Archive

September 8th, 2016

Rachel Dolezal's "natural hair" politics

    In this summer of raw identity politics, it is ironically appropriate that everyone's favorite fake black woman, Rachel Dolezal, is back in the news.

    Dolezal, you surely recall, was the local NAACP president in Spokane who was exposed last year by a local television station and by her estranged parents as a white woman who was only passing for black.

    Or, as she might put it, she has been identifying as black since 2006 in much the same was that Caitlyn Jenner identifies as a woman, despite having the same male body that she had when she was Olympic medalist Bruce Jenner.

    Dolezal was back in the news with the announcement that she would be headlining a Labor Day weekend rally in Dallas called the Naturally Isis Braid-On, Economic Liberty March and Rally.

    No, Naturally Isis has nothing to do with the Islamic State. The event is organized by celebrity natural hair stylist and activist Isis Brantley and, yes, hair activism is a thing.

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Clinton Gets Gored

    Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

    You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

    Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

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6 things we know heading into the final months of the presidential race

    For normal people, the general-election cycle starts now. (By normal, I mean, well, not me.)

    Labor Day is the traditional starting gun of the final two-plus months of the presidential campaign - a time when even the casual political watcher starts to pay some attention to the race that I (and my fellow political junkies) have spent more than two years of our collective lives thinking and writing about. (It seems somewhat sad when I see it in writing.)

    Given that the race is just starting for lots and lots of people, it's worth revisiting what we know about the contours of the contest.

 

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What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?

    One puzzle of the world is that religions often don’t resemble their founders.

    Jesus never mentioned gays or abortion but focused on the sick and the poor, yet some Christian leaders have prospered by demonizing gays. Muhammad raised the status of women in his time, yet today some Islamic clerics bar women from driving, or cite religion as a reason to hack off the genitals of young girls. Buddha presumably would be aghast at the apartheid imposed on the Rohingya minority by Buddhists in Myanmar.

    “Our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for,” Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, notes in a provocative and powerful new book, “The Great Spiritual Migration.”

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The decline of the black Republican

    Call to mind Ed Brooke,the D.C.-born late U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Think of abolitionist, orator and author Frederick Douglass, and civil rights leader James Farmer. The three were separated by occupation, and in Douglass' case, generations. But they had two things in common: Each was an African-American, and each was a Republican.

    Now consider the Rev. Mark Burns, the black Republican televangelist from South Carolina who pops up from time to time on cable news as a leading Donald Trump surrogate.

    Some context.

    Brooke was the nation's first popularly elected black senator. Douglass, a champion of the anti-slavery movement. Farmer, a civil rights pioneer and architect of the Freedom Ride of 1961.

    Burns' current claim to fame? The cartoon he tweeted this week depicting Hillary Clinton in blackface and saying "I ain't no ways tired of pandering to African-Americans" while holding a sign reading "#@!* the police."

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The Big Gay Sway

    On a sweltering afternoon in late August, Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat running for Congress against a longtime Republican incumbent, stole a half-hour from a crammed schedule for something that grieving residents of this metropolitan area still routinely do: She visited Pulse nightclub, where a gunman ended 49 lives in June.

    The club itself has been closed since then, but a patch of the property in front brims with flowers, photographs and rainbow flags, which signal that Pulse was a place where many gay people gathered and many gay people died. It’s an eye-catching, heart-stopping memorial.

    Could it also be an omen of political change?

    Prominent among the issues that Murphy, 37, is campaigning on is her 73-year-old opponent’s dismal record on LGBT rights. And some Democrats are convinced that this could work powerfully in her favor, especially at this time, in this place. Her district includes much of Orlando, though not Pulse itself, and is home to victims’ relatives and friends.

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September 7th

How Anthony Weiner's risque messages shaped our revenge-porn laws

    In the aftermath of Anthony Weiner's latest sext scandal, he found a surprising ally: Dan Savage. In a Monday interview, the sex columnist said that Weiner should be seen as "the victim of revenge porn," a malicious act in which sexual photographs are shared without the consent of the subject, usually to humiliate or harm.

    Savage's remarks are wrongheaded and miss the big picture. Revenge porn (more accurately called involuntary or nonconsensual pornography) is now illegal in several states and, thanks to a bill that is currently in front of Congress, may soon be a federal crime. But when those laws were being crafted just a few years ago, Weiner was a frequently touted example of what revenge porn isn't.

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Note to Republicans: Obstructionism backfired

    I met Tom Korologos in 1970. I was doing interviews for my dissertation on congressional staffs; he was the top staffer for Wallace Bennett, a veteran Republican senator from Utah. Tom not only granted me an interview but also gave me a ton of time and valuable insights. He knew and loved the Senate, knew and loved politics. He has had a remarkable career in Washington, serving several Republican presidents and also working as a top official with the provisional authority in Baghdad and as ambassador to Belgium. If you asked me to name veteran pols who understand how our government and politics work and should work, he would be high on the list.

    That makes my disappointment with him even more painful. Korologos, along with former Ronald Reagan national security adviser Richard V. Allen, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post last week with advice for their fellow Republicans, headlined "Memo to GOP: Forget 2016. Start thinking 2018 and 2020." The op-ed conceded the presidential contest to Hillary Clinton - and proceeded to give advice on how to combat the incoming president and regain the party's mojo.

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What Is Happening To Our Democracy?

    There are many things happening in this great land of ours that I and many other citizens disagree with; however, we recognize that our great document was designed to allow such dissent. What I do have trouble with is some of the actions provided for in the name of law enforcement.

    All too often we pass laws in haste that end up in the category of unintended consequences. Nowhere is that more evident than in actions following the September 11,2001, attack on this nation. We are still suffering from the fear engendered by those planes commandeered to fly into buildings. Worse yet some of the most egregious actions taken in the days immediately following were actually renewed by Congress in ensuing years. Fear often generates action that more thoughtful consideration would not allow but years after it should be apparent that some of the restrictions most assuredly infringe on what we previously considered as Constitutional rights. Yes, some may be justified in these dangerous times but only with restrictions or protections.

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Stop touting the crazy hours you work. It helps no one.

    As Labor Day approaches, and a single day of rest from all the hours we Americans spend on the job is upon us, people can't seem to stop talking about the crazy hours they work.

    One of the most-read articles on the Wall Street Journal's web site last week was a piece about how 4 a.m. -- a time so ungodly there's even a TED Talk about how surreal it is -- has become the most productive hour for go-getters. Donald Trump has been endlessly knocking Hillary Clinton for sleeping (gasp!), calling out her lack of stamina as he brags about not needing much sleep and his former staffers say that vacations would "bore and perhaps scare" the GOP presidential nominee.

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