Archive

December 22nd

What Democrats should really be looking for in the next DNC chair

    We have now learned that Tom Perez, the outgoing Secretary of Labor, will be joining the race for chair of the Democratic National Committee. Much of the discussion around the question of the Democratic Party's next leader seems to have virtually nothing to do with the things that will actually make that leader a success or a failure, so it might be worthwhile to consider the questions Democrats should be asking themselves at this point.

    But first, here's the lay of the land. The leading candidate up until now has been Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, who has garnered endorsements from key Democratic politicians like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, and important liberal groups like the AFL-CIO. Nevertheless, the race - which will be decided by the 447 committee members when they meet in late February - is still wide open .

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Trump Is Taking on Wall Street, Literally

    Actor Jack Nicholson says he finally understood the meaning of the word irony when his mother called him an SOB.

    So let us consider Donald Trump, who campaigned as the populist champion of the working-class, promising that — by golly — he was going to take on Wall Street and the corporate elites.

    But the bitter irony for the working class is that they now see what the SOB meant — he’s literally “taking on” the moneyed powers, by taking them on-board his administration. Already he’s brought in Wall Street billionaires to fill the three top economic policy positions in his cabinet.

    Then there’s Betsy DeVos, the billionaire heiress to the scandal-plagued Amway fortune. Her life’s work has been trying to defund and privatize the public schools that working-class people count on, and to eliminate the working-class jobs of teachers and support staff.

    Her new job with Trump? Secretary of education, where she’ll now use our public money to undermine our public education system.

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The party's over; college towns have had their fun

    As economists look for models that could reverse the fortunes of stagnating parts of the country, one cause for optimism has been college towns, which have thrived despite being neither wealthy coastal metropolises nor booming Sun Belt cities. The problem is that the common thread among those towns is ... colleges. And demographic and labor-market forces have peaked in higher education.

    The appeal of the college town model is understandable. As a recent Wall Street Journal article notes, since 2000, the median unemployment rate in counties with flagship land-grant universities has been 1.2 percent lower than in other counties. For communities that aren't blessed with the robust infrastructure and deep talent pools of large cities, higher ed institutions represent a robust source of economic demand that isn't dependent on manufacturing or the business cycle. It's also a way to ensure a steady stream of young people, fighting some of the demographic pressures as the rest of small-town America ages.

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Mainstream Republicans think they're in control

    Mainstream Republicans are buoyed by Donald Trump's appointments so far, convinced that strategically positioned top officials can freeze out those they consider extremists.

    On domestic issues, establishment congressional conservatives believe that an alliance of Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus will encourage the Trump administration to push a conventional Republican agenda. They also are counting on support from Trump's oldest daughter, Ivanka. The loser, in this view, will be top White House counselor Steve Bannon, a champion of white nationalists and the populist right.

    On national security, the betting is that Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, a retired general, will join forces with Trump's choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon-Mobil, to outmanuever the designated national security adviser, retired General Mike Flynn. Flynn has drawn criticism for calling Islam "a political ideology" and ex-colleagues have said they are worried about his volatile temperament.

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How Trump is paving the way for a revival of the 'religious left'

    On Election Day, much was made of exit polls that showed 80 percent of white evangelicals backing Republican Donald Trump, a sometimes vulgar, twice-divorced candidate who could not name his favorite Bible verse and once bragged about sexual assault. The result seemed inexplicable, and political analysts are now questioning the theological credibility of right-wing Christian leaders who embraced Trump, with some high-profile religious conservatives decrying such support as hypocritical at best, heretical at worst.

    But as some members of the religious right wrestle with how to reclaim their moral authority, another group is quietly beginning to rise. Progressive, faith-rooted advocacy organizations, such as Faith in Public Life, Auburn Seminary and Sojourners, have all reported surges in donations and interest in activism since November, and are now organizing to counter any number of Trump's policy proposals. Meanwhile, progressive Christians long absent from Sunday worship are returning to church in droves.

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From Obama's EPA to Trump's PPA

    Kathleen Stama sounded like the cat that had just dined on filet de canary.

