Archive

December 7th

It's time to ban Donald Trump from Twitter

    Hot on the heels of Donald Trump's latest outrageously outrageous tweet - in which he suggested that we either imprison people who burn the flag or strip them of their citizenship - it's time for Twitter to take action and ban Donald Trump from the service.

    Once the self-described free-speech wing of the free-speech party, Twitter has for the past several years vocally defended its prerogative to ban anyone (on the right) from its service for essentially any reason it sees fit. Often these bans are justified under rather nebulous notions of abuse or "targeted harassment," the idea being that anyone with sufficiently high numbers of followers who singles out someone else for criticism bears a measure of responsibility when that person's followers viciously attack the criticized individual.

    Since it caters to celebrities and uses their fame to promote its own brand, Twitter has been hesitant to ban anyone famous in real life from the service regardless of his or her bad, abusive behavior. One imagines Twitter might make an exception for Trump. Undoubtedly, the service could find some justification for applying the targeted-harassment rubric to the president-elect.

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How to fill the void once Trump kills the TPP

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have created trade links between the U.S., Japan and a number of other Asian countries, is dead. Donald Trump has vowed to kill the pact on his first day in office. That won't be a hard promise to keep, as the trade deal was already effectively dead -- Trump's move is just a flourish.

    The TPP had garnered opposition from both sides of the political spectrum -- Bernie Sanders supporters were dead set against it as well. Progressive activists walking past my house had "Stop TPP" buttons on their backpacks. If there was any policy that was doomed this election cycle, it had to be this one. I don't really know, but I suspect that the TPP mostly acted as a scapegoat for more general fears about globalization -- a symbolic show of strength by skeptics of trade deals.

    Killing the TPP will have only a small impact on the nation's economy, just as passing it would have generated only small benefits. The real risks are to the U.S.'s international prestige, and to the economic health of key American allies.

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Donald Trump v. the First Amendment, part five

    The president-elect woke up Tuesday morning with a clear agenda before him. Poised to announce his pick of Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and with a day of meetings slated - including one with onetime foe Mitt Romney - Donald Trump hopped on Twitter to talk about where his attention was focused.

    Disparaging CNN and - more unexpectedly - reigniting the once-virulent debate over flag-burning.

    "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!" he tweeted.

    Where this came from is anybody's guess. There's an operating theory among some that Trump throws out tweets like this to distract attention from something else, as though 140-character messages demand our total (100 percent) brain capacity. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough speculated that maybe Trump was tossing a bit of red meat to the angry social media lions before announcing that he would pick Romney as secretary of state.

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Democrats are in a hole - but it's not why you think

    Pardon me if I don't get wildly excited by Democrats looking to place blame for their party's defeat and proposing a road map for the future.

    I've seen it before - after every election, actually.

    I still remember representatives of the AFL-CIO and the more moderate Democratic Leadership Council blaming each other for Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988 and arguing about the party's future strategy and message. It was only after pragmatist Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992 that the sniping stopped.

    This year, most of the criticism has been aimed at the Hillary Clinton campaign's lack of a compelling economic message, particularly one aimed at white working-class voters. It's one of a number of reasonable explanations - as is the candidate's personal liabilities and the campaign's error of not treating Wisconsin and Michigan as electoral problems.

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December 6th

Democrats are deceiving themselves about the meaning of the election

    Democrats, of late, have taken to citing Hillary Clinton's historically large popular vote victory in the presidential race over Donald Trump as evidence that the country is still fundamentally on their side.

    Judging by recent election results -- even before Clinton's stunning loss three weeks ago -- that's simply not true. Republicans not only control both the U.S. Senate and House but find themselves at or near historic highs in terms of governorships and state legislative control.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack got it exactly right then when he told The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe that the current state of the Democratic party is like a tree that "looks healthy on the outside but is in the throes of slow and long-term demise."

