Archive

October 18th, 2016

Privacy and democracy

    Of all the non-surprises in the much-hyped WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign, none was less revelatory than the predictable fact that she had preached the gospel of limited disclosure, behind closed doors.

    "If everybody's watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least,"she told the National Multifamily Housing Council in 2013, apropos the legislative sausage factory. "So you need both a public and a private position."

    This was perfectly in character for the famously wary pol who declared, in 2003, that "I believe in a zone of privacy," then acted on that belief six years later, when she became secretary of state, by using a home-brew email server instead of the official system as the rules required - followed by a fumbling coverup.

    American moralism and election-year politics being what they are, her remark played as a confession of two-facedness - though it was mightily and, from Clinton's point of view, blessedly overshadowed by the awful caught-on-tape sexual transgression of Donald Trump.

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NRA buys deck chairs on Trump's Titanic

    According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Rifle Association this year has already broken its record for political spending, backing the Republican Party with more than $36 million. More than $21 million of that sum was devoted to attacking Hillary Clinton or supporting Donald Trump.

    "The blitz cements the NRA's status as a key cog in Republican electoral efforts," wrote the Trace, a nonprofit that reports on gun issues. "This cycle, it has paid out more than any other conservative group aside from three Super PACs formed to back GOP presidential candidates."

    Trump is not looking like a shrewd investment. Republican strategists fear he could take the Republican Senate majority down with him, and even, if he tries extra hard, blow up the Republican majority in the House.

    Clinton, meanwhile, is more overtly hostile to the NRA than any presidential candidate in history. She campaigns with mothers of victims of gun violence, aggressively champions universal background checks and advertises her willingness to "take on the gun lobby."

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'No more': Evangelical women are done with Donald Trump and his misogyny

    Bible teacher Beth Moore is someone who "keeps politics out of it," so the saying goes. When she speaks at events or on social media, the founder of Living Proof Ministries typically shares encouraging spiritual quips and jokes about her big Texan hair.

    But this Sunday, in just 94 words, the 59-year-old Houstonian lighted a fire that arguably burned Donald Trump's strained attempts to woo many evangelicals - especially women - to the ground. In four tweets, without even mentioning the Republican presidential nominee, she pinpointed what many evangelical women have surmised throughout the election season: Having a president who is not ashamed of his misogyny and instead boasts of it would harm and dishonor women in this country - and the larger Christian church.

    As the news broke that Trump had bragged in 2005 about sexually assaulting a woman, many Christian women stepped up to essentially say, "No more."

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NBC News explains its handling of the Trump video. It still doesn't all add up.

    Although it seems like an eternity, it's been less than a week since a video from 2005 featuring Donald Trump rocked the political world.

    Now, the candidate's boast about his ability to sexually assault women has opened a floodgate of credible allegations. Trump's presidential ambitions may well be dead in the water.

    What if that campaign-changing video - or something equally incriminating - had emerged during the Republican presidential primary, instead of sitting on a shelf at NBC's "Access Hollywood"?

    And why did it take NBC News so long to break a story that took The Washington Post only five hours, from initial tip to publication?

    Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for NBC News' chairman, Andrew Lack, gave me some answers in a phone interview but left some mysteries unanswered.

    Q. When did NBC News learn about the video?

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It's come to this: 2016 is the Rape Election

    It would be nice if this hellscape of an election managed to raise thoughtful discussions on one or two issues of national concern, but instead it appears that it has come down to a single-question personality test. Not, "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?" but, "Which candidate, or candidate's husband, would you be most afraid to ride alone in an elevator with?"

    The procession of women this week who accused Donald Trump of forcibly touching and kissing them - one woman said he accosted her on a plane 30 years ago; another said he pinned her against a wall in 2005 while his pregnant wife was upstairs - was unnerving. In a bonkers way, it was also perhaps inevitable for a campaign that kicked off with Trump accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, and then devolved into a scary race in which women's votes became a symbolic fight for their own personal safety. The ballot as a can of pepper spray.

