Archive

December 22nd

For Mitt Romney, Dinner and a Kiss-Off

    Farewell, Mitt Romney, farewell.

    Romney, who once spent nearly a decade being rejected by the American electorate, got the heave-ho from Donald Trump this week — passed over for the secretary of state nomination in favor of an oil executive who is great pals with Vladimir Putin.

    It is, of course, extremely fashionable in Trump’s Washington to be great pals with Vladimir Putin. Also to be a general or a climate change denier. Romney was always suspicious of Russia, never served in the military, and although he came up with multiple positions on the environment over the years, he would still have been one of the only Trump nominees to have sporadically held an opinion that the globe was warming.

    It’s not like the list of appointees doesn’t have variety. Rick Perry once competed in “Dancing With the Stars.” Linda McMahon, the new head of the Small Business Administration, is probably the only one who’s performed in a professional wrestling competition. McMahon is among the highest-ranking female nominees.

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'Fake News' Not A Strong Enough Term For Genuine Insanity

    "How fading and insipid do all objects accost us that are not conveyed in the vehicle of delusion." -- Jonathan Swift, "A Digression Concerning ... the Use and Improvement of Madness in a Commonwealth," 1704

    Americans have always thought of themselves as a practical, commonsensical people, a nation of Thomas Edisons and Henry Fords. (Never mind that industrial genius Ford was also a political crank whose treatise "The International Jew" influenced Nazi race theory.) In reality, we've always been a nation of easy marks. As H.L. Mencken wrote: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

    Anybody glib and shameless enough can sell Americans damn near anything. Very few faith-healers, astrologers, crackpot diet enthusiasts, peddlers of love potions, self-anointed prophets and messiahs -- not to mention political mountebanks and conspiracy theorists -- have ever lacked for a large and credulous audience.

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Donald Trump is threatening to wreck our democracy. Blame the Republicans who are looking the other way.

    The events we've seen in the run-up to the inauguration of Donald Trump have only confirmed that he represents a threat to our democracy and governing norms in multiple unprecedented ways. But this isn't just a story about Donald Trump. It's also a story about congressional Republicans.

    Trump is doing all he can to discredit the apparent CIA conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in our election, which might make a true accounting of this apparently unprecedented assault on our democracy harder. He continues to suggest he will do little to address all the potential conflicts of interests -- and possibility of corruption -- that are developing around his global business interests on a mind-boggling scale. He continues to claim -- after the election -- that millions voted illegally, to sow confusion and doubt about the real meaning of the outcome and the integrity of our political process.

    Yet there are steps congressional Republicans could take to mitigate the damage of those things, but aren't:

 

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Why I'm trying to preserve federal climate data before Trump takes office

    When it comes to climate science, President-elect Donald Trump has been a purveyor of conspiracy theories for years. He's called human-caused climate change a Chinese hoax and refused to acknowledge the existence of the California drought, promising farmers there that, as president, he would "open up the water." He's vowed to eliminate the EPA and the Energy Department and "cancel" the Paris Agreement.

    Since the election, Trump has been relentlessly converting those anti-science messages into action, wrongly believing that doubling down on fossil fuel production will help boost long-term economic growth. (That Trump's pick for secretary of state -- ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson -- is among the least extreme of his appointments is chilling.)

    According to a Sierra Club report, when he assumes the presidency on Jan. 20, Trump will be the only head of state in the world to deny mainstream climate science -- and yes, that includes even Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

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What will be Trump's legacy? Who cares.

    Was Donald J. Trump a recruit in

    The Russians' quest for a route in-

    To the Oval Office

    By way of a novice?

    Trump pooh-poohs it: pooh-Putin.

    So you hail a cab in Manhattan to go to LaGuardia and the cabdriver heads for the Lincoln Tunnel and you say, "LaGuardia, LaGuardia, LaGuardia," and he says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," and you're in New Jersey, and you yell at him to stop and he doesn't, he points north and says, "Bridge!" and now you're on I-87 passing through Poughkeepsie -- this is pretty much where we are with Trump Inc. so far. The populist revolt turns into a corporate boardroom and the disaffected Democrats who voted for it are not going to catch that plane to Florida after all. They will be spending four years on cousin Sid's rollaway in Schenectady.

