Archive

December 21st

Donald Trump will be violating the Constitution as soon as he's sworn in

    President-elect Donald Trump's tweets Monday night about his plans for his business are a baby step in the right direction. But it still falls far short of the giant leap he should make, following every president for the past four decades in divesting his business interests using a blind trust or the equivalent.

    Late Monday, Trump's transition announced that he was delaying a previously announced news conference that was set for Thursday on how he would handle his businesses. He later took to Twitter to say that he plans to pass over his businesses to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric and require that they not pursue any "new deals":

    "Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my busineses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the. . .. . .

    "Presidency. Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office.

    "I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times!"

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An indictment of 'real' news

    The arrest in Washington, D.C., of the "Pizzagate" shooter - the North Carolina man who stormed the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in the District, in hopes of exposing a child-abuse cabal that fortunately didn't exist - has put "fake news" near the top of things to panic about in the strange new age of Donald Trump.

    "Fake news" is the name many journalists now use for fabricated Internet-based news stories, many of them generated from sites in Eastern Europe and Russia, and the pizzeria scare has encouraged many of them to conclude that Web-based rumor-peddling is a threat to the republic.

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Trump can't wait to sell out his base

    "Watch what we do, not what we say."

    At the beginning of Richard Nixon's presidency, that's how Attorney General John Mitchell explained the way reporters could best understand what the country was about to experience.

    It's also good advice for understanding the administration of the billionaire phony populist who will assume the presidency next month. Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age.

    There's an irony here, since Mitchell was trying to reassure journalists that despite Nixon's 1968 law-and-order campaign, he would stay true to enforcing civil rights laws. In Trump's case, we're learning that rhetoric out of labor songbooks meant less than nothing. He was covering up an agenda focused on undercutting legal protections for workers and weakening their already beleaguered organizations.

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Trumping the Environment

    Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was elected, the environment is going to suffer.

    Both have supported horizontal fracking, the destruction of the earth to extract oil and gas. The use of fracking is so harmful to the environment and public health that numerous banks refuse to lend funds to individuals who wish to build or sell their houses near drilling operations. Numerous lenders have also refused to loan money to corporations that wish to drill.

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Make Colleges Diverse

    Many college campuses have reacted to Donald Trump’s election with shock and angst. Professors and students are wondering how the rest of the country could be so different from them. The more introspective are asking: What can we do?

    Michael Bloomberg has an answer.

    It’s an answer that should appeal to both liberals and conservatives — an answer that isn’t about Trump per se but instead about the alienation that helped him win. Bloomberg wants to make leading colleges more open to the working class. He wants to make them fairer places that look more like America.

    Top colleges are already diverse in some ways, of course. They enroll students of every ethnicity, from around the world. Yet those otherwise diverse student bodies remain distressingly affluent. Worst of all, they remain affluent even though many poor and middle-class students could thrive at top colleges.

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If nothing is true, then everything can be false

    After post-truth comes all-fake.

    The election of Donald Trump has seen the flowering of the post-truth landscape. Emotion outranks fact; believing makes it so. We are all Tinker Bell now. Clap if you believe in voter fraud. Clap if you doubt a human role in climate change.

    So when the president-elect claims, with no basis in reality, that he would have won the popular vote "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," the customary burden of proof is flipped: Where, his minions ask, with no hint of embarrassment, is the evidence that the assertion is untrue?

    "I don't know that that is a false statement, George, and neither do you," vice president elect Mike Pence told George Stephanopoulos said on ABC's "This Week." Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus took a similar true-until-proven-otherwise stance toward Trump's outlandish assertion: "I don't know if that's not true."

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I'm Mike Pence. No, not that one.

    "Mike Pence is in the house!" my longtime friend Jeff declared last weekend when I stepped into his new microbrewery. This was met with a chorus of groans and chuckles from the bar. "How are things going?" he asked. "Oh, you know," I played along halfheartedly, knowing that most everyone else still thinks this is funny. "I'm just messing everything up as quickly as possible."

    I am not, of course, Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana and now our vice president-elect, God help us all. If anything, I am in many ways the opposite of the governor: a progressive atheist software developer who, having been raised a Jehovah's Witness, has a healthy aversion to Orwellian thought-control cults of any political or religious origin.

    It's been a tough year to be Mike Pence. Not that I have ever had a strong affinity for my name as a unique identifier, having been raised, like the VP-elect's son, as a Mike Pence Jr., and never having had a strong reaction to the always-raised "Mike or Michael?" question. But sometimes you don't value a thing until you have lost it, and when people suddenly associate your name with someone you personally find to be a monster.

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Five facts about Trump's 'popularity'

    Donald Trump won the election. That's a fact. But since then, Trump, his supporters and even some pundits are making various claims about his victory that aren't true, starting with his Orwellian assertions to have won in a landslide or even recording "one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history."

    Here are a few other real facts about the president-elect, the election and public opinion.

 

    1. With almost all ballots finally counted, Hillary Clinton won the "popular" vote -- that is, the total number of votes cast -- by more than 2.8 million, about a 2.1 percent edge over Trump's tally. This is a larger gap than the one in the 2000 election, when Al Gore won about a half-million votes more than George W. Bush did. John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Jimmy Carter in 1976 were each elected president with a smaller percentage lead in total votes cast than Clinton's lead over Trump. In 2004, Bush beat John Kerry by only 2.5 percent of the vote.

    No, winning the popular vote doesn't have any legal standing at all. We shouldn't pretend otherwise. But it does mean that claiming the voters were demanding Trump or the programs he favored is dubious at best.

 

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Embracing humanism may be the only way forward

    This year was in many ways one of great-power politics. The resurgence of Russia on the global stage, from Ukraine to Syria to China. The Saudi-Iranian power struggle in the Middle East. China's assertion of its status as the Middle Kingdom once again, expecting deference from its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia. North Korea's determined pursuit of nuclear weapons. Even Great Britain's rejection of the European Union, fueled in part by Tory dreams of Britannia sovereign once again. It is a world of deals and shifting alliances, particularly as Pax Americana seems to wane - a trend that Donald Trump's stunning election as president threatens to accelerate - and U.S. foreign policy takes a decidedly realist turn.

    It is a world of 21 million refugees and 41 million internally displaced people, driven from their homes by war, famine, and tyranny; a world in which a half-million Syrians have been slaughtered in front of our eyes; a world with a conscience that can no longer be shocked by human suffering, whether from poison gas, barrel bombs, deliberate and systematic rape, or looming genocide. How, then, can one argue that this was a year of humanism?

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The Tainted Election

    The CIA, according to The Washington Post, has now determined that hackers working for the Russian government worked to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump. This has actually been obvious for months, but the agency was reluctant to state that conclusion before the election out of fear that it would be seen as taking a political role.

    Meanwhile, the FBI went public 10 days before the election, dominating headlines and TV coverage across the country with a letter strongly implying that it might be about to find damning new evidence against Hillary Clinton — when it turned out, literally, to have found nothing at all.

    Did the combination of Russian and FBI intervention swing the election? Yes. Clinton lost three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?

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