Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Empathy, Schmempathy.

Broken sign reading "Nothing"

My blue state bubble is trying so hard to reach out. Just one example: a local organization (The Evergrey) planned a field trip to a red zone in hopes of creating some kind of… understanding?  It seems every other person on the bus is reading Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance’s memoir about Appalachian culture. And my media diet offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of calls to empathize with Trump voters.

But in New York Magazine, Frank Rich asks if soft hearted lefties are wasting their — our? —  time:

But for those of us who want to bring down the curtain on the Trump era as quickly as possible, this pandering to his voters raises a more immediate and practical concern: Is it a worthwhile political tactic that will actually help reverse Republican rule? Or is it another counterproductive detour into liberal guilt, self-flagellation, and political correctness of the sort that helped blind Democrats to the gravity of the Trump threat in the first place? While the right is expert at channeling darker emotions like anger into ruthless political action, the Democrats’ default inclination is still to feel everyone’s pain, hang their hats on hope, and enter the fray in a softened state of unilateral disarmament. “Stronger Together,” the Clinton-campaign slogan, sounded more like an invitation to join a food co-op than a call to arms. After the debacle of 2016, might the time have at last come for Democrats to weaponize their anger instead of swallowing it? Instead of studying how to talk to “real people,” might they start talking like real people? No more reading from wimpy scripts concocted by consultants and focus groups. (Clinton couldn’t even bring herself to name a favorite ice-cream flavor at one campaign stop.) Say in public what you say in private, even at the risk of pissing people off, including those in your own party. Better late than never to learn the lessons of Trump’s triumphant primary campaign that the Clinton campaign foolishly ignored.

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Who’s Been Seeding the Alt-Right? Follow the Money to Robert Mercer

stacks of united states $10 bills

Jane Mayer profiles hedge fund manager, alt-right supporter, and political funder Robert Mercer in the New Yorker. He’s the man who brought us Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and eventually, Donald Trump, and his worldview may sound particularly familiar to anyone who’s been reading up on Bannon.

Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “built real things.”

Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”

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Godwin’s Law, Trump’s Era

Game Over, Bilbao 2014 by Denis Bocquet

There’s an internet adage — Godwin’s Law — stating that once you’ve made a Nazi analogy you’ve lost the argument. This short post on The Nib gathers the work of five Jewish cartoonists who address the validity of Nazi analogies in our current political climate.

Godwin's Law by cartoonist Matt Lubchansky

Godwin’s Law by cartoonist Matt Lubchansky

I’d argue that when we invoke Godwin’s Law, we all lose.

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I’m on a Boat, Y’all! (With Canada’s Hyper-Conservatives)

In The Walrus, Canadian writer Peter Norman spends a week with followers of Canada’s fear-mongering conspiratorial conservative Ezra Levant to explore how Trump’s nationalistic fervor has taken hold across the border, and what it portends.

How does an ordinary Canadian become a Rebel? During my week at sea, I began to classify Rebels according to the issues that made them angriest—the ones that had originally brought them into Levant’s orbit. Fear of Islam and a distrust of mainstream climate-change science were the most prevalent. Rebels might start out as temperate conservatives, centrists, or even leftists (Faith Goldy said that her conservatism had emerged from the ashes of a youthful hard-left zeal). But at some point, a gateway issue draws them in.

Maybe a sudden spike in a tax bill is what enrages them, or they lose their job. It could be a workplace incident in which they’re accused of exhibiting some stigmatized trait—racism, sexism, transphobia—that they don’t believe they possess. Or, watching the news, they are overcome by the horror of an Isis terrorist attack.

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16 Documentaries by Steve Bannon

Partially filled movie theater

Sean Nelson at The Stranger watched them all so we don’t have to.

It will surprise no one that the cinema of Steve Bannon consists entirely of conservative nationalist propaganda tracts designed to advance the values of the Tea Party movement, unacknowledged contradictions and all: small government, low taxes, militarism, isolationism, Christianity, self-interest, patriotism, contempt for America, everyone who disagrees with you is an elitist, immigrants are a threat, outsiders are the only real heroes, free-market capitalism is essential, regulation is tyranny, society is too permissive, Wall Street is corrupt, Democrats are hypocrites, liberals are fascists, Barack Obama is a fraud, and Bill and Hillary Clinton are worse than a thousand Hitlers. But above all, liberty. Always liberty.

Pro tip: Stop at the concession stand and get some Skittles before you start your film festival.

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Why Are the Details of One Russian Diplomat’s Death So Hazy?

But when BuzzFeed News went to Krivov’s address, listed in the NYPD’s files, at 11 E. 90th St., it wasn’t a residence. It’s a Smithsonian-owned office building for its neighboring Cooper Hewitt design museum. It’s located a block behind the Russian Consulate, which is at 9 E. 91st St. One of the consulate’s public entrances is 11 E. 91st St.

Asked about the discrepancy, the NYPD insisted that 11 E. 90th St. was the address they had been given for Krivov, apparently by Russian consular officials.

“No one is living here — this is where my desk is right now,” a Smithsonian employee at the address said when BuzzFeed News called.

At BuzzFeed, Ali Watkins investigates the way the Russian consulate called Sergei Krivov’s death a heart attack when he seems to have died of blunt force trauma on the floor of New York City’s Russian Consulate building. The details of his death, like his life, raise many questions, so why are so few officials talking about this?

