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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

Hillary Clinton: Mueller documented a serious crime against all Americans. Here’s how to respond.

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

Paul Krugman: Survival of the Wrongest

Evidence has a well-known liberal bias.

Evidence has a well-known liberal bias. And that, presumably, is why conservatives prefer “experts” who not only consistently get things wrong, but refuse to admit or learn from their mistakes.

There has been a lot of commentary about Stephen Moore, the man Donald Trump wants to put on the Fed’s Board of Governors. It turns out that he has a lot of personal baggage: He was held in contempt of court for failing to pay alimony and child support, and his past writings show an extraordinary degree of misogyny. He misstates facts so much that one newspaper editor vowed never to publish him again, and he has ben caught outright lying about his past support for a gold standard. Oh, and he has described the cities of the U.S. heartland as “armpits of America.”

But it’s also important to put Moore in context. Until he decided that the Fed should roll those printing presses to help Trump, he was part of a fairly broad group that advocated tight money in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. This group bitterly criticized both the Fed’s low interest rates and its efforts to boost the economy by buying bonds, so-called “quantitative easing.” Its members warned that these policies would lead to runaway inflation, and seized on a rise in commodity prices in 2011-12 as the harbinger of an inflationary surge.

Michelle Cottle: Meet the Press? Don’t Bother

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, nominally the White House press secretary, has abandoned the custom of briefing the news media.

Tuesday saw yet another record broken by the Trump White House: the longest run without an official news media briefing.

At 43 days and counting, this information drought supplants the previous record of 42 days without a briefing, set in March — which broke the 41-day record set in January.

At some point, one cannot help but wonder: What is the job of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who holds the title of White House press secretary?

Conducting daily briefings was once a core function of the press secretary. The White House put its spin on the news of the day; reporters pushed for more information or clarification. Somewhere in all the give-and-take, the public interest was served.

Under President Trump, such sessions have all but vanished. Since the first of the year, Ms. Sanders has held two formal briefings. She has also developed a frustrating reputation for not responding to media inquiries in general.

This presumably pleases her boss. Mr. Trump prefers to broadcast to the public from the safety of Twitter, where truth and accountability are not held at a premium. In January, he even directed Ms. Sanders (in a tweet) “not to bother” with briefings anymore. Is a White House press secretary unwilling to interact with the press earning her taxpayer-funded salary?

In Ms. Sanders’s case, the growing lack of access is arguably less troubling than the lack of credibility — a problem highlighted in last Thursday’s release of the Mueller report.

Thomas B. Edall: Bernie Sanders Scares a Lot of People, and Quite a Few of Them Are Democrats

What happens if he’s the nominee in 2020?

In 34 national surveys conducted from October 2018 to early April, Joe Biden, who is expected to announce his presidential bid on Thursday, led of all competitors.

Then, in an Emerson College poll conducted two weeks ago, Bernie Sanders, a candidate with substantial liabilities as well as marked strengths, pulled ahead of Biden for the first time, 29-24 percent.

Sanders is also doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire, sites of the first caucus and primary.

One consequence of these developments is summed up in the headline of my colleague Jonathan Martin’s April 15 story, “‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats Are Agonizing Over His Momentum.”

In this light, I asked a group of Democratic and liberal-leaning consultants, pollsters, economists and political scientists what the likelihood of a Sanders’ nomination was, what his prospects would be in the general election, and how Democratic House and Senate candidates might fare with Sanders at the top of the ticket. When necessary, I offered them the opportunity to speak on background — with no direct attribution — to encourage forthcoming responses.

The answers I got from Democrats who make their living in politics revealed considerable wariness toward Sanders — the response many Sanders supporters would expect. [..]

Democratic primaries, as I mentioned earlier, are hardly a proving ground for how well a democratic socialist — and a self-declared social and cultural outsider — will sell in November, something Trump and the Republican Party are already gearing up to turn into a major 2020 issue.

The question extends beyond Sanders. Democratic constituencies competing to pick a candidate to square off against Trump next year face a difficult-to-resolve problem. Will they find themselves flying blind, entangled in a cause more than a campaign as they leave too much of the middle-of-the-road electorate behind?

E. J. Dionne Jr.: Will Trump and the Supreme Court tear our democracy apart?

2020 Census and thus representation in Congress to benefit the party that placed them on the court.

Trump’s brazen attacks on U.S. institutions and the court’s partisanship are not separate stories. They are the product of a radicalization of American conservatism. Republicans and conservative ideologues — including the ones wearing the robes of justice — are destabilizing our institutions in pursuit of power.

The apparent willingness of the court’s five conservatives to go along with the Trump administration on the census is of a piece with earlier rulings gutting the Voting Rights Act and increasing the power of big money in politics. All tilt the workings of our democratic republic in favor of conservative candidates, conservative causes and the appointment of conservative judges just like them.

