Archive

December 24th

The Donald and the Decider

    Almost six months have passed since Donald Trump overtook Jeb Bush in polls of Republican voters. At the time, most pundits dismissed the Trump phenomenon as a blip, predicting that voters would soon return to more conventional candidates. Instead, however, his lead just kept widening. Even more striking, the triumvirate of trash-talk — Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz — now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate.

    But how can this be happening? After all, the antiestablishment candidates now dominating the field, aside from being deeply ignorant about policy, have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error. Why don’t Republican voters seem to care?

    Well, part of the answer has to be that the party taught them not to care. Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the “liberal media” didn’t suddenly arrive on the Republican scene last summer. On the contrary, they have long been key elements of the party brand. So how are voters supposed to know where to draw the line?

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The Year’s Biggest Social Justice Stories

    I have always been interested in social justice, and it has always been an integral part of this column. But from the time, nearly three years ago, that I first spoke with Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, I knew that the tenor of the column was forever altered. I am still haunted by the ache in her voice on that first phone call, by the first time I interviewed her in person and saw how the grief draped over her body, and bent it.

    Since then, there have been too many stories like Trayvon’s, and this year the pace seemed to quicken. I covered so much pain that I nearly lost myself in it. Maybe I’m getting too close. So, to round up this year in social justice I asked other people who operate in that area to give me their top stories. Here are the results.

     

    Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard professor and scholar of African-American literature:

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The partisan clash on terrorism

    The recent terrorist attacks abroad and at home have suddenly dominated the 2016 Republican presidential race, putting most of the contestants on a collision course with President Obama. While all concerned vow the objective of "destroying" the Islamic State, the president and the GOP candidates differ fundamentally on approach and timetable.

    The Republicans want it done quickly and with overwhelming military force. Obama, wary of being drawn into another bottomless pit in the Middle East, favors a measured and deliberative undertaking that will require more patience and collaboration with like-minded allies in the region and the West.

    In last week's Republican debate in Las Vegas, the candidates put their more muscular military ideas on display in an aggressive chorus demanding essentially a repeat version of former President George W. Bush's "shock and awe" obliteration of the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein. Its swift military success led to the dictator's capture and ouster, but it left a devastated and leaderless country requiring occupation and subsequent propping up by the U.S conquerors.

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Metal detectors stand in for real action on gun violence

    The Happiest Place on Earth can only remain so by bracing against the possibility of children being mowed down by assault weapons as they await a turn on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster.

    Walt Disney World, along with other major theme parks, just caved to the threat of a mass shooting.

    News broke Thursday that visitors were greeted with newly installed metal detectors or handheld wands at the entrance gates.

    The theme parks have long patted bags, and security in the past has found visitors attempting to tote their guns along on their day of fun.

    Clearly, this is a sign of our times. And it's not a very uplifting one.

    Some see this as preparedness in the face of our new normal, but it's really an abdication. Disneyland is locking itself up against the possibility of mass shooting because Americans are starting to accept that nothing else can be done.

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We know long doctor shifts are dangerous. Why renew them?

    In 1989, Sidney Zion famously wrote this about staffing practices at U.S. hospitals: "You don't need kindergarten to know that a resident working a 36-hour shift is in no condition to make any kind of judgment call - forget about life-and-death."

    After his 18-year-old daughter, Libby, died at a New York hospital in 1984 while under the care of junior physicians stretched dangerously thin, Zion pushed to change the system. But the system has shown a stunning ability to deny the obvious. Even after a 2009 report from the prestigious Institute of Medicine confirmed Zion's suspicion that shifts beyond 16 hours are risky, some still want to test the theory that patients are well-served by newly trained doctors who have been awake and working for 30 or more consecutive hours.

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December 21st

Professor suspended for posting that Christians, Muslims 'worship the same God'

    A professor at Wheaton College - an evangelical Christian school - posted this on Facebook, together with a photo of herself wearing a headscarf:

    "I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

    "I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity.

    "I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind - a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

    "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

    "But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

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The GOP's three-ring debate

    The Republican presidential debate here was actually a three-part contest: pop quiz, cage match and actual policy debate.

    Donald Trump and Ben Carson flubbed the quiz, although their performances won't matter, for different reasons. Jeb Bush, punching above his weight, won the cage match against Trump; that helps Bush's struggling campaign, although probably not enough.

    Finally came the real debate, and one that is certain to continue, over how to deal with the Islamic State specifically and how aggressively to intervene in foreign disputes in general. This event featured Marco Rubio against Ted Cruz, a pairing I expect will dominate the remainder of the campaign, with a touch of Rand Paul.

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Clear path to victory remains elusive in Republican primary

    As the dust clears from the final Republican presidential debate before the holiday break, there's still no better indication of what the GOP establishment intends to do about Donald Trump's hijacking of the party.

    The celebrity billionaire, under heavy bombardment especially from the fading early-book favorite Jeb Bush, walked off the Las Vegas debate stage Tuesday night relatively unscathed. All his rivals, meanwhile, flailed about in their efforts to be the prime alternative to Trump in their prayerful hope that he will somehow be derailed.

    Bush did his best by hammering at Trump as "a chaos candidate" who would be "a chaos president" and not "the commander-in-chief we need to keep our country safe." Trump simply swatted him away, calling his candidacy "a total disaster" and dismissing him as "a very nice person" but "we need toughness."

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Why Muslims should be grateful for Trump

    Donald Trump has violated almost every rule of political and social decorum in recent months. His inflammatory rhetoric now resonates across the world, finding echoes among Hindu supremacists in India and far-right politicians in Europe. Trump and his vociferous supporters seem to be setting up rancorous conflicts within and between societies.

    In the process, however, Trump has made a little- acknowledged, and even vigorously denied, phenomenon seem incontrovertible: Islamophobia, the prejudice that blames an ancient religion for the crimes of some present-day murderers and fanatics, and makes a diverse population of 1.5 billion people look suspect in the eyes of the rest.

    This bigotry has flourished, largely unchecked, for some years now. It raised its grisly head in even proudly liberal New York during the controversy over the "Ground Zero Mosque" before running into some principled political opposition. The occasional resistance to it in the mainstream media -- such as Ben Affleck's exasperated response to Bill Maher, or Reza Aslan's brisk education of a befuddled Fox News presenter -- goes viral simply because it is so rare.

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Wheaton professor's suspension is about anti-Muslim bigotry, not theology

    A professor of political science at Wheaton College, Larycia Hawkins, was put on an administrative leave because of a theological claim.

    Appealing in part to arguments in my book "Allah: A Christian Response," Hawkins asserted that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. She did not insist that Christians and Muslims believe the same things about that one God. She did not state that Islam and Christianity are the same religion under a different name, or even that Islam is equally as true as Christianity. She did not deny that God was incarnate in Christ. Neither did she contest that the one God is the Holy Trinity. In fact, by having signed Wheaton's Statement of Faith, she affirmed her belief in God as the Trinity and Jesus Christ as God and man, fundamental Christian convictions which, among other things, distinguish Christian faith from Islam.

    There isn't any theological justification for Hawkins' forced administrative leave. Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy. It is about enmity toward Muslims. More precisely, her suspension reflects enmity toward Muslims, taking on a theological guise of concern for Christian orthodoxy.

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