Archive for the ‘Kristof’ Category

Kristof, solo

August 25, 2016

In “Anne Frank Today Is a Syrian Girl” Mr. Kristof says indifference and paranoia are shaping America’s immigration policy, as they did during World War II.  Here he is, writing from Amsterdam:

On April 30, 1941, a Jewish man here in Amsterdam wrote a desperate letter to an American friend, pleading for help emigrating to the United States.

“U.S.A. is the only country we could go to,” he wrote. “It is for the sake of the children mainly.”

A volunteer found that plea for help in 2005 when she was sorting oldWorld War II refugee files in New York City. It looked like countless other files, until she saw the children’s names.

“Oh my God,” she said, “this is the Anne Frank file.” Along with the letter were many others by Otto Frank, frantically seeking help to flee Nazi persecution and obtain a visa to America, Britain or Cuba — but getting nowhere because of global indifference to Jewish refugees.

We all know that the Frank children were murdered by the Nazis, but what is less known is the way Anne’s fate was sealed by a callous fear of refugees, among the world’s most desperate people.

Sound familiar?

President Obama vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees — a tiny number, just one-fifth of 1 percent of the total — and Hillary Clinton suggested taking more. Donald Trump has repeatedly excoriated them for a willingness to welcome Syrians and has called for barring Muslims. Fears of terrorism have left Muslim refugees toxic in the West, and almost no one wants them any more than anyone wanted a German-Dutch teenager named Anne.

“No one takes their family into hiding in the heart of an occupied city unless they are out of options,” notes Mattie J. Bekink, a consultant at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “No one takes their child on a flimsy boat to cross the Mediterranean unless they are desperate.”

The son of a World War II refugee myself, I’ve been researching the anti-refugee hysteria of the 1930s and ’40s. As Bekink suggests, the parallels to today are striking.

For the Frank family, a new life in America seemed feasible. Anne had studied English shorthand, and her father spoke English, had lived on West 71st Street in Manhattan, and had been a longtime friend of Nathan Straus Jr., an official in the Franklin Roosevelt administration.

The obstacle was an American wariness toward refugees that outweighed sympathy. After the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews, a poll found that 94 percent of Americans disapproved of Nazi treatment of Jews, but 72 percent still objected to admitting large numbers of Jews.

The reasons for the opposition then were the same as they are for rejecting Syrians or Hondurans today: We can’t afford it, we should look after Americans first, we can’t accept everybody, they’ll take American jobs, they’re dangerous and different.

“The United States, if it continues to be the world’s asylum and poorhouse, would soon wreck its present economic life,” the New York Chamber of Commerce warned in 1934.

Some readers are objecting: But Jews weren’t a threat the way Syrian refugees are! In the 1930s and ’40s, though, a world war was underway and Jews were widely seen as potential Communists or even Nazis. There were widespread fears that Germany would infiltrate the U.S. with spies and saboteurs under the cover that they were Jewish refugees.

“When the safety of the country is imperiled, it seems fully justifiable to resolve any possible doubts in favor of the country, rather than in favor of the aliens,” the State Department instructed in 1941. The New York Times in 1938 quoted the granddaughter of President Ulysses S. Grant warning about “so-called Jewish refugees” and hinting that they were Communists “coming to this country to join the ranks of those who hate our institutions and want to overthrow them.”

News organizations didn’t do enough to humanize refugees and instead, tragically, helped spread xenophobia. The Times published a front-page article about the risks of Jews becoming Nazi spies, and The Washington Post published an editorial thanking the State Department for keeping out Nazis posing as refugees.

In this political environment, officials and politicians lost all humanity.

“Let Europe take care of its own,” argued Senator Robert Reynolds, a North Carolina Democrat who also denounced Jews. Representative Stephen Pace, a Georgia Democrat, went a step further, introducing legislation calling for the deportation of “every alien in the United States.”

A State Department official, Breckinridge Long, systematically tightened rules on Jewish refugees. In this climate, Otto Frank was unable to get visas for his family members, who were victims in part of American paranoia, demagogy and indifference.

History rhymes. As I’ve periodically argued, President Obama’s reluctance to do more to try to end the slaughter in Syria casts a shadow on his legacy, and there’s simply no excuse for the world’s collective failure to ensure that Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries at least get schooling.

Today, to our shame, Anne Frank is a Syrian girl.

Blow and Kristof

August 18, 2016

Mr. Blow, in “Why Blacks Loathe Trump,” says he has sowed racial animosity through his entire career. And now he’s courting the African-American vote?  Mr. Kristof asks “But What if My Dog Had Been a Syrian?” and says readers had different reactions to two reasons he is grieving.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So now Donald Trump is campaigning for the black vote. (Long, awkward pause.)

Like so much of what Trump has said and done, this new outreach forces writers like me to conduct scatological studies, framing Trump’s actions in their historical and intellectual absurdity.

But, here we go.

Trump, who got a shocking 1 percent of support among black voters in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, has been urged to reach out to black voters.

A day after The New York Times published an article pointing out that “the Republican nominee has not held a single event aimed at black voters in their communities, shunning the traditional stops at African-American churches, historically black colleges and barber shops and salons that have long been staples of the presidential campaign trail,” Trump ventured to a suburban town outside Milwaukee that is 95 percent white and 1 percent black to tell the black population of America — a population that has been consumed in recent years by a discussion of police misconduct and extrajudicial killings — that “the problem in our poorest communities is not that there are too many police, the problem is that there are not enough police.”

The speech was tone deaf, facile and nonsensical, much like the man who delivered it.

Then within hours of making that speech, Trump shook up his campaign in part by naming Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, the campaign’s chief executive.

This is the same Breitbart that the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to in an April “Hatewatch” report:

“Over the past year however, the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas — all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”

The report continued:

“The Alt-Right is a loose set of far-right ideologies at the core of which is a belief that “white identity” is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states.”

How are you reaching out to the black community when you step on your own message with such an insulting hire?

All of black America is looking askance at Donald Trump. He has no credibility with black people, other than the handful of black staffers and surrogates who routinely embarrass themselves in their blind obsequiousness.

Trump has demonstrated through a lifetime of words and actions that he is no friend of the black community.

Donald Trump is 70 years old. Surely there should be copious examples from those many years of an egalitarian spirit, of outreach to African-American communities, of taking a stand for social justice, right? Right?!

In fact, Trump’s life demonstrates the opposite. He erupted like a rash onto the public consciousness on the front page of The New York Times in 1973 because he and his father were being sued for anti-black bias at their rental property.

This is the same man who took out full-page ads blaring the headline “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” in New York City newspapers calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, a group of teenagers made up of four African-American boys and one Hispanic boy, who were accused and convicted of raping a white female jogger in the park. A judge later overturned the convictions in the flimsy cases and in 2014 the Five settled a wrongful conviction suit with the city for $41 million.

This is the same man who is quoted in the 1991 book “Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump — His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall,” as saying:

“I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

The book was co-written by John O’Donnell, who was previously chief operating officer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

Trump is the same man who stepped into presidential politics by becoming the embodiment of the Birther movement, relentlessly demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate.

This is the same man at whose rallies African-Americans have been verbally and physically assaulted.

Even Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump viciously attacked for his “Mexican heritage,” is a prominent member of one of the historically African-American fraternities and sororities, known together as “The Divine Nine.” In the black community, these groups serve as well-respected service organizations with active lifetime engagement and prominent members like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Zora Neale Hurston, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and Michael Jordan. In the black community, this attack by Trump did not go unnoticed, and it did not go over well.

(Full disclosure: Judge Curiel and I are members of the same fraternity— Kappa Alpha Psi.)

This is the same man who has scandalously maligned Muslims, apparently not realizing that it’s estimated that approximately one-fourth of the 3.3 million Muslims in this country are African-American. Indeed, the Muslim faith has deep roots in the black community because many Africans brought to this country as slaves were Muslims. The signs are everywhere. For instance, I spent my earliest years in the rural community of Kiblah, Ark., an area homesteaded by former slaves following the Emancipation Proclamation. Kiblah is derived from the word “ka’aba,” the cube structure at the center of the mosque in Mecca.

