Archive

October 21st, 2016

How the Committee to Protect Journalists broke its own rule to protest Trump

    For decades, Sandra Mims Rowe was a rigorous newspaper editor who demanded deep reporting from the journalists she led. Her newsrooms in cities including Norfolk and Portland, Ore., won awards -- and respect - because she pushed for greater truths.

    So it's not surprising that Rowe would do the same when an idea surfaced at the Committee to Protect Journalists, where she has been board chairwoman for five years.

    The idea: CPJ should break its own tradition of never getting involved in politics -- in the United States or anywhere else. This admirable organization, with its global mission of keeping journalists from being jailed or killed, would make a strong statement against Donald Trump on First Amendment grounds.

    "What was the evidence that Trump was a threat to press freedom?" she wanted to know. The evidence, delivered in a staff memo, was overwhelming. It made the case that Trump not only despises journalists -- "scum," he calls them, and "corrupt" -- he has no understanding or respect for the role they play in our democracy. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to change the laws that allow journalists to do their jobs.

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Al Gore could show Republicans a thing or two about losing gracefully

    Any Republican leaders who are considering denouncing Donald Trump's insidious and dangerous claim that the election is rigged and need a final push might want to take counsel from an unlikely source: Al Gore. All they would have to do is read the first couple of paragraphs from his 2000 concession speech delivered not on election night, but more than a month later on Dec. 13, after the closest presidential election in our nation's history. His words are worth remembering today because he was under a lot of pressure not to deliver them.

    For those who have forgotten or never knew, the 2000 election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court when it stopped the recount of votes in Florida, and, days later, essentially called the election for George W. Bush by saying that there wasn't enough time under law to resolve the differences in counting votes in Florida's contested counties, differences it found violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The final 5-4 decision came with an interesting caveat for a court that sets precedent. The decision, according to the majority, was limited to "present circumstances."

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Actually, Mr. Trump, Fed policy favors you

    As Donald Trump charges that the election is being rigged, let's consider one of his claims: that Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are keeping the economy artificially strong to benefit the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. While Trump is correct that the Federal Reserve system is subject to some political influence, the rest he gets mostly backward. If anything, Fed monetary policy has weakened the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party since the financial crisis.

    Economic research on "political business cycle theory" asks whether the central bank times its stimulatory actions to boost the reelection prospects of incumbents, typically by creating a pronounced upswing coming into November. It is well known, for instance, that in the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon pressured Fed Chairman Arthur Burns to goose up the money supply. But since then, it is less clear what general pattern holds, and in 2008, economic policymakers could not stop a crumbling economy from hurting the chances of John McCain, the presidential candidate of the incumbent Republican Party.

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Enough about the beast; let's talk about some beauty

    It comes with the ticking parcel that Republican voters left on our doorstep, but we’ve focused way too much lately on what a Twitter hashtag fest -- #TrumpDrSeuss -- has christened The Deplorax.

    He of the orange hair and a thousand calculated insults, many aimed at women. He of horrible boasts backed by deplorable acts.

    As many observed after the second presidential debate, it is a sad time for our nation. That is, unless we hear about something spectacularly uplifting, like what Michelle Obama said the other night.

    I’m not talking about her emotional denunciation of that well-parsed “boys on the bus” tape. That was magnificent.

    (As with her show-stopper at the Democratic National Convention, it seems that every time she has the microphone anymore she stops a nation in its tracks.)

    But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about what she said to two beautiful groups of African school girls.

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Companies Avoiding Taxes

    Donald Trump has become the country’s most notorious tax shirker. And while his long avoidance of federal income taxes is extreme, it’s also part of a larger problem.

    The most affluent and powerful parts of our society have too easy a time legally avoiding taxes.

    Consider corporate taxes, which ultimately tend to be paid by the well-off, because they own the most stock. The official corporate rate is 35 percent, infamously higher than in any other advanced economy. Yet there are so many loopholes that companies often pay relatively little in tax.

    Many companies work hard to shroud how much they really pay, sprinkling various figures throughout their complex financial statements. But companies must report one number that provides a good glimpse. It’s called cash taxes paid — the combined amount that a company pays in federal, state, local and even foreign taxes.

