Archive

January 3rd, 2017

Memo to the media: Stop giving Donald Trump the headlines he wants

    Donald Trump is once again claiming credit for beating back the scourge of outsourcing, this time insisting that he is the reason that Sprint has announced plans to move thousands of jobs back to America from other countries.

    "Because of what's happening, and the spirit and the hope, I was just called by the head people at Sprint, and they are going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States," Trump said, adding that the news of jobs "coming back into the United States" marks "a nice change." Trump later added that the jobs were coming back "because of me."

    But based on what we know right now, it is not at all clear what role Trump -- or whatever "spirit" of "hope" his victory has created -- had in bringing these jobs back to the U.S.

    Yet here are some of the headlines that greeted Trump's claim:

    -- CNN: "Trump declares victory: Sprint will create 5,000 U.S. jobs."

    -- The New York Times: "Trump Takes Credit for Sprint Plan to Add 5,000 Jobs in U.S."

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Snatching Health Care Away From Millions

    If James Comey, the FBI director, hadn’t tipped the scales in the campaign’s final days with that grotesquely misleading letter, right now an incoming Clinton administration would be celebrating some very good news. Because health reform, President Barack Obama’s signature achievement, is stabilizing after a bumpy year.

    This means that the huge gains achieved so far — tens of millions of newly insured Americans and dramatic reductions in the number of people skipping treatment or facing financial hardship because of cost — look as if they’re here to stay.

    Or they would be here to stay if the man who squeaked into power thanks to Comey and Vladimir Putin wasn’t determined to betray his supporters, and snatch away the health care they need.

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I hereby resolve to approach 2017 with a plan

    My main New Year's resolution for 2017 is pretty much the same as always: Stop eating Christmas cookies, cut back on the drinking and get back to the gym. This resolve tends to stick for much of the year -- only during the next holiday season does everything invariably fall apart again. Maybe I should consider making this a pre-Thanksgiving resolution.

    I've had some other resolutions on my mind this week, though, and it struck me that they might be of wider applicability for a year that so many people are approaching with a hangover -- literal, metaphorical or both -- and a lot of trepidation. Also, while I don't really believe that New Year's resolutions are the key to ending the productivity-growth slowdown that has been weighing on the economy for the past decade-plus, they can't hurt, right? So here goes.

 

Go outside.

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My take on the Republicans' new, interesting corporate tax plan

    A lot of folks - OK, four people, but that's a lot for this sort of thing - have asked me what I think of this new tax idea Republicans are pushing to replace the current corporate tax: a destination based, border-adjusted tax on cash flow. (Let's call it a BAT - border-adjustment tax - as does the CNNMoney team in this useful explainer; it even has a hashtag: #DBCFT.) Sounds tricky, but the basics are straightforward, and have more appeal than you might think. But there are also legitimate concerns, not the least of which is that the BAT is one potentially good part of a really damaging tax package.

    First, a brief description. The BAT makes a number of consequential changes to the current corporate tax:

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Trump keeps trolling U.S. foreign policy on Twitter

    President-elect Donald Trump, having jumped the gun on his Jan. 20 inauguration by seeming to challenge Russia to a new nuclear arms race, has done it again.

    He has now contradicted retiring President Obama on his refusal to order the American ambassador to the United Nations to veto a Security Council resolution that condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

    Once more taking to Twitter as a vehicle for his unsolicited diplomacy, Trump has signaled to Russian President Vladimir Putin that a new American policy toward Israel is on the way, and Putin should hold his horses on the issue until Trump takes charge here.

    Concerning the abstention on that UN vote, the president-elect tweeted: "Stay strong, Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!"

    This and other premature Trump insinuations are unprecedented intrusions, based on his self-conceived superior judgment and wisdom, even in areas far outside his experience and knowledge as a real estate tycoon.