The Russian Connection: Hillary Weighs In On Mueller Report

Former Secretary of State, US Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton penned an op-ed in the Washington Post in response to the Mueller report calling for a 9-11 like commission to look into the hacking of the 2016 election.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today’s House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump’s recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Donald Trump is scrambling to block any congressional investigations. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow looked at the op-ed Hillary Clinton penned for the Washington Post in response to the Mueller Report, new information on a curious footnote in the report about Russian “tapes” and Trump’s scramble to block investigations into his finances and his administration which may not be going so well in New York State.


Talking about the Census

The Breakfast Club (No More Lies)

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.

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Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi born; ‘America’ first used on a world map; U.S. and Soviet troops meet in World War II; The Hubble Space Telescope deployed into orbit; Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.

Groucho Marx

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Six In The Morning Thursday 25 April 2019

‘Death by a thousand cuts’: vast expanse of rainforest lost in 2018

Pristine forests are vital for climate and wildlife but trend of losses is rising, data shows

Millions of hectares of pristine tropical rainforest were destroyed in 2018, according to satellite analysis, with beef, chocolate and palm oil among the main causes.

The forests store huge amounts of carbon and are teeming with wildlife, making their protection critical to stopping runaway climate change and halting a sixth mass extinction. But deforestation is still on an upward trend, the researchers said. Although 2018 losses were lower than in 2016 and 2017, when dry conditions led to large fires, last year was the next worst since 2002, when such records began.

Asia’s Christians face increased political violence

The persecution of Christians across the world is on the rise, just like the politicization of religion. But in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka, experts are warning against proclaiming a war between faiths.

The European Parliament’s annual report on human rights and democracy in the world from December 2016 has lost none of its topicality and dramatic nature ― on the contrary.

Politics, nationalism fuel persecution

A toxic mixture of state and societal persecution has intensified the worldwide persecution of Christians, especially in Asia. According to surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center polling institute in the United States, which examines the global religious landscape annually, Christians in 144 countries have their freedom of religion violated.

Macron to announce measures to allay Yellow Vest rage

Shaken by five months of often-violent “yellow vest” protests, Emmanuel Macron will announce a package of measures that could include lower taxes and the abolition of France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration to quell the unrest.

The street rebellion erupted over planned diesel tax hikes but morphed into a broader backlash against inequality and a political elite perceived as having lost touch with the common person. Protesters clashed with police for a 23rd straight week on Saturday.

Macron‘s policy response is the result of a three-month long national debate, during which he rolled up his sleeves on a weekly basis to discuss issues from high taxes to local democracy and decaying shopping streets with local mayors, working parents, students and workers.

Fake news and public executions: Documents show a Russian company’s plan for quelling protests in Sudan

Updated 0541 GMT (1341 HKT) April 25, 2019


When anti-government protests erupted in Sudan at the end of last year, the response of President Omar al-Bashir came straight from the dictators’ playbook — a crackdown that led to scores of civilian deaths.

At the same time, a more insidious strategy was being developed — one that involved spreading misinformation on social media, blaming Israel for fomenting the unrest, and even carrying out public executions to make an example of “looters.”
The author of this strategy was not the Sudanese government. According to documents seen by CNN, it was drawn up by a Russian company tied to an oligarch favored by the Kremlin: Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Brazil: Native groups protest against ‘anti-indigenous’ Bolsonaro

Thousands from indigenous communities across Brazil gather for annual event to protest against attacks on native rights.

Thousands of indigenous people from across Brazil are gathering in the capital of Brasilia this week for the biggest indigenous protest in the country, the Free Land Camp.

More than 4,000 indigenous people from hundreds of tribes across the country are expected to camp out in front of government buildings for three days of native celebrations and protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

On Wednesday, indigenous communities began assembling hundreds of coloured tents just metres away from the National Congress.

Sri Lanka spice tycoon suspected of helping sons in suicide attacks

Updated 0806 GMT (1606 HKT) April 25, 2019


Police are holding the father of two Sri Lanka suicide bombers on suspicion of aiding and abetting his sons, as an international investigation continues into the devastating terror attacks which left at least 359 people dead across the country.

Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim was arrested Sunday following attacks at hotels and churches. His adult sons, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, blew themselves up in Sunday’s attacks.
On Thursday, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told CNN that their father, Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, was is in custody on suspicion of aiding and abetting his sons. Gunasekera added that all other members of the Ibrahim family are believed to be in custody.

The Neo Liberal Failure of Barack Obama

I don’t think Barack Obama was a particularly good President. Among other policies I disagree with are-

  • Failure to prosecute War Crimes and the continuation of War Criminal activities (Rectal Feeding? Anal Rape!) by the United States Government (how’d that closing Guantánamo thing work out for you?).
  • Failure to advance Universal Health Care (at the corrupt behest of Big Medical mind you) in favor of a Republican/Heritage Foundation plan to mandate the purchase of Private Insurance (for his trouble Obama was rewarded with exactly Zero Republican votes).
  • Failure to do anything at all to prosecute Banksters (who I’ll remind you stole, in a very legal sense, Millions of people’s homes), or even regulate them; instead pumping about $11 Trillion into their pockets.

