Archive

September 20th, 2016

That time when 'that time when' took over the Internet

    In March, Taylor Swift posted some photos from her trip to an undisclosed tropical location with then-boyfriend Calvin Harris. One caption read, "That time we finally took a vacation." This summer, Swift went on another jaunt with a new boyfriend and a group of girlfriends. Elle covered the resulting high jinks with a piece titled, "That Time Cara Delevingne Scared he Sh*t out of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston."

    The expressions "that time I" and "that time when" have bubbled up all over the Internet, in headlines, in promotions and on social media. Just recently, there was "That Time When Johnny Depp Looked Just Like Justin Bieber," "That Time I Stumped a Gallup Pollster," "That Time I Came Face to Face With an Anti-Semite" and "That time I tried to be a stripper . . . but pepper-sprayed myself in the face."

    It's a strange construction, one that doesn't make much sense. Why wouldn't Swift just write, "We finally took a vacation?" Why tack on an unnecessary grammatical flourish?

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Of course Clinton went to work sick. That's the American way.

    As Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton demonstrated when she nearly collapsed from the effects of walking pneumonia early this week, the benefits of running for elected office may include many things, but sick days are not among them.

    This is perhaps unavoidable in light of the fact that the job of actually being an elected official doesn't allow for much rest and recuperation, either - see, for instance, John F. Kennedy plowing ahead despite crippling back pain and Addison's disease, which he wanted to conceal from the public; and George H.W. Bush ignoring a doctor's advice in 1992 to stay in bed rather than attend a state dinner in Japan, with the result being that he vomited on the Japanese prime minister. "The president is human," Bush's physician told reporters at the time. "He gets sick."

    Going to work sick is not just a function of political work, however, or even of merely being human - it is a profoundly American behavior.

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Obama’s Trickle-Up Economics

    Only serious nerds like me eagerly await the annual Census Bureau reports on income, poverty and health insurance. But the just-released reports on 2015 justified the anticipation.

    We expected good news; but last year, it turns out, the economy partied like it was 1999. And this tells us something very important — namely, that a government that wants to can make American society more equitable, improving the quality of life for ordinary families.

    The reports showed strong progress on three fronts: rapid growth in the incomes of ordinary families — median income rose a remarkable 5.2 percent; a substantial decline in the poverty rate; and a significant further rise in health insurance coverage after 2014’s gains. It was a trifecta that we haven’t hit since, yes, 1999.

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America the Plunderer

    Because he’s being graded on a doofus curve that is unprecedented in presidential politics, Donald Trump said more than a dozen outrageous, scary or untrue things in the past 10 days and got away with all of them. But with at least one statement, marking a profound shift in how the United States would interact with the rest of the world, Trump should be shamed back to his golden throne.

    He wants the United States to become a nation that steals from its enemies. He’s called for war crimes — killing family members of terrorists, torturing suspects. He would further violate the Geneva Conventions by making thieves out of a first-class military.

    “It used to be to the victor belong the spoils,” Trump complained to the compliant Matt Lauer in the now infamous commander-in-chief forum. Oh, for the days when Goths, Vandals and Nazis were free to rape, pillage and plunder. So unfair, as Trump said on an earlier occasion, that we have “all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight.”

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A basket of deplorables

    It's already earned a permanent slot in the Clintonian political lexicon, right up there with "vast right-wing conspiracy." The newest addition: "basket of deplorables."

    That's the phrase Hillary Clinton famously used to describe Donald Trump supporters at a New York fundraiser last week, trying to answer the question everyone's asking: "Since Donald Trump's so manifestly unqualified to be president, who are these people supporting him?"

    Trump immediately accused her of showing "true contempt for everyday Americans" and argues that calling them "deplorables" alone should disqualify her from the race. (Which, considering the cascade of insults he's spewed forth, is LOL.) While his running mate Mike Pence insists: "Hillary, they are not a basket of anything. They are Americans and they deserve your respect."

    Whatever you think of Trump supporters, Hillary only made two mistakes in calling them "deplorables." First, she shouldn't have done so in the first place. As a candidate, her job is to talk about the issues, not to denigrate anybody else's potential voters.

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Trump's foreign policy is a scary black hole

    Imagine that the first crisis facing the next president would be a seizure by China of the Scarborough Shoal, a coral atoll off the Philippines in the South China Sea.

