There's trouble's ahead for banks, Wall Street and upscale suburbs. Not to mention President Donald Trump. Elections have consequences. One of the biggest is that firebrand Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is the new head of the powerful House Financial Services Committee. That gives her power over banking, the securities and insurance industries and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Egging her on to pursue a far-left agenda will be new committee members like self-styled socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., expletive-shouting Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Elizabeth Warren acolyte Katie Porter, D-Calif., and progressive Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
Waters has it in for banks. She blames them for the two million loans to low-income borrowers that went sour more than a decade ago, causing widespread foreclosures and the 2008 financial meltdown. "I have not forgotten," she warned bankers as she prepared for her powerful new role, "you foreclosed on our houses ... had us sign on the line for junk and for mess that we could not afford." She added, "I'm going to do to you what you did to us."
That's Waters' distorted interpretation of what happened. In fact, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Congress used the Community Reinvestment Act and anti-discrimination laws to coerce banks into making mortgage loans to low-income borrowers with lousy credit ratings and in some cases, no down payment. The idea was to promote minority home ownership. But when the borrowers couldn't pay, lawmakers turned on the banks, accusing them of predatory lending. Waters is poised to repeat that failed experiment.
A few weeks ago, the Fresh Face of the Democratic Party, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., gave one of the great defenses in the history of politics. Accused of fibbing and twisting facts to meet her radical agenda, Ocasio-Cortez explained, "I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually and semantically correct than about being morally right." Her statement was widely derided. But it is indeed the mantra of today's politics. The narrative must be preserved at all costs -- even the cost of the truth.
Take, for example, Ocasio-Cortez's ridiculous statements this week on the state of modern America. She explained that her plan to radically restructure the American economy is necessitated by the fact that "the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don't address climate change." She added: "And your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it? And like, this is the war -- this is our World War II." Now, put aside her Nostradamus-like assertion regarding the incoming apocalypse. The important part followed: "How are we saying, 'Take it easy,' when the America that we're living in today is so dystopian with people sleeping in their cars so they can work a second job without health care and we're told to settle down."
Now, when President Trump describes America as a dystopia rife with crime and suffering, the media point out that America is hardly a hellhole -- we're the most prosperous country in the history of the world. But when the charming AOC uses her false depiction of America to press for higher marginal tax rates, we're supposed to buy her story.
This gap between the facts and the narrative dominates our politics. Here's how the narrative chain works: Somebody makes a fact-free accusation of X, which supports the more general narrative, Y, supported by the political left or right. Opponents debunk X. That attempt to debunk X is taken as evidence that opponents don't take the problem of Y seriously enough. Facts are marshaled to show that Y is true, even if X isn't. In a peculiar way, the lack of facts to back X lends passion to those who defend Y -- it allows them to malign the motives of those who don't defend Y.
Sometimes, a three-point celebration is just a three-point celebration. Sometimes, a pep rally is just a pep rally. Sometimes, a smile is just a smile. And sometimes, a hat is just a hat.
Only among the most deranged partisans could a universal sports ritual, a common high school activity, a typical teen face and patriotic headgear be construed as evil symbols of patriarchal oppression.
These, however, are the soul-sapping, lunacy-inducing times in which we live.
Nobody loses their marbles when black NBA stars make the universal "OK" gesture with one hand. Or two. Or when the elite athletes hold up the sign to the sky, turn two of them into triumphant eye goggles, stir the pot, sweep the floor or dramatically holster their finger-trios like weapons.
Good morning, it’s Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Sixty years ago today, an iconic Colorado company unveiled a technological innovation that enhanced the taste of store-bought beer, while simultaneously improving the environment. I am referring to the January 22, 1959 introduction by the Adolph Coors Co. of the seamless and recyclable aluminum can.
Maybe you’re not old enough to remember it first-hand. Me neither. But it certainly was an invention I’ve long enjoyed -- containing, as it did, such a palate-pleasing product. I’ll have more on the Banquet Beer in a moment. First I’d direct you to our front page, which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
* * *
Trump’s Immigration Offer Solidifies GOP Behind Him. Susan Crabtree writes that the president’s latest proposal to end the shutdown has bolstered support among key party players he was once at odds with.
