Archive

October 11th, 2016

The right says Clinton is responsible for her husband. Why isn't Melania Trump?

    Imagine a married man in public life was caught on tape talking about his failed attempt to seduce a married woman. Imagine that man continued by talking about that woman's "big phony tits," how his star power meant that he could just walk up to any woman he wanted and kiss her, and how his go-to move was grabbing women by their genitals. After you got over your rolling wave of nausea, imagine that this man was also on the record as saying that a woman, let's say a rival of his in business, should be held responsible for her own husband's extramarital sexual behavior. You'd be disgusted, right?

    But this is 2016. That man is Donald Trump, and he actually did get filmed saying those things on a bus with then-"Access Hollywood" star Billy Bush in 2005. And given that Trump's go-to move on the campaign trail this season has been to suggest that his rival for the presidency of the United States, Hillary Clinton, is somehow responsible for her husband Bill's repeated betrayals, are we now supposed to ask why Melania Trump didn't do a better job of acting as her husband's keeper?

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Donald Trump, Groper in Chief

    Jill Harth’s first concern with Donald Trump’s hands wasn’t that they were small. It’s that they were everywhere.

    Harth and her longtime boyfriend were in meetings with Trump to forge a business partnership. “He was relentless,” Harth recalled in an interview, describing how on Dec. 12, 1992, he took the couple to dinner and a club — and then situated himself beside Harth and ran his hands up her skirt, to her crotch. “I didn’t know how to handle it. I would go away from him and say I have to go to the restroom. It was the escape route.”

    We’ve all heard of Trump’s unethical or loutish behavior, most recently in a 2005 recording unearthed by The Washington Post on Friday in which he boasts of kissing and groping women. The story that Harth and the boyfriend, George Houraney, tell of their interactions with Trump over six years — including business cheating and attempted rape — shows how that predation worked in practice. “He name-dropped continuously,” Harth said under oath in a deposition in a subsequent lawsuit, “when he wasn’t groping me.”

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When my time comes, I want the option of assisted death

    Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have spent my time working for dignity for the living. I have campaigned passionately for people in my country and the world over to have their God-given rights.

    Now, as I turn 85 Friday, with my life closer to its end than its beginning, I wish to help give people dignity in dying. Just as I have argued firmly for compassion and fairness in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with the same compassion and fairness when it comes to their deaths. Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.

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Voters like fact-checking but don't seem to care about the truth in this election

    The end of facts is nigh. Or at least so we have been assured by headline after headline declaring the 2016 presidential campaign the dawn of the "post-truth" era.

    This storyline resurfaced after the fractious vice-presidential debate Tuesday night. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews suggested that "despite the facts," Mike Pence had won the debate, in keeping with a campaign that "is not about particular facts, it's about attitude." Post-truth was wheeled out matter of factly by outlets as disparate as the New Statesman ("Forget post-truth; we're past even satire at this point") and the Sun Sentinel in Florida ("Pence has gone with the logical next step in these post-truth times we live in").

    Politicians have always lied, post-truthers concede: The difference now is that voters don't care.

    Yet a surging appetite for fact-checking and a newly released study of its impact on readers indicate that facts may still have a fight left in them.

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Veep candidates' debate was an unedifying insultathon

    At the start of the vice-presidential debate the other night, moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News made a valiant attempt at conducting an exchange of substance and seriousness. She asked Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence to cite the qualifications, skills and temperament that equip them to step into the presidency "at a moment's notice" if circumstances should dictate.

    Each cited his previous governmental experience, Kaine as a mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and U.S. senator, and Pence as an Indiana congressman and governor.

    They left it at that and proceeded to turn the debate into a sparring match over the deficiencies not of each other but of their ticket mates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Pence seemed to have the best of it, not for Trump but at least for himself, displaying a smoother and more courteous manner than Kaine, who repeatedly interrupted him, eager to force Pence to defend Trump's numerous contradictions.