    How would a President Donald Trump respond? Perhaps he would assemble his new generals to come up with a 30-day plan to attack China. Or maybe he'd say, "They can have him; I hate that guy," confusing the strategically situated potential Chinese Naval base with the morning television host, Joe Scarborough, with whom he has a bitter feud.

    What's remarkable is that seven weeks before election day, so little is known about the Republican presidential nominee's foreign policy. He has given only a couple of perfunctory speeches on the topic and on the stump reverts to cliches and bluster.

    From the end of World War II through the Cold War, a presidential candidate had to persuade voters that he was credible on foreign policy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, foreign affairs became a secondary political issue for three elections. But the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars made it important again.

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Sorry, 'deplorables': Being called racist doesn't mean you're being oppressed

    If you want to insult white folks in 2016, call them racist.

    Apparently, it's akin to being called the n-word, slandered or victimized. Just ask Maine's Republican governor, Paul LePage, Donald Trump or the many conservatives who seem to think that being identified as a racist is worse than actually being one.

    These days, a lot of white people are feeling victimized and discriminated against, even though they're not actually being systemically victimized and discriminated against because of their race. In one breath, they will deny that racism exists, only to cry "reverse racism" in the next breath. To racists, the real meaning of reverse racism is having to treat people of color fairly and with respect - to the point where it just feels uncomfortable.

    The latest example of this dynamic came in the presidential campaign. At a fundraiser Friday, Hillary Clinton said that "half" of Trump's campaign is attracted to his message because of their shared racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia. She called them "irredeemable" and a "basket of deplorables."

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Obama's moral compromises

    From Buenos Aires to Hiroshima, President Barack Obama has spoken of the harm done abroad as a result of his predecessors' foreign policy decisions.

    The most recent instance occurred during his visit last week to tiny Laos, where he reviewed the destruction wrought by U.S. bombing of that country during the wars in Southeast Asia nearly half a century ago. "Countless civilians were killed," he lamented.

    Republican critics in this country have derided these "apology tours," but that's not fair. Obama has generally stuck to passive-voice formulations, as he did in Laos, and avoided explicit apology.

    Still, the moralizing comes through, which raises a question: Just how different is Obama's conduct from that of the past presidents whose judgments he reviews today?

    Obama said the U.S. air campaign in Laos - aimed at North Vietnamese communists who were illegally using the neutral country as a supply route to South Vietnam - not only caused massive collateral damage, it was also "a secret war," whose full scope is not widely known "even now."

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Netanyahu has undermined Israel's security

    During the past two years, a sense of gloom has taken over my country, as pride in Israel's accomplishments and self-confidence grounded in reality have given way to fear-mongering, victimhood and internal quarrels.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enabled a militant, nationalist minority to carry out a hostile takeover of his party, Likud; to form a majority in his cabinet; and thus to hijack our national agenda in the service of a messianic drive toward, as it's often put, "a single Jewish state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea." This overarching ambition is bound to culminate in either a single, binational state, which, within a generation, may have a Jewish minority and likely a Bosnia-like civil war, or else an apartheid reality if Palestinian residents are deprived of the right to vote. Both spell doom for the Zionist dream.

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Maybe Clinton should take a bit more time off

    Hillary Clinton will appear in Greensboro, North Carolina, later Thursday, her first event after a couple days' hiatus. She might want to get a doctor's note and take another day, or two, off.

    Less can be more. Once Clinton finally succumbed to matter over mind and took a breather, she inadvertently stumbled on the genuine authenticity that has been so lacking in her campaign. Reporters gradually got over being ticked off that she didn't admit she had pneumonia, given their own penchant for walking around fortified by Z-Packs and Benadryl. Some even betrayed a smidgeon of grudging admiration that she'd powered through. Gritting her teeth and showing up as promised is part of her Best Student in Class essence. On Sept. 11, unable to fake it any longer, she wobbled away from Ground Zero, showing the humanity that her supporters say is there.

    In the few days since, those filling her sensible shoes are doing an excellent job: notably President Barack Obama, out stumping for her to a huge crowd in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, her husband, rusty in 2008, but rested and ready this time, deployed on her behalf his unparalleled arm squeeze and intimate voice that makes people lean in to hear.

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