Blow, Cohen and Krugman

In “Sexual Attraction and Fluidity” Mr. Blow says people must define their own sexuality, despite the categories others would impose.  In “Aylan Kurdi’s Europe” Mr. Cohen says Europe, cursed by too much history, thy name is forgetfulness. A wave of refugees from war must spur Europe to new unity and openness.  Prof. Krugman says “Trump Is Right on Economics” and that Jeb Bush’s attacks on the G.O.P. front-runner are on issues where the Republican voting base and the party’s rich donors diverge.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Recently, Miley Cyrus told Elle UK, “I’m very open about it — I’m pansexual.”

In June, she’d told Paper Magazine:

“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me.”

There was something about the casual, carefree-ness of the statements that I found both charming and revolutionary. It took a happy-go-lucky sledgehammer to the must-fit-a-box binary that constrains and restricts our understanding of the complexity of human sexuality.

As much progress as has been made in the acceptance of L.G.B.T.-identified people in society, there is still a surprising level of resistance to people who identify as the B in that list of letters (bisexual) — or pansexual or omnisexual or even asexual — and that resistance comes from straight and gay people alike.

I wrote in my memoir, “Fire Shut Up In My Bones,” about identifying as bisexual because “in addition to being attracted to women, I could also be attracted to men.” I also wrote about the tremendous amount of agitation, and even hostility, that people — particularly men — so identified can engender:

“Even the otherwise egalitarian would have no qualms about raising questions and casting doubt. Many could only conceive of bisexuality in the way it existed for most people willing to admit to it: as a transitory identity — a pit stop or a hiding place — and not a permanent one.”

Yet, I don’t feel in any way defective or isolated in my identity. If fact, I feel liberated or and even enlightened by it.

And, more young people like Cyrus appear to be joining in that enlightenment. The market research firm YouGov asked British adultslast month to plot themselves on the sexuality scale created by Alfred Kinsey in 1940s, with zero being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual.

The survey found that while 89 percent of the respondents overall describe themselves as heterosexual, “The results for 18-24-year-olds are particularly striking, as 43 percent place themselves in the non-binary area between 1 and 5 and 52 percent place themselves at one end or the other. Of these, only 46 percent say they are completely heterosexual and 6 percent as completely homosexual.”

YouGov then released data from the United States where respondents were asked to do the same self-rating. The American datafound that “29 percent of under 30s put themselves somewhere on the category of bisexuality.”

Obviously, these ratings weren’t meant to measure sexual activity, intimate histories or label identification, but they were meant to measure “the possibility of homosexual feelings and experiences.”

YouGov is not the only group that has tried to get a handle on the fluid middle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey of Family Growth presented data from 2006-2008 in a 2011 report that showed that 16 percent of American women and 5 percent of men under 45 refused to say they were attracted to only one sex, instead admitting that they were only mostly attracted to one sex, were equally attracted to both, or were unsure. In that survey, 21 percent of women 20-24 years old and 7 percent of men in those ages said that they were somewhere in the middle.

And remember, 2008 is forever ago on the rapidly changing issue of L.G.B.T. acceptability. For instance, according to Gallup, only 48 percent of Americans in 2008 found gay and lesbian relations morally acceptable. That number has now jumped to 63 percent, and among those ages 18-34 it is now at 79 percent.

Attraction is simply more nuanced for more people than some of us want to admit, sometimes even to ourselves. That attraction may never manifest as physical intimacy, nor does it have to, but denying that it exists creates a false, naïve and ultimately destructive sense or what is normal and possible.

Furthermore, different people can experience attraction differently. For some, the order of attraction starts with body first. That’s fine. For others though, it starts with the being first, the human being, regardless of the body and its gender. That’s also fine. And yet, the idea that one can have a physiological response to something other than gendered physicality seems to some antithetical to their rigid, superannuated notions of attraction, or even heretical to it.

But it seems more younger people are liberating themselves from this thinking and coming to better understand and appreciate that people must have the freedom to be fluid if indeed they are, and that no one has the right to define or restrict the parameters of another person’s attractions, love or intimacy.

