actually making it happen.

Republicans are pretending otherwise, though, because it’s unclear what else they can say. After just two days of public testimony in the impeachment probe, Trump’s defenders are left sputtering. [..]

The stubborn facts are that the military aid to Ukraine was released only after a whistleblower’s complaint came to the attention of Congress, meaning the jig was up; and that Zelensky was all set to announce the bogus investigations Trump wanted.

And federal law states that a public official who “seeks” or “demands” something of value in exchange for performing an official act is as guilty of bribery as one who actually receives such a favor.

Alas for Trump, incompetent bribery is still bribery. And it’s still an impeachable offense.

Thomas L. Friedman: Mike Pompeo: Last in His Class at West Point in Integrity

The secretary of state’s behavior has been cowardly and self-serving.

It seems like every story you read about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo always includes the sentence that he graduated “first in his class” from West Point. That is not a small achievement. But it is even more impressive in Pompeo’s case when you consider that he finished No. 1 even though he must have flunked all his courses on ethics and leadership. I guess he was really good in math.

I say that because Pompeo has just violated one of the cardinal rules of American military ethics and command: You look out for your soldiers, you don’t leave your wounded on the battlefield and you certainly don’t stand mute when you know a junior officer is being railroaded by a more senior commander, if not outright shot in her back.

The classes on ethics and leadership at West Point would have taught all of that. I can only assume Pompeo failed or skipped them all when you observe his cowardly, slimy behavior as the leader of the State Department. I would never, ever, ever want to be in a trench with that man. Attention all U.S. diplomats: Watch your own backs, because Pompeo won’t. [..]

As for Ambassador Yovanovitch, thank you for your service. You are a credit to our nation and its ideals — everything your boss was not. Hold your head high. Jefferson would have been proud of you.

Paul Waldman: Elise Stefanik is a poster child for the GOP’s Trump-era dilemma

Elise Stefanik is suddenly famous. And she may come to regret it.

The third-term congresswoman from upstate New York used to be known — to those who knew her at all — as one of the most moderate Republicans in the House. But she thrust herself to the front of the impeachment inquiry, making her one of President Trump’s chief defenders.

Stefanik is now being lauded in conservative circles. But her new prominence may already be producing a backlash that could complicate her reelection campaign in 2020. Indeed, Stefanik’s story is a microcosm of a dynamic that has played out around the country over the past couple of years, leading to one Republican defeat after another. [..]

A member of Congress such as Stefanik has a tricky line to walk. She wants to let Trump-loving Republicans know she’s there for the president. But with every step she takes in that direction, she may motivate her Democratic constituents to work even harder against her. Moderate Republicans and independents in suburban areas who are drifting away from Trump may also turn their backs on her, if they figure she’s just another Trump shill. Making herself into a national figure produces a flood of contributions for her opponent.

In other words, Stefanik has now tied her fate to Trump. Maybe that’ll work out for her, but if she decides it’s not such a great idea after all, it will be too late.

Jill Filipovic: 2020 could see an end to safe, legal abortion anywhere in America

It’s more crucial than ever to have a president in office who won’t just pay the usual lip service to women’s rights

If you care about the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices, 2020 is the year that matters.

It’s too late to do anything about the current makeup of the court – except, of course, for women and the people who love them to be very, very loud in our support of abortion rights, and signal that there will be a serious cost if the court overturns or scales back Roe.

But abortion rights supporters need to understand that the anti-abortion movement will not be content to simply overturn Roe. Nor will they be content with what they say is their goal – to let the states decide. They will campaign not just at a state level but at a federal one to outlaw abortion wholesale in the United States.

This is the very real threat of 2020: Not just the end of Roe, which itself would be catastrophic, but an end to safe, legal abortion anywhere in the United States of America.

Democratic candidates, and voters, must face this threat head-on.

