Archive

July 21st, 2016

W., Borne Back Ceaselessly

    During W.'s 2000 convention in Philadelphia, my sister showed up at my door.

    She was volunteering for the Republican nominee and carrying a “W. Stands for Women” sign. The hotels were sold out and she wanted to crash in my room.

    I told her that she could come in but the sign could not.

    I brought Peggy along for a meal with Johnny Apple, the Times politics and food writer who was known as a legend in his own lunchtime.

    She asked Johnny if W. would win the presidency. I was interested in his reply because he had known W. and Al Gore since they were young, having covered their dads.

    “Bush will win,” he told my sister in his booming voice, his napkin hanging from his neck like a bib. “And he will be a very popular president.”

    I always think of that moment, and how 9/11 upended everything and what could have been different, on the rare occasions when W. pops up.

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Turkey has had lots of coups. Here's why this one failed.

    By the timetable of recent history, Friday's attempted coup d'état in Turkey was roughly a decade behind schedule. For the better part of 40 years, beginning in 1960, the Turkish military overthrew governments it did not like around once a decade.

    The almost-20-year interregnum between the last military intervention in 1997 and this weekend's putsch created the impression among many in Turkey and the West that the coup era was over. During this period, the ruling Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, used both constitutional reforms and dubious criminal prosecutions of senior officers to bring the military under control.

    This was why it was startling to so many, especially Turks, when tanks appeared on the streets of Istanbul and fighter jets streaked low across the sky. For a few hours, it seemed to those nostalgic for another era, when the military's general staff portrayed itself as the bulwark against the excesses of Turkey's civilian leaders, that the military had finally returned to its old form and was resetting Turkish politics.

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July 20th

Whither Sanders' 'revolution'?

    In his long-awaited endorsement of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders' words were adequate but the music was missing. He used the occasion of a New Hampshire rally for her -- in a primary state in which he had routed her -- to put his own spin on the Democratic presidential campaign.

    Sanders characterized it as the start of "a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution continues." But there probably is much more hope than prophecy in that declaration.

    Sanders can point to modest platform concessions he won from the Clinton camp, but they were relatively easy ones to make, starting with the call for a $15 per hour federal minimum wage. Hillary Clinton had already promised to embrace it eventually. She also went part of the way toward Sanders' call for free public-college tuition by proposing it for students in families with annual income of no more than $125,000.

    In general, Sanders' endorsement was a no-brainer assured by his avowed determination to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.

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The Citrusy Mystery of Trump’s Hair

    Watching Donald Trump on TV early last week, I got a shock. He read from a teleprompter. He sounded like a statesman — well, sort of. He kept the boasting to a minimum. He held the taunts in check.

    But what really threw me was his hair. Its color was as muted as the rest of him. I saw flecks of pale silver where I’d grown accustomed to showy gold. For a fleetingly presidential moment, he had a fittingly presidential mane.

    The evolution of Trump’s coiffure over the decades has been widely noted and thoroughly documented. He has parted his hair on one side and then the other. He has combed it forward, swept it backward, swirled it like frozen yogurt, aerated it like cotton candy. In a brisk wind, it has been a pair of gossamer wings. During a tense debate, it has been a gargantuan sponge.

    But less frequently observed is how much its hue changes, and I don’t mean from one year to another. I mean from one day to the next, in more incremental and mesmerizing ways, to a point where no two observers can agree on what to call it.

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The bad news for Turkey's democracy

    Though we do not yet know who was behind the Turkish coup plot to overthrow the Justice and Development (AK) Party government and the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one thing is for certain: after this attempt, Turkey will be less free and less democratic. If the military had won, then Turkey would have become an oppressive country run by generals. And if Erdogan wins, and this looks the likely outcome, Turkey will still become more oppressive.

    Since coming to power in 2003, Erdogan has run the country with an increasingly authoritarian grip, cracking down on dissent as well as freedoms of expression, assembly, association and media. Initially a reformist seeking European Union accession, after winning electoral victories in 2007 and 2011 on a platform of economic good governance, Erdogan has turned conservative and authoritarian.

