Archive

December 14th

Kellyanne Conway plunges into the Mommy Wars

    As if she didn't have enough on her hands with the president-elect, Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway has plunged full-force into a topic at least as emotionally charged: the Mommy Wars.

    Speaking at a Politico "Women Rule" event Wednesday, Conway cited her four young children as the reason for declining a White House job.

    "My children are 12, 12, 8 and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside," she said. "They have to come first and those are very fraught ages."

    When the possibility of an administration role came up in her talks with senior officials, Conway said, they would say, "'I know you have four kids but ...' I said, 'There's nothing that comes after the "but" that makes any sense to me so don't even try.' Like what is the 'but'? But they'll eat Cheerios for the rest of the day? Nobody will brush their teeth again until I get home?"

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Democrats must get past mere opposition to Trump

    As the still shell-shocked Democrats try to figure out what went wrong and what to do about it, Hillary Clinton's formal announcement of her candidacy in 2015 would be a good starting point.

    The beautifully produced two-minute video was replete with attractive and aspirational Americans. It presented a diversity of color, young, old, gay and lesbian couples, a single mother and immigrant entrepreneurs. The candidate, who appears in only about a third of the video, was comfortable and self-assured. Even though she warned that the deck was too often stacked against average Americans, her tone was upbeat.

    It got good reviews for tone and content. The New York Times reported, misleadingly, that it included "plenty of white working-class people," a signal that she would address these voters' concerns in the campaign. A subsequent Times video chat was more insightful: Top political reporter Maggie Haberman noted that despite the video's high production values "it's not clear what her message is." The theme, she said, seemed to be striking a balance between "things are getting better" and "things are great."

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A disquieting pick for White House counsel

    The White House counsel operates out of the public eye but has the president's ear. In the Trump administration, with the unprecedented multiplicity of conflict-of-interest challenges facing the businessman- president, the job will take on added importance. As a Democratic commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, I served five years alongside Donald McGahn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for the post. My experience may be instructive - and disquieting.

    The FEC's fundamental mission is to fight corruption by shining a light on money in politics, empowering citizens to assess their elected officials' potential conflicts of interest. From the moment he walked in the door in 2008, McGahn made no secret of his disdain for the agency, its mission and the commission staff.

    At the six-member FEC, McGahn corralled his two fellow Republicans into a rigid voting bloc, promoting gridlock and delay. In decision after decision, he ensured that the money flooding our political system grew ever murkier and the connections between donors and candidates harder to trace.

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What Obamacare has meant to my patients

    Over the past few weeks, there has been talk both of funding infrastructure projects and defunding Medicaid, at least in part. I recently saw a patient who reminded me that Medicaid itself provides an essential kind of infrastructure.

    His black beard pointed stiffly down his chest. At the middle of his sternum, it flowered out into plastic beads, strung on the dozens of rosaries he wore about his neck. Red, yellow and green beads flashed as he yelled, "Go, go, go on, and get me out of here."

    A few years ago, before the expansion of Medicaid, we would have. We knew that if this patient stayed in the hospital, we could extinguish his mania and treat his acute injuries. We also knew that extended hospitalization was futile without access to ongoing care as an outpatient, so we often gave patients like him the green light for discharge.

    He was homeless, mentally ill and uninsured. Back then, the last of those problems often seemed the most insurmountable.

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Trump's last press conference was when he asked Russia to release Clinton's emails

    The last time Donald Trump held a news conference was on the third day of the Democratic convention, July 27, wrapping up at about 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. Since then, the following things have happened without Trump making himself available to free-ranging questions from an array of news outlets:

    Trump got in a fight with the Khan family.

    Trump's campaign manager was revealed to have ties to Ukraine.

    Trump fired his campaign manager after hiring Kellyanne Conway and Stephen K. Bannon.

    Trump went to Mexico.

    Trump copped to being rude sometimes.

    Trump told black Americans that they had "nothing to lose" by voting for him.

    The first debate.

    The second debate.

    The third debate.

    The hot-mic tape.

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The Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus

    After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members canceled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

    I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

    We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

    We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.

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The American Dream, Quantified at Last

    The phrase “American dream” was invented during the Great Depression. It comes from a popular 1931 book by historian James Truslow Adams, who defined it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone.”

    In the decades that followed, the dream became a reality. Thanks to rapid, widely shared economic growth, nearly all children grew up to achieve the most basic definition of a better life — earning more money and enjoying higher living standards than their parents had.

    These days, people are arguably more worried about the American dream than at any point since the Depression. But there has been no real measure of it, despite all of the data available. No one has known how many Americans are more affluent than their parents were — and how the number has changed.

    It’s a thorny research question, because it requires tracking individual families over time rather than (as most economic statistics do) taking one-time snapshots of the country.

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Forget Big Brother. Fear Little Brother.

    This month in Washington, a gunman shot up Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, threatening customers and workers and terrorizing an entire neighborhood. For months, internet conspiracy theorists have accused Comet's owners and leading figures of the Democratic Party of running a child pornography ring out of the restaurant, complete with satanic symbols and underground tunnels. And what did Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis do to earn such venom? He emailed with Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, about hosting a fundraiser.

    This attack on liberal politics and an opposition party was not organized by some authoritarian state, the Republican Party or President-elect Donald Trump. No action was taken by any Orwellian Big Brother. Nor did a government generate the doublespeak that created the Comet Ping Pong lies. Instead, this political violence emerged from a self- organized pack of irate, fear-mongering, right-wing conspiracy theorists reacting to whispers about Clinton in fake news and on social media and the Web.

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Fascism comes into focus

    Donald Trump is a fascist.

    When you call somebody a fascist, you can mean any number of things. Often, it means no more than "somebody I don't like." It is an all-purpose epithet, usable by anyone against everyone from university deans to Fox News anchors. For that reason, the label should be used sparingly - saved for special occasions. As with "Nazi" or "Hitler," it is often said that in any discussion, the first person reduced to using such a word has lost the argument. It's ridiculous to compare any living person to Hitler or Mussolini.

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Beyond Pizzagate: These are the real conspiracies

    If there is one thing that I learned from Pizzagate, it is that we are working much, much too hard to find conspiracies.

    No one was hurt, thank goodness, when a man showed up at the Comet Ping Pong restaurant this week with a gun in an effort to free nonexistent children being held there in nonexistent secret tunnels. But can we stop jumping from zero to New World Order Child Sex Trafficking? There are plenty of obvious conspiracies RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES that we need to merely wake up and see.

    American history: "How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower?" Exactly. George Washington and George III having the same name cannot be a coincidence either. George Washington was a Mason. Just listing these unrelated facts in order should be sufficient proof. There is no way that we defeated the British, which is why, at the "surrender" at "Yorktown" (bad name for a place; sounds fabricated) they played "The World Turned Upside Down." Clearly, this was code. Why didn't George Washington have any children of his own? He only had one real tooth. He wore a stranger's teeth. This is all connected.

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