Who wants a genocidal British general as a school mascot?

Not the Amherst College faculty—at long last. After growing discontent over racial insensitivity at the liberal arts college, inspired by the student movements at Mizzou and Yale, the faculty voted unanimously on Monday to give up the controversial mascot. The college’s Board of Trustees will make the final decision in January.

Lord Jeffrey Amherst, or “Lord Jeff,” as he is known on campus, is the eighteenth-century British general best known for giving smallpox blankets to the Native Americans. Or, as he put it“You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

Lord Jeff was never Amherst’s official mascot, but the student newspaper routinely calls its sports teams “the Lord Jeffs” (or, even more awkwardly, “Lady Jeffs”). The most popular school song has the line, “To the Frenchmen and the Indians he didn’t do a thing.” (The college’s choral society has decided to stop singing the song.)

It’s been a long time coming for Lord Jeff. But that doesn’t answer the question: Who in the world ever thought a mascot who looks like this was a good idea?

December 08, 2016

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If Democrats go left, donors may get in the way.

According to a new Demos report, both major political parties draw from a mostly white, mostly male donor classand those donors tend to be more conservative than voters overall. Among the key findings from Whose Voice, Whose Choice:

While three-quarters of the adult population is white, and about 63 percent of the total population is white, 91 percent of federal election donors in 2012 and 92 percent of donors in 2014 were white. Among donors giving more than $5,000, 94 percent were white in 2014 and 93 percent were white in 2012.

• Men make up slightly less than half of the population, but comprise 63 percent of federal election donors. The pool of donors who give more than $1,000 has less gender diversity, with men making up 65 percent of donors giving more than $5,000.

• White men represent 35 percent of the adult population, but comprise 45 percent of federal election donors and account for 57 percent of money contributed.

Democratic donors are ideologically closer to the party’s voter base than Republican donors are to theirs. But when Democratic donors did diverge from voters, the results frequently undercut progressive policy initiatives. They mostly fought Obama’s push to expand SCHIP, his stimulus plan, and the Affordable Care Act. White male donors overall were more conservative than women donors on reproductive justice and specific policy issues like the Hyde Amendment. And the wealthier the donor, the more conservative they were likely to be.

These trends offer a partial explanation for the Democratic Party’s reluctance to take on a more progressive policy platform: It’s still beholden to the whims of a few exorbitantly wealthy white men. And that’s a significant obstacle to the party’s populist wing.

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Trump’s Labor pick proves that he was never about the working class.

Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., which owns fast food chains like Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is expected to be Trump’s pick to run the Department of Labor. It’s hard to think of someone who has been a worse advocate for workers over his career. Puzder consistently rails against raising the minimum wage, even to just $9 an hour, and advocates for rolling back regulations on corporations. He also opposed President Obama’s new overtime rules. When investigated by the DOL, more than half of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants examined had at least one wage and hours violation. And, according to Talk Poverty, Puzder makes more in one day than one of his minimum wage employees makes in an entire year.

If he could, Puzder would replace all those pesky human workers with robots anyways because, in his own words, robots are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Puzder isn’t foreign to such cases. Do you remember those sexist Carl’s Jr. ads featuring blonde women eating burgers in bikinis that tons of women found offensive? Puzder defended the ads, saying that he was shooting for the “young hungry guy” demographic. As he told Entrepreneur magazine, “I’m 64, I want to be a young hungry guy. Some young ladies in your age group like to date young hungry guys.” This “young” hungry guy is now going to be in charge of our country’s labor policy.

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Nigel Farage had an even better 2016 than Donald Trump.

Barring some dramatic turnaround, the Brexit leader and former head of the UK Independent Party has accomplished his longtime goal of ejecting the United Kingdom from the European Union. Moreover, as Thursday’s Bloomberg Businessweek profile makes clear, he’s gone from leading a small, anti-immigration political party—which only recently got a major foothold in British politics—to being a worldwide symbol of what he sees as a populist uprising and white working class backlash.

Farage is now beginning a whole new act in American politics. He appeared at a campaign rally this year with Trump, who, Businessweek’s Joshua Green writes, “adopted Farage as something between a talisman and a mascot” and promised an election result that would be “Brexit times 50.” After delivering on that promise, the president-elect made sure Farage was the first foreign politician he met with and even lobbied on Twitter for Farage to be Britain’s ambassador to the United States.

Now Farage is running around Washington as a right-wing celebrity among Republicans, going to parties, taking selfies with admirers, and pitching members of Congress like Senator Rand Paul on his latest political project: a bilateral trade agreement between America and the United Kingdom. “His ideas will always be listened to seriously in a Trump White House,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, told the magazine.

