Archive

July 14th, 2016

The stargazer's guide for Donald Trump

    Donald Trump seems to be having some trouble with stars lately, if this recent tweet is any indication: Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff's Star, or plain star!

    In case he is serious, here is a guide for the perplexed tycoon.

    - Sheriff's Star or Star of David: It can be easy to confuse these stars! A handy mnemonic device is to ask yourself, "Does this star have little nubs at the ends of its points, or was it used by the Nazis?"

    - "Plain Star" or Star of David: What is a plain star? Paul Giamatti? You can tell these two apart because if you send a picture of Paul Giamatti to a journalist, it isn't a weird threat.

    - Starfish or Star of David: One of these lives under the sea, has five arms and appears on "Spongebob Squarepants." The other one only appears on freeze-frames of "Spongebob Squarepants" episodes that have been heavily doctored by conspiracy theorists.

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Nation is off the tracks, but the GOP errs in thinking it can right her

    Among the most important questions pollsters ask during a presidential campaign is this one: Do you think the country is on the right track, or the wrong track? The answer respondents give to this question, we're told, can tell us more about the likely outcome of an upcoming election than any other. The question is based on a metaphor - the metaphor of a "track" or, in some versions, "direction." That alone should make us wonder what the question means, exactly, or what we're assuming when we answer the question on its own terms. "All of us, grave or light," George Eliot writes in "Middlemarch," "get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

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Divided by Race, United by Pain

    There aren’t any ready answers for how to end this cycle of bloodshed, these heart-rending images from Louisiana and Minnesota and Texas of a country in desperate trouble, with so much pain to soothe, rage to exorcise and injustice to confront.

    But we have choices about how we absorb what’s happened, about the rashness with which we point fingers. Making the right ones is crucial, and leaves us with real hope for figuring this out. Making the wrong ones puts that possibility ever further from reach.

    So does a public debate that assigns us different tribes and warring interests, when almost all of us want the same thing: for the killing to cease and for every American to feel respected and safe.

    We have disagreements about how to get there, but they don’t warrant the inflammatory headlines that appeared on the front of The New York Post (“Civil War”) or at the top of The Drudge Report (“Black Lives Kill”). They needn’t become hardened battle lines.

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The U.S. obsesses over Clinton's emails. But why not the Iraq War?

    On a day when Britain's dizzying political wheel turned once more and when America was forced to reckon yet again with its problem of police brutality and gun violence, TV cameras in Washington on Thursday were all focused on a very different story. FBI Director James Comey delivered testimony at a five-hour House committee hearing where congressional Republicans grilled him on his agency's decision not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

    GOP politicians were hoping for the presumptive Democratic nominee to be indicted, a move that would cast a cloud over the U.S. presidential election race.

    The Post's Matt Zapotosky reports:

    "Comey potentially gave Clinton's political rivals some ammunition, conceding there was 'evidence of mishandling' classified information and that an FBI employee who did the same 'would face consequences for this.'

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The Political Orphans

    In barely two weeks, Republicans will converge in Cleveland for the Trumpocalypse, a fact-free and hate-filled gathering likely to be as scary as it will be entertaining. A week later the Democrats will assemble in Philadelphia in a focus-group-tested pander fest, as tightly scripted as the visualize-world-peace answers at a Miss Universe contest.

    If you feel left out, you have plenty of company. You can search across the fruited plain and nowhere will you find a political convention for the affiliation that more Americans identify with than any other — independents. According to Pew Research, the share of indies now stands at its highest point in more than 75 years of polling: 39 percent. And although other surveys slightly disagree, the point is the same: a plurality of voters has no place to call political home.

    This large island of independents is a habitat of shruggers, doubters and contrarians. There’s room for nuance in their thinking. Millions of these middle-grounders are actually leaners who sorta, kinda, maybe like most of what one party stands for — and then find out that they share a label with Sarah Palin.

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The Ahab caucus returns to port empty-handed, again

    Next to the word "overreach" in the dictionary should be a group picture of the House Republican caucus. Once again, in their Ahab-like pursuit of Hillary Clinton, they have managed to make themselves look desperately partisan and woefully incompetent.

    What were they thinking when they hauled FBI Director James Comey to Capitol Hill to challenge his decision about Clinton and her emails? Did they expect Comey, a very tough nut, to crack under their withering interrogation? Did they believe they could somehow make him change his mind? Did they not anticipate that he would stand by his decision and back it up with facts, precedent and logic?

    Thursday's hearing -- called on an "emergency" basis, no less -- was effectively over just minutes after it began. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked Comey the bottom-line question: "Did Hillary Clinton break the law?"

    Comey's reply: "In connection with her use of the email server? My judgment is that she did not."

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Some want a race war. Dallas won't deliver.

    The first email, with the subject line "Race War," arrived in my inbox, from a regular, unbidden correspondent, at 7:31 Friday morning. The term was already floating in the ether. The Drudge Report headline was "Black Lives Kill," painting tens of thousands of peaceful protesters in cities across the country as murderers. The New York Post went with the always provocative "Civil War" for its cover. A former congressman skipped the "civil" part, declaring on Twitter "This is now war" and telling the president to "watch out." (He deleted the tweet, thus immortalizing it.)

    There is a virulent quarter of America that seems disappointed that we haven't had a race war. They're the people who listen to President Barack Obama's thoughtful, restrained and measured concern for black victims of hair-trigger police officers and swear they hear the president say it's time to kill whitey. They insist that Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are somehow mutually exclusive.

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Russia has the most boring election of 2016

    The thrilling spectacles offered by the U.S. presidential election, the U.K. referendum on leaving the European Union and even Austria's cliffhanger presidential vote have overshadowed an election campaign in Russia, which will get a new parliament on Sept. 18. That's because, even though they have all the the trappings of democracy, the Russian elections are mostly theater, whose actors are shadows from the country's brief experiment with competitive politics.

    In theory, the elections shouldn't be boring. The previous ones, in 2011, gave rise to the most meaningful and vigorous protests against Vladimir Putin's corrupt system of his more than 15 years in power. Then, tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest what they saw as the falsification of vote results: Statistical analysis suggested that United Russia, the pro-Putin party, owed its majority to widespread ballot-stuffing.

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July 13th

After assassination of police officers, Trump says the right thing

    Thursdayv night, snipers killed five police officers and wounded seven others at an otherwise peaceful rally protesting recent police shootings. Not much is known about the attackers, but at a presser Friday morning, the Dallas police chief said one attacker had indicated during a standoff that "he said he was upset about the recent police shootings," and that "the suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers."

    Friday Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton canceled their events, but Trump issued a measured statement this morning expressing condolences for the victims, and adding these remarks:

    "We must restore law and order. We must restore the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street.

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Republicans bungle the gift in FBI's Clinton report

    Say this for Donald Trump: He can make political hay with whatever is at hand.

    His unique skills were highlighted by the ham-handed Republicans in Congress, who spent their time on the fruitless task of trying to prove that FBI Director James Comey's recommendation not to indict Hillary Clinton was evidence of bias. Trump, meanwhile, is concentrating on what Comey said, not what he didn't do.

    On Tuesday, Trump dramatized Comey's findings, zeroing in on the destruction of more than 30,000 emails that Clinton's lawyer unilaterally deemed personal. As President Barack Obama embarked on his first campaign trip with Clinton, extolling how qualified she was for his job, Trump said the only thing she is good at "is getting out of trouble."

    It's true that she has a talent for dodging bullets. Just look at Whitewater, Troopergate, cattle futures, Paula Jones, the Travel Office firings, the Lewinsky scandal, the Mark Rich pardon and furniture being moved out, and back into, the White House.

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