Archive

December 6th

The coming clash on Trump's immigration plan

    Perhaps no battle in Donald Trump's presidency will be as pitched, or public, as the coming fight over undocumented immigrants. If he pursues his stated goal of deporting 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, a network of pro-immigrant cities, institutions and activists is poised to make the process as visibly contentious as possible.

    Trump will have authority to deport millions. While individual cases can be contested and prolonged in immigration court -- the system is already overloaded -- lawsuits against Trump's executive powers or the implementation of his plan appear to have little chance of success.

    Resistance to Trump will be highly variable. The entirety of California, which is home to more undocumented immigrants than any other state, seems to be moving to high alert. In Los Angeles this month, board members for the nation's second-largest school district unanimously reiterated their commitment to "protect the data and identities of any student, family member, or school employee who may be adversely affected by any future policies or executive action that results in the collection of any personally identifiable information."

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Put your faith in Constitution, not 'democracy'

    When Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig argued at Medium that members of the Electoral College should break faith and vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, I chalked it up to the brilliantly contrarian Larry being brilliant and contrarian -- even if wrong. But when, over the holiday weekend, The Washington Post published his op-ed making the same argument, it made me think serious people might take his argument seriously -- which would be dangerous for democracy and bad for the republic. So with great respect for Larry's ideals and values, here's why faithless electors would subvert, not sustain, the democratic values that underlie the U.S. presidential election system.

    Start with a thought experiment: What if Donald Trump had won the popular vote and lost in the Electoral College? How would Democrats respond if prominent scholars and public figures argued that Clinton's electors should break their pledges and elect Trump?

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Push for transparency may have cost Clinton the election

    Hillary Clinton thinks James Comey cost her the presidency.

    Eleven days before the election, the FBI director informed congressional leaders that newly discovered information might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. That inquiry was never formally closed, but months earlier, Comey made it clear that he would not seek prosecution. His new message was vague but provocative, and the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump immediately used it to reinforce its claim that the email story was "worse than Watergate."

    At the time Clinton was surging in the polls, and Trump's campaign seemed to be imploding under the weight of poor debate performances and accusations of sexual assault. Some observers argue that Comey's intervention stopped the decline and reduced Clinton's national lead by up to three points. Although it is impossible to prove causation, the letter may have depressed turnout on her behalf. Late-deciding voters broke for Trump in large numbers.

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If you're even asking if Russia hacked the election, Russia got what it wanted

    Recently, New York magazine set the Internet on fire with a piece speculating that hacked voting machines may have tipped November's presidential election.

    This is dangerous, and not just because there's no evidence that Russia "stole the election." Talking about these voting machines distracts us from what such speculation represents: the success of a broader Russian strategy to weaken Americans' trust in democracy.

    This election cycle, that strategy manifested itself in the Russians' strongly alleged involvement in promoting "fake news" and disseminating hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. These emails hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign and weakened Americans' trust in the Democratic primary.

    Why would Russian agencies want to undermine U.S. elections in the first place? The answer begins with Russian President Vladimir Putin's survival instinct. A s Yale historian Timothy Snyder writes, Putin has tried to weaken democracy and civil society around the world to make Russian authoritarianism more appealing in comparison.

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How Russian propaganda works in the West

    Until recently, the phenomenon of Russian government propaganda was only interesting to a small group of Russia experts, news junkies and counter-propaganda fundraisers. It was mainly seen as a tool for keeping Russians supportive of Vladimir Putin. No longer. Thanks to post-U.S. election blame games, and the upcoming election season in Europe, how the Russian state pushes its messages to Western audiences is a hot political topic. It's also woefully misunderstood.

    As the Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, who started this own project to debunk Russian government propaganda, puts it: "The fight against fake news has itself turned into fake news. It's a kind of meta-propaganda."

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Here's how I explain my Muslim faith to fearful Americans

    "Do you want to kill us?"

    It's a question I get a lot. I'm a Muslim Somali-American living in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. My family of 10 emigrated here in November 1993, and I became American by the old-school system called assimilation. It's been a sprint with no discernible end. It's even more challenging in places like Saint Cloud, a Catholic town that's earned the nickname "White Cloud" because of its demographic make-up.

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Donald Trump is making a strong case for a recount of his own 2016 election win

    On Sunday morning, President-elect Donald Trump assured us all that a recount of the 2016 election wouldn't change the outcome and was a waste of resources. In a tweetstorm, he quoted Hillary Clinton:

    "Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead." So much time and money will be spent - same result! Sad"

    Later Sunday, though, he made a real case that we should have no confidence in those same election results, alleging massive voter fraud:

    "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally"

    "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"

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Where charitable giving may be headed with Trump

    The holidays and year-end tax considerations make this the season of giving. And there are indications Americans will be more generous than ever.

    In 2015, Americans donated a record $373.25 billion in charitable contributions, up a little more than 4 percent from the year before, according to Giving USA, the most reliable chronicler of philanthropy.

    More than 7 in 10 donations were made by individuals, and about 15 percent came from foundations; corporations and bequests accounted for the rest. A little less than a third went to religious entities, with about 15 percent for education. Services for the poor, such as food banks, homeless shelters and legal assistance, got a little less than 12 percent.

    Looking beyond this year, there is a divide about where giving is headed, particularly because of recent political changes.

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December 5th

An ethical double standard for Trump?

    Republicans are deeply concerned about ethics in government and the vast potential for corruption stemming from conflicts of interest. We know this because of the acute worries they expressed over how these issues could have cast a shadow over a Hillary Clinton presidency.

    "If Hillary Clinton wins this election and they don't shut down the Clinton Foundation and come clean with all of its past activities, then there's no telling the kind of corruption that you might see out of the Clinton White House," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

    Presumably Cotton will take the lead in advising Donald Trump to "shut down" his business activities and "come clean" on what came before. Surely Cotton wants to be consistent.

    The same must be true of Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chair whom Trump tapped as his chief of staff. "When that 3 a.m. phone call comes, Americans deserve to have a president on the line who is not compromised by foreign donations," Priebus said earnestly in a statement on Aug. 18.

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America is not an Orange Julius; is it?

    It turns out our ambitions were quite similar, Donald Trump’s and mine.

    We were both interested in acquiring a franchise – a business opportunity.

    I always had an affection for Orange Julius and its one-trick-pony stands at malls. I told my betrothed that when we had the scratch, the itch I’d pursue was an OJ franchise. We could have one stand and live out our days drinking in the proceeds. All it would take is some up-front money and some oranges.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have the up-front, not the kind Mr. Dreamcicle Hair does. So I sat back. Meanwhile, Trump set out to buy The Franchise.

    Trump’s first comments as president-elect sound exactly like this. The government-by-the-people thing is just, in Molly Ivins’ words, another bidness opportunity.

    He will not shed his role as business mogul while he runs the people’s business. He says he will meet with business partners in the Oval Office.

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