Archive

December 17th

Keith Ellison isn't an anti-Semite. He's the victim of a vicious smear.

    Which is the more bitter irony: That the Anti-Defamation League's specialty should have become defamation, or that its latest target, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, should be among the country's most important opponents of political anti-Semitism?

    Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress and a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter, is a leading candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But since he is also a measured critic of U.S. support for Israel's occupation of Palestine, he has fallen victim to the same accusations of anti-Semitism that the ADL has promiscuously dispensed in recent years.

    It all happened so suddenly. Two weeks ago, the ADL's national director Jonathan Greenblatt regarded Ellison as "a man of good character" in emailed remarks to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Now, per an official ADL release, Ellison's views on the Israel-Palestine conflict are "both deeply disturbing and disqualifying."

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Minimum-wage opponents tripped up by facts

    We interrupt this holiday season to revisit the minimum-wage experiment going on in various cities and states, paying special attention to those opposed to plans by some locales to eventually adopt a $15 hourly wage.

    The forecasts of these critics -- that jobs would be lost and businesses would close -- have, so far, been proven wrong. Although this is interesting, what's most important is why they were wrong. In many cases, they suffer from the sort of systemic bias that is typically observed in the self-destructive tendencies of too many investors. To many of these minimum-wage foes, government can do no right, and any effort to ameliorate some of the defects or inefficiencies in the free market will always and everywhere prove counterproductive.

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On fake news and fakers of truth

    Along with a president-elect who thrives on peddling lies and made-up stuff, the American public currently is obliged to put up with a growing ugly phenomenon on the Internet: purveyors of rank falsity for mischief and profit.

    The reference is not only to the vicious juveniles who intentionally manufacture outrageous whoppers in a callous dash for eyeballs. More dangerous are the peddlers of politically motivated and untrue hate, with no regard for their impact on the need for truthful public discourse.

    The latest attack on a D.C. pizza parlor was ignited by a fake story alleging Hillary Clinton's involvement in a secret child molestation ring. It was spread by, among others, Donald Trump's just-appointed national security adviser, which shows the degree to which this sickness has infected the country.

    Less scurrilous but significant is the poisoning of professional journalism that seeks to report and comment on what actually is said and done by elected public officials.

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December 16th

Roe v. Wade may be doomed; dark days are ahead for reproductive rights

    The Supreme Court was something of an under-the-radar issue in the 2016 campaign, extremely important to some groups (especially white evangelicals), but not discussed all that much on a national level. But now that Donald Trump has been elected, and with the success of the GOP's only-Republican-presidents-are-allowed-to-fill-vacancies strategy, it will be of tremendous importance to the country's future.

    No issue will be more volatile than abortion, which raises the inevitable question: Is Roe v. Wade doomed?

    That question is coming up again in the wake of the Ohio legislature's shocking decision to pass a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they're pregnant. Under current jurisprudence, this ban is almost certainly unconstitutional. But maybe by the time it reaches the Supreme Court, it won't be.

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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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