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Understand the Energy Department before closing it

    When you hear the name Rick Perry, you might recall that time during the 2012 Republican presidential primary race where he forgot the name of a government agency he wanted to eliminate. After saying he wanted to ax the departments of Commerce and Education, he blanked on the third. Later in the debate, he said that his forgotten target for destruction was the Department of Energy.

    A responsible leader doesn't forget the name of a government agency that he wants to shut down. A responsible leader studies the department in detail, learning all of the things that it does, and thinks about how things would change if the department were abolished. And so for Perry, that "oops" moment was enough to persuade voters that he lacked the firm grasp of the facts needed in a presidential candidate. He soon abandoned the race.

    But it seems like in the Republican Party of 2016, leaders are not rewarded for being responsible and informed. Instead, the party's leaders are rewarded for finding new targets, justified or not, for the outrage of their voter base.

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January 2nd

What it's like to be expelled from Russia with your toddler and dog

    In February 2001, when the street corners and sidewalks of Moscow were still piled high with dirty, gray snow, FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested near his Virginia home and charged with espionage, accused of passing secrets to the Russians.

    His arrest made the news, as did the U.S. government's decision to expel 50 Russian diplomats from the United States in retaliation. For most Americans, the news of the expulsions was a brief blip in their day, something they heard on the radio en route to the office.

    For me, it was life-shattering.

    I was living in Moscow at the time, with my dog, a toddler son and my husband, a Diplomatic Security Service special agent who was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The Diplomatic Security Service is the law enforcement arm of the State Department, charged with threat analysis, cybersecurity and protection. As soon as we heard of the expulsions, we knew what was coming. And this week's news that Washington would expel 35 Russians in retaliation for alleged election hacking brought those memories flooding back.

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What kind of democracy will Israel be?

    The opportunity for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may already have expired. The question going forward, then, is what kind of democracy Israel intends to be.

    The Obama administration's frustration with the situation is understandable. The continued building of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is indeed unhelpful, and the decision to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring the settlements illegal brought renewed focus and urgency to the problem. To what end, however, is unclear.

    When everyone stops shouting, Israel will remain one of the United States' closest allies -- and, courtesy of President Obama, the recipient of a $38 billion aid package that will ensure the Jewish state's military dominance over its neighbors. Palestinian leaders in the West Bank will remain wary of negotiating any sort of two-state deal from a position of weakness. And the passage of time will make facts on the ground -- expanding settlements and the ongoing security threat -- ever more stubbornly entrenched.

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A Month Without Sugar

    It is in chicken stock, sliced cheese, bacon and smoked salmon, in mustard and salad dressing, in crackers and nearly every single brand of sandwich bread. It is all around us — in obvious ways and hidden ones — and it is utterly delicious.

    It’s sugar, in its many forms: powdered sugar, honey, corn syrup, you name it. The kind you eat matters less than people once thought, scientific research suggests, and the amount matters much more. Our national sugar habit is the driving force behind the diabetes and obesity epidemics and may be a contributing factor to cancer and Alzheimer’s.

    Like me, you’ve probably just finished a couple of weeks in which you have eaten a lot of tasty sugar. Don’t feel too guilty about it. But if you feel a little guilty about it, I’d like to make a suggestion.

    Choose a month this year — a full 30 days, starting now or later — and commit to eating no added sweeteners. Go cold turkey, for one month.

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A two-state solution is the only one

    In recent days, the Obama administration has undertaken two significant actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It refrained from vetoing a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that, among other things, detailed the devastating impact that Israeli settlement expansion is having on the prospects for a two-state peace agreement. And in a landmark speech, Secretary of State John F. Kerry warned that the trend toward a one-state reality is becoming increasingly entrenched, and he set out principles for a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.

    He rightly pointed out that the demise of the two-state option is to nobody's benefit - Israeli, Palestinian or American. We share Kerry's concerns and applaud the Obama administration for having set out the conclusions of its peace efforts in a transparent and compelling manner.

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