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‘Let Them Buy Louboutins’: Ivanka Trump and Working Women

ivanka trump

In a scathing piece in The Nation, Amy Wilentz methodically eviscerates and examines the guts of Ivanka Trump’s brand, and her efforts on behalf of working women — a specific brand of privileged, white, upper-class working women, that is.

IvankaTrump.com does have a section called “Wise Words” (“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’”—Audrey Hepburn; or “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” wrongly attributed to George Eliot; or “Challenges are opportunities”—so anodyne it’s not attributed to anyone.) But you’ll never read anything here about processing chickens or serving up burgers or sewing jeans, or what it’s like to be a secretary, a receptionist, a nurse, a hairdresser, a teacher, a saleswoman, a waitress, a bookkeeper, a cashier, or any of the other jobs at which most American women work.

IvankaTrump.com prefers to address style and fashion, what you can buy for work and what you should wear to work, rather than the substance of work. It includes tips on how to get promoted and tips for thinking like a Harvard Business School graduate; it includes pages about yoga for the workday, as well as about entertaining and lifestyle and exercise and what to eat and what to serve. So far, wages, discrimination, and sexual harassment have not been on the radar, not even in a Lean In–lite kind of way. That’s not the purpose of the website. It should be hashtagged #womenwhobuy.

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The Successful Boycott of #DeleteUber and a New Era of Activism

Uber has courted controversy since the ride-sharing company’s inception in 2009. At the time, it made sense that such a disruptive company would cause others concern, but these weren’t typical complaints, ranging from underpaying drivers to disturbing accounts of poor labor practices, all of which ultimately culminated in a class-action lawsuit in California that contended Uber illegally paid its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees (that suit, along with another in Massachusetts that argued the same provision, was ultimately settled, and Uber was allowed to continue using the designation ‘independent contractors’).

But as Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick continued to grow the company, Uber looked to advance itself as a leader amongst a new wave of monolithic tech companies—a group for which the phrase ‘don’t be evil’ might not share the same distinction.

That is, until this past weekend: During the rollout of the Muslim ban, otherwise known as Executive Order 13769 (which bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from the U.S. for up to 90 days, and disrupts off the United States’ refugee system for upwards of 120 days), the New York Taxi Workers Alliance declared a solidarity strike at JFK International Airport, the hub of the country’s protest against the ban. Read more…

A Baby Boomer’s Hot Take on Millennial Activism

There aren’t a lack of #hottakes on the internet that attempt to fashion some sort of correlation between millennials and previous generations, and how much of an impact the youngest demographic of voters have had on our political climate. This period of our country’s history will be a popular form of anthropological study years from now, as researchers study the protests and other reactions from both the left and right to the ascendancy of President Donald Trump.

But Bob Huggins, coach of the University of West Virginia’s men’s basketball team (ranked seventh in the country), doesn’t need any additional academic understanding to know why this generation is, as a whole, vastly different from predecessors. Huggins’ rationale? A lack of respect. From Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily-Mail:

“We’re in an age where young people in general don’t pay as much attention as they used to. We’re in an age now where young people have not nearly the respect that we had for the police. You remember when you had respect for the principal, your teacher, your coach? You know, those were people you looked up to. Those were people you respected. Scared to death of the police. Now they’re out there throwing bottles at them. It’s a different time.”

Huggins, of course, seems to casually forget the Civil Rights era and Vietnam War protests, but I digress. This is one special form of #hottake — one that is particularly lazy. It’s completely understandable for people to express their right to peaceably assemble and protest if their civil rights are being infringed upon; if their rights to their own bodies are being trampled; if their rights to live in a country they’ve contributed to are being discounted because of their ancestral background. But to make a blanket statement attributing protests to just ‘acting out’ discounts the national tenor, which shouldn’t be taken as lightly as Huggins’ comments would seem.

Two weeks after the election, writer Masha Gessen explained why protesting is an essential element of both the nationalistic and societal fabric.

Finally, protest is a powerful antidote to helplessness and confusion. Autocracies work by plunging citizens into a state of low-level dread. Most of the powers commandeered by the autocrat are ceded without a fight, and the power of imagination, the claim to a past and a future are the first to go. A person in a state of dread lives in a miserable forever present. A person in a state of dread is imminently controllable. The choice to protest, on the other hand, is the choice to take control of one’s body, one’s time, and one’s words, and in doing so to reclaim the ability to see a future.

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Finding the Limit of a Nation of Laws: Integrity, or the Lack Thereof

Rushed to publication because of the speed with which the Trump administration is already damaging the rule of law in the U.S., this David Frum piece in The Atlantic  is a roadmap to Trump’s likeliest path to authoritarianism and self-enrichment — and therefore also a guide to what Americans of conscience need to do to protect democracy.

If Congress is quiescent, what can Trump do? A better question, perhaps, is what can’t he do?

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who often articulates Trumpist ideas more candidly than Trump himself might think prudent, offered a sharp lesson in how difficult it will be to enforce laws against an uncooperative president. During a radio roundtable in December, on the topic of whether it would violate anti-nepotism laws to bring Trump’s daughter and son-in-law onto the White House staff, Gingrich said: The president “has, frankly, the power of the pardon. It is a totally open power, and he could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.’ And technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

That statement is true, and it points to a deeper truth: The United States may be a nation of laws, but the proper functioning of the law depends upon the competence and integrity of those charged with executing it. A president determined to thwart the law in order to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so.

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