Archive

August 21st, 2016

But What if My Dog Had Been a Syrian?

    Last Thursday, our beloved family dog, Katie, died at the age of 12. She was a gentle giant who respectfully deferred even to any mite-size puppy with a prior claim to a bone. Katie might have won the Nobel Peace Prize if not for her weakness for squirrels.

    I mourned Katie’s passing on social media and received a torrent of touching condolences, easing my ache at the loss of a member of the family. Yet on the same day that Katie died, I published a column calling for greater international efforts to end Syria’s suffering and civil war, which has claimed perhaps 470,000 lives so far. That column led to a different torrent of comments, many laced with a harsh indifference: Why should we help them?

    These mingled on my Twitter feed: heartfelt sympathy for an American dog who expired of old age, and what felt to me like callousness toward millions of Syrian children facing starvation or bombing. If only, I thought, we valued kids in Aleppo as much as we did our terriers!

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Trump's 'ideological test' for immigrants will tear America apart

    By revealing his apparently final plan for fighting terrorism and fixing immigration in one fell swoop on Monday, Donald Trump managed a rare feat of political clarification. Unfortunately for Trump, what he clarified were the cultural tensions within his own campaign.

    In his address on foreign policy and national security, Trump promised one simple way to keep jihadis away from American shores. With an updated version of a Cold War-era "ideological screening test," Trump's federal government would bar those "who support bigotry and hatred," admitting only those who "embrace a tolerant American society."

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Trump's 'extreme vetting' is harsh, but it would be legal

    Donald Trump's newly proposed ideological test for immigrants - one that he characterized as "extreme vetting" in a speech on Monday - has renewed debate over immigration reform in the presidential election.

    It's a debate worth having, and there are plenty of valid questions to be raised about his proposal. This is one occasion, however, when Trump may have the law on his side. As a general proposition, a litmus test for new immigrants isn't unconstitutional or even unprecedented. Indeed, Trump could cite an unlikely figure in support of the authority for such changes: President Obama.

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Trump and the media play the blame game

    A richly reported New York Times account on Sunday of Donald Trump's presidential campaign - and his refusal to stick to the script his advisers have written - struck a chord with the Republican nominee.

    As Trump is wont to do when he feels attacked, he took to social media, launching a tweetstorm of criticism at the Times that included this entry:

    "If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn't put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%"

    Two days earlier, on the heels of other media dissections of Trump's serial errors and outrages (including his Second Amendment comments), the developer was more playful about his back-and-forth with the press:

    "I love watching these poor, pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard and so seriously to try and figure me out. They can't!"

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Denmark's nice, yes, but Danes live better in U.S.

    During the Democratic primary season, Bernie Sanders stressed some of the superiorities of Denmark over the U.S. And indeed Denmark is wealthy, has strong social and economic indicators, and it offers a comprehensive safety net.

    But is it the policies of Denmark that we should admire, or is there something special about being Danish? A closer look at the evidence shows a more complex picture and one actually pretty favorable to the American way.

    Nima Sanandaji, a Swedish policy analyst and president of European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, has recently published a book called "Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism." And while the title may be overstated, his best facts and figures are persuasive.

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Knowledge is not a vice

    Let us now praise the most reviled group of people in America: so-called "elites." And how about a round of applause for the hated "mainstream media" as well.

    If you listen to Donald Trump, or even if you paid attention to Bernie Sanders during the primary season, you might think all the nation's problems can be blamed on two pointy-headed cabals. The "elites" who rigged the system to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else; and the puppy-dog "mainstream media" or "MSM," also known as the "corporate media," who were complicit.

    Even as the Trump campaign devolves into raving lunacy and most Sanders supporters line up behind Hillary Clinton, the idea lives on: "Regular" or "everyday" Americans have been failed by out-of-touch elites and the MSM who basically have screwed up the country.

    Such thinking is no more sound than Trump's conviction that all the nation's ills should be blamed on Mexicans and Muslims.

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Baltimore's police show blacks, rich different sides

    Baltimore City police may be poorly trained, ill-equipped and prone to using excessive force, as a Justice Department investigation recently concluded. But one group of residents consistently gives Charm City cops high marks for getting the job done: rich people.

    "Community members living in the City's wealthier and largely white neighborhoods told us that officers tend to be respectful and responsive to their needs," the Justice Department report says, "while many individuals living in the City's largely African-American communities informed us that officers tend to be disrespectful and do not respond promptly to their calls for service."

    Judging from the report, the city's officers are exceptionally good at making unwarranted traffic and pedestrian stops involving black people. The tactic is not particularly useful when it comes to solving or preventing crimes, but it can result in humiliation and make people feel unwelcome in certain parts of town.

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Young voters live online. That's where the future of politics will be.

    Whether on a subway, a sidewalk, or a living room couch, life for millennials is lived in two worlds. There is the physical world around them, but also the online world that exists just out of sight, but must remain squarely in view for political professionals looking to capture and keep their attention.

    For anyone aiming to truly move the needle this election cycle, the trick is to greet the largest and most diverse generation of voters in our nation's history in a language they understand, using technology that already feels like home. This means advocating for and facilitating digital opportunities for voter registration and reminders, and using digital engagement to urge action in the physical world of ballot boxes and election events.

    The digital world is where the battle for the hearts and minds of a newly powerful generation of voters will begin. Paid ads and earned promotion through social media organizing are different but highly intertwined, and both are much more effective when done in coordination. They are also much more effective when tied to a simple call to action that young people can make - such as registering to vote - immediately and in the moment.

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Why Bowe Bergdahl's 'Serial' interviews should be off limits in his court martial

    When Mark Boal spent 25 hours interviewing accused U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, he didn't plan on those hours of recorded interviews becoming part of a hugely popular podcast. He was just reporting, as he had many times before - whether for his magazine articles or his filmmaking.

    But in collaboration with the producers of "Serial," he and journalist Sarah Koenig teamed up. As a result, the story of the Army sergeant, who left his Afghanistan base in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years, became the basis of Season 2 of the spinoff of public radio's "This American Life."

    Nor did Boal plan on his interviews becoming part of the prosecution's case in Bergdahl's court-martial at Fort Bragg in North Carolina next February.

    That's what a military prosecutor has in mind, according to court papers. The former soldier faces life in prison if he is found guilty of the charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was freed in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay.

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August 20th

Empire of the Setting Sun

    In Japan, recent elections that have given Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supermajorities in both houses of the Diet, the country's parliament, may have implications for alliance politics across the Pacific. So too do Donald Trump's trash talking of American allies in the region and the dim prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal in Washington that Abe has supported more for China-driven geopolitical benefits than economic reasons. Although Hillary Clinton is not all that popular in Japan - where the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has found it easier to work with Republicans - Trump is toxic.

    Relying yet again on a bait-and-switch strategy, Abe campaigned on his economic platform, known as Abenomics, asking voters to give him more time to get it revved up - and then claimed that his victory gave him a mandate to amend the constitution. Following his resounding victory, he immediately announced that he would seek advice from Diet committees on constitutional revision.

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