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Rutte courted Wilders’ voters, now he must deliver

On 15 March, the Dutch voted in their parliamentary elections in favour of the ruling Liberal party and against their own version of the alt-right. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won 33 seats compared to insurgent candidate Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party’s (PVV) 20 seats. Although this triumph will act as a speed-bump for ethnic and economic nationalism, it is a temporary effect. The election was mostly about immigration, particularly of Muslims, and how to integrate them into Dutch society.

Now that they have won, centrist parties must learn that without incorporating some of the more legitimate and palatable concerns of voters concerned with immigration, they will be unable to maintain power. During the lead up to the election, Rutte warned of the need to integrate ethnic non-Dutch people to ensure every citizen shared the same basic secular and liberal values.

Rutte said everyone needed to know that the Netherlands wasn’t for people who “litter,” “spit,” “attack gay people”, or “shout at women in short skirts.” All of this was declared in a full-page advertisement which said people should “act normal or go away.”

By doing this, the VVD was able to steal some of the PVV’s rhetoric and, in turn, some of their voters. While such language from an establishment leader rattled the liberal and centrist press, it worked well and was copied by other parties. Finally, Rutte benefited from taking a firm stance on a visceral row with the Muslim-majority country, Turkey. The problem facing centrists is how to stop nativist parties that thrive on marginalising others without alienating increasing numbers of nativist voters.

Continue reading at EUobserver.

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War on Terror Unites Trump and the Establishment

It’s conventional wisdom that Washington, DC is a city marked by gridlock. Republicans obstructed President Obama’s agenda on principle, as Democrats are attempting to do now with Donald Trump. To give even an inch is a sign of political weakness. Trump is, admittedly, a polarizing figure, and there is certainly plenty of dissent in today’s political environment on a host of issues. The War on Terror, though, continues the same trajectory it’s been on for the better part of this century. President Trump, like President Obama before him, has mainstream support for his terror policies and approach to the conflicts in the Middle East.

The incredibly hawkish nature of the Obama administration’s foreign policy legacy has been well documented, and Trump is picking up right where he left off. He launched his first drone strike within days of being sworn in as president. There are reports that Trump is giving authority for these strikes over to the CIA and will tolerate more loss of civilian life – essentially giving the reins of an already non-transparent lethal program over to a group of people who lie for a living. And, of course, there is the infamous botched raid in Yemen by American Special Forces which took the life, among others, of a Navy Seal and an eight year-old American girl on January 29th.

Continue reading at Antiwar.com.

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Make Germany Miraculous Again

Nothing is really changing politically in Berlin. To begin with, Germany’s socialists are currently in a coalition with the conservatives, forming an immense majority in parliament. The coalition has slowed down public spending cuts and reforms enacted by the previous government. The German Left is at risk of fading into irrelevance as its choices regarding coalitions are limited: it’s either Merkel once again or going down the road of a three-party coalition.

In this post-crisis economy, Berlin shouldn’t be interested in who organizes a government reshuffle in September, but should instead be concerned with how a freer economy can unleash the potential of hard-working Germans.

Germany’s historic free-market champion, former conservative politician Ludwig Erhard, should serve as a role model for the ideological emptiness of contemporary German politics. Erhard is known to be responsible for the most extensive period of economic deregulation in modern times. Instead of following the temptation of slowly moving towards more economically interventionist policies, Berlin should follow Erhard’s example who believed that, instead of central planners, individuals should decide a country’s future.

Continue reading at FEE.

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Obama Spent Millions Fighting FOIL And It Will Probably Get Worse

This is Sunshine Week, the week where we celebrate government transparency and our “right to know.” But over the last eight years the clouds have crept in, and they’re showing no sign of going anywhere.

Former President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise of being the “most transparent administration” ever, and ran up a bill in doing so.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Obama administration spent a record $36.2 million in its final year on legal costs related to refusals to turn over federal documents under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Not only is that fiscally absurd, it’s also a slap in the face to those who actually believed Obama would follow through on his transparency promises.