The best part for Farage is that he has no real responsibilities. He can bask in his newfound influence and celebrity, and promote his agenda—which partly is to promote himself. But unlike Trump, he doesn’t bear the burden of actually having to govern.

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Rest assured: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says fake news didn’t sway the election.

Facebook, you may have heard, has a fake news problem. That is a problem because Facebook has a stranglehold on news distribution online, which means that Facebook itself is the problem.

A week after Donald Trump’s election, it was revealed that the company had a fix for fake news, but didn’t roll it out, presumably to avoid pissing off lunatics and other people who love posting crazy stuff online. Mark Zuckerberg has since addressed the issue, outlining steps to curb the dissemination of fake news posts. But Zuckerberg has also, as my colleague Sarah Jones notes, refused to take real responsibility for the crisis, saying that “of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic” and that “identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated.”

With the controversy still swirling, Facebook sent celebrity feminism avatar Sheryl Sandberg to the Today Show to calm everyone down. “There have been claims that it swayed the election, and we don’t think it swayed the election,’’ Sandberg told Savannah Guthrie. “But we take that responsibility really seriously. And we’re looking at things, like working with third parties, helping to label false news, doing the things we can do to make it clearer what’s a hoax on Facebook.”

There are a few problems here, however. The first is that Hillary Clinton lost a number of key states by fewer than 100,000 votes. Without evidence, Facebook’s insistence that it did not play a major role in the election should be treated with an enormous amount of skepticism, considering that a lot of Americans get their news from the social network.

Second, Facebook’s market-oriented response to the problem does not ameliorate any of these concerns. “We know that people don’t want to see hoaxes on Facebook, and we don’t want to see hoaxes on Facebook,” Sandberg told Guthrie. “And so we’re working on it because misinformation is something we take seriously and something we’re going to continue to iterate on the service.” Facebook cares about fake news only because it cares about “user experience,” not because it is invested in nurturing a new kind of public discourse after it disrupted the old kind. This problem won’t go away until Facebook takes that responsibility seriously.

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If Donald Trump keeps being a bully on Twitter, someone’s going to get hurt.

Last night, Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers 1999, was quoted in a CNN segment saying that the president-elect had “lied his ass off” about the deal to save jobs at the Carrier plant in Indiana. According to Jones, only 730 union jobs were being saved (Trump had given the figure of 1,100, but that included non-union jobs that were not going to be out-sourced).

Trump responded with two petulant tweets attacking Jones and the union:

Trump has more than 17 million Twitter followers, and some of them took Trump’s words as a call to harass Jones in real life. As The Washington Post reports:

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

The incoming president of the United States is using social media to launch personal attacks against private citizens that have criticized him. This behavior, one of the many ways that Trump is violating the norms that govern his office, could lead to real violence.

December 07, 2016

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Joe Biden is the only person enjoying Trump’s transition.

While most everyone else, including the president-elect, seems to be in a foul mood amid the formation of a new cabinet, the outgoing vice president is having a ball, engaging in multiple consecutive days of trolling. Last night, he joked about making an improbable third run for the presidency against Trump in 2020—at which point Biden will be 77 years old. “I mean, hell, Donald Trump’s gonna be 74. I’ll be 77 and in better shape,” he told Stephen Colbert. “I mean, what the hell?”

Biden was even more provocative on Capitol Hill Monday, saying, “I’m going to run,” while also adding, for good measure, “What the hell, man.”

“I’m not committing not to run,” he told reporters. “I’m not committing to anything.”

No one’s quite sure what Biden’s playing at here, but maybe he’s simply resolved to enjoy himself in his final days in office. As I’ve previously argued, his legacy is better off if he doesn’t ever seek the White House again, but floating the idea is certainly one way to make sure he’s not forgotten in the administration’s waning days.

When NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell pressed him on a run as he walked into a meeting with House Democrats Tuesday, Biden smiled and joked, “I’m going to announce right now.”

Know who else was Time’s Person of the Year?

Bono. But also Hitler, in 1938, as was pointed out repeatedly on Wednesday. Remember, the Person of the Year isn’t necessarily heroic or even admirable. Time simply bestows the distinction on “the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year.”

Some, however, are noting some similarities between Trump’s Person of the Year cover and a separate Time cover of Hitler from April 14, 1941. Coincidence?

Donald Trump saved Christmas!

At least, that’s how reporter-grabber and professional mad person Corey Lewandowski sees it:

Lewandowski is not exactly known for his sense of humor—he can charitably be described as “intense”—but it is tempting to say that he’s joking here. (You can’t ever tell if Lewandowski is joking because his blood is 85 percent Monster energy drink and that has an effect on the nerves.) Lewandowski goes on to say that America will need immigrants by the time Trump is done because he’ll be creating so many jobs, seemingly ignoring the fact that the unemployment rate is at its lowest point in a decade. Elsewhere in the interview he claims that Trump will have done more in four years than Obama did in eight years. Lewandowski and his boss have one thing in common: a love of hyperbole.

