Category Archives: PND Opinion

The only solution to the Trumps' conflicts of interest

Source: Libertarian Institute
by Sheldon Richman

"The heart of the potential for conflicts of interests is not the Trumps’ business empire. Rather it’s presidential power to steer benefits to particular interests. So the surest way to eliminate the potential for conflicts is to eliminate the president’s power to steer benefits to anyone. This would include not only favors granted by executive action but also those that a president can push through Congress. Here we have an analogy with campaign finance. Those who fret over that issue don’t want to understand that no one would make mega-contributions to candidates if officeholders had no favors to sell. Who shops where there’s nothing to buy? By the same token, no one will do favors for a presidential daughter if the president has nothing to bestow in return. If politicians could not impose trade restrictions (and therefore could not selectively lift them either) or provide foreign aid or grant any of the other favors the government today can grant, we wouldn’t have to worry about conflicts of interest. Of course, the people who do worry are the same ones who think the government should have the power to do all those things — and more.

Why the US is a bigger threat than North Korea

Source: In These Times
by Vijay Prashad

"Amnesia is the mode of thought in the United States. Cluelessness about its belligerent history is now general. It would sound strange to ask why the North Koreans feel such palpable threat from the United States. Odd to raise the fact that it was the United States that brutally bombed North Korea in the 1950s, targeting its towns and cities as well as farms and dams. The data is inescapable. The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on North Korea. This includes 32,557 tons of napalm—essentially a chemical weapon. As a comparison, it is fitting to see that in all of the Pacific sector of World War II, the United States dropped a mere 503,000 tons of bombs. The United States, in other words, dropped more bombs on North Korea during the ill-named 'limited war' than it dropped during the entire engagement against Japan during World War II. Three million Koreans died in that war, the majority in the North. North Korea has never attacked the United States." [editor's note: This should be read by anyone concerned about the "Korea threat" – SAT] (04/21/17)

How a systems-thinking president can settle the climate science debate

Source: Scott Adams Blog
by Scott Adams

"This idea in today’s Wall Street Journal talks about creating a 'Red Team' to dig into the climate science debate and come up with a conclusion for the public. I call that a good system. Systems are better than goals. A goal, in this case, might be to 'convince the public that climate change is a big problem.' That’s a clear goal, but what if it isn’t the best outcome? That’s where a system (such as forming a Red Team) comes in handy. The system will solve for credibility while informing the public of whatever comes out of the exercise. You can’t govern better than that. Period. We have, for the first time, a 'Systems-thinking' president. You see it in everything President Trump does." [editor's note: Scott Adams might have much more confidence in Trump actually being this benign, but we share the vision of it (I also have his new book on order) – SAT] (04/21/17)

One toke over the line with Trump and Sessions

Source: The American Prospect
Gabrielle Gurley

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions had little to celebrate on the annual marijuana holiday this week. President Donald Trump has not said much to back him up on the issue, leaving Sessions as a lone voice in the federal wilderness. He has opined that medical marijuana has been 'hyped,' and he doubles down at every available opportunity on beefing up enforcement against the Schedule 1 drug, even though many states and localities have taken off in a completely different direction. With too many balls already in the air, administration officials are positioned to have another one conk them on their collective head. For one thing, Sessions is simply too late: A number of states have already decided the marijuana question. Any federal move to crack down on recreational users or medical marijuana patients and their suppliers users would be met with a blowback similar to, if not even more vociferous than, the recent grassroots uproar over the effort to repeal Obamacare. It would be very difficult for the Justice Department and the White House to quell the public protests across the political spectrum that would likely ensue." (04/21/17)

The price of justice doesn't cover the bills

Source: USA Today
by Jon Wool

"On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 on the Nelson v. Colorado case, which shows just how reliant cities are on revenue from the mainly poor users of the criminal justice system. The Colorado law at the center of the case requires people whose criminal convictions have been overturned to file suit and further prove their innocence to get back the money they paid in conviction fees. 'Such an approach violates due process,' Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court, because once a person's conviction is overturned, the state has 'zero claim of right' to the fines and fees taken from the person. This result should be obvious, so why did it require the Supreme Court to resolve it?" (04/21/17)

