Archive

July 20th, 2016

The Citrusy Mystery of Trump’s Hair

    Watching Donald Trump on TV early last week, I got a shock. He read from a teleprompter. He sounded like a statesman — well, sort of. He kept the boasting to a minimum. He held the taunts in check.

    But what really threw me was his hair. Its color was as muted as the rest of him. I saw flecks of pale silver where I’d grown accustomed to showy gold. For a fleetingly presidential moment, he had a fittingly presidential mane.

    The evolution of Trump’s coiffure over the decades has been widely noted and thoroughly documented. He has parted his hair on one side and then the other. He has combed it forward, swept it backward, swirled it like frozen yogurt, aerated it like cotton candy. In a brisk wind, it has been a pair of gossamer wings. During a tense debate, it has been a gargantuan sponge.

    But less frequently observed is how much its hue changes, and I don’t mean from one year to another. I mean from one day to the next, in more incremental and mesmerizing ways, to a point where no two observers can agree on what to call it.

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The bad news for Turkey's democracy

    Though we do not yet know who was behind the Turkish coup plot to overthrow the Justice and Development (AK) Party government and the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one thing is for certain: after this attempt, Turkey will be less free and less democratic. If the military had won, then Turkey would have become an oppressive country run by generals. And if Erdogan wins, and this looks the likely outcome, Turkey will still become more oppressive.

    Since coming to power in 2003, Erdogan has run the country with an increasingly authoritarian grip, cracking down on dissent as well as freedoms of expression, assembly, association and media. Initially a reformist seeking European Union accession, after winning electoral victories in 2007 and 2011 on a platform of economic good governance, Erdogan has turned conservative and authoritarian.

    If part of Erdogan's electoral success has been through positive economic performance, his other, more nefarious strategy has been demonizing groups that are unlikely to vote for him. Erdogan achieves electoral victories through violent crackdowns on such demographic blocs as Gezi Park protesters, leftists and liberals, secularists, social democrats, liberal Alevi Muslims and Kurds.

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Deporting Kids to Die

    Elena was 11 years old when a gang member in her home country, Honduras, told her to be his girlfriend.

    “I had to say yes,” Elena, now 14, explained. “If I had said no, they would have killed my entire family.”

    Elena knew the risks because one of her friends, Jenesis, was also asked to be a gang member’s girlfriend, and declined. Elena happened to see the aftermath, as Jenesis staggered naked and bleeding away from gang members.

    “She had been raped and shot in the stomach,” Elena recalled in the blank tone of a child who has seen far too much. She paused and then added: “We don’t know if she survived. Someone said she died at the hospital.”

    As for Elena, she said her duties as a gang member’s girlfriend entailed working as a drug courier and a lookout, as well as intimacies that she didn’t want to discuss. At this point in our conversation, her mother and younger sister began crying.

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Bathrooms are the New Battlefields for Politicians

    When I was a junior at San Diego State, I had a sudden urge to need a restroom. The closest one was clearly marked, “Faculty Men Only.” The nearest one for male students was on the other side of the building.

    I did what any rational person would do—I used the faculty restroom.

    One of the professors, who was using a urinal a couple spaces away, told me the restroom was for professors only. (I assumed there were separate restrooms for staff.) “What department are you in,” asked the prof.

    In my deeper voice, I responded I was with sociology, hoping he knew little about the sociology faculty.

    “Just out of grad school?” he asked.

    “Yeah,” I replied, hoping that I looked much older than my 19 years. I wasn’t lying. I was “with sociology”—as a student, though. And, since I had no plans to go to grad school, I was truly “out of grad school.”

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Yes, I would send my girls to war

    In my lifetime, I have only made two things that I love more than life itself. I made them both at the same time, seven years ago, and from that moment, I knew nothing would ever matter to me but their health, happiness and well-being. I'd take a bullet for my twins, straight to the heart. I'd go without food so that they could eat. I would give up my clothing so that they could be dry, my shoes so their feet could be warm. I'd give up my life to keep them safe.

    But I would send them to war.