    Or, as the writer Amanda Hess was compelled to tweet as the curtain rose on the second presidential debate, "Never imagined the election of the first female president would come down to a fight over who's the real rapist, but here we are."

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Islamic State has good reasons to retreat in Iraq

    There's no need to believe the Russian propaganda that says the U.S. agreed to let 9,000 Islamic State fighters flee Mosul to go fight President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But the story "reported" Wednesday by Russia Today (on the basis of a single anonymous source) does capture a strategic truth in the run-up to the attack on the Islamic State-controlled city: The fighters have good reason to flee -- and the Iraqis and the U.S. have good reason to let them.

    The battle to retake Mosul has been a long time coming. Islamic State occupied the city in June 2014, without encountering much in the way of Iraqi military resistance. Mosul was the biggest and most important city to fall into the hands of the self-proclaimed caliphate. Before Islamic State arrived, it had a population of roughly 2 million, making it Iraq's third most populous city. (Since then, at least half have fled or been expelled or killed, including essentially all the ethnic and religious minorities such as Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and Yazidis.)

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In two searing speeches, the 2016 presidential race is crystallized

    Two speeches. Two Americas. A pair of apocalyptic arguments and one call to burn down the house. That's the summation from just two remarkable hours Thursday that crystallized the final month of Campaign 2016.

    In back-to-back appearances, in what might be the two most compelling hours of the entire election, Michelle Obama in New Hampshire and Donald Trump in Florida delivered the fiercest, most provocative and hardest-hitting speeches of an election cycle that has been without precedent in hot rhetoric.

    The presidential campaign has been building toward all this. Day after day after day, the rhetoric has intensified, the charges and countercharges have escalated, the issues have been reduced to asterisks and the gulf between the Trump and Clinton coalitions has widened. Sunday's debate in St. Louis foreshadowed what was to come. Now there will be no turning back.

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Don't fear Trump's lawsuits. He'll lose.

    Awash in allegations that he sexually assaulted several women, Donald Trump is reaching into his old playbook and threatening to sue the media for reporting the claims, which he says are false.

    Although a number of outlets, including the , People and an NBC affiliate posted stories Wednesday night about Trump's allegedly forcing himself on women, it was a New York Times piece that apparently rankled Trump the most.

    That story, "Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately," offered detailed allegations from a pair of women who said they had troubling encounters with the Republican presidential nominee.

    When interviewed for the story, Trump told a reporter for the Times, Megan Twohey, that she was "a disgusting human being." Late Wednesday night he upped the ante. His lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, sent a letter to the Times, putting the newspaper on notice that Trump intended to sue.

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Clinton is wrong. You shouldn't have to work to have a place in America.

    It is only because of audience member Ken Bone's question about the effect that energy policy would have on employment at power plants that the presidential candidates addressed jobs at all during their debate Sunday night. But the night's biggest statement about work didn't come in response to Bone.

    It came instead as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answered a question about Islamophobia. She said, "My vision of America is an America where everyone has a place, if you are willing to work hard, do your part and you contribute to the community. That's what America is."

    The idea that work is a key component to social citizenship has been prominent in the American mind for centuries, so it is not surprising to see Clinton advance it. But labor force participation is in long-term decline, and according to Oxford University researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, automation could make nearly half of U.S. workers redundant within the next two decades.

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At long last!

    At long last several GOP leaders have withdrawn their support of their party's presidential nominee. Let us hope these withdrawals last longer than some of the earlier statements that they would never support this creep; however, the attitude quickly changed once he became the nominee. Some of them refused to state his name saying only they would support the party nominee, as if his being the nominee made it OK.

    Even now the Speaker of the House may have refused to campaign for him but still refuses to make a simple statement that he will not vote for him. After earlier joining the chorus of supporting the nominee Senator John McCain has once again found his moral voice to recognize that this man is not fit to be President of this great nation. There is nothing truly new about what the candidate said that left no doubt of his immoral proclivities. It simply reinforced what was already plainly apparent about the man's character. It would seem that in the world of these supporters the "boys will be boys" attitude is alive (and un-well) so long as it is their man instead of Bill Clinton.

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