Trump is the same man who repeatedly and falsely insisted that Barack Obama was the founder of the terror group the Islamic State. He then tried to weasel out of the backlash by incredulously claiming that he was being sarcastic.

This is the same man who has refused to reach out to black people in any way, including rejecting offers to speak before the N.A.A.C.P., the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Urban League. (Hillary Clinton spoke before all three.)

Donald Trump is the paragon of racial, ethnic and religious hostility. He is the hobgoblin of retrograde racial hegemony.

And this is the man who now wants to court the black vote? Puh-leese …

Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Last Thursday, our beloved family dog, Katie, died at the age of 12. She was a gentle giant who respectfully deferred even to any mite-size puppy with a prior claim to a bone. Katie might have won the Nobel Peace Prize if not for her weakness for squirrels.

I mourned Katie’s passing on social media and received a torrent of touching condolences, easing my ache at the loss of a member of the family. Yet on the same day that Katie died, I published a column calling for greater international efforts to end Syria’s suffering and civil war, which has claimed perhaps 470,000 lives so far. That column led to a different torrent of comments, many laced with a harsh indifference: Why should we help them?

These mingled on my Twitter feed: heartfelt sympathy for an American dog who expired of old age, and what felt to me like callousness toward millions of Syrian children facing starvation or bombing. If only, I thought, we valued kids in Aleppo as much as we did our terriers!

For five years the world has been largely paralyzed as President Bashar al-Assad has massacred his people, nurturing in turn the rise of ISIS and what the U.S. government calls genocide by ISIS. That’s why I argued in my column a week ago that President Obama’s passivity on Syria was his worst mistake, a shadow over his legacy.

The column sparked passionate disagreement from readers, so let me engage your arguments.

“There is nothing in our constitution that says we are to be the savior of the world from all the crazies out there,” a reader in St. Louis noted. “I cannot see any good in wasting a trillion dollars trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Bleeding hearts often cause more harm than good.”

I agree that we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t try to solve any. Would it have been wrong during the Holocaust to try to bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz? Was President Bill Clinton wrong to intervene in Kosovo to avert potential genocide there? For that matter, was President Obama wrong two years ago when he ordered airstrikes near Mount Sinjar on the Iraq-Syria border, apparently averting genocidal massacres of Yazidi there?

Agreed, we shouldn’t dispatch ground forces to Syria or invest a trillion dollars. But why not, as many suggest, fire missiles from outside Syria to crater military runways and ground the Syrian Air Force?

A reader from Delaware commented, “I hear ya, Nicholas, but so far every Middle East venture has not turned out good for the world.” Likewise, a reader in Minnesota argued, “Surely the George W. Bush experience taught us something.”

Let me push back. I opposed the Iraq war, but to me the public seems to have absorbed the wrong lesson — that military intervention never works, rather than the more complex lesson that it is a blunt and expensive tool with a very mixed record.

Yes, the Iraq war was a disaster, but the no-fly zone in northern Iraq after the first gulf war was a huge success. Vietnam was a monumental catastrophe, but the British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000 was a spectacular success. Afghanistan remains a mess, but airstrikes helped end genocide in the Balkans. U.S. support for Saudi bombing in Yemen is counterproductive, but Bill Clinton has said that his worst foreign policy mistake was not halting the Rwandan genocide.

And even if we eschew the military toolbox, what excuse do we have for not trying harder to give Syrian refugee children an education in neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon? Depriving refugee kids of an education lays the groundwork for further tribalism, poverty, enmity and violence.

I grant that cratering runways or establishing a safe zone — even educating refugees — won’t necessarily work as hoped, and Obama is right to be concerned about slippery slopes. Those concerns must be weighed against the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, particularly now that we have asserted that genocide is underway in Syria.

One reason past genocides have been allowed to unfold without outside interference is that there is never a perfect policy tool available to stop the killing. Another is that the victims don’t seem “like us.” They’re Jews or blacks or, in this case, Syrians, so we tune out.

But, in fact, as even dogs know, a human is a human.

I wonder what would happen if Aleppo were full of golden retrievers, if we could see barrel bombs maiming helpless, innocent puppies. Would we still harden our hearts and “otherize” the victims? Would we still say “it’s an Arab problem; let the Arabs solve it”?

Yes, solutions in Syria are hard and uncertain. But I think even Katie in her gentle wisdom would have agreed that not only do all human lives have value, but also that a human’s life is worth every bit as much as a golden retriever’s.

Cohen, Kristof, and Collins

August 11, 2016

In “Olympians in Hijab and Bikini” Mr. Cohen says the West’s image of Islam and the Muslim image of the West are often mutually incommunicable. No area is as sensitive as the treatment of women’s roles, dress and sexuality.  Mr. Kristof, in “Obama’s Worst Mistake,” says yes, there are steps we can take in Syria.  Ms. Collins says “You Choose or You Lose,” and that picking between major party candidates is the only way to effect the race’s outcome.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

Since I saw a photograph of an Egyptian and a German beach volleyball player confronting each other at the net in Rio, I have been unable to get the image out of my head. Doaa Elghobashy, aged 19, wears a hijab, long sleeves and black leggings to her ankles. Kira Walkenhorst, 25, is in a dark blue bikini. The outstretched hands of the Olympian women almost meet, the ball between them.

The photo, by Lucy Nicholson of Reuters, juxtaposes two women, two beliefs and two dress codes, brought together by sport. The world confronts less a clash of civilizations than a clash of identities, concertinaed in time and space by technology. The West’s image of Islam and the Muslim image of Western societies are often mutually incommunicable; the incomprehension incubates violence.

No area is as sensitive as that of the treatment of women, women’s roles, women’s sexuality, dress and ambitions. The story is often presented as one of Western emancipation versus Islamic subjugation. That, however, is an inadequate characterization.

What follows are accounts by two women, an Egyptian and an American, of their experiences with the hijab. Chadiedja Buijs is a graduate student in Cairo. Norma Moore is a former actress living in Boulder, Colo., who recently visited Iran, where the rules obliged her to adopt Islamic dress codes.

Chadiedja Buijs:

My parents — Egyptian mother, Dutch father — separated when I was four, and I grew up in the Netherlands. My mom doesn’t wear a head scarf and when I began to at the age of 19, five years ago, she said, “What the hell are you doing? I left my country so that you could be free and this is what freedom did?”

I had a lot of issues with myself, with my spiritual needs and my state of being. I was very hardworking, very controlling. I began to feel that as a religious person I needed to realize that some things are bigger than me. I started with prayer. I stopped drinking. I began fasting. I’d been so obsessed with material things. After a while I became convinced that it would be good if I could wear the head scarf out of devotion and humility, as a sign of giving up some of my control. It worked.

Our Prophet says faith is like the ocean. Sometimes the waves are high, sometimes low. Sometimes I am shaky in my faith, sometimes very strong.

The hijab is a matter of representation. I know the person I am and the ideas I have. But the person in front of me sees only the exterior. With the tension in Europe, things are worse. In a Dutch village, in a café full of rich white people, a man tore my veil off. It was shocking but not as frustrating as some of the looks and comments, the job rejections (“You do not fit the image of our store”).

After the attacks in France, my mother said, “Please take your veil off.” It is my choice to wear it. I will die with it on. That is my right. Nobody will take it away.

But balance is important. There is this life and the afterlife. Sometimes you need to think about your spirituality. Sometimes you need to adapt. In the West, now, I may wear tighter jeans, or have my neck showing, or use short sleeves. Here in Egypt I may wear maxi-skirts, long and wide. They do not look great. They make me fat. But, hey, that’s the point! My family here is quite conservative.

There is very little religious literacy in secular Western countries. And there is a crisis within Islam, over what it means to be a Muslim. As Muslims we have to acknowledge the problem. ISIS controls what Islam looks like in Iraq and Syria — religious symbolism, flags, statements and verses. This is real. We cannot deny it. But we create extremism by talking about Islam only through this prism. The head scarf becomes a fetish.

Elghobashy is wearing leggings in the photo. I think she represents people like me. International-minded, young, modern Muslims who want to go out and study and work and play. We need different images of Islam.

