Archive

July 20th, 2016

What Pokemon Go actually is (and isn't)

    At 56, I'm way too old to be playing Pokémon Go. After all, the smartphone game's phenomenal success is built on millennial nostalgia, and I don't even have any kids to blame. But what started out as research has turned into a mild addiction. It's fun to wander the streets finding magic critters and the tools to capture them. Along the way I met some nice people and learned some things I didn't expect (and got yet another confirmation of an unfortunate truth about new technology).

    1) Contrary to the common journalistic shorthand, the game isn't about augmented reality. When I signed up, I thought playing Pokémon Go would be a good way to see what happens when augmented reality, which superimposes computer images on your view of real-world surroundings, meets a mass market.

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We don't need Lincoln-inspired racial 'unity.' We need whites to stop being racist.

    In a speech this week at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, Hillary Clinton called for racial unity by invoking the words of Abraham Lincoln. She said he "defended our Union, our Constitution, and the ideal of a nation 'conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.'" She added that Lincoln "deeply believed everyone deserved - in his words - 'a fair chance in the race of life.'"

    Clinton may not have realized it, but both her choice of symbols from the past and her message for the present were mistakes.

    Though he's now often seen simply as a hero of emancipation, Lincoln had a far more complicated history on race. For years, like most Americans of his time, he espoused white supremacy, and he didn't believe until the last year of his life that blacks and whites could live on equal terms in an interracial democracy. But he would later also take positions against racism that would be radical even today, calling for reparations for former slaves and urging newly freed black Southerners to defend their rights against white racists through force of arms.

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Trump's most enduring - and unbefitting - trait

    I've been covering Donald Trump off and on for more than 25 years, and what has always struck me is his lack of impulse control. It was his biggest problem when I first started dealing with him in the 1980s, and it's his biggest problem now.

    Plenty of financial and real estate players got carried away in the go-go 1980s. But Trump was in a class by himself.

    He ended up presiding over six -- count 'em, six -- bankruptcies because he kept making business decisions with his gut rather than with his brain.

    Trump's less-than-stellar business history has been well documented by The Washington Post and other newspapers, magazines and online publications, as has his lack of self-control in his personal life. But what has not been fully explored is the impulsiveness -- actually, total recklessness -- that was at the root of the pivotal decisions that tanked his businesses.That same impulsiveness is at the root of Trump's self-inflicted political and business problems today.

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Trump’s Celebrity Shortage

    One thing Donald Trump ought to be good at is throwing a celebrity-packed convention, right?

    Right?

    It’s just about the only thing we should be able to count on. He’s never been in government. His business career includes a string of bankrupt casinos, unpaid bills from small businesses, a smarmy “university” and a rather troubled Scottish golf course. But Donald Trump has always been a guy who knew how to slather on some glitz.

    “It’s very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise people are going to fall asleep,” the man himself told The Washington Post.

    The list is in, and the celebrities include pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, currently 484th in women’s world rankings, and Dana White, head of a big mixed martial arts organization. Plus Antonio Sabato Jr., former underwear model turned reality TV show regular. And a ton of members of the Trump family.

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Trump makes a safe selection for vice president

    Donald Trump, social media's best friend and user, did it again in tweeting his "final" choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. After announcing a press conference for that purpose, he postponed it for a day in favor of a simple tweet, once again demonstrating his mastery of the news media he loves to hate.

    Pence himself joined in, tweeting he was "honored" to help Trump "make America great again." Hillary Clinton campaign leader John Podesta quickly replied (not on Twitter) that Pence was "the most extreme pick in a generation" and "one of the earliest advocates of the Tea Party."

    Trump thus generated greater buzz for what essentially was an orthodox conservative choice: Pence is an experienced politician who served in Congress before becoming governor. Essentially, he offers the Washington background that Trump lacks.

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July 19th

He didn't hit me. It was still abuse.

    I had been dating my boyfriend, Jason, for only a couple of months when he suggested we move across the country to Albuquerque, where we knew no one, so I could write a novel while he worked to support us. "That's the most romantic thing anyone's ever said to me," I told him. I was 22, and he was 19.

    Jason loved me. His charisma was like a bright, shining light, and I felt lucky to feel its warmth. With thousands of dollars I had been saving to go back to college, we rented a truck and paid the security deposit on an apartment.

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The madness of crowds

    The big political question in 2016 is: Why are voters so angry? So angry that primary voters in the United States have selected an unqualified, bullying, factually challenged blowhard as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. So angry that British citizens voted to take a blind leap in the dark (aka Brexit), a move so rash that its leading advocates - such as former London Mayor Boris Johnson and former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage - initially fled from the consequences of their own actions. So angry millions of Democrats flocked to the quixotic campaign of Bernie Sanders, and so angry that right-wing extremists may still gain power in Austria, France, and possibly elsewhere.

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The debates gave Donald Trump the nomination, and it's the media's fault

    What could be more open and democratic than a debate? For all the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth now taking place over the massive amounts of free media bestowed upon Donald Trump, it was his dominating performance in the televised debates that allowed him to separate himself from the pack.

    Yet the debates themselves were an exercise in faux democracy. What really mattered, especially early on, was who got invited, who got to stand where and who was allowed to speak the most. Unfortunately, the media organizations that ran the debates (along with the Republican National Committee) relied on polls to make those decisions right from the very first encounter in August.

    Generally speaking, the summer before the summer before a presidential election is a time when no one except the most dedicated obsessives is paying attention to politics. Trump had shot to the top of the polls at that point mainly by virtue of his celebrity status. And so there he was on Aug. 6, 2015, front and center, absorbing a barrage of questions from Fox News's Megyn Kelly about his numerous misogynistic remarks.

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Stooping to Trump's lows

    Now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken herself to the woodshed, it's worth asking what her brief bout of Trump Derangement Syndrome says about our system's ability to withstand four years of a Trump presidency.

    Short answer: It is not a good omen.

    As the idea of a President Trump has evolved from laughable to unlikely to oh-my-god-this-might-actually-happen, a debate has raged in Washington.

    The debate is not over the man's fitness for office - few people privately will make the case that Donald Trump is qualified or temperamentally suitable to be commander in chief - but over how much damage he might do.

    Some say that Trump could be more disruptive than any previous leader, including propelling the nation toward fascism.

    But an anti-alarmist caucus responds that the U.S. system is stronger than any single person - that we could rely on the Constitution, on long-established checks and balances, on watchdogs in the press and elsewhere, and on leaders who would stand up for the rule of law.

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Presidents need to be able to do nothing. Donald Trump can't do it.

    Donald Trump is many things, but most of all he is a doer. He builds buildings, he starts businesses, he does deals. As he put it in his 1990 book, "Surviving at the Top," "One thing I've learned about the construction business - and life in general - is that while what you do is obviously important, the most important thing is just to do something."

    This may sound like good business advice, and it may even be good life advice, but it is precisely the wrong attitude for a president of the United States. In fact, knowing how and when to do nothing - or, to put it less absolutely, knowing when to show patience, to tolerate delay and to restrain the urge to act - may be the most critical element of presidential leadership. U.S. interests depend on having a commander in chief who not only can handle the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call but also understands that sometimes it's best to go back to sleep. Such self-control is necessary for maintaining alliances and defusing confrontations with enemies. On at least one occasion, it probably prevented nuclear war.

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