    To understand the importance of the Senate's recent vote to have women sign up for Selective Service (essentially the draft), we only need to look as far back as the bill's introduction. The author of the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act is opposed to having women in the draft. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. penned the amendment in the official name of debate, but his goal was to impress upon Congress how little interest there was in treating women equally, particularly when it comes to war.

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With Obama, the Personal Is Presidential

    We always knew he could keep his head when others were losing theirs and blaming him, knew it from the 2008 financial crisis and on to the hard, lasting words he spoke at Tuesday’s memorial for the slain police officers in Dallas.

    What we didn’t know, what could not be predicted of one so young and new to the impossible task of living round-the-clock under the glare of the entire world, was how Barack Obama would hold up as a father, a husband, a man.

    No matter what you think of Obama the executive branch, it’s hard to argue that Obama the human being has been anything less than a model of class and dignity. If, as was often said about black pioneers in sports, you had to be twice as good to succeed, Obama’s personal behavior has set a standard few presidents have ever reached.

    You see him singing happy birthday to his daughter Malia, on the day she turned 18 on the Fourth of July, or coaching his daughter Sasha at hoops, and you see his ambition, still, to be “the father I never had.”

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Why terrorists keep succeeding in France

    France is in the line of fire. Of the 16 terrorist incidents that took place in Western nations this year, five were in France, including the deadliest one -- Thursday's apparent lone wolf attack in Nice, which killed at least 84 people.

    A little more than a week before the attack, a commission set up by the French parliament gave its version of the reasons for France's endangered state in a massive report. Apart from an objective threat the country faces thanks to its colonial past and a failure to integrate North African immigrants, it also suffers from inadequate policing.

    "All the French citizens who struck within the nation's territory in 2015 were known, in one capacity or another, to judicial, penal or intelligence services," the report says. "They have all been on file, watched, listened to or incarcerated along their path of delinquency toward violent radicalization."

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What Pokemon Go actually is (and isn't)

    At 56, I'm way too old to be playing Pokémon Go. After all, the smartphone game's phenomenal success is built on millennial nostalgia, and I don't even have any kids to blame. But what started out as research has turned into a mild addiction. It's fun to wander the streets finding magic critters and the tools to capture them. Along the way I met some nice people and learned some things I didn't expect (and got yet another confirmation of an unfortunate truth about new technology).

    1) Contrary to the common journalistic shorthand, the game isn't about augmented reality. When I signed up, I thought playing Pokémon Go would be a good way to see what happens when augmented reality, which superimposes computer images on your view of real-world surroundings, meets a mass market.

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We don't need Lincoln-inspired racial 'unity.' We need whites to stop being racist.

    In a speech this week at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, Hillary Clinton called for racial unity by invoking the words of Abraham Lincoln. She said he "defended our Union, our Constitution, and the ideal of a nation 'conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.'" She added that Lincoln "deeply believed everyone deserved - in his words - 'a fair chance in the race of life.'"

    Clinton may not have realized it, but both her choice of symbols from the past and her message for the present were mistakes.

    Though he's now often seen simply as a hero of emancipation, Lincoln had a far more complicated history on race. For years, like most Americans of his time, he espoused white supremacy, and he didn't believe until the last year of his life that blacks and whites could live on equal terms in an interracial democracy. But he would later also take positions against racism that would be radical even today, calling for reparations for former slaves and urging newly freed black Southerners to defend their rights against white racists through force of arms.

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Trump's most enduring - and unbefitting - trait

    I've been covering Donald Trump off and on for more than 25 years, and what has always struck me is his lack of impulse control. It was his biggest problem when I first started dealing with him in the 1980s, and it's his biggest problem now.

    Plenty of financial and real estate players got carried away in the go-go 1980s. But Trump was in a class by himself.

    He ended up presiding over six -- count 'em, six -- bankruptcies because he kept making business decisions with his gut rather than with his brain.

    Trump's less-than-stellar business history has been well documented by The Washington Post and other newspapers, magazines and online publications, as has his lack of self-control in his personal life. But what has not been fully explored is the impulsiveness -- actually, total recklessness -- that was at the root of the pivotal decisions that tanked his businesses.That same impulsiveness is at the root of Trump's self-inflicted political and business problems today.

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