Archive

November 24th, 2016

Give Steve Bannon a chance. It's not like he's literally Joseph Goebbels.

    Listen, what proof do you have that this dead lizard wrapped in the Confederate flag will not make an excellent chief strategist and senior counselor to the president of the United States?

    I, for one, believe that everyone deserves a chance.

    You're not wrong that this appears to be a pig's head slowly rotting on a stake, grotesque insinuations pouring from its mouth as flies buzz around it in the island heat, but I would need to learn more about it, honestly. I'm no expert.

    You say that this man just painted a swastika on a church but -- couldn't it be a plus sign? We don't know. Some people are better at drawing plus signs than others. I wouldn't read anything into it. Maybe he just loves churches.

    Yes, okay, this rabid opossum bit me on the ankle, then handed me an Islamophobic pamphlet, but we have no proof it wrote the pamphlet. This is America, where we give the benefit of the doubt.

    You say, "potato enthusiastically supported by the Ku Klux Klan's David Duke"; I say, "controversial potato."

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Germany and Merkel are ready for Trump

    As U.S. President Barack Obama visits Berlin to prepare Chancellor Angela Merkel for a future he doesn't understand himself, it may look as if he is passing the baton of free world leadership to her. It's hard to imagine how Merkel could take on any such role and why she would want to. She may be the last strong idealist among major Western leaders, but she's also a pragmatist, and in some ways, the new U.S. administration may suit her just as well as the outgoing one did.

    German newspapers describe the relationship between Obama and Merkel as "late-blooming love" or "love at second sight." By German standards, which are far to the left of U.S. ones, Merkel is a conservative, and Obama the progressive didn't immediately impress her -- thus her still-remembered decision to deny him the Brandenburg Gate as the backdrop for his Berlin speech in 2008, when he was still running for president. Later, however, Obama and Merkel came to agree on almost every important matter: free trade, climate change, Russia's new assertiveness, immigration. (According to Obama, Merkel's decision to temporarily open the German border to Syrian refugees was "on the right side of history").

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Even a Republican Congress might block some of Trump's agenda

    Congress is not, to put it mildly, the most popular institution in the United States. Its approval ratings are low. It has developed a reputation for mindless obstructionism. And when Donald Trump promises to "drain the swamp" in Washington, he seems to be talking in large part about the legislature.

    Congress may also be the last, best hope of those who fear substantial parts of Trump's announced agenda.

    Our national legislature has a reputation for fecklessness in disputes with the White House. After all, legislation nearly always requires the president's signature, so how can lawmakers hope to rein him in? But this standard view is too myopic -- Congress does a lot of things other than pass legislation, and most of them do not require presidential assent. Moreover, many of them can form effective tools with which to push back against the president's agenda.

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Don't build Trump's wall. Amend the Constitution

    I support expanding legal immigration. I believe in welcoming refugees. I think deporting 11 million illegal immigrants is cruel and impractical, some form of amnesty is inevitable and wise, and Donald Trump's wall on the border with Mexico would be a $25 billion boondoggle.

    I also believe that the U.S. needs to pass a constitutional amendment making it impossible for anyone living in the country illegally after that point to acquire legal permanent residency or citizenship, including for their children born here.

    As part of a package of comprehensive immigration reforms, such an amendment could both curb illegal immigration and help heal one of the biggest partisan rifts facing the country. It would remove a huge incentive for illegal immigration. It would reinforce the importance of citizenship, bolster public support for legal immigration, and honor the 4.5 million would-be immigrants waiting patiently for their green cards. And it would affirm that we are a nation of laws, not loopholes -- surely one reason many immigrants are attracted to the U.S. in the first place.

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California is capital of democratic America

    Now more than ever, California is the capital of liberal America. It will be a kind of Democratic government-in-exile starting in January, when a popular liberal president is succeeded by a 70-year-old who built his campaign on resentment of two of the Golden State's most ornate pillars: the creative class and multicultural ideals.

    Gov. Jerry Brown, D, who signed into law a graduated $15 minimum wage (by 2021) earlier this year, has tried to advance progressive policy with pragmatism. According to the state Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analysis, California now has sufficient budget reserves to "weather a mild recession without cutting spending or raising taxes through 2020-21."

