Archive

November 24th, 2016

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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November 23rd

Fake news is all about false incentives

    In the blame games following the U.S. election, the social networks, especially Facebook, are getting a hard time for allegedly aiding the spread of fake news. The New York Times, Vox, Inc. and many lesser-known websites have all run stories taking issue with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's rejection of the idea that fake stories circulating on social networks affected the election's outcome.

    The issue is far more complicated, though. It's possible that technology has hit the natural limit of what it can meaningfully do to news and that the news industry has reached the boundaries of possible synergy with tech. At the same time, the audience's trust in what they collectively, and incorrectly, describe as "the media" has hit a low point. All three interconnected problems can be fixed, but that would require some old-fashioned inputs such as journalistic skill, along with editorial and entrepreneurial courage.

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Sorry, I Can’t Give Trump a Chance

    As Donald Trump plans his transition into the White House, some have called for “unity.” Let’s “come together,” they say. Let’s “give him a chance.”

    I say no.

    When a man abuses his wife, you don’t tell her to give him a chance. You don’t tell her to try to talk things out with him. Meet him halfway. Hear his side of it. Believe him when he says he loves her and he won’t hit her again.

    Why? Because it won’t work.

    The rules of normal social conduct don’t apply in such a case. Nor do they apply in this one. As I’ve said before, Trump exhibits textbook emotional abuse tactics.

    If you give him a chance, he’ll walk all over you. If you go into any negotiation ready to meet him in the middle, he’ll demand it isn’t enough, that he must get his way entirely. And he’ll strong-arm you to get it.

    We already have evidence that Trump does absolutely everything he can get away with.

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Sexism did not cost Hillary Clinton the election

    To some, it seems an open-and-shut case that a woman faces an insuperable double standard on the road to the White House. "America was never ready for a woman president," one headline declared; Clinton's defeat "is what misogyny looks like," a Guardian columnist lamented; her own running mate, after the loss, described the United States as a nation that "has made it so uniquely difficult for a woman to make it into federal office." No, America is not ready, not now and not in the foreseeable future. After all, Americans twice elected an African-American president, but Hillary Clinton, an inordinately qualified woman, came up short. Only 41 percent of men voted for her. And just look at the sexism and misogyny of this election.

    But Clinton did not lose because of sexism, and future female candidates for president are unlikely to, either.

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Racism probably is getting worse

    President-elect Donald Trump's campaign often targeted blacks, Latinos and Muslims for criticism. Sometimes the rhetoric sounded racist or meant to appeal to the racism of others. Does that mean ethnic and religious prejudices are rising in the U.S.? Let's start with the pessimistic answer.

    Following the election, the number of racial incidents and attacks seems to have risen. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded over 200 reported incidents of harassment and intimidation for the remainder of the week after Tuesday. Before the election, anti-Semitic tweets were becoming more common and more aggressive.

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