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Another piece of Obamacare that Trump should keep

    To get a sense of the future of American health care, amidst the post-election uncertainty, watch what happens to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. This agency, created as part of the Affordable Care Act, has attracted substantial opposition. A recent proposal to change reimbursement to doctors for administering certain drugs, in particular, has led to calls that it be abolished. But let's hope the center survives, because it could prove crucial to any new effort to raise the value of health care in the U.S.

    Republicans and Democrats agree that our health-care system needs to move away from fee-for-service payments, which give doctors an incentive to provide more care rather than better care. This payment shift can be accomplished either by encouraging private insurance companies to change how they reimburse hospitals and doctors, or by directly changing how Medicare -- the largest single purchaser of health-care services -- pays those providers. Republicans have tended to favor the former approach and Democrats the latter, but both sides recognize that a combination is needed.

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Trump: Be ‘Big Marco’ or Set His Own Path?

    Republican economic policy doesn’t have a good recent track record. The last two Republican presidents left office deeply unpopular, thanks to recessions. Ronald Reagan’s record was much better but still not as good as Bill Clinton’s.

    All told, economic growth under Democratic presidents over the last half-century has been 25 percent faster than under Republicans. Private-sector job growth has been more than twice as fast. Republicans even have a worse record running up the deficit. (These comparisons hold no matter when precisely you start the clock on a president’s legacy.)

    Of course, presidents don’t deserve full credit or blame for the economy’s performance. But they do bear some responsibility. The notion that Republican presidents have been better economic stewards than Democrats but fallen victim to a terribly unfair mix of luck and timing is about as sensible as it sounds.

    There are reasons that the modern version of Republican economics hasn’t worked so well. It takes the powerful ideas behind market-based capitalism to an extreme, where they often stop working.

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Trump has already defeated the news media, and it's unclear what we can do about it

    Donald Trump is either a mad genius who has cracked the media code in a way no politician before him was able to do, or he's a kind of political Mr. Magoo, stumbling randomly about yet achieving one success after another. We may never know which it is.

    But if we're going to maintain our democracy, we have to figure out how to deal with the way Trump successfully manipulates the media.

    Perhaps, as some have suggested, Trump tweeted his ridiculous lie about millions of fraudulent votes on Sunday in order to distract people from this lengthy investigation in the New York Times of the overseas partnerships that present unprecedented conflict of interest problems for his foreign policy. But even if that wasn't his intent, it's what happened - and he accomplished some other things as well.

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The most likely explanation for Donald Trump's fraud claims is the simplest one: Ego

    There are two questions underpinning Donald Trump's Sunday afternoon tweets in which he clearly hoped to undercut confidence in the results of this month's presidential election. First, are his claims accurate? And, second, why claim that the results of an election you won were tainted?

    The first question is the easier one to answer, because it involves no mind reading. Trump's tweeted claim that "millions of people ... voted illegally" earned four Pinocchios from The Washington Post's fact checkers. It appears to have stemmed mostly from one tweet issued by one person, which then made its way to the conspiracy site InfoWars.

    Trump followed that up with another tweet:

    "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"

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The coming clash on Trump's immigration plan

    Perhaps no battle in Donald Trump's presidency will be as pitched, or public, as the coming fight over undocumented immigrants. If he pursues his stated goal of deporting 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, a network of pro-immigrant cities, institutions and activists is poised to make the process as visibly contentious as possible.

    Trump will have authority to deport millions. While individual cases can be contested and prolonged in immigration court -- the system is already overloaded -- lawsuits against Trump's executive powers or the implementation of his plan appear to have little chance of success.

    Resistance to Trump will be highly variable. The entirety of California, which is home to more undocumented immigrants than any other state, seems to be moving to high alert. In Los Angeles this month, board members for the nation's second-largest school district unanimously reiterated their commitment to "protect the data and identities of any student, family member, or school employee who may be adversely affected by any future policies or executive action that results in the collection of any personally identifiable information."

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