Archive

January 11th, 2017

Arms and the Trump

    When a man at a Florida airport retrieves his luggage, takes out a gun and kills five people, the only part people are surprised about is that it happened at an airport.

    In the grand sweep of U.S. gunfire in the 21st century, all we can say about Friday’s Fort Lauderdale tragedy was that it was the worst mass shooting so far in 2017. But there have already been six incidents with more than three dead or wounded victims. On Wednesday, three family members in Fontana, California, were killed in their home and another was critically wounded. A 73-year-old relative was charged. Never even entered the national conversation.

    But the Fort Lauderdale case was personal — almost everybody travels through airports. “You just can’t imagine how this could ever happen in a state like ours,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a news conference. A few minutes later he did remember to refer to the fact that last year 49 people were shot to death in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

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Welcome to the Trump era

    President-elect Donald Trump, still officially only in the wings of power, had no hesitation horning in on the opening of Congress the other day. He castigated his own party's leaders for giving priority to a matter of House housekeeping rather than addressing his urgent call to make American great again.

    Of their decision to call a vote on killing off the Office of Congressional Ethics that ultimately failed, Trump tweeted: "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog ... their number one act and priority?" There were, he lectured, "so many other things of far greater importance."

    Talk of the pot calling the kettle black. Here is the man who has refused to reveal his income-tax returns lecturing his party colleagues for paying more attention to attempting to bail out errant House Republicans for alleged bad behavior than to his urgent agenda.

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Obama's coalition included rural whites

    From a Democrat's perspective, the political map of Missouri looks like a blood-red sea with three little blue boats -- Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis -- bobbing on the murderous waves. Donald Trump won the state by 19 points on the strength of rural, exurban and suburban votes. It's a pattern that was repeated across the Midwest.

    Roy Temple was chairman of the Missouri State Democratic Party during the 2016 election. He is a partner in the political multimedia advertising agency, GPS Impact. I spoke with him, via email, about his experience in a state that has moved more securely into the Republican column in recent years.

    Wilkinson: If Democrats are going to win in states like Missouri, they will have to attract nonurban white voters. You've been dealing with this in your state for a while. What advice do you have for your party?

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My three maddening, futile years inside the broken Senate confirmation process

    The 114th Congress ended this week, and with it went the confirmation chances of more than 80 qualified men and women nominated to government positions at all levels. On this Going Nowhere List are Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and many others whose names had been put forward for less-exalted positions. I was one of them.

    My concept of public service was framed by the civics of "Schoolhouse Rock": A president nominates men and women who have particular skills and experience that qualify them to hold specific government positions. Backgrounds and references are checked, nominations are submitted, and the Senate consents or not to confirmation. The process is straightforward, civil, expeditious and based on merit.

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If Trump really knows the art of the deal, he'll embrace free trade

    Trade protectionism could be the biggest risk to President-elect Donald Trump's growth-and-greatness agenda. Trump the dealmaker needs to decide whether to play case-by-case defense or to use America's leverage to open markets.

    The United States has free-trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 countriesthat account for 10 percent of the global economy but nearly half of U.S. exports. In the first five years of these deals, U.S. exports on average increased three times as rapidly as export growth globally.

    The United States enjoys a manufacturing trade surplus with FTA partners, while about 60 percent of imports are for intermediate goods that lower costs for U.S producers. U.S. free-trade agreements support innovation by incorporating new rules that help cutting-edge businesses. Congress, the co-owner of these agreements, should push for more.

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I made my autistic son cannabis cookies. They saved him.

    It took me awhile to perfect the cookie recipe. I experimented with ingredients: Blueberry, Strawberry, Sour Diesel, White Widow, Bubba Kush, AK-47 - all strains of cannabis, which I stored, mixed with glycerin, in meticulously labeled jars on a kitchen shelf. After the cookies finished baking, I'd taste a few crumbs and annotate the effects in a notebook. Often, I felt woozy. One variation put me to sleep. When I had convinced myself that a batch was OK, I'd give a cookie to my 9-year-old son.

    At the time he was consumed by violent rages. He would bang his head, scream for hours and literally eat his shirts. At dinnertime, he threw his plates so forcefully that there was food stuck on the ceiling. He would punch and scratch himself and others, such that people would look at the red streaks on our bodies and ask us, gingerly, if we had cats.

    But when I got the cookies right, he calmed down. His aggressions became less ferocious and less frequent. Mealtimes became less fraught. He was able to maintain enough self-composure that he even learned how to ride a bike - despite every expert telling us it would never happen.

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I knew Gov. Schwarzenegger. Mr. Trump, you're no Gov. Schwarzenegger.

    With Arnold Schwarzenegger taking over Donald Trump's former role on "Celebrity Apprentice" this past week, we've been treated to another round of comparisons between the movie star who became governor of California and the reality star who will be the next president of the United States.

    The New York Times' TV critic determined that "Mr. Trump's imperiousness and (seeming) impetuousness had made him an ideal reality-TV boss, while Mr. Schwarzenegger's cautiousness and rigidity make him a poor fit." The Los Angeles Times critic, for one, begged to differ, concluding that "like his predecessor, Schwarzenegger is entirely comfortable hamming it up as an imperious bad guy" and noting that "Schwarzenegger's Trump impression was so complete, he even had a younger blond relative, nephew Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger, playing the Ivanka Trump role." Best yet, Trump himself weighed inFriday: "Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 'swamped' (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT."

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How Trump got his party to love Russia

    For decades, anti-communism united conservatives behind the Republican Party. An otherwise disparate collection of national security hawks, free-market enthusiasts and social traditionalists rallied to the GOP, resolutely committed to checking Soviet influence around the world. All of these constituencies had reason to despise godless, revolution-exporting Bolsheviks. Although Russia no longer subscribes to Marxist-Leninist doctrine, it still presents a threat to the United States, its allies and the liberal world order. Witness its aggression against Ukraine, its intervention in Syria's civil war and its support for extremists across Europe.

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How Trump can play nice with Russia, without selling out America

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was a whirlwind of vagaries and contradictions when it came to foreign policy, making it difficult to predict how his new administration will approach dozens of international issues. On Russia, however, he was clear and consistent. He praised President Vladimir Putin often, defended many of Putin's policies, and declared with enthusiasm, "Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?" Since his election, Trump has persisted in defending Putin, questioning in multiple tweets and comments the intelligence community's assessment regarding Russia's interference in our electoral process last year. In nominating Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, Trump is proposing for Senate approval the perfect emissary for improving relations with the Kremlin. Along with Henry Kissinger and Steven Seagal, Tillerson is one of the very few Americans to have enjoyed direct and sustained access to Putin in recent years. The conditions seem set for another reset with Russia.

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How Julian Assange became an enemy of the truth

    You almost have to feel sorry for Julian Assange. Shut in at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London without access to sunlight, the founder of WikiLeaks is reduced to self-parody these days.

    Here is a man dedicated to radical transparency, yet he refuses to go to Sweden despite an arrest warrant in connection with allegations of sexual assault. His organization retweets the president-elect who once called for him to be put to death. He spreads the innuendo that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer, was murdered this summer because he was the real source of the emails WikiLeaks published in the run-up to November's election. And now he tells Fox News's Sean Hannity that it's the U.S. media that is deeply dishonest.

    This is the proper context to evaluate Assange's claim, repeated by Donald Trump and his supporters, that Russia was not the source for the e-mails of leading Democrats distributed by WikiLeaks.

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