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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William H. McRaven: Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President
If President Trump doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.
Last week I attended two memorable events that reminded me why we care so very much about this nation and also why our future may be in peril.
The first was a change of command ceremony for a storied Army unit in which one general officer passed authority to another. The second event was an annual gala for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) Society that recognizes past and present members of the intelligence and Special Operations community for their heroism and sacrifice to the nation. What struck me was the stark contrast between the words and deeds heralded at those events — and the words and deeds emanating from the White House. [..]
These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!”
Those words echoed with me throughout the week. It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great. We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.
Paul Krugman: Democrats, Avoid the Robot Rabbit Hole
The automation obsession is an escapist fantasy.
One of the less discussed parts of Tuesday’s Democratic debate was the exchange that took place over automation and how to deal with it. But it’s worth focusing on that exchange, because it was interesting — by which I mean depressing. CNN’s Erin Burnett, one of the moderators, asked a bad question, and the debaters by and large — with the perhaps surprising exception of Bernie Sanders — gave pretty bad answers.
So let me make a plea to the Democrats: Please don’t go down the robot rabbit hole.
Burnett declared that a recent study shows that “about a quarter of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in just the next 10 years.” What the study actually says is less alarming: It finds that a quarter of U.S. jobs will face “high exposure to automation over the next several decades.”
But if you think even that sounds bad, ask yourself the following question: When, in modern history, has something like that statement not been true.
Margaret Garnett and Preet Brahara: Remaining Silent About Corruption Should Not Be an Option
New York City requires its employees to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, and that approach is working.
Over the past few weeks, the country has been riveted by the news of a whistle-blower within the intelligence community who filed a formal complaint alleging wrongdoing by President Trump. In turn, we have watched the whistle-blower defamed by the president and his allies, even accused of treason, despite meticulously following the lawful process to report possible criminal conduct. This took remarkable courage. There was no legal obligation to report it, and serious risks to career, reputation and even personal safety for doing so. [..]
Now consider a system in which there is an obligation to report corruption, to point a finger at waste, fraud and abuse. You don’t have to imagine it, because New York City government imposes an uncommon obligation on public servants, requiring them to report wrongdoing or jeopardize their jobs and professional advancement if they do not.
The city has a long and storied history of public corruption scandals. But out of that history grew this unusual and effective rule for combating corruption. An executive order, first issued by Mayor Ed Koch in 1978 and ratified by every mayor since, directs that all New York City employees have an obligation to report to the city’s independent Department of Investigation any instance of corruption, waste, fraud or abuse by public officials or city contractors. Failure to report can be cause for discipline or termination. The law arose after scandals within city government went unchecked, despite city employees’ having knowledge of the corruption that fueled them. All city employees now receive regular anti-corruption training from the D.O.I., which underscores the obligation to report wrongdoing as well as the legal protections they have when they do report.
As with the Ukraine fiasco, Trump appears to have put his self-interest ahead of our national interest in Turkey
Even by Donald Trump’s basement-level standards, there’s something bizarre about the president’s behavior in deciding to allow a Turkish invasion of Syria aimed at pushing the Kurdish population out of the area — a move that is, for all intents and purposes, an act of ethnic cleansing. Less than two weeks ago, Trump, apparently spontaneously, acceded to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s request that the U.S. pull a small number of troops out of the area to clear the way for what swiftly turned into a slaughter. Since then, Trump’s attempts to justify this betrayal — not just of the Kurds, but of basic human decency — have been alarmingly erratic, well beyond his existing baseline of constant, impulsive dramatics.
Trump has veered between trying to deny responsibility for giving leeway to Erdoğan, claiming some higher motivation and implying that the Kurds had it coming anyway. But this chaos-monkey act appears to have a specific goal, which is to scare off congressional Democrats who might want to take a closer look at exactly why Trump — a man who only ever acts out of self-interest — prioritized Erdoğan’s genocidal urges over the opinion of his own advisers and Republican colleagues, especially when Trump needs their support over the impeachment inquiry.
Trump’s desperation to keep anyone from looking too closely here is all the more reason to do so. In fact, Democrats need to seriously consider expanding the impeachment inquiry to look at why, exactly, Trump is so eager to please Erdoğan, even above his own party. It’s certainly not because of some principled disagreement over the U.S. presence in Syria, since Trump has no principles outside of his personal self-interest. So the question is, what is Trump getting out of this, and have any laws been broken in selling out American interests to Turkey?