Archive

July 22nd, 2016

Making mug shots public is a cost of democracy

    A federal appeals court has ruled that the public has no right to see arrestees' mug shots, reversing a ruling that has been in place for 20 years. The case pits the individual's interest in privacy against the public's interest in getting all the information it can about an arrest, which is the quintessential public government act. My heart says the court got it right. But my head says that in a functioning democracy, government actions need to be open to scrutiny, even at the cost of permanent embarrassment to some of the government's targets.

    The case was decided by all the members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, sitting to reconsider their own precedent. In 1996, the court interpreted the Freedom of Information Act to require disclosure of booking photos. The ruling applied to all federal arrests in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, the court's jurisdiction. Because FOIA is a law that affects the federal government only, the court's ruling didn't apply to local or state police.

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In coup's aftermath, new rifts between US and Turkey

    The Obama administration has spent years feuding with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the White House quickly condemned this weekend's coup attempt and made clear that it believed Erdogan - whatever his faults - was the legitimate leader of his country and needed to be returned to power as quickly as possible.

    That may not be enough to prevent the failed coup from emerging as the latest strain in Washington's chilly relationship with one of its closest regional allies.

    The United States has long wanted Erdogan to do more to fight the Islamic State and moderate his increasingly authoritarian tendencies, but the coup attempt seems likely to push Erdogan in the opposite direction. Turkish officials, for their part, have blamed the coup on Fethullah Gulen, a 75-year-old cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, and hinted that Washington was somehow complicit in the attempted putsch, charges the White House has angrily denied.

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How the defeated coup in Turkey could weaken democracy there

    What is worse than an ever-more-authoritarian regime that constantly aims to crush a robust civil society? The answe emerged bluntly in Turkey on Friday night: to have your army pointing its guns at you. To have your army bombing the parliament building. To have a military takeover.

    Turkey has experienced its share of coups d'etat since the 1960s, and the nation knows very well the atrocities that follow such an intervention and the damage they cause to democratic structure. But we have never seen anything like this past week's coup attempt: It bore none of the hallmarks of previous military attempts to seize power.

    There is a saying in Turkey: "to wake up to the noise of an army tank," referring to a midnight military takeover. This latest attempt, though, began on a Friday during rush hour, with jets flying low in Ankara and gendarmerie closing down the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul. It did not seem to be planned thoroughly from the start, as communication continued to flow through social media and broadcast television.

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Hispanics loathe Donald Trump. Like, a lot. But enough to vote?

    At a panel of communications professionals from all over the world at the Open Society Foundations last week, I advised the gathered to keep an eye out for polls from Hispanic media outlets. Doing this would give them a more accurate view of where this vital voting bloc stands in the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Little did I know Univision Noticias would release a survey that has nothing but bad news for the Republican Party and the man it is set to nominate in Cleveland this week.

    According to the poll of 1,000 registered Hispanic voters, if the election were held today only 19 percent would vote for the Big Apple billionaire. His unfavorable rating is a stunning 77 percent. And a whopping 73 percent "believe that Donald Trump is racist."

    No one should be surprised by these findings.

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July 21st

Why Mike Pence said 'yes' to Donald Trump

    Why Mike Pence said 'yes' to Donald Trump. 760 words, by Chris Cillizza (Post).

    As I watched Donald Trump "introduce" Mike Pence - and by that I mean talk about himself for 30 minutes - I just kept thinking: Why did the Indiana governor agree to this?

    After all, it's not possible Pence didn't know what he was getting into. By this point, Trump is a known commodity in GOP circles. You know what you are getting.

    So, why then? Why put yourself so close to someone who has shown little regard for the party he will lead in a matter of days and even less regard for any politician not named "Donald Trump"?

    Here's what I came up with:

    1. Pence wanted out of Indiana.

    Pence returned to his home state to run for governor in 2012 with a clear eye on it being a more effective launching pad for his national ambitions than a congressional seat - even one in which Pence was part of the GOP leadership.

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Free speech in peril both far and near

    Has there been a more troubling time for free expression worldwide than right now?

