Archive

October 20th, 2016

Americans now live in two worlds, each with its own reality

    It is not true that the 2016 presidential election is being rigged in any meaningful sense of that word. If you extend a definition of "rigged" to include such loose concepts as "members of the political establishment hoping outsiders are unsuccessful" or "campaign operatives using common political practices to improve the chances of electoral success," then, maybe. But that's not the way that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, means it.

    In Trump's estimation, the campaign is rigged in the traditional sense of the expression: nefarious forces are seeking to commit voter fraud in Pennsylvania, the media is conspiring with a wealthy Mexican to make up lies about him, Hillary Clinton is doing the bidding of a cabal of international bankers. On Saturday, he implied that Clinton had been given the questions during the first debate, a laughable conspiracy theory that flourished briefly in the wake of her strong performance on the stage that night. But for Trump, sinking in the polls faster than Clinton is rising, any conspiracy theory that undercuts his opponent is one worth sharing.

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Wild horses couldn't drag the government to act

    By law, the federal government is supposed to manage the wild horse population in the West. But what happens if, despite an overabundance of the beautiful beasts, the government does nothing about it? The official answer is not much, according to a federal appeals court that turned down Wyoming's challenge to federal inaction. The decision follows familiar principles of deference to agency action (or, in this case, inaction). But it leaves farmers or others negatively affected by the overpopulation with essentially no recourse, a result that seems at odds with the intent of the law.

    Wyoming v. Department of the Interior -- which I like to think of as the "All the Pretty Horses" case -- arose under the wonderfully named Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, enacted by Congress in 1971. (I'm happy to admit that I had never heard of this law before, but just reading the name in the opinion made me feel that I love my job.) The law was enacted to protect wild horses from "capture, branding, harassment, or death." It designates the wild horses as an "integral part of the natural system of the public lands" and assigns responsibility for them to the Bureau of Land Management.

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Trump may be worse than just a pig

    Let's begin with the People magazine writer who says that Donald Trump took her into a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate -- while his pregnant wife was changing her clothes upstairs -- and "within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat."

    Natasha Stoynoff is an experienced journalist with six books to her credit, and her story is similar to those told by others. A second woman says she, too, was groped by Trump at the Florida estate. Two other women told The New York Times of being accosted by Trump, one of them groped and the other forcibly kissed. A former Miss Washington says Trump "continually grabbed my ass" at a beauty pageant. Another woman alleged in a lawsuit that Trump pushed her against a wall and tried to put his hands up her dress.

    Trump denies it all. But there is reason to believe these stories of sexual assault -- let's call it what it is -- because of Trump's own words about the way he treats women.

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The hideous, diabolical truth about Hillary Clinton

    It is time someone got to the bottom of everything that people say about Hillary Clinton. Who is she? More importantly, WHAT is she? I have compiled the following timeline of her life by combining all the actual theories about her. When lined up together, they form quite a biography.

    Before Time, Before the Earth Was Made, Before Matter and Being and History: Hillary Clinton (Lucifer, Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, Prince of Darkness, Satan, She Whose Many Names the Cats Scream in the Night) is cast out of heaven for overweening hubris. She is condemned to lie in eternal torment in a lake of fire surrounded by her fallen angels, or, alternatively, to run for a major office while female. For thousands of years she lies outside time, smelling of sulfur, before deciding to undertake the second option.

    Oct. 26, 1947: Hillary Clinton, a robot, is constructed by Saul Alinsky, then slipped into a bassinet and delivered to the Rodham house, where it stores its Six Human, Relatable Memories of squeegeeing, family life and honest toil.

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Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton's worst (and most persistent) friend

    In both debates against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump went out of his way to bring up the name of a journalist and former White House official who has held no high office and is unknown to most voters. The name is Sidney Blumenthal, one that is familiar mainly to Washington insiders from his role in the Clinton wars of the 1990s. Even Trump's most ardent supporters could be forgiven for wondering why critics keep circling back to this man.

    A year ago, House Republicans grilled Clinton about Blumenthal during her marathon session before the Benghazi committee. In a leaked e-mail, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta says Blumenthal is "lost in his own web of conspiracies."

