Archive

October 22nd, 2016

Here's why Democrats helped raise money to reopen the GOP's firebombed N.Carolina office

    Early Sunday morning, unknown arsonists firebombed a Republican headquarters in Orange County, North Carolina, for undetermined reasons. By Sunday evening, Republican nominee Donald Trump had blamed the bombing on Democrats representing Hillary Clinton, and by 9 p.m. that night, more than 500 Democrats and independents had exceeded the $10,000 goal of the online campaign we had started to fund the reopening of the office within 45 minutes of setting it up. That the project took off so quickly says something hopeful in a season unused to such news.

    My name was on the GoFundMe account, but the project -- inspired by a tweet by Zeynep Tufekci, who suggested Democrats should lend an office to the Republicans -- was the work of a few friends who put it together. However, the effort truly belongs to the 520 people who contributed.

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Don't blame the robots! An interview on manufacturing, automation, and globalization with Susan Houseman.

    Susan Houseman is a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute in Michigan. I've followed her work on employment trends, especially in manufacturing, for years, and wanted to share some of her recent findings that struck me as particularly germane at this point in time.

    Q: This election has clearly elevated the view that our manufacturing sector, and the families and communities that have historically depended on it, has been hurt by trade. A countervailing view says it's not trade, it's automation that's responsible for large-scale job losses. You've recently updated your work ["Is American Manufacturing in Decline?," October 2016] on this question. Does productivity in the manufacturing sector support the automation story?

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Can we please just fast-forward to Election Day?

    Make it stop. Won't somebody, please, make it stop?

    I realize my plea is in vain. We have three more weeks of this appalling spectacle in which a ridiculous comic-book villain -- a cross between the Joker and the Penguin -- is trying his best to destroy American democracy. Yes, Donald Trump, I'm talking about you.

    Three weeks. That's normally the blink of an eye, but the time between now and Election Day yawns like an eternity. How many new outrages will test our capacity to be outraged? How many more quisling Republicans will stand before microphones and pretend their party's nominee for president is fit for the office? How many early-morning tweetstorms will a certain set of unusually short fingers unleash upon a weary and anxious nation?

    Look, I happen to believe Hillary Clinton would be a good president. You may disagree, but no one seriously doubts her ability to do the job. By contrast, does anyone really believe it would be safe, let alone wise, to put someone as impulsive and thin-skinned as Trump in command of the most powerful military machine the world has ever known? The thought would be laughable if it were not so frightening.

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Better housing policy could save us all money. Why are we ignoring it?

    The Washington Post asks policy experts: What strategies should the next president pursue to make housing more affordable?

    Housing for America's lowest-income families rarely ever makes the front page and has been noticeably absent from both candidates' stump speeches. Yet 81 percent of respondents in a recent MacArthur Foundation poll said housing affordability is a problem in America, and 63 percent said presidential candidates aren't paying enough attention to the issue.

    Housing is both a cost-saving safety net and a platform for individuals and families to improve their health, education and economic outcomes. When people cannot afford housing, it undermines families' ability to reach the next rung on the economic ladder and prevents older adults from aging safely and securely.

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As a black man, I've suffered microaggressions. I shouldn't talk about them.

    "Hunt isn't one of us."

    Rico, a black friend of mine, said those words about me behind my back. To him, I wasn't authentically black. I grew up in too nice of a neighborhood around too many white people. My family was picture perfect, and I'd never been involved in a street fight.

    Like many middle-class black children, I tried to defend my blackness. I related how my car was once vandalized with racial slurs and how I had to deal with ignorant comments from white peers almost every day. But to my disappointment, Rico - who had grown up in a lousy neighborhood in Detroit - laughed off my tales of suburban oppression. Looking back on it, I realize that in my adolescent quest for identity, I tried to inflate my minor irritations to part of the same story as Rico's loss of friends and family members to bullets, knives or addiction.

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Arsonist Donald Trump wants to torch our democracy. He will fail.

