Archive

November 10th, 2015

So-called 'war on cops' more myth than menace

    News that the police lieutenant widely and affectionately known as "G.I. Joe" in the Chicago suburb of Fox Lake, Ill., is not the hero he made himself out to be has taken some fuel from the media-driven myth that has given us headlines like these:

    "War on Police Sparks National Crime Wave" --Investor's Business Daily

    "Police face recruiting shortage due to war on cops" --New York Post

    "(New York Police Chief) Bratton warns of tough times ahead due to 'war on cops' " --New York Post.

    Conservative politicians and pundits who promote the idea that there's a "war on cops" reacted with a bold message to the fatal shooting of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz in Fox Lake on Sept. 1. Their message: Blame 'Black Lives Matters' first.

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Snuggling Up to Celebrities Not Part of Journalism Training

    One of the basic tenets of journalism ethics and practices is that reporters must keep their distance from news sources.

    They’re allowed to be friendly. They’re even allowed to share a meal with a news source. But, they must be independent. It’s a “Caesar’s wife” thing—they must be above suspicion.

    This past week, Lara Spencer, co-anchor of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America,” snuggled up to Donald Trump.

    In a photo posted to Instagram, she is seen with her left arm around Trump’s shoulder, her right hand across his stomach. Both are looking at each other and smiling. Spencer posted the following message to the photo: “Can’t beat having the REAL DonaldJTrump on.” She added the emoticon of a smiley face.

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In epic clash with George Will over book, Fox News host O'Reilly renounces journalism

    The Friday night edition of "The O'Reilly Factor" featured something that doesn't happen enough on cable news: Two people from the same network ripping the guts out of each other over a topic of some intellectual heft. The combatants in this one? Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and Fox News commentator George Will. The antagonism was already in place before the Friday broadcast, as Will had used his perch as Washington Post columnist to deliver a slam on O'Reilly's "Killing Reagan." "Bill O'Reilly Slanders Ronald Reagan," wrote Will, criticizing the book for its contention that the assassination attempt against Reagan in March 1981 had weakened him over the course of his presidency.

    Let's put aside the history for one second, however, and showcase the harsh words that flew back and forth between O'Reilly and Will on Friday night:

    O'Reilly to Will:

    "After reading the column, I can say with certainty, George Will libels Bill O'Reilly."

    "You're a hack."

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Hillary in History

    It’s officially one year until the presidential election. Amazing how time flies, isn’t it? Once again we’re watching debates featuring what appears to be the entire supporting cast of “Ben-Hur.” Once again we’re asking ourselves why Iowa always gets to be first. Once again we’re wondering whether Hillary Clinton will make history by becoming the first woman president.

    “It’s hard to believe there’s another year,” Clinton said in a phone interview, taking the glass-half-empty perspective. She was on her way to the airport during a fundraising swing through California, broken up by an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show. Her formula for making it through another 12 months, she said cheerfully, was pretty simple: “We’re just getting up every morning. Step by step.”

    “It’ll be a long slog,” she added with what I believe the entire nation understands is total accuracy. “But it’s more fun this time because I feel like we’re doing better.”

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Despair, American Style

    A couple of weeks ago President Obama Barack mocked Republicans who are “down on America,” and reinforced his message by doing a pretty good Grumpy Cat impression. He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.

    Yet there is a darkness spreading over part of our society. And we don’t really understand why.

    There has been a lot of comment, and rightly so, over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999. This deterioration took place while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

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Ben Carson and the Truth

    Ben Carson appears to have a somewhat complicated relationship with the truth, or at least that is the picture emerging of him as new challenges to the truthfulness of his biography surface.

    After Politico checked into Carson’s claim that he had received an offer of a “full scholarship” to West Point, his campaign was forced to concede that he had never actually applied and been granted admission, but the campaign “attempted to recast his previous claims of a full scholarship to the military academy — despite numerous public and written statements to the contrary over the last few decades,” the news outlet reported.

    (Politico came under scrutiny itself for the way it initially characterized Carson’s concession.)

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Angela Merkel's migrant dilemma

    Abdulela Alhajjar is a big fan of Angela Merkel, which is simultaneously the German chancellor's finest tribute and her biggest threat. Like many others crowding a refugee processing center here, the 21-year-old Syrian saw pictures of Merkel taking selfies with migrants, and took her message of welcome to heart.

    "We will be treated good here," Alhajjar, a civil engineering student, told me as he waited to register, a step still not accomplished a week after his arrival.

     To speak to Alhajjar and other refugees is to grasp the magnitude of the challenge facing Merkel, and the kaleidoscope of migrants drawn here at a rate of 10,000 a day -- many fleeing violence and persecution, others simply seeking a better life in this prosperous country:

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The president can close Guantanamo

    As President Obama approaches the final year of his presidency, the urgency of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility looms large. Some maintain that the congressional ban on transfers from Guantanamo to the United States prevents closure without congressional approval. But that is wrong. Under Article II of the Constitution, the president has exclusive authority to determine the facilities in which military detainees are held. Obama has the authority to move forward. He should use it.

    Despite difficulties and controversy, the president has made significant progress, slashing the number of detainees at the facility by more than half, to 112, the lowest level since it opened in 2002. The pace of transfers of cleared detainees to foreign countries has begun to tick up again and is expected to accelerate until all who can be transferred are gone. At least some current detainees, however, will need to continue to be incarcerated. Ten detainees, for example, face serious criminal charges in military commissions, including Khalid Sheik Mohammedand the other accused 9/11 co-conspirators.

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Sex, Lies, and Houston

    I used to be a child molester.

    Not in actuality. In the popular imagination. In public debate.

    That’s how gay men were once portrayed — not just as sexual deviants but as sexual prowlers, sexual predators, their eyes lecherously trained on the young, the vulnerable, the recruitable.

    Hatemongers spread this slander to argue that we mustn’t be teachers, shouldn’t be coaches, couldn’t be trusted. Their words were so common and feebly challenged in the 1960s and 1970s, when I grew up, that even in the 1980s, when I was in my 20s, I sometimes kept an extra few feet between me and boys. I refrained from the typical sort of ebullience and friendliness that an adult summons when introduced to an acquaintance’s kid for the first time.

    I didn’t want to arouse suspicion.

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Poppy Bush Finally Gives Junior a Spanking

    I visited HBO’s “Game of Thrones” set in Belfast last week, and after watching Daenerys Targaryen in firelight for a couple of hours, I learned how to say “I have to go to the bathroom” in Dothraki.

    I’ll never be fluent in that martial language. But I am fluent in mangled Bush-speak.

    So I must pull myself away from the Iron Throne and return to the Iron Ass, trading one serpentine family tangle for another. I am here, my puzzled readers, to help interpret the latest Oedipal somersaults of our royally messed up Republican royal family.

    Like many uptight, upper-class families, the Bushes seem oddly unable to directly confront tensions and resentments and talk to each other candidly. With other families, the unsaid and circuitous end up rupturing relationships. In the case of the Bushes, it ended up rupturing the globe.

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