Archive

August 18th, 2016

The soft response to terror isn't weakness

    A top Bavarian domestic intelligence official has made tabloid headlines by saying there are "hit squads" and "sleeper cells" among the refugees who have recently arrived in Germany -- something right-wing populists have been maintaining all along. Yet the true "sleeper cells" have been here for decades, and that explains why, as Germany and other European countries step up anti-terror efforts, there is a strong resistance to unnecessary harshness.

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To Get to Harvard, Go to Haiti?

    This summer, as last, Dylan Hernandez, 17, noticed a theme on the social media accounts of fellow students at his private Catholic high school in Flint, Michigan.

    “An awfully large percentage of my friends — skewing towards the affluent — are taking ‘mission trips’ to Central America and Africa,” he wrote to me in a recent email. He knows this from pictures they post on Snapchat and Instagram, typically showing one of them “with some poor brown child aged 2 to 6 on their knee,” he explained. The captions tend to say something along the lines of, “This cutie made it so hard to leave.”

    But leave they do, after as little as a week of helping to repair some village’s crumbling school or library, to return to their comfortable homes and quite possibly write a college-application essay about how transformed they are.

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The Perfect GOP Nominee

    Speaking of crazy. ...

    All these woebegone Republicans whining that they can’t rally behind their flawed candidate is crazy. The GOP angst, the gnashing and wailing and searching for last-minute substitutes and exit strategies, is getting old.

    They already have a 1-percenter who will be totally fine in the Oval Office, someone they can trust to help Wall Street, boost the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cuddle with hedge funds, secure the trade deals beloved by corporate America, seek guidance from Henry Kissinger and hawk it up — unleashing hell on Syria and heaven knows where else.

    The Republicans have their candidate: It’s Hillary.

    They can’t go with Donald Trump. He’s too volatile and unhinged.

    The erstwhile Goldwater Girl and Goldman Sachs busker can be counted on to do the normal political things, not the abnormal haywire things. Trump’s propounding could drag us into war, plunge us into a recession and shatter Washington into a thousand tiny bits.

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Is the 'lesser of two evils' an ethical choice for voters?

    Every election cycle, there are citizens who don't like either of the candidates nominated by the two major political parties.

    And so, a familiar debate begins: Is a vote for a third party a principled stand - or wasteful naiveté?

    This year, party discord has swelled the numbers of dissatisfied citizens, and the debate is even louder than usual.

    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are unprecedentedly unpopular. On the left, intense pressure is mounting to vote for Clinton to avoid what many think will be genuine, large-scale dangers of a Trump presidency. This pressure is most intense in states that rank relatively high on what Nate Silver describes as the "voter power index," like Nevada or Florida. But such arguments are also engendering a defiant backlash as voters declare, "I won't vote . . . out of fear."

    As a moral philosopher, I'm particularly interested in the question of whether we can be obligated to vote for someone we dislike. Let's look at the arguments.

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Hillary Clinton's late-night panic

    This has been quite a week for Donald Trump. But how is it playing on Team Hillary? A glimpse at her team's group chat.

    Time: 2:04 AM

    In Chat: Hillary, Ready4Hillary

    Hillary: So this is going well, right?

    Ready4Hillary: Yes

    Hillary: I keep worrying, though. Should I be in the news more? Every day I look at the newspaper and the first two words in the first headline on every front page are always "Donald Trump."

    Ready4Hillary: no, that's good

    Hillary: that seems bad

    Ready4Hillary: Fact-check rating -- mostly false! The less you do, the better. When you do things, people remember that they don't like you. The best thing to do is try to be invisible and let people see that the alternative is the candidate equivalent of being tossed into a live volcano full of enraged hornets.

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For Mosul, learning from 2003

    In the next few months, a mixed force of Iraqi Arab and Kurdish security forces - including various Sunni and perhaps some Shiite militia elements - will enter Mosul, clear the city of Islamic State extremists and then work to bring governance, stability and reconstruction to one of Iraq's most complex cities and its province.