This last one is the subject of a recent book by Reed Hunt, A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama’s Defining Decisions reviewed by Eric Rauchway.

Obama’s Original Sin
by Eric Rauchway, Boston Review
April 23, 2019

For the better part of a half century, the Democratic Party has been in this multigenerational crisis over its past. Campaigning against Ronald Reagan in 1980, Jimmy Carter disowned the New Deal’s effort to put Wall Street in harness to Washington, declaring “we believe that we ought to get the Government’s nose out of the private enterprise of this country. We’ve deregulated . . . to make sure that we have a free enterprise system that’s competitive.” Bill Clinton fully assimilated Reaganism in 1996, saying “the era of big government is over.” And now some progressive presidential candidates—together with a base of millennial Democrats—are decrying Obama’s presidency as the last emanation of the Carter-Reagan-Clinton synthesis, a retread of neoliberalism whose weak program for recovery from the economic crisis of 2008 ensured nearly a decade of employment doldrums that aided the rise of Donald Trump.

Reed Hundt, once Clinton’s chair of the Federal Communications Commission and a member of Obama’s transition team, has made the progressives’ argument effectively in his new book A Crisis Wasted. Obama, Hundt believes, made decisions while still a United States senator and then as president-elect that determined the course of his presidency. In the post-election, pre-inauguration winter of 2008–2009, the ordinarily maddeningly self-assured titans of finance—the same ones who, earlier in the year, counseled government inaction in the interest of letting the market discipline its own—were suddenly, and convincingly, prophesying doom unless Washington did something dramatic to avert economic catastrophe. While many voters hoped Obama’s policies might represent a dramatic change along the lines of the New Deal, instead Obama acquiesced to emergency considerations and ideological blandishments aimed at tempering expectations and a return to “normalcy.”

Obama swiftly switched from FDR redux to Clinton reborn because, Hundt points out, he sought experienced advisors to staff his administration-in-waiting, and the Democrats most accustomed to the White House were those who had served Bill Clinton. Obama named Clinton’s chief of staff, John Podesta, to head his transition team, and Podesta brought with him other Clinton appointees who thought their job now was one of restoration. As Hundt writes, “People are policy,” and the incoming Obama team wanted to bring back the policies of the 1990s and with them, the prosperity of that era. The Clinton personnel shared a more Reaganesque than Rooseveltian view, believing their success in the late twentieth century resulted from “a reduction in the size, capacity, and purpose of the public sector.” The Clinton people, following Carter, believed the New Deal had led ultimately to over-regulation and inhibition of capitalism’s great energies, and that the long boom of the 1990s owed to their getting government out of the way of business and banking, while still retaining state programs necessary to promote opportunity for the majority of Americans.

Yet, whatever one may think of the Clinton policies’ effects in the 1990s, the early twenty-first century and its economic calamities called for a profoundly different approach. The embryonic Obama administration’s adoption of Clintonesque neoliberalism was not only an inadequate response to the economic crisis. It also constituted, Hundt argues, a failure of the new president to fulfill his campaign promises. Obama could have chosen to “align himself with democracy, and then aim to help directly the great preponderance of Americans,” Hundt says, but he did not. A critical mass of voters who had chosen hope and change came to believe their president and their government did not represent or even heed them—with consequences we now know.

The banking relief bill, for example, represents how quickly policy was made during these fraught weeks. The administration of George W. Bush had backed the bill in September of 2008 in an effort to forestall a complete collapse of the banking system; it allowed the president to spend large sums of money bailing out the financial sector. The bill’s supporters, including Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner, did little outreach to Congress, believing the self-evident emergency should make its own case. Geithner took the view, “I just wanted Congress to pass it as fast as possible while screwing it up as little as possible.”

This style of diplomacy initially failed to sway the House of Representatives, which rejected the bill. But Senator Obama and other backers of the bill contacted the White House to lend their support, and then lobbied members of Congress, changing enough minds to get the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act through the House, with a majority of Democrats and nearly half the Republicans lining up behind it. When Obama and his Republican opponent, John McCain, both voted for the bill from their seats in the Senate, Obama’s view that a matter of compelling national concern could garner bipartisan support was vindicated. It was a hope that carried over into the effort to craft a bill for bailing out the entire economy.

Obama, among many others, supported the bank bailouts because private lenders pump the lifeblood of a capitalist economy, and as of the fall of 2008 they had nearly stopped altogether. With the financial markets shut down, housing purchases and business starts followed; unemployment began to rise. It would take time to clear bank balance sheets and get credit circulating once more—time during which Americans would find themselves without work, drawing down savings, unable to pay their bills or ultimately to sustain shelter and food for themselves and their families. They too needed assistance.

