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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Thom Hartmann: Here’s what Republicans and billionaires really mean when they talk about ‘freedom’

America is having a heated debate about the meaning of the word socialism. We’d be better served if, instead, we were debating the meaning of freedom.

The Oregonian reported last week that fully 156,000 families are on the edge of homelessness in our small-population state. Every one of those households is now paying more than 50 percent of its monthly income on rent, and none of them has any savings; one medical bill, major car repair or job loss, and they’re on the streets.

While socialism may or may not solve their problem, the more pressing issue we have is an entire political party and a huge sector of the billionaire class who see homelessness not as a problem, but as a symptom of a “free” society.

The words freedom and liberty are iconic in American culture—probably more so than with any other nation because they’re so intrinsic to the literature, declarations and slogans of our nation’s founding.

The irony—of the nation founded on the world’s greatest known genocide (the systematic state murder of tens of millions of Native Americans) and over three centuries of legalized slavery and a century and a half of oppression and exploitation of the descendants of those slaves—is extraordinary. It presses us all to bring true freedom and liberty to all Americans.

But what do those words mean?

Paul Krugman: Holy Voodoo, Batman!

Superheroes, arsenic, and Trump economics.

The 2019 Economic Report of the President is out, and everyone is having fun with the bit at the end that acknowledges the help of student interns – a list that includes Peter Parker, Aunt May, Bruce Wayne, and Jabba the Hutt:

The White House is passing this off as a deliberate joke. More likely, someone slipped superheroes in to see whether anyone in charge was actually paying attention, and proved that they weren’t.

But the bigger news from the report involves the supposed economic payoffs from the Trump tax cut. Even the White House now acknowledges that the tax cut won’t do all they said it would – their wildly optimistic economic projections depend on the claimed payoff to other economic policies that they themselves haven’t specified. So tax cuts will do wonders for growth, as long as you do a bunch of other stuff, details to come later.

This puts me in mind of what Voltaire said about witchcraft: “It is unquestionable that certain words and ceremonies will effectually destroy a flock of sheep, if administered with a sufficient portion of arsenic.”

But beyond that, even the claimed positive effects of the tax cut itself are things we can already see aren’t happening.

Michael Mann and Bob Ward: Donald Trump is using Stalinist tactics to discredit climate science

Americans should not be fooled by the Stalinist tactics being used by the White House to try to discredit the findings of mainstream climate science.

The Trump administration has already purged information about climate change from government websites, gagged federal experts and attempted to end funding for climate change programmes.

Now a group of hardcore climate change deniers and contrarians linked to the administration is organising a petition in support of a new panel being set up by the National Security Council to promote an alternative official explanation for climate change.

The panel will consist of scientists who do not accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are behind climate change and its impacts. [..]

The creation of the new panel of climate change deniers, and the recruitment of supporters to provide it with a veneer of legitimacy, echoes the campaign by Joseph Stalin’s regime to discredit the work of geneticists who disagreed with the disastrous pseudo-scientific theories of Trofim Lysenko.

Lysenko wrongly believed that acquired traits could be passed on by parents to their offspring. Stalin embraced lysenkoism as the basis for Soviet agricultural policy, while also denouncing and persecuting Lysenko’s scientific critics.

Danielle Allen: We’re about to find out how much pride is left in Congress

Last week, the Senate followed the House and voted 59 to 41 to terminate President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border. That was a good day for our democracy. But exactly how much legislative pride is left in Congress? This is the question we get to answer next.

The House will soon bring the measure back, seeking to override President Trump’s veto. The resolution originally passed the House by a vote of 245 to 182, but now needs 290 votes to override the veto. Does that sound like a political impossibility? Indeed, fewer than 5 percent of vetoes have been overridden since 1789.

Still, though, this is a moment to find out what is truly in our representatives’ hearts. Does the spirit of the American Revolution beat there still or is it gone? Given a second chance, just how many of those 182 House members will keep their names on the record as supporting the remarkable diminishing of congressional power brought about by the president’s declaration?

Hidden in plain sight, in a far more encouraging declaration — the Declaration of Independence — is an important message the Founding Fathers left for posterity.

Michael D’Antonio: Something is terribly wrong with Trump

Let’s pause for a moment and consider that President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had to say on national TV that his boss is “not a white supremacist” and one of Trump’s senior advisers, Kellyanne Conway, had to push back against her own husband’s questioning of Trump’s mental state.

Over the weekend, as Trump ranted on Twitter, George Conway, who is a prominent conservative lawyer, posted the psychiatric definition of narcissistic personality disorder and asked all Americans to think about Trump’s “mental condition and psychological state.”

Naturally, the press wanted to hear Kellyanne Conway’s view. “No, I don’t share those concerns,” she said as she went to work at the White House on Monday. She added that she had been busy with her children and may not have been aware of all the President’s recent tweets.

The twin spectacles, headlined by Mulvaney and Conway, come after several off-key days for a president whose behavior is so troll-like that Americans have come to expect him to act more like an out-of-control Reddit commenter than a chief executive of the United States. Altogether, these events reinforce the idea that Trump is wholly unsuited for the Oval Office.