Daily Clips: February 15, 2017

Are we headed for another Watergate?

It’s been a long time, but remember this: The road to Watergate and the resignation of Richard Nixon began in April 1969, three months after his inauguration, when the president ordered Mr. Kissinger to wiretap members of his own staff in an effort to stop embarrassing leaks of secret information. One thing led to another until the commander in chief was athwart the Constitution.

It’s been barely three weeks since the Trump team took office, and a distinct aroma has started wafting out of Washington, what Mr. Kissinger is said to have called “the odious smell of truth.”

Welcome to the new dark ages, where only the wealthy can retire:

The important thing to remember, however, is that none of this is as “inevitable” as the politicians would have us think. Many societies have an ageing population. But not all of them are willing to shove a frail 75-year-old back into a cut-throat service economy. That’s a specialism of societies that have embraced the utter madness of neoclassical economics, such as the UK and the US.

Reichert votes against releasing trump taxes: What a guy.

Monopolies are worse than we thought:

There’s now evidence that market concentration could also be hurting workers, by decreasing the share of national income that they receive. It’s probably making inequality worse.

Tweet of the day:

Daily Clips: February 14, 2017

Ding, dong Michael Flynn is gone: Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot better.

The relentless pace of automation: Yesterday, the Civic Skunk Works gang was talking about the automation crisis and the threat it represented to low-income workers. This MIT piece on automation would have come in handy during our discussion (that was filled with more generalities than we would have liked).

Yellen’s testimony today: Over at Crossing Wall Street (an investing/economics blog) there is a full breakdown of her Monetary Policy Report.

The left needs to move beyond resistance:

After all, at some point, the newly activated masses aren’t just going to want to protest against things, they will also want to be for something. As they start looking around for concrete alternatives, the Democrats are the only thing on offer. All the energy and effort of the Bush era gave us the neoliberal stagnation of Obama.

Alex Jones being Alex Jones: This is, verbatim, what he said on air.

Prosperity makes monsters, adversity makes men. And every metric shows it: Un — off the chart depression, off the chart cancer, off the chart obesity, off the chart everything bad. And then you look at the controllers, who know all this and they’re trying to make it worse because — I used to think it was [unintelligible] said this, that they were doing all this because they were in competition with thinkers. No, no, no, no, no.

Tweet of the day:

Daily Clips: February 13, 2017

Tweet of the day:

Seattle property taxes would rise under GOP school-funding plan, state McCleary analysis shows:

The average Seattle homeowner would see an overall property-tax increase of $628 in 2019, the OFM says. That is more than twice as high as the estimated average increase of $250 given by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the chief Republican budget writer, when he introduced the plan.

Inslee, Democratic lawmakers look to protect data for immigrants, refugees in Trump era:

Democratic officials in states like California, New York, Massachusetts and Oregon also are pushing to shield state data from the federal government. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown this month announced an executive order to keep state agencies from assisting the federal government in deportations or creation of a Muslim registry.

Burger King, Tim Hortons owner’s profit more than doubles: Soooo does that mean that Burger king can improve their minimum wage from $8.12 an hour?

Immigrants and Refugees Don’t Subtract from America—We Are America

Dujie Tahat hand-delivers 28,000 signatures of support to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Dujie Tahat hand-delivers 28,000 signatures of support to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

(Editor’s note: this is a condensed version of a terrific essay published on Medium last month.)

My mom and I arrived in Los Angeles on the eve of Christmas Eve 1995. I remember the city more than the airport. It seemed so easy, gliding from the terminal through customs straight to the golden doors — even with a Jordanian passport, even with Mohammed as a middle name. Back then, coming to America had been so simple that embracing my mother’s uncle in a new language in a new land seemed perfectly normal. The drive to Union City in his little white pickup truck so uncomplicated that it was practically forgettable.

