Archive

December 6th

Donald Trump is making a strong case for a recount of his own 2016 election win

    On Sunday morning, President-elect Donald Trump assured us all that a recount of the 2016 election wouldn't change the outcome and was a waste of resources. In a tweetstorm, he quoted Hillary Clinton:

    "Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead." So much time and money will be spent - same result! Sad"

    Later Sunday, though, he made a real case that we should have no confidence in those same election results, alleging massive voter fraud:

    "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally"

    "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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Where charitable giving may be headed with Trump

    The holidays and year-end tax considerations make this the season of giving. And there are indications Americans will be more generous than ever.

    In 2015, Americans donated a record $373.25 billion in charitable contributions, up a little more than 4 percent from the year before, according to Giving USA, the most reliable chronicler of philanthropy.

    More than 7 in 10 donations were made by individuals, and about 15 percent came from foundations; corporations and bequests accounted for the rest. A little less than a third went to religious entities, with about 15 percent for education. Services for the poor, such as food banks, homeless shelters and legal assistance, got a little less than 12 percent.

    Looking beyond this year, there is a divide about where giving is headed, particularly because of recent political changes.

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December 5th

An ethical double standard for Trump?

    Republicans are deeply concerned about ethics in government and the vast potential for corruption stemming from conflicts of interest. We know this because of the acute worries they expressed over how these issues could have cast a shadow over a Hillary Clinton presidency.

    "If Hillary Clinton wins this election and they don't shut down the Clinton Foundation and come clean with all of its past activities, then there's no telling the kind of corruption that you might see out of the Clinton White House," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

    Presumably Cotton will take the lead in advising Donald Trump to "shut down" his business activities and "come clean" on what came before. Surely Cotton wants to be consistent.

    The same must be true of Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chair whom Trump tapped as his chief of staff. "When that 3 a.m. phone call comes, Americans deserve to have a president on the line who is not compromised by foreign donations," Priebus said earnestly in a statement on Aug. 18.

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America is not an Orange Julius; is it?

    It turns out our ambitions were quite similar, Donald Trump’s and mine.

    We were both interested in acquiring a franchise – a business opportunity.

    I always had an affection for Orange Julius and its one-trick-pony stands at malls. I told my betrothed that when we had the scratch, the itch I’d pursue was an OJ franchise. We could have one stand and live out our days drinking in the proceeds. All it would take is some up-front money and some oranges.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have the up-front, not the kind Mr. Dreamcicle Hair does. So I sat back. Meanwhile, Trump set out to buy The Franchise.

    Trump’s first comments as president-elect sound exactly like this. The government-by-the-people thing is just, in Molly Ivins’ words, another bidness opportunity.

    He will not shed his role as business mogul while he runs the people’s business. He says he will meet with business partners in the Oval Office.

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Yes, humanity is cosmically special

    As we give thanks for our many obvious blessings, let's reflect on a blessing that is less well known, a gift from modern astronomy: how we view ourselves.

    There was a time, back when astronomy put Earth at the center of the universe, that we thought we were special. But after Copernicus kicked Earth off its pedestal, we decided we were cosmically inconsequential, partly because the universe is vast and about the same everywhere. Astronomer Carl Sagan put it this way: "We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star." Stephen Hawking was even blunter: "The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet."

    An objective look, however, at just two of the most dramatic discoveries of astronomy - big bang cosmology and planets around other stars (exoplanets) - suggests the opposite. We seem to be cosmically special, perhaps even unique - at least as far as we are likely to know for eons.

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Why Corruption Matters

    Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising created conflicts of interest? Well, now the man who benefited from all that innuendo is on his way to the White House. And he’s already giving us an object lesson in what real conflicts of interest look like, as authoritarian governments around the world shower favors on his business empire.

    Of course, Donald Trump could be rejecting these favors and separating himself and his family from his hotels and so on. But he isn’t. In fact, he’s openly using his position to drum up business. And his early appointments suggest that he won’t be the only player using political power to build personal wealth. Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

    The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

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Where charitable giving may be headed with Trump

    The holidays and year-end tax considerations make this the season of giving. And there are indications Americans will be more generous than ever.

    In 2015, Americans donated a record $373.25 billion in charitable contributions, up a little more than 4 percent from the year before, according to Giving USA, the most reliable chronicler of philanthropy.

    More than 7 in 10 donations were made by individuals, and about 15 percent came from foundations; corporations and bequests accounted for the rest. A little less than a third went to religious entities, with about 15 percent for education. Services for the poor, such as food banks, homeless shelters and legal assistance, got a little less than 12 percent.

    Looking beyond this year, there is a divide about where giving is headed, particularly because of recent political changes.

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The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is now open

    By Election Day 2016, ambitious Democrats had already resigned themselves to an eight-year wait for their chance in the national spotlight. Hillary Clinton was an overwhelming favorite against Donald Trump and, assuming she won, running a primary challenge against her in four years would be a fool's errand.

    Then Clinton lost.

    While this most stunning upset in modern presidential history has produced (and will produce) a thousand aftershocks, one of the most unlikely and important is that the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 is now open.

    That opening is made all the more remarkable by the fact that there is simply no logical heir (or even heirs) to President Barack Obama or Clinton - no obvious candidate waiting in the wings to step forward and rebuild the party. Vice President Joe Biden appears to have decided that he's done running for office. As a two-time loser, Clinton is done, too. And after that, the bench is, well, pretty thin.

    Politics, of course, abhors a vacuum. So candidates will run. Here's a look at who they might be:

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New haters, same old backlash

    Maybe now when I tell you that we're not in a post-racial society, you'll pay attention, OK?

    The latest evidence includes an intriguing debate over how to identify the loosely organized but increasingly prominent alt-right movement.

    Should we call them by their chosen label, "alt-right," which is short for "alternative right?" Or should we address them as I prefer by such traditional labels as "white nationalists" or simply "white supremacists?"

    It's a tricky question because the alt-right is a Twitter-age hashtag movement like the tea party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, "NotMyPresident" protesters and whatever other new movement may be percolating into a flash mob.

    The question gained new prominence after President-elect Donald Trump chose Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist. Among other achievements, Bannon is former chairman of Breitbart Media, which he described last summer in a Mother Jones interview as "the platform for the alt-right."

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I'm an undocumented Harvard grad. The election has left me broken.

    My future has always been blurry. It's an inherent characteristic of the undocumented experience. But when I got into Harvard University, everyone told me that my life was about to change: Your future is set. This was it. We finally made it. The American dream was within my grasp. Years later, my mom told me that on the night that I was accepted, my dad cried. Late at night, he turned to her and said, "Esto significa que yo hice algo bien." This means I did something right.

    My Harvard acceptance proved it was all worth it: the blood that covered my dad's hands after his long shifts, the tears my mom shed because she missed her family in Chile, the frustration they both endured from being unable to fulfill their full potential, all of the times they were humiliated because they didn't speak English well enough or understand American culture. It was all worth it, my father was saying. I made it. We made it.

    And yet.

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