Archive

June 21st, 2016

Trump gets it wrong about Muslim non-assimilation

    Donald Trump says Muslim immigrants are unwilling or unable to integrate into American society. "For some reason, there's no real assimilation," he said this week. "I won't say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I'm talking about second and third generation."

    Scholars say there are no data to support such a sweeping statement. Authoritative evidence is hard to come by because the U.S. Census Bureau is barred from asking about religious affiliation, but other surveys fill in some of the blanks.

    They tell us that Muslims arrive in the U.S. with higher education and income levels than other immigrant groups and are assimilating at about the same pace (and faster than Muslim immigrants in Europe). That doesn't always leave them better off, however.

    The pool is small: Of the U.S.'s 2.75 million Muslims, about 1.7 million are first-generation immigrants and another 412,000 are second-generation. According to a Pew Research Center survey, they recycle, use social media, follow sports teams and play video games as much as the general public.

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The Trump Disaster Chronicle

    It’s natural to wonder how our next president would respond, on a human level, to a disaster like Orlando. The candidates have been pretty clear on policy, but how would he/she relate to a community, and country, in pain?

    We ought to have some clues, since both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were New Yorkers when the World Trade Center towers came down on Sept. 11.

    Clinton was a U.S. senator at the time, so her script was pretty clear. She comforted the afflicted, joined hands with political adversaries for a show of unity, fought to get aid for the city and the survivors.

    We obviously wouldn’t have expected all that from Trump, who was a private citizen. But a very rich, important one — he must have done a lot for the city and survivors, right? He once boasted to The Times’ Mark Leibovich that as president, he’d be great at reaching out in a crisis. Empathy, he said, “will be one of the strongest things about Trump.”

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The sweet sounds of common sense on the internet

    Video-sharing services were handed an important victory Thursday by an appeals court, which held that they can't be held liable when users post videos with songs copyrighted before 1972. The decision, a model of judicial common sense, closed a loophole in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    The court has recognized that, in that law, Congress intended to create a workable compromise that would allow internet-based sharing services to exist, while still offering a modicum of protection to copyright holders.

    The case started with a lawsuit against the video-sharing service Vimeo by copyright holders of pre-1972 music. When you post a video to Vimeo, the site apparently monitors whether it's your video or one you've pirated. But it doesn't check out the soundtrack to see if you've used music that's under copyright.

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The FBI was right not to arrest Omar Mateen before the shooting

    The massacre at an Orlando LGBT club has predictably provoked the same reaction as past terror attacks: recriminations that authorities should have done more to stop it in advance, accompanied by demands for new police powers to prevent future ones. Blame-assigners immediately pointed to the FBI's investigation of the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen. "The FBI closed this file because the Obama administration treats radical Islamic threats as common crimes," GOP Sen. Lindsey O. Graham argued on Fox News. "If we kept the file open and we saw what he was up to, I think we could have stopped it." Others cited core fundamental rights, demanding they be eroded. "Due process is what's killing us right now," proclaimed Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin about the FBI's inability to act more aggressively against Mateen.

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The amazing artificial intelligence we were promised is coming, finally

    We have been hearing predictions for decades of a takeover of the world by artificial intelligence. In 1957, Herbert A. Simon predicted that within 10 years a digital computer would be the world's chess champion. That didn't happen until 1996. And despite Marvin Minsky's 1970 prediction that "in from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being," we still consider that a feat of science fiction.

    The pioneers of artificial intelligence were surely off on the timing, but they weren't wrong; AI is coming. It is going to be in our TV sets and driving our cars; it will be our friend and personal assistant; it will take the role of our doctor. There have been more advances in AI over the past three years than there were in the previous three decades.

    Even technology leaders such as Apple have been caught off guard by the rapid evolution of machine learning, the technology that powers AI. At its recent Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple opened up its AI systems so that independent developers could help it create technologies that rival what Google and Amazon have already built. Apple is way behind.

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Principles take a back seat to power, connections and money

    There have not been two more prominent conservative activists over the past quarter century than Grover Norquist, the anti-tax and anti-government advocate, and Ralph Reed, a leading strategist for the religious right.

    Both profess to put principles first. Norquist, best known for demanding that Republican office seekers sign an anti-tax pledge, says he wants to slash government "to the size where I can drag it in the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." He also is a self-identified champion of "outreach to the Muslim community."

    Reed, who runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition, says values and morals should be central to politics and that the U.S. needs to be "guided by an internal moral compass." Today, both are strong supporters of Donald Trump.

    Trump has shown little interest in cutting the size of government. He has run an anti-Muslim campaign and is at best a newcomer to faith politics; not too long ago he was pro-choice on abortion and didn't object to late-term abortions.

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Marco Rubio's ongoing Senate nightmare

    Marco Rubio never claimed to enjoy serving in the Senate. Indeed, quite the opposite. (Some sample quotes: "I'm not missing votes because I'm on vacation. I'm running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again." - Rubio, on CNN.

    "Do we just stand around and do nothing?" - Rubio, on the Senate floor in 2011.

    Why would you ever ask to be returned to this awful place? And now he appears to be changing his mind, possibly gearing up to run for another term. I can only imagine the nightmares he must have about the first day of his next term . . .

    Rubio arrives at his office in the Russell building to discover that someone has changed the nameplate on the door to LITTLE MARCO. He shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath. Sweat is already beading on his forehead.

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Hate crimes often make it harder to hate

    The shocking murder of British parliament member Jo Cox and the Orlando shootings were both hate crimes that defy political labels, whatever the professed motives of the killers. Nobody can predict what will set off a deranged killer and it would be deplorable to tar legitimate political campaigns because a killer identified with one cause or another.

    But it's impossible to deny that these killings have the power to affect both the vote on Britain's proposed exit from the EU and the U.S. presidential election. Violence is not just morally repugnant, it is uncomfortable. In most societies, people default to safety and order.

    On May 6, 2002, Volkert van der Graaf, an animal rights activist, shot Pim Fortuyn, the leader of a Dutch populist, anti-immigrant party competing in that year's parliamentary election, scheduled for May 15. The campaigns fell silent in shock: The Netherlands had a tradition of consensual politics, and violence wasn't part of the political culture. Yet the election was not canceled (as the Brexit vote shouldn't be, either: re-arguing the issue at some later date wouldn't do anyone any good).

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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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