In 2002, we applied for our permanent residency — to be citizens-in-waiting. We were denied. Applied again, but we were denied. We were denied. We were denied. They claimed we were denied on a number of technicalities but the truth is that we applied as Arab nationals in the months after September 11. Tens of thousands of dollars later, we were placed in deportation hearings. We faced a federal judge. Despite our incompetent lawyer’s best efforts to mess it up, our case was administratively closed; we had been deemed not a priority by the state.

When you apply for a green card, you have to give up your previous status and claims to past citizenship. You literally become a person with no country. No one really talks about this arcane requirement and the burden it places on individuals and families, often assuming that the process shouldn’t take that long. In 15 years, though, I haven’t been able to travel abroad for fear of being denied re-entry. I’ve missed grandparents’ funerals and cousins’ weddings, business trips and trips home.

Donald Trump’s executive actions—his travel ban—made this requirement a reality for nearly half a million permanent residents and stoked anger among immigrants and non-immigrants alike. Within hours, protests sprang up at airports across the country.

The marching, the yelling, the confrontation felt like a kind of action. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee’s continuing fight against the Trump administration feels like hope. But it’s easy for me to say that; I get to hold my American children today and tell them I love them.

From the injustices against the people of first nation to the 3/5 compromise to every wave of immigration ever, the American experiment has been one of making our people whole. Donald Trump’s executive order and Republican capitulation to his order is an utter rejection of these values.

Even if you are not an immigrant or a child of one or married to one or work with one, you’re in this boat now too. Whether you fully grasp it, your identity is at stake. Who you fundamentally are is in question, and who you could be has already forever been altered. Our identities are intertwined in this. Your exceptionalism. Your beacon of hope. From the grand idea to the cliche. The very triteness of the American melting pot. The “give me your poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is all at stake. You get to decide.

Starting today, we are either the people that rejected this cruel idea or tacitly endorsed it through silence.



Daily Clips: February 10, 2017

Trump’s stupid frickin’ wall is going to cost $21.6 billion and take 3.5 years to build:

President Donald Trump’s “wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Trump admin reportedly plans to delay the ‘Fiduciary’ rule for 180 days:

On Feb. 3, President Donald Trump ordered the Labor Department to review the fiduciary rule—a move widely interpreted as an effort to delay or kill the regulation.

Marathon Pharmaceuticals to charge $89k for Muscular Dystrophy drug: The free market, everyone.

Tweet of the day:


Daily Clips: February 8, 2017

Progressives, keep it simple and take credit: This is an incredible piece of work from Democracy Journal. It highlights many of the concerns and frustrations I have had with the Democratic Party in my young life; namely, all our policies are really complicated and we are terrible at selling them to the American people.

How to Make America Greater: More Immigration: Inclusion=prosperity.

Dodd-Frank Rollback May Fall Short of G.O.P. Hopes:

And only Congress, which passed Dodd-Frank, can make major changes. Most tweaks will need the backing of 60 senators, and Republicans fall short by eight votes. Liberal lawmakers are mobilizing against them. On Monday, Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, held a news conference decrying President Trump’s efforts to “put Wall Street first.”

Seattle City Council votes to cut ties with Wells Fargo over Dakota Access Pipeline lending: A small victory, but one that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Who uses Obamacare in WA? People from Trump country: 

The Washington counties with the highest use rate of the state exchange are rural: Adams, Okanogan and Yakima. They’re east of the Cascades and they voted for Donald Trump.

Tweet of the day:

Daily Clips: February 7, 2017

More trouble for Andrew Puzder: The Secretary of Labor nominee hired an undocumented worker—an inconvenient truth for a president who is staunchly against illegal immigration. Puzder supposedly told the Trump team about this “flag”.

“Based upon what I’ve learned,” [Senator] Alexander said in a statement, “since Mr. Puzder reported his mistake and voluntarily corrected it, I do not believe that this should disqualify him from being a Cabinet secretary.”

Such logic seems…flawed. Simply because someone reported a mistake and “voluntarily corrected it” that means they should be absolved of all moral and political backlash?

