Archive

November 21st, 2016

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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Trump's power is restrained by 4,000 employees

    Four thousand: That's the number of political appointees President-elect Donald Trump's transition team will have to pick in the next few months for the government to continue running effectively after President Barack Obama leaves office. The challenge is great for any new administration; it's especially daunting for a political outsider whose staff, according to the Wall Street Journal, was surprised to hear last week that it would have to replace everyone in the West Wing.

    Political appointees are supposed to make the president more powerful. But for Trump, the appointees might have the opposite effect. The Trump team doesn't have anything like 4,000 qualified loyalists ready to walk into executive branch jobs, the way most presidential campaigns do. To get Republican candidates with relevant executive branch experience, it will have to choose former Bush administration officials. For better or worse, Trump's presidential agenda is therefore likely to be filtered through mainstream Republican personnel.

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Trump's tangled web of family and business ties

   On Friday, Donald Trump named his three eldest children -- Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric -- along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to his presidential transition team. That group will direct the appointment of about 4,000 new people to posts that the White House oversees within the federal government.

    Those appointments are where the president-elect knits together people with his policies; people who get those jobs are by nature beholden to Trump's transition team.

    Membership on the transition team also gives the eldest Trump children skin in the policy game, despite months of assurances from their father and others that there would be a bright, impermeable line separating them -- and their financial stewardship of the Trump Organization -- from the inner workings of the White House.

    Donald Trump himself already brings ample financial and business conflicts of interest to the White House. And President Trump, like all presidents, will be free from the conflict-of-interest laws that proscribe the financial dealings of most other members of the executive branch.

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Trump promises to tear up trade deals. Here's what he should do.

    Donald Trump's upset of Hillary Clinton was fueled in no small part by the votes of working-class Americans, mostly whites, for whom his populist economic message deeply resonated. At the heart of that message are what the president-elect called the "disastrous trade deals" signed by Democrats like President Bill Clinton (NAFTA) and supported by President Obama (TPP).

    Of course, Trump was challenging Republican orthodoxy as much as that of Democrats, which also explains the depth of his support on the issue. For decades, elites from both parties ignored those who see themselves, often with good reason, as being hurt by trade with low-wage countries. For those of us who've long been documenting these downsides of trade (while, in my own case, not at all dismissing the upsides), the question was less whether an anti-establishment candidate would gain traction from this issue and more what took an opportunistic politician so long to discover its potency.

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Trump led an anti-intelligentsia revolution

    Donald Trump will often be mocked in the coming months as the anti-elitist, anti-establishment disruptor of politics who wants to lower taxes on the elite and who is not above hiring establishment figures such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for his team. The mockery will mostly be misplaced simply because the terms "elite" and "establishment" are understood too broadly: Trump's movement was against only certain forms of establishment elitism that have nothing to do with wealth, membership in a party hierarchy or even political experience.

    By most measures, of course, Trump himself is part of the establishment. He's a billionaire who knows most of the country's celebrities and power brokers socially. He went to Wharton. He lives in a Manhattan penthouse. The people who voted for him aren't too dumb to notice that. They weren't fooled by rhetoric that somehow masked the Republican candidate's true status: He boasted about his wealth, connections and elite education on the campaign trail. And even if he hadn't, skyscrapers bearing his name stick out of more than one city's skyline.

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November 20th

For an evangelical magazine editor, the election brought a 'soul abandonment'

    The night that Donald Trump was elected president, I got very little sleep. Surely the wine I sipped as a wave of red swept from east to west across that horrible, televised electoral map didn't help. But I managed to have one vivid dream.

    In it, I'm standing on a stage in a stadium full of fellow Christians. And I'm telling them that they voted for the wrong candidate, and that Trump's presidency will prove to be a grave mistake.

    Wednesday greeted me as it did half the voting population, with waves of grief. But since then, the grief has turned into a more complex emotion - something like soul abandonment. After an election in which 81 percent of my white co-religionists supported Trump, the faith that has been my home for 20 years seems foreign, even hostile.

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Trump can't repeal the laws of economics

    Following a brief market plunge, the president-elect's speech last Tuesday night was more conciliatory than many expected and emphasized his commitment to infrastructure investment. Investors have, on balance, concluded that the combination of a shift to very expansionary fiscal policy and major reductions in regulation in sectors ranging from energy to finance to drug pricing will raise demand and reflate the U.S. economy.

    The result has been a rise in real interest rates and inflation expectations, along with a strong stock market and a strong dollar. Experience suggests, however, that initial market responses to major political events are poor predictors of their ultimate impact.

    The late MIT economist Rudiger Dornbusch made an extensive study of the results of populist economic programs around the world, finding that while they sometimes had immediate positive results, over the medium- and long-term they were catastrophic for the working class in whose name they were launched. This could be the fate of the Trump program given its design errors, implausible assumptions and reckless disregard for global economics.

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