In the last week, two related media failures starkly revealed the endemic press credibility crisis that confronts our country. Far too many prominent media figures earnestly parrot distorted or patently false narratives so long as the group-think stories advance an agenda of “resistance” to President Trump and to the voters who galvanized our 2016 movement.
First, on Thursday night the media largely erupted with glee at BuzzFeed allegations that Robert Mueller possessed evidence that Trump suborned perjury, a claim forcefully discredited the next night by a rare public pronouncement from Mueller’s own team. Until that denial, MSNBC trumpeted the supposedly imminent impeachment of the president 97 times in one day. However, once the truth emerged, countless broadcasters and writers struggled with this grand unmasking of their inherent bias.
But help appeared – or so they thought. Video footage emerged that, initially, appeared to show a group of teenagers surrounding and intimidating an elderly Native American activist. Straight out of central casting, these young men were white, Catholic pro-lifers, and decked out in MAGA gear. Sensing an incredible opportunity to save face, the Trump-opposition advocates that populate most newsrooms leapt at this apparent validation: “See, they really are retrograde, racist hatemongers!”
But, like the BuzzFeed non-bombshell, this one too proved problematic once calm analysis prevailed. Yes, it appears a handful of the rowdy teenagers acted rudely, but on the whole any honest observer of unedited videos would conclude that the teens acted very responsibly and respectfully in the face of two groups of adults clearly seeking provocation and slinging unwarranted epithets at the youngsters.
PITTSBURGH -- For nearly a quarter of a century, Amtrak's Capitol Limited route has taken me from my beloved hometown to Washington, D.C. Sometimes for fun, almost always for work, the experience is never the same.
And if you are a rail lover, it is always about the experience.
There is only one train that leaves the Pittsburgh station every day, and that is at 5:20 a.m. (which means your alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m.). Thanks to sharing the line with freight, that almost always means a 20- to 90-minute departure delay. Then there's the nearly eight-hour trip, twice what it takes me to drive there. Flying would only take an hour.
So why ride the rails? For starters, there's the joy of looking out your window to swaths of the countryside you'd never see if you were flying over them or cruising along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump paid a brief visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington on the holiday honoring the civil rights leader.
Trump was joined by Vice President Mike Pence on a frigid and windy day. The two laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial, then held a brief moment of silence.
Trump told reporters as he departed that it was a “great day” and a “beautiful day,” but did not respond to questions about the partial government shutdown, now in its 31st day.
The visit lasted less than two minutes.
In the midst of the 2016 GOP primary season, few could have predicted that Sen. Marco Rubio would emerge nearly three years later as one of the strongest champions of Donald Trump’s immigration policies, as well as the president’s hard-ball government-shutdown tactics.
But there was the Florida senator on Twitter over the weekend, coming to the president’s defense and unabashedly backing his latest immigration compromise proposal. Rubio also joined Trump in characterizing Democrats as obstructionists who are refusing the deal simply because it would give the president a win.
“POTUS offers to support two bills sponsored by Dems in exchange for Border Security & the instant reaction from Dem leaders is No,” Rubio tweeted Saturday. “Because denying him a win on border matters more to them than paying fed workers or 3 yrs of certainty for TPS & DACA recipients.”
Demeaned by Trump as “Little Marco” while contending for the presidential nomination, Florida’s 47-year-old senior senator is the son of Cuban immigrants whose own grandfather was once ordered to leave the U.S., a decision that was later reversed. In one of the 2016 GOP debates, Rubio, viewed back then as the establishment’s last best hope to bring down Trump, mocked the billionaire’s repeated claim that he alone was responsible for elevating the immigration issue and making it a central piece of the campaign.
To be clear, we don’t suggest banning people on the conservative side of the ideological spectrum – or the liberal side, for that matter. We say it’s time to ban pejoratives like “far right” and “far left” because they don’t adequately describe what what we – or most people – really think. As firm believers in freedom of speech and press, we must add that we don’t actually propose a ban on any offensive terms. Rather, we think readers should view simplistic and derogatory descriptors like “far right” as evidence that writers who use such language are pandering to their readers’ lowest common denominator.
