Archive

November 6th, 2016

Looks like the FBI wants to make America great again

    Maybe it's just me, but I think the FBI is trying to send a message about next week's election.

    It's not just that FBI Director James Comey informed Congress that there may be things on Anthony Weiner's computer pertinent to his investigation of Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server. Nor is it the extraordinary Wall Street Journal coverage this week that revealed frustrations in the bureau over alleged Justice Department pressure to slow-walk an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

    The cherry on this banana-republic split is published Monday from a long-dormant Twitter account called @FBIRecordsVault. It disclosed that new records of the bureau's probe into Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich had been released because of a Freedom of Information Act request.

    The FBI has since that this was all standard operating procedure. The records were requested. The request was approved. And the Twitter account automatically tweets out new files sent to the bureau's electronic reading room.

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November 5th

No scandal-free choices? Pick the less flawed

    If ever there was a presidential contest that did not need an extra week, this is it.

    In case you haven't heard, an unusual quirk in the calendar and election laws has resulted in America's latest election since 1988.

    The nation votes on the first Tuesday after a Monday in November. Because Nov. 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, we have almost an entire extra week of what has been, according to various reports, one of the angriest and most anxiety-inducing campaigns in history.

    A recent Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association, for example, found 52 percent of Americans adults reported they were stressed out by this contest -- in close to equal measures of both Republicans and Democrats.

    Add to that the events of the past few days that have given many folks electoral whiplash. First there was FBI director James Comey and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's emails, and then there was yet another report of questionable tax loophole usage by Republican nominee Donald Trump.

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I bought the website Trump.org. Then Donald Trump came after me.

    One thousand, two hundred and seventy-two dollars. That's how much money I spent to learn exactly how Donald J. Trump does business.

    In August 2012, I purchased the domain name Trump.org for $1,272 in an online public auction. I had heard rumors that Trump was considering running for president one day. When I came across the auction, I thought it would be a great platform for me to put a message out there. To put it politely, I was not a fan. Many times, he had flipped his position on key topics. What he says today not may be where he stands tomorrow. His questionable business practices had been a subject of news over the years. But most important, I thought Donald Trump was a self-serving man. He had no experience putting others before himself. It is always about him. That wasn't what I wanted in a potential president, and I said so in text I posted on Trump.org.

    Less than a week later, I had a FedEx overnight courier package in my hands. It contained a letter that started out, "I am writing to you on behalf of Donald J. Trump, the well-known businessman, real estate developer, and star of the television show The Apprentice."

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Director J. Edgar Comey

    It took 44 years after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972 for the FBI to restore its reputation for honesty and impartiality. It took Director James Comey two days to destroy it.

    Because of his actions this week, Comey will be remembered as the worst FBI director since Hoover, with one major difference. Back then, Hoover threatened politicians with the existence of secret photos. Today, Comey intimidates politicians with the existence of secret emails. The result's the same.

    Even his critics admit that Comey earned a great reputation as a straight shooter in the Justice Department while serving as deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, dramatically blocking an effort by the White House to get Attorney General Ashcroft to authorize NSA's massive domestic surveillance program. And, until this week, his reputation for honesty and independence prevailed at the FBI.

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Cubs, Nerds and ‘True Baseball’

    Here’s a question about last night’s exhilarating, stomach-churning, 10-inning seventh game of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians: Was it “true baseball”?

    Early in 2015, Dave Stewart, the former major-league pitcher who had recently become the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, made a crack about data-friendly teams (like the Cubs and Indians). Stewart suggested that free agents might prefer to sign with Arizona, because they would see it “as a true baseball team versus some of the other teams out here that are geared more toward analytics and those type of things.”

    It was not an isolated remark. Many people around baseball have reacted to the so-called “Moneyball” revolution, in which people use data to analyze the game, by saying its version of baseball lacks soul. It’s nerds crunching numbers, rather than loving the game.

