Friday, 20 January 2017

Random Reads (20/01/17)

As the end of the world draws nigh... er... On the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump, there have been many column inches published on the confirmations of his Cabinet, the conflicts of interest his Presidency presents, and many reflections on the Obama administration.

Some of the more interesting articles are:
  • NY Times Editorial Donald Trump Keeps It In The Family - which explores Trump's appointment of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and how it may be a violation of anti-nepotism laws. Not only is Kushner's role in the administration unclear, but it will make it difficult for White House employees who are not family members.
  • Andrew Rosenthal writes in the NY Times about Republican Hypocrisy on Trump's Nominees - which highlights how Republicans are rushing through the confirmation hearings of Trump's nominees prior to comprehensive vetting by the Office of Government Ethics. This is a stark contrast to the way Obama's nominees were treated. It is especially concerning given the individuals Trump has appointed. Bad precedent.
  • David Remnick in the New Yorker writes about John Lewis, Donald Trump, and the Meaning of Legitimacy - Representative Lewis is a civil rights hero who has served his constituents and his country well for decades. Trump engaged in a Twitter war with Lewis because Lewis said he would not attend the inauguration of an illegitimate President who only got the job because of Russia's interference. 
  • Leonard Downie Jr writes in the NY Times about Donald Trump's Dangerous Attacks on the Press. Having watched the circus that was Trump's press conference in which he declared himself unable to have a conflict of interest and decided that some news outlets were invalid "Fake News". This article talks about the danger legitimate journalists are in and how difficult it will be to hold Trump accountable. Downie calls for news media to be 'fair but aggressive' in its coverage and to scrutinise those journalists/media outlets that lack standards.
  • In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart writes about Trump's New Foreign-Policy Direction. American Presidents have historically delivered inaugural addresses that have positioned America as committed to bringing freedom to the world. What will Trump's message be given his disinterest in NATO and the UN, commitment to ripping up trade agreements, wall building, and his isolationist views?
Before I move on from Trump, two of the best things on the internet this past week have been Meryl Streep's takedown at the Golden Globe Awards. Amazing!

And, I also love Huw Parkinson's Life Accordion to Trump! Hilarity!

Now, for Obama. I cannot express how sad I have been feeling these past few weeks as Obama prepares to leave the White House. It is too early to know what his legacy will be, but his dignity and class will be missed as he hands the keys over to a megalomaniac frat boy. Some articles worth reading are:
  • Michiko Kakutani, chief book critic for NY Times, interviewed Obama about literature. The article Obama's Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books is a fascinating piece for book nerds/policy wonks like me. What is even more interesting is to read the transcript from their discussion, and how it informs the article.
  • Time Magazine asked historians to weigh in on Obama's Legacy. Other than the obvious - the first African-American becoming President - there are many achievements. His stable economic management, Affordable Care Act, opening of Cuba, ordering the raid on Osama Bin Laden etc. But perhaps he also ushered in an era when Trump could happen...
  • Politico also looks at Obama's Hidden Legacy. This article explores things Obama did that I had no idea about - such as closing the diaper gap in recognising that these essential products were costing poor people too much, Obama launched an initiative to get reduced-cost diapers to non-profits around America. Very interesting.
I love Michelle Obama - a smart, sassy, compassionate woman who has served her country well. 
  • And, there has been much commentary on her wardrobe. Normally I hate that sort of thing which diminishes a woman's achievements to what she wears, but nothing can detract from Michelle's fabulousness and it is worth being reminded of her incredible style.
Finally, if you have an hour to spare, read Obama's article in the Harvard Law Review about The President's Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform. He highlights incarceration rates, sentencing reform, clemency and other concerns. He talks about the work he has left unfinished - reducing gun violence, opioid addiction as a public health issue, improving forensics to overturn wrongful convictions, improving data collection, restoring the vote for felons who have served their time, engendering trust in law enforcement - and more. Powerful stuff.
While the Obamas move on to life after the White House, I look forward to seeing what they do next. They will be greatly missed, but I expect they will find new ways to contribute to world affairs.

Obama Out!