    California's liberal instincts are nonetheless unmistakable.

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Advice from Europe for anti-Trump protesters

    Forgive me for what is going to sound like an odd analogy, but the street demonstrations across the United States have given me an uncanny sense of deja vu.

    I live part of the time in Warsaw, and I was there last year during an ugly election. Hateful screeds about Muslim immigrants (though there are hardly any Muslim immigrants in Poland) and angry "anti-elitist" rhetoric overwhelmed a stiff and unpopular female leader; the center-right and center-left politicians split into quarreling factions, allowing a radical populist party to win with a minority of voters. Upon taking power, it set out to destroy the country's democratic and state institutions: the constitutional court, the independent prosecutor, the independent civil service, the public media.

    Poles took to the streets. There were huge demonstrations, the largest since the collapse of communism in 1989. Nobody had expected them, and -- like the demonstrations in U.S. cities last week -- nobody had planned these marches in advance. A year later, here are some reflections on their value:

 

-- Protest makes people feel better.

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What we can learn from the Black Panthers about how to survive Trump

    The specter of the 1960s hung over the 2016 presidential election like a shroud, as Donald Trump embraced Richard Nixon's law-and-order rhetoric, speculation bubbled again about Hillary Clinton's relationship to the community organizer Saul Alinsky, and observers tensed for the possibility of violent clashes at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

    And now that Trump, a man with Nixon's capacity to hold a grudge but utterly lacking Nixon's experience in government, has been elected president, it's time to take a clear-eyed look at the radical movements of Nixon's era, particularly the Black Panthers, and to take inspiration, as well as caution, from their experiences.

    In the wake of Trump's election, organizations including Planned Parenthood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Sierra Club have seen surges in donations from citizens who want to make sure that vital work continues even if federal policy changes drastically. Advocacy remains critically important, of course, but the Black Panthers also provide a powerful reminder of how valuable it is to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable people.

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Voters Decide They Would Rather Watch Trump On TV

    "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

    -- H.L. Mencken

    My most recent one-to-one conversation with Hillary Clinton took place in October 1991, and I've been laughing at myself ever since.

    It was an epochal day in Arkansas life. Only that morning, the Arkansas Gazette -- the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, and one of the best -- had ceased publication. Many friends had lost their livelihoods.

    We ran into the Clintons at a barbecue outside War Memorial Stadium before the last Arkansas-Texas football game in the Southwest Conference. For Razorback fans, i.e. almost everybody, that too was unsettling. Hating Texas on game day was an indispensable part of being an Arkansan. Would anything be the same again?

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This Election Wasn’t About Trump

    When a political puck named Dick Tuck lost a California senate election in 1966, he famously conceded: “The people have spoken. The bastards.”

    So now that the people have spoken up for Donald Trump, were they saying that they embrace his xenophobic, nativist, far-right policies?

    Not necessarily. Most Trump voters say they went for him because they think he’ll shake up America’s elite establishment, not because he’s a conservative. In fact, majorities of people all over the country voted for very progressive policies and candidates this year.

    For example, all four states that had minimum wage increases on the ballot — that’s Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington — passed them. Plus, a South Dakota proposal to lower its minimum wage was rejected by 71 percent of voters.

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The man who would repeal and replace Dodd-Frank

    Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R, who wants to overhaul financial regulation, is under consideration to be Donald Trump's Treasury secretary. Even if the job goes to someone else (hedge-fund manager Steve Mnuchin appears to be the front-runner), Hensarling's chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee will give him vast influence over Wall Street next year.

    He and Trump believe the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act has kept banks from lending and the economy from growing, and they want to repeal and replace it, to borrow a favorite Republican phrase. But the congressman's replacement bill, which has several good deregulatory ideas, would go too far by reversing changes that have made the banking system safer.

    Dodd-Frank, one of President Barack Obama's signature achievements, was supposed to ensure that a financial crisis like the one in 2008 never happens again. But even staunch supporters of the law concede that some of Hensarling's deregulatory ideas make sense.

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