Archive

March 12th, 2016

Europe gets tough on immigration, American style

    Europe can't build a wall to keep out Syrian refugees. But Tuesday European Union leaders did the next best thing from their perspective, announcing an agreement with Turkey to repel and return all those trying to come illegally into Greece by boat from Turkey.

    The plan represents a major shift for the EU in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis. In place of a generous legal approach that rejected mass returns of asylum seekers, Europe is now adopting a much more hardline attitude that distinguishes sharply between migrants seeking illegal entry and refugees who've already been processed within Turkey and may be granted legal settlement rights and asylum.

    The EU-Turkey deal promises to deliver more than €3 billion to Turkey for its role in holding on to Syrians. But the latest announcement contains two key elements not fully clarified before. Each element represents a big change in EU policy, and a point where morality diverges from EU and international law.

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Cruz's risky detour to crush Rubio in Florida

    It's been a huge week in the presidential campaign. We've gone from Donald Trump having an unstoppable path to the Republican nomination to the possibility that he could be beaten.

    That's the good news for the majority of Americans who believe that an authoritarian, ill-informed, bellicose real estate mogul is unsuited to be president.

    The bad news is that the vehicle of Trump's defeat is turning out to be Sen. Ted Cruz. With his faux-folksy recitations of Dr. Seuss and "The Princess Bride," his singular insistence that Obamacare could be repealed, and non-stop obstruction fueled by his self-regard as the only principled man in Washington, he helped grind governing to a halt in recent years. One of the few points of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill is antipathy to Cruz. Vice President Joe Biden captured the feeling at the annual Gridiron Club dinner on March 5, joking that if President Barack Obama really wanted to put his mark on the Supreme Court, he should name Cruz to the open seat. "Before you know it, you'll have eight vacancies."

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'The Trump Effect' is contaminating our kids - and could resonate for years

    Think we're in for a disastrous four years if Donald Trump is elected president?

    You're being optimistic. Given what some of our children are learning from him, it may take an entire generation to recover from the hateful rhetoric he's aimed at immigrants, Muslims and Blacks Lives Matter protesters.

    Trump's vitriol is making it off the campaign trail and into the lingua franca of children at an alarming rate. Just watch coverage from Trump rallies to hear the next phrases kids will be slinging at school.

    "Build the wall!" was the chant at a high school basketball game in Indiana last week, directed by kids from a majority white school who held up Trump signs and yelled at the opposing players and fans, who are from a predominantly Latino school.

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The 2016 election risk I will not take

    Americans today face a profound challenge to preserve our common values and national promise.

    Wage stagnation at home and our declining influence abroad have left Americans angry and frustrated. And yet Washington, D.C., offers nothing but gridlock and partisan finger-pointing.

    Worse, the current presidential candidates are offering scapegoats instead of solutions, and they are promising results that they can't possibly deliver. Rather than explaining how they will break the fever of partisanship that is crippling Washington, they are doubling down on dysfunction.

    Over the course of American history, both parties have tended to nominate presidential candidates who stay close to and build from the center. But that tradition may be breaking down. Extremism is on the march, and unless we stop it, our problems at home and abroad will grow worse.

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In first lady, Nancy Reagan found the role of a lifetime

    Whether you loved her or hated her, Nancy Reagan was an American queen.

    In the democratic world of 20th-century politics, everyone politely pretended the first lady was merely a devoted wife, supporting her beloved Ronnie in anything he wanted to do. That was certainly true, but there have been plenty of first ladies who loved and supported their husbands.

    No, she was much, much more: A woman who derived power from her husband but wielded it freely. A woman with expensive tastes and glamorous friends who saw no point in acting like the girl next door. A woman who knew what she wanted and, more often than not, got it.

    Not many people would call her a modern feminist -- she never did -- but Nancy Reagan loved the life she lived and never apologized for her choices or her ambition. In first lady, she found the role of a lifetime and redefined the office for the women who came after her.

