Archive

April 20th, 2016

Trump Family Values

    Donald Trump gazed upon his infant daughter, Tiffany, and wondered about the kind of future she’d inherit, the sort of person she’d grow up to be.

    Would her world be a safe one? Would she find happiness?

    At least I’m assuming that he asked himself those questions. I know that he asked this one: Would she have large breasts?

    He did that on television, in 1994, when he appeared on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and was quizzed about how Tiffany resembled him and how she took after her mother, Marla Maples, who sat next to him.

    “She’s got Marla’s legs,” he said, in a video clip shown recently on “The Daily Show.” Then he moved his hands toward his chest, cupped them and added: “We don’t know whether or not she’s got this part yet, but time will tell.”

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The End of Catholic Guilt

    Comedian George Carlin used to say that he was a Roman Catholic “until I reached the age of reason.” For Carlin, that happened sometime in the eighth grade, when all his probing questions about faith were answered with, “well, it’s a mystery.” Of course, as a lifelong contrarian, Carlin also wondered if it was OK for a vegetarian to eat animal crackers.

    I thought of him while reading the latest institution-shifting document from Pope Francis, “Amoris Laetitia” — the Joy of Love. The title sets the tone for the continuation of a quiet revolution. Note that it’s not called the Job of Love, the Duty of Love or the Unbearable Burden of Love. Instead, the pope implies that there’s considerable fun to be had in human relationships. You can even find in its 256 pages a mention of the “erotic dimension” of love and “the stirring of desire.” Yes, sex. The pope approves of it, in many forms.

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How to clean up a cover-up culture

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's reaction to a new report by a police accountability task force that he appointed displayed a keen grasp of the obvious.

    "The question isn't, 'Do we have racism?' " he said. "We do. The question is, 'What are you going to do about it?' "

    What to do about racism in the Chicago Police Department is a far from new question. Nor is it one to ask Chicago alone, as we have seen in the controversial deaths of black men in police encounters in Cleveland, New York City, Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., among others.

    Emanuel created the task force, led by prosecutors and other experts, in December after the city released a video -- after more than a year of fighting FOIA requests -- that directly contradicted official police accounts of the death of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

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Clinton, Sanders trade blows at the brawl in Brooklyn

    The gloves were off the other night in the latest debate between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The verbal slugfest confirmed not only their personal dislike, but also their basic disagreement on how each proposes to govern if elected in November.

    Amid glares and charges of radicalism vs. incrementalism, Clinton accused Sanders of trying to launch a real political revolution. He responded by saying she offered the old piecemeal approach to change, especially in health care reform and foreign policy, by generally defending President Obama.

    Sanders continued his assault on her as a well-financed tool of Wall Street. She doubled down on him as soft on the gun industry and the National Rifle Association, as Tuesday's New York primary approached with its prize of 247 convention delegates that could be decisive.

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Nothing new about Sanders complaint that primary process 'distorts reality

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont recently said his party's presidential primary process "distorts reality." Specifically, Sanders criticized the timing of the Democrats' primary schedule, which front-loads a considerable number of Southern state primary contests. In Sanders's view, this schedule's problem lies in the fact that states unlikely to vote Democratic in the general election have provided a series of early successes for his rival Hillary Clinton.

    Sanders's criticism raises a question: If a political party is not really competitive in a state, why would that party give that state a role in selecting its presidential nominee? A little history tells us why.

    Sanders is not the first politician to complain about the influence of "non-competitive states" in the presidential-nomination process. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Republican Party was almost entirely shut out of the then-Democratic "Solid South," leaders from the Northeast frequently complained about Southern representation at the GOP national conventions.

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April 19th

I'm an environmental reporter from Flint. Even I ignored the water crisis story.

    I shouldn't have missed the story of lead-contaminated water in Flint, Mich.

    Not because I'm an environmental reporter, but because my mom told me what was happening there and I didn't listen.

    I tell people's stories for a living. Our team at the Center for Public Integrity spent most of 2015 looking for examples of environmental discrimination - communities of color that sat next to sewage plants, pesticide-covered fields or noxious landfills. Places where people went to meeting after meeting begging someone for help. Our project detailed the Environmental Protection Agency's limp enforcement of one mechanism to address discrimination: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Before I worked on it, I didn't realize how easy it is to ignore those fighting to be heard.

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States boycotting states is not the answer

    Last month, President Obama returned from Cuba, where he took another step toward normalizing relations with the island nation. In his speech to the Cuban people, the president made the case that engagement is a more powerful agent of change than isolation, even where strong disagreements remain. With his visit, the president continued to chip away at the more-than-50-year U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

    Two days later, Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, laid the foundation for a new embargo. He announced that San Francisco's city workers are banned indefinitely from traveling to North Carolina unless doing so is essential to public health and safety. The embargo is intended to protest North Carolina's new law prohibiting the state's local governments from enacting antidiscrimination rules that protect gay and transgender people and limiting transgender people to bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate. Since then, more cities and states, including the District of Columbia, have announced similar travel bans. Others will likely follow.

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Tax-code reform, not customer service, is the answer to IRS problems

    This probably will beggar belief for the millions of Americans struggling to meet this year's April 18 deadline to file their income tax returns, but the IRS says it has gotten better at handling taxpayer questions. Two years ago, only 38 percent of the taxpayers who called for help got the assistance they needed. Last year, the number went up to 70 percent.

    That the IRS counts this as progress is not exactly reassuring. But it's very much in keeping with the long and vexed history of what is known as "taxpayer assistance." For seven decades, the IRS has struggled to answer questions about the increasingly byzantine tax code. Sometimes it has succeeded; just as often, it has failed.

    It's hard to imagine now, but until about the middle of the 20th century, relatively few people filled out Form 1040. The IRS -- then known as the Bureau of Internal Revenue -- did little outreach, and when it did, the rare taxpayers who sought assistance actually spoke with deputy collectors of internal revenue, relatively high-ranking government officials who probably knew the tax code inside and out.

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John Kasich is still here, you guys!

    It is getting to be awfully late, and John Kasich is still here.

    At first it seemed fine. Florida was fun. Even Ohio was fun. Everyone running around, debating, placing ads everywhere, fighting for votes. But when Donald Trump said that he was going to take the campaign back toward his place (New York) -- maybe stopping by Wisconsin on the way, if people had delegates and wanted to join him -- Marco Rubio took the hint and made a tactful exit.

    Not Kasich.

    Now the popcorn is gone, the movie is over, Ted Cruz is staring at his watch on one end of the couch, Trump is staring at his watch on the other end -- and Kasich is still here, smiling contentedly with his feet propped up on the coffee table.

    Nothing that has been tried on him has worked. Articles have been handed to him with headlines such as"John Kasich: The Candidate Who Wouldn't Leave?" and "Kasich is a proven loser who should drop out." Kasich has settled deeper into the couch and read all of them.

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Donald Trump's green record has left no trace

    Let's tame at least one legend in Donald Trump's mind - his self-proclaimed status as an environmental hero.

    "I've won many environmental awards,"the Republican presidential front-runner said on CNN's "New Day"on Sept. 24. He made the claim while criticizing Pope Francis's call for action on climate change in an address to a joint meeting of Congress.

    "I've gotten so many awards for the environment," Trump said during a speech in Des Moineson Dec. 11. "I understand the environment; I've won many, many awards."

    "I think that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change," Trump said on Jan. 18, two days before NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 2015 was the hottest year on record. "I've received many environmental awards."

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