People must be allowed to be themselves, however they define themselves, and they owe the world no explanation of it or excuse for it. They have to be reminded that the only choices they need to make are to choose honesty and safety.

Attraction is attraction, and it doesn’t always wear a label.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

Oh, Europe, the Mediterranean, cradle of civilization, is a watery grave. At the side of an Austrian highway, 71 nameless refugees perish, asphyxiated in a modern-day boxcar. Czech authorities, armed with indelible markers but bereft of a sense of history, inscribe identification numbers on the skin of 200 migrants. Others are duped by Hungarian police with promises of “freedom” and find themselves in a “reception” camp (where presumably they are offered a shower).

Oh, Europe, Slovakia wants only Christian refugees, not the Muslims of Syria or Afghanistan. Viktor Orban, the puffed-up little Putin serving as Hungary’s prime minister, says he is protecting “European civilization” — read Christian Europe — as a 175-kilometer razor wire fence is installed along the Serbian border. David Cameron speaks of a “swarm” of migrants trying to reach Britain; it is locusts that move in swarms. A three-year-old Syrian boy, his little left hand folded back as if he were asleep in a crib, lies dead on a Turkish beach, his face in the sand, his silent reproach indelible. He was called Aylan Kurdi. His family wanted to bring him to Europe.

The shadows return, freighted with ironies. Orban’s Hungary turns its back on the magnificent Hungary of 1989, the first country to open the Iron Curtain a crack as it allowed tens of thousands of East Germans to cross into Austria and make their way to West Germany. Orban’s pusillanimous Hungary forgets how, in 1956, at the time of the Soviet invasion, about 200,000 Hungarians fled into Austria and found refuge and freedom in Western Europe.

This petty Hungary also chooses to ignore that, of all the blessings acquired by the former nations of the Soviet bloc when the division of Europe ended, freedom of movement was the most prized. It was secured, this gift, with the fall of a wall. Now Hungary erects one.

Hungary is not alone in its prejudice. The preference for Christian migrants (in small numbers), and equating of Muslims with inevitable menace, is marked across almost all the countries of Central and East Europe that were once part of the Soviet imperium. These states have not known the influx of post-colonial migrants that has changed several West European societies. Their Jews were almost all killed by the Nazis (with help from local accomplices). Their ethnic makeup was further homogenized through border shifts or mass expulsions (ethnic Germans out of postwar Poland). Their recent history has been of mass emigration in search of job opportunities in the West, not of immigration.

As Jacques Rupnik, a prominent French political scientist, wrote recently in Le Monde, “There is a widespread perception in the East of the Continent that the Western ‘multicultural’ model has failed.” The conviction in these countries is that “migration from the south today equals ‘Islamic suburbs’ tomorrow.”

Oh, Europe, cursed with too much history, thy name is forgetfulness. Thy truth is miscegenation. Thy imagined tribes are just that, an illusion belied by endless migration over centuries. Thy hope is new blood, for racial purity was the altar of thy repetitive self-mutilation. Thy duty is memory, thy covenant with thy children openness and unity, for they must live.

Yes, memory: If Europe cared to remember, it might recall that this is the largest migratory wave since the end of World War II, when millions moved West from Stalin’s totalitarianism. It might also recollect that this mass movement was the culmination of a war that emanated from one of the Continent’s great “civilizations,” Germany — a frenzied attempt to impose on the Continent an Aryan super-race and rid it of Jews, Gypsies and others designated by Hitler as subspecies.

Today, refugees clamor to get into Germany. It has said it expects 800,000 this year. Angela Merkel, the chancellor, raised in Germany’s East, has towered over other European leaders because her personal history clarifies the stakes. “If Europe fails on this question of refugees, its close association with the universal rights of citizens will be destroyed,” she said. And then, almost heretically: “German thoroughness is super, but right now what we need is German flexibility.”

Even German flexibility, an unlikely commodity, is not enough. This is a European crisis. At a time of fracture in the European Union — Greece and the euro, Britain and possible exit, rising rightist parties, Vladimir Putin’s threats — Europe has been reminded of its core purpose and singular achievement: the ruin and misery it rose from, the abandoned masses it housed, the unity it forged after division had cost so many lives.