I got different responses from men when I chose to wear a head scarf rather than a short skirt. It created a kind of distance. But I still have my sexuality in my own hands. I can be very flirtatious, go out and meet a man — but I decide in what mode I want to be. I can be focused on my spirituality, prayers and study without distraction, or I can have a period when I choose to be sexy even in a head scarf through how I act or speak. I feel I have more power and independence vis-à-vis men now.

Norma Moore:

I am a deeply religious person. I don’t have a label to attach to my faith, but it is there nonetheless at the core of my being. I believe that God created me and created me with love as I am — just as God creates every other person. When I put on the hijab in Iran and the shapeless tunics I experience an attempt to deny how I have been made — an attempt to neutralize me.

It has made me afraid. I started this trip almost completely covered by my hijab. Before coming I practiced with the help of an internet video so that no trace of hair or neck or calf would show and make me vulnerable to stares or the humiliation of being chastised. I had come here voluntarily and accepted the terms of admission, so I began the trip in a willing state of submission.

But then the weather got hot — very hot. I got overheated and all I could think about was tearing this hijab off. I felt suffocated. I thought how I wouldn’t let an animal suffocate like this. If my animal were covered like this and suffering I would tear the fabric off out of simple decency.

My hair, the curves in my body, were given to me by God. To cover my head and wear shapeless clothes feels like I am pretending not to be a woman and that somehow I am responsible for keeping men’s sexuality within social bounds.

I just can’t wrap my head around God making me responsible for men’s sexuality.

The Olympics volleyball photograph is tantalizing. The few inches between the women’s hands may as well be a chasm. More than once I have heard Iranian imams, with preposterous certainty, equate flimsy women’s attire in the West with decadence and prostitution. To Western sensibilities, the covered Muslim woman must de facto be the disempowered woman awaiting liberation.

Reality is many-shaded. Elghobashy wears an anklet of colored beads. The only colors on Walkenhorst are those of the German flag. Who is to say which of the women is more conservative, more of a feminist or more liberated? We do not know. What we do know is that we need more events that provoke us to ask such questions and discard tired certainties that may be no more than dangerous caricatures.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

A crazed gunman’s attack on an Orlando club in June, killing 49 people, resulted in blanket news coverage and national trauma.

Now imagine that such a massacre unfolds more than five times a day, seven days a week, unceasingly for five years, totaling perhaps 470,000 deaths. That is Syria. Yet even as the Syrian and Russian governments commit war crimes, bombing hospitals and starving civilians, President Obama and the world seem to shrug.

I admire Obama for expanding health care and averting a nuclear crisis with Iran, but allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy. It is also a stain on all of us, analogous to the indifference toward Jewish refugees in the 1930s, to the eyes averted from Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur in the 2000s.

This is a crisis that cries out for American leadership, and Obama hasn’t shown enough.

In fairness, Obama is right to be cautious about military involvement, and we don’t know whether the more assertive approaches favored by Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus and many others would have been more effective. But I think Obama and Americans in general are mistaken when they seem to suggest: It’s horrible what’s going on over there, but there’s just nothing we can do.

“There are many things we can be doing now,” James Cartwright, a retired four-star general who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told me. “We can do many things to create security in selected areas, protect and stabilize those safe zones and allow them to rebuild their own country even as the conflict continues in other parts of the country.”

Cartwright, who has been called Obama’s favorite general, acknowledges that his proposal for safe zones carries risks and that the American public should be prepared for a long project, a decade or more. But he warns that the risks of doing nothing in Syria are even greater.

Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, agrees that we can do more, like set up safe zones. She emphasizes that the U.S. should be very careful in using force so as not to make problems worse, but she adds that on balance, “We should be prepared to try and create these humanitarian areas.”

This critique is bipartisan. Kori Schake, director of defense strategy in the George W. Bush White House, says, “Yes, there is something that we can do.” Her recommendation is for safe zones modeled on Operation Provide Comfort, which established the highly successful no-fly-zone in northern Iraq in 1991 after the first Gulf war.

Many experts recommend trying to ground Syria’s Air Force so it can no longer drop barrel bombs on hospitals and civilians. One oft-heard idea is to fire missiles from outside Syria to crater military runways to make them unusable.

One aim of such strategies is to increase the odds of a negotiated end to the war. Obama’s reticence has robbed Secretary of State John Kerry, who is valiantly trying to negotiate a lasting Syrian cease-fire, of leverage. The U.S. was able to get an Iran deal because it held bargaining chips, while in Syria we have relinquished all clout. And Obama’s dithering has had a real cost, for any steps in Syria are far more complex now that Russia is in the war.

Two years ago, Obama faced another daunting challenge: an impending genocide of Yazidi on Mount Sinjar near the Iraq-Syria border. He intervened with airstrikes and may have saved tens of thousands of lives. It was a flash of greatness for which he did not get enough credit — and which he has not repeated.

While caution within Syria is understandable, Obama’s lack of public global leadership in pushing to help its refugees who are swamping Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey is harder to explain. The international appeal for Syrians this year is only 41 percent funded.

“If you care about extremism, you’ve got 200,000 Syrian kids growing up in Lebanon with no education,” notes David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary, now head of the International Rescue Committee.

Perhaps it’s unfair to reproach Obama when other politicians and other countries are also unmoved — and the U.S. has been generous with financial aid — but ultimately the buck stops on Obama’s desk. He will host a summit meeting on refugees next month and I hope will seize that chance to provide the global leadership needed to address the crisis.

I met recently with two brave American doctors who, at great personal risk, used their vacation time to sneak into Aleppo, Syria, to care for children injured by barrel bombs. They described working in a makeshift underground hospital and their quiet fury at the world’s nonchalance.

“Sitting idly by and allowing a government and its allies to systematically and deliberately bomb, torture and starve hundreds of thousands of people to death, that is not the solution,” Dr. Samer Attar, a surgeon from Chicago, told me. “Silence, apathy, indifference and inaction aren’t going to make it go away.”

And last but not least we have Ms. Collins:

If you’re a Republican politician, announcing you’re not going to vote for Donald Trump is a little like declaring that you’re not going to rob a bank to finance your next campaign. Really, you don’t get any credit unless you say what you’re going to do instead.

“I truly don’t know,” said Senator Susan Collins unhelpfully.

Collins made news this week when she penned an op-ed for The Washington Post, announcing that she couldn’t support her party’s nominee because “Mr. Trump’s lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments would make an already perilous world even more so.”

It’s tough being a high-profile Republican these days. People are always demanding to know what you think about your candidate’s latest horrific remark. But unless you come up with an alternative, disavowing a candidate is more like a sulk than a solution.

There’s been a lot of this going around. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, an early evacuee from the Trump train, said he was going to wait until October to deal with the problem. Senator Lindsey Graham said he might “just pass — I may write somebody in.” Mark Kirk, who’s generally regarded as the Senator Most Likely to Be Defeated in November, gave Illinois voters an excellent example of his leadership capacity when he announced that he was going to write in David Petraeus or maybe Colin Powell.

Obviously, all these people are trying to avoid taking responsibility for Donald Trump without being accused of betraying their party. But it’s very strange to hear elected officials embracing various versions of a don’t-vote strategy. Nobody knows better than they do that politics is a world of imperfect choices.

Collins freely admits that she’s worked well with Hillary Clinton in the past. But she ruled out voting for the Democrat, telling CNN that Clinton wanted to spend too much money. (“Promises of free this and free that, that I believe would bankrupt our country.”) Faced with a choice between a guy who could compromise national security and a woman who wants universal early childhood education, the former chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee claimed to be at a loss for an answer.

Here’s the bottom line: There are only three things you can do when it comes time to elect a president. You can stay home and punt; you can choose between the two major party candidates; or you can cop out by doing something that looks like voting but has no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the race.

That includes strategies about writing in the name of a retired general, leaving the top line blank, or voting for a third-party candidate who has as much chance of winning as the YouTube Keyboard Cat.

The only third party that might have a line on all state ballots is the Libertarian, whose platform includes eliminating Social Security, ending gun control and wiping out drug laws. This year’s Libertarian candidate is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Johnson does not seem to agree with the platform on many points, but to be honest, he’s not the world’s greatest explainer. Libertarians like the idea of a charisma-free candidate, since he’d be incapable of getting much done.