Amanda Marcotte: Democrats are not “censoring” Donald Trump — his increasingly desperate staff is doing that

Democrats would love Trump to testify before Congress. His staff is doing whatever it can to keep him off Twitter

On Friday, Donald Trump, with his usual sociopathic levels of impulsiveness, thought it wise to commit another likely impeachable offense in the middle of a hearing in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. As former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified to Trump’s bizarre, unethical and abusive behavior, he took to Twitter to lambast her in real time, claiming that everywhere she had been posted “turned bad” and personally blaming her for the civil war in Somalia, which is the epitome of a baseless accusation. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the act “witness intimidation”.

When asked about it by reporters later that day, during a press conference that was ostensibly about health care pricing, Trump, as is his habit, declared that he’s the real victim.

“You know what? I have the right to speak,” Trump said, in response to a question that was, by being a question, an invitation to speak.

“I have freedom of speech just as other people do, but they’ve taken away the Republicans’ rights,” he continued, as exactly zero people tried to turn off his microphones or shut him up in any other way.

Trump knows his followers love these victim trips so much that they’ll simply ignore the fact that Democrats couldn’t shut him up if they wanted to. In reality, Democrats don’t want to shut Trump up at all. If anything, the opposite is true. Democrats clearly want Trump to keep that motormouth running and those rage-fingers tweeting: The more Trump uses that freedom of speech, the stronger their case for impeachment gets.

What it’s all about Alfie


Impeachment: Day 3 Testimony

Day three of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee is going to be a busy one with four witnesses, who have already testified behind closed doors.

First scheduled is Vice President Pence’s national security aide, Jennifer Williams, who who listened to the July 25 phone call. She previously gave her deposition behind closed doors on November 7. It can be read here

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, European affairs director at the National Security Council, who previously testified in a closed-door deposition on Oct. 29. Lt. Col. Vindman was listening on Trump’s July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He speaks fluent Ukrainian/ The transcript of his October testimony can be read here.

In the afternoon session, they are followed by two witnesses that were requested to appear by the Republicans.

Former Ambassador Kurt Volker, a former Trump administration envoy to Ukraine, gave his deposition to the committee on October 3, despite resistance from his former boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He abruptly resigned in late September. Amb. Volker has provided text messages that said officials felt Trump wouldn’t agree to a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unless Zelensky promised to publicly launch an investigation into the Biden family. His deposition can be read here.

Last up is NSC Russia expert Timothy Morrison. He was briefly the top U.S. presidential advisor on Russia and Europe on the White House National Security Council, a position he took over from his predecessor Fiona Hill in August 2019, and from which he resigned on October 31, 2019. The transcript of his deposition can be read here.

The hearings are scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM ET.


As you might have surmised from my disquisitions on doornails I’m a sucker for ironmongery.

The Breakfast Club (Hands)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

President Abraham Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address; Egypt’s Anwar Sadat becomes first Arab leader to visit Israel; Ford halts Edsel production; Bandleader Tommy Dorsey and actress Jodie Foster born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

Indira Gandhi

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For The Record: Day 2

Once again boring and reliable CSPAN because they have the transcript thing happening. The only witness Friday was former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Other people found it devastatingly compelling, I didn’t feel it advanced the plotline much (doesn’t mean I don’t also think he’s as guilty as hell on this specific thing or on conspiring with Russia to betray the United States in general or violating the Emoluments Clause the moment he took the oath).

It’s not that TMC doesn’t put up the live stream, it’s the handy dandy post action transcript if you need to cop a quote. I put it up as a reminder also especially if testimony has been interrupted by time (I say that because I’m not quite sure how I’m going to handle this week’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday format because I don’t want to duplicate too much).


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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Fred Hiatt: While Trump stands by, the world’s tyrants are trying to make the world safe for dictatorship

A strange reversal is taking place across the world.

America — or at least, America’s president — is no longer trying to make the world safe for democracy. But dictators are working hard to make the world safe for dictatorship.

The United States is retreating, almost apologizing for ever having thought about promoting democracy. Everyone from Rand Paul to Bernie Sanders and many in between agrees we should stay home and mind our business.

