Archive

December 16th

Trump Warms Up

    What do you think the theme for Donald Trump’s appointments has been so far? Generals, generals, generals? Climate change deniers, climate change deniers?

    Those seem to be the leading contenders, although there’s always the ever-popular Give Chris Christie a job. While still cooling his heels as governor of New Jersey, Christie made history when a recent Quinnipiac poll showed him with a 77 percent job disapproval rating. None of his predecessors had managed such a feat. We knew he had it in him.

    When I want to be cheered up, I always think about Christie, who’s currently lobbying for head of the Republican National Committee. (Next week, the Surface Transportation Board.)

    On the downside, we had the heartbreaking saga of Al Gore, who happily emerged from a meeting with Trump this week, telling reporters about the “lengthy and very productive session” he’d had with the president-elect on climate change. It was, Gore added hopefully, a conversation that was likely “to be continued.”

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Trump: Madman of the Year

    So, Time magazine, ever in search of buzz, this week named Donald Trump Person of the Year. But they did so with a headline that read, “President of the Divided States of America.”

    The demi-fascist of Fifth Avenue wasn’t flattered by that wording.

    In an interview with the “Today” show, Trump huffed, “When you say divided states of America, I didn’t divide them. They’re divided now.” He added later, “I think putting divided is snarky, but again, it’s divided. I’m not president yet. So I didn’t do anything to divide.”

    Donald, thy name is division. You and your campaign of toxicity and intolerance have not only divided this country but also ripped it to tatters.

    This comports with an extremely disturbing tendency of Trump’s: Denying responsibility for things of which he is fully culpable, while claiming full praise for things in which he was only partly involved.

    As my mother used to say: Don’t try to throw a rock and hide your hand. Own your odiousness.

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When fake news leads to real dangers

    Imagine that you have owned a family-friendly pizza restaurant for about a decade in an upscale northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Suddenly, without warning, you're getting slimed by sickos on the Internet with death threats and obscenities.

    What would you do?

    There's wasn't much James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, could do when threatening messages began to appear on his Instagram feed in late October and grew into hundreds through texts, Facebook, Twitter and telephone calls.

    The furor was based on a lie, a breathtakingly false allegation of a child sex abuse ring supposedly led by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief, John Podesta.

    There was, you may recall, a presidential election coming up.

    Conspiracy theories have percolated constantly against the Clintons, among other famous and powerful people. The longer they're around, the more bizarre the narratives have become, particularly in the Internet's busy hives of fake news.

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Do facts still matter?

    We all have favorite sources for getting the best take on the news. And, like many of you, mine are the weekly New Yorker cartoons.

    The Dec. 5 issue of The New Yorker contains one especially poignant cartoon. It depicts a TV game show called "Facts Don't Matter," where the moderator tells one contestant: "I'm sorry, Jeannie, your answer was correct, but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours, so he gets the points."

    Welcome to Donald Trump's America, where facts don't matter. Where it makes no difference whether or not what you say is true, as long as you say it loud enough.

    According to Trumpers, that was the media's big mistake in the 2016 campaign. They didn't understand. They were operating under an old rubric, where facts still mattered.

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Evangelicals, your attacks on 'the media' are getting dangerous

Dear Evangelicals,

    You tease about the mainstream media being " Satan's newspaper." When I tell you I'm a journalist, I hear your cynicism.

    Listen, I was raised in an evangelical home. I know the media is supposed to be the butt of many jokes and the source of many of our problems.

    For many conservatives, the phrase "fake news" is now being used to describe " liberal bias," but fake news has real consequences. A man who was investigating a conspiracy theory about a secret child sex ring showed up at a Washington pizza place on Sunday with a rifle and fired at least one shot. Gunman Edgar Welch says he has been influenced by the book "Wild at Heart," by John Eldredge about faith and masculinity, a popular one for some evangelicals.

    The jokes aren't funny anymore. We are living in a post-truth time of fake news and misinformation, something that should be deeply troubling to people of faith who claim to seek truth in their everyday lives.