But truly, this is a silly choice. Voting for Johnson is exactly the same as staying home, except that it involves going outdoors. Ditto for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a doctor who appears to have a rather ambiguous attitude toward childhood vaccinations.

Susan Collins said she could support the Libertarian ticket if only it had been reversed, with vice-presidential candidate William Weld on top. You can’t totally dislike Weld, who once told me that being governor of Massachusetts was pretty much a walk in the park. (“I used to go on vacation for a week at a time and I wouldn’t even call in.”) However, he’s been out of office for nearly 20 years. He is not the presidential candidate. And the Libertarians are never, repeat, never going to be elected.

Right now we live in a world that’s been messed up by the bad decisions George W. Bush made about invading Iraq. He was elected president in 2000 thanks to a few hundred votes in Florida. A state where Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got 97,488 votes.

Most of the Green voters undoubtedly thought they were showing their disdain for both Bush and the deeply imperfect candidacy of Al Gore. And Nader is a man of fine principles. But look where those 97,488 votes got us.

Nader himself doesn’t feel guilty. I talked to him on the phone the other day, and he argued, basically, that if Gore couldn’t win his home state of Tennessee, it’s not Nader’s fault that he couldn’t win Florida.

And he’s not voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in November. “They’re not alike,” he said, “but they’re both terrible.”

Ralph goddam Nader should be stuffed in a barrel with 10 pounds of sharp scrap iron and rolled down a steep hill.

Blow, Kristof and Collins

July 28, 2016

Mr. Blow is “Incandescent With Rage” and says that with the dropped charges in Baltimore, America is edging closer to telling people like him that the eye of justice isn’t blind but jaundiced.  Mr. Kristof wonders “Did Putin Try to Steal an American Election?”  He says the evidence from the hacking of the Democratic committee’s computers points to Russia, and it had reason to favor Trump.  In “Hillary on the March” Ms. Collins is giving a hand to the women who went before the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

No one need ask me anymore about how to heal the racial divide in America. No one need inquire about the path forward beyond racial strife. You will not be put at ease by my response.

James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Well, I am now incandescent with rage and at my wits’ end about how to responsibly aim it and morally marshal it.

I am at the screaming place.

Following three acquittals of officers in the death of Freddie Gray — which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner! — Baltimore prosecutors on Wednesday dropped all remaining charges against the other officers awaiting trial.

Yet another black man’s body broken without anyone’s being called to account, another soul lingering on the other side of the grave without justice on this side of the living. No officer has been convicted in the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and dozens more. Indeed, according to Mapping Police Violence, “only 10 of the 102 cases in 2015 where an unarmed black person was killed by police resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime, and only 2 of these deaths (Matthew Ajibade and Eric Harris) resulted in convictions of officers involved.”

What are we to make of this? What are we to take from it?

In other killings — whether they be domestic or inter-community or directed at law enforcement officers — no matter how tragic the circumstances, or perhaps because of the tragedy, the full force of the law is brought to bear, and we can point to a track record of justice, at least to some degree.

But not in these cases.

Into what frame am I supposed to position this to make it palatable? How can I wrap my head around it in a way to make it rational and right?

It is impossible, and indeed unreasonable, to expect me to do so. I deserve to be angry. I deserve to survey the system that thrusts so many officers and black and brown people into contact in the first place, and be disgusted. I deserve to examine the biases that are exposed in officer/citizen encounters, and be disgusted. I deserve to take account of an utterly racially biased criminal justice system, and be disgusted.

America’s streets are filled with cries of “black lives matter,” and America continues to insist through its actions in these cases that they don’t, that that is a lamentation of hopeful ideals rather than a recitation of a national reality.

My fingers ache as I type this. I want to pound this keyboard. I want to delete until all the characters disappear, to make the pain of it simply vanish behind a retreating cursor, but it’s just not that easy. These words are all I have left. This agony pouring out of me onto the screen is all I have.

And I take no solace in the lip service generated by politicians and their parties to rectify this situation.

I have been to two national party conventions in as many weeks and with everything I hear, my cynicism grows.

Last week in Cleveland, the Republican Party delivered an unabashed affront to the movement for black lives as it took every opportunity to diminish black loss, as if there was an inherent conflict between valuing police lives and valuing the lives of the black and brown people who are policed. Donald Trump himself delivered a heavily coded speech in which he repeatedly asserted that he would be the “law and order” candidate, but never spoke of the equally important issue of imposing some order on the law.

The Democratic convention has been different and better in many ways — particularly about elevating the issue and using proper language — but even here I remain leery of empty platitudes over actual policies.

The Mothers of the Movement — black women who have lost children to gun violence — took the stage on Tuesday night and delivered a powerful and moving address to those in the hall and across America. But even this makes me a bit uneasy.

While I applaud and commend the mothers for taking every opportunity to campaign for justice for their children and to champion policies that would prevent other mothers from ever being thrust into their position, I’m also incredibly aware of the using nature of politicians and how they try to politicize other people’s pain for their own self-aggrandizement.

Justice doesn’t live on the left or right side of the ideological spectrum. Justice lives on the side of righteousness.

And then, Bill Clinton, who I found more beguiling than many, apparently, took the stage and shifted the burden of dismantling oppression from the shoulders of the oppressors to the shoulders of the oppressed, saying:

“If you’re a young African-American disillusioned and afraid, we saw in Dallas how great our police officers can be. Help us build a future where nobody is afraid to walk outside, including the people that wear blue to protect our future.”

I am exhausted. I am repulsed. I am over all the circular dialogue. But I don’t know precisely where that leaves me other than in a hurt and festering place. America is edging ever closer to telling people like me that the eye of justice isn’t blind but jaundiced, and I say back to America, that is incredibly dangerous.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Some foreign leaders settle for stealing billions of dollars. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, may have wanted to steal something even more valuable: an American presidential election.

As our election takes a turn that could be drawn from a Cold War spy novel (except it would be too implausible), Putin has an obvious favorite in the race: Donald Trump. “It’s crystal clear to me” that Putin favors Trump, says Michael McFaul, a Stanford professor who was ambassador to Russia until 2014. “If I were Putin, I would rather deal with Trump, too, given the things he has said about foreign policy.”

Look, Democratic Party leaders exchanged inappropriate emails showing bias for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and a hacker’s disclosure has properly triggered a ruckus. But that scandal pales beside an effort apparently by a foreign dictatorship to disrupt an American presidential election.

It also seems scandalous to me that Trump on Wednesday effectively invited Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers for deleted emails from when she was secretary of state, saying at a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Yes, Trump is entertaining. But increasingly, the antonym of “gravitas” is “Trump.” Clinton could have responded by inviting Russia to hack into Trump’s computers and release his tax returns; she didn’t because the hack would be illegal and her plea would be unpresidential.

In his press conference, Trump also cast doubt on the idea that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers. “It’s probably not Russia,” he said, suggesting it might be China, or “some guy with a 200 I.Q.”

So let’s go through the evidence.

America’s intelligence agencies have assessed with “high confidence” that Russia’s government was behind the hack, and private security companies have identified two Russian teams of hackers that were inside D.N.C. computers. One team is called Cozy Bear and is linked to the F.S.B., the successor to the K.G.B., and another is called Fancy Bear and is linked to the G.R.U., or Russian military intelligence. Cyber experts are very familiar with both Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.

The next question is whether Russia was also behind the release of the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. Someone using the name Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be behind the hack, denied Russian involvement and claimed to be Romanian — but wrote Romanian badly. ThreatConnect, a private security firm, issued a meticulous report showing that Guccifer used a Russia-based VPN (virtual private network) service and displayed other “heavy traces of Russian activity.”

“Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian propaganda effort,” ThreatConnect concluded.

After talking to experts, I have the sense that there’s considerable confidence that Russia is the culprit, but more doubt about whether Putin gave the order and about whether the aim was to benefit Trump or simply to create havoc.

“I think the most likely explanation is that someone in Russian intelligence, probably very high up, decided to help Donald Trump,” said Benjamin Wittes, a security expert at the Brookings Institution, but he added that there’s no solid evidence for this.