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Who is more Catholic than whom?

    To hear the many howls of protest from conservatives, you'd think that a handful of emails released by WikiLeaks demonstrates that Hillary Clinton's campaign is a nest of anti-Catholics. Fortunately for her, the emails, which are 4 to 5 years old, tell a far more interesting tale about the struggles inside the Catholic Church in the period before the ascendancy of Pope Francis.

    All journalism relying on WikiLeaks should note our government has accused Russia of trying to influence the American election. Voters need to be wary of Vladimir Putin's apparent preference for Donald Trump.

     But given the storm the Catholic emails have provoked, readers might want to make up their own minds by consulting the full texts.

    In one 2012 exchange between John Podesta, the founding president of the Center for American Progress and now Clinton's campaign chairman, and Sandy Newman, president of a group called Voices for Progress, Newman expressed the anger of many liberals at the time that conservative Catholic bishops were making the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate central to a critique of President Obama.

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Trump is failing at basically everything right now. This poll proves it.

    Donald Trump has had a very tough three weeks on the campaign trail, from a bad first debate to the "Access Hollywood" video to the recent flood of allegations that he groped and made unwanted sexual advances toward several women.

    And yet Trump trails Hillary Clinton by just four points in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll -- a number that is pretty par for the course for the 2016 election.

    But the Post-ABC poll also makes this clear about what Trump is up to these days: He's doing almost everything wrong, and he's doing nothing to grow his support and actually put himself in a position to win.

    To wit:

    - 57 percent of likely voters say his response to the "Access Hollywood" video of him making lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women was insincere. Just 40 percent say it was sincere.

    - 52 percent say his comments on tape aren't the brand of "locker room talk" that he and his supporters have routinely claimed. Just 40 percent say they are.

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There is something depressingly familiar in the stories of Trump's alleged groping

    The arm went around my shoulder. Then the hand began to creep, farther and farther, down the neckline of my dress. I was 20, at a fancy dinner for my college newspaper. The hand belonged to a grown-up -- make that supposedly grown-up -- editor. An editor from whom I wanted a summer job.

    I would like to tell you that I removed said hand and told its owner in no uncertain terms what he could do with it or, more to the point, couldn't. But I can't. My response, as I recall, involved some combination of resigned submission to this uninvited pawing and strategic wriggling out of reach.

    Reader, I got the job. I went on to enjoy a cordial professional relationship with this man. Neither one of us mentioned the incident. Alcohol was involved, and I suppose I chalked his misbehavior up to that. Making a fuss seemed unwarranted and, even more, self-defeating.

    The episode wasn't traumatic, not even close. Indeed, by the standards of the tens of thousands of tweets shared in recent days under the hashtag #notokay, it was mild.

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Their Dark Fantasies

    I’m a baby boomer, which means that I’m old enough to remember conservatives yelling “America — love it or leave it!” at people on the left who criticized racism and inequality. But that was a long time ago. These days, disdain for America — the America that actually exists, not an imaginary “real America” in which minorities and women know their place — is concentrated on the right.

    To be sure, progressives still see a lot wrong with the state of our society, and seek change. But they also celebrate the progress we have made, and for the most part the change they seek is incremental: It involves building on existing institutions, not burning everything down and starting over.

    On the right, however, you increasingly find prominent figures describing our society as a nightmarish dystopia.

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Our fading faith in democracy

    If there had been any doubt, it has now become clear that this election campaign is about more than the selection of a president: The values that support American democracy are deteriorating. Large numbers of Americans across party lines have lost faith in their democracy, and many will not accept the legitimacy of this election.

    Those were the stark findings from a survey we performed from Oct. 6 through Oct. 8 of more than 3,000 registered voters, fully 40 percent of whom say: "I have lost faith in American democracy." Six percent indicate they've never had faith in the system. Overall, barely more than half - just 52 percent - say, "I have faith in American democracy." (Most respondents completed the survey before the Oct. 7 release of the video in which Donald Trump bragged about groping women, but the responses of those surveyed afterward were indistinguishable from those who answered the day before.)

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