Archive

May 19th, 2016

What we need are bathrooms for all

    I am a young trans man, and I think I can make common cause with social conservatives on bathrooms.

    To be sure, first there's going to be litigation. There's going to be a lot of yelling and screaming. Indeed, for the past several months, transgender activists and social conservatives have been engaged in a public spat about which bathrooms those of various gender identities should be allowed to use. But after North Carolina and the Justice Department are done duking it out, there will still be lots of people - including social conservatives and me - who are afraid to use public bathrooms.

    I have a solution to this problem: gender-neutral, single-user bathrooms.

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What really happened at the Trump-Ryan meeting

    On Thursday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., emerged from what he called a "great conversation" with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that served as "a very positive step toward unification." He admitted, however, that there was no way they could possibly overcome their disagreements in just 45 minutes and that it was important they be really unified, not fake-unified.

    What follows are, doubtless, excerpts from the meeting.

    ---

    In the middle of the night Paul Ryan awoke in his cell in a cold sweat, screaming about principles. The guards opened the door.

    "Paul," Reince Priebus asked him, very gently, as they led him down the long hallway of the Ministry of Truth, "what are your true feelings about Donald Trump?"

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The upside to lowering urban inequality

    Discussions of inequality often focus on income and wealth distribution. But what's the right geographic unit to look at when we compare income and wealth? Inequality has risen in the U.S. and much of Europe, while it has fallen around the world thanks to rapid growth in developing countries.

    But perhaps there's a third level that deserves more attention: local and urban inequality. Instead of comparing income levels across the country or the world, maybe we should be looking at the disparities between people who live next to each other.

    One reason urban inequality is so important is that this is how most people experience the phenomenon on a daily basis -- in cities, rich, middle-class and poor people are in constant contact. Experiments and other studies clearly show that people care about their status relative to reference groups, and one important reference group is the people who live nearby. That makes intuitive sense. If some rich person in Switzerland is buying a mansion, I only perceive it as a statistic on paper, but every time I see someone walk into a restaurant that I can't afford, it reminds me of my lower economic status.

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Donald Trump is following all the rules for a reality TV villain

    Six months before Bill Clinton was elected president for the first time, "The Real World" debuted on MTV, signaling the beginning of the network's retreat from music videos and its embrace of reality programming. (To be more specific, the series debuted on May 21, 1992, the same day Clinton made a campaign speech that addressed the debate over family values and noted "TV's crass commercialism and glorification of selfishness and violence.")

    By the time Clinton was preparing to leave the White House eight years later, reality TV was starting to infiltrate mainstream pop culture, thanks largely to the success of CBS's "Survivor." In the 2000s, as reality shows swelled in number and transformed from mere trend into a diverse, Emmy-recognized genre, critics repeatedly wondered whether the "Bachelors," "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and "Jersey Shores" of television were debasing our society. In the early days of the reality era, many people were convinced that they could hear the distant clip-clop of the Four Horsemen -- or at least a warning that, someday, Honey Boo Boo would come.

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Five myths about transgender issues

    Over the past few years, transgender issues have moved into the spotlight in a big way. Caitlin Jenner came out on prime-time TV. Laverne Cox was featured on the cover of Time. The White House appointed its first openly trans employee. These cultural changes, though, have led to an ugly backlash. States including North Carolina and Kansas have passed or are considering legislation that limits the rights of transgender people. And the political debates around these issues have perpetuated many myths.

 

1. Transgender people pose a threat in public bathrooms.

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Why Iran hard-liners hate foreign investment

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making a lot of people in Washington even madder than usual. He's been encouraging European banks and companies to invest in Iran -- which certainly is weird, given the history between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic.

    As the former George W. Bush administration official Elliott Abrams put it on Thursday: "There is simply no defensible reason for an American official, much less our top diplomat, to concern himself with how much investment and profit Iran can eke out of the nuclear deal."

    Except that there is. Increasing foreign trade and investment for Iran was part of the mix in the 12-year negotiation over Iran's nuclear fuel program, from start to finish. It was resisted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and other hard-line factions in the Tehran regime because they feared foreign influence that could undermine their control. So it's at least defensible to ask western treaty opponents why, if they think foreign investment would help the Revolutionary Guard conduct its military adventures, the Revolutionary Guard doesn't want it.

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The disturbing thing that happens when you tell people they have different DNA

    The first real interview I ever did was in 1999 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the white-stone city perched on the Adriatic Sea that is now famous as King's Landing in the TV series "Game of Thrones." But less than 10 years before, that beautiful city had been the site of a siege, in a war that turned the former Yugoslavia against itself.

    I had stepped into a Serbian Orthodox Church, cool and dark against the bright sun outside. The church's caretaker, an older man with a massive white mustache, told me how the city had descended into chaos during the conflict, which pitted mostly Catholic Croats against mostly Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early 1990s. Former friends and neighbors spurned one another until there was no place in the community where the Orthodox caretaker and his Catholic wife were accepted, he said, with tears falling. The church was still damaged from the bombings.

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Trump just boasted that he pays as little in taxes as possible. Here's why.

    With the battle continuing to rage over Donald Trump's ongoing suggestion that he may not release his tax returns before the November election, this exchange with ABC News's George Stephanopoulous, which took place Friday, provides a glimpse into what Trump really thinks about all this:

    TRUMP: I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your tax rate?

    TRUMP: It's none of your business. You'll see it when I release. But I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.

    Trump's claim that his tax rate is "none of your business" is generating buzz Friday. But the more important quote is his boast that he "fights very hard to pay as little tax as possible." He deliberately repeated this, as if to make sure we would not miss it.

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How psychologists used doctored Obama photos to get white people to support conservative politics

    American politics always has surprises, but things have been especially unpredictable since President Obama took office. First, few observers were prepared for the tea party movement, which ousted several veteran GOP lawmakers, replaced them with more radically conservative newcomers, and helped the Republican Party win control of the House of Representatives in 2010.

    "That left a lot of analysts slack-jawed, wondering: what was this latent force that drove the emergence of this movement?" said Robb Willer, a sociologist at Stanford University.

    Then, of course, there was Donald Trump.

    Willer speculates that one thing connecting these two political earthquakes might be white voters' unconscious racial biases. In a series of psychological experiments between 2011 and 2015, he showed how hostility toward people with darker skin and perceived racial threats can influence white support for the tea party. He and his colleagues published a draft of a paper on their findings online last week -- some of the most direct evidence of the importance of race to the conservative resurgence during Obama's presidency.

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May 18th

Anti-Muslim bigotry aids Islamist terrorists

    Almost 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, and five years since the killing of the chief architect of those attacks, the United States and the world face a resurgent threat from terrorism. This stark reality should inform the national debate as we prepare to elect our next commander in chief.

    As states across the Middle East have collapsed into civil war, Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic State have exploited the upheaval to seize vast swaths of territory, which they have used to rally recruits, impose totalitarian rule over the people trapped in these areas and plot attacks against the rest of the world.

    Few responsibilities that our next president inherits will be more urgent, important or complex than thwarting these terrorist plans, reversing the conditions that have enabled their rise and combating the broader Islamist extremist ideology that animates them.

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