The method of providing such aid was well known in economics and history: the government ought to spend money to make up the shortfall, thus ensuring the employment of Americans, continuing their borrowing and spending, and stimulating the slumping economy back to action. As a rule of thumb, spending 2 percent of GDP would bring down the unemployment rate by 1 percent. Economists in 2008 and early 2009 realized that, given the jobless figures, an adequate spending package would run at least $1 trillion and possibly more. Paul Krugman, the economist who had just won the Nobel Prize, explained how to do the calculations in his widely read New York Times column and blog.

(Christina) Romer, a professor of economics from the University of California, Berkeley, who had written considerably on the Great Depression, tried mightily to get the team to support a bigger number; her own calculations suggested the stimulus should run around $1.7 trillion. Summers, the former secretary of the Treasury under Clinton and an estimable academic economist in his own right, did not dispute her substantive conclusions; he simply thought the sum too daunting to get past Congress. Orszag, also a former Clinton economic advisor and then director of the Congressional Budget Office, understood that Obama wanted to keep health insurance as a priority and was leery of ballooning deficits.

Romer was right, but somehow to be merely right was also to be basically unserious. Summers told her not to mention the figure of $1.7 trillion; he talked her down even from $1.2 trillion to something around $800 billion—which would leave unemployment somewhere around 8 percent, the planners then believed. Even with a spending bill that large, Hundt writes, the team’s “strategic goal was to end the recession, but not to guarantee robust growth and a rising standard of living.” The anti-Romer consensus carried the day, on the view that the Democrats should demonstrate fiscal responsibility: “An excessive recovery package could spook markets or the public and be counterproductive.” Congress did give them essentially what they asked for, but barely, an anonymous source tells Hundt. “Getting that 800 was very tenuous. It almost fell apart several times. Krugman and everybody are always talking crap.”

In the end, the stimulus would prove weaker than even Romer thought. Unemployment would remain over 9 percent until late in 2011. The unimpressive recovery surely contributed to the massive vote swing toward the Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections and their takeover of the House of Representatives; the slow hard march back to prosperity left many voters still bitter even in 2016. To the extent that the decision to ask for a smaller stimulus resulted from, as David Axelrod tells Hundt, “political judgments, not economic judgments,” it backfired. The Democrats gained no evident support for their demonstration of restraint in crafting a spending package, and their apparent ineptitude in fighting the recession weakened them when afterward they sought vital environmental and health care legislation.

The question, then, is what the Obama team could, or should, have done differently. They could have asked for more stimulus at the outset; even if it is true that they could not have gotten more, at least they would have been on record as believing more was necessary. Al Gore—among others—warned it would be much harder to get a second stimulus bill after a failed first one than it would be to get a big bill at the start. Romer wanted at least to manage expectations and explain how modest an $800 billion stimulus might prove. “Why can’t we actually say the truth?” she asks, at one point. Instead, the Obama team negotiated against themselves, choosing a lower number, and then saying they believed it to be sufficient.

In the end the comparison to Roosevelt still haunts the Obama team. The economist Austan Goolsbee tells Hundt that the Obama people consciously chose not to emulate Roosevelt who, in their view, deliberately “let things get so bad” by not cooperating with outgoing president Herbert Hoover in the months before his inauguration that he arrived in the White House with a prostrate Congress willing to do any of his bidding. Roosevelt, in their view, sacrificed his countrymen to gain political advantage.

Goolsbee is here echoing Geithner and Obama himself, who have made similar remarks in their defense over the years. Their history of Roosevelt’s behavior in the bad early months of 1933 is so similar, they must have got it from a common source. In any event, Roosevelt did no such thing: Hoover did not offer cooperation to his waiting successor; rather, he demanded capitulation from him. Writing to President-elect Roosevelt, Hoover explained that his successor could combat the Depression only by forswearing inflation, budget deficits, and the massive public works programs he had promised in the campaign, thus proving himself a fiscally responsible Democrat. Only by making these pledges, Hoover said, could Roosevelt restore confidence and allow the easily upset engines of finance and business to resume their proper operations. Privately, to a fellow Republican, Hoover admitted he was not seeking any joint venture; rather, he was asking Roosevelt to trade his own agenda for Hoover’s: “I realize that if these declarations be made by the president-elect, he will have ratified the whole major program of the Republican Administration; that it means the abandonment of 90 percent of the so-called new deal.”

Roosevelt declined the Republican’s request for surrender. In thus evading the trap Hoover had laid out, Roosevelt ensured he could fulfill his campaign promises. Democracy around the world was in a bad position, Roosevelt believed, and he aimed to restore it. That was why he had told voters he would get Congress to adopt unemployment and old-age insurance, minimum wages and maximum hours laws, subsidies for farmers, and also to provide jobs on public works—not merely so that Americans would have incomes, but so they would feel their government worked for them. In building a dam or an airport or a road, in running electrical lines across a landscape to people who never had access to modern energy before, literally bringing power to the people, Washington would “help restore the close relationship with its people which is necessary to our democratic form of government.”

