Archive

December 13th

Bad Air Days

    Many people voted for Donald Trump because they believed his promises that he would restore what they imagine were the good old days — the days when America had lots of traditional jobs mining coal and producing manufactured goods. They’re going to be deeply disappointed: The shift away from blue-collar work is mainly about technological change, not globalization, and no amount of tweets and tax breaks will bring those jobs back.

    But in other ways Trump can indeed restore the world of the 1970s. He can, for example, bring us back to the days when, all too often, the air wasn’t safe to breathe. And he’s made a good start by selecting Scott Pruitt, a harsh foe of pollution regulation, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Make America gasp again!

    Much of the commentary on the Pruitt appointment has focused on his denial of climate science and on the high likelihood that the incoming administration will undo the substantial progress President Barack Obama was beginning to make against climate change. And that is, in the long run, the big story.

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Donald Trump's most terrifying appointment

    Donald Trump has gone about picking his Cabinet and senior advisers in much the way one might have predicted. Instead of looking for people with the highest levels of experience, expertise, and competence, he seems to be making his choices based on criteria like who he's seen on Fox News, or who praised him effusively, or who has a cool nickname.

    There may be no more dangerous choice Trump has made so far than picking Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser. There are few more important positions in the White House, and few where the wrong choice could have consequences quite as catastrophic. If we contemplate how President Trump might handle an international crisis - which he will face, probably before long - we see just how troubling Flynn's appointment is.

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Flotsam from the Trump thought stream

    The early projection: Donald Trump is the end of satire.

    Not that as president he would ban it, although in his fantasies he shuts down “Saturday Night Live.” It's that based on his early proclivities, Trump is beyond lampooning.

    Whatever scene a humorist might conjure, he lives it. He is his own work of fiction.

    Presidential? Oh my; with smart phone in hand, he is a running joke. Consider the laughable data he mined from a sophomoric web site to assert that Hillary Clinton’s 2.3 million-vote plurality comes from illegal votes.

    Granted, the man may turn out to be FDR. Based on his material, however, as of now Trump is Kanye West without rhythm.

    So is this what we face: Late at night, when Trump should be doing something constructive on behalf of the republic, he paces his quarters, armpits ablaze, sleeveless like Brando on stage, rat-tat-tatting out dubious mind-blorts into the wee Twitter hours.

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The new politics of fear

    French Socialist President Francois Hollande knew which way the winds were blowing. His announcement last week that he would not seek reelection was a response to record-breaking unpopularity. But it also reflects weaknesses haunting the left and center-left throughout the democratic world.

    Donald Trump's victory may thus be only a particularly alarming portent for moderate progressives who, less than two decades ago, were confidently on the march.

    Now, the radicalization of the right threatens the consensual welfare state capitalism that gave the West decades of relative social peace and prosperity. France is the latest example, and a dramatic one.

    If there is one taken-for-granted assumption in French political life, it is that Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right National Front, will find her way into the runoff in next year's presidential election. The first round will be held in April, the second, between the top two finishers in May.

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What's fair to Donald Trump should be fair to Keith Ellison

    Republican president-elect Donald Trump, as everyone knows, launched his campaign with insults to women, Muslims, Mexicans and other minorities -- and without apologies to anybody. He won election anyway.

    Now we have Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, frontrunner for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, receiving renewed scrutiny of his past statements in support of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and other radical figures --which he renounced at least 10 years ago.

    Can Ellison, 53, the first Muslim elected to Congress (and, along with Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, one of two now serving in Congress), receive what Trump requested throughout his campaign, to be "treated fairly"?

    I don't fault the Anti-Defamation League for raising questions about Ellison's bid last week, although I think they would have benefitted from talking to him first. The statement from ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt cited statements about Israel in a 2010 speech by Ellison as "deeply disturbing and disqualifying."

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Trump's populist showmanship on full display in Carrier deal

    How much is the presidency that Donald Trump has just won worth to him?

    That's the tantalizing question he faces as pressures mount to divest himself of his immense real-estate and other stock holdings as the price of moving into the Oval Office next month.

    Trump has said he will reveal in two weeks how he will deal with major questions of conflict of interest involved in assuming the presidency while running his business empire.

    He has said conflict-of-interest laws don't apply to presidents but also that he wants to "formalize something" that will satisfy critics about his intention to put his real-estate empire in the hands of his children.

    A lengthy examination by the Washington Post of his available business portfolio as of last May indicates it also amounts to at least $40 million in stocks beyond his luxury hotel network known as The Trump Organization.

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December 12th

N.C. Republicans try to rig the system

    Mike Morgan, an African-American judge, defeated a conservative incumbent last month for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Now conservative Republicans are trying to sabotage his election by packing the court, a move that would have racial and perhaps national political implications.

    Although the court is officially nonpartisan, Morgan's surprise win means that four of the seven justices will be Democrats. The overwhelmingly Republican legislature and a lame-duck Republican governor who conceded defeat this week will go into a special session next week, ostensibly to provide relief for hurricane victims. What they really want to do is quickly appoint and confirm two more justices to a court that has had seven members for 80 years.

    This really would be rigging the system, the sort of thing President-elect Donald Trump might rail against. Except the victims would be African-Americans and Democrats.

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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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