Archive

June 19th, 2016

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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How to make 'thoughts and prayers' meaningful again

    The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were murdered this past weekend, has prompted outrage at the impossibility of gun control in the United States, memorials at and for gay bars, and sharp debates about whether the shooting was primarily a hate crime, an act of terrorism or both at once. And in a sign that people are sickened by the rote responses to horrors that have themselves become frighteningly routine, many are rejecting one of the rituals that follows such tragedies: the offering of "thoughts and prayers" to the bereaved.

    I understand the pain and frustration of people who reject that offer. Given that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has accepted a past speaking invitation to from Kevin Swanson, a pastor who has suggested the death penalty for gay people who don't repent their sexual orientations, I can see why people might wonder what, exactly, Cruz's prayers consist of. Treating prayer as a substitute for action after yet another mass shooting can seem like an obscene bait-and-switch. But the anger in response to "thoughts and prayers" suggests widespread failures of communication around what prayer consists of and what it's supposed to accomplish.

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Hillary Wants to Bring Back Bill. She Shouldn’t.

    This year, despite the unnerving presidential freak show the Republicans are putting on, Hillary Clinton is the one who recently stunned me.

    Attempting to convince wary working class families that she’ll lift up the poor, shore up the middle class, and stand against the abuses of her Wall Street financial backers, Clinton made a horrifying declaration that she’ll bring back Bill.

    Specifically, she promised that her former-president husband will be put “in charge of revitalizing the economy.”

    Good grief. Isn’t he the big galoot who turned his economic policy over to Wall Street’s Machiavellian, Robert Rubin?

    And didn’t Bill break his 1992 campaign promise to raise the minimum wage in his first year? Afraid so — he put it off until his fourth year, and even then provided only a token increase that left the working poor still mired in poverty.

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'Fox & Friends' co-host reveals trick for cozy relationship with Donald Trump

    Put the puffy questions first -- that's the key to keeping Donald Trump happy, suggested "Fox & Friends" co-host Steve Doocy in an interview with TVNewser. "Ultimately, I think that he trusts us because he knows that we'll ask him something that he wants to talk about first, but then we will ask him about the other news that's out there," Doocy said.

    In fairness to Doocy, withholding the edgy questions for the end of an interview is an approach practiced elsewhere as well. Hosts, after all, don't want their interviewee to bolt after one or two questions. And Doocy did say that the crew at "Fox & Friends" asks Trump about the bad stuff. "There is stuff in the news that may be unflattering to him, but we still have to ask him questions about it because otherwise it just wouldn't be appropriate," Doocy told TVNewser.

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Clinton's voters don't see her as a messiah. That's good.

    Hillary Clinton has won. The tally from the clutch of states that voted last week accomplished what was for weeks inevitable and finally delivered her over the finish line, even before she won the District of Columbia on Tuesday night. Bernie Sanders remained defiant, and his more fanatical supporters seemed ready to back him until the end. It's easy to see why. For a while, as the Sanders campaign caught fire in early March, with wins or close finishes in contests from Michigan to Maine, it seemed that this unlikely Jeremiah was emerging as the rightful heir to the Barack Obama-led revolution that defeated Hillary Clinton back in 2008.

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A Pistol for Every Bar Stool

    The nation hasn’t exactly joined hands in a united response to the Orlando massacre. But since this terrible mass shooting happened in one of the most weapons-friendly places in the country, maybe we can at least all agree that having wildly permissive gun laws does not make a city safer.

    OK, probably not.

    On Wednesday, Donald Trump took time out from vilifying Muslims and put some of the blame on gun control. If the patrons of Pulse, the gay bar in Orlando, had been carrying concealed weapons, he said, they could have taken control of the situation. The gunman would have been “just open target practice.”

    (This was at the same speech where he congratulated himself for his stupendous relationship with the gay community, suggesting he didn’t “get enough credit” for having a club in Palm Beach that was “open to everybody.” This is a little off our topic today, but I have to once again point out that Trump’s club is open to everybody with $100,000 to cover the membership fee.)

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June 17th

Mindset is as perilous as a gun

    The "pseudo-commando," a type of mass murderer driven by fantasies of revenge and fame, appears to have struck again. Omar Mateen, armed with a pistol and military lookalike rifle, entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday and shot his way into the annals of modern crime.

    During the attack, which included a wild exchange of gunfire between Mateen and police, more than 100 people at Pulse nightclub were shot and wounded. Fifty, including Mateen, died.

    "The pseudocommando often kills indiscriminately in public during the daytime, but may also kill family members and a 'pseudo-community' he believes has mistreated him," wrote James L. Knoll IV, a forensic psychiatrist, in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law in 2010. "He comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons. . . . He has no escape planned and expects to be killed during the incident."

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