Rather than seeking the chimera of bipartisan cooperation, Obama could have done more to preserve his campaign pledges of progressive hope and change. In so doing, he could have done something to restore Americans’ confidence in our institutions and our democratic form of government. Alas, as Hundt notes, it was a crisis wasted.

(h/t Atrios)

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace- business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Madison Square Garden, October 31st, 1936

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

Robert Reich: Mueller Report Makes It Official: Trump a Morally Despicable Human Being

Even though Mueller apparently doesn’t believe a sitting president can be indicted, he provides a devastating indictment of Trump’s character.

Democrats in Congress and talking heads on television will be consumed in the coming weeks by whether the evidence in the Mueller report, especially of obstruction of justice, merits impeachment.

In addition, the question of “wink-wink” cooperation with Russia still looms. Mueller’s quote of Trump, when first learning a special counsel had been appointed—“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked”—has already become a national tagline. Why, Americans wonder, would Trump be “fucked” if he hadn’t done something so awful as to cause its revelation to “fuck” him?

We’ll also have Mueller’s own testimony before Congress, and Congress’s own investigations of Trump.

But let’s be real. Trump will not be removed by impeachment. No president has been. With a Republican Senate controlled by the most irresponsible political hack ever to be majority leader, the chances are nil.

Which means Trump will have to be removed the old-fashioned way – by voters in an election 19 months away.

The practical question, then, is whether the Mueller report and all that surrounds it will affect that election.

Jennifer Rubin: Why not Warren?

The most progressive wing of the Democratic Party is represented by two candidates: One is younger than President Trump, cheerful, doesn’t have the “socialist” label and has a zillion policy ideas. The other is five years older than Trump, prickly and humorless, has the socialist label and embraces the most extreme positions many in his party reject (e.g. allowing incarcerated mass murderers to vote). So far — to my ongoing amazement — Democratic primary voters tell pollsters they want the grouchy socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), not Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the cheerful policy wonk who declares she’s a capitalist, albeit one who recognizes that the system is “rigged.”

We should remember that early polling might simply reflect Sanders’s name recognition, but nevertheless, it is not as if Warren is an unknown quantity. By virtually any measure, she’s a more accomplished and more electable choice, yet it’s Sanders who remains in the top tier of candidates. As Warren showed Monday night at a CNN town hall, she’s obviously the candidate with the most detailed, specific policies — and the one most capable of explaining detailed plans. She also manages to be less frightening — but bolder — than Sanders. [..]

Why, then, is Sanders high in the polls and Warren struggling? Somehow Sanders has convinced himself and a lot of Democrats that a socialist pushing 80 years old who wants to let incarcerated mass murderers vote is more electable. Seriously, Democrats? If you want the candidate farthest to the left who won’t be clobbered by alienated voters who elected moderates in 2018, you’d better look elsewhere — that is, if you actually want to win the White House.

Catherine Rampell: Trump left our allies at the altar. Now he’s mad they’re moving on.

What a jerk you were to let me dump you.

That’s the message the Trump administration is sending to some of our closest allies and most important economic partners. The most recent target is Japan, whom our U.S. ambassador berated last week for not giving us a favorable deal that Japan actually did give us — before we abruptly ripped it up.

The United States spent eight years negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This 12-country Pacific Rim trade pact was partly designed to build an economic and diplomatic alliance that would keep China, which had been excluded from the deal, in check.

But the United States’ objective was also to open up new markets for U.S.-made products, especially U.S. agricultural goods. A 2016 analysis from the International Trade Commission found that agriculture and food would be the U.S. sector that saw the greatest percentage gain in output growth as a result of the TPP.

Greater access to the Japanese market was particularly enticing to U.S. farmers and ranchers. Japan is a wealthy, mature economy — where high-income consumers can afford high-end U.S. beef and high-quality U.S. grains — but it’s also an economy that has had high barriers to agricultural trade.

And so, as part of the TPP talks, the U.S. trade team spent about a year negotiating one-on-one with Japan about agriculture, with the understanding that whatever concessions the United States won would be granted to the other TPP member countries as well.

This allowed us to “design the shape of a package that catered to U.S. priorities,” explains Darci Vetter, then the chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Les Leopold: America’s Biggest Lie: We Can’t Afford Medicare for All

Think about how much your income would go up if you didn’t have to pay for healthcare at all. That would begin to close the gap between productivity and wages for the first time in a generation.

Pundits and politicians repeatedly warn us that the country cannot afford costly social services. They caution about the perils of a rising national debt, the supposed near bankruptcy of Medicare and Social Security, and the need to sell public services to the highest bidder in order to save them. We must tighten our belts sooner or later, they tell us, rather than spend on social goods like universal health care, free higher education and badly needed infrastructure.

To many Americans this sounds all too true because they are having an incredibly tough time making ends meet. According to the Federal Reserve, “Four in 10 adults in 2017 would either borrow, sell something, or not be able pay if faced with a $400 emergency expense.” To those who are so highly stressed financially, the idea of paying for a costly program like Medicare for All sounds impossible.

