Archive

January 17th, 2016

Consent education can't solve everyone's problems with college sex

    This weekend, the New York Times published a long and interesting piece by Jessica Bennett about the many ways colleges and universities are trying to teach their students about sexual consent.

    Much of what's intriguing about the article is Bennett's description of the patchwork of approaches and programs colleges have developed, which, as Bennett notes, replicates the varying ways colleges have tried to handle sexual assault allegations through their disciplinary systems. But there's one line in the piece that gets at a larger issue Bennett glosses over, and that discussions about consent education often avoid: a lack of sex education and sexual experience.

    Bennett quotes the website of an advocacy campaign called #BetterSexTalk, which notes, "A crash-course in sexual respect during college orientation will never atone for years of inadequate sex ed." And as much as sex education is critically important, it's not the sole factor that will determine whether students have sexual relationships that are not just legal but good. Consent education works only when you know what you actually want to consent to.

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Border Boondoggle

    Good fences, wrote Robert Frost, make good neighbors.

    But an 18-foot high, 2,000-mile wall? That’s another story. It just antagonizes your neighbor — and shows your own fear and weakness.

    Yet this is what self-described conservatives running for president propose to build to stop migrants from coming across our country’s southern border. Simple, right? Just fence ’em out!

    Haven’t we already tried this?

    In 2006, Congress mandated the construction of a wall along the 1,954 miles of our border with Mexico. A decade later, guess how many miles have been completed? About 650. It turns out that erecting a monstrous wall isn’t so simple after all.

    First, it’s ridiculously expensive — about $10 billion just for the materials to build from the tip of Texas to the Pacific, not counting labor costs and maintenance.

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A Wife’s Wrenching Decision

    How much should you sacrifice to save your husband’s life?

    And how much hardship do you inflict on your son to rescue your husband?

    Those are the questions Jano Begum faced. Jano, 22, and her husband, Robi Alom, 30, are among the more than 1 million Muslims who belong to the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, subjected to an ethnic cleansing that a Yale study suggests may amount to genocide.

    I’ve written several times over the years about the brutalization of the Rohingya, but I know that for some readers it seems obscure and remote. Why worry about a distant people when there are so many crises in our own backyard? But put yourself in Jano’s situation, as she sits in a hut in a concentration camp here, and think how far you would go to save your spouse.

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A reform agenda unfulfilled

    President Obama's final State of the Union address was part stump speech for the third term he'll never have and part melancholy addendum to the first speech that propelled him to national attention.

    Far more than with George W. Bush in 2008, Bill Clinton in 2000 or Ronald Reagan in 1988, the roiling presidential campaign was an unmentioned but omnipresent subtext of the speech. While Obama's two-term predecessors referred only glancingly to the impending election, his would-be Republican replacements were the unnamed but unmistakable targets of Obama's critique.

     Indeed, Donald Trump was watching; the speech, he tweeted, "is really boring, slow, lethargic," which raises the question of what, exactly, he imagines serving as president is like.

    Obama's intended audience wasn't so much Trump et al., but voters tempted by Trump's ugly, divisive message. Americans shouldn't be seduced, Obama argued, by those "peddling fiction" about America's economy in decline or American military strength waning.

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January 16th

Democrats Must Also Address Illegal Immigration

    As respectable Republicans panic over Donald Trump's storm of insults against Hispanics, Democrats may be tempted to sit back and watch the other party estrange millions of potential voters. But they do so at their own peril.

    Democrats already have the luxury of being far less offensive, whatever position they take on immigration. But they must take a position, and that position must draw a line between legal and illegal. To do so, they can't flinch when advocates of open borders unleash unpleasant accusations against any Democrat who attempts to honor that line.

    Fear of uncontrolled immigration is not limited to crazed right-wing white folk. Blacks have long felt themselves unfairly replaced by immigrants. As poet Toni Morrison wrote, "whatever the ethnicity or nationality of the immigrant, his nemesis is understood to be African American." The evidence remains anecdotal, but many blacks have expressed support for Trump over this issue.

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Why Ukraine no longer needs gas from Russia

    Not so long ago, Russia could bend Ukraine to its will by threatening to cut off natural gas supplies. Now, Russia is offering discounts, but Ukraine is not interested because it's getting plenty of gas in Europe. This change reflects developments in the European gas market that don't augur well for one of Russia's biggest sources of export revenue.

    The decline in Ukraine's imports of Russian gas is partly the result of economic stagnation under former President Viktor Yanukovych, a huge drop in output after the 2014 "Revolution of Dignity" and Russia's annexation of Crimea. Ukraine's gross domestic product has shrunk around 19 percent since 2013, and its industrial sector needs less fuel.

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Two dangers: one watched closely; the other (guns)? Not so much

    They are so profuse as to encircle the globe, so lethal that even mutual enemies agree they must be monitored and limited.

    If you are thinking the “they” refers to firearms, you aren’t thinking the way some policymakers are.

    No, we speak of a threat that draws undivided attention: the matter of orbiting interstellar hardware – loose nuts, bolts and more. It’s called space debris.

    On space debris you get bipartisan and international cooperation.

    On firearms? To To many disgraceful lawmakers, guns are commerce alone, and hence should be left alone. However, the two matters are quite analogous.

    Not to discount the danger of space debris. One loose sprocket speeding in orbit can destroy or impair anything in its path. But the only person we know space debris has killed is that poor headless soul in the movie “Gravity.”

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What do we want Hillary Clinton to do about her husband?

    Bill Clinton's sexual misadventures have never quite vanished as a national story. But in recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has called renewed attention to them, and Juanita Broaddrick, who in 1999 said Bill Clinton had raped her in 1978, has renewed those allegations.

    Both because the case is past the statute of limitations in Arkansas and because Hillary Clinton is running for president now on a platform that includes greater support for rape victims, the headlines have become more about Hillary Clinton than about her husband, the man who actually has been accused of misconduct.

    But though the circumstances are different, the question remains the same: What is it we want Hillary Clinton to do about her husband? Because however unfair or incoherent that desire is, Americans seem to want her to do something.

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Trump rides a big wave of disgust

    For Democrats who might be rooting for Donald Trump, thinking he would be easy to beat in November, I have some advice: Be careful what you wish for.

    In his campaign, or rampage, Trump has done more than take a sledgehammer to the Republican Party. He almost seems to be reinventing politics in a way that makes both major parties seem hidebound, sluggish and concerned mostly with self-perpetuation -- which, in fact, they are.

    When he announced his candidacy, no one outside of Trump's household dreamed he would be dominating the Republican field with three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses. Given the way he has set the agenda for the campaign, it's tempting to call him a master strategist -- except I don't believe he has a strategy. Or needs one.

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The State of the Union is long and someone had better tackle that rancor

    In delivering his final State of the Union, President Obama did something I would generally advise against: He informed the audience that the speech was going to be shorter than usual.

    "I'm going to keep it short" is - like "this man needs no introduction" and "I'm not racist, but" - generally proven immediately false by what follows. That was the case Tuesday, when Obama offered an inspiring cocktail of Larger-Scale Parting Thoughts and shade thrown in the direction of various Republican presidential candidates (cough, Ted Cruz, uncough; cough, Donald Trump, uncough.)

    Behind him, Paul Ryan remained remarkably impassive throughout, as though he had been told that the camera would only pick him up if he moved.

    Every year I complain about the sheer volume of Inspiring Examples. This year was not so bad as last year (what could be so bad?) although it ended with a confusing crescendo of Voices, Voices who could be Seen and had been in the writings of Dr. King and were going, apparently, to save this great nation.

    - - -

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