But with all of the fuss over more important issues (racism, conflicts of interest, Pizzagate), we’ve forgotten that Trump’s anti-Happy Holidays position is among his strangest and longest-held, even if he isn’t particularly consistent on that front. However, Trump’s attraction to “Merry Christmas” was never based on his religious belief, it was based on it being a (practically audible) dog whistle to those who believe that America is being threatened by multiculturalism. Lewandowski declaring victory over the SJWs who won’t write “Trump” on a coffee cup carries a separate message: He’s telling his followers—white people—that “we” won.

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Is Ohio about to ban abortion?

It’s close. Both chambers of the state legislature have now passed the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortion after doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. If Gov. John Kasich signs it, or allows it to become law by refusing to act, Ohio women will find it virtually impossible to access abortion. 

Via WCMH-TV Columbus:

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the move would block access to abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant. “This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients,” said Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director.

The Heartbeat Bill has existed in different iterations since it was originally introduced during Ohio’s 2011-2012 legislative session. But its supporters always had the same goal: banning abortion. “This is just flat out the right thing to do,” its current sponsor, state Rep. Kris Jordan (R), told the press. “It affords the most important liberty of all—the opportunity to live.”

The Heartbeat Bill does not provide an exception for rape or incest. It’s so extreme it even divided Ohio’s pro-life activists. Ohio Right to Life has refused to endorse the bill in any of its iterations, citing its probable unconstitutionality. Kasich refused to sign its earlier versions for similar reasons.  

But the situation is different now. Jordan and his fellow extremists have attached it as an amendment to a child-welfare bill, and that puts Kasich in a difficult position. If he fails to act in 10 days, it automatically becomes law. Donald Trump is also president, and Republicans control both chambers of Congress. A conservative replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia could give the Heartbeat Bill a fighting chance if it ever reaches the nation’s highest court.

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Donald Trump has already neutered the deficit hawks in the GOP.

TIME magazine announced its 2016 Person of the Year on Wednesday and it was not at all surprising. Moving away from “you” and “person ruining Germany,” the magazine selected Trump. They also made him sit in a ratty chair.

The accompanying cover story is good. There’s talk about the gulf between Trump and his voters (he’s rich, they’re not); the power of Trump’s gut instinct, which both propelled him to the presidency and will likely be his biggest liability in the White House; and Trump’s total inability to take responsibility for the horrific forces his candidacy has unleashed. Reflecting on Trump’s insistence that crime is out of control, despite a wealth of statistical evidence to the contrary, Michael Scherer distills Trump’s worldview: “The world is zero-sum, full of the irredeemable killers that Obama’s idealism fails to see.”

But Scherer also gets at what may have been the second-most important force driving Trump’s victory: his departure from decades of party orthodoxy. This paragraph is key:

While Trump offered public words of support for the Iraq War at the time, he sees George W. Bush’s great adventure as a disaster now. He rejects wholesale the social conservative campaign to keep transgender people out of the bathrooms they choose, but promises to reward conservative ideologues with a Supreme Court Justice of their liking. And he has little patience for the organizing principle of the Tea Party: the idea that the federal government must live within its means and lower its debts. Instead, he seems to favor expensive new infrastructure spending and tax cuts as economic stimulus, much like Obama did in 2009. “Well, sometimes you have to prime the pump,” he says. “So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.” The next day, the third-quarter gross-domestic-product estimates would be released, showing an increase of 3.2%, up from 1.4% earlier in the year.

If the unified government that will take over Washington on January 20 has a fault line, this is it. Thanks to polarization, gerrymandering, and dark money, Congress is full of conservative ideologues and Trump has made it clear that he has little patience for ideologues. You can see that Trump is willing to carrot-and-stick it with Congress, giving them a conservative Supreme Court justice—perhaps the biggest prize there is—with the expectation that they will follow his tune when it comes to the economy. Deficit hawks, after all, tend not to be so hawkish when they’re in control. Carping about America’s balance sheet is a political tactic as much as anything else, a clever way of arguing that the other party is irresponsible.

For Republicans, it’s also been a dog whistle—the deficit means “the government is spending too much on nonwhite people”—and Trump’s knack for demagogic scapegoating makes it less relevant than it has been in decades. That dog whistle was key to the Tea Party’s success, and while Trump may differ from that group ideologically, he’s speaking their language when it comes to identity.