Let’s start with our own core principles. We advocate for personal liberty, economic freedom, and a limited, constitutional government. Our reward for these views is the occasional “far right” label, which has us wondering why an ideology meant to free people to live as they wish is branded with the same term that’s used for neo-Nazis and some of the most anti-freedom authoritarians to ever walk the earth.
Much the same, we look on the tendency among some on the right to attach “People’s Republic” to certain blue states as similarly obtuse. More than half the world’s venture capital finds its way to promising entrepreneurs in California, Massachusetts, and New York alone. They’re clearly doing something right.
These labels add fuel to the fires of our current polarized politics.
The Washington Post described the strange events of last week best: “BuzzFeed and ‘if true’: The day when no one knew anything.” Thursday evening BuzzFeed broke the bombshell story that, according to two anonymous law enforcement sources, the special counsel’s office had hard evidence that President Trump had ordered his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The story broke like a tsunami across the media landscape, with news outlets around the world blindly parroting a story that none could confirm. Rather than wait until they could verify the basic elements of the story, outlets ran story after story that, “if true,” BuzzFeed’s scoop would mean the end of Trump’s presidency. When Fox News chose not to report a story it couldn’t verify, it was roundly criticized. Looking back on how the media covered BuzzFeed’s purported scoop, we are reminded that the media’s prioritization of speed over accuracy is one of the reasons it has lost so much credibility.
Despite not being able to independently confirm a single detail of BuzzFeed’s reporting, television stations rushed to cover the story. On Friday, CNN spent at least 6.6 percent of its airtime mentioning BuzzFeed, followed by MSNBC’s 4 percent and Fox News’ 3.2 percent. “Impeachment” was the word of the day, with MSNBC spending 4.3 percent of its airtime mentioning that term or “impeach” or “impeachable” or “impeaching” or “impeaches.” CNN was a close second with 3.8 percent of its airtime, while Fox News spent just 1.6 percent of its time on the word.
In a stroke of post-truth irony, stations freely acknowledged they had no idea if what they were reporting had a shred of truth to it. The phrase “if true” was everywhere, with CNN mentioning it 1.4 percent of its airtime, followed by 0.7 percent of MSNBC’s and just 0.5 percent of Fox News’ airtime. Mentions of “true” or “verify” or “verified” or “confirm” or “confirmed” or “unconfirmed” totaled 7.7 percent of CNN’s airtime, 4.8 percent of MSNBC’s and 4 percent of Fox News’.
In short, as they rushed to report a story they and their guests proclaimed would end Trump’s presidency, the stations simultaneously admitted they didn’t have a clue whether any of it was real.
An outbreak of measles four years ago at Disneyland focused attention on a growing health menace -- the refusal of parents to vaccinate their children. The threat has gone international. The World Health Organization has just named the anti-vaccination movement among the 10 biggest global health crises.
Italy is ground zero, thanks to a law pushed by the far-right 5-Star Movement that ended compulsory vaccinations for children in public schools. Matteo Salvini, leader of its coalition partner, the League party, called mandatory vaccinations "useless and in many cases dangerous."
The anti-vaxxer crusade has a diverse membership. In addition to traditional right-wingers and radical libertarians who say the decision to not immunize their children should be a matter of personal liberty, it includes rich progressives who view vaccinations as unhealthy. (Far more students in California's well-to-do Capistrano Unified School District were found to be unvaccinated than in Santa Ana, its poorer neighbor.)
The "vaccine-hesitant" -- the WHO's politer term -- often wave ignorant junk-science claims that vaccines can cause autism. This dangerous lie gained traction in a 1998 article published in the prestigious British journal The Lancet. It turned out that lawyers suing vaccine-makers were funding the author, Andrew Wakefield. Britain subsequently stripped Wakefield of the right to practice medicine.