Trump’s H1-B Visa Crackdown Threatens Cutting-Edge U.S. Medicine: Scientists warn the Trump administration of an impending “crisis in science”.

Repealing Obamacare could kill more people each year than gun homicides: 24,000 lost lives is an estimate provided by Vox.

California and Trump are going to battle: The “sanctuary state” takes on the president.

Tweet of the day:

The Democratic Party Needs a Change in Messaging

Earlier this year, Harvard professor Michael Sandel spoke at the World Economic Forum. I happened to stumble upon his interview this weekend, and ever since watching it I’ve not been able to get it out of my head. During the Q&A, Sandel was asked to give advice to the flailing Democratic Party, which to his mind, has become far too technocratic in their political messaging.

Although the interviewer pressed him to provide bumper sticker policies like “Make America Great Again”, Sandel shrugged off this fascination with abbreviation. “Philosophers are not good at snappy slogans,” he admitted to the audience and then proceeded to show what good philosophers actually do: speak at length. During this fifteen minute back and forth, he presented four political themes which Democrats need to reassess in order to win again.

The first theme he addressed was a need for promoting a sense of national community that was directed towards “a shared common life, restoring public places, public institutions, and class mixing.” Sandel thought Democrats all too often revert to speaking only to urban, elite communities. To take away the conservative movement’s control and manipulation of patriotism, Democrats must develop their inclusive narrative in a way that leads to solidarity, not in a frame designed to end conversations, such as one which frames one side as “progressives” and the other side as deplorable “racists”.

The second theme is one we here at Civic Skunk Works spend a lot of time fretting over: the meaning and dignity of work. “Work is a way of making a living, of generating an income,” Sandel stated, “but is that its only purpose? Or does it confer meaning and identity?” We would argue (and so does Sandel) that Democrats should never, ever think of work as solely an economic concern. We know that “since many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, work is a major source of dignity in our lives.” To give the average American worker a sense of self-worth again, Democrats must engender a sense of “recognition and trust, as well as autonomy and self-mastery.”

Thankfully, liberals promote policies that can restore these feelings to the American public. A higher minimum wage and an increased overtime pay threshold strike me as perfect examples of recognizing the importance of all work, while new labor contracts like the Shared Security system would give economic benefits, stability and security to all. That is an effective one-two punch that Democrats should deliver over and over again.

The third theme Sandel elucidated was getting rid of our society’s obsession with meritocracy. “Meritocracy is not an alternative to inequality,” he told the audience, “it is a justification for a certain kind of inequality.” I’m so pleased that he highlighted this, as Americans all too often fall for this myth. A couple of months ago, in fact, I reviewed Thomas Friedman’s latest bookand my biggest criticism came from his faith in hard work and perseverance. I wrote:

Friedman subscribes (a little bit too much) to the myth that life is a meritocracy, where the most adaptable and hard-working win out. In fact, last week when I heard him speak at Seattle Town Hall he remarked, “sometimes no one is to blame but yourself.”

Sandel seems to agree in some ways with my argument. With his finger wagging, he pointed out that Democrats “should shift their emphasis from talking about mobility and perfecting individual opportunity, and instead talk more about solidarity and community and what that means.”

Finally, Sandel’s fourth theme was in relation to inequality and mobility. And in many ways, this connects with his meritocracy theme. He believed that the left needed to think less about mobility and speak about “creating a more equal society where the focus is not on the scramble to the top.” It’s not just economic inequality that Democrats should highlight either. Sandel argued that we need to show how economic inequality is corrosive to our civic life and our public institutions. Unfortunately, he never really developed upon that statement or provided instruction on how to effectively communicate these tensions, which made this theme come off as quite vague.

Nonetheless, I was extremely impressed with his messaging guidance. These broad themes are probably not specific enough (and a little bit too philosophically vague) for today’s focus-grouped Democratic Party. However, if leaders within the DNC listened to Sandel’s prescriptions, the left could offer a much more convincing socio-economic argument to Americans in urban and rural areas.