But the result is not a world in which every country is free to go its own way.

Instead, the world’s tyrants — while still complaining about color revolutions and U.S. interference — roam far and wide, promoting their ideologies and their corporations, bullying and buying and burrowing and shooting their way to influence.

Russia and China, the loudest conjurers of imaginary CIA pro-democracy plots, have become the world’s most active underminers of democracy beyond their borders.

Christine Emba: The new wave of conservatism is dangerous. And it’s all the GOP’s fault.

Promoting his new book, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us,” Donald Trump Jr. naturally assumed that any protesters at his event at UCLA on Nov. 11 would be coming at him from the left.

But the hecklers who shouted him offstage last weekend hailed from the right. They were booing his college Republican hosts for not being reactionary enough.

Which means: The next wave of American conservatism is further to the right than President Trump himself. [..]

This emerging conflict is a symbol of how deeply the Republican Party has deteriorated from within. There is no longer enough credibility for the party to remain intact, but it’s not yet clear what comes next or whether the party will ever make its way back to the center.

Jamelle Bouie: Stephen Miller’s Sinister Syllabus

Leaked emails from 2015 and 2016 show one of Trump’s top advisers trying to teach Breitbart editors a thing or two about white nationalism.

Somewhat lost in the frenzy over impeachment this week was a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on Stephen Miller, a White House speechwriter and close adviser to the president.

An analysis of more than 900 emails from Miller to editors at Breitbart News, the report shows Miller’s single-minded focus on nonwhite immigration and his immersion in an online ecosystem of virulent, unapologetic racism. The Miller of these emails isn’t just an immigration restrictionist, he’s an ideological white nationalist.

It’s tempting to dismiss this as old news. Miller is, after all, the architect behind the Trump administration’s most draconian border and immigration policies, as well as some of its harshest anti-immigrant rhetoric. [..]

But suspecting Miller’s ideological allegiances is quite different than knowing them. In the absence of proof, there was room for plausible deniability. That’s how a conservative magazine editor could praise Miller as a “wunderkind” for his command of the “details” of immigration policy while dismissing evidence that Miller was once close to Richard Spencer, a prominent neo-Nazi.

With the emails — supplied by Katie McHugh, a former editor at Breitbart — we now know what Miller was reading and thinking about in the year before he joined the Trump campaign. And there’s no denying the nature of the material.

Charles M. Blow: Bloomberg’s Bogus, Belated Mea Culpa

His apology for the stop-and-frisk policy is politically convenient.

Last Sunday I wrote a column entitled “You Must Never Vote for Bloomberg” because of Michael Bloomberg’s promotion, advocacy and defense of the racist stop-and-frisk policy that ballooned during his terms as mayor of New York City.

This Sunday, Bloomberg apologized for that policy. [..]

This is a necessary apology, but a hard one to take, coming only now, as he considers a run for the Democratic nomination, a nomination that is nearly impossible to secure without the black vote.

It feels like the very definition of pandering.

It is impossible for me to take seriously Bloomberg’s claim that he didn’t understand the impact that stop-and-frisk was having on the black and brown communities when he was in office. [..]

No, I believe that he knew very well, and understood clearly, the pain that he was causing, but he was making a collateral damage argument: Because there was crime and many of those committing those crimes were born with black or brown skin, all those with that skin should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

That feels like the very definition of racism.

Heather Cox Richardson: The impeachment hearings are a battle between oligarchy and democracy

Official US policy in Ukraine was to promote rule of law, but the Trump administration sided against it, hearings have shown

Since the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry in late September into the actions of Donald Trump over his withholding of aid to Ukraine, the Republican defenders of the president have dismissed the inquiry on the ground that hearings were held behind closed doors. On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee, charged by House speaker Nancy Pelosi with spearheading the investigation, answered those complaints by opening public hearings. Deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs George P Kent and Charge d’Affaires for Ukraine William Taylor were the first public witnesses on Wednesday. On Friday, former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was the third, testifying about the events surrounding her abrupt removal from her position in May 2019.

