Archive

November 29th, 2016

The Shoe On The Other Foot

    Before we sign on to some of the proposed short cuts around the results of this last Presidential election we need to think about if our side had been elected under the rules in effect.

    Yes, the President-Elect is deplorable (I use that word intentionally!), but he is in the position under rules that we had made little fuss about, even when Al Gore won the popular vote. Now Hillary Clinton with almost four times the difference between Gore and Bush is the victim. Not only is she the victim but so are we.

    The electoral college, understood by few, was somewhat odd to begin with despite its good intentions. In a day when communication was quite limited it was meant to give isolated distant groups fair representation. I doubt that many of its creators ever thought that it would sacrifice majority choice. Under any circumstances it has long outworn any value it might have had.

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November 28th

Real editor could fight Facebook's fake news

    Two days after the election of Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg found himself on the hot seat.

    At a tech conference, an interviewer grilled the Facebook chief executive about the fake news that proliferates there, suggesting that it had swayed the election toward Trump. One widely shared story, for example, said that Pope Francis had endorsed the Republican nominee.

    Zuckerberg scoffed:

    "Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way - I think is a pretty crazy idea. Voters make decisions based on their lived experience."

    But since then, under fire (including from President Barack Obama who railed against the fake-news epidemic last week), Facebook has taken some positive steps.

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Trump's national security adviser wants to water down America's NATO commitments

    In tapping Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen someone who proudly claims to have shaped the next president's views that NATO is "obsolete" and that the United States should threaten not to come to the defense of NATO member states if they don't pay their fair share.

    Flynn told ABC News in May that he first spoke to Trump in September 2015: "We did talk about NATO and I told him . . . the United States - we pay too much of the bill. NATO is a 20th-century model and needs to be retooled for 21st-century threats that we collectively face, you know cyber is one of them. So, I said those things to him when we first talked." He added, "I don't have any problems with what [Trump] said about NATO. And if it's to put NATO on alert, to say, hey, NATO, we got to figure this out - this is no longer the Cold War - we need to organize ourselves differently. And, frankly, if you are part of the club, you've got to pay your bill, and for countries that don't pay their bills, there has got to be some other penalty."

    American officials have complained about their NATO allies before:

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Trump: Making America White Again

    This may well be the beginning of the end: the early moments of a historical pivot point, when the slide of the republic into something untoward and unrecognizable still feels like a small collection of poor judgments and reversible decisions, rather than the forward edge of an enormous menace inching its way forward and grinding up that which we held dear and foolishly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure.

    So many of President-elect Donald Trump’s decisions herald a tomorrow that is bleak for anyone who held hope that he could be a different, better man than the one who campaigned (I was not among that cohort), or those who simply assumed that the gravity of the office he is to assume would ground him.

    Hard-line Trumpism isn’t softening; it’s being cemented.

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Trump needs to earn mandate from wary public

    The tens of thousands of nonviolent protesters taking to the streets against Donald Trump are exercising their constitutional rights. But they are wrong to declare that Trump is not their president: He won legitimately and, support him or not, he will be president of all Americans.

    That's not sufficient for his chief cheerleaders. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Trump's designated White House chief of staff, asserted that the president-elect won a "historic landslide" and Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, claimed he won a "mandate" from the voters.

    Trump did win the Electoral College, making his elevation to the presidency beyond dispute.

    That's it. David Wasserman, analyst at the Cook Political Report, estimates Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by more than 2 million, four times the margin achieved in 2000 by Al Gore, who also lost the Electoral College.

    In the history of U.S. presidential elections, no president-elect has ever lost the popular vote by as much as Trump. This is not the stuff of a mandate.

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Trump is not becoming any more presidential

    Less than two weeks into the reality that Donald Trump will be our next president, the situation feels more ominous than on election night.

    "At the right time, I will be so presidential you will be so bored," Trump assured us back in April, when the notion seemed fanciful. "I know when to be presidential."

    Does he? On three dimensions -- temperament, competence and ideology -- Trump's conduct since the election has offered more basis for worry than for relief.

    That Trump's temperament is a problem is underscored by exit polls showing that 63 percent of voters do not think he has the temperament to be president -- including 26 percent of Trump voters.

     In the immediate aftermath of the election, it was possible to argue the temperament case either way. There was Presidential Trump, proclaiming that he would be "president for all Americans." He dropped the talk about locking up "Crooked Hillary" in favor of praising her service to the country.

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Time to ditch the Electoral College?

    For the second time in the last four presidential elections, the candidate who won the popular vote has been denied the Oval Office for failing achieve an Electoral College majority. Hillary Clinton lost in this fashion earlier this month, as Al Gore did in 2000.

    A mild outcry was heard when Gore won half a million popular votes more than George W. Bush, but nothing came of it. Gore swallowed his disappointment and even eventually made a joke of it, saying in introducing himself: "I used to be the next president of the United States."

    Now, in the wake of Clinton's Electoral College loss to Donald Trump, the prospect of an utter political outsider with no governing or foreign policy experience taking charge has inspired a petition to free up electors to ignore their state's preference and become "faithless." A few have done so in the past.

    Under this scheme, some electors would switch their votes from Trump to Clinton, denying him the electoral majority of 270 and giving her the 40 or so electoral votes she lacked on Election Day. But not even the fear and loathing of Trump will pull it off.

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Let's bring back earmarks, please

    For a minute last week, House Republicans almost did something very smart.

    A proposal was offered to bring back earmarks - the pork-barrel spending added to bills that allows individual members a little goody here and there for their districts. Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., put the kibosh on the plan even though it enjoyed significant support within the room, according to The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis. The measure isn't totally dead yet - a task force will look into it, and a floor vote on a revised proposal could happen next year.

    Earmarks have been banned since Republicans retook the House majority in 2010. Then-Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) was a lifelong opponent of earmarking and pushed the prohibition as an example to voters that the GOP was serious about cleaning up Washington. (Republicans had taken a major hit earlier in the decade because of the earmarking scandal of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California.)

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How to cool voter anger? Pay attention to them

    "Why," a reader recent asked after president-elect Donald Trump's stunning upset victory, "don't you liberal mainstream media columnists get over it and write something positive to unify the country?"

    Why, I wondered, must it be left up to liberals to repair the divisions ripped open by conservatives like Trump?

    Maybe Trump supporters have a right to gloat after putting their guy over the top after almost every major poll indicated that he probably was going to lose.

    But two questions still keep tongues wagging: Why are they so angry, and what can be done about it?

    A newly released study of 2,411 voters by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation, confirms one thing that others have found: Trump benefited heavily from a widespread belief that the federal government ignores ordinary people.

    Although this perception crosses party lines, pollsters heard it from Republicans more than Democrats -- and from Trump's voters most of all.

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Build He Won’t

    Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a white supremacist and purveyor of fake news. But the other day, in an interview with, um, The Hollywood Reporter, he sounded for a minute like a progressive economist. “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” he declared. “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything.”

    So is public investment an area in which progressives and the incoming Trump administration can find common ground? Some people, including Bernie Sanders, seem to think so.

    But remember that we’re dealing with a president-elect whose business career is one long trail of broken promises and outright scams — someone who just paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against his “university.” Given that history, you always have to ask whether he’s offering something real or simply engaged in another con job. In fact, you should probably assume that it’s a scam until proven otherwise.

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