Archive

December 21st

Incorrect Language And More

    A recent headline boldly announced that Donald Trump's xenophobic comments of banning all Muslims from this nation disqualified him as President.  What do they mean? Let us shout loudly and clearly he was never qualified for President of this nation in the first place.  For emphasis let us repeat: He was NEVER QUALIFIED for PRESIDENT in "any way, shape, form or fashion."

    Speculation continues about his intent in running.  Did he really think he could get elected?  Is he as surprised as we are that he got this far?  Surely he doesn't believe all the garbage spilling out or his mouth.  Does he care at all about the nation or is it pure ego? 

    One writer has suggested that it was to prove to his father that he could accomplish on his own.  Some of us have had some of the same wonder regarding George W. Bush:  that he had to show the family he was as important as Brother JEB!, the family's anointed one.  Haven't we had enough of that? Don't we wish they would just see a psychiatrist?  All of them. 

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Four ways the US is already banning Muslims

    Donald Trump's proclamations about banning all Muslims from entering the United States - even if temporarily - have triggered welcome condemnation, as politicians have scrambled to remind us that such a ban would be contrary to American values. Yet those of us engaged with policies affecting U.S. Muslims between election cycles are dismayed, but not surprised, by Trump's idea. For the past 14 years, authorities have steadily and silently implemented variants of the proposed Muslim exclusion.

    In my four years working at the CLEAR project, I saw how our primarily U.S. Muslim clients encountered an array of policies and practices denying Muslims - citizens or residents - full access to the privileges of citizenship and permanent residency. A few examples:

 

    1. Delaying and denying Muslim immigrant petitions

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When Democracy Becomes Must-See TV

    To anybody who watches cable TV news, it's clear that the nation has embarked upon a great political experiment. Its object would be instantly clear to readers of Neil Postman's 1985 classic "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business."

    To wit, is it even possible for a democratic country to govern itself when news becomes "infotainment," and infotainment, news?

    At any given moment, one of two TV "news" stories predominates to the exclusion of all other topics: Donald Trump and terrorism. CNN has covered almost nothing else since the tragedy in San Bernardino. Tune in any time, day or night, and it's either Trump, terror, or panels of talking heads discussing them.

    Meanwhile, the network has been running a countdown clock in the corner of the screen keeping viewers appraised of the weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds leading to the Dec. 15 GOP debate -- as if it were a moon launch or, more appropriately, a pay-per-view professional wrestling match.

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December 20th

On Terrorism, Cruz Has No Idea

    Terrorism is not going away. We saw that in the closing of the Los Angeles schools after what was deemed a "credible" threat. The threat turned out to be not real, but with the country under heightened alarm, local authorities have become hyper-vigilant. That was 650,000 students sent or kept home.

    When a good piece of time passed without a serious terrorist attack, politicians went soft. Many hawks on the right switched gears, turning on "big government" as the predominant evil and its national security programs as an assault on the privacy of innocent Americans.

    With the massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, California, still in the headlines, many Americans are wondering what was so terrible about the federal bulk surveillance program that Congress ended in September. Rekindled fears of terrorism have changed the conversation.

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Trump tries to rise above the fray he created

    Donald Trump hyped the fifth debate of Republican candidates as if it were a heavyweight champion fight and he was defending his title. Yet for the first 20 minutes, the front-runner seemed barely to be there, not hitting anyone who didn't hit him first. When the moderator, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, asked Jeb Bush about his description of Trump as "unhinged," the Donald was surprisingly low energy: "Jeb doesn't really believe I'm unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign."

    For Trump, that's being nicey-nicey. For the next 20 minutes, he sat back as Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio tussled. The real estate mogul didn't make news until the conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt grilled him on his hints that he'd run as an independent if the party tried to cheat him out of the nomination. He promised not to. We couldn't see if his fingers were crossed.

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The immigration game Cruz and Rubio can't win

    Tuesday night's Republican debate proved once again that there is no way for a Republican -- any Republican -- to truly win a debate on immigration.