We are the richest country in the history of the world, however, and certainly could afford vastly expanded and improved vital public services if we had the will. What stands in the way is runaway inequality. Our nation’s wealth has been hijacked by the super-rich, with plenty of aid from their paid-for politicians.


Leonard Pitts, Jr.: Face It, Repubs, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Way Smarter Than You Guys

Not to treat her like the Second Coming—she is, again, just a neophyte lawmaker—but in her passion, her preparedness and her pugnacity, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is conducting a master class on the power of light and air, using the notoriety you gave her to do so

Memo to the Republican Party:

You might want to stop messing with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

She’s a freshman congresswoman with no significant legislative achievements, so it makes little sense that you spend so much time and energy on her. Besides, every time you do, you end up getting pantsed.

You’d think you’d learn. Yet, like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football, you keep coming back for more. [..]

Not to treat her like the Second Coming — she is, again, just a neophyte lawmaker — but in her passion, her preparedness and her pugnacity, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is conducting a master class on the power of light and air, using the notoriety you gave her to do so. A new generation of progressive leaders is surely taking notes.

So a smart party would up its game, would quit manufacturing demons and start manufacturing ideas. Start manufacturing hope. It would be nice to believe that’s what you’ll do. On the other hand, Charlie Brown always said he wasn’t going to let Lucy trick him again.

It would have been nice to believe that, too.

The New Drug Cartels

A little upfront disclosure first. I’m generally inclined more to transparency and treatment than prohibition. I’ve taken drugs, lots of different ones, and some were good for my head and others not so much.

There are also drugs that are ridiculously dangerous, Fentanyl for example. Despite being overhyped prohibitionist propaganda, those stories you read about people overdosing simply by handling it unless they have an active Opioid tolerance are true. This is also a good reason to stay away from Street Opioids generally (in addition to all the other major health risks) because you reallly have to trust your dealer a lot not to use it as an active ingredient extender since it’s as cheap as it is powerful.

Which brings us to Staten Island Chicklets or Oxy as it is usually called. I can’t understand the attraction (I’ve taked about my medically supervised use before) but it’s very popular and very available and pushed by Big Pharma in the same way the CIA pushed Crack only with less plausible deniability.

And they make big bucks off it too- Billions.

I never thought any of the Kingpins would have a view with stripes and a Government issued jumpsuit but I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Department of Justice Indicts Two Drug Company Executives Over Opioid Sales; More to Come?
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
April 24, 2019

On Tuesday, the Southern District of New York and the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a series of indictments against one of the ten largest drug distributors in the US, Rochester Drug Co-Operative, and two former executives, the CEO and the chief compliance officer, and the latter has pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The company has agreed to pay fines and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement which includes a $20 million penalty. So the fish remaining to be fried is 74 year old former CEO Laurence Doud III, who could spend the rest of his life in prison.

As we’ll explain, it’s a welcome development to see the Department of Justice embrace the idea that executives should be held accountable, which can and should include criminal prosecution. However, the jury is out as to whether this action against Rochester Drug and Doud is a training-wheels case for the DoJ to get practice and refine its arguments before going after bigger targets, or whether this prosecution came about due to particularly bad conduct at a relatively small player.

Rochester Drug Co-Operative is privately held, with most shares in the hands of its customers. Even though it is a regional player with only about $1 billion in sales, RDC is one of the ten largest drug distributors in the US. Even though RDC and its executives are charged with particularly egregious behavior, the indictments have rattled industry executives.

In short form, the DEA has a strict compliance regime for Schedule II drugs like oxycodone and the implementation at RDC was a joke. The suit alleges RDC should have reported over 2000 suspicious cases to the DEA and actually sent in only four. The Doud filing describes, for instance, how “Pharmacy-1” showed implausibly rapid growth in oxycodone scrips and also became one of the biggest customers in the US for a fentanyl nasal spray. Pharmacy-1 was also ordering only controlled substances, another red flag.

Other alleged abuses include the failure to do required due diligence on new customers and continuing to supply pharmacies that were filling scrips to doctors under DEA investigation.

The result of this “see no evil” attitude toward opioid orders was a four-fold increase in sales from 2012 to 2016, which generated “millions of dollars” of CEO pay.

But why were RDC and its executives singled out for criminal charges when the three largest distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, simply paid fines? A big difference was that RDC was a recidivist. It had been fined before and had to pay for a compliance monitor, yet flouted the requirement that it comply with the monitor’s recommendations. Doud complained about the agreement and refused to staff up the compliance department as outside counsel requested. RDC also kept selling drugs to pharmacies that other distributors had blacklisted.

But one nevertheless has to note that the SDNY is taking on a comparatively small actor. On the one hand, it makes sense to start out with a comparatively easy case in making a new type of prosecution. Even when a Federal agency appears to have a rock solid case, it’s difficult to prevail against a major corporation because they can afford to throw large amounts of legal ammo at the government. So it remains to be seen whether this prosecution is a one off, or whether the government prosecutes more opioid industry perps, including much more powerful targets.

