Archive

August 11th, 2016

Why you should thank Trump

    Political life in the West, it is safe to say, has not witnessed a figure such as Donald Trump for decades. His attacks on the parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died on duty in Iraq in 2004, is the latest jaw-dropping episode from his presidential campaign. But as he lurches toward what one hopes will be ignominious defeat in November, we must also acknowledge two positive contributions he has made, however inadvertently, to public life.

    For one, with his merciless denunciations of Muslims, he established Islamophobia as an incontrovertible and toxic presence in our societies. Strange as it may seem today, many public figures strenuously denied that anti-Muslim prejudice had exploded following the attacks of 9/11. The writer Sam Harris wasn't alone in proclaiming that "there is no such thing as Islamophobia." Much crude prejudice and aggressive ignorance were aired under the rubric of "criticizing" and "reforming" Islam.

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When a flag crosses the line into harassment

    Is it racial harassment in the workplace to display the yellow "Don't tread on me" flag? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that it could be, depending on the context. The commission acknowledged that the Gadsden flag, which dates to the American Revolution, did not have racist origins. But it called for a careful investigation to see whether recent uses of the flag have been sufficiently "racially tinged" that it could count as harassment.

    A strong argument can be mounted that this EEOC decision is a threat to the First Amendment -- and that's exactly the argument made by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh on his blog, the Volokh Conspiracy, in reporting on the commission decision. But on closer examination, I think the commission got this one right. When it comes to the meaning of symbols, social context is everything. Even symbols that have no direct historical connection to racism can change meaning over time. And if we're going to have laws against workplace harassment, we have to prohibit all harassing behavior -- including harassment that's overtly political.

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Trump thought he could win through sheer media dominance. In reality, it's killing him.

    Friday morning brings a truly rare sighting: Donald Trump admitting error. Sort of, anyway. He tweeted this:

    - - -

    The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!

    - - -

    In effect, Trump admitted that a claim he had been making for days -- including at a blustery rally yesterday -- was pure invention. He'd said he had witnessed video of the $400 million cash transfer made by the United States to Iran, even though no such video existed. Now he's admitting the video he saw was actually of the prisoner swap.

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The Sore Loser Uprising

    After a week in which Donald Trump insulted babies and their mothers and war heroes and their families, and threw in fire marshals for good measure, the scariest thing to come out of his team of thugs and political mercenaries is this: the suggestion that civil unrest could follow if he’s denied the presidency.

    When the Supreme Court handed George W. Bush the White House in 2000 even though he lost the popular vote, Al Gore graciously conceded and faded away. When Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama four years ago although his internal polls showed a Republican triumph, he congratulated the winner and went off to rediscover his many grandchildren.

    Despite party-machine manipulation and considerable voting of the dead, the U.S. institution that produces a peaceful transfer of power has survived.

    But this year, facing a likely trouncing in November, Trump has signaled that he will try to bring down our democracy with him. His overlooked comment — “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged” — is the opening move in a scheme to delegitimize the outcome.

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Would Donald Trump go quietly? That's not his style

    It is a sign of how poorly Donald J. Trump is doing in the polls that he already is working on his reasons to be a sore loser.

    The system, he says, is "rigged" against him and his voters.

    "I'm afraid the election's going to be rigged, I've got to be honest," he warned in a rally in Columbus, Ohio last Monday, a sentiment he echoed later that day on Sean Hannity's Fox News program.

    "I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," he told Hannity.

    Trump's only evidence for fraud consisted of "precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican" in the 2012 election. "If you don't have voter ID," he said, "you can just keep voting and voting and voting."

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August 10th

How China could finally help clean up the Olympics

    When the Olympic torch is lit Friday in Rio de Janeiro, there will be 416 Chinese athletes in attendance, the largest contingent the country has ever sent abroad. It's a hopeful symbol amid an unprecedented whirlwind of doping and corruption charges. And it seems like a pretty apt metaphor.

