Archive

November 22nd, 2016

Life after the election

    It was gratifying that after Wisconsin voted him into the presidency, the gentleman did not talk about putting Hillary in prison. That was a nice surprise. And when he met with Obama of Kenya, the white sahib was well-behaved, listened to what the African had to say, did not interrupt or call him stupid, and in fact thanked the alien for meeting with him. He did a good impersonation of modesty.

    Say what you will, the man is flexible. The wall on the border, his reliable applause line this past year, has been downgraded to a fence in some places and may eventually turn into a line of orange highway cones. The 11 million deportees are down to two or three. Hillary may be let off with an ankle bracelet.

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November 21st

Two tests for Trump's foreign policy

    The Trump administration will put an end to the 100 years of U.S. global leadership that began in 1918. It will rend the NATO alliance, cede Eurasia to Russia and the Pacific to China, and adopt as the United States' best friends populist and authoritarian regimes that despise immigrants and globalization.

    Or, after a few early scrapes, its foreign policy will slowly devolve into a somewhat ruder version of President Barack Obama's. It will bomb terrorists while trying to extract the United States from the Middle East; mix negotiations with Russia and China with pushback against their aggressions; and berate European and Asian allies about their inadequate defense spending without breaking the U.S. commitment to defend them. It will downplay human rights and may even look for deals with rogue regimes, such as North Korea.

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How to know if Trump's really draining the swamp

    Donald Trump's election victory is already creating the economic boom he promised -- in Washington, along the K Street lobbying corridor.

    After his "drain-the-swamp" campaign against Washington lobbyists, the president-elect has stacked his transition-planning team with the special-interest representatives he railed against. They'll populate his administration with people friendly to those interests.

    A big bonanza may be just around the corner: the largest tax legislation in history. There's nothing that brings out the Gucci crowd like a tax bill, and this one promises to be the mother of all tax bills. The stated purpose is a massive tax cut, but Washington insiders already are talking about how the interest groups will vie for favorable treatment. They don't expect Trump to stand in the way.

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For my 92- year-old dad and uncle, history seems to be repeating itself

    My dad, who is 92, often talks about the racial progress that has occurred during his lifetime. The stories are always uplifting but sometimes come with sobering caveats.

    "I remember when the first black policeman was hired in Shreveport, in 1954," said Dad, referring to the city in Louisiana where I was born three years earlier. "But he wasn't allowed to arrest white people."

    Or: "After World War II, black people started making enough money to buy cars in large numbers. But the police started harassing them the way they harassed black pedestrians."

    Dad was born in Dermott, Ark., in 1924 - a time when racism in America was worse than it had been since the Civil War. Historian Rayford Logan described the period from the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until well into the 20th century as the "nadir of American race relations."

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Facebook must confront the responsibilities of being a media company

    Since last week's election, Facebook's role in policing fake news on its site has become a very hot topic.

    And it should be. Throughout the election, Facebook's behavior has exposed what seems to be a great contradiction at its heart. As the social network has pushed hard to dominate new forms of media, it's also bent over backward to deny that it is a media company - and denying that responsibility that comes with that label.

    The truth is that Facebook has already taken on one of the functions of a media company: to act as a gatekeeper. It has labeled satire. It takes down "clickbait" articles which, in its own words, have headlines that "intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people." Its algorithms clearly have some standards for content quality.

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Blame the British Empire for the Electoral College

    There are two truths about the Electoral College: It ought to be abolished, and it never will be. Calls for changing the constitutional election system abound now that Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote, as Al Gore did in 2000. But it turns out that the same Constitution that enshrines the effectively protects the small states from an amendment they don't want. The problem goes back to the nation's founding -- and short of abolishing the states as effective sovereigns, it basically can't be fixed.

    The small states, which benefit from candidates' attention, would never consent to being marginalized through a proportional system that favors the interests of densely populated states. But replacing the Electoral College would take a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the state legislatures. Even if the first bar could be cleared -- which is wildly unlikely -- overcoming the second is unimaginable.

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Anti-Trump protests are counterproductive

    The footage of the anti-Donald Trump marches and the belligerent Tweets criticizing the U.S. president-elect fill me with ambivalence. On the one hand, Trump's victory hardly makes me happy; then again, as someone who has seen, and taken part in, both successful and failed mass protests, I believe the liberal cause would be better served if the demonstrators stayed home.

    Street protest is a powerful force. Almost three years ago, I watched people gathered in the center of Kiev topple the government and force the president to flee. Five years ago, I participated in more peaceful protests in Moscow that gave Vladimir Putin a major scare and achieved some concessions such as the easing of party registration rules and the return of gubernatorial elections.

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6 new technology rules that will govern our future

    Technology is advancing so rapidly that we will experience radical changes in society not only in our lifetimes but in the coming years. We have already begun to see ways in which computing, sensors, artificial intelligence and genomics are reshaping entire industries and our daily lives.

    As we undergo this rapid change, many of the old assumptions that we have relied will no longer apply. Technology is creating a new set of rules that will change our very existence. Here are six:

 

1. Anything that can be digitized will be.

    Digitization began with words and numbers. Then we moved into games and later into rich media, such as movies, images and music. We also moved complex business functions, medical tools, industrial processes and transportation systems into the digital realm. Now, we are digitizing everything about our daily lives: our actions, words and thoughts. Inexpensive DNA sequencing and machine learning are unlocking the keys to the systems of life. Cheap, ubiquitous sensors are documenting everything we do and creating rich digital records of our entire lives.

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Why millions fear the looming Trump presidency

    Let me share with you what a friend emailed me the other day.

    "Maybe you have this thing that i have," he wrote, "but i'm looking at my straight white male co-workers who are still gliding through their day unencumbered, and i'm just like 'you people just do not get it. you might be upset about the outcome, but you. just. don't. under. stand. right. Now.'"

    Yes, I have "this thing" my friend has. Maybe you do, too.

    "This thing" is more than disappointment by the defeat of Hillary Clinton, arguably the most qualified person to seek the office in recent memory who happens to be a woman.

    After a campaign that mainstreamed white supremacy, xenophobia and misogyny, "this thing" is palpable fear.

    Fear of being targeted because you're Muslim. President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a ban of Muslims from entering the United States. Hate crimes against Muslims went up 78 percent during the course of 2015. No doubt empowered by Trump's ugly rhetoric.

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Who could stop nuclear war in the Trump era? These scientists.

    In March, then-candidate Donald Trump shocked nuclear policy experts by suggesting at a town hall meeting that the United States might be able to reduce the defense budget by encouraging its allies, especially Japan and South Korea, to build nuclear weapons. When pressed to clarify his comments by the moderator, CNN's Anderson Cooper, Trump replied, "Wouldn't you rather in certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?" Earlier that same week, Trump told Bloomberg's Mark Halperin that it was important to remain "unpredictable" when dealing with nuclear weapons.

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