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Reading Roundup: Facebook, Fires, Fashion, and More

Freaky Fires

While it’s not news that the golden state has taken on a crackling red hue from recent wildfires, reports of the fires’ behaviors are blazingly bizarre.

It’s been commonly observed by firefighters that fires slow down at night, according to Scott L. Stephens, UC Berkeley professor of fire science. But a number of recent fires have said “to hell with the slow burn!” and begun spreading quickly even when the sun goes down.

The Tipping Point: Can American Institutions Be Saved?

Depending on how you spin it, the recent government shutdown was either an example of the Republicans cynically rolling the Democrats, or the Democrats electing to strategically fold their tents and fight for the Dreamers another day. Either way, nobody was playing chess; it was more like 52 pickup. So even though President Donald Trump contributed little to the process, other than reneging on an early compromise agreement, he somehow came out looking a trifle less inept than everyone else.

Q&A: Robert Reich on Saving Capitalism

Robert Reich is one of the country’s most influential and prolific political analysts. While Reich has held a variety of high-profile media and advocacy positions and serves as the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, he remains best known for serving as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor.

Q&A: CNN’s Brianna Keilar On Covering Trump and Going Viral

As she was covering the 2016 presidential election, CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar didn’t expect to become part of the story. But that August, her exchange with Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen made headlines.

“You guys are down,” Keilar tells him in the segment, referring to Trump campaign. Before she can finish her sentence, Cohen interrupts: “Says who?”

“Polls,” she responds.

“Says who?”

What’s Most Likely To Bring Down Trump? We Ask Cal’s Experts

The bunker metaphor may be overdone in regard to the White House and its current occupant, but that’s not to say it isn’t apt. Trump is taking a massive amount of incoming, and it’s having a profound effect on him personally and administratively. Recent staff leaks describe him as “agitated and exhausted” and much, though not all, of his agenda has stalled.

Is Right-Wing News Entering the Mainstream?

While progressives are scandalized by Breitbart’s nativist tone, it’s deeply appealing to millions of disenfranchised and largely white citizens. Indeed, it helped energize them to the point that they actually got out and voted in numbers sufficient to elect Donald Trump, much to the horror of the droves of Democrats who couldn’t be bothered going to the polls and the prestigious mainstream news outlets that predicted an easy Hillary electoral victory.

Editor’s Note

Every weekday, the dog and I head up a very steep hill for a compulsory early morning walk, an essential daily ritual for wearing out a highly energetic adolescent canine and fending off decrepitude in his older human companion.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Stronger Together? A Blueprint for a Blue State Alliance

Few pollsters on either side of the political aisle really expected a Trump win on November 8th. And while pundits and prognosticators were somewhat less certain about the outcome of state races, many were surprised—or shocked—that Republicans held on to the Senate and the House and improved their standing in state governments. Republicans now claim governorships in 34 states, up from 31.

Bye-Bye Balance: Skewed and False News Is on the Rise

Democrats are still stumbling around in the smoldering rubble of the 2016 presidential election, struggling to identify just what went wrong for them. Several theories are vying for primacy: voting fraud (or at least, inaccurate ballot counting), the Democratic Party’s disconnect with white working class voters, Trump’s bonding with the same, Trump’s uncanny tapping of surging nativist and xenophobic sentiment, the American susceptibility to celebrity, and Clinton’s bedrock weakness as a candidate.

Step Right Up: Why Exactly Did I Vote for Bernie?

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the seductive nature of the 2016 American presidential campaign season. I like the drama, the mudslinging, the tabloid-style coverage, the gaffes, the slip-ups, and the never-ending political commentary from pundits. It’s oddly entertaining, no?

Although, let’s be honest: None of the empty party rhetoric and nastiness can prepare us or the candidates for the realities of elected office. We learned this lesson during Obama’s eight-year struggle to address serious issues while faced with a do-nothing Congress.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: I’m a Voter and a Lab-Rat

If you shared Facebook’s “I’m A Voter” app in a recent election, you might have become a nice data point for the social media giant and a couple of resourceful political scientists. In the 2010 midterms, the graphic was pinned to 61 million newsfeeds and it turned out that users who saw that their friends were voting were .4 percent more likely to vote than those in the control group (the people without the app). Apparently, this social pressure added 340,000 new voters to the 2010 election cycle.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Optimistic for America

On the 7th of June, 2016, in Oakland, California, I was among 1,057 “aliens” who became American citizens. We took the oath. We were welcomed and congratulated. We were told not only that we could vote, but that we should vote and that we could run for office.

In 2016, the United States is going to “naturalize” 700,000 new citizens. At nearly 70 years old, I’ve achieved this belatedly in life and more than a century after the big immigration wave that brought millions of my compatriots to these shores.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Shaking Up Facebook

Like every other voter preparing for the upcoming election, I often cruise Facebook to gauge the mood of my fellow citizens. Not that I’m a fan of the site. To me, Facebook has always seemed like an inversion of the old “banality of evil” trope: It is the evil of banality, a fount of never-ending Likes and emoticons and pictures of highly caloric restaurant meals and garish sunsets and Frisbee-catching dogs. It is an online Leave It to Beaver updated to the digital age, a place where we can all cozily catch up and be comfortable and make soft, murmuring sounds to each other.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

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