Archive

November 23rd, 2015

Paris terror attacks have become test of who we are

    Once in a great while, a circumstance occurs that poses a clear-cut challenge to our nation and people to demonstrate that we truly are who we say we are. Such is the current public debate over accepting refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, specifically in the wake of the Islamic State terrorist attacks on the people of Paris.

    Standing in New York Harbor to remind us is that long-ago gift from the French people of the Statue of Liberty, whose pedestal quotes the 1883 sonnet of poet Emma Lazarus. She called the lady with the torch "the Mother of Exiles" from whose "beacon hand glows world-wide welcome," who cried "with silent lips, Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

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If tea party is dying, why is Trump winning?

    What happened to the tea party?

    It is in serious decline, according to the 2015 American Values Survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute.

    The proportion of Americans who identify with the tea party movement has declined by nearly half over the last five years, from 11 percent in 2010 to 6 percent today. tea party affiliation has also dropped among Republicans, from 22 percent in 2010 to 14 percent today.

    The PRRI survey, which uses a large sample of 2,695 adults, is widely respected. And it has solid support on this finding: In a Bloomberg Politics poll out this week, only 10 percent of Republicans say they're best described by the tea party label.

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How to win friends and influence refugee policy

    Perhaps you've seen the arguments on social media since the Paris attacks: One faction rants that of coursethe U.S. must take in huge numbers of Syrian refugees, and fast, because of courserefugees are not terrorists. Another faction argues that literally any amount of risk at all is too much. And then there's Donald Trump, whose ideas about how to deal with the potential threat of Islamist terror are making me rethink my longtime ban on the use of the word "fascist" as a pejorative.

    Actually, scratch that. Not "arguments." The posts are not intended to convince anyone. They are to signal tribal loyalties to people who already agree with you, while you marinate in your own sense of moral superiority.

    If these factions want to convince other people, they're going about it all wrong.

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Don't blame Snowden for terror in Paris

    As soon as some picture of the Paris attacks began to come into focus, the debate over Edward Snowden started again. Senior officials are now saying the former contractor's leaks made it harder to catch the perpetrators of the atrocity in France. The known facts so far tell a different story.

    On Monday, CIA director John Brennan said terrorists had practiced more "operational security" after leaks about some intelligence programs. The next day, Politico published an interview with Brennan's predecessor, Michael Morell, who said Snowden's leaks helped contribute to the rise of the Islamic State and that had they not occurred, the West would have had a "fighting chance" to prevent the terror in Paris. Former CIA director James Woolsey over the weekend was more explicit, saying Snowden has "blood on his hands."

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Clinton's real answer to that Wall Street question

    The criticism poured in from friend and foe alike when Hillary Clinton invoked 9/11 on Saturday night to justify Wall Street's generosity to her presidential campaign.

    Yes, it was a weird moment in the Democratic debate. But her real mistake wasn't in clumsily trying to turn the attention to her role as a senator in rebuilding downtown New York after Sept. 11, 2001.

    It was in not using the opportunity to make a stronger case for her proposals to update the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law. With one exception, her reforms go to the heart of what more needs to be done to keep the financial system safe.

    But, first, let's look at how the financial sector spends its money on politicians. Wall Street's contributions, which are by far the largest source of funding for candidates in both parties, have historically swung between favoring Democrats and Republicans.

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America has never actually welcomed the world's huddled masses

    For a growing number of politicians, this month's attacks in Paris mean it's time to stop bringing Syrian refugees to the United States. The risk that the Islamic State might send infiltrators in disguise, the theory goes, outweighs America's usual attitude toward taking in desperate people from around the world. "Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion," House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said Tuesday. "This is a moment where it's better to be safe than to be sorry." By the middle of this past week, more than half the country's governors had declared that their states wouldn't accept any resettled Syrians. Things had changed after Paris.

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The Farce Awakens

    Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the website RedState.com, is a serious power in right-wing circles. Speechifying at RedState’s annual gathering is a rite of passage for aspiring Republican politicians, and Erickson made headlines this year when he disinvited Donald Trump from the festivities.

    So it’s worth paying attention to what Erickson says. And as you might guess, he doesn’t think highly of President Barack Obama’s anti-terrorism policies.

    Still, his response to the attack in Paris was a bit startling. The French themselves are making a point of staying calm, indeed of going out to cafes to show that they refuse to be intimidated. But Erickson declared on his website that he won’t be going to see the new “Star Wars” movie on opening day, because “there are no metal detectors at American theaters.”

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Roanoke, Virginia, mayor goes nativist

    It's truly shameful that xenophobia and ignorance are playing such powerful roles these days in Virginia when it comes to Syrian refugees.

    It gives new meaning to the "No Nothing" movement of nativist Americans who dogged Catholic immigrants in the 19th century.

    Virginians are shocked, as are people everywhere, by the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. That somehow has led Roanoke Virginia Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, to call for blocking any Syrian refugees from coming into his city until "normalcy is restored."

    Adding to the fire, Bowers added incredibly thoughtless allusions to the internment of Japanese Americans, who, although they were U.S. citizens, were forced into concentration camps during World War II. The vast majority were loyal Americans who endured a huge racial insult.

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Obama's critics stop making sense

    The impact of the Paris attacks on the Republican presidential race may turn out to be minimal, especially since the establishment candidates aren't making any more sense than outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

    Theoretically, a deadly rampage by Islamic State terrorists ought to make Republican voters think twice about presidential hopefuls who have zero experience in government and no expertise in foreign or military affairs. But the contenders who hold or held high office are offering little more than bellicose rhetoric and overblown pledges of toughness.

    Not that it's easy to match Trump for hyperbole. "Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country," he said on Twitter. "Who knows who they are -- some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?"

    But Chris Christie, who should know better, went not just over the top but around the bend. He said all Syrian refugees should be turned away, including "orphans under 5." As governor of New Jersey, maybe he'll order a security sweep of the Garden State's elementary school playgrounds.

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November 22nd

The Republicans’ Rhetoric of Hate and Fear

    Fear, laced with paranoia, is driving the American response against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

    President Obama has said he would accept 10,000 refugees, all of them subjected to intense scrutiny before being admitted to the country. France, with a population about one-fifth that of the United States, despite the worst attack on its soil since World War II, will accept 30,000 refugees.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told the Senate, “We are not a nation that delivers children back into the hands of ISIS because some politician doesn’t like their religion.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), a Jew, said the nation should “not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia,” and that when “thousands of people have lost everything—have nothing left but the shirts on their backs—we will not turn our backs on the refugees.”

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