Archive

December 7th

Trump should support the Cuba deal

    At long last, Fidel Castro is dead. Now the oppressive system he installed in Cuba can wither and die, too -- unless Donald Trump reverts to Cold War policies and gives Cuba's failing dictatorship new life.

    It is tempting to see Castro's death as little more than a formality. After all, his brother Raul has been running the country for a decade, ever since ill health forced Fidel to step aside and kept him from reassuming command. But the very fact that Fidel still drew breath served as a limiting factor in the program of economic reform Raul has been trying to enact.

    According to The Washington Post, Raul Castro gave a speech in April in which he joked that "we have two parties here, just like in the United States -- Fidel's and mine." Fidel's is the Communist one, he added, "and you can call mine whatever you want."

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Trump and the arrival of the post-literate age

    In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the media has worked itself into a panic about the rise of fake news on social media. Reporters have examined the subject from dozens of angles -- profiling misinformation peddlers from California to the Caucasus, analyzing how hoaxes spread, raising red flags about media literacy, and much more.

    You can understand why journalists are so worried. For one thing, most reporters genuinely want the public to be well-informed. For another, there's a matter of self-interest: Fake news undermines journalists' authority as arbiters of truth. Also -- and I'll let you in on a little secret here -- most mainstream journalists probably preferred Clinton to Trump, so the idea that fake news swung the election is a tantalizing story.

    But all this focus on fake Facebook news obscures a much bigger story about the way social media -- the endless public opining and sharing of information -- is reshaping politics. Even if you've never given much thought to its meaning, you've probably heard someone say "the medium is the message," the famous dictum of media theorist Marshall McLuhan.

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The donkey and the moose

    So many Trumpists have written in since the election, and I am grateful for their interest and also impressed by the sheer variety of their profanity. I never learned to swear that well because by the time my mother died, at 97, it was too late for me to learn. I gather from the letters that their lives were devastated by the advent of gay marriage, political correctness, the threat of gun control, the arrogance of liberals, and now a champion rises from Fifth Avenue & 56th Street and God forbid that any dog should bark when he speaks or any pigeon drop white matter on his limousine.

    What the letter-writers don't grasp is that cursing is highly effective in person -- someone kicks his car in rage, forgetting he's wearing flip-flops, and flames pour from his mouth, it's impressive. But you see it in print and it's just ugly. It makes you pity the writer's wife.

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The Case for Mitt Romney

    A show of hands, please: How many of you would like Donald Trump to step away — far away — from his Twitter account? I’m pretty sure I have a majority, but to be safe: How many can at least agree on no tweets before breakfast?

    Yowza. I’m above 95 percent. Reince, you don’t have to nod wildly and jump up and down; the raised hand alone will do. And you get one hand, Melania, not two. Two is a real, provable case of voter fraud.

    Thanks in part to the president-elect’s predilection for outbursts of fewer than 140 characters, he routinely comes across as petty and mercurial. But right now he has an opportunity for the opposite impression. He can choose Mitt Romney as his secretary of state.

    That he’s actually mulling this — the two were scheduled for a second meeting about it, over dinner, Tuesday night — is alone extraordinary. Trump knows how to carry a grudge the way Jim Brown knew how to carry a football, and Romney gave him cause for vengefulness, with a major speech during the Republican primaries that labeled him a fraud and exhorted Americans to reject him.

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Pro-democracy Republicans can counter Trump

    Donald Trump's accusations claiming that millions of people "voted illegally" in the election were quickly and definitively shown to be false. So why didn't the truth settle the issue? The answer demonstrates how Trump's habit of publicizing conspiracy theories could be a danger to the health of U.S. democracy during his presidency.

    Remember, most citizens don't pay close attention to the news. But they do hear things a president (or president-elect) says, and if he says elections aren't honest, then many citizens will believe him. The less people trust the basic integrity of elections, the less they are likely to believe in democracy.

    False claims of illegal voting have already been used as a cast ballots in several states, and it's possible that Trump will try to restrict these rights further.

    Several prominent Republicans quickly challenged his accusations on illegal voting. This pushback was better than none, even if the president (or president-elect) will always have the biggest megaphone. Unfortunately, none of those objecting were Republican members of Congress -- the ones who are best positioned to rein him in.

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Obamacare is probably toast - and a lot of poor, white Trump voters will get hurt by it

    Donald Trump has chosen GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, as his secretary for Health and Human Services. This likely means that, at best, the health law will be repealed and replaced by something that covers far fewer people, or that, at worst, it will get repealed outright, leaving even more people without coverage.

    So what does this mean for poor and working-class white Trump voters who are currently benefiting from the law, some no doubt enjoying health coverage for the first time in their lives?

    Jonathan Cohn has a good piece in The Huffington Post explaining what the choice of Rep. Price means in policy terms. Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price's own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

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No, you couldn't strip flag-burners of citizenship, even if flag-burning could be made a crime

    Donald Trump tweet Tuesday:

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

    Contrary to President-elect Donald Trump's tweet, even if flag-burning weren't protected by the First Amendment (and it is), you couldn't strip people of their citizenship for it.

    Let's begin with the constitutional text, here from section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

    "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

    Once you have American citizenship, you have a constitutional entitlement to it. If you like your American citizenship, you can keep your American citizenship -- and that's with the Supreme Court's guarantee, see Afroyim v. Rusk (1967):

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McCain could take role of bulwark against Trump

    There may be one senator, not Chuck Schumer or any other Democrat, who could be a check on some of President Donald Trump's likely excesses: John McCain.

    The president-elect and the five-term Republican from Arizona are almost polar opposites on issues ranging from service and public responsibilities to national security. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has made clear he will oppose Trump policies that would amount to appeasement of Russia's Vladimir Putin on Syria or elsewhere, or any effort to circumvent the law and revive "enhanced interrogation" methods against terrorists that he has described as torture.

    McCain could be big thorn in Trump's side on ethics. He has been a fierce fighter against corruption since he was ensnared in a savings and loan scandal more than a quarter-century ago. And he will set a much higher ethical bar than Trump, who seems oblivious to the potential conflicts of interests presented by his far-flung business empire.

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Journalists in the age of Trump: Lose the smugness, keep the mission

    Journalists may thrive on news - by definition, the unexpected or novel - but they're terrible at getting out of their own comfortable ruts.

    Consider, for example, the decade or so of abject denial about their threatened business model that followed the apocalyptic arrival of Craigslist, which removed the crucial revenue that came from classified advertising.

    In short, we (yes, I include myself) don't handle change all that well.

    And now we - the traditional, the legacy, the mainstream media - have to change.

    Donald Trump has been a candidate and will be a president who requires vastly different coverage. If the '70s brought, via Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Norman Mailer, what was called "the New Journalism," I suggest we now need a New New Journalism.

    Here are some ways journalism must be reinvented:

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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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