One reason for caution is that history shows that “intelligence community” is sometimes an oxymoron. In the 1980s, the United States accused Russia of conducting chemical warfare in Southeast Asia, citing “yellow rain” in jungles there. Years later, it turned out that this “yellow rain” may have actually been bee excrement.

Democrats should be particularly wary of hinting that Trump is some sort of conscious pawn of the Russians, or is controlled by Moscow through financial investments. It’s true that his son Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008 that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” But do you really think that if Trump were an agent he would have exaggerated his ties, as he did last year, saying of Putin, “I got to know him very well”? In fact, Trump acknowledged Wednesday, he has never even met Putin.

The reason Moscow favors Trump isn’t some conspiracy. It’s simply that Putin dislikes Clinton, while Trump’s combination of international ignorance and catastrophic policies would benefit Putin. In particular, Trump’s public doubts about NATO renounce more than half a century of bipartisan orthodoxy on how to deal with Russia, and undermine the Western alliance that checks Putin.

One nightmare of security specialists is Russia provoking unrest among ethnic Russians in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania and then using rioting as an excuse to intervene. NATO members would be obliged to respond, but frankly it’s not clear that they would — and Trump’s loose rhetoric increases the risk of paralysis and a collapse of the alliance.

In that sense, Trump poses a national security risk to the West, and that’s reason enough Putin would be thrilled to see him elected president.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Now, everybody wears the pants in the family.

While the Democrats have been celebrating the nomination of Hillary Clinton, I’ve been thinking about all the American women, from the 1600s through World War II, who got arrested for wearing trousers in public. You’d like to imagine them out there somewhere watching those Clinton pantsuits, exchanging high-fives. Ditto all the women who supported the deeply uncomfortable bloomer movement, in the name of a feminist future.

The idea of the first-woman-major-party-nominee is a political event, but it’s also a historical marker. Once everyone leaves here and goes home, we probably won’t have much chance to talk about that angle. Really, there’s going to be a lot of other stuff on the agenda. The Democrats hadn’t even gotten to Clinton’s acceptance speech before everyone was distracted by Donald Trump encouraging the Russians to spy on his opponent.

It’s also becoming clear that the campaign is so fixated on those ever-elusive white males that many Democrats would prefer to forget Susan B. Anthony and talk about Babe Ruth. That’s political life. But just give us a little more time to dwell.

I’d like to think that somewhere, all the women who worked for this moment through American history are watching and nodding happily. Like the sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who really don’t get enough mention. They were the daughters of a wealthy pre-Civil War South Carolina slave owner who figured out on their own, when they were hardly more than babies, that the system was wrong. (When Sarah was about 4 she went to the docks and asked a sea captain to take her to a place where whipping was prohibited.)

They went north, became lecturers, and there was something about their earnest, sweet, humorless determination that allowed them to get away with the political equivalent of murder. They trotted around the country, speaking for abolition and women’s rights to audiences that — shockingly — included men.

You had your occasional torch-bearing protesters, but for the most part, they triumphed by simply ignoring the possibility of bad outcomes. Angelina wound up marrying a dashing fellow abolitionist, Theodore Weld, to the amazement of Americans who had never conceived that an advocate of equal rights for women could ever find a husband.

Give the Grimkes a hand. And pick your own nominees to go with them.

Even if Hillary wins the White House, there will still be political worlds for women to conquer. While Bill Clinton gave the most supportive spousal speech conceivable at the convention, the fact that our first female presidential nominee is married to a former president is a bit of a downer for some people.

There’s a sense of cutting corners. But it was probably inevitable. The annals of first-ever female elected officials is pretty much a list of wives of congressmen, senators and governors who stepped in when their husbands died — or, occasionally, got indicted.

Some, to be honest, were embarrassing placeholders. But others were tireless public servants.

The greatest, pre-Hillary, may have been Margaret Chase Smith, whose husband, Clyde, was a Republican representative from Maine. (According to Ellen Fitzpatrick’s book “The Highest Glass Ceiling,” he was also a chronic womanizer who died of advanced syphilis.) Margaret had been running the congressman’s office and meeting with his constituents for a long time, and made it clear she didn’t intend to just sit in his seat.

She moved up to the Senate, took on Joe McCarthy Communist hysteria, fought for women’s rights and bipartisanship. Smith ran for president herself in 1964 — the first woman regarded as a genuine contestant by either of the major parties. At the time, commentators had little compunction about suggesting she was, as one Los Angeles Times writer contended, “beyond the optimum years for the presidency.” Smith was 66 at the time.

So Clinton, who is 68, has won one for Margaret Chase Smith. Also for the generations of American women who were described, as one 18th-century visitor from France put it, as “charming and adorable at fifteen, faded at twenty-three, old at thirty-five, decrepit at forty.”

The story keeps moving on. While Clinton was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from New York, she was succeeded by Kirsten Gillibrand, a young and wildly energetic Democrat who came from a home where women were the family politicians. She had already attracted national notice when she went into labor after sitting through a 13-hour meeting of the Armed Services Committee.

But things still aren’t equal. We’ve made it to a point where a woman who’s been first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state can win a presidential nomination. Now let’s see how long it takes for someone who’s a little less overqualified to get the nod.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has made history. So here she comes, wearing her pants, ready to run.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 21, 2016

In “Making America Safe for Whom?” Mr. Blow says Republicans are holding their convention just 10 minutes away from where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in the stomach.  Mr. Kristof ponders “What Republicans Really Think About Trump” and says bigot, madman, bully, fraud and serial philanderer are just a sampling of the terms used by influential conservatives.  Ms. Collins, in “Pence Versus Trump Kids,” says Trump’s running mate got the spotlight for a while but got upstaged.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So far, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been a slapdash spectacle of the absurd, with processions of B-list politicians and Z-list celebrities jockeying for the title of biggest embarrassment.

Tuesday was supposed to follow the theme of “Make America Work Again” — something President Obama has already done to a large degree, for the record — but instead of presenting work programs, policies or proposals, the convention got the vice-presidential also-ran Chris Christie to conduct a Salem witch trial against Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon with permanent brain freeze, tried to link Clinton to Lucifer.

Oh, to what depths has the Grand Old Party descended?

But the first day, the one themed “Make America Safe Again,” was perhaps the most egregious.

Again there was a prosecution of Clinton — and also Obama — more than a promotion of the already too self-promoting standard-bearer. It was an unending stream of fear, outrage and escalating agitation, as if the speakers were tossing chum to sharks. Rather than an expansive vision, they delivered restrictive insecurity. It was philosophically small.

One piece of this message involved the lifting up and honoring of America’s police, shouts of “Blue Lives Matter!” and an unhinged Rudy Giuliani screaming about an alternate universe of race-blind policing.

Recognizing that the police have hard jobs, and, when properly performed, those jobs are both honorable and necessary, is fine. But there is another part of the equation that was barely voiced in the hall, which is the lack of safety that black and brown Americans feel, and indeed experience, when facing the police.

Giuliani’s only hint at this (and the only one I heard from any of the speakers) was this:

“We also reach out. We reach out our arms with understanding and compassion to those who have lost loved ones because of police shootings — some justified, some unjustified.”

It was in no way lost on me that the Republicans are holding their convention in an arena just 10 minutes away from Cudell Recreation Center, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice, playing with a pellet gun in an adjacent park, was shot in the stomach (within two seconds of officers’ arriving on the scene). He later died of his injuries.

Tamir’s ashes now rest in a blue and white marble urn, surrounded by his toys, in a curio cabinet in the dining room of his mother, Samaria. She cannot rest. She cannot be set right. The grand jury for the case declined to indict the officer who killed Tamir.

Independent investigations into the case determined that the officer who shot Tamir had behaved “reasonably.”

But, as Olevia Boykin, Christopher Desir and Jed Rubenfeld pointed out in The New York Times in January:

“Racial bias can affect what seems reasonable. Individuals of all races in America perceive black people as more aggressive and dangerous than white people. Studies show that black people are seen as being physically stronger and less prone to feeling pain than people of other races, and black children are often perceived to be older than they are. When faced with an armed black target, shooters are both more likely to shoot and quicker to shoot than they are when faced with an armed white target. These biases can affect the way we think, judge and act. As a result, force that may seem unreasonable if used against a white person may seem perfectly “reasonable” when used against a black person.”