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The United States and Russia are prepping for doomsday

    The other day, a little present arrived in the mail. It was book, or rather a pair of doorstops. Titled "Doomed to Cooperate," the massive two-volume set is about 1,000 pages of essays, interviews, and vignettes from more than 100 participants in the remarkable period of cooperation between the nuclear weapons complexes of the United States and Russia in the immediate post-Cold War period. Siegfried Hecker, who edited the volumes, titled them after the remark of a Soviet scientist, who said of the shared danger that nuclear weapons pose, "Therefore, you know, we were doomed to work together, to cooperate." Not everyone got the message, certainly not Vladimir Putin. Set against relations between Washington and Moscow today, the incredible stories in Hecker's two volumes seem to be from another era entirely. On Monday, Putin issued a decree suspending a plutonium disposition agreement with the United States due to its "unfriendly actions." (An unofficial translation is available from the Center for Energy and Security Studies in Moscow, as is a draft law submitted by the Kremlin.) Putin's decree ends one of the last remaining forms of cooperation from that remarkable era.

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October 10th

An icon's journey from 'I Love NY' to 'Dump Trump'

    It was probably inevitable that Milton Glaser, the designer of the iconic "I[heart]NY" logo, would work at some point with another New York institution, Donald Trump. As with so many of the billionaire's collaborators, it didn't go well. Now, the only thing Glaser is willing to design with the Republican presidential nominee's name on it is a "Dump Trump" pin.

    Glaser, 87, is one of the founders of New York magazine and the designer of the Brooklyn Brewery's logo, many album and book covers, and even some subtle artwork in the notoriously unadorned New York subway. He wasn't surprised when Trump called him in 2005 and asked him to design a vodka bottle for distribution in his clubs. The result, in Glaser's words, was "powerful, masculine, like a '30s apartment building, two sides opaque with gold and two sides transparent so there's a real internal drama between the part that you can see and the part that you can't see."

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The jobs report and the election

    You may have noticed that there's this election that's about a month away. You also may have noticed that the monthly jobs report came out Friday morning. What do these two have to do with each other?

    At this point, every economic hiccup becomes campaign fodder. That's not to say that this has been. . .um. . .the most fact-based or policy-oriented campaign season in recent memory. To the contrary, at times like this, such data get twisted every which way. So let's take this opportunity to try to do two things. First, take an objective look at what's up and what's down in the job market, and two, muse a bit about the impact of these facts on the election.

    On net, employers are adding jobs at a solid clip, nudging the job market towards full employment. That's having two important, positive effects: It's pulling more people off the sidelines and back into the labor force, and it's boosting the pace of wage growth. There are, however, pockets of weakness in some key sectors.

    Upsides

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Republicans are paying for their conservative media obsession

    This election year is memorable for many reasons but among the most important is showing Republicans the cost of their infatuation with "alternative" news sources.

    The rise of the conservative alternative media can be traced back to the founding of the newspaper Human Events in 1944, Regnery Publishing in 1947 and National Review in 1955. But it did not become a mass phenomenon until the debut of Rush Limbaugh's national radio show, in 1988, followed in 1996 by the launch of the Fox News Channel and the Drudge Report. Those still remain three of the most popular outlets on the right, but they have been joined by radio hosts such as Mark Levin and Michael Savage, authors such as Ann Coulter and Dinesh D'Souza, and websites such as Breitbart News, TheBlaze, Infowars and Newsmax.

    The original impetus for these outlets was to offer a different viewpoint that people could not get from the more liberal TV networks, newspapers and magazines. But soon the alternative media moved from propounding their own analyses to concocting their own "facts," turning into an incubator of conspiracy theories such as "Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster" and "Barack Obama is a Muslim."

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Remembering a journalist who was killed for standing up to Putin

    Ten years ago Friday, Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's most famous journalist, was murdered in Moscow. Her death serves as a window to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin autocrat whom many Americans are looking at for the first time - his name now in U.S. election headlines as a result of alleged hacking of Democratic National Committee servers by Russian actors and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's praise of Putin's strongman rule.

    Politkovskaya was known throughout the world for her reporting on the second Chechen war, a conflict Putin pursued with the same ruthless brutality that he is using today in Syria, an approach U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power described as "barbarism."

    Only an utterly fearless journalist such as Politkovskaya would dare to visit war-torn Chechnya in the North Caucasus. Showing astounding bravery, she brought the lesser-known war to the world's attention, documenting murders, kidnappings, torture and the destruction of whole villages. Her investigative reports even resulted in the initiation of more than 20 criminal cases in Chechnya.

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