Donald Trump: Ruling class president

Source: CounterPunch
by Paul Street

"One of the many irritating things about the dominant United States corporate media is the way it repeatedly discovers anew things that are not remotely novel. Take its recent discovery that Donald Trump isn’t really the swamp-draining populist working class champion he pretended to be on the campaign trail. … You don’t say! Gee, who knew? Anyone who’s paid serious attention to American electoral politics and policy over the course of history, that’s who. Seventeen years ago, the then still left Christopher Hitchens usefully described the 'essence of American politics' as 'the manipulation of populism by elitism.'" (04/21/17)

Nixon had his "madman theory." Trump is just a madman

Source: The New Republic
by Jeet Heer

"Jared Kushner, reportedly the new power behind the throne in the Trump administration, has tried to borrow luster from another presidential éminence grise, Henry Kissinger. Kushner introduced himself to Kissinger after a foreign policy lecture in 2015, and since then has kept in touch with the former secretary of state. We know this because Kissinger wrote an exceptionally lukewarm tribute to Kushner for Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People issue, which he concluded by comparing Kushner to the mythical Icarus, a nepotism hire who crashed and burned after flying too close to the sun. Whatever Kissinger’s private reservations about Kushner, there are some parallels to be drawn between the Nixon and Trump administrations, especially in their bureaucratic intrigue and the cultivation of an image of unpredictability (what Nixon called the 'madman theory'). But Trump isn’t so much a modern Nixon as a clown Nixon, repeating the tragedy of the 37th president’s flawed policies without having the Nixonian intelligence or competence to know what he’s doing." [editor's note: This is a disturbingly perceptive essay about how Trump is not Nixon's doppleganger – SAT] (04/21/17)

Yes, rights are double-edged swords

Source: A Geek With Guns
by Christopher Burg

"The beauty of the idea of the right to free speech is that it can turn a minority idea into a majority idea. Free speech is why same-sex marriage went from strongly opposed by the majority of people in this society heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian values to being generally accepted, at least within the realm of government marriage. Likewise, cannabis legalization efforts have been made possible because the right to free speech has allowed legalization advocates to inform the public that the government claims about cannabis are false. … But free speech, as with any concept developed by humans, is a double-edged sword. It allows minority and majority opinions to be expressed. Free speech is not 'appropriated' when people use it to express an opinion that is unpopular within your sphere of influence, it’s exactly what the concept of free speech was created to allow." (04/21/17)

From France to the US, why "self-made" politicians are winning

Source: Reuters
by John Lloyd

The political party is dying and independents now rule among voters around the globe. France has emerged as the leader of this movement, and the first confirmation of its depth and likely permanence will come on Sunday, when the French vote in the first round of their presidential election. We know something is serious when a comic takes it up as a cause. Earlier this week the comedian-pundit John Oliver told his viewers that the election of National Front candidate Marine Le Pen would destroy Europe. Yet of the three leading candidates, Le Pen is the most traditional. Compared to her two main challengers, Jean-Luc Melenchon and Emmanuel Macron, Le Pen is still 'rooted' in a party with a history and tradition. The National Front was founded in 1972 and dominated by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who soon became its leader. It was an heir to the less radical Poujadisme movement of the 1950s, which united small traders and farmers against the forces of modernity. The elder Le Pen made the party overtly racist and especially anti-Semitic. His daughter has dropped much of the anti-Semitism in favour of strong opposition to Muslim immigration, and still stronger attacks on globalisation and the European Union, seen as the major factors in a betrayal of the working and lower middle classes." (04/21/17)

France's dark horse from the far left

Source: USA Today
by David A Andelman

"More than one danger awaits a united Europe and the United States when French voters go to the polls Sunday for the tightest and most polarizing presidential vote in the history of the modern French republic. Most commentators have focused on the perils represented by far-right populist Marine Le Pen and her ultranationalist Front National. Few have focused on the candidate at the other political extreme: a 65-year-old onetime Trotskyist, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who could edge Le Pen out of a runoff between the winners in Sunday’s first round. A second round between the top two candidates takes place two weeks later. But Melenchon, effectively a French Bernie Sanders supported by what’s left of the Communist Party, could be an even broader threat than Le Pen herself. … Indeed, if the French put Melenchon and Le Pen into the final round, they will have effectively voted for Frexit: France following Britain out of the EU." (04/21/17)