Archive

June 19th, 2016

Unless Hawaii is your idea of hell, ignore the NRA's hysteria over regulation

    Speaking in 2013, a few weeks after children were slaughtered in their classrooms in Newtown, Connecticut, and just after President Barack Obama's second inauguration, National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre laid out the frightening challenge that Obama's presidency posed to gun owners.

    "He wants to put every private, personal transaction under the thumb of the federal government, and he wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry," LaPierre said. "There are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners -- to tax them or take them."

    Just seven months away from the end of his second term, Obama still has not proposed, much less implemented, a federal gun registry. But LaPierre is in the gun business, not the honesty business. A diabolical slippery slope that begins with criminal background checks and snowballs from there into gun registration, confiscation and, finally, totalitarian tyranny is one of LaPierre's favorite tropes. And in honor of the election calendar, the dangerous peaks of Mount Obama are rapidly transforming into the slippery slopes of Mount Hillary.

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Trump's new favorite slogan was invented for Nazi sympathizers

    Donald Trump greeted Twitter on Flag Day with two words in all caps: "AMERICA FIRST!"

    He has made this slogan a theme for his campaign, and he has begun using it to contrast himself with President Obama, whose criticism of Trump's rhetoric on Tuesday was answered with a Trump statement promising, "When I am president, it will always be America first."

    He wasn't quite promising "America über alles," but it comes close. "America First" was the motto of Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s, and Trump has more than just a catchphrase in common with them.

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The Trump effect: Cable news viewership and profits surge in 2015

    Back in 2012, Jack Shafer, then a media critic with Reuters, wrote, "The cable news audience has peaked." Thanks to the Internet and other factors, wrote Shafer, audience for the main cable outlets -- CNN, Fox News, MSNBC -- had started dipping. "Bill O'Reilly? Peaked. Chris Matthews? Peaked. Anderson Cooper? Peaked. Democratic Party outrage over what Fox News said about the president? Peaked."

    If ever there a phenomenon that would shatter Shafer's predictions, it was Donald Trump's presidential campaign -- the one-man ratings machine that boosted audiences for a string of Republican presidential debates on cable TV outlets last year, not to mention an untold number of interviews, both on the phone and in person.

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I watched my dad work, and I learned about life

    Much of what I know about my father as a man, I got from observing him at work. In our house, Father's Day was special, not because it was a day for our father but because it was a day for all fathers: a red-letter-day for his menswear store when business picked up (second only to Christmas,) when mother was called to work the cash register and I, even as a young boy, was called to man the broom, the stockroom and the tailor shop. The store, located in Canton, Ohio, was called Mr. Ted's and was tucked into a strip mall that was in walking distance of cornfields and catered to those who made their living with their hands. The store was named not for me but for my father. That we shared names was itself a breach of faith - my grandfather, a rabbi, could not have approved.

The self-driving Trump is in a race with no pit crew

    Hillary Clinton delivered a substantive and somewhat bipartisan speech on Monday about the massacre in Orlando, Florida. She offered a number of specific-sounding prescriptions and recalled George W. Bush's respect for the Muslim community.

    Donald Trump? He started by bragging about himself and hinting that President Barack Obama might be part of a plot against the U.S. Then he delivered a speech so full of flat-out falsehoods that the New York Times and The Washington Post adopted, as the Washington Examiner's Byron York noted, a "new tone in straight-news general election reporting."

    The Post's news story referred to "a speech laden with falsehoods and exaggeration," while the Times said it was "rife with the sort of misstatements and exaggerations that have typified his campaign." Neither newspaper relied on attributions like "some contend" or "many believe."

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The reaction when an Orthodox Jewish congregation went to a gay bar to mourn

    When our synagogue heard about the horrific tragedy that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it was at the same time that we were celebrating our festival of Shavuot, which celebrates God's giving of the Torah.