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December 21st

Trump’s Approach: A Fresh Start or Crazy Reckless?

    Maybe it will all turn out OK. If it does, put me down as promising to applaud.

    But my fellow Americans, whatever mix of motives led us to create an Electoral College majority for Donald Trump to become president — and overlook his lack of preparation, his record of indecent personal behavior, his madcap midnight tweeting, his casual lying about issues like “millions” of people casting illegal votes in this election, the purveying of fake news by his national security adviser, his readiness to appoint climate change deniers without even getting a single briefing from the world’s greatest climate scientists in the government he’ll soon lead, and his cavalier dismissal of the CIA’s conclusions about Russian hacking of our election — have no doubt about one thing: We as a country have just done something incredibly reckless.

    There is actually something “prehistoric” about the Cabinet that Trump is putting together. It is totally dominated by people who have spent their adult lives drilling for, or advocating for, fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal.

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The holidays aren't a big, happy family celebration for everyone. And that's OK.

    While opening Halloween candy, my 12-year-old daughter asked, "Is anyone coming for Thanksgiving?"

    Not "who" is coming over, but whether anyone would join us at all.

    "Just the three of us," I said, cheerfully. She was quiet, thoughtfully chewing a bite-sized chocolate.

    "And Christmas?" she asked.

    "Just the three of us in Florida," I said, and then to sweeten the deal, "presents by the pool!" She smiled.

    We go through this every year as soon as the detritus of Halloween is swept away, this eight-week holiday season marathon when everyone else has grandparents flying in, aunts and uncles an hour's drive away, cousins to play and fight with, houses filling up with love and chaos, or at least chaos. At least that's how it is in our leafy, affluent suburb where many nuclear families are not only still intact but thriving, with functional extended family relationships.

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How U.S. could retaliate for Russian intervention

    If Russia really tried to throw the U.S. election to Donald Trump, what then? Did the hacking violate international law? And if so, what can the U.S. do to retaliate? The short answer is that trying to change the outcome of another country's election does violate a well-recognized principle of international law, and the U.S. would be legally justified in taking "proportionate countermeasures." But, in a painful twist, the best precedent comes from a 1986 case the U.S. lost and never accepted.

    There are essentially two ways to establish a principle of international law: by treaty or by custom -- and there's no explicit treaty prohibiting nations from intervening in one another's affairs. That makes nonintervention a principle of customary international law -- albeit a custom sometimes honored more in the breach.

    The idea that states should leave one another alone certainly makes sense. On some level the whole theory of national sovereignty -- the cornerstone of modern international law -- depends on that idea.

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How the first family reshaped perceptions of the black family in America

    Families can be mysterious, intense and, more often than not, indecipherable to the outside world. Most families seem to endure similar gyrations and upheavals. There are moments of failure and success. There is admirable endurance. To study any individual family is to crisscross tricky terrain, and to invite an endless and almost timeless inquiry.

    As Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama - the first family, along with grandma Marian Robinson - depart the White House, it is worth looking back at their visage. What did it mean to have a black family, for eight years, astride the political and cultural colossus of American society? How much did the "African" in "African American" resonate?

    There perhaps is no other family unit in America that has been analyzed, poked and studied as much as the black family. Its habits, customs, rituals and odyssey have been tabulated, collated and stored for generations. The hyper-curiosity is rooted in slavery and the gouging, sweeping damage it wreaked upon a race of people.

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Donald Trump's strange defense of Russia

    Good lord. We are about to inaugurate as president a man whose election, according to the CIA, was aided by a Russian intelligence operation. Try as we might, we cannot pretend this didn't happen.

    We can't ignore outrageous interference by an adversarial foreign power because President-elect Donald Trump's actions question his own legitimacy, or at least his fitness to hold the nation's highest office, virtually every day.

     He jets around the country holding adulatory victory rallies in the manner of an authoritarian strongman, preening like some latter-day Juan Peron. Does this worry you? It worries me.

    He can't be bothered to sit through the regular intelligence briefings that have been a vital part of every modern president's job. "I'm, like, a smart person," he explained Sunday. Are you reassured? I'm not.

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