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When Fallacies Collide

    The formal debates among the Republicans who would be president have exceeded all expectations. Even the most hardened cynics couldn’t have imagined that the candidates would sink so low, and stay so focused on personal insults. Yet last week, offstage, there was in effect a real debate about economic policy between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, who is trying to block his nomination.

    Unfortunately, both men are talking nonsense. Are you surprised?

    The starting point for this debate is Trump’s deviation from free-market orthodoxy on international trade. Attacks on immigrants are still the central theme of the Republican front-runner’s campaign, but he has opened a second front on trade deficits, which he asserts are being caused by the currency manipulation of other countries, especially China. This manipulation, he says, is “robbing Americans of billions of dollars of capital and millions of jobs.”

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The Republicans' race to the bottom

    On the day Mitt Romney called Donald Trump a con man, a fraud and a phony, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz subsequently ran Trump through a televised debate buzz saw, the Republican Party may have hit a new low in self-disparagement.

    Its 2012 presidential nominee first provided the Fox News debate team all the raw material required to keep Trump on the defensive for two hours. Then the debaters did the rest, as Rubio joined Trump in a display of gutter-speak over such matters as genitalia size and other matters better suited for locker-room chatter.

    For once, attempts were made to draw out Trump on his unending boasts about his wealth and charity, raising doubts about both and generating flashes of anger and impatience from Trump. But once again, it was all about Donald as near-panic seized the party over the prospect of his nomination in July.

    At one point, moderator Chris Wallace quoted verbatim from Romney's all-purpose indictment of Trump: "The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics."

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The End of American Idealism

    Sometimes it’s hard to shake the uneasy feeling that we are witnessing the dissolution of an idea that was once America.

    The country is still a military superpower and an economic and innovation powerhouse, but so many of our institutions are proving to be either fundamentally flawed or deeply broken.

    This thought kept creeping into my mind as I watched Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Detroit. It seemed to me the zenith of a carnival of absurdity, as the candidates descended into what appeared to be a penis measuring contest.

    I kept thinking with dread, “One of these men might actually be the next president” — either the demagogue from New York, the political arsonist from Texas or the empty suit from Florida. (I see no path for the governor from Ohio.)

    In another political season, liberals might greet such a prospect with glee. But this is not that season.

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March 10th

The End of American Idealism

    Sometimes it’s hard to shake the uneasy feeling that we are witnessing the dissolution of an idea that was once America.

    The country is still a military superpower and an economic and innovation powerhouse, but so many of our institutions are proving to be either fundamentally flawed or deeply broken.

    This thought kept creeping into my mind as I watched Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Detroit. It seemed to me the zenith of a carnival of absurdity, as the candidates descended into what appeared to be a penis measuring contest.

    I kept thinking with dread, “One of these men might actually be the next president” — either the demagogue from New York, the political arsonist from Texas or the empty suit from Florida. (I see no path for the governor from Ohio.)

    In another political season, liberals might greet such a prospect with glee. But this is not that season.

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Dress Codes and Female Dignity

    How many among us recognize the name of Yolande Betbeze Fox, the Alabama beauty who died recently at the age of 87? Fox blazed quite a trail through American culture when, as Miss America of 1951, she refused to reign in a bathing suit. The swimsuit-maker sponsoring the pageant was not pleased.

    Educated in a convent in Mobile, Fox championed a certain propriety in dress. She found the idea of parading half-naked around America most distasteful. Fox moved on to become a prominent progressive activist in New York and Washington, D.C. She knew at the age of 22 that no one would take her seriously in a bathing suit.

    You wonder how Fox would respond to a convoluted feminist debate, one side of which holds that women should be taken seriously no matter how they dress. It's been expanded to condemn high-school dress codes -- arguing they are sexist because they force the girls to de-emphasize their breasts, legs and rear ends. A kind of "body shaming," if you will. If the girls' fashion choices arouse the boys, it's the boys' problem.

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