    I can't remember one. Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has the numbers to back that up. The number of journalists, worldwide, in prison or killed while doing their jobs is at its highest since his organization began keeping records in 1992.

    "This is the worst moment for journalists in recent history - and perhaps ever," Simon told me this weekend. The most dangerous places are conflict zones, like Syria, and countries with repressive regimes, like Turkey.

    When journalists are endangered, you can be sure that free expression is under siege.

    The attempted coup in Turkey put a bright light on the perils: One Turkish photojournalist was killed. Other media people were forced, at gunpoint, to read a statement over the air.

    And then there's what's happening in the United States, which sees itself as a stronghold of free expression.

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France has had more than its share of terrorist attacks

    On Bastille Day 2015, my family and I walked over to the banks of the Saône river in Lyon to watch the fireworks with thousands of the city's residents. I only briefly noticed the metal barricades blocking the street set up next to the French fry stands.

    France was still recovering from the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher massacres. The Lyon region had just been the site of a decapitation and a truck-based attack on a gas factory. In previous years, there had been attacks in cities such as Toulouse, Tours, Dijon, and Nantes. But most were aimed at Jews or members of the police or military. Most people in France still felt safe from direct violence.

    The events in Nice are a horrific reminder that, in reality, everyone in France is a target. While it is not the only country in the region to have experienced terrorist acts in recent years, France has suffered more frequently than neighbors like Britain, Germany, Italy, or Spain. Why has France been the focus of so much jihadist violence within Europe?

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Failed Turkish coup holds lessons for Putin

    The failed coup d'etat against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was avidly watched in Russia -- not just because Erdogan and his authoritarian twin, President Vladimir Putin, have recently restored relations after the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey in November, but because many wondered if Putin himself could become the target of a coup attempt and if he could survive it.

    "Watch how it can be, with Erdogan as an example," Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian TV personality and one-time anti-Putin opposition figure, tweeted in the early hours of Saturday as the Turkish coup unfolded.

    The projection of the Turkish events onto Russia is only natural. Like Erdogan, Putin has appealed to Russians' conservative, non-European values. Like Erdogan, he has consolidated personal power over a long rule unconstrained by constitutional term limits. Like Erdogan, he has moved to suppress the freedoms of speech and assembly and initiated tough "anti-terrorism" laws that make it hard to oppose him. And like Erdogan, he has struck at nonprofit organizations as "foreign agents" working against his regime.

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Evangelical support for Trump was preordained

    Will Mike Pence help Donald Trump win over Christian conservatives?

    White evangelical voters who are put off by Trump's misogyny, racism or astonishing business ethics won't be swayed by the addition to the ticket of a conservative Midwesterner fleeing from his own political problems.

    And the millions of Christian conservatives who aren't put off? Trump has already won their devotion: He had them at "Hell, no."

    As the Pew Research Center reported last week, white evangelicals are "even more strongly supportive of Trump than they were of Mitt Romney at a similar point in the 2012 campaign." More than three quarters -- 78 percent -- of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump, and about one third back his campaign "strongly."

    As a model of Christian virtue, Trump is less than ideal. But most Christian conservatives aren't looking for a virtuous lamb. They want a street fighter -- the more aggressive the better.

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Declaring "war" on terror misses the real problem

    Last week, another deranged young man went on a rampage, killing 84 people in the French city of Nice. A French lawyer who had earlier defended Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel in an assault case described his wife-beating, French-Tunisian client as "a classic delinquent." Intelligence officials say that if Bouhlel was radicalized by Islamist propaganda, the process took place only very recently and very rapidly.

    Nevertheless, the leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, quickly called for a war against Islamic fundamentalism. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy asserted that "nothing can be as it was" in the war against "Islamist terrorism." French President Francois Hollande, who has already declared a "pitiless war," declared that France would "reinforce our action in Syria and Iraq." French Prime Minister Manuel Valls claimed that the killer was "a terrorist probably linked to radical Islam one way or another."

    In recent years, all too many psychotic delinquents around the world have been linked to radical Islam "one way or another." But should such tenuous connections determine something as grave and unpredictable as war?

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