Archive

June 15th, 2016

The target was all of us

    It happened late at night, and the early pictures released from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando were confusing, because they showed young men in their best party clothes leaning on each other in a way that could have been friends wandering home after a bartender's last call, but was instead people running for their lives.

    It happened, the shooter's father told a news station, because his son was angered by seeing two men kissing. It happened, the shooter told a 911 operator, because he had pledged himself to the Islamic State, so he then went and slaughtered 50 people and injured 53 more. An amalgamation of terrorism and hate that found its outlet in a gay club, but could have anywhere.

    It happened nearly a year to the day that the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal. In polls, Americans are increasingly accepting of homosexuality - but then, this.

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Once again, national tragedy drive Americans further apart

    In the hours after midnight Sunday in an Orlando nightclub, three of the most contentious questions in American culture and politics -- gay rights, gun control and terrorism -- collided in a horrific way.

    It is not entirely clear what inspired Omar Mateen to commit the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, or what might have been done to stop it.

    But it happened in a gay club, just two weeks shy of the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and on a weekend when cities across the country, including Washington, D.C., were holding gay pride festivals.

    It was perpetrated during the holy month of Ramadan by an American-born man whose family originally came from Afghanistan. Shortly before the attack, he reportedly made a 911 call pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.

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Guns? Terrorism? Hate crime? Media go to their corners in reporting on Orlando.

    Call it news event as Rorschach test.

    It was only about 10:50 a.m. on Sunday, and very little was known about exactly what had happened in Orlando -- the death toll was still being given as 20 people -- but that didn't seem to stop politicians and pundits from making some definitive statements, often in highly partisan terms.

    If you favored gun control, this was further evidence of the legislative failures to stop slaughter. If you were wary of Muslims, this was an opportunity to paint an entire faith as terrorists. If you supported gay rights, this was a hate crime targeting the LGBT community.

    In too many cases, news outlets were busy amplifying the politics of blame. "This is not a hate crime," Sebastian Gorka, a counter terrorism expert, said on Fox News. He demanded that President Obama must "stop the political correctness" in a response that hadn't yet been made. What happened in Orlando was clearly "part of a military assault," implicating forces of global jihad.

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A horrible day for Orlando, gay pride and US history

    One year after celebrating the most joyous pride month in U.S. history with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in this country, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the nation as a whole are now in mourning. As of this writing, at least 50 people are dead and 53 were injured when a madman unleashed hell inside a gay nightclub in the wee hours of Sunday, June 12.

    This is by far the worst mass shooting in American history.

    Law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen who lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was killed in a shootout with police inside the Pulse nightclub. In explaining a possible motive, Mateen's father told media that his son became "very angry" after seeing two men kiss in downtown Miami a few months ago. Authorities are calling this an act of terrorism.

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Senators Embedded Within a Brain Fog

    The U.S. Senate—under the leadership of Mitch McConnell who once said his primary mission was to see that the Senate didn’t agree with anything President Obama said or did, and to limit him to one term—continues to be one of the nation’s leading obstructionists. This time, the Senate isn’t meeting to advise or consent to the President’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

    Garland was valedictorian in his class at Harvard College and magna cum laude from the Harvard law school. He worked in the Department of Justice before becoming the chief judge on the D,C. Court of Appeals, having been confirmed by the Senate, March 1997.

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Breaking up with Bernie

    A great relationship can be ruined by a lousy breakup. Instead of remembering the many wonderful times you had together, when he taught you that "socialist" was not a dirty word, took you to inspiring rallies with great soundtracks and urged you to take down corrupt money in politics, all your recent memories are of his dozens of ALL-CAPS TEXTS insisting "THIS CONVERSATION IS NOT OVER YET!!!"

    Standing in the yard with a boombox for one evening can be viewed as a romantic, if mildly creepy, gesture. But standing there until July 25 is grounds for a noise complaint.

    You wanted to remember the good times. And there were many of them. You felt energized, at least in caucus states. You changed. You moved left.

    But for you to start to miss and remember him fondly, he needs to leave. He needs to stop lurking around with a bird perched on his finger, hoping you will change your mind.

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Did Elizabeth Warren play her cards right to be Hillary Clinton's vice president?

    Up until Thursday evening, Elizabeth Warren was the only female Democratic senator who hadn't endorsed Hillary Clinton. In fact, she was one of the last high-profile members of the Democratic Party to endorse her.

    Yet, more so than any other Democratic senator, there is buzz that Clinton will or should pick Warren as her vice presidential running mate. Given her holdout on coming on-board Team Clinton, it's worth asking: Does Warren have a chance at the job?

    Warren told Rachel Maddow on MSBNC on Thursday she's not being vetted for the job and she's happy with her current one. But despite what she says, it seems like Warren might be interested. Reuters reports that people close to her say she's considering the pros and cons of being Clinton's veep. Harry Reid reportedly wants her to be the pick. And she gave a closely watched, fiery speech Thursday for the sole purpose of knocking Donald Trump down a peg or two.

    In fact, almost out of nowhere, Warren has gone from watching the campaign on the sidelines to becoming one of Trump's loudest critics -- especially on his home turf, Twitter.

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Trump is a racist Republicans can work with

    Donald Trump is a deplorable racist. I'm supporting him.

    This is not hyperbole. After all the hemming, the hawing, and the tugging of double chins, it's the consensus of the elders of the Republican Party, despite Trump's inability to tamp down his prejudices and his propensity to sound like a drug lord threatening a judge about to break up a murderous cartel.

    Of all the reactions to Trump's attack on Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana-born federal judge who happens to be of Mexican heritage, House Speaker Paul Ryan's was the clearest. On Tuesday, as Ryan attempted to steal a little attention for his poverty-fighting proposals, he was instead forced to account, again, for the antics of his party's standard-bearer. Trump's contention that Judge Curiel couldn't be impartial by virtue of his ancestry was the "textbook definition of a racist," said Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

    Well, then, is he withdrawing his support? No.

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June 14th

A Tale of Two Parties

    With their presumptive presidential nominees now in place, the two major political parties face starkly different, and critical, challenges. The Democrats have already taken impressive steps toward internal unity approaching the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Republicans, meanwhile, are deep in disunity over the fallout of Donald Trump's selection and his divisive behavior.

    The rapid response in Democratic ranks to Clinton's victories over Sen. Bernie Sanders in four of last Tuesday's six state primaries, including California, was breath-taking. Sanders quickly congratulated her, and while he pledged to his faithful followers that he would remain a candidate through the primary process and into Democratic National convention late next month, he vowed he would do all he could to make sure Trump never will reach the presidency.

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Economics comes up short in coping with reality

    There are basically four different activities that all go by the name of macroeconomics. But they actually have relatively little to do with each other. Understanding the differences between them is helpful for understanding why debates about the business cycle tend to be so confused.

    The first is what I call "coffee house macro," and it's what you hear in a lot of casual discussions. It often revolves around the ideas of dead sages -- Friedrich Hayek, Hyman Minsky and John Maynard Keynes. It doesn't involve formal models, but it does usually contain a hefty dose of political ideology.

    The second is finance macro. This consists of private-sector economists and consultants who try to read the tea leaves on interest rates, unemployment, inflation and other indicators in order to predict the future of asset prices (usually bond prices). It mostly uses simple math, though advanced forecasting models are sometimes employed. It always includes a hefty dose of personal guesswork.

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