For all their complicated names and dates, what has emerged at the hearings is a clear picture of an epic battle between the rule of oligarchs, who pervert government to suit their own interests, and the rule of law, in which everyone has the same right to representation and legal protection.

An early Middle Finger Salute to 2019

Apparently we won’t see John again until 2020. Can’t hardly believe it, big things still to happen.

I almost titled this “Census Workers With A Taste For Blood” which I think makes a great elevator pitch especially if you have a name like Scarlett Johansson behind it (she could totally carry that attractive bureaucrat with the hair, glasses, and beige suit hiding homicidal tendencies and an unnatural thirst).

You could go multiple ways- straight gore horror or spooky Vampire Franchise.

Think Twilight for guys. I am dead serious and if this ever happens I want my cut you bastards.

Look HBO, you’re not going to cover your enormous Game of Thrones deficit by depriving us of John.


Clio’s an unrelenting mistress. Grover’s actually an admirable Democrat (as far as that goes), if not well or fondly remembered.

Teh Breakfast Club (Character)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Highlights of this day in history: Cult leader Jim Jones and hundreds of followers die in mass murder-suicide in South America; Massachusetts high court rules gay couples can marry; Disney’s ‘Steamboat Willie’ premieres in New York

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.

J. J. C. Watts

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Not A Rant

Sorry Bill, some of us don’t like your fat shaming, anti-Vax, Islamophobic, Glibertarian ass as much as others do.

Not that I hold it against you, free speech and all, but I think you a poor representative of Atheists because you’re just too rude. I really don’t feel compelled to stand outside the Church doors and yell at the people going in and out that they’re idiots.

I might think it, but I wouldn’t stand outside. Too much work (lost 40 pounds over the last year, but that’s not necessarily a good thing).

Oh, you want my diet tips- 1) Stop Eating Crap, 2) Don’t Eat When You’re Not Hungry. They kind of hunt in a pack. Crap is food you don’t even like eating but do anyway because it’s what’s handy. That hungry thing? Are you? Are you really? Maybe you’re just bored.

I say this not to shame, these are my bad habits. So I lost some weight and 40 pounds seems like a lot (I can certainly feel it) but I was 70 over my target at least so I’m hardly wasting away. As you might imagine from my foodie commentary I don’t stint or count calories, I’ve just learned to ask myself-

“Do I really want a bowl of Instant Mashed Potatoes mixed with Cottage Cheese (makes it healthy, like the raisins in Oatmeal Cookies) slathered in Sour Cream and a Quarter stick of Butter topped with a generous dose of Salt, Pepper, and Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard.”

Look, it’s delicious and you should try it but you shouldn’t make it your go-to 30 Second meal.

People look at you funny, eat pasta (cook it ahead) and pesto instead.

Like Sands Through The Hour Glass

Ok, huge DOOL fan and EXTREMELY upset by the reports of its indefinite hiatus, however for my fellows things are not as bleak as they might seem.

They’re on hiatus because they finished shooting really early this year, like months before renewal, so the contracts are not even up yet and Ted Corday, who still produces, has indicated his willingness to continue as have all of the principal players.

Not that you should keep your hands off the Twit button mind you.

Speaking of Social Media

I write, it’s a completely different thing.

Get Out

Basically I don’t get it. A Spritzer is the simplest, most easy to make drink ever. Target liquid (strong tasting, must dilute) and Soda, that’s it! I suppose they charge for water now, maybe it’s the convenience, but get off your damn ass! How hard is this?


Icelandic Ultrablue

Why I hate Jet Blue

Don’t get me wrong, I hate flying at all regardless of Airline.

The Game

Surprise! It’s about MicroEconomics (I am not an Economist, I’m a Historian. I find Economists mostly delusional and faith-based).

The DJ Thing

First of all I was the Librarian, not the Mixer. Second, we were not performers, we played music.

Journamilism 101

Which reminds me-

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