Archive

October 23rd, 2016

Progressives aren't a threat to American Catholicism. Donald Trump is.

    "A good Catholic," Pope Francis says, "meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern." It seems like a straightforward proposition put forth by the universal leader of the Catholic Church, a sentiment that has been communicated in some way or another by his recent predecessors.

    But this past week, meddling in politics has become a "scandal" for some of my fellow Catholics, who've tried to spin a 2011 private email conversation between friends into something far more nefarious. In the alleged stolen email threads, John Podesta - who now chairs Hillary Clinton's campaign - and some of his progressive colleagues have a candid conversation about the internal workings of the Catholic Church.

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Maybe Trump won't be Clinton's biggest problem

    If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, she'll take office in 13 weeks. The left wing of the Democratic Party isn't waiting.

    Led by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the progressives are pressuring Clinton on policies and personnel. Sanders wants commitments to support planks in the Democratic platform like a national $15-an-hour minimum wage and expanded government subsidies for college tuition. Warren wants to influence personnel decisions to keep Wall Street and big business from dominating key posts.

    "Hillary Clinton is sincere in a number of areas," Sanders said in September in an interview that appears in the Oct. 17 issue of the New Republic. "In other areas I think she is gonna have to be pushed, and that's fine. That's called the democratic process."

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There's a reason populists tend to lose elections

    In a democracy, the "people" are the supreme arbiters, and their wisdom speaks through the electoral process. Such is the assumption on which the modern world has been built since God and monarchs began to fade from the scene. Lately, however, the wisdom of the people has felt a bit off-key. In one country after another, from the Philippines to the U.S., Hungary to India, the people have chosen to boost demagogues, not to mention serial gropers.

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's faith in extrajudicial murder may have actually helped boost his approval ratings to nearly 90 percent. The brazen homophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism of Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party hasn't dented its popularity in the slightest. In recent weeks, xenophobic sentiments have been amplified in Britain, the world's oldest democracy, by a government borrowing from the playbook of the far-right U.K. Independence Party (UKIP).

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The housing crunch is our fault. We can fix it.

    The Washington Post asks policy experts: What strategies should the next president pursue to make housing more affordable?

    Housing prices are rapidly rising in many urban areas. Prices in the San Francisco Bay Area are higher today - even after adjusting for inflation - than they were at the height of the 2006 bubble.

    Yet this is not a nationwide problem. Prices in many other areas remain quite reasonable. Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth are the nation's fastest-growing urban areas, yet they remain affordable (which is one reason they are growing so fast).

    The difference is that the urban areas with high housing prices have almost all tried to contain urban "sprawl" by limiting the amount of land around the cities that can be developed, using policies such as urban-growth boundaries, urban-service boundaries or concurrency requirements that limit new growth until infrastructure is totally financed. Anyone who understands supply and demand knows that limiting supply in the face of rising demand leads to higher prices.

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Increasingly desperate Trump swings recklessly

    Viewers of tonight's final presidential debate should brace for an even more destructive Donald Trump performance, as he carries his desperate scorched-earth strategy to its logical conclusion: disparaging the whole political process he fears will reject him.

    His campaign is now clearly in the hands of advisers who are encouraging what Trump welcomes as his "unshackling." He appears poised to carry his charge of "a rigged system" to the third debate, despite the fact that its moderator, Chris Wallace, comes from the Republican nominee's favorite media outlet, Fox News.

    Ironically, Wallace, as the host of Fox News' popular Sunday morning political talk show, has been generally free of the glaring partisanship of most of his network. His Fox News colleague Sean Hannity, for instance, has been an undisguised Trump cheerleader.

    Wallace, a veteran newscaster for ABC and NBC news outlets before joining Fox News, has maintained more than a modicum of adherence to his employer's much-mocked slogan of "Fair and Balanced."

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The conspiracy to rig the election against Trump just got bigger

    On CNN last night, Melania Trump dismissed allegations that her husband made unwanted advances on numerous women as "lies" that were "organized" by "the opposition."

    "I know he respects women," Melania said. "But he's defending himself because they're lies." Melania also insisted that "this was all organized from the opposition," and argued that the infamous Access Hollywood sex tape was the result of Trump getting "egged on" by "boy talk."

    Putting aside how disconcerting it is that Trump was 59 years old when he got drawn into this "boy talk," Melania's suggestion that the "opposition" organized the parade of female accusers just took a big hit.

    People Magazine has now produced five additional people who say that one of Trump's most visible accusers told them of Trump's advance at the time. The accuser, Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for People, has claimed that in 2005, Trump pushed her against a wall and tried to kiss her. Trump denies this happened.

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Donald Trump, unshackled ... and increasingly unhinged

    When Donald Trump gloated that "the shackles have been taken off me," I immediately wondered, how was he shackled?

    Was that the shackled Trump, for example, who obsessively attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel in May, Khizr Khan and his family in July and Alicia Machado in September?

    No, Trump actually was putting a defiant face on a stunning event in American political history: He, the Republican Party's nominee for president, was getting a cold shoulder from the party's highest ranking member in the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan.

    With less than a month to go until Election Day, Ryan announced that he was washing his hands of the monumental task of defending Trump. The break apparently followed the release of an embarrassing 2005 "Access Hollywood' video. In it, Trump happily boasts about doing what amounts to sexual assault.

    In fact, had there been some restraints on Trump, his whole campaign might actually give Democrat Hillary Clinton some competition again. Instead, Trump's "unshackled" state is looking increasingly unhinged.

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October 22nd

Clinton isn't Everywoman; she's a politician

    At the conclusion of last week's town hall debate, a participant asked the presidential candidates to "name one positive thing that you respect in one another." Hillary Clinton cited Donald Trump's children while Trump lauded Clinton's tenacity. Did those responses flip traditional gender roles -- praising the man for his child-rearing and the woman for her fighting spirit -- or reinforce them, with the woman highlighting family and the man focusing on toughness? You can spin it either way.

    When many people look at Clinton, they don't see a specific politician with a particular background and personality. They just see a woman. Many of these people are Clinton supporters. Many of them have jobs that reward finding gender grievances in every news story.

    "Trying to get [stuff] done while a man lurks disapprovingly behind you pretty much sums up womanhood," Emma Gray, the executive women's editor at the Huffington Post, with an image of Trump standing behind Clinton as she addressed a debate question. The war between the sexes is a writer's beat, and men are the Axis.

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Ryan needs Trump voters to go away after the election

    Last night, Tom Llamas of ABC News asked Donald Trump whether he thinks Paul Ryan wants him to win. "Well maybe not," Trump said, "because maybe he wants to run in four years, or maybe he doesn't know how to win."

    Putting aside whether Ryan appreciates the glorious winningness that is the Trump campaign at this moment, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump is right on his first point. It's entirely possible that Ryan would rather Trump lose, both because he doesn't particularly like him and because it would help the prospects for Ryan in 2020.

    But there's a broader question to ask: If Trump is heading for defeat, as it appears he is, how will that affect Ryan and other Republicans in Congress, not only in their positioning for 2020 but in what they do over the next four years?

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Public housing isn't wasted on the poor

    In the 1930s, when U.S. started to build public housing, it was focused in the inner cities, because that's where lots of poor people lived and worked. In recent decades, public housing is more about giving poor people vouchers, which allows them to move into the suburbs. As a result, poverty in the U.S. is no longer mainly an urban phenomenon.

    But some people label public housing . Is that true? Does building places for poor people to live actually hurt them by concentrating poverty and allowing social ills such as drugs and crime to proliferate?

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