Archive

December 2nd

Nobody cooks anymore, and maybe that's not so bad

    The vast majority of Americans will be sitting down to a gigantic, mostly home-cooked meal this Thursday. So this seems like as good a time as any to point out that such meals have become an anomaly. Basic ingredients -- such as, you know, turkeys, cranberries and sweet potatoes -- now account for only 5 percent of U.S. food spending.

    Basic ingredients also accounted for 5 percent of spending in 1999, so at least that's not on the decline. But according to the June 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture report from which I got these numbers, prices rose faster from 1999 through 2010 for basic ingredients than for any of the other food categories -- so consumers were getting relatively less of them for the money. And I've got to think that, 50 or 100 years ago, basic ingredients made up a much higher share of food spending.

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No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along

    Donald Trump schlepped across town Tuesday to meet with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.

    As The Times reported, Trump actually seemed to soften some of his positions:

    He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.

    He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.

    He said that he would have an “open mind” on climate change. But that should always have been his position.

    You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that.

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Koch Kollege for Right-Wing Social Engineers

    Breaking news: An amazing new school for political activists is training thousands of people to be community organizers. They’re using Saul Alinsky’s classic manual, Rules for Radicals.

    The Grassroots Leadership Academy gives how-to lessons in everything from mounting successful protest actions to recruiting middle-of-the-road voters. But, wait — who’s that hiding behind Saul Alinsky?

    Good grief, it’s the Koch brothers!

    Yes, this “grassroots” outfit has been set up by the gabillionaires Charles and David Koch to train cadres of right-wing corporatists to spread their ideological laissez-fairydust across the land.

    The academy is run through Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ political wing, which put up $3 million to get it going. About 10,000 people have gone through training sessions in three dozen states. The brothers’ grandiose scheme is to take over the Republican Party and use it as a tool to rebuild America itself into a Kochlandia, ruled by the superrich.

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It's time to decide Facebook's mission

    Your former high school classmate has pictures of a new baby, your aunt has video of her great vacation in Majorca, and your presidential candidate has several articles accusing her of killing an FBI agent for leaking emails.

    One of these things is not like the others (hint: it's the last one), but Facebook will share them all if it thinks they'll please you. It will even promote them further if it thinks that other users will find them interesting as well. To the algorithms that control the site, what matters is the "connection" you make with others via these snippets of information. Whether that connection is based on something true is an entirely different question.

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Is there anyone In Asia who still trusts America?

    At the conclusion of the leaders' summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Peru last week, the Pacific Rim trade group reasserted the importance of free trade in a joint communiqué. The APEC economies, including the United States, further committed to "keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism" - an intentional pushback to the growth of protectionist rhetoric, especially from the incoming administration in Washington, D.C.

    President-elect Donald Trump has vowed, most recently in a YouTube video released on Monday, to make America's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the U.S.-led flagship free trade deal in the Asia-Pacific, a top priority for his administration. Trump's vitriol has already eliminated any chance that Congress will ratify the pact during the remaining lame-duck period of the current administration.

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Is fake news protected by the First Amendment?

    In the free marketplace of ideas, true ideas are supposed to compete with false ones until the truth wins -- at least according to a leading rationale for free speech. But what if the rise of fake news shows that, under current conditions, truth may not defeat falsehood in the market? That would start to make free speech look a whole lot less appealing.

    The rise of fake news therefore poses a serious challenge to our basic ideas about the First Amendment. Much of the debate in recent weeks has focused on social media and search engines. But whether the market for ideas is failing is more fundamental than whether Facebook or Google can be blamed for algorithms that promote and spread false stories.

    Start with the famous metaphor introduced by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes almost 100 years ago, in a dissent in the 1919 case Abrams v. United States. Holmes argued that "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market."

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How to help Trump in his listening phase

    Donald Trump has often been linked to some authoritarian rulers and compared to others. Strictly speaking, he hasn't done much to deserve it yet. But this is a dangerous moment -- some current authoritarians started in this way too, and were pushed toward the dictatorial path.

    Volumes have been written about Trump's supposed affinity for, and connection to, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Guy Verhofstadt, a top Brexit negotiator for the European Union, has called Trump, Putin and Erdogan "a ring of autocrats" looking to encircle Europe. Apart from that, Trump has been likened to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta , India's Narendra Modi -- all authoritarians to different degrees.

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December 1st

How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them?

    While we're still analyzing the election results and debating the importance of different factors to the final outcome, everyone agrees that white working class voters played a key part in Donald Trump's victory, in some cases by switching their votes and in some cases by turning out when they had been nonvoters before.

    And now that he's about to take office, he's ready to deliver on what he promised them, right? Well, maybe not so much, according to The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty:

    "President-elect Donald Trump abruptly abandoned some of his most tendentious campaign promises Tuesday, saying he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email system or the dealings of her family foundation, has an "open mind" about a climate-change accord from which he vowed to withdraw the United States and is no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea."

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Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump

    On Thursday, about 1,000 Carrier workers and their families should be rejoicing. But the rest of our nation's workers should be very nervous.

    President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly announce a deal with United Technologies, the corporation that owns Carrier, that keeps less than 1,000 of the 2100 jobs in America that were previously scheduled to be transferred to Mexico. Let's be clear: It is not good enough to save some of these jobs. Trump made a promise that he would save all of these jobs, and we cannot rest until an ironclad contract is signed to ensure that all of these workers are able to continue working in Indiana without having their pay or benefits slashed.

    In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to "pay a damn tax." He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States.

For these immigrants, there's no other 'home' to go back to

    The real goal behind President-elect Donald Trump's proposed draconian measures against the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States is not forceful expulsion, but mass self-deportation: to make life so wretched and untenable that immigrants have no choice but to uproot, returning to their countries of origin, unwelcoming as they might be.

    And they will be unwelcoming. In the past eight years, many immigrants who have been deported during the Obama administration's record-setting removal of 2.5 million people have struggled with re-assimilation once they're sent out of the United States. Some have tried to begin life anew in cities they no longer recognize and that offer no opportunities or respite. Others haven't been as lucky.

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