The need today is for more unity, a coherent immigration policy among the 28 members, and renewal of the maligned European idea. As Laura Boldrini, speaker of the lower house of the Italian Parliament, put it to me: “When the Mediterranean is a cemetery, we need a Europe 2.0. Nobody can love this Europe today. It is time for a renewed push for a United States of Europe.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

So Jeb Bush is finally going after Donald Trump. Over the past couple of weeks the man who was supposed to be the front-runner has made a series of attacks on the man who is. Strange to say, however, Mr. Bush hasn’t focused on what’s truly vicious and absurd — viciously absurd? — about Mr. Trump’s platform, his implicit racism and his insistence that he would somehow round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and remove them from our soil.

Instead, Mr. Bush has chosen to attack Mr. Trump as a false conservative, a proposition that is supposedly demonstrated by his deviations from current Republican economic orthodoxy: his willingness to raise taxes on the rich, his positive words about universal health care. And that tells you a lot about the dire state of the G.O.P. For the issues the Bush campaign is using to attack its unexpected nemesis are precisely the issues on which Mr. Trump happens to be right, and the Republican establishment has been proved utterly wrong.

To see what I mean, consider what was at stake in the last presidential election, and how things turned out after Mitt Romney lost.

During the campaign, Mr. Romney accused President Obama of favoring redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, and the truth is that Mr. Obama’s re-election did mean a significant move in that direction. Taxes on the top 1 percent went up substantially in 2013, both because some of the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire and because new taxes associated with Obamacare kicked in. And Obamacare itself, which provides a lot of aid to lower-income families, went into full effect at the beginning of 2014.

Conservatives were very clear about what would happen as a result. Raising taxes on “job creators,” they insisted, would destroy incentives. And they were absolutely certain that the Affordable Care Act would be a “job killer.”

So what actually happened? As of last month, the U.S. unemployment rate, which was 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office, had fallen to 5.1 percent. For the record, Mr. Romney promised during the campaign that he would get unemployment down to 6 percent by the end of 2016. Also for the record, the current unemployment rate is lower than it ever got under Ronald Reagan. And the main reason unemployment has fallen so much is job growth in the private sector, which has added more than seven million workers since the end of 2012.

I’m not saying that everything is great in the U.S. economy, because it isn’t. There’s good reason to believe that we’re still a substantial distance from full employment, and while the number of jobs has grown a lot, wages haven’t. But the economy has nonetheless done far better than should have been possible if conservative orthodoxy had any truth to it. And now Mr. Trump is being accused of heresy for not accepting that failed orthodoxy?

So am I saying that Mr. Trump is better and more serious than he’s given credit for being? Not at all — he is exactly the ignorant blowhard he seems to be. It’s when it comes to his rivals that appearances can be deceiving. Some of them may come across as reasonable and thoughtful, but in reality they are anything but.

Mr. Bush, in particular, may pose as a reasonable, thoughtful type — credulous reporters even describe him as a policy wonk — but his actual economic platform, which relies on the magic of tax cuts to deliver a doubling of America’s growth rate, is pure supply-side voodoo.

And here’s what’s interesting: all indications are that Mr. Bush’s attacks on Mr. Trump are falling flat, because the Republican base doesn’t actually share the Republican establishment’s economic delusions.

The thing is, we didn’t really know that until Mr. Trump came along. The influence of big-money donors meant that nobody could make a serious play for the G.O.P. nomination without pledging allegiance to supply-side doctrine, and this allowed the establishment to imagine that ordinary voters shared its antipopulist creed. Indeed, Mr. Bush’s hapless attempt at a takedown suggests that his political team still doesn’t get it, and thinks that pointing out The Donald’s heresies will be enough to doom his campaign.

But Mr. Trump, who is self-financing, didn’t need to genuflect to the big money, and it turns out that the base doesn’t mind his heresies. This is a real revelation, which may have a lasting impact on our politics.

Again, I’m not making a case for Mr. Trump. There are lots of other politicians out there who also refuse to buy into right-wing economic nonsense, but who do so without proposing to scour the countryside in search of immigrants to deport, or to rip up our international economic agreements and start a trade war. The point, however, is that none of these reasonable politicians is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.


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