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.

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Paul Krugman: Luckily, Trump Is an Unstable Non-Genius

His mental deficiencies may save American democracy.

The surprising thing about the constitutional crisis we’re now facing is that it took so long to happen. It was obvious from early on that the president of the United States is a would-be autocrat who accepts no limits on his power and considers criticism a form of treason, and he is backed by a party that has denied the legitimacy of its opposition for many years. Something like this moment was inevitable.

What still hangs in the balance is the outcome. And if democracy survives — which is by no means certain — it will largely be thanks to one unpredictable piece of good luck: Donald Trump’s mental deficiency.

I don’t mean that Trump is stupid; a stupid man couldn’t have managed to defraud so many people over so many years. Nor do I mean that he’s crazy, although his speeches and tweets (“my great and unmatched wisdom”; the Kurds weren’t there on D-Day) keep sounding loonier.

He is, however, lazy, utterly incurious and too insecure to listen to advice or ever admit to a mistake. And given that he is in fact what he accuses others of being — an enemy of the people — we should be thankful for his flaws.

17 former Watergate special prosecutors: We investigated the Watergate scandal. We believe Trump should be impeached.

We, former members of the Watergate special prosecutor force, believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. This evidence can be accepted as sufficient for impeachment, unless disproved by any contrary evidence that the president may choose to offer.

The ultimate judgment on whether to impeach the president is for members of the House of Representatives to make. The Constitution establishes impeachment as the proper mechanism for addressing these abuses; therefore, the House should proceed with the impeachment process, fairly, openly and promptly. The president’s refusal to cooperate in confirming (or disputing) the facts already on the public record should not delay or frustrate the House’s performance of its constitutional duty.

In reaching these conclusions, we take note of 1) the public statements by Trump himself; 2) the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation; 3) the readout that the president released of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; 4) the president’s continuing refusal to produce documents or allow testimony by current and former government employees for pending investigations, as well as for oversight matters; and 5) other information now publicly available, including State Department text messages indicating that the release of essential military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Ukraine’s willingness to commence a criminal investigation designed to further the president’s political interests.

Eugene Robinson: Impeaching Trump may be unlikely — but it’s far from impossible

How much more of this can we take?

That is the question Congress must now confront. How much more of the Trump administration’s lawlessness, incompetence and corruption must the nation endure? If President Trump serves the full 15 months that remain in his term of office, how bad will the damage be? For the good of the country and the world, is it imperative that Trump be removed as quickly as possible?

These queries may all seem moot, given the political arithmetic of the Senate. But a few months ago, you should recall, impeachment by the House seemed impossible; now, it looks inevitable. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was never going to head down that road unless Trump did something so outrageous and transgressive as to force her hand. He did just that.

So yes, it seems inconceivable that 20 Republican senators would ever vote to remove a president who could, and would, do everything in his considerable power to destroy their political careers. But if there is one thing we have learned in the four years since Trump descended the escalator and announced his candidacy, “impossible” things do indeed happen.

Catherine Rampell; The deficit has gotten worse. This shouldn’t be a surprise

The GOP’s fiscal hawks have finally flown the coop.

This week, the Congressional Budget Office released its latest estimate for the federal budget deficit for the fiscal year that just ended. Lo and behold, the deficit likely reached nearly $1 trillion — $984 billion, to be precise. Final numbers are due from the Treasury Department any day now.

To put this in context: This was the largest annual deficit in both raw dollar terms and as a share of the economy since 2012, when we were still recovering from the aftermath of the financial crisis and ensuing Great Recession. It was also a huge jump from where it was when President Trump first took office; the deficit is up by 26 percent since fiscal 2018 and a whopping 48 percent since 2017.

This is, needless to say, not what either Trump or others in his party told us to expect under Republican leadership. For years, the GOP cast itself as the party of fiscal responsibility, fighting tooth and nail against virtually any Obama-era expense even when the struggling economy desperately needed more fiscal stimulus.

Amanda Marcotte: Biden calls out New York Times for spreading Trump’s conspiracy theories

The “paper of record” is becoming the paper that treats unhinged right-wing conspiracy

Joe Biden and his presidential campaign have clearly been unsure how and whether to punch back against Donald Trump’s meritless conspiracy theory about the former vice president and his son, Hunter. Trump is obviously trying to deflect attention from his own likely crimes, the House impeachment inquiry and his terrible poll numbers. Finally Biden has decided to address the issue directly.

