Archive

June 17th, 2016

Trump is no loose cannon

    In the brief span since the nation awoke Sunday to news of the largest gun massacre in U.S. history, Donald Trump has tweeted that the killings are evidence of his own wisdom, and has called on President Barack Obama to resign for his failure to use the preferred Republican rhetoric -- "radical Islam" -- in describing the attack. Trump then went on news shows on Monday morning to insinuate that Obama is a fellow traveler of Islamic terrorists, essentially a mole inside the White House.

    The presumptive Republican nominee moves from offense to offense so rapidly that a new shock eclipses the first before it can be mentally processed. Tweets and oral speech are Trump's natural media. Many Republicans are still seeking rationales to help them overlook the threat carried by these casual messages. They hope that Trump will somehow prove more responsible, and less toxic, if he has a political party or a White House staff or some other mediating institution to constrain his worst impulses.

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The punk who would be president

    It is the most famous ducktail in America today, the hairdo of wayward youth of a bygone era, and it's astonishing to imagine it under the spotlight in Cleveland, being cheered by Republican dignitaries. The class hood, the bully and braggart, the guy revving his pink Chevy to make the pipes rumble, presiding over the student council. This is the C-minus guy who sat behind you in history and poked you with his pencil and smirked when you asked him to stop. That smirk is now on every front page in America. It is not what anybody -- left, right, or center -- looks for in a president. There's no philosophy here, just an attitude.

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Why I'm hopeful about the world's future

    Almost six decades have passed since I left my homeland, Tibet, and became a refugee. Thanks to the kindness of the government and people of India, we Tibetans found a second home where we could live in dignity and freedom, able to keep our language, culture and Buddhist traditions alive.

    My generation has witnessed so much violence - some historians estimate that more than 200 million people were killed in conflicts in the 20th century.

    Today, there is no end in sight to the horrific violence in the Middle East, which in the case of Syria has led to the greatest refugee crisis in a generation. Appalling terrorist attacks - as we were sadly reminded this weekend - have created deep-seated fear. While it would be easy to feel a sense of hopelessness and despair, it is all the more necessary in the early years of the 21st century to be realistic and optimistic.

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Stand With Gay Americans

    Some of June’s gay pride celebrations happened last weekend, but many are still ahead. The one in Louisville, Kentucky, is among them. There’s a parade scheduled for Friday.

    That’s your state, Mitch McConnell. You should go.

    If you’re not comfortable marching, mingle on the sidelines. If parades aren’t your thing, make an appearance at one of the other pride events in Kentucky in coming days.

    Just show up. And by doing so, show that the absence of “gay” or “LGBT” in your statements immediately following the Orlando massacre — and in the statements of so many other prominent Republicans — isn’t because you place us and our concerns behind some thick pane of glass with a Do Not Touch sign that stays up even when blood and tears pool beneath it.

    For more than 48 hours, Paul Ryan also seemed to avoid any mention of the kind of nightclub that the Orlando gunman chose and one of the reasons its revelers were marked for death.

    On Tuesday morning that silence finally ended, as Ryan told journalists in Washington that he wanted to “be clear.”

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Puerto Rico is really a colony, justices affirm

    Last week the Supreme Court insulted Puerto Rico by saying its people aren't sovereign. This week the court added injury to the insult, denying Puerto Rico access to federal bankruptcy laws that would have created a path to recovery for its struggling utilities.

    The decision on Monday passed the ball to Congress to change the law or arrange a bailout. At the same time, it underscored the outrageousness of Puerto Rico's distinct legal status as a quasi-colony: the Commonwealth will have to lobby a Congress in which its residents, U.S. citizens all, have no representation.

    The underlying legal situation always posed a high hurdle for Puerto Rico, which in 2014 passed a Recovery Act to enable municipalities and utilities associated with the Commonwealth to declare bankruptcy. A federal district court and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit both struck down the Puerto Rico law as invalid under the federal bankruptcy code.

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The Scope of the Orlando Carnage

    These locations are never random. These targets aren’t accidental. They’re the very vocabulary in which assailants like the Orlando gunman speak, and he chose a place where there’s drinking. And dancing. And where LGBT people congregate, feeling a sense of welcome, of belonging.

    That last detail is in the foreground of the deadliest mass shooting in American history — and rightly so.

    But let’s be clear: This was no more an attack just on LGBT people than the bloodshed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was an attack solely on satirists.

    Both were attacks on freedom itself. Both took aim at societies that, at their best, integrate and celebrate diverse points of view, diverse systems of belief, diverse ways to love. And to speak of either massacre more narrowly than that is to miss the greater message, the more pervasive danger and the truest stakes.

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Lessons of Hiroshima and Orlando

    I want to talk today about the horrific human tragedy of Orlando. But first I want to talk about Hiroshima — or, more precisely, the profound speech that President Barack Obama gave there May 27 that got lost in all the campaign noise here.

    Hiroshima, Obama suggested, represents a world in which for the first time ever a country possessed the power to kill all of us — and if it had to be any country, I am glad it was America. But today, he said, we’re entering a world where small groups — maybe even soon a single super-empowered person — will be able to kill all of us; therefore we’d better start thinking about the moral implications of where technology is taking us.

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Islamic State is just an umbrella brand for hate

    Islamic State may have nothing to do with any of the recent high-profile terror attacks for which it has claimed credit. No matter: It's such a strong brand that it's firmly associated with the atrocities in the minds of those who rarely read past the headlines. More importantly, they bear the IS stamp in the minds of those who are tempted to blow something up or go out and shoot some strangers; a modern brand, created for a world of ready anger and short attention spans.

    Islamic State's claims of responsibility rarely come with anything other than a scant level of detail available to anyone who has read a few accounts of the attack on the internet. While crediting itself with the Paris attacks of November, 2015, Islamic State said:

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Gay bars were supposed to be safe spaces. But they often weren't.

    Since at least the 1940s, gay establishments such as Pulse have served as a safer sanctuary and haven for LGBT people. Entering these places meant a respite from the closet. There, those who had been shunned by family, friends, communities, employers, landlords or the state could make temporary residence. For some, it was more of a home than they had ever known.

    Even the very real risk of raids, harassment and exploitation did not deter queer people from patronizing these places. Access to them could be a matter of life and death; the effects of depression and anxieties waiting in the outside world were too much to bear for some people shut out by their families or towns. Gay bars and clubs helped combat isolation. They forged community.

    These gay establishments have always been political. Their mere existence is an act of defiance. They represent the claimed spaces of people who often live outside the margins of mainstream society. Perhaps the best known of these is the Stonewall Inn; the 1969 police raid at that New York City bar helped spark massive social and political gay mobilization.

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Even Republicans agree: Trump failed his first leadership test miserably

    Donald Trump responded to the Orlando shooting with a massive display of what he likes to call "strength." That simply has to work, right? After all, people are frightened, so they'll gravitate towards whichever candidate more persuasively promises to smash the enemy -- both without and within -- while ignoring the flouting of American values embedded in the details, right? That's Trump's explicit bet.

    But Politico reports Tuesday morning that even Republicans think that Trump's response to the shooting is profoundly problematic. What's important about this report, though, is that Republicans say that his response was worrisome both in terms of the substance and in terms of the politics.

    Republicans tell Politico that Trump failed what is known as the "desk test," i.e., whether his behavior inspires voters to confidently picture Trump in the Oval Office during a time of crisis. Others worry that Trump's post-Orlando behavior raises doubts about whether he understands the president's role. And on the substance, the blowback was even worse:

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