Archive

December 19th

Trump rallies a coalition of the descending

    Speaking to an Iowa crowd in September, Donald Trump said, it's hard to make headway in the world when "our leaders are so stupid and so incompetent and so inept."

    This has been a popular refrain from Trump. And whether applied to Washington leaders in particular or American elites in general, it isn't actually true. Yet the reason it isn't true is instructive, and more than a little alarming if you're a stereotypical Trump supporter -- white, male and without a college degree.

    If the goal in Washington really were to elevate Trump's blue-collar white males and make them feel more secure, then "stupid" would be an apt description because the opposite effect has been achieved. Average hourly wages in the U.S. have been stagnant for half a century. Median household income has only risen for those toward the top of the income distribution. Earnings for male high school graduates have plummeted since 1970.

    But who in the American power grid is actively pursuing the goal of elevating such people?

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The fringe front-runner

    In the three years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., one of the more inexplicable aspects of its aftermath has been the persistence of the insane conspiracy theory that the killings never really happened.

    Sandy Hook "truthers" contend that the incident was either faked in its entirety, or, if it was real, was committed by the government for some sort of political effect.

    I'm an optimist about the basic decency of the American people, so I prefer to think that the Newtown "false flag" myth is too repulsive and cruel to persist organically on its own merits. As far as I can tell, the main reason it's still with us today is because it has been embraced by America's industrial-size factory farm of conspiracy theories: the radio show and Web empire of Alex Jones.

    Jones says, "Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view manufactured. I couldn't believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids."

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Republican debate strategy for the desperate

    Yes, going into Tuesday's debate, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio rank in the top three (in various orders) nationally and in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

    But the other candidates are the ones who should be running around naked to catch everyone's attention, whether in the prime-time event or the undercard debate. We're only seven weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, where Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum probably need to finish at least third if they want to continue. Carson is polling in fourth place there and falling rapidly in HuffPollster's current estimate, while Huckabee and Santorum, both relegated to the early debate, appear dead in the water.

    Ted Cruz would seem to be their obvious target. He's the one with their potential voters, although Huckabee and Santorum would be happy to drain from what's left of Carson's support. But attacks on fellow social conservatives could backfire with voters in Iowa. So the long shots might be reduced to going after Trump.

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Paris Climate Accord Is a Big, Big Deal

    I had low expectations for the U.N. climate meeting here and it met all of them — beautifully. I say that without cynicism.

    Any global conference that includes so many countries can’t be expected to agree on much more than the lowest common denominator. But the fact that the lowest common denominator is now so high — a willingness by 188 countries to offer plans to steadily and verifiably reduce their carbon emissions — means we still have a chance to meet what scientists say is our key challenge: to avoid the worst impacts of global warming that we cannot possibly manage and to manage those impacts that we can no longer avoid. That is a big, big deal.

    Many leaders had a hand in it, but it would not have happened without the diplomacy of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Merry Christmas, from the Trumps

    An exclusive look at the Trump Family Christmas Newsletter:

    Dear family and friends, except any of you loser dopes who have said anything bad about me this year, you're low-energy and pathetic and it's really a wonder anybody likes you, you're so unlikable.

    What a year it has been! I mean, really, just a big, great, amazing year. You don't get years like this anymore, you know what I mean? I dunno. We just don't have good years like we used to. I don't know what's going on.

    But this year. This year has been great and the greatest thing to happen this year has been me running for president and getting people to believe -- so many people, it's really remarkable -- that we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. It's on the hat, you've seen the hat. It's a great hat and you'll all be getting one, except for the low-energy dopes I mentioned earlier, they don't deserve hats. They get no hats.

    But the rest of you will get hats and you'll get them because you know -- you know! -- that we have so many problems in this country.

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Global carbon emissions seems to have peaked

    It seems like every day we read a new story with dire news about climate change. Experts now warn that it will be impossible to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, even with the carbon-emissions limits required by the recent Paris round of climate talks. Some environmentalists warn darkly that we must choose between saving the planet or capitalism.

    But I have some very good news to report. In 2015, global carbon emissions actually fell.

    This isn't an occasion for complacency. The fall might be a temporary blip. Even if it's not, emissions represent the amount of additional carbon that is added to the atmosphere every year -- that carbon builds up, so to really halt climate change we will need to decrease emissions drastically, not just halt their growth.

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December 18th

If you don't believe country, honor and Allah can coexist, meet these Muslim Boy Scouts

    The Sunday night meeting of Boy Scout Troop 114 was coming to order. Or trying to.

    "Formations, please! Por favor," 15-year-old troop leader Yousof Omeish yelled over that noise that only a pack of peach-fuzz teens can make.

    The boys eventually quieted and put their hands out, palms up.

    "In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful," he said in Arabic, reciting "The Opening," phrases from the Koran that Muslims use to begin most gatherings.

    "Thee do we worship," he said, "and Thine aid we seek."

    Then they switched to their three-fingered Scout salute and recited the oath in English, including the promise to "do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law."

    God, country, Allah, honor and knots. It's all unremarkable at this weekly Scout meeting at the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia.

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Education on Islam probably can't solve landlord dispute

    You might think Donald Trump could use a crash course in Islam, but there's no way to make him take it. A Massachusetts judge, however, faced with a convicted defendant who demonstrated anti-Muslim views, ordered her to take a class on Islam as part of her probation. Now the commonwealth's Supreme Judicial Court will have to decide whether the sentence was an unconstitutional infringement of religious liberty or a common-sense, measure-for-measure matter of justice.

    The facts grow out of that most brutal of human interactions, the landlord-tenant dispute. They also have an intriguing cultural background, which turns out to be relevant to the constitutional issues in the case. Daisy Obi, the landlord-turned-criminal, is a 73-year-old Nigerian immigrant who serves as pastor of the Adonai Bible Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. She owns a multifamily house of the kind common in multicultural Somerville, and rented out an apartment in it to Gihan Suliman, her husband and five children. Suliman is a lab supervisor and Harvard student who also happens to be Muslim.

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Downsizing the News Staff; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

    For more than a decade, advertising, circulation, and news quality in both print and electronic media have been in a downward spiral. That spiral has twin intertwining roots.

    The first root is the rise of social media. The complacent and stodgy print media were slow to catch onto the concept and rise of social media and its influence upon a generation that conducts its life by a fusion of smart phones to ears. When owners figured out they needed to have a digital presence, they first gave away content in a desperate bid to keep readers, and then began to charge for it to those who didn’t have subscriptions.

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Cutting carbon may require downsizing

    The good news from Paris is pretty good: Rich and poor countries now agree to emit less carbon dioxide, and have pledged initial targets for reducing those emissions. Here's the bad news: The gap between the pledged targets and what's needed is so big that closing it might not be possible with better technology alone.

    If that's the case, then maybe -- just maybe -- achieving the goals just agreed to with such fanfare will require Western countries to produce fewer emissions in part by consuming a lot less stuff. That's a conversation that hasn't truly started, and one that politicians, probably for good reason, don't seem eager to begin.

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