Archive

September 20th, 2016

Maybe Clinton should take a bit more time off

    Hillary Clinton will appear in Greensboro, North Carolina, later Thursday, her first event after a couple days' hiatus. She might want to get a doctor's note and take another day, or two, off.

    Less can be more. Once Clinton finally succumbed to matter over mind and took a breather, she inadvertently stumbled on the genuine authenticity that has been so lacking in her campaign. Reporters gradually got over being ticked off that she didn't admit she had pneumonia, given their own penchant for walking around fortified by Z-Packs and Benadryl. Some even betrayed a smidgeon of grudging admiration that she'd powered through. Gritting her teeth and showing up as promised is part of her Best Student in Class essence. On Sept. 11, unable to fake it any longer, she wobbled away from Ground Zero, showing the humanity that her supporters say is there.

    In the few days since, those filling her sensible shoes are doing an excellent job: notably President Barack Obama, out stumping for her to a huge crowd in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, her husband, rusty in 2008, but rested and ready this time, deployed on her behalf his unparalleled arm squeeze and intimate voice that makes people lean in to hear.

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September 19th

A 100-year quest

    I first learned there was an effort to establish a national museum dedicated to preserving African-American history and culture during my first term in Congress after being elected in 1986. My colleague Rep. Mickey Leland, D-Texas, discovered that the most recent legislative efforts had run aground a few years earlier because of an attempt by Rep. Clarence Brown, R-Ohio, and Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, to take the project to Wilberforce, Ohio. Mickey resurrected the idea and asked me to co-sponsor it in 1988.

    I have loved history ever since I was a boy. It started when I was so young. To celebrate Carter G. Woodson's innovation - then called Negro History Week and now called Black History Month - my teachers would ask us to cut out pictures in magazines and newspapers of famous African-Americans, such as Rosa Parks and George Washington Carver. Growing up in Alabama near Tuskegee Institute, reading about Carver and Booker T. Washington, attending Fisk University later with its world-class art collection and Jubilee Singers who had sung for Queen Victoria, I knew the power of legacy. Mickey did not have to ask me twice. I was on board to push the museum bill through.

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Let's not forget that the robots aren't here yet

    One of the most striking ways in which Narendra Modi's government has changed the policy narrative in India is to make manufacturing central to its ambitions. This is an overdue recognition of the fact that India -- whose workforce is overwhelmingly poor and underemployed, and growing at the rate of a million people every month -- needs to create mass factory jobs if it's to prosper.

    Yet a growing chorus of voices has begun attacking this emphasis on manufacturing, arguing that the government shouldn't waste political capital and energy on the reforms needed to build up the sector. According to these pessimists, the politics are too hard and the economics -- at a time when global trade is slowing and robots are supplanting workers everywhere -- don't make sense.

    At best, this criticism is irrelevant -- an argument imported from the developed world, where stoking fears about the future of manufacturing has become a small but thriving industry. At worst, it's dangerous.

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How to negotiate with Putin

    Perhaps the most famous piece of stage direction in Western literature occurs in the third act of Shakespeare's "Winter's Tale": "Exit, pursued by a bear." There's plenty of reason to think that being pursued by a bear, the most iconic image of Russia in international relations, is precisely how the United States must feel at the moment. Seemingly in every direction we turn, Russia is there, chasing our policy choices off the stage of world events. Despite valiant efforts to negotiate with Russia in Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, Iran, missile defense in Europe, NATO membership, and cybersecurity - to name just a few - Moscow and Washington have serious disagreements.

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Hillary Clinton's campaign just admitted she has a real problem

    Hillary Clinton returns to the campaign trail Thursday with a speech in North Carolina, amid a real tightening in the polls that has raised questions about whether she has been damaged by her temporary disappearance from the national spotlight. And the Clinton campaign is now hinting that it may undertake a change in strategy as the race enters the final stretch.

