Archive

June 12th, 2016

I'm Mexican-American, and I was a judge. What Trump is doing is appalling.

    The people of the United States are increasingly diverse in our religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. While we still struggle with discrimination, we have learned to live respecting one another.

    This respect has taken many decades to achieve, yet it can be fragile, particularly when political leaders challenge it. Our common progress has been jarred by Donald Trump's demeaning of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel based on his ethnicity. Trump has responded to disappointment in the courtroom with bitter vitriol on the campaign trail: He says his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border poses an inherent conflict of interest for the judge. Trump branded Curiel a "hater" and "very hostile" and noted that he was "Mexican." And he called Curiel to recuse himself from an ongoing class-action lawsuit over Trump's failed Trump University, after the judge issued several rulings against Trump in the litigation. (On Tuesday, Trump said his remarks were "misconstrued," though he did not apologize.)

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How the class-action system works (and doesn't)

    Class-action lawsuits are necessary as a way to police corporations -- but there's always a chance that they'll be settled in an effort to keep a company's dirty laundry from being aired.

    In a decision Tuesday that polices the policing mechanism, an appeals court reversed an order to permanently seal the records of a particularly embarrassing class action brought against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The decision was correct -- and also a warning to lawyers against exploiting a range of pitfalls in the legal system.

    The case arose from a classic abuse of power by Michigan's largest health insurer. At the time of the events that formed the basis of the class-action suit, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan had more than a 60% market share of commercial healthcare in the state.

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Hillary Clinton's victory speech, translated

    (Clinton climbs to the mizzenmast and emits an hour-long sigh of relief.)

    FINALLY.

    FINALLY.

    Wow, America.

    Can you believe that, this whole time, I was a woman? I barely noticed it, frankly. It turns out that this might have been a historic candidacy, this whole time! I know, right?

    But this campaign is not about the fact that I am a woman, although I am. Or the fact that there LITERALLY HAVE BEEN ZERO FEMALE PRESIDENTS BEFORE, so, if elected, I would be the first lady president, a historic milestone that has never happened. Although that, too, is true. (Not the first lady. I have already been that, and that was something different.) I don't want to stress this too much, but HISTORY IS HAPPENING IN BROOKLYN, AND WE JUST HAPPEN TO BE IN THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, and you can get a free magnet that says HISTORY MADE on it and also coincidentally has my face.

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First female nominee? Yawn.

    A female presidential candidate has clinched a major-party nomination for the first time in U.S. history. No one seems to care - at least not many people in my millennial generation. Not even women, although they should.

    Maybe my cohort is caught up in the moment of Donald Trump: Millennial liberals may think it's more vital to ward off an age of authoritarianism than to usher in a new era for feminism. Certainly, we've been distracted by Bernie Sanders: For idealistic young voters, a rabble-rousing revolutionary feels more alluring than a political pragmatist, even one with two X chromosomes.

    College campuses buzz these days with talk of "intersectionality," the notion that different forms of discrimination interact and overlap. So to many voters of my generation, being a woman alone might not seem like enough, if you're also white, straight, rich and, by the way, a Clinton.

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Did the media overstep by crowning Clinton the nominee?

    The chorus of criticism over the media's coronation of Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee Monday night was ferocious in some corners and measured in others. But at its core the issue was: How dare they?

    Glenn Greenwald, never one to pull punches, described it on the Intercept as elitist and undemocratic. Michael Tracey, a columnist for Vice, tweeted: "The nomination was declared clinched based on unverifiable info that reporters obtained from operatives whose identities were concealed."

    And Bill Mitchell of Poynter.org, the journalism-education center, had warned earlier: "Clinton's current overwhelming support among superdelegates ... should not be used to support declarations like Clinton clinching, crossing the threshold or any other lingo suggesting it's all over."

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California's warning to Trump-led Republicans

    Is Donald Trump damaging the Republican Party or destroying it? The answer depends on whether the GOP will be able to evolve into a multi-racial majority party after Trump's campaign is finished. Given the scope of his personal foibles -- bigotry, sexism, policy ignorance, political incompetence, habitual dishonesty, etc., etc., etc. -- the question perhaps seems academic right now.

    Yet if you happen to be a different Republican politician, one who'd like to be president someday, or to hold office in a state with an emerging nonwhite majority, it might concern you. If Trump's effect proves fatal, after all, those nice things might not happen for you in this lifetime.

    Bloggers Keith Humphrey and Kevin Drum both looked recently to California for clues about the GOP's fate. In 1994, Gov. Pete Wilson, R, supported the state's Proposition 187, which sought to restrict access by undocumented immigrants to public services, including non-emergency health care and public education.

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As Clinton makes history, remember the women whose talents America wasted

    Tuesday morning, after the Associated Press had called the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton, and before the round of primaries that put her over the top with pledged delegates Tuesday night, I sent out a call for readers favorite fictional female presidents, now that this particular fantasy is a step closer to becoming an American reality.

    The results only served to illustrate how shallow our dreams of female leadership have tended to run. People overwhelmingly cited Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), the secretary of education who becomes president when humanity comes under devastating attack in the science fiction series "Battlestar Galactica," with a few votes for Geena Davis, who played a vice president who also ascends to the top job when the president dies, albeit under entirely normal circumstances, in "Commander in Chief."

    And as I waited for election results to roll in across the country on Tuesday, I found myself thinking less of fictional women who have led their societies and more about talented women of both history and invention who were destined to rise only as high as, and in tandem with, their husbands.

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What parents can learn from the Stanford sexual assault case

    I have two young boys. My husband and I are trying to raise them to be good, kind people. I bet Brock Turner's parents thought they were doing - had done - the same.

    But reading Turner's father's letter asking the judge who sentenced his son to six months for sexual assault for leniency, it makes one wonder: We're raising our kids, but are our eyes wide open? What are we raising them for?

    We're not parenting for empathy, according to Michele Borba, author of the new book "UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World."

    "We need to push the pause button and say 'What kind of kid do I really want to raise?' " Borba says. "It's over very quickly, there's no rewind button."

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June 11th

Hey, Trump -- Justice Frankfurter was 'ethnic' too

    Donald Trump's claim that a Mexican-American judge would be biased against him has put the topic of judicial ethnicity front and center. So it's worth pausing to consider the most important - and controversial - discussion of the significance of a judge's ethnic or religious background in the history of Supreme Court opinions.

    That would be this declaration by Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1943:

    "As judges, we are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Catholic nor agnostic. We owe equal attachment to the Constitution, and are equally bound by our judicial obligations whether we derive our citizenship from the earliest or the latest immigrants to these shores."

    Before you get excited about using Frankfurter's oratory as a rebuttal to Trump, consider this: He prefaced the statement with a profession of his Jewishness that his colleagues tried to suppress. And he did all this in a dissent that argued that Jehovah's Witnesses shouldn't be exempt from pledging allegiance to the flag.

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What Hillary Imagines

    Hillary Clinton. First woman presidential nominee.

    OK, of a major political party. We’re not going into the minor-party exceptions since that would require a lengthy discussion of Victoria Woodhull in 1872. Under normal circumstances, Woodhull would certainly be worth talking about, given the faith healing and the brokerage firm and the obscenity trial. But this is Hillary’s moment.

    “It’s really emotional,” Clinton said in a speech this week. Clinton brings up the first-woman thing a lot, and the idea of showing little girls that they can be “anything you want to be. Even President of the United States.” For many young women, that’s actually old news, since Hillary the potential president has been around most of their lives. Back when she was first elected to the Senate in 2000, the coverage was so omnipresent that my niece Anna, who was around 3, asked my sister whether it was possible for a man to be a senator.

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