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Five ways Trump can help workers left behind

    If Donald Trump is serious about helping the blue-collar workers who helped put him in the White House, how should he proceed?

    Jawboning Carrier Corp., Ford Motor Co. and others into keeping jobs from moving to Mexico isn't the answer. Employers who meet Trump's demands will quickly find that their labor costs and product prices are higher than those of their competitors. Ultimately, they will have no choice but to move jobs offshore or to use robots.

    Instead, here are five ideas that might help restore the economic vitality of those who have been left behind:

    - Build skills. If Trump wants to pressure U.S. companies, he should ask them to produce plans to retrain their workforces. Many blue-collar workers lack the technical skills needed to maintain and program the machines that run factories, for example. Such jobs are in demand, and employers are having trouble filling them.

    Old-line jobs, including electricians, plumbers and welders, are also in demand. But even those require technological skills that many workers lack.

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How to make feminism great again

    Hillary Clinton's defeat is wreaking havoc in the sisterhood. Celebrity feminists are especially distraught. "Girls" star Lena Dunham developed hives and fled to Sedona for spiritual renewal. Katy Perry took to Twitter to declare "THE REVOLUTION IS COMING." For feminist icon Robin Morgan, the election is proof that "a diseased patriarchy is in a battle to the death with women."

    But less-excitable analysts are drawing more sober conclusions: Perhaps the women's movement is too elitist and out of touch with ordinary citizens, especially working-class women. That seems right, but I would go one step further. Today's feminism is not merely out of touch with everyday Americans; it's out of touch with reality. To survive, it's going to have to come back to planet Earth.

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Liberal democracy is facing its worst crisis since the 1930s

    Do not be reassured by false hope. The center is not holding.

    You could almost convince yourself it was after Austria's far-right Freedom Party went down to defeat in the country's recently-concluded presidential election. And if you tried a little harder, you could even talk yourself into the idea it wasn't that big a deal that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi just resigned after losing the constitutional referendum he had staked his government on. But this is the triumph of seeing the silver linings instead of the dark clouds. The causes aren't always the same, but the effects are: Establishment parties are losing ground. Maybe not as fast a retreat as people feared, but a retreat nonetheless. And in their place are a new breed of nationalists who tend to be some combination of anti-elite, anti-immigrant, and pro-Putin.

    The siege has not lifted. Liberal democracy is still facing its worst crisis since the 1930s.

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My mother is a black immigrant. Today's feminism doesn't reflect her experience.

    The first time I can remember hearing the word "feminist" in any capacity was in middle school, back when we had to complete presentations on suffragists during Women's History Month. However, it wasn't my book report on Susan B. Anthony (or whomever it was) that served as my introduction to feminism.

    My relationship with feminism has never been merely a distillation of theory in exclusively academic or intellectual spaces. It has always been informed by my lived experiences as a black woman, as well as the experiences of the women who have surrounded me over my lifetime.

    Those experiences have served to ground me time and time again with the fundamental truth that when it comes to feminism, the praxis can veer significantly from the theory - especially when the figureheads can be middle-class, educated white women whose day-to-day realities diverge from that of the low-income immigrant black women who molded me.

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Our campaign lost the election. But Trump's team must own up to how he won.

    I know how to be a gracious loser.

    I could have let it go last week when Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, challenged me to look her in the eye and say she ran a campaign that gave white supremacists a platform. I considered for a split second.

    I knew you were supposed to be gracious when you come for the post-election forum at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. But I decided this was a year where normal rules don't apply. Speaking the truth was more important.

    "It did. Kellyanne, it did," I told her.

    It's just a fact. Trump winning the election doesn't change that. To my mind, his win makes it all the more important that the truth be acknowledged.

    My colleagues and I from the Hillary Clinton campaign knew what we were likely to face from the Trump side at the Harvard University event and thought hard about our obligations as representatives of the losing side in this most unconventional of years - particularly when our candidate actually won the popular vote by a large margin.

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