    Yes, Republicans of all stripes can score partisan points when they talk about the border. The sizable decline in illegal migration coming across from Mexico during the Obama administration is a fact aggressively, almost universally, unacknowledged in Republican circles. So clamoring for a militaristic crackdown on the spectral hordes crossing the Rio Grande is a certain winner. Heck, it's so easy that even Jeb Bush, who memorably described illegal immigration as an "act of love," can fake it.

    The trouble surfaces on the topic of the 11 million settled undocumented immigrants who crossed borders long ago. Their fate, and the intraparty conflict it generates between those entertaining punitive fantasies and those committed to more humane realities, is the crux of the party's Donald Trump calamity. Trump has merely channeled, albeit more effectively than many of us ever imagined, the ugly political energy that was bound to seep out one way or another.

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The GOP's ghastly parlor game: Cruz or Trump?

    Who would be a more dangerous president: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? This ghastly parlor game lacks a satisfying answer; either would be toxic for America. That the question is not fanciful makes it all the more terrifying.

    Trump's deficiencies are evident, increasingly so. He is a demagogue and a bully. He lacks both preparation for the office and ideological convictions. He has thought deeply about ... nothing, except how to promote Donald J. Trump.

    Such bluster masks -- barely -- a yawning insecurity. A man confident in his intellect would not be so compelled to announce how smart he is or to boast of his Ivy League pedigree. Trump craves adulation; poll numbers are his crack. He seems incapable of tolerating criticism or dissent.

    These traits are dangerous for a president, a post for which character and temperament are paramount concerns. As much as Trump touts his negotiating skills and managerial bona fides, it is difficult -- no, make that scary -- to imagine him dealing with world leaders or congressional counterparts.

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The Fed's gross oversight

    The Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 highlights a glaring weakness of conventional economic analysis: its failure to understand the role that power plays in shaping the economy.

    By all the usual metrics, wages should be bounding upward now that unemployment has been reduced to 5 percent and 13 million jobs have been added to the economy since the depths of the Great Recession. It's to counter the inflationary pressures that such wage increases would engender that the Fed finally decided to hike rates.

    The only problem with this analysis is that wages are not bounding upward, and inflation has remained below - not above - the Fed's preferred rate of 2 percent. In essence, the Fed decided to act on mainstream economists' theories - wages and inflation should be increasing, dammit - rather than observable facts.

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The fear factor in the Republican debate

    The fifth debate of Republican presidential candidates in Las Vegas Tuesday night focused mostly on national security matters, especially terrorism. The oratory was hot, with much talk of threats, danger and military strategy. Bloomberg View's Ramesh Ponnuru and Paula Dwyer watched and compared notes.

    Dwyer: It appears that, first and foremost, the candidates wanted to show their comfort in the role of wartime president, a role that Barack Obama has never been comfortable in. So will all this be about using the language of aggression -- and instilling fear in voters?

    Ponnuru: The outlier, I'd say, on tone rather than substance, is Marco Rubio, whose opening statement emphasized the country's greatness and the need to protect it rather than the threats to it. Donald Trump famously talks about making America great again, but his emphasis always seems to be on how it's not great right now. Rubio's rhetorical strategy seems to me to be the right one for the general election, but whether it's right for the primaries is less clear.

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The EU sets off an online privacy revolution

    Different branches of European Union have agreed on the shape of the EU's new data privacy law, which means it is likely to be passed early in 2016 and fully enacted within two years. This is not one of those arcane legal documents that have little effect on people's everyday lives. The new rules will drastically change how companies use people's data and perhaps reshape data-based businesses such as advertising and online retail.

    The idea of the new regulation is to establish the same data privacy rules across the EU -- something the European Commission says will result in savings of 2.3 billion euros ($2.5 billion) a year for businesses -- but also to hand to users full control of their personal data, which the EU defines broadly as "any information relating to a data subject," or natural person. This means companies will have to explain exactly what information they are collecting, for what purposes and how long it will be retained.

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