Archive

December 12th

#You Ain’t No American, Bro

    Two weeks ago, I was in Kuwait participating in an IMF seminar for Arab educators. For 30 minutes, we discussed the impact of technology trends on education in the Middle East. And then an Egyptian education official raised his hand and asked if he could ask me a personal question: “I heard Donald Trump say we need to close mosques in the United States,” he said with great sorrow. “Is that what we want our kids to learn?”

    I tried to assure him that Trump would not be our next president — that America’s commitment to pluralism runs deep. But the encounter was a bracing reminder that what starts in Iowa shows up in Kuwait five minutes later. Trump, by alienating the Muslim world with his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, is acting as the Islamic State’s secret agent. ISIS wants every Muslim in America (and Europe) to feel alienated. If that happens, ISIS won’t need to recruit anyone. People will will just act on their own. ISIS and Islamic extremism are Muslim problems that can only be fixed by Muslims. Lumping all Muslims together as our enemies will only make that challenge harder.

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December 11th

What to Tell Donald Trump

    “You know how you make America great again?” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CNN Tuesday morning. “Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”

    Fine by me.

    But before we give him that send-off, there’s a whole lot else we should tell him, not that he hears anything other than his own voice and the applause of people who mistake a trash-talking bully for a blunt-talking leader.

    We should tell him that we’re on to him. We now fully realize that nothing he says — certainly not this dangerous claptrap about preventing all Muslims from entering the United States — is meant as an earnest proposal, as serious policy.

    No, he’s just an addict whose drug of choice is attention, and he can’t get enough of it. He’s learned that if he presses the lever the right way, with the right provocation, out pops another hit of saturation media coverage, of all Trump all the time.

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That behind-the-scenes climate-change cabal

    The arrival of the Beatles. The Civil Rights Act. LBJ’s rout of Goldwater. All vied for “Biggest Story” of 1964. But another might have eclipsed them all: the Surgeon General’s report definitively linking smoking with cancer.

    Why so big? Well, that year four of 10 American adults smoked. Yes, this cancer thing was big news.

    Now here we are in 2015. You may believe that ISIS is the biggest story in the world, but face it: If most climate scientists are right, the biggest story is bigger than that, with sea-level change, the exhausting of life-giving glaciers -- you know.

    You may not believe all that, but it’s sort of like the smoking debate. Either we are harming ourselves, or . . .

    It’s no big deal.

    It is possible that the nations represented in Paris at the Global Climate Summit, all 190 of them, could be wrong along with just about every scientist who studies the climate full-time?

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Supreme Court justices are not immune to the news

    Monday, just a few days after the shootings in San Bernardino, California, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it won't hear a challenge to a Chicago suburb's ban on semiautomatic weapons. Tuesday, in the wake of a semester's turmoil over race on campuses from Missouri to New Haven, the court is hearing a challenge to affirmative action.

    Coincidence? Well, sort of.

    The court's actions -- refusing to hear the gun challenge while considering affirmative action -- are case studies of judicial timing that raise a broader question: How is the court influenced by day-to-day headlines and current events? The answer turns out to be more complicated, and more interesting, than you might think.

    To start with, it's important to remember that the justices are limited in their actions and case selection by parties' decision to ask them for review. Unlike, say, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which opens cases on its own motion (sua moto, in law Latin), the U.S. court can't actively shape its own agenda.

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Stop Tying Terrorist Attacks to Unrelated Issues

    Traumatic national events often lead promoters of various causes to attempt a product tie-in. The terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, was no exception.

    The agendas may be worthy of support, but trying to Scotch-tape them onto only vaguely related circumstances comes off as phony. This is done across the political spectrum, but in the recent tragedy, the left has gotten especially sloppy.

    Yes, America needs to ban weapons of war and the sale of all guns to crazy people. But the gun control advocates' campaign to make the outrage in San Bernardino about the free flow of guns is disingenuous.

    Gun control laws do not deter terrorists who can make bombs out of common household chemicals. France has strict gun laws, and look at the weaponry the Paris monsters got their hands on. The Sept. 11 hijackers used box cutters. It's not that our uncontrolled flow of guns isn't a serious problem. It's just that it is not this story.

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Obama team weighs cyberwar options on Islamic State

    After the massacre at San Bernardino, President Obama's national security advisers are re-examining when to ask Internet companies to take down jihadi propaganda and social media accounts, according to U.S. officials.

    The issue is not new. Al-Qaida and its franchises have used the Internet systematically for more than a decade. But the Islamic State has flooded social media like Twitter and Facebook to provide future recruits all over the world a steady stream of slickly produced material that encourages the kind of do-it- yourself terrorism that has plagued Europe and the United States in recent years.

    The problem for U.S. policymakers is whether to treat this flood of social media as a cancer that must be eradicated or a source of valuable intelligence on the plots and techniques jihadis use to attack the West.

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Obama fails to deliver in tone. Congress fails to deliver on war against Islamic State.

    President Barack Obama has the impossible job of calming a freaked-out nation while trying to " destroy ISIL (the Islamic State) and any other organization that tries to harm us ," as he vowed in his Oval Office address Sunday night. And he has to do it in a presidential election year when emotions trump facts, red-hot rhetoric passes for policy and rational debate is futile.

    Because said task is impossible, Obama's speech was bound to leave folks unsatisfied. If his tone were an oven setting, it was "pre-heat" while the nation clamors for "broil" in the wake of the Islamic State-inspired slaughter in San Bernadino, Calif., last week and the Islamic State-directed attacks in Paris last month. Predictably, Republicans leapt on the president like so many Agent Smiths on Neo in "The Matrix." But I'm going to focus on only one aspect of the president's address: war.

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Downsizing the News Staff; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

    On Monday, Nov. 2, every National Geographic staffer was told to report to the magazine’s Washington, D.C., headquarters the next day to await a phone call or e-mail from Human Resources.

    Ever since Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox corporation bought the magazine in September, there were rumors the new owner would maximize profits by terminating employees. Those predictions came through when Management fired 180 people, and told dozens of others they were being offered “voluntary buy-outs.” The corporation also announced it was eliminating health coverage for future retirees and was freezing all pensions. Management told the public there would be no loss of quality, but it’s hard to believe those claims when the same management sliced photo editors, designers, writers, and several fact-checkers from the payroll.

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Downsizing the News Staff; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

    On Monday, Nov. 2, every National Geographic staffer was told to report to the magazine’s Washington, D.C., headquarters the next day to await a phone call or e-mail from Human Resources.

    Ever since Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox corporation bought the magazine in September, there were rumors the new owner would maximize profits by terminating employees. Those predictions came through when Management fired 180 people, and told dozens of others they were being offered “voluntary buy-outs.” The corporation also announced it was eliminating health coverage for future retirees and was freezing all pensions. Management told the public there would be no loss of quality, but it’s hard to believe those claims when the same management sliced photo editors, designers, writers, and several fact-checkers from the payroll.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

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The unlikely alliance to reform U.S. prisons

    The most interesting political meeting this week may be the one between Valerie Jarrett, the closest confidante of President Barack Obama, and Mark Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the anti-Obama Koch brothers.

    This will be their fourth meeting. They correspond regularly and have developed a mutual respect while working on the most sweeping reform of the U.S. criminal justice system in decades.

    Addressing the economic and social cost of the huge prison problem -- more than 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, a higher share of the population than almost anywhere else -- is a priority for both the White House and the Kochs.

    The effort is advancing in both houses of Congress; House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell are committed to bringing legislation to the floor.

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