Archive

June 16th, 2016

The media isn't going to save the country from Donald Trump - here's why

    As each new day brings yet more evidence of just what a truly awful human being Donald Trump is, some liberals have decided that the fact that Trump still has a reasonable chance of becoming president can only be explained by the failure of the media to do their jobs.

    This belief is both naïve and dangerous, because it misunderstands not only how contemporary media operate, but also fails to reckon with what American voters actually believe.

    Sunday, celebrated filmmaker Ken Burns delivered the commencement address at Stanford University, and in remarks that have since gone viral, he offered an extended critique of Trump, which included this statement about the media and its failures:

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The glaring leadership problem in Donald Trump's tweets after the Orlando massacre

    The backlash following Donald Trump's tweets Sunday after the horrific massacre in Orlando felt, in some ways, familiar. It's now a pattern - a disturbing, unsettling one - that comes after a mass shooting in this country: Tragedy, followed by expressions of thoughts and prayers, followed by debate over what politicians say and how it gets politicized as the country grapples with the human carnage.

    Yet this time, the backlash focused on Trump's willingness to insert himself into the news -- to make even a single moment of the immediate aftermath in the senseless tragedy about himself.

    Not once, but twice, Trump took up the valuable 140 characters of Twitter's real estate to point out that he was right. He said he "appreciate[s] the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism," even if yes, he said he doesn't "want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance." (More on that below.) Hours later, after saying "our leadership is weak and ineffective," he said "I called it and asked for the ban," referring to the ban he has proposed on Muslims from entering the United States.

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Recriminations for upward mobility

    “This is the year of jubilee/Send them angels down/The Lord has come to set us free.”

    The words of the Negro spiritual are celebratory, but the truth of them is in the title: “My Way’s Cloudy.”

    A long struggle was ahead. Many who sang it would never know freedom.

    Emancipation launched a century of recriminations and malevolent machinations. The Voting Rights Act? It would be resisted with fury. And the oppression would continue. And it continues, even when the Supreme Court chief justice pronounces this to be a post-racial time.

    These civil rights dynamics came to my mind when Hillary Clinton stepped on the stage as the presumptive Democratic nominee, the first female in U.S. history so poised.

    As she pointed out, the year her mother was born was the year Congress passed the 19th Amendment giving women the vote.

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Orlando tragedy proves Trump wrong, not right

    According to Donald Trump, he has been congratulated "for being right on radical Islamic terrorism" after 50 people died by a lone gunman's hand in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub. The shooting, however, proves him wrong on several major points that unite his supporters. Even though they will ignore the proof, it's worth laying out.

    During the primary campaign, Trump kept using the November terror attacks in Paris to make the point that strict gun regulations increase the casualty count. France, he said over and over, had "the toughest gun laws in the world." Because of them, only the bad guys had guns. Had it been otherwise, fewer people would have died, Trump told applauding audiences.

    At the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, 1,500 people were in the audience and, as Trump said, nobody had guns. Three gunmen killed 89 of the concert-goers.

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Microsoft needs LinkedIn for office dominance

    Microsoft's acquisition of the social network LinkedIn is not easy to understand. Both companies' chief executives, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Jeff Weiner, have described the $26.2 billion all-cash deal -- one of the largest in tech history -- in the blandest corporate-speak, with memos that sounded as if they were part of LinkedIn's megaboring attempt to create a commentary platform for business celebrities.

    Yet this deal is a major play for a market no company has yet captured -- intracorporate communication. Evidently, Microsoft felt it had to move after Facebook made its own grab with Facebook at Work. Ceding the opportunity to a competitor with equally deep pockets, a powerful brand and nimble developers might spell the end of Microsoft's ambitions in the corporate world, which it used to own thanks to Windows and Office, but where its grip has been slipping lately. So Nadella paid an incongruously high price for a company that, on its own, doesn't seem like much of a treat.

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LGBT Muslims do exist, and they are grieving. It's time for acceptance.

    Muslim Americans. LGBT Americans. One would imagine that the marginalized would unite.

