Archive

March 18th, 2016

Donald Trump tries giving peace a chance

    For months, Donald Trump started his events with a 20-minute rundown of the polls. On Sunday, he led off with something different.

    He reminisced about the violence at his rallies, and said he hoped that peace would be restored. "We had some, let's be nice, let's call them protesters," he said, recalling the rally in Chicago on March 11 that was canceled as a protest erupted. "And we had had a decision to make. We had to make this decision. We want peace, we want happiness, we want everyone to go home really happy, really peaceful, so we said, `you know what we'll do, we'll postpone it,' and it was a really wise decision."

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March 16th

Trump Is No Accident

    Establishment Republicans who are horrified by the rise of Donald Trump might want to take a minute to remember the glitch heard round the world — the talking point Marco Rubio couldn’t stop repeating in a crucial debate, exposing him to devastating ridicule and sending his campaign into a death spiral.

    It went like this: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.” The clear, if ungrammatical, implication was that all the bad things Republicans claim have happened under President Obama — in particular, America’s allegedly reduced stature in the world — are the result of a deliberate effort to weaken the nation.

    In other words, the establishment favorite for the GOP nomination, the man Time magazine once put on its cover with the headline “The Republican Savior,” was deliberately channeling the paranoid style in U.S. politics. He was suggesting, albeit coyly, that a sitting president is a traitor.

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The real Donald Trump

    If he consolidates his front-runner standing in Tuesday's primaries, you can expect more and more Republicans to begin trying to persuade you, and themselves, that there is nothing to fear from the real Donald Trump.

    Trump is showing that he can appear reasonable, conciliatory, even tolerant when he wants. Red-faced and strutting, he fantasizes aloud about punching a protester in the face. Later, he can calmly deplore (while still sympathizing with) his supporters' violence.

    Some Republicans have been fine with either version from the start. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is emblematic of the amoral functionary for whom Trump's bigotry and demagoguery are irrelevant. "Winning is the antidote to a lot of things," Priebus has observed.

    But others have had misgivings.

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March 15th

Women who inspire

    The accomplishments of four leaders recognized this week at the Women in the World salon in Washington - a Tina Brown- sponsored platform for women on the front lines of change around the world - are awe-inspiring. The honorees' compelling and inspirational stories put to shame, by comparison, the puerile behavior of the top Republicans seeking to occupy the world's most powerful office.

    When GOP presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are not extolling their own virtues, they are, for the world to see, indulging in locker-room gibes about genitalia. Said Rubio recently, joking about the size of Trump's hands, "You know what they say about men with small hands."

    To which Trump responded in a nationally televised debate: "Look at those hands. Are they small hands?" raising them for viewers to see. "And, he referred to my hands, if they're small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee."

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Donald Trump can't keep blaming other people for the anger of his campaign

    Know that old cliche "Where there's smoke, there's fire?"

    That has been running through my head for the past couple of days, watching violence flare on the campaign trail in and around Donald Trump's rallies. Trump, for his part, insists that he is blameless. "I don't accept responsibility," he told NBC's Chuck Todd Sunday morning when asked about the tenor of his rallies and the skirmishes between protesters and supporters that have become increasingly commonplace.

    In Trump's version of events, the recent upswing in confrontation is to be blamed on professional "disrupters" who come to his rallies looking for fights. As for the vitriol coming from his supporters? "The reason there's tension at my rallies is that these people are sick and tired of this country being run by incompetent people that don't know what they're doing on trade deals," with U.S. jobs being shipped out to other countries, Trump told Todd on Sunday.

    Don't blame Trump, Trump says.

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Contested convention could deepen Republican chaos

    The anti-Donald Trump brigade is banking on defeating him this week in Ohio, and possibly Florida, paving the way for an "open" convention that would deny him the Republican presidential nomination and avoid what it believes would be a general election debacle.

    This is an uphill climb under any scenario and probably impossible if Trump wins both states on Tuesday. If the strategy works, however, it could create an even more perilous outcome.

    But Republicans, from establishment politicians to conservative activists to big-money types, are more rattled than ever by the New York billionaire; several respected polls suggest Trump as the nominee would be an electoral nightmare, threatening to take down lots of Republicans.

    Thus the chatter and strategizing for an open convention where Trump would come in with a plurality but not a majority. This requires a multicandidate field.

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Carson Endorses the Demagogue

    On Friday, I watched yet another bizarre scene from an already bizarre election cycle: The affable but hopelessly vacant Ben Carson endorsing the demagogic real estate developer who once said of Carson that he had a “pathological temper” as a child and compared him to a child molester.

    Carson said in his endorsement speech that there are actually “two different” sides to the front-runner.

    What does this mean? Which one is real? Are they both? Is there a Jekyll to this Hyde? It was an exceedingly strange and feeble attempt to diminish the danger that this man poses, but in a way, if anyone could understand this duality, it would be Carson.

    This is the same Ben Carson who has inveighed against the “purveyors of division,” who played a video at his presidential campaign announcement in Detroit in which the narrator said in part:

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Breaking the encryption deadlock

    Since the 1990s, U.S. law enforcement has expressed concern about "going dark," roughly defined as an inability to access encrypted communications or data even with a court order. Silicon Valley companies are rolling out encrypted products that allow users alone to access their data, and in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino, California, terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials argue that their fears are being realized. The FBI is engaged in a public battle with Apple over access to data stored on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers and cautions that encrypted messaging apps could hinder the organization's ability to uncover terrorism plots.

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Where the Soldiers Are Scarier Than the Crocodiles

    There are cobras and vipers here, and hungry crocodiles and belligerent hippos. But thousands of South Sudanese are hiding in these swamps because they have even greater fear of their own government — which the United States helped install.

    “When the soldiers come, we go into the water up to our necks and hide, with only our noses out of the water,” a displaced villager, Nyakier Gatluak, told me after I waded through swamps and rivers to reach the island where she shelters. She and other parents hold children and command them to be silent, hoping that they will be invisible in the water and reeds.

    I asked about crocodiles, and Nyakier was fatalistic. “Even if you die in the water, it’s better to be killed by snakes or crocodiles than by soldiers,” she said.

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Want public information? Too bad.

    Two years ago last month, I filed a public-records request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of my reporting into the flawed response to Hurricane Sandy. Then, I waited.

    The Freedom of Information Act requires a response within 20 business days, but agencies routinely blow that deadline. Eight months later, ProPublica and NPR published our investigation into the Sandy response, but it did not include any documents from FEMA. The agency had simply never gotten back to me.

    Finally, this Feb. 10 -- 492 business days past the law's 20-day deadline -- I got a curious phone call from FEMA. The agency was starting a "clean search" for the documents I asked for, because the original search "was not done properly."

    Why?

    "I wish I had the answer," the staffer told me. "There are quite a few cases that this happened to."

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