On top of running up the legal fees, the Obama administration also set a record for the number of denied FOIL requests. The administration also told journalists and citizens it couldn’t find the requested documents more times in 2016 than ever before.

Sadly, there’s little indication that  this will improve under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Continue reading at The Daily Caller.
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The Errors of the New York Times In Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s Own Words

The resounding message of  South by Southwest’s (SXSW) New York Times Panel was that the journalism landscape is changing rapidly: it’s more crucial than ever that journalists be an unrelenting force against executive abuse of power, but confidence in longstanding news organizations is declining alarmingly fast.

On the first Sunday of the conference, media columnist Jim Rutenberg interviewed Executive Editor Dean Baquet on the main stage. Their answers lamented that the days of print journalism have been gone for a while, but focused on how that change doesn’t necessarily spell a dismal future. Baquet noted that Times digital subscriptions had drastically increased over the course of the 2016 presidential election––a clear signal that casual readers understood the heightened importance of media watchdogs as the election drew to a close. Information is still desired, albeit in different ways.

The real substance of the panel, though, was when Baquet focused on his own error and the error of his many reporters in predicting the presidential election’s outcome and doing due diligence in their coverage. When an audience member asked the timely question of how the media failed to predict these election outcomes, Baquet was humble and clear: the “New York bubble” certainly contributed to it––a secular, cosmopolitan outlook that sometimes undervalues the degree to which religiosity runs rampant in the rest of America––as well as a misreading of the amount of anger in the American electorate (and how that anger would be expressed at the polls).

He talked about how access to news and journalism jobs has exploded in the past few years, and about how plentiful jobs for good journalists are “the best thing for journalism.” But this explosion of access makes it so plenty of articles are circulated––many of which spread misinformation, skewed and irresponsible accounts, or blatant lies.

In a sense, Trump was “clarifying for the mission” of the New York Times. Baquet explained, “We owned the world through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s,” but after that, traditional news outlets lost their sense of place. While covering Trump, the Times were the first to break stories on the candidate’s treatment of women, his tax returns (and lack of public release), and his debt. As things progressed, it became increasingly clear that the press needed to remain a force that holds those in power accountable.

That’s hard to do as public skepticism rises and those in the administration levy accusations at newspapers of record. It’s a challenge Baquet is going to have to deal with––and quickly. But I think fake news is an overblown worry given that the vast majority of intelligent consumers don’t have a problem discerning what’s real from what’s fake or horribly biased. The real issue has to do with liberal bias: Baquet talked about their “Clinton Win Predictor” as indicative of a blind spot––something that inaccurately computed Clinton’s electoral odds and, by extension, the anger of much of voting America.

I wish that he’d talked about the Clinton win predictor as symptomatic of liberal bias and evaluated the intellectual diversity of his newsroom. For the right and center, there’s a common belief that the news is dominated by people and companies with left-wing tilts. There are certainly sources like National Review and Reason, but the majority of the most reputable organizations––New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times––have a slight left bias. This is bad, but dishonesty about it is even worse.

Baquet needed to recognize the degree to which many of his reporters––and those in the journalism industry on the whole––lean left, making it difficult to accurately interpret how right-leaning audiences will think and act. In post-election analysis, many reporters have fixated on how difficult it is to predict how white working class Americans in the heartland will vote. The real issue, though, is that minimal effort is made by most left-leaning journalists to understand the fundamental values that guide conservative mindsets as compared to the fundamental values that guide liberal mindsets. As Arthur Brooks writes, “Many Americans feel caught between two dispiriting political choices: ineffective compassion on one hand and heartless pragmatism on the other.”

This is one of the most crucial American divides and one that informs the way we think, act, speak, and vote. Until this mentality is better understood by journalists, we’re going to have a difficult time accurately predicting the preferences of Americans. Let’s hope this issue begins to get as much airtime as fake news.

Liz Wolfe is Young Voices’ managing editor.