    In some ways all of this is strange. Blumenthal hadn't been in the spotlight since the 1990s, when he served as an aide in the Clinton White House. It was Blumenthal who testified on the president's behalf during the impeachment trial. And according to Blumenthal's ex-friend, the late Christopher Hitchens, it was Blumenthal who was spreading stories to discredit Clinton's paramours to other journalists. In this period, he earned the moniker "Sid Vicious" for this kind of knife work.

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Michelle Obama's New Hampshire speech was a master class in speaking from the gut

   Michelle Obama's epic speech Tuesday in New Hampshire should be required viewing for every leader. Not because of its political content. Not for her strongly worded endorsement of Hillary Clinton or her scathing takedown of the Democratic nominee's "opponent" -- the First Lady refused to even say GOP nominee Donald Trump's name -- that has already been called a "defining moment in the presidential campaign."

    Rather, it was for the absolute master class she offered in that elusive quality of leadership: "authenticity." It is among the most jargon-laden, vague concepts touted by leadership consultants and coaches, the subject of countless books and training seminars promising yet another elixir to effective speech-making or good leadership.

    But on Thursday, Obama provided a stark reminder that this nebulous quality comes not from a book. It comes from the gut. With inclusive and personal stories, emotionally strong yet vulnerable tone and body language, and a passionate appeal rooted in her own experiences, Obama embodied the widely praised but rarely replicated feat of seeming "real" that escapes so many leaders.

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In fight for House, GOP has Gerry, gerrymandering's namesake, on its side

    Republicans are confident that they'll retain control of the House of Representatives in November. That's because they're sure that Elbridge Gerry, who died more than two centuries ago, will be a more important factor than Donald Trump.

    There's plenty of nervousness in party ranks over the chance that voters will punish Republican congressional candidates for their nominee. That might result in a late-breaking wave election in which Democrats could pick up the 30 seats they'd need to win control in the House.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan was worried enough to tell his colleagues this week to protect themselves even if that meant renouncing support for Trump. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll added to Republican concerns when it showed a six-point public preference for Democrats in congressional elections. That's the minimum margin Democrats need to capture a majority; winning by three or four points nationwide won't do it.

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October 19th

A new digital divide has emerged - and conventional solutions won't bridge the gap

    Though the United States has made profound progress in making Internet access universally available, a new digital divide has emerged that defies conventional solutions.

    Since both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have promised to expand broadband opportunities if elected president, it's crucial for future policy decisions that we understand who is still offline and why. According to the most recent findings of the Pew Research Center, 13 percent of Americans still do not use the Internet.

    Of that group, the most telling variable is no longer race, sex or even income. It's age. Over 40 percent of seniors are offline, compared with 1 percent of millennials. Two other groups stand out as digital holdouts -- rural Americans (22 percent) and those with less than a high school education (34 percent).

    This is our new digital divide. And closing the inclusion gap demands a significant change in strategy.

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I edited the People writer who says Trump groped her. Here's why she didn't speak out.

    In the hours after People magazine correspondent Natasha Stoynoff said she had been sexually assaulted in 2005 by Donald Trump, while she was interviewing him about his wedding anniversary at his Mar-a-Lago estate, I had the chance to wonder what I, as the magazine's then-deputy editor, would have done had she told me about Trump's predation.

    For a second there, I imagined a scene of Ben Bradlee-esque outrage, calling out the swine for his behavior and striking a blow for reporters everywhere. But in reality, I probably would have simply killed the story that Stoynoff had gone to Palm Beach to report. I would have then called Trump's public relations operatives, told them about their boss's bad behavior and agreed to a truce of mutual silence. In the end, few people would have learned of the event, we'd have had to fill a few more pages in the next issue, and Trump would have avoided any public embarrassment.

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For some conservatives, Trump's 'alpha male' appeal is a positive

    Political fallout from last Friday's leaked "Access Hollywood" footage, which features Donald Trump bragging about his ability to sexually assault women thanks to his fame, has been swift. In the days following the tape's release, more than 60 elected Republican officials have stated they will no longer vote for the GOP presidential nominee, though a few of these lawmakers later recanted.

    Many voters are now abandoning Trump, as the newest polling released in wake of the scandal's details. A PRRI/The Atlantic poll released Tuesday shows Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's national lead now extends 11 percentage points over Trump, and a whopping 61 percent of likely women voters say they intend to vote for Clinton, compared with 28 percent who intend to vote for Trump.

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