    From the straight Muslim man who is profiled at the airport for his bushy, long beard to the transgender Muslim who fears being shunned from the mosque held so dear to heart and faith - is there so much distance?

    Yet those who are marginalized are not immune to their own prejudices and phobias. Omar Mateen, who killed at least 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday morning, offers a chilling example.

    I've spent more than a decade researching Islamic masculinities, including five years living and teaching in Florida before I moved last year. I have heard some Western Muslim leaders step haltingly toward acceptance. But most of what I have heard, when Muslim leaders speak to the LGBT believers in their midst, is callous disregard or deafening silence.

    We can no longer go on without accepting every Muslim of every sexuality. Sunday's violence in Orlando proves that all too painfully.

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Why I walked out of the House's moment of silence for Orlando

    On Sunday evening, shortly after I learned of yet another massacre of innocent Americans by a madman with a gun, I attended the Connecticut premiere of "Newtown," a documentary chronicling the emotional aftermath for several parents whose children were obliterated by Adam Lanza and his AR-15 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. After the film, I talked with Mark Barden, the father of Daniel Barden, who was murdered at age 7.

    I marveled at the strength Mark showed in the face of inconceivable loss, and again in recounting his tortured journey to the filmmakers.

    Then I thought about how Congress would respond to the latest atrocity. There would be, for the umpteenth time, a moment of silence. To "honor" the victims. We did it five times just last year: Stop talking about sports and dinner and Donald Trump for about 10 seconds, put on our most serious faces, wonder if we'd turned off our phones. For 10 seconds.

    Done. Over. On to the next thing.

    Not me. Not anymore.

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June 15th

A Party Agrift

    This is not a column about Donald Trump.

    It’s not about the fraudulent scheme that was Trump University. It’s not about his history of failing to pay contractors, leading to hundreds of legal actions. It’s not about how he personally profited while running his casinos into the ground. It’s not even concerned with persistent questions about whether he is nearly as rich as he claims to be, and whether he’s ever done more than live off capital gains on his inheritance.

    No, my question, as Democrats gleefully tear into the Trump business record, is why rival Republicans never did the same. How did someone who looks so much like a cheap con man bulldoze right through the GOP nomination process?

    I mean, it’s not as if any of this dirt was deeply hidden. The Trump U story was out there long before it became the big deal it is today. It took some real reporting to flesh out the details of Trump’s other business practices, but we’re talking about ordinary if skillful journalistic legwork, not revelations from Deep Throat.

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How unfair funding makes it harder to desegregate schools

    While Brown v. Board of Education eliminated de jure segregation in schools in 1954, in 1973 the San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez decision all but guaranteed that de facto segregation would continue.

    That decision was about school funding. In Rodriguez, the Supreme Court ruled that a system of relying on local property taxes for supplemental educational revenue was nondiscriminatory, even though it meant that schools in poorer districts without a high property tax base would inevitably receive less funding.

    By limiting any federal oversight of states' school funding systems, the Rodriguez decision maintained a status quo in which states, not the federal government, were responsible for making sure school funding systems meet constitutional standards. This has not been a success: Despite dozens of state-level legal challenges about equitable school funding since the 1973 case, the condition of state school finance in most states remains unfair and inequitable, depriving millions of poor and minority students of the opportunity for school success.

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How Did the FBI Miss Omar Mateen?

    If you follow social media on the topic of the FBI and terrorism, you will find two themes predominate whenever a terrorist incident occurs in the United States. The first is promulgated by conspiracy theorists, anti-law enforcement social activists, and progressive-minded publications that assert that the FBI manufactures terrorism-related crimes to entrap innocent individuals - primarily young Muslims. These are crimes that would-be terrorists are incapable of committing on their own, they say, without the help of an FBI informant or undercover agent. In these scenarios, the FBI leads the poor, unsuspecting proto-terrorist by the hand through the various stages of planning, commitment, obtaining a weapon of mass destruction, and ultimately pulling the fake trigger. When the proto-terrorist is finally arrested, certain segments of the public, press, and pundits howl about how the FBI abused its power and authority to railroad an innocent person.

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