Archive

December 12th

Trump’s Agents of Idiocracy

    Last week when Donald Trump began his so-called Thank You Tour in Cincinnati, he had yet another opportunity to be magnanimous and conciliatory, to step beyond the division and acrimony of his campaign and into the unity and healing necessary to be president of a strained nation.

    As is his wont, he declined, instead gloating and boasting, playing to the minority of U.S. voters who chose him, relishing his own impenitence.

    He is choosing to push the United States further apart rather than bring it closer together.

    And be clear: It is not the job of the defiant to conform to a future president who makes them completely uncomfortable. The burden of unity lies with Trump, not his detractors.

    “Just wait and see.” “Give him a chance.” But what if what you’ve already seen is so beyond the pale that it’s irrevocable? What if Trump has already squandered more chances than most of us will ever have?

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Trump makes Romney grovel for job at State

    Choosing Mitt Romney to be his secretary of state would be the most presidential thing Donald Trump could do.

    But that doesn't mean he's going to do it.

    Deciding who will be the country's top diplomat is a perfect demonstration of just how hard it is for Trump to act like a president versus being, well, Trump.

    On the one hand, by inviting an enemy who called him a phony and a fraud into the room because he could be the best person for the job shows grace in victory.

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The 'silly little boxes' the census divides us into

    With the clock winding down on its final term, the Obama administration is rushing to institute changes in racial classifications. Yet with all eyes glued to President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team, the move will likely get little notice.

    That's a shame, because the proposal will only aggravate the volatile social frictions that created today's poisonous political climate in the first place.

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) slipped notice of the proposed rule under the door just one day after Congress went on recess in September. It calls for the creation of a new ethnic group out of an estimated 10 million Americans who trace family origins back to the swath of land between Morocco and the Iran-Afghanistan border. Now classified as white, they would form part of a new Middle East and North Africa (MENA) ethnic group in the 2020 Census.

    A second change would affect 56 million Americans who are now told by the census to classify themselves as "Hispanics" ethnically. The proposed rule would eliminate a second question that lets them also choose their race.

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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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The post-truth era of politics

    Welcome to -- brace yourself for -- the post-truth presidency.

    "Facts are stubborn things," said John Adams in 1770, defending British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, "and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

    Or so we thought, until we elected to the presidency a man consistently heedless of truth and impervious to fact-checking.

    Oxford Dictionaries last month selected post-truth -- "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief" -- as the international word of the year, and for good reason.

    The practice of post-truth -- untrue assertion piled on untrue assertion -- helped get Donald Trump to the White House.  The more untruths he told, the more supporters rewarded him for, as they saw it, telling it like it is.

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China really isn't joking about Taiwan

    There's a reason Donald Trump's impetuous conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has left foreign-policy experts tearing their hair out by the roots. The fussy diplomatic protocols Trump flouted, in this case, are not a mere formality. They are a finely honed coping strategy for Chinese emotions that are very raw and potentially explosive. Although the Chinese reaction has been surprisingly - perhaps hopefully - muted, there is no more sincerely sensitive issue in China, among politicians and the public, than Taiwan.

    Taiwan, or the Republic of China, was founded by the fleeing Kuomintang (KMT or "Nationalist Party"), the modernizing but corrupt, authoritarian, and incompetent rulers of China in the 1930s, after they lost the mainland to the Communist Party, the modernizing but corrupt, authoritarian, and incompetent rulers of China from 1949 to the present. They fled to the conveniently defensible island on China's southern margins, once famous as a haven for pirates and later a Japanese colony.

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The Art of the Scam

    Remember Donald Trump’s tax returns? It was unheard-of for a presidential candidate to refuse to release returns, since doing so strongly suggests that he has something to hide. And at first the Trump campaign offered excuses, claiming that the returns would eventually be made available once an IRS audit was done, or something. But at this point it’s apparent that Trump believed, correctly, that he could violate all the norms, stonewall on even the most basic disclosure, and pay no political price.

    Indeed, it’s clear that Hillary Clinton was in effect punished for her financial transparency, while Trump was rewarded for his practice of revealing nothing about how he makes money.

    And as a result, we can expect radical lack of transparency to be standard operating procedure in the new administration. In fact, it has already started.

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Republicans are preparing a fiscal extravaganza

    Immediately after Inauguration Day, Republicans are planning to use their dominance in Washington to enact the most radical overhaul of spending and taxes in a half-century.

    Soon after the new Congress convenes next month, they plan to repeal some of Obamacare, delighting the right-wing base. The critical element, replacement, would come later. In the more than 6 1/2 years since the Affordable Care Act became law, Republicans have yet to find a consensus on replacement.

    If they get a partial repeal, congressional Republicans might try to cobble together a replacement by the spring. This would be part of a huge bill that might include a big tax cut and major cuts in domestic spending programs, including turning the most important low-income assistance initiatives into block grants to the states, with eventual cutbacks. Look for a lot of fiscal gimmicks and sleight of hand.

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John Glenn survived space and celebrity - and still had a great marriage

    In April 1959, NASA revealed its first spacemen, the Mercury Seven astronauts, during a news conference in Washington, D.C. They became America's first reality stars, their lives documented by Life magazine for a sum of $500,000 a piece. It was an unprecedented time. The new silver-suited space cowboys, who mostly came from military test-pilot backgrounds, became instant sex symbols, and John Glenn was the poster boy.

    A model among the highly competitive group, Glenn even looked like the kid from Mad Magazine, freckle-faced and all-American. But what really set him apart from his fellow astronauts was the special relationship he had with his wife, Annie, even among the tremendous scrutiny and pressures that killed most of the astronauts' marriages.

    When I wrote my book on the astronaut wives, I learned that the Glenns were what NASA wanted all seven astronauts and their wives to be. They had what appeared to be the most solid love story in America, then and up until Thursday, when Glenn died at 95.

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Red states are finally going to be able to turn themselves into poor, unhealthy paradises

    In 2004, the journalist and historian Thomas Frank wrote an insightful and prescient book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?", in which he tried to puzzle out why voters in his native state backed Republicans whose policies undermined their own economic interests.

    Watching the apocalyptic response to Donald Trump victory in the liberal precincts I inhabit, I'm struck by a similar quandary: Why are voters in states that pay a disproportionately large share of federal taxes, and benefit from a disproportionately small share of federal spending, so upset about the prospect of a cut in taxes and federal spending?

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