Archive

October 1st, 2016

Trump takes the bait; Hillary sticks to the script

    Donald J. Trump recently said that he needed to lose 20 pounds. Well, maybe if he would quit taking the bait every time it was offered, his dieting would be more effective.

    Throughout tonight's debate, Hillary Clinton seemed overly rehearsed, as if she were reading straight from a script - but she stayed on topic and managed to come across as competent and deliberate and, surprisingly, didn't face many direct challenges. Hillary also seemed calm, cool and collected throughout. Trump seemed restless, unfocused, uncomfortable and maybe a little nervous. He careened from defensive tirades about his business dealings to non sequiturs that even included a reference to a "400-pound" hacker. Predictably, it appeared that Clinton had been preparing for this debate since high school and Trump hardly prepared at all. Perhaps in the next debate, she'll offer more than buzzwords and tired proposals, and he will understand the value in being able to recite some facts.

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Trump rides on waves of other people's money

    During a campaign stop in North Carolina last week, Donald Trump described the logic behind his plans for billing other countries for U.S. military support should he become president:

    "It's called OPM. I do it all the time in business. It's called other people's money. There's nothing like doing things with other people's money because it takes the risk -- you get a good chunk out of it and it takes the risk."

    By "takes the risk," Trump means that using other people's funds reduces his risk of losing any of his own money on deals. Trump has spent a lifetime using other people's money - and losing piles of it along the way.

    Trump's MO around OPM in his early days was defined largely by his father, Fred, basically because Fred had a lot of M. While Trump frequently downplays the role his father played at the start of his business career, his dad was always there for him, wallet and Rolodex open.

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I trashed the economy when I was head of the Fed

    The San Francisco branch of the Federal Reserve has a game on its website that lets you play at being Chair of the Federal Reserve. After tinkering with it, I've come to some conclusions: Modeling the economy is a mug's game, short-term interest rates are a poor tool for steering the economy, and I should never be given the job of running a central bank.

    The website sets out the objectives:

    "Your job is to set monetary policy to achieve full employment and low price inflation. Your term will last four years (16 quarters). Keep unemployment close to its natural rate of 5 percent. Keep inflation near the Fed's 2 percent inflation target. Pay attention to the headlines for information about the economy."

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Progressive Family Values

    Here’s what happens every election cycle: pundits demand that politicians offer the country new ideas. Then, if and when a candidate actually does propose innovative policies, the news media pays little attention, chasing scandals or, all too often, fake scandals instead. Remember the extensive coverage last month, when Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious mental health agenda? Neither do I.

    For that matter, even the demand for new ideas is highly questionable, since there are plenty of good old ideas that haven’t been put into effect. Most advanced countries implemented some form of guaranteed health coverage decades if not generations ago. Does this mean that we should dismiss Obamacare as no big deal, since it’s just implementing a tired old agenda? The 20 million Americans who gained health coverage would beg to differ.

    Still, there really are some interesting new ideas coming from one of the campaigns, and they arguably tell us a lot about how Clinton would govern.

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Police Violence: American Epidemic, American Consent

    Another set of black men killed by the police — one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, another in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    Another set of protests, and even some rioting.

    Another television cycle in which the pornography of black death, pain and anguish are exploited for visual sensation and ratings gold.

    And yes, another moment of mistakenly focusing on individual cases and individual motives and individual protests instead of recognizing that what we are witnessing in a wave of actions rippling across the country is an exhaling — a primal scream, I would venture — of cumulative cultural injury and a frantic attempt to stanch the bleeding from multiplying wounds.

    We can no longer afford to buy into the delusion that this moment of turmoil is about discrete cases or their specific disposition under the law. The system of justice itself is under interrogation. The cultural mechanisms that produced that system are under interrogation. America as a whole is under interrogation.

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September 29th

Readers Want News Not Fluff

    The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid publication that isn’t likely to win a Pulitzer Prize anytime soon, splashed a full page picture of a smiling Jennifer Anniston on its Sept. 21 front cover. In the upper left-hand space it placed all-capitals text: “BRANGELINA 2004–2016.” Inside the Post were four full consecutive pages, and a half page and part of a column deeper in the newspaper, all devoted to one of the most critical social issues facing the country—Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting a divorce.

    People magazine put the multi-million dollar couple on its cover, and teased us with the text: “WHY SHE LEFT” and “THE REAL STORY.” US magazine had an “EXCLUSIVE.” ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, and NBC evening newscasts all devoted air time to the divorce. “Entertainment Tonight,” “TMZ,” dozens of entertainment-fueled TV programs, Reuters and AP news services, hundreds of daily newspapers and countless online blogs all had coverage of the epic event. The news also dominated the social media, especially Twitter and Facebook.

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Mass deportations are inherently dangerous

    We've hit the home stretch of the election. The time has come to get serious, really serious, about understanding what's at stake with Donald Trump's proposal to deport 5 million to 11 million undocumented immigrants and his promise that 2 million will be deported in "a matter of months" if he is elected.

    In May, former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff told the New York Times: "I can't even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don't have a police state, where the police can't break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant." He also said, "Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea, it ain't happening."

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It's time to kill the 9-to-5 workday

    Jessica Piha gets to work whenever she wants and leaves whenever she wants-really.

    "There's really no set schedule," said Piha, the director of communications at home-improvement startup Porch, which lets its employees work flexible schedules. Piha likes to get in "super early" and leave at 3 p.m. for a workout class.

    "I just like to be able to do my work when it needs to be done," she said. "I will never not hit deadlines and deliver."

    That's how it should be for all of us whose jobs aren't shift-based-that is, for the 42 percent of the workforce who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, don't work hourly wage jobs. We should decide how and when to get our work done-yet so many of us are stuck on the clock.

    "Our culture in the U.S. is rooted what I call an hours mentality," said Carol Sladek, a partner at the human resource consulting firm Aon-Hewitt. "And by that I mean scheduling-really driven by shift work-that doesn't make sense in most of our service-based industries."

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In praise of good government geeks

    Especially in an election year, federal employees make a tempting target. They are, in the popular imagining, entitled and entrenched, unresponsive to the public for whom they work and uninterested in anything but collecting a paycheck and a cushy pension. You never hear the phrase "bureaucrats in Washington" in a sentence that ends on a positive note.

    The antidote to this unwarranted and corrosive derision arrives every year in the form of the Partnership for Public Service and its Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Better known as the Sammies, the awards recognize the best of America's public servants -- people you've never heard of, who never expected you'd hear of them, but who work long hours for less pay than they could receive in the private sector, to make this a better country and to keep its citizens healthier, safer and more prosperous.

    They tend -- sorry folks -- to be more than a bit nerdy and even more obsessive. The Sammies are Oscars for good government geeks.

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September 28th

How 'if you see something, say something' became our national motto

    This past week, Harry Bains became something of an American hero when he, in his words, "saw something and said something." The New Jersey bar owner spotted Ahmad Khan Rahami, the alleged terrorist charged with littering bombs across New York and New Jersey, sleeping in the doorway of his business. He immediately called the cops.

    "If you see something, say something" has become the unofficial slogan of post-9/11 America. The mantra, posted on billboards and public transportation, turns us all into amateur anti-terrorism crusaders. Any of us, it suggests, could foil the next Osama bin Laden, as long as we stay alert.

    That's not always a good thing. The expression makes us vigilant, but it also makes us paranoid. It's turned us into a country of people who see danger lurking inside every forgotten backpack, making an incredibly remote risk feel imminent. Americans shouldn't be encouraged to live in unreasonable fear.

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