    There is no question that the Islamic State will be defeated in Mosul; the real question is what comes afterward. Can the post-Islamic State effort resolve the squabbling likely to arise over numerous issues and bring lasting stability to one of Iraq's most diverse and challenging provinces? Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.

    The prospect of the operation to clear Mosul brings to mind experiences from the spring of 2003, when the 101st Airborne Division, which I was privileged to command, entered a Mosul in considerable turmoil. Our first task, once a degree of order had been restored, was to determine how to establish governance. That entailed getting Iraqi partners to help run the city of nearly 2 million people and the rest of Nineveh Province - a very large area about which we knew very little.

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Donald Trump Is Making America Meaner

    All across America, in little towns like this one, Donald Trump is mainstreaming hate.

    This community of Forest Grove, near the farm where I grew up in western Oregon, has historically been a charming, friendly and welcoming community. But in the middle of a physics class at the high school one day this spring, a group of white students suddenly began jeering at their Latino classmates and chanting: “Build a wall! Build a wall!”

    The same white students had earlier chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Soon afterward, a student hung a homemade banner in the school reading, “Build a Wall,” prompting Latinos at area schools to stage a walkout.

    “They openly express their dislike of my race,” Briana Larios, a 15-year-old Mexican-American honor roll student who hopes to go to Harvard, said of some of her white classmates. Wounded by accusations that she doesn’t belong in the country in which she was born, Briana is thinking of being home-schooled rather than returning to the high school when classes resume.

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A missed chance to take back the House

    It's all coming up aces for the Democrats. Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by more than seven percentage points nationally in the poll averages. She is ahead by seven points in New Hampshire, eight in Virginia, nine in Pennsylvania and 11 in Colorado - enough to lock up the electoral college. Polls also look good for the Democrats to retake the Senate, especially because former Indiana senator Evan Bayh decided to run for his old seat.

    But not all the news is good. Despite the Democrats having the inside track for the executive branch and the upper chamber of Congress, there seems little chance of a Democratic House.

    Why? The easy answer is that the Democratic Party - and especially the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - has failed to take advantage of its opportunity. With the White House nearly clinched and the Senate ripe for retaking, the argument goes, surely the only reason a House takeover appears remote is institutional failure. While the DCCC would like to make between 45 and 60 seats competitive, outside prognosticators put the number in the mid-30s.

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When bad hair days and campaign signs cause 'trauma,' the concept has gone too far

    These days, "trauma" seems epidemic.

    A group of Columbia Law School students felt the "traumatic effects" of the Michael Brown grand jury decision so keenly, they argued, that they needed their finals postponed. A handful of Emory University students were "traumatized" by finding "Trump 2016" chalked on campus sidewalks. A young professor chronicled his traumatizing graduate training, which included discrimination and job anxiety. And in an interview, a "trauma-sensitive yoga" instructor talked through her "hair trauma": "I grew up with really curly, frizzy hair in Miami, Florida. When you're 13, a bad hair day is overwhelming," she said. ". . . Even though I would never compare that to someone who was abused, it's an experience that shaped my identity and, at the time, was intolerable."

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Texas professors learn to like guns, or else

    Three University of Texas professors were informed this week that they will be "subject to discipline" if they try to ban concealed handguns from their classrooms. The warning was issued in a state legal brief connected to the professors' lawsuit seeking permission to prohibit guns in class.

    It's hard to imagine a more vibrant canvas for culture war than the Texas campus-carry mandate, which went into effect at state colleges and universities earlier this month. Texas is gun country, and the state has joined a half-dozen others that guarantee campus-carry rights. But the University of Texas flagship campus in Austin is an elite institution and a liberal citadel in a state that caroms between business conservative and right-wing nutty.

    The pointy-headed professors may once have had their run of the expansive Austin campus. But Republicans in the Legislature showed them who's boss: "You want boys in the girls' bathroom? We can top that. We'll give you loaded guns in your classroom."

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