WASHINGTON -- Through a blooming diversity of investigations, we will soon discover if the world that has always surrounded Donald Trump -- the sleazy fixers, the disposable women, the questionable deals, the gold-plated vanity, the viciousness to subordinates, the casual prejudice, the obsession with enemies, the shady international contacts, the nepotism, the ethical emptiness, the bottomless narcissism -- is also a criminal enterprise.
On the increasingly likely assumption that it is, how would institutions on the right be affected by Trump's corrupting embrace?
It won't be pretty for the Republican Party. It has become thoroughly braided into Trump's bigotry. In a nation where the chant of "Trump! Trump! Trump!" has become a racist jeer, the GOP has accepted a rebranding as his subsidiary. To many suburban voters, the party has become a symbol of intolerance. To many younger voters, an instrument of white privilege. At the national level at least, the GOP's fate is inseparable from the fate of the president.
Most members of the conservative movement will be tainted for flipping their inspiration from Ronald Reagan to George Wallace with hardly a moment's thought. This gives credence to charges of racial prejudice I once thought exaggerated.
On Saturday, Donald Trump shrewdly flipped the table on Nancy Pelosi in the government shutdown standoff. He has now proposed a grand bargain on immigration: legalization of some 1 million so-called Dreamers -- the foreigners who were brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents -- and an immediate end to the shutdown, if she agrees to expand funding to $5.7 billion for the wall.
It's the kind of checkmate political maneuver that may guarantee his re-election.
It's smart because it now puts the onus on Pelosi to open the government. It also puts the pressure on Pelosi to act on immigration reform. For 25 years, Democrats have preferred to politicize the immigration issue -- and treat Hispanic voters as political hostages -- rather agree to a bipartisan solution to deal with the 10 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.
There's no good option for Pelosi now.
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible ... make violent revolution inevitable," said John F. Kennedy.
In 2016, the U.S. and Britain were both witness to peaceful revolutions.
The British voted 52-48 to sever ties to the European Union, restore their full sovereignty, declare independence and go their own way in the world. Trade and immigration policy would henceforth be decided by a parliament elected by the people, not by bureaucrats in Brussels.
"Brexit" it was called. And British defiance stunned global elites.
WASHINGTON -- As the shambolic Trump presidency caroms and lurches into Year Three, a shameful governing philosophy has emerged: cruelty for cruelty's sake.
Let us take stock:
Roughly one-quarter of the federal government has been closed for a month, in the longest shutdown in U.S. history. An estimated 800,000 employees are either furloughed or being forced to work without pay, not to mention untold contract workers who are also idled. Prospects for a near-term solution to the impasse between President Trump and Congress range all the way from dim to dimmer.
Imagine going a month without a paycheck. Imagine lining up the bills and deciding which get paid and which don't -- mortgage, electricity, heating. Imagine having to commute to work at an "essential" government job and trying to scrape together enough money for gas.
When and how did it become acceptable to be an anti-Semite? When did it become OK to socialize with and even praise a Jew hater? I am referring, of course, to Louis Farrakhan, who spouts the most vile things about Jews yet retains the admiration of many on the left, including, notably, leaders of the Women's March. They have now separated themselves from Farrakhan's bigotry, but not the man himself. He understands. They are doing what Jews want.
To an extent, they are. It has taken some pressure to get Women's March co-chairs Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour and others to distance themselves from Farrakhan's views. Yet Mallory for one will not condemn the man who holds these views. In this, she has plenty of company. On the stage with Farrakhan at Aretha Franklin's funeral in September were Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Bill Clinton. Franklin, apparently untroubled by Farrakhan's Jew hatred, had a friendly relationship with him, and he was at the funeral for that reason. Still, you could not imagine Jackson, Sharpton or Clinton sharing the stage with David Duke.
The Anti-Defamation League reports an upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents -- up nearly 60 percent in 2017. But the numbers are more shocking than they are troubling. More troubling -- if unmeasurable -- are the casually anti-Semitic statements or associations of figures such as Mallory and Sarsour. In 2012, Sarsour, who is Palestinian-American, tweeted: "Nothing is creepier than Zionism." This might be understandable from a Palestinian point of view, but not her following sentence: "Challenge racism." The slur that Zionism is racism must come as a surprise to the 135,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, roughly 25,000 of whom were airlifted between 1984 and 1991.
