Archive

September 6th, 2016

While athletes speak out, Trump drops the ball with black voters

    Donald Trump is a political commentator's dream in the usually news-challenged weeks of late summer when we're looking for someone to complain about.

    For example, he rejects "political correctness." He says it takes too much time. That reminds me of an old nugget of good advice: If you don't have the time to do it right, when will you find time the time to do it over?

    In recent days, for example, we have seen the Republican presidential nominee try to upstage his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's speech on race relations by calling her "a bigot," of all things.

    "We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton," he said at a Wisconsin rally on Aug. 16, "which panders to and talks down to communities of color and sees them only as votes -- that's all they care about -- not as individual human beings worthy of a better future."

    Yet a few days later, he sent out a tweet about a tragedy in NBA star Dwyane Wade's family that sounded as though he was, yes, seeing communities of color only as votes.

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The presidential campaign runs off the rails

    It's not enough that a major American political party has nominated for president a man demonstrably unqualified for the nation's highest office. Now the 2016 campaign has been hijacked by a slew of tabloid-worthy stories, reducing the noble civic endeavor of self-government to distracting garbage.

    The question before the American electorate is whether to hand over government to an erratic political outsider who panders to public anger and disillusionment with the status quo, or to a seasoned if secretive insider who sees government as an agent of gradual progressive change.

    Yet the news media are being hijacked by sensationalist reports more commonly associated with the universe of fear-mongering and show-business gossip.

    The tone was set by Donald Trump's relentlessly personal and political assaults on the other candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, whom he humiliated and destroyed in the primaries. Having secured the nomination, he aimed a similar array of insults and misrepresentations at his foe in the general election, Hillary Clinton, accusing her of everything from lying to bigotry.

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The Internet revolution has not reached all of us

    The Internet is celebrating some important milestones. Last week marked both the 40th anniversary of the first mobile connection and the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Millennials can't even remember what life was like without it, and for baby boomers, the changes to everyday activities have been at once profound and subtle.

    But the information revolution is far from finished. Indeed, for many living in the developing world, and even for some Americans, the Internet still hasn't arrived.

    Given how far we have come, it may be hard to believe that the idea of a loosely connected web of computer networks, with fast-moving and fast-changing mobile users, originated decades ago with the U.S. military. It was looking to maintain reliable and redundant real-time communications with military assets under extreme and rapidly changing conditions.

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The Duplicity of Donald Trump

    Donald Trump is the internet troll of presidential politics. When he’s securely removed from the objects of his scorn, he’s tough as nails; when he’s in their presence, he quivers like a bowl of Jell-O.

    Such is the way of a bully.

    Furthermore, when he is surrounded by supporters who cheer his base nature, he amplifies the enmity. When the applause of hostility is out of earshot, he tones down his vitriol to a whimper.

    He is not only a bully, it seems to me, but also something of a coward, who lacks the force of his convictions — or who lacks basic convictions at all. He seems to be simply playing to the audience, whatever that audience may be. He’s amenable to the mood of any particular room.

    This is the most frightening type of man, whose basic character is vile but not inviolable, who springs from darkness and bends toward anything that casts light, even if that light is, as the internet loves to say, a dumpster fire.

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Taking Back Our Finance System

    Instead of griping about the greedheads of Wall Street and the rip-off financial system they’ve hung around our necks, why don’t we Take On Wall Street?

    That’s both the name and the feisty attitude of a nationwide campaign that a coalition of grassroots groups has launched to do just that. The coalition, spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, points out that there’s nothing natural or sacred about today’s money-grubbing financial complex.

    Far from sacrosanct, the system of finance that now rules over us has been designed by and for Wall Street speculators, money managers, and big bank flim flammers. So — big surprise — rather than serving our common good, the corrupt system is routinely serving their uncommon greed at everyone else’s expense.

    The Take On Wall Street campaign has the guts and gumption to say: Enough!

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Pence keeps parallel campaign under the radar

    On a recent Saturday afternoon in the dog days of August, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence came to Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, a state the Republican presidential ticket has almost no chance of winning.

    The vice-presidential nominee went through the standard conservative applause lines -- gun rights, law and order, and judges who will protect the right to life. He then ticked off the bill of particulars against Hillary Clinton -- Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, asking "hardworking Americans" to pay for big government programs. Pence is blessedly bland -- what you get after pressing "1" for English. He happily intones his usual line, "We do well to remember a simple truth, one that I was raised on, and that is that there will always be more in America that unites us than will ever divide us."

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Pariahs for Trump

    To read newspapers like this one, you might think that almost nobody has endorsed Donald Trump. Ah, but maybe that’s because The New York Times is, as Trump puts it, “totally dishonest,” “failing” and “a disgusting fraud.”

    In truth, Trump has actually attracted a broad range of endorsements that perhaps haven’t received adequate attention.

    For example, from terrorists.

    “I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump,” a supporter of the Islamic State declared recently in an Arabic-language posting. Foreign Affairs quotes jihadis explaining that Trump would say and do such crazy things that he would end up helping extremist groups.

    “He must be smoking bad hashish to say such crazy things,” one jihadi added. Supporters of ISIS say they hope Trump would cause the United States to self-destruct, and that is why, as one put it, “Trump’s arrival in the White House must be a priority for jihadis at any cost!”

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My Email Exchange With The Russian Stooges

    Let's see now: One presidential candidate's campaign director resigns after being outed as a Russian stooge, allegedly accepting millions in cash under the table. The other candidate meets with a Nobel Prize-winning economist who once donated to her husband's charity -- dedicated to providing HIV/AIDS medication to millions of Third World victims.

    Quick now, which of these two situations registers higher on the news media's scandal meter? Which candidate has portentous "questions" to answer about troubling appearances?

    Look, it's all about the horse race and the ratings. But things are getting ridiculous. Trump's right: He could say he'd been an All-Star third baseman for the Yankees or shoot somebody dead on national TV, and the next item on the evening news would involve Hillary Clinton's damn emails. Has the press ever given such scrutiny to any other politician's communications?

    Wouldn't you love to see Gen. Colin Powell's emails from the time of his infamous 2003 United Nations speech about Saddam Hussein's phantom "weapons of mass destruction"?

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Greater Than the Sum of Our Parks

    It’s the 100th anniversary of our national parks and in 2016, to date, I’ve visited Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone.

    The price tag for admission? $80.

    That’s the cost of an annual pass to all of America’s national parks. And it admits everyone in your vehicle when you visit, not just one person.

    To put that in context, that’s less than it costs one person to visit Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom for just one day.

    Driving away from Yellowstone after five days of watching moose, elk, bison, a black bear, and even wolves, I turned the radio to NPR and listened to a segment on the anniversary of the parks. They were broadcasting from Yellowstone.

    “Are our parks being loved to death?” they asked.

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September 5th

How geographic equality benefits the whole economy

    The high cost of housing in cities such as New York and San Francisco has a bright side for the larger U.S. economy: As people who would like to live in these highly desirable but dauntingly expensive areas are priced out, they choose instead to settle in upwardly mobile communities that benefit from the new talent and wealth.

    That's because geographic equality matters. An environment in which high-value economic activity happens in just a handful of cities would make the country worse off, and ultimately starve those cities of what they need to thrive -- talent and ideas.

    One critique of this geographic equality argument is that big cities, and large states more generally, already pay more than their fair share to society. They contribute a larger share of federal taxes than they receive, and they're underrepresented in the U.S. Senate relative to their population -- California has the same number of senators as Wyoming despite have a population many times larger.

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