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Campus PC culture is so rampant that NYU is paying to silence me

    I'm not a conservative, or an alt-righter. I find Donald Trump repugnant. But over the last couple of weeks, I've become a campus pariah to some (and a hero, perhaps, to a few) in my nontenured NYU faculty job, thanks to the humorless, Social Justice Warrior-brand of campus culture run amok and a misunderstanding about a Twitter account. Enmeshed in a conspiracy - thinly disguised as sympathy - of my colleagues' design, I've lost my academic freedom and I potentially stand to lose my appointment.

    Last month, NYU's senior vice president of student affairs, Marc Wais, sent an email to the campus community to announce that an on-campus appearance by right-wing Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had been canceled by the administration. I believe universities should debate bad ideas, not ban them, and I vocally opposed this development.

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Walling Them Out, or Walling Us In?

    Evading security cameras in the remote expanse along the U.S. border, three Guatemalans waited till dusk to slip illicitly into our country.

    This is the stuff of Donald Trump nightmares — and if he were to witness such a scene, we can only imagine the furious rants that would follow.

    But Trump will never see this scene or even know about it, because he’s facing south, fulminating against Mexicans and assuring his faithful followers that he’ll stop illegal entry into the U.S. by building a “beautiful, impenetrable wall” across our 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

    Meanwhile, the scene described took place way up north, where rural Vermont connects to Canada. As the New York Times recently reported, “This area is a haven for smugglers and cross-border criminal organizations.”

    With so many of our nation’s political and security officials obsessed with the southern border, more and more criminal action — including the smuggling of people, drugs, and weapons — has plagued our 5,500-mile Canadian border, the longest in the world between two countries.

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The revolt against political correctness has backfired

    It's true that Donald Trump's support has little to do with policies. It's not true, however, that those who support him have no rational or cogent reasons for their preference. They are misguided, in my view, but they aren't stupid, and we flatter ourselves by assuming their preference for Trump is evidence merely of economic forces they don't understand.

    If the Trump supporters I've met and know are a fair representation of their outlook, what binds them together is a deep hatred for political correctness. No groundbreaking analysis there: Trump has railed about political correctness many times, and of course he relishes expressing himself in ways that can reasonably be called politically incorrect. He may be a bigot and a scoundrel, the thinking seems to be, but the one thing he isn't is politically correct. I don't dismiss that view. PC culture has been the source of jokes and satire for 25 years or more, but it's no less real for that. Trump's supporters aren't wrong to hate it.

    But what is it, exactly?

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Republican Candidates, Admit It’s Hillary You’re Voting For

    Look, you need a rest. Let’s talk about the Senate races.

    If Hillary Clinton wins — and if she doesn’t, the Senate will be the least of our problems — Democrats need to pick up four seats to gain control. Otherwise, Clinton will have trouble getting anything through Congress, even her most basic appointees. She’ll be holding Cabinet meetings with people from the temp staffing agency.

    The single most interesting sidelight in the Senate fights is watching embattled swing state Republicans trying to avoid revealing who they support for president of the United States.

    We’re seeing some weird dances. Truly, the mating peacock spider has nothing on some Republicans who are trying to balance their need to appease the base with their deep-down understanding that Donald Trump would be a disaster for the country.

    “I don’t think my constituents care that much how one person is going to vote,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania when he was asked the obvious question at a recent debate.

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Now James Comey's big mess is featured in a Donald Trump political ad

    Donald Trump has run what is easily the most dishonest presidential campaign of our lifetimes. The Washington Post fact-checking team's most up-to-date effort to track the lies told by Trump and Hillary Clinton documents that Trump has told nearly 60 of the most egregious of falsehoods -- vastly dwarfing the number from Clinton -- and on top of that, he's also indulged in over 20 more very serious episodes of dissembling.

    Yet in spite of this, Wednesday's Post tracking poll finds that Trump holds an edge of eight points over Clinton on the question of which candidate is viewed as the more honest and trustworthy one, with likely voters picking Trump by 46-38. Tellingly, this does not reflect an increase in perceptions of Trump's honesty, but rather, a drop in the percentage of those who see Clinton as the more honest one: In September, the two were tied on this question.

    And the poll (which finds the race dead even) also finds that this drop in perceptions of her honesty is driven primarily by a slide among independents and Democrats:

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