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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Robert Reich: In Trump’s mind, all deals are private. ‘Public interest’ means nothing to him

Trump has described the payments his bag man, Michael Cohen, made to two women during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn’t discuss their alleged affairs with him, as “a simple private transaction”.

Last Saturday, when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if Trump knew the payments were wrong and were made to help his election, Cohen replied “Of course … He was very concerned about how this would affect the election.”

But even if Trump intended that the payments aid his presidential bid, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he knew they were wrong.

Trump might have reasoned that a deal is a deal: the women got hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for agreeing not to talk about his affairs with them. So where’s the harm?

After two years of Trump we may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: his brain sees only private interests transacting. It doesn’t comprehend the public interest.

Collin O’Mara: Ryan Zinke’s most lasting failure

Secretaries of the interior have a sacred obligation to steward America’s public lands, tribal commitments, wildlife heritage and natural resources to ensure they endure for future generations — responsibilities more important than ever in the face of cascading climate impacts.

Most of the articles about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s resignation have focused on investigations and alleged improprieties, rather than his failure to fulfill these essential duties. But Zinke’s most lasting legacy will be the millions of acres of public lands degraded, the climate pollution increased, the outdoor recreational opportunities forsaken, the national monuments decimated and the wildlife species imperiled by an all-consuming energy-dominance agenda that irreparably violated President Theodore Roosevelt’s “great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.” [..]

Theodore Roosevelt once said of a successor, “He means well, but he means well feebly.” No one expected an appointee of this administration to emulate conservation giants such as former interior secretaries Stewart Udall or Harold Ickes, but Zinke’s dogged pursuit of unfettered fossil-fuel extraction makes James Watt’s disastrous tenure look timid. Zinke never lived up to the Rooseveltian conservation standard he set for himself on his first day in office.

Paul Waldman: Yes, there was ‘collusion.’ Now what should we do about it?

As we continue putting together the pieces of the 2016 Trump campaign’s cooperation with the Russian government, a pair of new reports produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee is making clear just how intense the Russian government’s effort on Donald Trump’s behalf was. In fact, it’s long past time when we stop talking about Russian “meddling” or even a Russian “attack” on our election, not because those characterizations are inaccurate but because they obscure the broader truth.

So let’s stop beating around the bush. The Russian government tried to get Trump elected, and Trump, his campaign, his close associates and even members of his family tried to help them. For all practical purposes, Russia was part of the Trump campaign. That is no longer in doubt. All we’re doing now is filling in the details.

Bill McKibben: At last, divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts

I remember well the first institution to announce it was divesting from fossil fuel. It was 2012 and I was on the second week of a gruelling tour across the US trying to spark a movement. Our roadshow had been playing to packed houses down the west coast, and we’d crossed the continent to Portland, Maine. As a raucous crowd jammed the biggest theatre in town, a physicist named Stephen Mulkey took the mic. He was at the time president of the tiny Unity College in the state’s rural interior, and he announced that over the weekend its trustees had voted to sell their shares in coal, oil and gas companies. “The time is long overdue for all investors to take a hard look at the consequences of supporting an industry that persists in destructive practices,” he said.

Six years later, we have marked the 1,000th divestment in what has become by far the largest anti-corporate campaign of its kind. The latest to sell their shares – major French and Australian pension funds, and Brandeis University in Massachusetts – bring the total size of portfolios and endowments in the campaign to just under $8 trillion (£6.4tn).

Ross Barkin: Clean water: the latest casualty in Trump’s attack on the environment

The cruelty and the idiocy of Donald Trump’s presidency does not chiefly lie in his tweets or even his words. Trump the performer is ridiculous, but that’s the clown show that keeps many of us either terrified or entertained – the real harm is elsewhere, away from the blaring headlines.

Trump has been most destructive in his willingness to carry out an unabashedly rightwing policy agenda. Most Republicans competing for the nomination in 2016 embraced their party’s total capitulation to the fossil fuel industry, denying the existence of climate change and promising to shred Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. This is a central threat to America’s future: a major, powerful political party rejecting science itself.

This week, the Trump administration said it would weaken federal clean water rules designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams from pesticide runoff and other pollutants. This proposal would not just undo Obama-era regulations but chip away at protections instituted under the late George HW Bush, perhaps the last major Republican to pay even lip service to the environment.