On Wednesday, during campaign events in New Hampshire, Biden finally joined all the other major Democratic candidates in endorsing the impeachment inquiry into Trump. More important, in an uncharacteristic act of daring, Biden’s team called out the New York Times for elevating, laundering and promoting Trump’s preferred conspiracy theories.

In a letter to Times editor Dean Baquet, Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield lambasted the newspaper for publishing an op-ed by right-wing hitman and Breitbart contributor Peter Schweizer, which was clearly meant to support Trump’s discredited allegations that Biden’s dealings in Ukraine were somehow corrupt. [..]

That Times article “is really the latest maneuver in the Republican strategy of shielding President Donald Trump from his own scandals by redirecting attention to his political opponents,” writes Eric Kleefeld of Media Matters. He also notes that Schweizer feigns outrage over private citizens such as Hunter Biden cashing in on his family name and political connections, but never mentions that the sitting president is actively running businesses around the world that are being used as money-laundromats for bribes from foreign leaders and business tycoons.

The Problem With Narrow Impeachment (Sorry Nancy)

Is that Unindicted Co-Conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio is so vastly guilty.

Disclosures suggest Trump’s White House politicized pretty much everything — and there are lots of witnesses
By Aaron Blake, Washington Post
October 11, 2019

Disclosures on Thursday suggest a White House that took very little care to separate official business from political and personal advantage and often circumvented established channels to benefit President Trump.

This isn’t exactly a revelation, but the speed of the new disclosures and the brazenness of the actions suggest there are plenty of people who bore witness to this and who could speak to it, if willing and/or allowed.

The idea that Trump lets his personal and political business seep into official policymaking and meddles in law enforcement’s business isn’t exactly news. His request that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky pursue two investigations that are clearly aimed at political gain for Trump is merely the latest high-profile example. This is also a guy who repeatedly decried his first attorney general for not being more loyal, not protecting him and for not pursuing his preferred investigations — and also requested loyalty from then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who said Trump hinted at Comey taking it easy on Michael Flynn.

But there seems to be a quickly gathering critical mass here, and there figure to be many people who saw or heard about things being handled in a suspicious manner. The growing leaks about these things — including another Post report Thursday that at least four national security officials raised concerns about the Ukraine situation before and immediately after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky — indicate there’s plenty to be uncovered.

The Kurt Volker situation and the text messages he shared show how officials can get wrapped up in these politicized and problematic matters and arguably participate in them, even if not proactively. Volker, former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, seemed to want to get out in front of that story, resigning and quickly disclosing what he knew to House Democrats. Hill may be doing something similar.

The sweater unravels whichever thread you pick at and HE’S ADMITTED IT ALL IN PUBLIC! It is correct in a way to see this as a messaging battle for hearts and minds but let’s not exaggerate the narrow ground on which we are fighting. We are reaching peak Impeachment faced as we are with an irreducible by civilized means population of deplorables so when exactly shall we act?

I also think that ignoring the full scope of the crimes kind of detracts from the statement we are seeking to make-

The Republican Party is a criminal organization under the RICO statute, engaged in multiple conspiracies and crimes against the United States.

Now you may view them as a convenient prop to say “Well at least we’re better than those guys,” but the rubes are starting to peek behind the curtains Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs and that act isn’t fooling them so much anymore. Anti-Masons, Know Nothings, Whigs- time for the ash heap of History and if you don’t watch out Democrats, you could join them.

Cartnoon

Shut up. Just, shut up.

The Breakfast Club (Small Minds)

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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This Day in History

Congress OK’s U.S. military force against Iraq; Former President Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Peace Prize; Anita Hill accuses Supreme Court pick Clarence Thomas; Second Vatican Council opens; ‘SNL’ premieres

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Cooking with Seth

Today? Pastries!

Cartnoon

October already? Time to learn something about the persecution of “Witches”.