Nevertheless, these indictments are a step in the right direction, even if a small one.

You can have your Superfly Lucas, Dudus Coke, El Loco Barrera, Godmother Griselda Blanco, Freeway Ross, Patrón de Patrones Arturo Beltrán Leyva, Cat Mitchell, Opium King Khun Sa, Lord of the Skies Fuentes, Pablo Escobar, and El Chapo Guzmán.

The biggest Drug Dealers of all wear suits and sit in Corporate Boardrooms.


The Theater Experience

We’ve come a long way since popcorn littered lecture hall chairs and sticky concrete floors, my local Bijou is carpeted throughout and boasts one screening room with swiveling tilting Barcaloungers (yes they recline and have footrests) as well as passable Cafe Tables for your $4 Soda and $6 Hot Dog (pricier options available at the Food Court).

And, it’s not 3-D which makes me sick.

When a Blockbuster comes to town I can seldom be persuaded to see it at all on the first weekend. My preferred strategy is a mid-week Matinee, in the second week of release even, where I can have a nearly empty Theater and no annoying kids fiddling with their phones and anticipating the dialog so that I can’t hear.

Other than that I’m not picky.

I am given to understand that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is having some kind of opening this week and to be helpful I found these videos to share-

The Inestimable Roy Wood Jr.

Essential Background You Might Have Missed

Looper is a hard core Movie site and generally pretty reliable.

The Breakfast Club (Hypothesis)

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

An aborted mission to free American hostages in Iran ends in disaster; Ireland’s ‘Easter Rising’ begins; Armenians face mass deportation during World War I; Singer Barbra Streisand born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You have to test your hypothesis against other theories. Certainty in the face of complex situations is very dangerous.

Richard Holbrooke

Continue reading

Six In The Morning Wednesday 24 April 2019

Sri Lanka attacks: Bomber ‘studied in UK and Australia’

One of the attackers behind the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka studied in the UK, officials say, as further details on the bombers begin to emerge.

The country’s deputy defence minister said the bomber studied in the UK before doing a course in Australia.

The announcement comes after the death toll rose again to 359 on Wednesday with more than 500 people wounded.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Islamic State (IS) group may be linked to the blasts.

IS has said it was responsible for the attacks, although it has not provided direct evidence of its involvement.

‘No right to livestream murder’: Ardern leads push against online terror content

New Zealand PM launches ‘Christchurch Call’ to build support to eliminate extremist material on social media

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is to spearhead a push to combat violent extremism and terrorism on social media in the wake of the Christchurch attacks, saying the gunman did not have “a right to livestream the murder of 50 people”.

Ardern and French president Emmanuel Macron will host a summit in Paris on 15 May, rallying tech companies and other concerned countries to commit to a pledge known as the “Christchurch Call” – a vow to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Ardern said online platforms had been used in a “unique” way to disseminate and publicise video of the Christchurch attack, and there had been rallying cries for New Zealand to take on a leadership role, but the remote island country of fewer than 5 million people could not do it alone.

Saudi Arabia carries out ‘chilling’ mass execution of 37 people for ‘terrorism offences’

Most of those convicted were members of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority

Richard HallMiddle East correspondent @_richardhall

Saudi Arabia executed 37 people for terror offences on Tuesday, the country’s interior minister said, in one of the largest mass executions in recent years.

Human Rights Watch described the punishment as “grotesque,” and said the news represented a “day we have feared.”

The country’s state news agency said the Saudi nationals were guilty of “adopting extremist terrorist ideologies and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disrupt security as well as spread chaos and provoke sectarian strife.”

‘Vengeful’: Hong Kong protest leaders jailed four years later

By Kirsty Needham

Updatedfirst published at

Two high-profile university professors who founded the Occupy movement that brought Hong Kong to a standstill in 2014 have been jailed for 16 months, in a major trial described as “vengeful” by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten.

The University of Hong Kong’s Benny Tai, 54, and retired Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Chan Kin-man, 60, were taken to prison on Wednesday after sentencing by District Court Judge Johhny Chan.

A third Occupy co-founder, the retired Baptist reverend Chu Yiu-ming, 75, was handed a suspended sentence on health grounds.

France marks first national commemoration of Armenian genocide

France is marking its first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide” on Wednesday, fulfilling a pledge by President Emmanuel Macron that has angered the Turkish government.

Macron announced the commemoration at a meeting with representatives of the country’s large Armenian community in February, honouring a promise made during his 2017 presidential campaign.

“France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face,” he said at the time, noting that France was among the first countries to denounce the World War I slaughter of Armenians by their Ottoman rulers.

The logic behind US humiliation of the Palestinians

What an old Hebrew parable can tell us about Kushner’s strategy and the deal of the century.

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has launched an all-out diplomatic assault on the Palestinians, while preparing a new initiative to resolve the Middle East conflict. It has claimed its plan is different from any other, downplayed anything said about it as wild speculation, and accused critics of rushing to judgment before they have seen it.

