Archive

September 2nd, 2016

What the world could lose in America's presidential election

    The presidential election could be crucial to the future of democracy, and not just in the United States. The global impact of a Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous. But even a Hillary Clinton win won't help reverse the worldwide retrenchment in democracy and human rights unless she brings a change in policy from the current administration.

    If all of that strikes you as a bit too breathless, consider what's happened over the past decade.

    The leading authoritarian powers of the world - China, Russia and Iran - have tightened the screws at home while becoming far more aggressive beyond their boundaries. They have proven that the internet, contrary to earlier expectation, can be turned into a weapon of control. They have proven, again contrary to earlier assumptions, that a country can enter the global economy while squelching free speech, worship and assembly at home. They have formed a loose dictators' alliance, working together to undermine and discredit the principles of liberal economics and individual rights.

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What if our climate-change timelines are overly conservative?

    July was the hottest month in recorded history, by a lot, and August isn't looking any better. So how do we interpret that? What does it mean?

    I'm no scientist. In my 30 years as a businessperson, though, I've learned that the best decisions require looking at all of the available data and trends. You seldom have the complete analysis that a scientist would require - events unfold quickly.

    Instead, businesspeople often must make decisions on the basis of imperfect information. A responsible chief executive knows two things: that a decision not to act is a decision, and that no competent leader risks the health of the entire enterprise by failing to take necessary steps, even ones that are painful.

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Trump’s Bigotry

    According to recent polls, the image of Donald Trump as a bigot has begun to crystallize, and for good reason: Because it’s true!

    A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that 59 percent of likely voters, and 29 percent of likely Republican voters in particular, think that the way Trump talks appeals to bigotry. Republicans were the only anomaly. A majority or plurality of every other demographic measured — Democrats, independents, men, women, white people with and without college degrees, every age group, whites and nonwhites alike — agreed that Trump’s words appeal to bigotry.

    But there is one demographic that must be particularly concerning to Trump: college-educated whites.

    I know that Trump has boasted that he loves the poorly educated, but there appears to be little love lost between him and those white people with degrees. In fact, as the blog FiveThirtyEight predicted in July, “Trump may become the first Republican in 60 years to lose white college graduates.”

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Trump? Clinton? Who's least bad?

    Today's presidential race unfortunately reminds me of the bitter 1991 gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana, a state long associated with colorful politics.

    That was the runoff that pitted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, then a Republican state legislator, against three-term governor Edwin Edwards, a Democrat who had been acquitted in two racketeering trials.

    The most memorable bumper sticker from the race was "Vote For the Crook. It's Important."

    That's what reminds me of the current race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump calls Clinton "crooked Hillary." Clinton accuses Trump of "taking hate groups mainstream."

    An appropriate bumper sticker for Clinton would be, "Vote for the alleged crook. It's really important."

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Three ways to fix college tuition pricing

    In a Washington Post opinion column last week, Danielle Allen was right to say that the tuition number the federal government requires colleges to publish is useless. On most campuses, few students pay that sticker price because of discounts in the form of "scholarships."

    But Allen's solutions to this problem would largely fail to bring transparency to the tuition bill that confuses most students and parents. While her ideas might work at elite universities that enroll mostly upper middle-class and wealthy students like the two institutions where Allen has served as a trustee (Amherst College and Princeton University), they wouldn't provide much help to most students and parents struggling to make sense about which colleges provide the best value.

    Here are three ways we can fix tuition pricing for the majority of parents and students:

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Reality dawns on Donald

    The massive impracticality of Donald Trump's grand plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, not to mention the cruelty that would be imposed by the "deportation force" he has suggested, is beginning to occur to him.

    While acknowledging "there certainly can be a softening, because we're not looking to hurt people," Trump also said he wanted to "weed out the bad ones" with criminal records. Thus he finds himself struggling to reassure his faithful that his anti-immigration proposal still opposes "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, even as he yields to new advice to court immigrant and other minority communities so far hostile to him.

    In most of his television comments of recent days, Trump has found it difficult to square his original no-exceptions scheme with obvious attempts to put a humane face on the plan. It has generated widespread fear and resentment among Hispanic and other immigrant communities to which he has belatedly begun to reach out for support of his presidential bid.

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Race Issues Dominate White House Race (part 1)

    Donald Trump, who is commanding all of 1 percent of Black voters, according to an impartial Quinnipiac poll, says he could get as much as 95 percent of the Black vote in a second term. In June 2011, he had said, “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” It’s nothing less than political hyperbole in a campaign for a first term, and meant to get a few thousand more votes in key states. However, Trump’s past actions don’t mitigate whatever future plans he has.

    In 1973, the Department of Justice sued Trump Management for civil rights violations for refusing to rent apartments to Blacks and Latinos who wished to live in complexes that housed mostly whites. Trump, who was the corporation’s president at the time, agreed he would drop a $100 million counter-suit, would provide lists of vacancies in the 14,000 apartments Trump Management owned, and would cease discriminating against minority applicants in exchange for the Department of Justice dropping felony charges. Three years later, the Department of Justice again filed against Trump for not fulfilling his promise.

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Police misconduct here? It's a secret.

    This month, the Justice Department released a report confirming what Baltimore residents have long known: The city's police department suffers from rampant racial bias. But the problem of police misconduct is not limited to Baltimore or the nearly two dozen other cities under investigation by the Justice Department. The nationwide epidemic persists, in large part, because of laws and policies that screen police misconduct from public view.

    For an example of how jurisdictions across the country obstruct public access to misconduct information, the Justice Department need look no further than the District of Columbia, where I work as a public defender. In Washington, police misconduct files are kept secret by the D.C. police department and the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), an entity charged with investigating certain types of misconduct.

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Clinton's image remains clouded by press conference phobia

    My Webster's Dictionary defines "phobia" as "any persistent irrational and excessive fear of some particular thing or situation." That seems to fit Hillary Clinton's attitude toward the commonplace press conference, the traditional exchange between politicians and the news media.

    She hasn't held one since last Dec. 15, a span of 254 days and counting. What, one might reasonably ask, is she afraid of?

    Her presidential campaign manager, a courteous young fellow named Robby Mook, was politely questioned about the matter the other day by a former George W. Bush communications aide with some experience in running press conferences, Nicole Wallace, on MSNBC.

    She couched the question in the guise of a helpful suggestion, taking note of the criticism of Hillary as excessively secretive and private. "You have a perception problem on the question of honesty and trustworthiness," the professional flack noted. "Why wouldn't you put her out there to answer questions that she could certainly handle...?"

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September 1st

The Dumbed Down Democracy

    Are you smarter than an immigrant? Can you name, say, all three branches of government or a single Supreme Court justice? Most Americans, those born here, those about to make the most momentous decision in civic life this November, cannot. And most cannot pass the simple test aced by 90 percent of new citizens.

    Well, then: Who controlled the Senate during the 2014 election, when control of the upper chamber was at stake? If you answered Dunno at the time, you were with a majority of Americans in the clueless category.

    But surely now, when election news saturation is thicker than the humidity around Lady Liberty’s lip, we’ve become a bit more clue-full. I give you Texas. A recent survey of Donald Trump supporters there found that 40 percent of them believe that ACORN will steal the upcoming election.

    ACORN? News flash: That community-organizing group has been out of existence for six years. ACORN is gone, disbanded, dead. It can no more steal an election than Donald Trump can pole vault over his Mexican wall.

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