Archive

June 21st, 2016

Gay marriage movement offers clues about the prospects for gun reform

    Just three days after President Barack Obama reminisced that "one of the most special moments" of his presidency came when the White House was awash in rainbow colors following last year's marriage-equality ruling, he stood in the White House briefing room and sought to console a nation reeling from the slaughter of at least 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

    If the validation of same-sex marriage was a high point, this was no doubt one of the lowest. In contrast to the advancement of gay and transgender rights, which has been among the standout successes of the progressive agenda during the Obama years, the failure to pass gun-safety measures that could prevent more mass shootings has been among the greatest disappointments.

    But it wasn't all that long ago that same-sex marriage seemed just as hopeless a cause as meaningful gun laws seem now. And the reason many Americans - including Obama - changed their minds about gay marriage may be the same reason people eventually change their minds about guns.

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Five myths about video games

    For decades, video games have mystified people who don't play them. The New York Times Magazine grappled in 1974 with the emergence of the arcade game - calling it "the space age pinball machine" - in Manhattan bars. What was this new coin-operated amusement? If not a kind of pinball, was it some sort of newfangled jukebox? Electronic foosball? How much money was it making? Was it addictive? Could it help sick people? Train air-traffic controllers? More than 40 years later, many of these questions are still with us. And some durable myths remain extremely difficult to dispel.

 

    1. Pong was the first video game.

    Despite numerous debunkings, the idea that Pong was first persists. A headline in Vanity Fair illustrates this common misconception: "The Origins of the First Arcade Video Game: Atari's Pong."

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Dump Trump Republicans hatch a new strategy

    The "dump Trump" rumbling continues, as "dozens" of Republican delegates attempt to organize a real effort to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee at the national convention in Cleveland in July, and other party actors consider their best option under the rules.

    According to the Washington Post, "dozens of Republican delegates are hatching a new plan to block Donald Trump," though it wasn't clear exactly how. The core of any effort would have to involve establishing rules for the convention that would allow delegates allocated to Trump to vote against him on the first ballot, despite tentative rules that bind them to vote for him.

    There's no indication that Trump is really in trouble, though we still have no reliable whip counts of his genuine support on the convention Rules Committee or at the full convention.

    Still, even if there are enough potential Dump Trumpers to win a vote, they would still need to be willing to do it.

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Coal isn't dying because there's a war on it

    I never cease to be amazed how people with an agenda massage facts, or omit them, to support their cause. I was reminded of this recently when I read a report from the American Action Forum that says that just five year ago, the market value of the four biggest coal companies was more than $35 billion. Since then, that has plunged 99 percent and some of the biggest producers have filed for bankruptcy.

    What is to blame for this stunning loss? The report sums it up in word: regulation. The "War on Coal," the report says, has imposed "$312 billion in costs and more than 30 million paperwork burden hours" on the industry.

    Such a nice, neat explanation. But there's more to it than regulation designed mainly to limit how much pollution the industry spews into the air. Let's take a closer look at what factors might be behind the demise of the coal companies:

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As a trans Muslim, I used to feel vulnerable all the time

    Two days before Omar Mateen opened fire in Orlando's Pulse nightclub, I was leading Friday prayers for a dozen LGBTQ Muslims at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference.

    In my sermon, I spoke about Surah al-Asr, a chapter in the Koran that says we must have faith, do good in the world, support one another in upholding the truth and have patience. These verses have another implicit message: We can't do this alone. We need one another.

    I had no idea how soon we would be reminded of this truth.

    I converted to Islam at 14, and I've been a devout follower for three decades. But when I realized I was transgender in the 1990s, I began to struggle with my faith. I was told that my new identity made me a bad Muslim.

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June 20th

Arab sympathy over the Orlando massacre may seem hypocritical, but it's a start

    Shortly after Sunday's Orlando nightclub massacre which left 49 people dead and many injured, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, issued a statement condemning the attack. Al-Azhar, the world's leading Sunni institution of Islamic scholarship, also issued a statement to this effect, and emphasized that the unlawful killing of any human being is strictly forbidden in Islamic scripture. Both peak bodies called for international cooperation to fight terrorism, and Al-Azhar expressed concerns for the incendiary use of the massacre to further malign Muslims living in the West. The Arab League and Al-Azhar were joined, with similar reprisals, by Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Turkey among others.

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A Week for All Time

    They will remember, a century from now, who stood up to the tyrant Donald Trump and who found it expedient to throw out the most basic American values — the “Vichy Republicans,” as historian Ken Burns called them in his Stanford commencement speech.

    The shrug from Mitch McConnell, the twisted explanation of Paul Ryan, who said Trump is a racist and a xenophobe, but he’s ours — party before country. As well, the duck-and-hide Republicans, so quick to whip out their pocket copy of the Constitution, now nowhere to be seen when the foundation of that same document is under assault by the man carrying their banner.

    They will remember, in classrooms and seminars, those who wrote Trump off as entertainment, a freak show and ratings spike, before he tried to muzzle a free press, and came for you — using a page from another tyrant, Vladimir Putin, admired by the homegrown monster.

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What happens when a gay person grows up in an anti-gay home

    Imagine growing up hearing from those you love and trust that certain groups of people are evil. In fact, these people are so bad, so wrong, that God himself will punish them. Imagine absorbing this hatred deep into your bones. Imagine that you then discover, at some point in your adolescence, that you are one of these people.

    They are the hated. You are the hated.

    We don't know the details of Omar Mateen's sexuality. Perhaps he did not fully understand. But according to some, Mateen expressed romantic interest in men. A classmate from his 2006 police academy class told the Palm Beach Post that Mateen had asked him out. Sometimes, after class, Mateen would go with friends to gay nightclubs, the classmate said.

    And we know that in a video made after the shooting, Mateen's father said, "God himself will give punishment to homosexuality." It's conceivable that this is a sentiment Mateen heard more than once.

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Trump and the GOP's Jurassic Park

    The American people know extremism when they see it.

    This is very unfortunate for Donald Trump. And it is a nightmare for Republican leaders who see more clearly every day how his candidacy has become a trap: They desperately want to free themselves from the moral wreckage Trump leaves behind but are stuck with a nominee who speaks for a majority of their rank-and-file.

    Those who lack confidence in the public's ability to make rational judgments often argue that horrendous acts -- of terrorism, for example -- will shake the majority from its commitment to civil liberties, pluralism and tolerance. This view reflects a profound mistrust of the good sense and ethical discernment of the average citizen.

     The paradox is that Trump, who claims to speak for the people, shares this very low opinion of who Americans are. In responding to the Orlando massacre, he broadened his call for a ban on Muslim immigration, suggested that American Muslims are holding back information about potential terrorists, and darkly implied that President Obama has secret motives when it comes to Islam.

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Repeal Islam's scarlet-letter sex laws

    The massacre of partygoers at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, took me back to the late summer of 2005, when an African American woman, wearing a tight headscarf over her staff uniform, stormed out of the kitchen and into a conference room at an Atlanta Holiday Inn, shouting: "You're all going to burn in hell!"

    I froze. Around me were about 50 brave souls from Al-Fatiha, a gay American Muslim organization, many of them young men secretly at the organization's annual conference while their parents attended a meeting of the conservative Islamic Society of North America. That weekend, I prayed shoulder to shoulder with them - a gay man leading us in prayer, a transgender Muslim beside me.

    I'm a straight Muslim feminist, but, like my friends at Al-Fatiha, I'm a criminal, too, in the view of many Islamic clerics today. My crime under conservative sharia law: giving birth to a baby boy 13 years ago while single.

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