Yearbook truths, political lies

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, pauses during a news conference in the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

No doubt Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wish their yearbook pages had come with the warning labels: “THIS INFORMATION WILL BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. GET IT APPROVED BY A POLITICAL CONSULTANT BEFORE SUBMITTING.”

Northam’s 1984 yearbook includes a photograph of two people dressed up, one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. A different yearbook from a few years earlier lists the nickname “coonman” under his picture. Kavanaugh’s 1983 yearbook has the words “Devil’s Triangle” and “FFFFFFourth of July” under his photograph.

Northam at first admitted he was in the photograph, then said he wasn’t. He blamed two upperclassmen for giving him the nickname “coonman,” and said he had no idea what the word meant, though…

Truth and Politics Don’t Mix on Entitlements

U.S. Senator Hiram Warren Johnson, a staunch isolationist, is believed to be the author of the quote, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” The same might be said for politics today. Politicians often avoid the truth because it can be unpopular.

For example, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Bloomberg last week, blamed Congress for its reluctance to take on entitlement reform. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said. “It’s a bipartisan problem—unwillingness to address the real drivers of debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

In fairness, McConnell was conveniently overlooking the impact of the tax cuts on the debt. Everyone from budget hawk conservatives to big spending liberals can reasonably agree that the significant decline in revenue from corporate tax collections because of the rate reduction contained in the 2017 tax plan contributed to the spike in the deficit, to $779 billion.

However, McConnell is absolutely correct that Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds are in deep trouble. The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports that these entitlement program trust funds “will all be exhausted by 2032 without action to stabilize their finances.”

Congress doesn’t want to tackle entitlement reform because it means hard choices—reduce benefits, raise the retirement…

Late Night White House Press Briefing: When Are You Going to Start Telling Us the Truth?

Late Night White House Press Briefing: When Are You Going to Start Telling Us the Truth?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds an impromptu press briefing to answer burning questions, like “Was there ever a time that Trump liked Germany?”
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Late Night White House Press Briefing: When Are You Going to Start Telling Us the Truth?- Late Night with Seth Meyers
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Russian Roulette review: as Joe Biden said, ‘If this is true, it’s treason’

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump share a moment in Vietnam.

Whenever I finish a book like Russian Roulette, I ask myself the same question: why is anyone still debating whether there was collusion between the Russians and Donald Trump?

Like Collusion, a comprehensive volume by the Guardian’s Luke Harding, this narrative by investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn leaves the reader nearly overwhelmed by evidence that Trump and Vladimir Putin have been striving to collaborate for years.

It was 2013 when Trump first tweeted that he wanted to be Putin’s “best friend”. Later he told Fox Putin looked “like a great leader”. Putin’s constant goals have been to destroy Nato and the EU. Trump was a big advocate of Brexit, which was a body blow to the EU, and in the 2016 campaign he called Nato “obsolete”. Trump began visiting Moscow in 1987 and his on again, off again effort to build a Trump Tower there continued for three decades – right through the presidential election.

In 2006, Trump became executive producer of a Russian version of The Apprentice. Years later he dismissed the massive evidence that Putin routinely orders the murder of journalists and other dissidents, telling MSNBC: “I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that?”

Then of course there’s the Palm Beach estate he bought for $45m in 2004. After the housing bubble burst, he sold that house for $95m – to a Russian oligarch, Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Nearly all the other stations of the twisted Trump-Russian cross are covered here, including the famous Trump Tower meeting between Russian emissaries and Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Although the Russians failed at that moment to produce promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, the authors point out that “Trump’s senior advisers now had new reason to believe that Putin’s regime wanted Trump to win and was willing to act clandestinely to boost his chances. The campaign did not report this private Russian outreach to the FBI.”

Russian government officials, Corn and Isikoff write, could well have “interpreted that as a signal that Trump would not mind or protest if Moscow took other actions to benefit the Republican candidate. The Russians had offered to help, and Trump’s campaign had demonstrated a willingness to take what Moscow had to offer.”

Almost any of these details would have been enough to torpedo any other presidential campaign, but Trump somehow managed to weather every single crisis. A big reason for that was the astonishingly poor news judgment of the mainstream media, including, in particular, the New York Times.

A Harvard study of…

The truth about noncompetes and Massachusetts politics

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In Massachusetts, we pride ourselves on attracting people who devote years — and often $100,000 or more — to earning an advanced degree. And we like to brag about being the state with the most educated workforce.

But once you’ve crossed the stage, framed your diploma, and actually joined that workforce, you’re often required to sign a contract that promises you won’t jump to a competitive company when you leave — sitting on the sidelines for a year or longer. That contract is valid even if your job responsibilities change, your salary is cut, or you’re laid off.

Effectively, we’re telling workers that even if they’ve just spent six years earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry or computer science, once they spend a year or two working for an employer, that employer has invested more in them than they have invested in themselves and should therefore be allowed to curtail where they can work next.

We’ve now spent about a decade debating whether to change that — and watching state legislators file bills that would limit the influence that your current employer has on where you can work next. But a compromise is now being hashed out on Beacon Hill, and it could head to the full Legislature for a vote later this spring.

Over the past decade, I have been collecting stories about how these contracts restrict the freedom of everyone from video game developers to after-school gymnastics instructors to practice their craft where they want.

Let me tell you what should happen and what looks likely to happen.

First, some terminology. These contracts are technically called “employee noncompete agreements” because they are a promise that a worker won’t leave one company to go work for a rival, at least for a specified period of time.

It’s important to note that there are a few professions that have exempted themselves from having to work under these contracts, including doctors and lawyers. They can leave one medical practice or law firm Friday and start working for another Monday.

But lawyers like the status quo — because these noncompete contracts sometimes generate business for them, in the form of lawsuits. Oh, and nearly a quarter of our state legislators list their profession as attorney, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

When an attorney explains to you why businesses need to be able to lock up their workforce with noncompete agreements, here is a handy question to ask: How is it that law…