Archive

August 22nd, 2016

Donald Trump, Omar Mateen's father and the question of belonging

    In the course of American history, a relatively shortlist of naturalized citizens have been stripped of their U.S. citizenship and the rights that come with it, then forced out of the country.

    These individuals have, in the eyes of the U.S. government, so violated the laws of this country, so completely embraced an ideology counter to national interests or offered such critical support to enemy causes, that the pact between the individual and the nation has been irrevocably broken. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have just offered a potential addendum to that list.

    His name is Seddique Mateen. He is the father of Omar Mateen, the gunman who shot and killed 49 people in an Orlando gay nightclub. Seddique Mateen is also a naturalized U.S. citizen, spotted at a Hillary Clinton campaign event last week. And he's a man about whom Trump was speaking during a Fox News town hall aired Wednesday night when the GOP nominee said he would "throw him out."

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A socialist hankering for a lakefront view

    As his campaign for president gathered steam, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, went on CNBC and challenged the business news network's audience.

    "You can't just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right?" he said. "You don't necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don't think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on."

    What a surprise, then, to learn last week that the Bern and his wife, Jane, have determined that what they need is a third piece of residential real estate.

    To go with places they already own in Washington and their hometown of Burlington, Vermont, the Sanders family has purchased a vacation home on an island in Lake Champlain. Price: $575,000, nearly triple the average cost of a house in the Green Mountain State.

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A memoir from inside Donald Trump's base

    When I caught up with J.D. Vance, he still sounded a bit bemused by the success of his colorfully titled book, "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis."

    "I was just hoping to get some attention," he told me in a telephone chat as he prepared for a network TV appearance in Washington. "I wasn't expecting nearly this much attention."

    No, but nobody was expecting Donald Trump to be the Republican presidential nominee, either -- especially not as a populist hero to a base of white working-class, non-college-educated voters.

    That's why, although Trump's name appears nowhere in Vance's book, it quickly rose to Amazon's top 10 amid glowing reviews as a narrative that helps to explain Trump's surprising appeal to the white underclass, the underprivileged group from which its author emerged.

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Why Blacks Loathe Trump

    So now Donald Trump is campaigning for the black vote. (Long, awkward pause.)

    Like so much of what Trump has said and done, this new outreach forces writers like me to conduct scatological studies, framing Trump’s actions in their historical and intellectual absurdity.

    But, here we go.

    Trump, who got a shocking 1 percent of support among black voters in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, has been urged to reach out to black voters.

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Who would win a global currency war today? No one: Satyajit Das

    It's been a year since a sudden, 1.9 percent decline in the Chinese yuan rattled global markets and prompted fears of a global currency war. China has mostly soothed nerves by moderating the renminbi's swoon since then. But what should really put minds to rest is the knowledge that no one -- not even China, which arguably did power its rise, at least in part, on the back of an artificially depressed yuan -- could win a true currency war today.

    The temptation to gain an advantage over competitors with a cheaper currency hasn't diminished, of course. First and foremost, devaluation holds out the promise of boosting exports by making them less expensive. Where a country has substantial external borrowing in its own currency, a weaker currency also engineers a transfer of wealth from foreign savers, as the value of those securities falls in dollar terms. Devaluation may also stimulate inflation as the higher cost of imported products pushes up price levels.

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Unpopularity of presidential candidates harms both party brands

    Much has been written of the damage Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party brand with his disruptive rhetoric and antics. But Hillary Clinton may also have put the Democratic Party brand in some peril with her secretive and evasive ways.

    Clinton's unfavorable poll ratings may have a severely negative impact on the down-ballot fight for control of both the House and Senate this fall, as she strives to reclaim a working majority in a Congress for the Democrats. In GOP hands, Congress has plagued President Obama for six of his nearly eight years in the Oval Office.

    If the strong Republican disfavor of Clinton bordering on hate generates a massive focus on maintaining party majorities in the Senate and especially in the House in November, as president she could face a continuation of the Republican legislative obstructionism that doomed much of the Obama agenda for so long.

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The whopping $1.2 trillion omission in Trump's tax reform plan

    When Donald Trump made his widely ballyhooed economic policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club last week, people came away with the idea that he was endorsing the tax reform plan recently proposed by House Republicans.

    But it turns out that he isn't endorsing one of the plan's major provisions - something that seems to have gone pretty much unnoticed.

    When you ask the right question - as I did - you find out that there's a 10-digit difference between Trump's proposal and the one House Republicans unveiled in June.

    We're talking a difference of $1.2 trillion. Even by the standards of today's big numbers and hyperbolic rhetoric, that's serious money.

    Let's step back, and I'll show you what I'm talking about.

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The troubling case of an attorney general who lied

    It's never the wrongdoing -- it's the lying about it. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who announced her resignation Tuesday in the face of a possible 14-year sentence for her conviction on perjury charges, proves the truth of that adage for public corruption cases. Leaking grand jury proceedings to embarrass a political rival would not have gotten her sent to prison. But lying about it under oath could and will.

    How could a state's top law enforcement official be so dumb? Why are perjury charges so serious? And why don't people, even lawyers, realize it?

    The answer goes back to the origins of the legal system. To put it bluntly, the truth of testimony under oath is the single most important component of legal justice. Whether at trial or at depositions, most factual statements most of the time aren't easily verifiable or disproven. Unless we can treat truth as the default option, the entire justice system -- civil as well as criminal -- becomes little more than a charade.

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Is Comrade Trump Playing Us For Fools?

    Are we watching an American presidential campaign or the pilot episode of a bizarre new TV series? Or both? The hallmark of "reality TV," of course, being its extreme unreality.

    On a daily basis, the Trump campaign invites sheer disbelief. Recently, Ivanka Trump, the statuesque daughter her father talks about dating, posted an Instagram photo of herself sightseeing in scenic Croatia with Wendi Deng Murdoch.

    The New York Daily News explains that "Deng, who was divorced from Rupert Murdoch in 2013 ... has been linked romantically to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin." The newspaper adds that "the optics of the photo could raise further questions about the relationship between Ivanka's father and Putin."

    Geez, you think? Maybe I'll ask Boris and Natasha. Those are my pet names for the Russian operatives who started sending me obscene emails after a recent column critical of Trump. The subject line in Boris' latest reads, "TRUMP SHOULD (DEFECATE) IN YOUR TRAITOROUS MOUTH!"

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How to avert America's Brexit

    This year's startling election poses a real risk of touching off an American Brexit. In other words, there is a meaningful chance that 2016 could begin a retreat of the United States from the mix of economic policies and the global engagement that U.S. businesses have regarded for decades as central to their success - unless business leaders can move decisively to redefine their goals as harmonious with those of working- and middle-class families.

    The key question is how we rise up in more muscular defense of the interests of U.S. workers and industries without doing permanent damage to our economy. We must also demonstrate that government can function and that business can be a constructive partner to it.

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