Archive

January 22nd, 2017

Cutting the NEA is first move to eliminate a free, open public realm

    For months now the debate in the arts world has been: Will he really do it? Will Donald Trump be the president who finally gives the right wing what it has so vehemently craved for decades, the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts?

    A report in The Hill suggests that pessimists, who assumed the worst once it became clear that Trump's election would likely empower organizations like the conservative Heritage Foundation, were right. He may indeed try to kill it.

    And the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as cutting the federal appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The animus against these organizations has been so powerful for so long that defending them feels almost pro forma, a reflexive rhetorical blast into the headwinds of an anti-arts bias so deep that there's little hope of changing anyone's mind ("The NEA is welfare for cultural elitists," declares the Heritage Foundation, sententiously).

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After the election, concern about minority children feeling welcome in their own country

    The day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, my 5-year-old daughter was identified by a classmate as having black skin. "Trump doesn't like black people," the little girl told her, "so you lose." My daughter said the girl went around pointing out the other "black" children - they were Asian twins. In the eyes of a kindergartner in predominantly white Menlo Park, Calif., though, they all appeared black, which must mean they are different, which is true. They - and we - are minorities.

    "I wish I had white skin, Mommy," my daughter told me when I asked her how the exchange made her feel. I was angry, scared and worried she would experience worse marginalization soon. She is the daughter of an immigrant, she is interracial, she has brown skin, she is a Muslim, she is a girl. A perfect ball of yarn spun with fibers a bigoted campaign targeted.

    My immediate thought: What if they won't feel welcome in their country of birth? I know this is possible, because it happened to me.

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You already possess the greatest tool to be an effective activist: Breathing

    I was among the tens of millions of Americans overcome with negative emotions post-election. I wrote here about my own intra-daily swings between rage and confusion. Even with years of training in yoga and meditation, I had no idea how to spend my energies in a healthy, productive way. I practice regularly, but meditation just seemed too big and scary because I couldn't sit still long enough to isolate and define what I was feeling. And wouldn't it only hurt more if I did?

    What also felt true was a prevailing feeling of helplessness. There was a strong desire to do something, anything, but retaliatory feelings were all we had. Vengeance fantasies, judgment and name-calling, desperation over the feeling of loss of moral norms, and powerlessness to help the citizens these norms had protected: This anger and fear eclipsed any efforts to be a better citizen, inspire change or develop a clear voice of response.

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Putin Praise Could Have Disastrous Results For NATO, U.S.

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

    "I never said Trump was 'brilliant,'" he might say. "That was a poor translation. I said he was 'colorful,' which nobody denies. Unfortunately, he is also an ignorant buffoon with no greater understanding of international relations than the average Moscow prostitute, of which he has known many."

    Would Trump confine himself to mocking Putin's short stature and bare-chested TV appearances on his Twitter account? Or would the United States and Russia go to war footing overnight?

    Fortunately, we can all relax. Everybody understands that Trump lives so deep in Putin's pocket that no such exchange seems possible. When it comes to foreign affairs, the only constant in our new president's pronouncements is that he has never yet said anything -- not one single thing -- that the Russian dictator would find objectionable.

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New York Times report: 'The Internet is brutal to mediocrity'

    In a new strategy document, The New York Times is taking aim at a staple of journalism -- the forgettable news story. "Journalism That Stands Apart" is the product of the newspaper's 2020 group, which is a team of seven New York Times journalists charged with plotting a map for the organization's future. The institutional imperative is to double digital revenue to $800 million by 2020, a goal that requires securing more and more digital subscriptions.

    Product improvements, note top editors Dean Baquet and Joe Kahn in a memo referencing the report, must come with fewer resources. "There will be budget cuts this year," write Baquet, the executive editor, and Kahn, the managing editor. "We've been pretty open in saying that in 2017 we're preparing to make some targeted reductions in the cost base at the same time continuing to make crucial hires we need to drive the report," said Kahn last week in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog.

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January 21st

Missing Obama Already

    Barack Obama’s legacy is being systematically unraveled even before he leaves office, with The Wall Street Journal scoffing that he “has been a historic president but perhaps not a consequential one.”

    Historians will also note that the Democratic Party is in far worse shape today than when Obama took office: It has lost its House and Senate majorities, as well as 13 governorships and more than 900 state legislative seats.

    More broadly, the sunny Obama optimism of “Yes, we can” has faded into a rancorous miasma of distrust and dysfunction. One example of that rancor is unfolding at the Woodmont Country Club outside Washington, where hawkish pro-Israeli members are campaigning to deny Obama membership — even though there’s no official indication he will even apply.

    Yet here’s my prediction: America and the world will soon be craving that Obama Cool again.

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Just Another Swindle

    Good news, folks — our new president says he’s planning a “tax holiday” for you.

    Well, not directly for you. Trump’s trillion-dollar whopper of a tax break will only go to such multinational corporations as Apple, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft.

    However, Trump says he’ll push for these cuts in your name, insisting that the trickle-down effect will create thousands of new jobs for America’s hard-hit working stiffs.

    Here’s the deal: To dodge paying the taxes they owe to our country, many U.S.-based global giants have stashed about $2 trillion worth of profits in offshore bank accounts. Now they want to bring this pile of loot home — yet they want to be rewarded for doing so by having the taxes they owe slashed.

    Enter The Donald, who’s delighted these scofflaws by offering to tax that offshore income at the low rate of only 10 percent — versus the 30 percent you and I pay for America’s upkeep. “Trust me,” exclaims the Donald. They’ll expand their businesses here and generate jobs for you!

    I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

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I taught those special snowflake millennials, and I have something to say

    There was a popular myth post-election that a Yale professor had offered an optional midterm for students upset over Trump's victory, and it lit up social media quickly. I counted about a dozen Facebook shares from friends on both sides of the political aisle. Comments typed fast and furious spoke of this snowflake generation, these spoiled, entitled babies who were raised so dreadfully and coddled by their parents. More than once I read, "This is what happens when you give everyone a trophy!" That the truth behind the rumors revealed an entirely opposite story made no difference: This was another opportunity to make fun of those insufferable millennials and their need for safe spaces.

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Chavez, Putin, Erdogan ... and Trump

    In the second half of the 20th century, the main threat to democracy came from the men in uniform. Fledgling democracies such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Thailand and Turkey were set back by dozens of military coups. For emerging democracies hoping to ward off such military interventions into domestic politics, Western European and American institutions, which vested all political authority in the hands of elected civilian governments, were offered as the model to follow. They were the best way to ensure that democracy, as Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan famously put it, became "the only game in town."

    Far from most thinkers' minds was whether Western institutions might be inviting a different threat to democracy - personal rule, in which civilian state institutions such as the bureaucracy and courts come under the direct control of the executive, and the lines between the state's interests and those of the ruler begin to blur. Most believed personal rule was something that applied only to the worst of the tin-pot dictatorships, such as that of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Daniel arap Moi in Kenya, or Sani Abacha in Nigeria. The checks and balances built in the fabric of Western institutions, the thinking went, would withstand any such usurpation.

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Trump's tweets start nationalizing private sector

    Here's a question: When is a company considered privately owned? There's ownership, and there's control. If a company's shareholders and executives don't have control over the day-to-day operations of their organization -- if the government calls them up and tells them what to do -- is it really private?

    Most big companies in China fall into this gray zone. Although the official state-owned enterprises have shrunk as a percentage of the economy, the government directly or indirectly owns controlling interests in most privately held businesses, and large minority stakes in the rest. This frees China's various government officials from the day-to-day operation of the companies, but allows them to intervene on anything of political interest -- or to use the companies as fronts for corruption.

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