Indeed, the Palestinians have not seen the actual plan, but they have a pretty good feeling about what it will involve. They have watched closely as the Trump administration has spat out one policy after the other with the clear intention of humiliating and subduing them.

Transparency For Thee But Not For Me

Steve Benen at MaddowBog writes that Donald Trump loves transparency except when it come to himself. When sycophant
representative Devin Nunes ran to the White House last year with a memo full of classified information he had penned to help Trump, Trump, ignoring the objections from his FBI Director Christopher Wray, okayed the release of the documents. Trump’s claim was that he was committed to transparency.

In May 2018, when Trump ordered a highly sensitive intelligence briefing for some members of Congress, in which law enforcement officials were instructed to share information on a confidential human source, the president defended the move by saying, “What I want is I want total transparency…. You have to have transparency.”

In September 2018, Trump ordered the release of classified materials related to the Russia investigation. “All I want to do is be transparent,” he said at the time.

Apparently, like everything else on Planet Trump, transparency only applies when Trump thinks it is to his benefit. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the White House has instructed former security director, Carl Kline, not to answer the subpoena to appear before the House Intelligence committee today, Tuesday.

In a letter to Kline’s lawyer obtained by The Washington Post, (White House deputy counsel Michael M.) Purpura wrote that a committee subpoena asking Kline to appear “unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests.”

In a separate letter Monday, Kline’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, told the panel that his client would adhere to the White House recommendation.

“With two masters from two equal branches of government, we will follow the instructions of the one that employs him,” Driscoll wrote in the letter addressed to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).

Cummings was not available for comment late Monday night. He signed a subpoena earlier this month for Kline to appear Tuesday.

That subpoena followed testimony from a White House personnel security whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, who alleged that the White House had been recklessly granting security clearances to individuals whom lower-level administration personnel staff had found unworthy.

So much for transparency. Monday afternoon the Washington Post reported Trump is trying to limit congressional oversight into his shenanigans.

President Trump sued his own accounting firm and the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee at the same time Monday — trying an unusual tactic to stop the firm from giving the committee details about Trump’s past financial dealings.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, seeks a court order to quash a subpoena issued last week by the committee to Mazars USA. Trump’s lawyers also are asking a federal judge to temporarily block the subpoena until the court has had a chance to review their request.

The move amounts to Trump — the leader of the executive branch of government — asking the judicial branch to stop the legislative branch from investigating his past.

Former House counsels from both sides of the aisle called the challenge a long shot and an apparent delay tactic.

The suit came as House Democrats issued another subpoena likely to touch a nerve for the president. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday ordered former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify before the panel next month and hand over documents and records pertaining to federal investigations of Trump, his finances, his campaign and allegations he sought to obstruct justice.

He is the first former White House employee to receive a subpoena for congressional testimony in the wake of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s redacted report being released to the public.

Over the years, Congress has had broad leeway to use its subpoena power to probe possible corruption in other branches of government. For instance, during the 1990s the GOP-led House spent years investigating President Bill Clinton’s involvement in the “Whitewater” scandal, which began long before he was elected.

Trump’s lawsuit seeks to upend decades of legal precedent that have upheld Congress’s right to investigate, arguing that his past personal dealings are irrelevant to the legislative branch’s fundamental job: writing bills.[..]

The subpoena Trump is seeking to stop — sent by Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) — relates in part to “Statements of Financial Condition” that Mazars produced for Trump before he took office.

These statements are unaudited summations of Trump’s assets, debts and net worth, which Mazars compiled annually for Trump. The statements omitted some debts, overvalued some assets and misstated some key facts in ways that made Trump seem wealthier than he was.

Again Steve Benen writes that when he read the initial filing, he had missed an “interesting tidbit” that was highlighted in the WaPo article:

In Trump’s lawsuit, his attorneys cited a Supreme Court decision called Kilbourn v. Thompson, which found “no express power” in the Constitution for Congress to investigate individuals without pending legislation.

The problem with that argument, said University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefer, is that Kilbourn v. Thompson is a case from 1880.

And it was overruled by a decision in 1927, Tiefer said.

“By reaching back to precedent to the 1880s, they’re seeking … to overturn the entire modern case law that the courts have put together to respect Congress’s investigative power,” Tiefer added, referring to Trump’s lawyers. “It’s a very long shot…. These suits look like an act of desperation by the Trump lawyers.”

It’s obviously embarrassing that the president’s new legal team didn’t realize it was citing a Supreme Court case that was overturned nearly a century ago, but let’s not brush past too quickly the absurdity of the underlying argument.

Trump’s lawyers effectively made the case, in an official court filing, that Congress can only conduct oversight in pursuit of legislative ends. If that were true, any effort on the part of lawmakers to scrutinize any controversy outside of legislative pursuits would be legally impermissible.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow noted on her show Monday night that this lawsuit is doomed.


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