    The Clinton campaign Thursday made a key concession about its analysis of the fundamentals of the race. This concession was made almost in passing, as an afterthought, in a statement released late Wednesday night by Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri:

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Donald Trump and the Politics of 'Huh?'

    Even Donald Trump is capable of posing interesting questions, and he asked one of this election's most important when he declared: "What the hell do you have to lose?"

    He was specifically addressing his query to African-Americans, but it's something all Americans should think about. And the latest report on incomes released Tuesday by the Census Bureau suggests that the vast majority of Americans, including African-Americans, have a great deal to lose if the progress the country has made since we began our recovery from the Great Recession is endangered by a candidate whose policies are, depending on the day, quite radical, entirely unpredictable, or simply incoherent.

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Brexit isn't the only great British divide

    David Cameron's political career arguably came to an end this week because of Britain's longest-running policy debate. Not over leaving Europe, but over education.

    When he resigned as prime minister after the Brexit referendum in June, Cameron pledged to keep his parliamentary seat until 2020. On Monday, he decided he'd had enough and many concluded that the timing of his decision was no accident.

    Cameron's successor, Theresa May, had just announced that Britain should increase the number of academically selective state-run secondary schools, dubbed "grammar schools" for their 16th-century origins as places for instruction in Greek and Latin grammar.

    Cameron had opposed expanding grammar schools, so May's changes put him in an awkward position. If he supported her he would be repudiating his own education policy. A vote against her would undermine his successor going into a contentious Conservative Party conference in October.

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A people's history in our eyes and hands

    The story of a people is a million stories, and there are stories told in objects that let us remember but also teach us what we do not know.

    Each family has its stories, and sometimes they come together as something collective, of a people. Objects of the sort that have been gathered in this museum - precious objects, handled by generations and thus infused with meaning and power - will allow visitors to recall known experience and passed-along tales. The mystery and force of collective memory is that we can access experiences that we might not have had ourselves but reside in a collective unconscious that the museum will make material.

    We - and this "we" means all Americans - have long needed a place where we can come and come again to learn our history through our eyes and hands, the objects that tell these millions of stories. It is a simple truth: It is upon today's young people of all colors to imagine and forge the future, and it cannot be set right unless there is a clear understanding of the past.

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A loophole ends privacy of Social Security numbers

    Federal law is supposed to protect the privacy of your Social Security number from government inquiries -- but apparently that doesn't extend to a check on whether you've paid back taxes and child support. In a decision with worrying implications for those who oppose a single national identification number, a divided federal appeals court has rejected a lawyer's refusal to submit his Social Security number along with his renewal of Maryland bar membership.

    The state says it needs Social Security numbers to make sure lawyers' child support and taxes are up to date. The court's majority said that was enough to fit the Social Security number under the federal law that allows states to use your number for tax purposes. That definition is so loose that it enables states to ask for your Social Security number pretty much whenever they want -- even when their records have been hacked.

    The test case was initiated by a Washington-based lawyer named Michael Tankersley, who is a member in good standing of the Maryland bar. He got legal help from the watchdog group Public Citizen, which among other things is interested in promoting privacy-rights litigation.

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When a Crackpot Seeks Office

    One of the mental traps that we all fall into, journalists included, is to perceive politics through narratives.

    President Gerald Ford had been a star football player, yet somehow we in the media developed a narrative of him as a klutz — so that every time he stumbled, a clip was on the evening news. Likewise, we in the media wrongly portrayed President Jimmy Carter as a bumbling lightweight, even as he tackled the toughest challenges, from recognizing China to returning the Panama Canal.

    Then in 2000, we painted Al Gore as inauthentic and having a penchant for self-aggrandizing exaggerations, and the most memorable element of the presidential debates that year became not George W. Bush’s misstatements but Gore’s dramatic sighs.

    I bring up this checkered track record because I wonder if once again our collective reporting isn’t fueling misperceptions.

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