    For three decades, China has embraced the Olympics as a proxy for national greatness. Winning more medals -- and China wins a lot of them -- seemed to equate with its rising status in the world. It even seemed to boost racial self-confidence: In 2004, hurdler Liu Xiang told the press that his unexpected gold medal proved that "athletes with yellow skin can run as fast as those with black and white skins."

    Yet as China's political and financial investment in the Olympics has grown, the games themselves have only become more tarnished: Revelations of widespread cheating by Russia at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi are just the latest to undermine the integrity of competition that the Chinese government so esteems.

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The Khan family is our family

    I am a former soldier who served our nation in uniform for more than 34 years. I was also Capt. Humayun Khan's combat brigade commander in Diyala province, Iraq, in 2004. I came to know Humayun after taking command of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in Germany in 2002. The motto of our unit was "No mission too difficult. No sacrifice too great. Duty First!" Humayun was a wonderful person, liked and respected by all who knew him. I used to joke with him about the tank platoon he once led, which I had led 20 years earlier. I often told him that we were kindred spirits. I remember clearly the day he died.

    Humayun was a great officer. The 201st Forward Support Battalion, Humayun's unit, was the most motivated and combat-oriented logistics unit I had ever seen. It supported our 4,000- person brigade, protected wheeled convoys and was responsible for guarding the gates at our large forward operating base: Camp Warhorse.

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The Daily 202: Lessons from my search for Donald Trump's personal giving to charity

    I've spent the last few months trying to prove Donald Trump right about something important.

    So far, I've failed.

    Trump has promised to give millions of dollars of his own money to charity. Trying to find evidence of them, I first looked at the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Dead end. Tax records show no gifts from Trump to his namesake foundation since 2008. Then I looked at the Trump campaign's official list of his donations. Dead end. That list included thousands of free rounds of golf, given away by Trump's golf courses. But no gifts of cash from Trump's own pocket. His campaign said those gifts did exist. It just wouldn't say who got them.

    So I kept looking, starting with the individual charities that Trump seemed closest to. He'd attended their galas. Praised them on Twitter. Given them cash from the Trump Foundation's dwindling pot of money.

    I've tried 259 of those charities so far.

    I've found one gift, out of Trump's own pocket, between 2008 and this May.

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The company that Trump keeps

    With Donald Trump's skeletal presidential operation navigating rough waters, how might he steer his ship back on course? He could try taking his own advice and begin building relationships with respected, trustworthy advisers and fellow politicians.

    "Donald Trump and the Trump Organization are masters of opportunity recognition," noted "Entrepreneurship 101," a slender volume published almost a decade ago under the Trump University imprint. One path to success, the book advised aspiring tycoons, is to cultivate "relationships with the best business partners."

    In his own career, alas, Trump hasn't often followed this strategy. Instead, he has routinely relied on his own instincts and operated impulsively both at home and abroad, sometimes corralling business partners who haven't been A-listers.

    Consider the Trump SoHo, a swanky hotel in lower Manhattan that offers, the Trump Organization says, "world-class hospitality," "sophistication and style," and "true decadence."

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Rigging an election is almost impossible

    In a span of two weeks, federal courts have struck down Republican-backed voting restrictions in six states, including laws that required strict forms of government-issued ID in order to cast a ballot, cut back on early-voting days and made it harder to register. The rulings found that the laws - in Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, North Dakota, Kansas and Wisconsin - violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against people of color,sometimes "with almost surgical precision."

    Rather than see these rulings as a victory for democracy, Donald Trump says they will lead to a record number of fraudulent votes for Hillary Clinton in November. "The voter-ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development," Trump told The Washington Post. "We may have people vote 10 times. . . . Why not? If you don't have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting."

    Just how easy would it be to rig an election, as Trump suggests Democrats are preparing to do? How many people would it require, what tactics would they have to use, and how many votes would they need to flip a major contest or state?

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