Archive

December 17th

Fakery Is Reality for Our Next President

    All hail Augusts Trumpus — the American Putin, whom none can criticize! All hail the All Knowing One, who reveals “realities” that aren’t there and finds “facts” that mere mortals can’t detect.

    Once again, the Amazing Donald has demonstrated his phantasmagoric power of perception, having found a new outcome in November’s election that others haven’t seen. Trump has been greatly perturbed by the official results, which showed that while he won the Electoral College majority, he wasn’t the people’s choice.

    Instead, according to the latest tally, Hillary Clinton won the popular balloting by a margin of more than 2.5 million votes and counting.

    Growing increasingly furious at this affront to his supernatural sense of self, the master of factual flexibility went on Twitter with an amazing revelation: “I won the popular vote,” decreed our incoming tweeter-in-chief.

    How did he turn a 2.5 million vote loss into a glorious victory? “I won,” he tweeted, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

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Identity Politics and a Dad’s Loss

    This fall I sat down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a black pastor whose unarmed son, Terence Crutcher, had been shot dead on the street by a white police officer.

    The Rev. Joey Crutcher told me that Terence’s killing was just the latest loss his family had suffered. He had also lost a child to crib death years ago, and another to cancer. In addition, his grandson had been shot dead while driving home from church in a gang hit that was a case of mistaken identity.

    Such heartbreak: Three children and a grandchild dead, each for a different reason. I’ve been thinking of the Crutchers because of the debate raging in the Democratic Party about its future. One faction argues that the left became too focused on “identity politics” — fighting for the rights of Muslims, gays, blacks and Latinos but neglecting themes of economic justice that would appeal to everyone, working-class whites in particular.

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Is Pentagon burying billions in waste? Dig deeper

    We defense wonks awoke to find a bombshell Tuesday morning, in the form of a Washington Post investigation by Bob Woodward and Craig Whitlock titled "Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste." All the plot elements are here for a classic Woodward expose: colossal federal waste, bureaucratic cover-up, high-level dissembling, and even overstaffed chow halls.

    But on closer inspection, the bombshell appears to be a dud. First, coming from somebody who has been as intimately familiar with government malfeasance for as long as Bob Woodward, shock over runaway Pentagon spending seems akin to griping over the cost of a porterhouse at the Capital Grille -- it's an outrage, but it comes with the territory. Second, after taking time to do the math and parse the timeline, it seems like there really is a lot less here than meets the eye.

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Keith Ellison isn't an anti-Semite. He's the victim of a vicious smear.

    Which is the more bitter irony: That the Anti-Defamation League's specialty should have become defamation, or that its latest target, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, should be among the country's most important opponents of political anti-Semitism?

    Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress and a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter, is a leading candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But since he is also a measured critic of U.S. support for Israel's occupation of Palestine, he has fallen victim to the same accusations of anti-Semitism that the ADL has promiscuously dispensed in recent years.

    It all happened so suddenly. Two weeks ago, the ADL's national director Jonathan Greenblatt regarded Ellison as "a man of good character" in emailed remarks to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Now, per an official ADL release, Ellison's views on the Israel-Palestine conflict are "both deeply disturbing and disqualifying."

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Minimum-wage opponents tripped up by facts

    We interrupt this holiday season to revisit the minimum-wage experiment going on in various cities and states, paying special attention to those opposed to plans by some locales to eventually adopt a $15 hourly wage.

    The forecasts of these critics -- that jobs would be lost and businesses would close -- have, so far, been proven wrong. Although this is interesting, what's most important is why they were wrong. In many cases, they suffer from the sort of systemic bias that is typically observed in the self-destructive tendencies of too many investors. To many of these minimum-wage foes, government can do no right, and any effort to ameliorate some of the defects or inefficiencies in the free market will always and everywhere prove counterproductive.