In April the city of Cleveland settled a wrongful-death suit brought by Tamir’s family for $6 million. And while that money may eventually be able to buy physical comforts, it can’t provide spiritual consolation.

I called Samaria Rice to ask if anyone from the R.N.C. had reached out their arms to her with “understanding and compassion.” Not a one. Especially not Giuliani, who one day after Tamir was shot, told Prof. Michael Eric Dyson (who is black) on “Meet the Press” that white officers wouldn’t be in black neighborhoods “if you weren’t killing each other.” The inclusivity of the “you” racializes that statement. Whom had Dyson killed, or Tamir? No one. The common denominator for murderous proclivities in the former mayor’s mind was coded in melanin.

This erasure of black pain to create space for blue platitudes does not stand. It’s not either/or, but both/and. Too many groups in America now — the police and citizens alike — feel threatened. Tamir and all the other people who have lost their lives in highly questionable police shootings will not simply be shunted aside. There can be no complete healing until there has been some sense of restorative justice.

On Wednesday, I met Samaria for lunch to remember Tamir and discuss how she and her family were doing since the last time I interviewed her for a column on the anniversary of Tamir’s shooting.

She seemed well, but weathered. Tamir’s siblings are in counseling. His sister, who Samaria told me stopped eating after her brother died and lost significant weight, is eating well again.

Samaria herself sounds like a woman on a mission, advocating for her son in particular, but also for “human rights” in general, as she put it, because she fears the normalization of the killings of black people by the police.

Voices like Samaria’s cannot — must not! — be absent from any discussion about keeping America safe. Tamir’s blood cries out for inclusion. His mother’s heart aches for it.

She can never get back what was taken. She can’t rewind the world.

She looked up at me solemnly over lunch and said, “I would like to be normal, and I’m not normal … anymore.” She paused, then continued, “You may be normal, but I’m not.”

Pain and loss are her new normal.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

The arena here at the Republican National Convention echoes with applause for Donald Trump, but the cacophony and extravagant stage effects can’t conceal the chaos in the G.O.P. and in the Trump campaign.

Republican senators suddenly are busy fishing, mowing the lawn or hiking the Grand Canyon; conservative celebrities mostly sent regrets. This vacuum reflects the horror that many leading conservatives feel for their new nominee.

Pundits like me are gnashing our teeth as Trump receives the presidential nomination of the party of Lincoln, but, frankly speaking, we don’t have much credibility in Cleveland since many of us aren’t all that likely to support a Republican nominee in any case.

So instead of again inflicting on you my views of the danger of Trump, let me share what some influential conservatives said about him during the course of the campaign. (Some have since tempered their public sentiments.)

“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.” — Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina

“I don’t think this guy has any more core principles than a Kardashian marriage.” — Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska

“We saw and looked at true hate in the eyes last year in Charleston. I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party.” — Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina

“A moral degenerate.” — Peter Wehner, evangelical Christian commentator who served in last three Republican administrations

“Donald Trump is a madman who must be stopped,” — Bobby Jindal, former Republican governor of Louisiana

“I won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he isn’t. He isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a conservative. He isn’t a truth teller. … I also won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he is. A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” — Norm Coleman, former Republican senator from Minnesota

“To support Trump is to support a bigot. It’s really that simple.” —Stuart Stevens, chief strategist to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

“Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey.” — Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise C.E.O. and former national finance co-chairwoman for Chris Christie’s presidential campaign

“I thought he was an embarrassment to my party; I think he’s an embarrassment to my country. … I can’t vote for him.” — Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush

“I would not vote for Trump, clearly. If there is any, any, any other choice, a living, breathing person with a pulse, I would be there.” — Mel Martinez, former Republican senator from Florida and former chairman of the Republican National Committee

“The G.O.P., in putting Trump at the top of the ticket, is endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism. This troubles me deeply as a Republican, but it troubles me even more as an American. … Never Trump.” — Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary under George W. Bush

“Hillary is preferable to Trump, just like malaria is preferable to Ebola. … If it’s Trump-Hillary with no serious third-party option in the fall, as hard as it is for me to believe I am actually writing these words, there is just no question: I’d take a Tums and cast my ballot for Hillary.” — Jamie Weinstein, senior writer, the Daily Caller, a conservative website

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” — Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican nominee for president

“When you’ve got a guy favorably quoting Mussolini, I don’t care what party you’re in, I’m not voting for that guy.” — Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund

“Donald Trump is a scam. Evangelical voters should back away.” — The Christian Post, a popular U.S. evangelical website

“Listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. … The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery. How proud he is. Describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam.” — Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

“A man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences … whose personal record of chicanery and wild rhetoric of bigotry, misogyny and misplaced belligerence are without parallel in the modern history of either major party.” — Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush

“Leaders don’t need to do research to reject Klan support. #NeverTrump” — Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee

“God bless this man” — Daily Stormer, white supremacist website

And you can safely bet your last dime that every single one of those hypocrites will vote for Trump.  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump arrived here Wednesday with a few words to the fans assembled at the helicopter pad. Really, just a few. Win Ohio … make America great … Mike Pence … unbelievable vice president.

“Welcome to Cleveland,” said Pence. It was a little peculiar that the governor of Indiana was doing the greeting, but there was, you know, that problem with John Kasich being on strike from the convention. It was Pence’s big night, although Trump made it pretty clear he was more excited about his son Eric’s turn on stage. (“Eric’s going to be great … amazing job. Kids congratulations. Fantastic job.”)

Which Trump child has been your favorite so far? I think you have to give a little credit to Tiffany, who labors under the burden of having been named for a jewelry store and got stuck with the job of telling the long-awaited touching personal anecdotes about her father. Eric, however, seemed to be the schedulers’ favorite, given the fact that speaking roles also went to an official from the winery he runs and to the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.

The kids have been a relatively heartwarming feature, considering that virtually everybody else, including the conventioneers, has spent a large chunk of time demanding that Hillary Clinton be sent directly to the pokey. (“Lock her up!”)

This is a whole new world when it comes to nominating a president. The candidate pops up all over the place, like Pokémon. When he’s not around, the delegates listen to his relatives, or speakers calling for the imprisonment of his opponent.

Look back nostalgically on the days when you’d hear a description like that and think, maybe, Gambia.

For all the hate-Hillary hysteria, the convention had been a bit of a snooze — until we got to Ted Cruz. He began with a shout-out to LeBron James, then congratulated Trump “on winning the nomination last night.” The emotional high point of the evening came when the enraged delegates realized he was never going to mention the nominee again. You have to hand it to Ted Cruz. His ability to drive people crazy is unparalleled.

By the end of the evening, hating Cruz was almost as popular as hating Hillary. But the latter, of course, has more staying power.

A New Hampshire delegate — who is also a well-known Trump adviser on veterans’ affairs — upped the ante, telling a radio interviewer that Clinton should be “shot for treason.” State Representative Al Baldasaro is what is known as a colorful politician. There is one in every legislature, where “colorful” is a synonym for “stark raving nuts but still repeatedly elected.”

The leader of New Hampshire’s Republican Party called on Baldasaro to take it back, but being a Trumpite means never having to say you’re sorry.

Refusal to apologize is definitely one of the overarching themes of the Cleveland experience. We’d still be debating the Melania’s Cribbed Quotes crisis if a hitherto unknown Trump employee hadn’t finally taken responsibility. (On the plus side, a day and a half of stonewalling gave us the opportunity to hear the Republican spokesman dismiss the whole affair with a quote from Twilight Sparkle in “My Little Pony.”)

But about Mike Pence. His speech is destined to be totally forgotten in the Cruzmania. But he did a grand job of returning the auditorium to the early-evening theme of sleepiness. Every single one of the Trump children turns out to be a more exciting speaker than the prospective vice-president. Tiffany’s story about how Donald wrote notes on her report cards suddenly took on new and compelling dimensions.

Even Pence, however, drew a “Lock her up!” chant from the floor. It’s what they’ve got.