    If part of Erdogan's electoral success has been through positive economic performance, his other, more nefarious strategy has been demonizing groups that are unlikely to vote for him. Erdogan achieves electoral victories through violent crackdowns on such demographic blocs as Gezi Park protesters, leftists and liberals, secularists, social democrats, liberal Alevi Muslims and Kurds.

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Deporting Kids to Die

    Elena was 11 years old when a gang member in her home country, Honduras, told her to be his girlfriend.

    “I had to say yes,” Elena, now 14, explained. “If I had said no, they would have killed my entire family.”

    Elena knew the risks because one of her friends, Jenesis, was also asked to be a gang member’s girlfriend, and declined. Elena happened to see the aftermath, as Jenesis staggered naked and bleeding away from gang members.

    “She had been raped and shot in the stomach,” Elena recalled in the blank tone of a child who has seen far too much. She paused and then added: “We don’t know if she survived. Someone said she died at the hospital.”

    As for Elena, she said her duties as a gang member’s girlfriend entailed working as a drug courier and a lookout, as well as intimacies that she didn’t want to discuss. At this point in our conversation, her mother and younger sister began crying.

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Bathrooms are the New Battlefields for Politicians

    When I was a junior at San Diego State, I had a sudden urge to need a restroom. The closest one was clearly marked, “Faculty Men Only.” The nearest one for male students was on the other side of the building.

    I did what any rational person would do—I used the faculty restroom.

    One of the professors, who was using a urinal a couple spaces away, told me the restroom was for professors only. (I assumed there were separate restrooms for staff.) “What department are you in,” asked the prof.

    In my deeper voice, I responded I was with sociology, hoping he knew little about the sociology faculty.

    “Just out of grad school?” he asked.

    “Yeah,” I replied, hoping that I looked much older than my 19 years. I wasn’t lying. I was “with sociology”—as a student, though. And, since I had no plans to go to grad school, I was truly “out of grad school.”

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Yes, I would send my girls to war

    In my lifetime, I have only made two things that I love more than life itself. I made them both at the same time, seven years ago, and from that moment, I knew nothing would ever matter to me but their health, happiness and well-being. I'd take a bullet for my twins, straight to the heart. I'd go without food so that they could eat. I would give up my clothing so that they could be dry, my shoes so their feet could be warm. I'd give up my life to keep them safe.

    But I would send them to war.

    To understand the importance of the Senate's recent vote to have women sign up for Selective Service (essentially the draft), we only need to look as far back as the bill's introduction. The author of the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act is opposed to having women in the draft. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. penned the amendment in the official name of debate, but his goal was to impress upon Congress how little interest there was in treating women equally, particularly when it comes to war.

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With Obama, the Personal Is Presidential

    We always knew he could keep his head when others were losing theirs and blaming him, knew it from the 2008 financial crisis and on to the hard, lasting words he spoke at Tuesday’s memorial for the slain police officers in Dallas.

    What we didn’t know, what could not be predicted of one so young and new to the impossible task of living round-the-clock under the glare of the entire world, was how Barack Obama would hold up as a father, a husband, a man.

    No matter what you think of Obama the executive branch, it’s hard to argue that Obama the human being has been anything less than a model of class and dignity. If, as was often said about black pioneers in sports, you had to be twice as good to succeed, Obama’s personal behavior has set a standard few presidents have ever reached.

    You see him singing happy birthday to his daughter Malia, on the day she turned 18 on the Fourth of July, or coaching his daughter Sasha at hoops, and you see his ambition, still, to be “the father I never had.”

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Why terrorists keep succeeding in France

    France is in the line of fire. Of the 16 terrorist incidents that took place in Western nations this year, five were in France, including the deadliest one -- Thursday's apparent lone wolf attack in Nice, which killed at least 84 people.

    A little more than a week before the attack, a commission set up by the French parliament gave its version of the reasons for France's endangered state in a massive report. Apart from an objective threat the country faces thanks to its colonial past and a failure to integrate North African immigrants, it also suffers from inadequate policing.

    "All the French citizens who struck within the nation's territory in 2015 were known, in one capacity or another, to judicial, penal or intelligence services," the report says. "They have all been on file, watched, listened to or incarcerated along their path of delinquency toward violent radicalization."

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