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On fake news and fakers of truth

    Along with a president-elect who thrives on peddling lies and made-up stuff, the American public currently is obliged to put up with a growing ugly phenomenon on the Internet: purveyors of rank falsity for mischief and profit.

    The reference is not only to the vicious juveniles who intentionally manufacture outrageous whoppers in a callous dash for eyeballs. More dangerous are the peddlers of politically motivated and untrue hate, with no regard for their impact on the need for truthful public discourse.

    The latest attack on a D.C. pizza parlor was ignited by a fake story alleging Hillary Clinton's involvement in a secret child molestation ring. It was spread by, among others, Donald Trump's just-appointed national security adviser, which shows the degree to which this sickness has infected the country.

    Less scurrilous but significant is the poisoning of professional journalism that seeks to report and comment on what actually is said and done by elected public officials.

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December 16th

Roe v. Wade may be doomed; dark days are ahead for reproductive rights

    The Supreme Court was something of an under-the-radar issue in the 2016 campaign, extremely important to some groups (especially white evangelicals), but not discussed all that much on a national level. But now that Donald Trump has been elected, and with the success of the GOP's only-Republican-presidents-are-allowed-to-fill-vacancies strategy, it will be of tremendous importance to the country's future.

    No issue will be more volatile than abortion, which raises the inevitable question: Is Roe v. Wade doomed?

    That question is coming up again in the wake of the Ohio legislature's shocking decision to pass a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they're pregnant. Under current jurisprudence, this ban is almost certainly unconstitutional. But maybe by the time it reaches the Supreme Court, it won't be.

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Trump Warms Up

    What do you think the theme for Donald Trump’s appointments has been so far? Generals, generals, generals? Climate change deniers, climate change deniers?

    Those seem to be the leading contenders, although there’s always the ever-popular Give Chris Christie a job. While still cooling his heels as governor of New Jersey, Christie made history when a recent Quinnipiac poll showed him with a 77 percent job disapproval rating. None of his predecessors had managed such a feat. We knew he had it in him.

    When I want to be cheered up, I always think about Christie, who’s currently lobbying for head of the Republican National Committee. (Next week, the Surface Transportation Board.)

    On the downside, we had the heartbreaking saga of Al Gore, who happily emerged from a meeting with Trump this week, telling reporters about the “lengthy and very productive session” he’d had with the president-elect on climate change. It was, Gore added hopefully, a conversation that was likely “to be continued.”

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Trump: Madman of the Year

    So, Time magazine, ever in search of buzz, this week named Donald Trump Person of the Year. But they did so with a headline that read, “President of the Divided States of America.”

    The demi-fascist of Fifth Avenue wasn’t flattered by that wording.

    In an interview with the “Today” show, Trump huffed, “When you say divided states of America, I didn’t divide them. They’re divided now.” He added later, “I think putting divided is snarky, but again, it’s divided. I’m not president yet. So I didn’t do anything to divide.”

    Donald, thy name is division. You and your campaign of toxicity and intolerance have not only divided this country but also ripped it to tatters.

    This comports with an extremely disturbing tendency of Trump’s: Denying responsibility for things of which he is fully culpable, while claiming full praise for things in which he was only partly involved.

    As my mother used to say: Don’t try to throw a rock and hide your hand. Own your odiousness.

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When fake news leads to real dangers

    Imagine that you have owned a family-friendly pizza restaurant for about a decade in an upscale northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Suddenly, without warning, you're getting slimed by sickos on the Internet with death threats and obscenities.

    What would you do?

    There's wasn't much James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, could do when threatening messages began to appear on his Instagram feed in late October and grew into hundreds through texts, Facebook, Twitter and telephone calls.

    The furor was based on a lie, a breathtakingly false allegation of a child sex abuse ring supposedly led by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief, John Podesta.

    There was, you may recall, a presidential election coming up.

    Conspiracy theories have percolated constantly against the Clintons, among other famous and powerful people. The longer they're around, the more bizarre the narratives have become, particularly in the Internet's busy hives of fake news.

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