    She told the Denver Post that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is a great choice to run the EPA, as he understands that "centralized government is not the best way to protect the environment."

    Stama is all about protecting the environment. Except when she is spokesperson for the Western Energy Alliance, which is all about drilling for oil and mining coal.

    In office, Scott Pruitt has been just as willing a servant of industry, and just as concerned about the environment. He's fought the EPA at every turn, in fact.

    Sure, local control is the best way to protect the environment. After all, every state is apportioned its own air, right? When every state does what's best for the air, then all states will have clean air, right?

    Right.

    In other words, rename the agency Stama, and President-elect Trump, envision. What once was the EPA would be the PPA – Polluter Protection Administration.

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For Mitt Romney, Dinner and a Kiss-Off

    Farewell, Mitt Romney, farewell.

    Romney, who once spent nearly a decade being rejected by the American electorate, got the heave-ho from Donald Trump this week — passed over for the secretary of state nomination in favor of an oil executive who is great pals with Vladimir Putin.

    It is, of course, extremely fashionable in Trump’s Washington to be great pals with Vladimir Putin. Also to be a general or a climate change denier. Romney was always suspicious of Russia, never served in the military, and although he came up with multiple positions on the environment over the years, he would still have been one of the only Trump nominees to have sporadically held an opinion that the globe was warming.

    It’s not like the list of appointees doesn’t have variety. Rick Perry once competed in “Dancing With the Stars.” Linda McMahon, the new head of the Small Business Administration, is probably the only one who’s performed in a professional wrestling competition. McMahon is among the highest-ranking female nominees.

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'Fake News' Not A Strong Enough Term For Genuine Insanity

    "How fading and insipid do all objects accost us that are not conveyed in the vehicle of delusion." -- Jonathan Swift, "A Digression Concerning ... the Use and Improvement of Madness in a Commonwealth," 1704

    Americans have always thought of themselves as a practical, commonsensical people, a nation of Thomas Edisons and Henry Fords. (Never mind that industrial genius Ford was also a political crank whose treatise "The International Jew" influenced Nazi race theory.) In reality, we've always been a nation of easy marks. As H.L. Mencken wrote: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

    Anybody glib and shameless enough can sell Americans damn near anything. Very few faith-healers, astrologers, crackpot diet enthusiasts, peddlers of love potions, self-anointed prophets and messiahs -- not to mention political mountebanks and conspiracy theorists -- have ever lacked for a large and credulous audience.

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Donald Trump is threatening to wreck our democracy. Blame the Republicans who are looking the other way.

    The events we've seen in the run-up to the inauguration of Donald Trump have only confirmed that he represents a threat to our democracy and governing norms in multiple unprecedented ways. But this isn't just a story about Donald Trump. It's also a story about congressional Republicans.

    Trump is doing all he can to discredit the apparent CIA conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in our election, which might make a true accounting of this apparently unprecedented assault on our democracy harder. He continues to suggest he will do little to address all the potential conflicts of interests -- and possibility of corruption -- that are developing around his global business interests on a mind-boggling scale. He continues to claim -- after the election -- that millions voted illegally, to sow confusion and doubt about the real meaning of the outcome and the integrity of our political process.

    Yet there are steps congressional Republicans could take to mitigate the damage of those things, but aren't:

 

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Why I'm trying to preserve federal climate data before Trump takes office

    When it comes to climate science, President-elect Donald Trump has been a purveyor of conspiracy theories for years. He's called human-caused climate change a Chinese hoax and refused to acknowledge the existence of the California drought, promising farmers there that, as president, he would "open up the water." He's vowed to eliminate the EPA and the Energy Department and "cancel" the Paris Agreement.

    Since the election, Trump has been relentlessly converting those anti-science messages into action, wrongly believing that doubling down on fossil fuel production will help boost long-term economic growth. (That Trump's pick for secretary of state -- ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson -- is among the least extreme of his appointments is chilling.)

    According to a Sierra Club report, when he assumes the presidency on Jan. 20, Trump will be the only head of state in the world to deny mainstream climate science -- and yes, that includes even Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

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