Farrakhan is lauded for the good work his Nation of Islam does in certain black communities and in jails. But his message is anti-white, anti-gay and anti-Semitic. The fact that he does some good is no reason to ignore or overlook the bad that is attached. When it comes to Jews, he has the lurid imagination of a 1930s-era Nazi. He blames the Jews for most everything, including Hollywood movies that are "turning men into women and women into men." Mallory attended the rally where Farrakhan made that statement.
WASHINGTON -- On global climate change, I've changed my mind -- just slightly.
I've written about this issue for more than two decades, and my theme has been monotonously consistent. As a starting point, I've accepted the prevailing scientific view that man-made greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.
But I've been routinely pessimistic and skeptical that we can do much about it. That is, we can't easily control the forces that worsen global warming.
We have yet to discover or create some low-cost fuel that would replace fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal), which provide roughly 80 percent of the world's energy. Most nations aren't willing to scrap the energy status quo -- the very basis of modern civilization -- before having a practical substitute.
I was halfway through the preparation for this essay on identity politics when Procter & Gamble handed me my free promotional gift — an online ad for Gillette razors that showed men and boys being bad and that asked, “Is this the best a man can get?”
Well, no — it’s not. It should be obvious that bullying and street-fighting are not the “best a man can get,” whatever that means. It is bad behavior — plain and simple. To show pictures of boys fighting and suggesting that this represents anyone’s ideal for male behavior is not only flagrantly dishonest; it is stupid as well. To show an example of online bullying and suggest that this is the sole domain of boys and men is not only stupid; it is flagrantly dishonest — girls are at least as ruthless as boys when it comes to online bullying.
This ad illustrates, probably better than anything I can think of, both the allure and the danger of “identity politics.” It must have seemed like a great idea to the advertising geniuses at Procter & Gamble to capture the angst of the modern man in this era of “Me Too” and “Toxic Masculinity,” but instead of celebrating the positive aspects of maleness, they decided to shame men into changing their hormonal spots. (Wait a minute, isn’t “shaming” just another form of “bullying”?)
Sooner or later, it should become clear that “identity politics” is really just Tribalism 2.0, and has the same strengths and weaknesses as the old version. By encouraging blocs of people to band together, you magnify the power of the individual as a representative of a group, but by segregating people into discrete groups, you isolate them from those who are unlike them. That has never worked well — whether in Rwanda, where the Hutus tried to wipe out the Tutsis, or in India, where a nationwide partition was required between Hindus and Muslims in order to prevent them from killing each other.
At the beginning of this month, media coverage about, and search interest in, the U.S. government shutdown were both trending downward as the public and press had grown weary of the bureaucratic stalemate. As the impasse reaches its one-month milestone, interest is growing, but the focus is less about President Trump.
The timeline below shows worldwide English online news coverage monitored by the GDELT Project since Dec. 1 that mentions the shutdown, as well as the shutdown coverage that also mentions “Republican” or “Republicans,” “Democrat” or “Democrats” or “Trump.”
As the shutdown has worn into the new year and its impacts have grown, coverage has slowly increased. Trump remains the figure most commonly associated with the shutdown, followed by Democrats and then Republicans.
Look closely at the timeline and you’ll notice that as coverage has grown, there is an increasing gap between total shutdown coverage and shutdown coverage that mentions the president. The timeline below shows this more clearly, reporting the percentage of all shutdown coverage above that mentioned Trump.
Good morning, it’s Monday, January 21, 2019. It’s cold here in the Washington area, and the wind is howling as I write these words. The “polar vortex” is to blame, we’re told, although on this date in 1985, when Ronald Reagan’s inauguration parade was canceled due to even colder weather, the phrase most people used was simply: “It’s friggin’ freezing!”
Today’s a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., a commemoration signed into law by President Reagan himself. I’ll have more on his second inauguration in a moment. First I’d direct you to our front page, which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
* * *
Identity Politics, and the Divisible Nation for Which It Stands. Frank Miele weighs in on the Gillette “toxic masculinity” ad.