Archive

April 25th, 2016

New York douses the Bern

    As we all expected, Hillary Clinton's victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the New York primary was resounding. What was not expected, to me at least, was how the exit polls reveal how the Empire State became a firewall against "the Bern."

    Sanders's call for a political revolution to create jobs, make the economy work for everyone, not just the one percent, and end the corrupting influence of money on politics should have found fertile ground in New York state. The thousands who rallied with the Vermont senator in Washington Square Park, Prospect Park and Hunter's Point South Park seemed to be evidence that "the Bern" was spreading in Hillary's home state.

    And then folks voted.

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National fetish is double-barrel menace

    The current Texas Monthly is a special issue – a .38 Special, if you will. It's about guns.

    Page after page, see and hear about Texans and their rods. A cover shot and photo gallery show people and their beloved rifles, carbines and sidearms. See former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson pose with his Colt .45 like one might a trophy walleye. If one could peer down that barrel, you'd bet one could see into the man's soul.

    Artist Matthew Diffee depicts what he saw and heard at a San Antonio gun show. One quote: "We sell freedom implements and other bunker supplies."

    Ah, freedom. In a bunker.

    I understand how a few readers might see it differently, but one must ask how this form of fetishism took root.

    After all, a firearm is an appliance that shoots a projectile. I have a toaster. It shoots toast.

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Getting to the Point

    Food writer Michael Pollan once jammed the essence of his work into seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His brevity inspired me as the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service that distributes opinion pieces and editorial cartoons.

    Most writers struggle to make their big ideas fit in today’s petite newspaper op-ed sections. Digital spaces are similarly constrained by shrinking attention spans.

    So keeping things short is essential. Given that reality — and with apologies to Pollan — here’s what I think it takes to dish up enticing opinion pieces: Cultivate opinions. From authentic voices. With some shelf life.

    I mean cultivation in every sense of the word. Op-ed editors win writers over by tilling partnerships, planting the seeds of friendship, and making the text they touch sing.

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Candidates, please stop whining

    Now that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have scored their comfortable victories in the New York primary, can everybody please stop bellyaching? Neither party's presidential selection system is perfect, as several candidates have been loudly proclaiming, but each has more virtues than shortcomings.

    Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have complained that the rules are rigged against them. The billionaire is unhappy because his nomination isn't inevitable even though he's gotten far more votes than any Republican rival. The Vermont senator is cranky about superdelegates -- more than 700 party and elected officials who will go to the Democrats' Philadelphia convention in July without having been chosen in primaries or caucuses. They're free to back any candidate, and most of them favor the former secretary of State -- a fact that Sanders sees as evidence that the establishment has stacked the deck against him.

    Both charges are specious. For starters, nobody's rules have changed since the candidates entered the fray.

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Cameron Is Cornered

    It’s said that there’s nothing more vicious than a wild animal that’s cornered. I’d add that there’s nothing more devious than a top corporate or political official caught in a hypocritical scandal.

    Witness the huge menagerie of political critters who’ve recently been backed into a corner by the Panama Papers — a trove of leaked documents revealing billionaires, rich celebrities, corporate chieftains, and seemingly pious public officials who’ve hidden their wealth and dodged their taxes by stashing their cash in foreign tax havens.

    Of course, we’ve known for a while that tax dodging is a common plutocratic scam. But the details from the leaked files of an obscure Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca now gives us names to shame.

    One is David Cameron, the prime minister of Britain. He’s loudly declaimed tax sneaks in public, but — oops — it turns out that his own super-rich father was a Mossack Fonseca client. The Conservative Party leader himself has profited from the stealth wealth he inherited from his dad’s secret stash.

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Box CEO: Why the latest attempt by Congress on cybersecurity is already outdated

    When the news broke that the FBI and the DOJ dropped their case against Apple, successfully cracking open the San Bernardino iPhone without the help of the consumer electronics giant, there was a collective sigh of relief from the technology industry and security experts. Apple avoided a precedent-setting event requiring them to break their own security, and the government was able to unlock a device that may lead to advances in their investigation. But if anyone thought this issue was concluded, they'd be mistaken.

    Recently, draft legislation from Sens. Diane Feinstein and Richard Burr directed at addressing the Apple vs. FBI controversy circulated in the media. The bill would require technology companies to build "backdoors" to the encryption within their products for law enforcement agencies. Feinstein and Burr have taken the the first step in what will no doubt be a contentious and important debate. But instead of doubling down on applying the existing laws and norms we have operated under in the physical world for the past 200 years, we need to redefine them based on the increasingly digital world that we live in today.

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Bernie's Time In The Spotlight Is Almost Over

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself -- from whence my people emigrated after 1880. Picturesque, 18th-century harbor untouched by modern commerce -- the British made sure that the industrial revolution never happened in what's now the Irish Republic -- great walks, terrific restaurants, friendly, talkative people, and regular ferry service from nearby Cork City to Normandy.

    But, alas, no baseball, no Arkansas Razorbacks, and chilly, rainy weather. My wife would get lonely without her small army of girlfriends and their complicated problems to sort. Also, what would become of the dozens of animals that wait expectantly for me to feed them every afternoon? Properly vaccinated cats are welcome in Ireland, but cows?

    Anyway, like the dread specter of President Trump, it's only a fantasy. I'm too old to start a new life in the Old Country. Sufficiently aged to run for president in the current cycle, although younger than Bernie Sanders.

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An unpopularity contest for the ages

    The 2016 presidential election is shaping up as an unpopularity contest of unprecedented proportions.

    Assuming, as now appears most likely, that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz becomes the Republican nominee, the general-election ballot is set to feature a choice between two candidates more negatively viewed than any major-party nominee in the history of polling.

     Trump is, by far, the furthest underwater:  The latest Wall Street Journal-NBC poll puts his net favorability rating at minus-41. A breathtaking 65 percent of registered voters see him negatively, versus 24 percent with a positive view, making him the most unpopular major party presidential candidate ever recorded.   Cruz is at minus-23, with 49 percent viewing him negatively, 26 percent in a positive light.

    To underscore the challenge facing the GOP, neither candidate has been viewed more positively than negatively by voters since the start of the campaign.

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A bill that fails refugees and religion

    South Carolina became a pioneer in providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing religious persecution with the March 1, 1669, Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina protecting the rights of "Jews, heathens, and other dissenters from the purity of Christian religion." This included a Charleston community of Sephardic Jews, who finally found sanctuary after generations of roaming the globe following their expulsion from Spain.

    The document, co-authored by John Locke, was revolutionary. It helped to form the philosophical bedrock that laid the foundation for the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the American tradition of serving as a refuge for the persecuted.

    In the coming days, however, South Carolina could go in a different direction, this time pioneering dangerous and misguided legislation that would create a hostile environment for refugees, pressuring them - and the faith-based groups that help them - to "self-deport" from the state.

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April 24th

How South Carolina could fail refugees and religion

    South Carolina became a pioneer in providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing religious persecution with the March 1, 1669, Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina protecting the rights of "Jews, heathens, and other dissenters from the purity of Christian religion." This included a Charleston community of Sephardic Jews, who finally found sanctuary after generations of roaming the globe following their expulsion from Spain.

    The document, co-authored by John Locke, was revolutionary. It helped to form the philosophical bedrock that laid the foundation for the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the American tradition of serving as a refuge for the persecuted.

    In the coming days, however, South Carolina could go in a different direction, this time pioneering dangerous and misguided legislation that would create a hostile environment for refugees, pressuring them - and the faith-based groups that help them - to "self-deport" from the state.

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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