Archive

July 13th, 2016

Dallas and American 'contradictions'

    Some people on the Internet seem to be confused. "In the aftermath of twelve people being tragically shot for no reason in Dallas," they wonder, "how will Black Lives Matter be able to continue being upset about people getting tragically shot for no reason in other places?"

    "How will the Black Lives Matter movement square its criticism of police with this deadly shooting of five police officers?" It doesn't seem hard. Its agenda is "people don't deserve to be shot for no reason" and that the category of "people who don't deserve to be shot for no reason" explicitly includes black people.

    There's no contradiction here.

    Other people are busy being eloquent with grief and rage, but I can at least make some analogies to help explain why this line of thinking is bad. There is such a thing as constructive criticism.

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Can Americans hold ourselves together as a people?

    Without a doubt, we Americans are in a bad way. The senseless deaths this week in Baton Rouge, La., Falcon Heights, Minn., and now Dallas are devastating beyond comprehension for the victims and their families. Each shooting is also an act in a shared national tragedy. The problems go down to the very roots.

    The question of whether as a country we are headed in the right or wrong direction can no longer be answered simply with reference to policy matters such as the economy, education or foreign relations. Instead we face the fundamental question of whether we, the people, as a single people, are holding together and can hold together.

    What has brought us here? You will be skeptical of my answer but in the years since I published a book called "Talking to Strangers," I have been watching the course we were on and I keep coming back to the same answer. I truly believe that the war on drugs is responsible for the level of violence in our cities, the militarization of the police, a concomitant distortion of policing habits and a process of degradation of inner-city minority communities that is now decades-long.

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A more reassuring U.S. jobs report for June

    By beating headline market expectations in a big way, the employment report for June released Friday provides a reassuring assessment of the U.S. labor market and, more generally, the well-being of consumers. It also was encouraging that the labor participation rate ticked up after a steep two-month decline that took it close to multidecade lows. Unfortunately, wage growth remained below what is needed to underpin a more buoyant economic outlook.

    After a surprisingly weak 38,000 jobs added in for May, the U.S. economy created a robust 287,000 in June. This figure provides a solid signal that the poor performance for May was likely to have been an outlier. The small uptick in the labor participation rate to 62.7 percent in June -- especially after the sharp 0.4 percentage point drop in the previous two months -- also was encouraging. But a third key indicator, wage growth, remained sluggish, with only an 0.1 percent monthly increase (or 2.6 percent year-on-year).

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The great email scandal that wasn't

    Pity poor Republicans. For months now, they've clung to their one and only hope of winning the White House. It had nothing to do with the strength of the economy or the state of the world. Nor did it have anything to do with Donald Trump or his pathetic campaign. It was something entirely different.

    Knowing they couldn't count on Trump to win the White House on his own, Republicans placed all their bets instead on their fervent hope that Hillary Clinton would be indicted for her exclusive use of a personal email server while secretary of state. Pity poor Republicans. That hope evaporated completely this week with FBI Director James Comey's surprise announcement that the FBI would recommend to the Justice Department that no charges be filed against Clinton.

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Britain and Blair painfully revisit the invasion of Iraq

    As if our British brethren aren't experiencing enough angst over leaving the European Union, they're now being confronted with looking back at their leaders' decision 13 years ago to partner with the United States in its invasion of Iraq -- arguably the most ill-advised war either country has ever undertaken.

    A seven-year parliamentary inquiry into the origins and wisdom of invading Iraq to topple the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein has emphatically declared it an immense and avoidable folly.

    The British prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, has publicly accepted "full responsibility" for following the American president at the time, George W. Bush, over the cliff into the quagmire that still haunts both countries.

    Both the report and Blair's candid response stand out in sharp contrast to the behavior of his friend George, who by and large has declined to engage in much reflection about taking his country, and the so-called "coalition of the willing," into that war of choice based on unrealistic expectations, poor planning and faulty intelligence.

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All the Nominee’s Enablers

    A couple of weeks ago Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, sort of laid out both a health care plan and a tax plan. I say sort of, because there weren’t enough details in either case to do any kind of quantitative analysis. But it was clear that Ryan’s latest proposals had the same general shape as every other proposal he’s released: huge tax cuts for the wealthy combined with savage but smaller cuts in aid to the poor, and the claim that all of this would somehow reduce the budget deficit thanks to unspecified additional measures.

    Given everything else that’s going on, this latest installment of Ryanomics attracted little attention. One group that did notice, however, was Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan deficit-scold group that used to have substantial influence in Washington.

    Indeed, Fix the Debt issued a statement — but not, as you might have expected, condemning Ryan for proposing to make the deficit bigger. No, the statement praised him. “We are concerned that the policies in the plan may not add up,” the organization admitted, but it went on to declare that “we welcome this blueprint.”

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July 12th

A tragedy beyond color

    Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Both statements must be made true if the heartbreaking loss of life in Dallas is to have any meaning.

    The killing spree that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded should be classified as an act of domestic terrorism. The shooter, identified as 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, apparently believed he was committing an act of political violence. Our duty, to honor the fallen, is to ensure that Johnson's vile and cowardly act has the opposite impact from what he sought.

    Johnson, who was captured on video shooting one officer in the back, was killed when police, who had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate his surrender, sent a robot his way bearing an explosive device. Enough about him, except this one thing: He said he was motivated by hatred over the deaths of two more black men -- Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota -- at the hands of police.

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A Week From Hell

    Last week was yet another week that tore at the very fiber of our nation.

    After two videos emerged showing the gruesome killings of two black men by police officers, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the other in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a black man shot and killed five officers, and wounded nine more people, in a cowardly ambush at an otherwise peaceful protest. The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said, “He was upset about Black Lives Matter” and “about the recent police shootings” and “was upset at white people” and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

    We seem caught in a cycle of escalating atrocities without an easy way out, without enough clear voices of calm, without tools for reduction, without resolutions that will satisfy.

    There is so much loss and pain. There are so many families whose hearts hurt for a loved one needlessly taken, never to be embraced again.

    There is so much disintegrating trust, so much animosity stirring.

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The Clinton Contamination

    It says a lot about our relationship with Hillary Clinton that she seems well on her way to becoming Madam President because she’s not getting indicted.

    If she were still at the State Department, she could be getting fired for being, as the FBI director told Congress, “extremely careless” with top-secret information. Instead, she’s on a glide path to a big promotion.

    And that’s the corkscrew way things go with the Clintons, who are staying true to their reputation as the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of American politics. Their vast carelessness drags down everyone around them, but they persevere, and even thrive.

    In a mere 11 days, arrogant, selfish actions by the Clintons contaminated three of the purest brands in Washington — Barack Obama, James Comey and Loretta Lynch — and jeopardized the futures of Hillary’s most loyal aides.

    It’s quaint, looking back at her appointment as secretary of state, how Obama tried to get Hillary without the shadiness. (Which is what we all want, of course.)

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Officers killing, and dying, in a vicious circle

    Thursday's shooting of 12 police officers in Dallas suggests spiraling violence: The cops were shot during a protest against the shooting of black men by police. A vicious circle of retribution would be something new for the U.S. where, unlike in other developed countries, killings by police far outnumber officer deaths in the line of duty.

    The point that police kill more people in the U.S. than in European countries has often been made. It's intuitively understandable: American cops must deal with armed criminals more often because guns are more widely available, and the dominant culture is pro-gun, so people have less of a problem using weapons. For all that, however, relatively few officers get killed.

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