In case you missed it, Pence promised that his new partner would solve all of our problems, from ISIS to the national debt. There was no explanation of how Trump — whose current tax-cutting plan would send the debt soaring like a grand new skyscraper — was going to manage that. This is definitely not a convention that sweats the details.

So far the most interesting look at the Pence-Trump relationship came on “60 Minutes,” when Lesley Stahl asked Pence if he thought that as vice president he’d ever be able to go to his boss and say that he’d “crossed the line” and needed to apologize. Pence stammered desperately until Trump broke in and said: “Absolutely. I might not apologize. … I might not do that. But I would absolutely want him to come in.”

Some people believe the Republican vice-presidential selection is more important than usual because Trump is capable of getting bored with the actual duties of presidency and tossing everything short of declaring nuclear war over to his veep. It’s possible. But of course if that happened, he could just as easily put Donald Jr. in charge.

The one thing we know for sure is that if Trump did something terrible, Pence would have no chance whatsoever to get him to say he’s sorry. But the vice-presidential nominee has total rights to go into his office and be ignored.

Blow, Kristof and Collins

July 14, 2016

In “Blood on Your Hands, Too” Mr. Blow says interpersonal and systemic racism are only part of the equation. There is also class conflict between those who are better off and those who are not.  Mr. Kristof considers “A History of White Delusion” and says we’re  in denial of racial inequity.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump Reaps a Veep,” says Indiana is the center of the universe.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

There is no question that we should examine incidents of police violence for traces of bias, if for no other reason than to rule it out if it isn’t present. Indeed, we should all search ourselves for manifestations of racial bias.

But the current conversation is — and must be — larger than that.

Interpersonal racism, when it exists, is only one part of the equation. Another part is systemic, structurally racist policies, and yet another is class conflict between the police and the poorest, most dangerous communities they patrol, and between those who are better off and those who are not. That strand is nearly absent from this conversation altogether.

At the Tuesday memorial service in Dallas for five murdered police officers, President Obama said:

“As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book. And then we tell the police, ‘You’re a social worker; you’re the parent; you’re the teacher; you’re the drug counselor.’ We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience; don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”

The comment underscores that this is not simply a conflict between police departments and minority communities that everyone else can watch from a comfortable distance, convinced that the battle doesn’t belong to them.

No, this issue is about everyone. We have areas of concentrated poverty in our cities in part because of a long legacy of discriminatory urban policies. We don’t sufficiently address the effects of that legacy, in part because it is rooted in a myth of racial pathology and endemic poor choice. We choose to be blind to the policy choices our politicians have made — and that many have benefited from, while others suffered — while simultaneously holding firmly to the belief that all of our own successes and comforts are simply the result of our and our families’ drive, ambition and resourcefulness. Other people lack physical comforts because they lack our character strength.

It is from this bed of lies that our policing policies spring. When the president says, “We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs,” who is the “we”?

It’s not the blue-collar civil servants in law enforcement or the working-class and poor communities, which are aggressively patrolled. No. The “we” is the middle and moneyed classes.

While the blue, black and brown groups on the lower end of the spectrum are forced into more interaction — on one hand to contain disruption within communities, and on the other to finance police departments and civic governance — everyone else goes about their business unaware and unbothered until something causes “political blowback or inconvenience” and disturbs the more prosperous half’s “peace of mind.”

As the Dallas police chief, David Brown, said Sunday:

“These officers risk their lives for $40,000 a year. Forty thousand dollars a year. And this is not sustainable, not to support these people. We’re not perfect. There’s cops that don’t need to be cops. I have been the first to say, we need to separate employment with those types of cops — 1 percent or 2 percent. The 98 percent or 99 percent of cops come to work, do this job, come to work for 40 grand. It’s not sustainable.”

Russel Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general, on Monday told the CNN anchor Don Lemon: “We ask a lot from our police in terms of sacrifice. You know, in Baton Rouge, the starting salary for a police officer, less than $31,000.” Alton Sterling was killed last week by the police in that city.

Honoré continued:

“Matter of fact, their pay would go up if the federal minimum wage was passed, $15 an hour. They make less than $15 an hour. We ask a lot from these young police officers which means, Don, they’ve got to get another job. They have to have a second job to support their families, most of them. We’ve got to take that stress off of them, too. So we got to make sure they’re properly trained and they don’t have to work all this overtime so they can maintain their family. A stressful police officer who’s working another 30 hours overtime a week is coming to work tired. And he’s stressed out. We’ve got to fix that.”

We take this underpaid and highly stressed group of officers, with guns and any biases they may harbor, explicit or implicit, and flood disadvantaged communities with them, where uncivil behavior can often take root, and then “we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”

These are communities where people are often already scratching to survive, where some are engaged in makeshift work in the shadow economy: Eric Garner, who was killed by the police on Staten Island, had sold loose cigarettes for years, and Sterling had sold CDs in the parking lot of a convenience store for years.

Police departments can then use these already poor people as a kind of municipal cash machine, plugging budgetary shortfalls by performing an inordinate number of stops, writing an outrageous number of tickets and having the courts impose even more fines.

Now where would this revenue come from if it were not being bled from poor people? That’s right, the rest of the population. The tax dollar that your local government refused to exact from you is being exacted from dark flesh. That same city service that your town can’t truly afford but refused to forgo is being paid for by gouging poor people who have almost nothing.

You may think that you are not a part of this, but you are wrong. That’s just a lie that your willful ignorance and purposeful blindness perpetuates, to protect your conscience. This is absolutely about you, many, many of you. There are more bloody hands than meet the eye.

Mr. Blow, if you’re a Republican that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.

In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.

This complacency among us white Americans has been a historical constant. Even in the last decade, almost two-thirds of white Americans have said that blacks are treated fairly by the police, and four out of five whites have said that black children have the same chance as white kids of getting a good education. In short, the history of white Americans’ attitudes toward race has always been one of self-deception.

Just as in 1963, when many well-meaning whites glanced about and couldn’t see a problem, many well-meaning whites look around today, see a black president, and declare problem solved.

That’s the backdrop for racial tensions roiling America today.

Of course, there have been advances. In 1939, 83 percent of Americans believed that blacks should be kept out of neighborhoods where white people lived. But if one lesson from that old figure is that we have made progress, another is how easy it is for a majority to “otherize” minorities in ways that in hindsight strike us all as repugnant.

In fairness, the evidence shows black delusions, too. But what is striking in looking back at historical data is that blacks didn’t exaggerate discrimination but downplayed it.

In 1962, for example, a majority of blacks said that black children had the same educational opportunities as white children, and nearly one-quarter of blacks said that they had the same job opportunities as whites. That was preposterous: History hasn’t discredited the complaints of blacks but rather has shown that they were muted.

My hunch is that we will likewise look back and conclude that today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem — and that white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.

As it happens, the trauma surgeon running the Dallas emergency room last Thursday when seven police officers were brought in with gunshot wounds is a black man, Brian Williams. He fought to save the lives of those officers and wept for those he couldn’t help. But in other contexts he dreads the police: He told The Associated Press that after one traffic stop he was stretched out spread-eagle on the hood of a police car.

Williams shows his admiration for police officers by sometimes picking up their tabs at restaurants, but he also expressed his feelings for the police this way to The Washington Post: “I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.”

That’s a narrative that many white Americans are oblivious to. Half of white Americans today say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks. Really? That contradicts overwhelming research showing that blacks are more likely to be suspended from preschool, to be prosecuted for drug use, to receive longer sentences, to be discriminated against in housing, to be denied job interviews, to be rejected by doctors’ offices, to suffer bias in almost every measurable sector of daily life.

In my mind, an even bigger civil rights outrage in America than abuses by some police officers may be an education system that routinely sends the neediest black students to underfunded, third-rate schools, while directing bountiful resources to affluent white schools.

“If America is to be America, we have to engage in a larger conversation than just the criminal justice system,” notes Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. “If you were to examine most of the institutions that underpin our democracy — higher education, K-12 education, the housing system, the transportation system, the criminal justice system — you will find systemic racism embedded in those systems.”