The Breakfast Club (Unrehearsed)

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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This Day in History

Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns; Imperial rule ends in China; Achille Lauro hijackers forced to land; Movie legend Orson Welles dies; Opera composer Giuseppe Verdi born; Actor Christopher Reeve dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.

Sean O’Casey

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2019 Senior League Division Championship Game 5: Cards at Braves

Extra Inning Squirrel Power.

  • Bottom 1– Solo Shot. Solo Shot. Cards 2 – 0.
  • Top 3– Single. Single. RBI Sacrifice. Cards 2 – 1.
  • Bottom 4– Solo Shot. Cards 3 – 1.
  • Top 5– Double. Passed Ball. RBI Error. 2 RBI HR. Braves 4 – 3.
  • Bottom 8– Double. RBI Single. Tied.
  • Bottom 10– Ground Rule Double. Walk. Sacrifice. RBI Sacrifice. Cards 5 – 4 Final. Series Tied.

Well, the Braves have screwed up and let it go to a deciding Game 5. Of course you could see this coming when the Cards took the opener.

For last licks the Braves send Mike Foltynewicz (R, 8 – 6, 4.54 ERA). He’s a winner this series allowing 5 Runs with 2 HR in 7 Innings with 7 Ks for an ERA of 0.00. He throws Heat with some Sliders and a smattering of Curves and Changeups.

Cards try to squeak it out behind Jack Flaherty (R, 11 – 8, 2.75.ERA) who lost Game 2 allowing 3 Runs and a HR in 7 Innings pitched with 1 Walk and 8 Ks for an ERA of 3.86. He throws Heat with Sliders and Curves mixed in.Extra Inning Squirrel Power.

  • Bottom 1– Solo Shot. Solo Shot. Cards 2 – 0.
  • Top 3– Single. Single. RBI Sacrifice. Cards 2 – 1.
  • Bottom 4– Solo Shot. Cards 3 – 1.
  • Top 5– Double. Passed Ball. RBI Error. 2 RBI HR. Braves 4 – 3.
  • Bottom 8– Double. RBI Single. Tied.
  • Bottom 10– Ground Rule Double. Walk. Sacrifice. RBI Sacrifice. Cards 5 – 4 Final. Series Tied.

Well, the Braves have screwed up and let it go to a deciding Game 5. Of course you could see this coming when the Cards took the opener.

For last licks the Braves send Mike Foltynewicz (R, 8 – 6, 4.54 ERA). He’s a winner this series allowing 5 Runs with 2 HR in 7 Innings with 7 Ks for an ERA of 0.00. He throws Heat with some Sliders and a smattering of Curves and Changeups.

Cards try to squeak it out behind Jack Flaherty (R, 11 – 8, 2.75.ERA) who lost Game 2 allowing 3 Runs and a HR in 7 Innings pitched with 1 Walk and 8 Ks for an ERA of 3.86. He throws Heat with Sliders and Curves mixed in.

About those Warrantless Wiretaps

Remember them? How the NSA was Hoovering up everything right off the hubs and stashing it in a Black Glass building in Utah stuffed with so many servers it takes it’s own lake to cool?

Yeah, well, they’re still doing that.

But they’ve found in practice (as predicted) that it’s just too big a chunk of data to have any practical value so they’re putting it in the ‘too hard’ pile for now. This was of course trumpeted as a great liberalization and a big reform.

But it is just on-its-face UnConstitutional as I and other Civil Libertarians have been saying for over a decade now and finally, finally (or maybe we’re just finding out finally) even the FISA Court has been forced to agree.

Secret Court: FBI Warrantless Searches Were Illegal
by Spencer Ackerman, Daily Beast
10.08.19

Some of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s warrantless searches through the National Security Agency’s enormous troves of communications data violated the law and the Constitution, according to secret surveillance court rulings partially declassified on Tuesday.

The bureau’s so-called backdoor searches, long regarded by civil libertarians as a government end-run around warrant requirements, were overly broad, the court found. They appear to have affected what a judge on the court called “a large number of individuals, including U.S. persons.” On one day in December 2017 alone, the court found, the FBI conducted 6,800 queries of the NSA databases using Social Security numbers. The government, in secret, conceded that there were “fundamental misunderstandings” among some FBI personnel over the standards necessary for the searches.