    Donald Trump once again escalated his "rigged election" rhetoric at a rally in Wisconsin last night, and many observers are now warning that if he keeps it up, the smooth functioning of our democracy could be undermined, not just by lack of voter confidence in the integrity of the outcome, but also by outright disruptions on election day.

    This is a bit like warning that an arsonist may end up succeeding in reducing his target to ashes.

    It is now becoming clear that the prospect of undermined public faith in the election's integrity, and even disruptions on election day, is not an unintended byproduct of Trump's snowballing claims of a rigged election. Rather, making these things happen is very likely the explicit goal of those claims.

    In Wisconsin, Trump again alluded to a plot to "rig the election at the polling booths":

    "People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting," Trump said. "So many cities are corrupt, and voter fraud is very, very common."

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October 21st

How the Committee to Protect Journalists broke its own rule to protest Trump

    For decades, Sandra Mims Rowe was a rigorous newspaper editor who demanded deep reporting from the journalists she led. Her newsrooms in cities including Norfolk and Portland, Ore., won awards -- and respect - because she pushed for greater truths.

    So it's not surprising that Rowe would do the same when an idea surfaced at the Committee to Protect Journalists, where she has been board chairwoman for five years.

    The idea: CPJ should break its own tradition of never getting involved in politics -- in the United States or anywhere else. This admirable organization, with its global mission of keeping journalists from being jailed or killed, would make a strong statement against Donald Trump on First Amendment grounds.

    "What was the evidence that Trump was a threat to press freedom?" she wanted to know. The evidence, delivered in a staff memo, was overwhelming. It made the case that Trump not only despises journalists -- "scum," he calls them, and "corrupt" -- he has no understanding or respect for the role they play in our democracy. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to change the laws that allow journalists to do their jobs.

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Al Gore could show Republicans a thing or two about losing gracefully

    Any Republican leaders who are considering denouncing Donald Trump's insidious and dangerous claim that the election is rigged and need a final push might want to take counsel from an unlikely source: Al Gore. All they would have to do is read the first couple of paragraphs from his 2000 concession speech delivered not on election night, but more than a month later on Dec. 13, after the closest presidential election in our nation's history. His words are worth remembering today because he was under a lot of pressure not to deliver them.

    For those who have forgotten or never knew, the 2000 election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court when it stopped the recount of votes in Florida, and, days later, essentially called the election for George W. Bush by saying that there wasn't enough time under law to resolve the differences in counting votes in Florida's contested counties, differences it found violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The final 5-4 decision came with an interesting caveat for a court that sets precedent. The decision, according to the majority, was limited to "present circumstances."

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Actually, Mr. Trump, Fed policy favors you

    As Donald Trump charges that the election is being rigged, let's consider one of his claims: that Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are keeping the economy artificially strong to benefit the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. While Trump is correct that the Federal Reserve system is subject to some political influence, the rest he gets mostly backward. If anything, Fed monetary policy has weakened the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party since the financial crisis.

    Economic research on "political business cycle theory" asks whether the central bank times its stimulatory actions to boost the reelection prospects of incumbents, typically by creating a pronounced upswing coming into November. It is well known, for instance, that in the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon pressured Fed Chairman Arthur Burns to goose up the money supply. But since then, it is less clear what general pattern holds, and in 2008, economic policymakers could not stop a crumbling economy from hurting the chances of John McCain, the presidential candidate of the incumbent Republican Party.

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Enough about the beast; let's talk about some beauty

    It comes with the ticking parcel that Republican voters left on our doorstep, but we’ve focused way too much lately on what a Twitter hashtag fest -- #TrumpDrSeuss -- has christened The Deplorax.

    He of the orange hair and a thousand calculated insults, many aimed at women. He of horrible boasts backed by deplorable acts.

    As many observed after the second presidential debate, it is a sad time for our nation. That is, unless we hear about something spectacularly uplifting, like what Michelle Obama said the other night.

    I’m not talking about her emotional denunciation of that well-parsed “boys on the bus” tape. That was magnificent.

    (As with her show-stopper at the Democratic National Convention, it seems that every time she has the microphone anymore she stops a nation in its tracks.)

    But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about what she said to two beautiful groups of African school girls.

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