    As Orthodox Jews, we don't travel or use the Internet on the Sabbath or on holidays, such as Shavuot. But on Sunday night, as we heard the news, I announced from the pulpit that as soon as the holiday ended at 9:17 p.m. Monday, we would travel from our synagogue in Washington to a gay bar as an act of solidarity.

    We just wanted to share the message that we were all in tremendous pain and that our lives were not going on as normal. Even though the holiday is a joyous occasion, I felt tears in my eyes as I recited our sacred prayers.

    I had not been to a bar in more than 20 years. And I had never been to a gay bar. Someone in the congregation told me about a bar called the Fireplace, so I announced that as our destination. Afterward, I found out it was predominantly frequented by gay African Americans.

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The Great College Coddling

    It's been 20 years since I started hearing alarming tales from a friend who supervised a day care for hospital employees' children. She said that for the first time in her considerable experience, the preschool children of medical professionals were pitching full-scale hissy fits -- hitting, kicking and even biting their parents, without being effectively disciplined.

    She said it was common to see grown men and women -- doctors, nurses and technicians -- on their knees reasoning with 3- and 4-year-olds going ape over stuff like juice boxes and peanut butter sandwiches. My friend said the same kids most often settled down and behaved as soon as their parents were out of sight. When it's nap time, it's nap time.

    Now reasoning with a 3-year-old is pretty much like bargaining with a cat. If you're lucky, you might eventually bore the little scamp into submission. Thankfully, this particular folly has been largely confined to the educated classes. Truck drivers and short-order cooks know better.

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Some Extremists Fire Guns; Other Extremists Promote Guns

    Over the past two decades, Canada has had eight mass shootings. Just so far this month, the United States has already had 20.

    Canada has a much smaller population, of course, and the criteria that researchers used for each country are slightly different, but that still says something important about public safety.

    Could it be, as Donald Trump suggests, that the peril comes from admitting Muslims? On the contrary, Canadians are safe despite having been far more hospitable to Muslim refugees: Canada has admitted more than 27,000 Syrian refugees since November, some 10 times the number the United States has.

    More broadly, Canada’s population is 3.2 percent Muslim, while the United States is about 1 percent Muslim — yet Canada doesn’t have massacres like the one we just experienced at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, or the one in December in San Bernardino, California. So perhaps the problem isn’t so much Muslims out of control but guns out of control.

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Is Trump on the verge of political bankruptcy?

    One of the most common causes of political failure is not having a contingency plan for success. It's a bit like the conundrum, "dog catches car: now what?" In other words, presidential candidates can be so focused on their next step that they lose sight of what they will do when they reach their destination. Understandably so. The sudden-death rules of primary season lay waste to long-term strategic thinking. And this is why the period between winning the nomination and the fall campaign can be so dangerous for candidates who haven't prepared.

    Donald Trump seems like an obvious example of a candidate who had no idea what to do after so successfully dispatching his myriad rivals for the Republican nomination. As his party and the press looked to him for a sign that he could adapt to the new reality of being the nominee, Trump failed. If recent polls are any indication, we may look back on this late spring period as the time when he lost the election. The nomination secured, undecided voters seeking an alternative to Hillary Clinton gave him another look. They saw the worst three weeks of candidate performance in memory.

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Is This New Reform a Toxic Waste?

    There should’ve been an overhaul in how we regulate toxic chemicals years ago. Like when the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel report concluded that babies are now born “pre-polluted.” Or when it came to light that a common flame retardant used in household items actually causes cancer.

    Finally, our infamously ineffective Congress has passed a landmark toxic chemical reform.

    Or did it only happen on paper?

    The original 1976 law on toxic chemicals — which covered everything except food, drugs, and pesticides — was written with the help of the chemical industry. It was designed to be weak.

    And it was.

    In fact, the law often served to prevent the government from testing new chemicals for safety. It only gave authorities a 90-day window to run toxicity tests before companies could take the new substances to market.

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