The redacted ruling was kept secret for a year. It represented the latest legal battle over the scope of post-9/11 mass surveillance that affects American freedoms in the name of counterterrorism. It was one of several secret court documents released Tuesday by the ODNI.

Judge James Boasberg of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court found last October that elements of FBI procedures for querying the databases and then purging irrelevant results–a mechanism to protect Americans’ privacy–“inconsistent with statutory minimization requirements and the requirements of the Fourth Amendment,” which protects Americans against unreasonable searches.

As early as March 2018, the FISA Court identified to the government that the FBI was not sufficiently documenting which of its queries were tied to people inside the United States, despite a statutory obligation to do so. Nor were the searches “reasonably designed” to find evidence of crimes or foreign spying.

“Without such documentation and in view of reported instances of non-compliance with that standard, the procedures seemed unreasonable under FISA’s definition of minimization procedures’ and possibly the Fourth Amendment,” Boasberg wrote.

Boasberg’s ruling represented a rare defeat for the government before the FISA Court, and the government appealed it to the FISA Court of Review, another rarity. The appeals court sided with the lower court in July, and the FBI agreed to change its querying, documentation, and related procedures.

The subsequent changes now require the FBI to explain why searching Americans’ data is necessary to find foreign-spying information or potential evidence of criminal activity, as well as to distinguish between its searches involving Americans and its searches involving foreigners.

NSA in March 2017 stopped collecting Americans’ electronic communications that merely discuss foreign surveillance targets, known as “about” collection, after violating restrictions placed on the collection by the FISA Court. Yet the FISA Court ruling indicates that the government attempted arguing that “about” collection was acceptable under PRISM, if not upstream collection. Boasberg rejected the argument.

In addition, the NSA, FBI, and CIA can warrantlessly search the vast Section 702 databases for information on Americans, something known as a backdoor search, something they have reported doing at least tens of thousands of times annually. Yet until a recent change, the FBI did not even record how many times it searched through the NSA databases for Americans’ information.

See? That shouldn’t creep you out at all.

The Russian Connection: Yes, They Did

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that clearly states that Russia interfered with the 2016 election directing a disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton and favored Donald Trump. The bipartisan report blows a huge hole in Trump’s conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and the Democrats.

The report corroborates past findings by researchers and the intelligence community that the notorious Internet Research Agency troll farm, as the committee wrote, “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.”

The findings mark the second installment of the committee’s five-part report outlining the scope of Russian election meddling in 2016, the result of an expansive investigation that has spanned over two years and included interviews with over 200 witnesses. The committee in July unveiled the first chapter, which detailed Russian efforts to attack state elections systems and spread disinformation. The second installment focuses on the Kremlin’s documented attempts to sow political discord on social media.

We already know what triggered the Mueller investigation into the allegations of Russian interference. It was the intoxicated Trump foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, shooting his mouth off in a London bar to Australian diplomats that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. They reported it to the FBI who open a counterintelligence investigation into the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

The other key finding in the report states that African Americans were targeted more than any other group and the disinformation was mainly directed at race issues. Previous reports have already detailed much of this information to the public. Back in September 2017, CNN exposed a black rights Facebook account that was actually linked to Russia — yet had more followers than the official Black Lives Matter account.

The report is damning in the FBI’s handling of what knowledge they had of Russia’s meddling prior to the 2016 election. The report finds it “troubling” that in October 2016, a month before the election, rather than investigating themselves, the FBI tasked a contractor with analyzing a pro-Russian network that promoted U.S. election-related news and leaked Democratic party emails published by WikiLeaks.

Time to come home, Bill Barr, and stop wasting tax payers dollars on a debunked conspiracy theory from Trump’s brain.

NB: all emphasis is mine. TMC

Cartnoon

Why 2020 Won’t Be Won By Centrists

What? You didn’t know Robert Reich could draw? That’s why his students love him, he puts on quite a show.

The Breakfast Club (What A Fool Believes)

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

Guerrilla leader Che Guevara executed in Bolivia; Anthrax-laced letters sent to Capitol Hill; Achille Lauro hijackers surrender; Andrei Sakharov wins Nobel Peace Prize; Musician John Lennon born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

John Lennon

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