Yet Walker is an optimist, partly because of his own trajectory. In 1965, as an African-American child in rural Texas, he was able to enroll in Head Start soon after it was founded — and everything changed. “It transformed my life and created possibilities for me and a glide path,” he says. “It provided me with a life I would never have imagined.”

As Walker’s journey suggests, we have tools that can help, although, of course, racial inequity is complex, involving not just discrimination but also jobs, education, family structure and more. A starting point is for us whites to wake from our ongoing mass delusions, to recognize that in practice black lives have not mattered as much as white lives, and that this is an affront to values that we all profess to believe in.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

I am embarrassed to admit how much I’ve enjoyed the Donald Trump vice-presidential search. There’s nothing like a bunch of egomaniacs humiliating themselves in public to cheer up a dark day.

We got to sit through a series of very public tryouts — who can introduce Trump at a rally in the loudest, most craven manner possible? My blue ribbon went to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who hollered that Trump has “never forgotten or forsaken the people who work with their hands,” apparently skipping over all the construction workers he’s stiffed in his real estate business. Pence has also started twittering like a howling dog. (“We will not rest until we elect @realDonaldTrump as the next President of the United States of America!”)

On Wednesday, for mysterious reasons that may have been connected to trouble with the Trump plane, Indiana became the center of the veep universe. Pence was visited by a delegation that included Trump, Trump’s daughter, Trump’s sons, Trump’s son-in-law and — oh yeah, the campaign manager.

Then Newt Gingrich flew in for a sit-down with the kids, apparently followed by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. The only major vice-presidential prospect who wasn’t in Indiana was Chris Christie.

But Trump and Christie were famously close already, despite the fact that Christie once sent Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law to prison. Yes, indeed. When he was U.S. attorney, Christie prosecuted Charles Kushner, who wound up spending 14 months in the clink for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. One of the case highlights involved a family business feud, during which Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law.

Kushner’s son Jared — Ivanka’s husband — is very influential in the Trump campaign and seems to have gotten over the send-Dad-to-the-clink issue completely. You can see why everyone has been comparing the vice-presidential search to a reality TV show. All we needed was an announcement that the final four would be competing in a challenge that involves eating raw groundhog livers.

For those of us who love obscure political factoids, it seemed appropriate that this was all going on in Indiana. The state has often been at the center of vice-presidential politics. (Dan Quayle!) Nearly a dozen Hoosiers have been nominated for the job since the Civil War. (Dan Quayle!) Several have won. (Dan Quayle!)

Former Indiana Gov. Thomas Hendricks’s pull in his home state got Grover Cleveland critical electoral votes he needed to become president after the 1884 election. It was one of the very few times that the vice-presidential selection made a big difference.

Hendricks had a long-running rivalry with another governor, Oliver Morton, which produced my favorite headline of all time, from The Chicago Times:Hendricks a Man of the Purest Social Relations, but Morton a Foe to Society, a Seducer and a Libertine … The Former’s Name Untrammeled by Lust; the Latter’s Reeking With Filth and Slime. A Few of the Hellish Liaisons of, and Attempted Seductions by, Indiana’s Favorite Stud-Horse.”

So stop complaining about the terrible tone of the modern media.

O.K., enough about Indiana. I just wanted to share. I’ve also been rooting for Senator Sessions to show up in the vetting so I could point out that the only person ever elected to a national office from Alabama was William King, the only bachelor vice president, who was once a very close friend and sometimes roommate with James Buchanan, the only bachelor president.

See, how can you not like this stuff?

But about the Trump contenders. Each of them has a special something. Gingrich, like Trump, has been married three times. (Six-wife ticket!) Bringing Newt back would also allow the nation to revisit his interesting plan to replace unionized school janitors with poor children.

Christie has exhibited a marvelous ability to suck up abuse. Trump has made fun of him for everything from being AWOL from the governor’s office to eating Oreos. There are pictures of Trump holding a huge umbrella over his own famous head and letting Christie get wet. When you’ve currently got a 26 percent approval rating in your home state, I guess you take whatever they throw at you. However, Christie’s office denied reports that Trump once sent him out to get hamburgers.

I have a theory that women will never vote for a male presidential candidate who yells, because it reminds them of their worst boyfriends. A Trump-Christie ticket would be like the worst boyfriend sitting in the living room with his thuglike pal, watching football with their shoes off and demanding that you cook them pizza from scratch.

A Trump-Gingrich ticket would be a total of 143 years old.

None of the options are really all that terrific. But then you’ve got to be in a pretty bad place to begin with if you’re yearning for the spot beneath Donald Trump. I just hope that if the decision came down to that liver-eating contest, somebody took pictures. It’d be a great feature for the Cleveland convention.

Gail, Gail, Gail…  It’s not raw groundhog livers, it’s salted rat dicks.

Friedman and Kristof from yesterday

June 22, 2016

In “Another Age of Discovery” The Moustache of Wisdom says disruptions in Copernicus’s day offer lessons today.  Yesterday Mr. Kristof gave us “R.I.P., Jo Cox.  May Britain Remember Your Wisdom.”  Here’s TMOW from today:

Have we been here before? I know — it feels as if the internet, virtual reality, Donald Trump, Facebook, sequencing of the human genome and machines that can reason better than people constitute a change in the pace of change without precedent. But we’ve actually been through an extraordinarily rapid transition like this before in history — a transition we can learn a lot from.

Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, and Chris Kutarna, also of Oxford Martin, have just published a book — “Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance” — about lessons we can draw from the period 1450 to 1550, known as the Age of Discovery. It was when the world made a series of great leaps forward, propelled by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Copernicus and Columbus, that produced the Renaissance and reshaped science, education, manufacturing, communications, politics and geopolitics.

“Gutenberg’s printing press provided the trigger,” Goldin told me by email, “by flipping knowledge production and exchange from tight scarcity to radical abundance. Before that, the Catholic Churches monopolized knowledge, with their handwritten Latin manuscripts locked up in monasteries. The Gutenberg press democratized information, and provided the incentive to be literate. Within 50 years, not only had scribes lost their jobs, but the Catholic Church’s millennia-old monopoly of power had been torn apart as the printing of Martin Luther’s sermons ignited a century of religious wars.”

Meanwhile, Goldin added, Copernicus upended the prevailing God-given notions of heaven and earth “by finding that far from the sun revolving around the earth, the earth rotated around the sun,” and “voyages of discovery by Columbus, da Gama and Magellan tore up millennia-old maps of the ‘known’ world.”

Those were the mother of all disruptions and led to the parallels with today.

“Now, like then, new media have democratized information exchange, amplifying the voices of those who feel they have been injured in the upheaval,” said Goldin. “Now, like then, public leaders and public institutions have failed to keep up with rapid change, and popular trust has been deeply eroded.” Now, like then, “this is the best moment in history to be alive” — human health, literacy, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing — and “there are more scientists alive today than in all previous generations.”

And, yet many people feel worse off.

Because, as in the Renaissance, key anchors in people’s lives — like the workplace and community — are being fundamentally dislocated. The pace of technological change is outstripping the average person’s ability to adapt. Now, like then, said Goldin, “sizable parts of the population found their skills were no longer needed, or they lived in places left behind, so inequality grew.” At the same time, “new planetary scale systems of commerce and information exchange led to immense improvements in choices and accelerating innovations which made some people fabulously rich.”

Was there a Donald Trump back then?

“Michelangelo and Machiavelli’s Florence suffered a shocking popular power-taking when Girolamo Savonarola, a midlevel friar from Ferrara, who lived from 1452 to 1498, exploded from obscurity in the 1490s to enthrall Florentines, who felt left behind economically or culturally, with sermons that laid blame upon the misguided policies and moral corruption of their leaders,” said Goldin. “He and his zealous supporters, though a small minority, swept away the Medici establishment and seized control of the city’s councils.

“From there, Savonarola launched an ugly campaign of public purification, introducing radical laws including against homosexuality, and attacked public intellectuals in an act of intimidation that history still remembers as the Bonfire of the Vanities. Savonarola was amongst the first to tap into the information revolution of the time, and while others produced long sermons and treatises, Savonarola disseminated short pamphlets, in what may be thought of as the equivalent of political tweets.”

The establishment politicians of the day, who were low energy, “underestimated the power of that new information revolution to move beyond scientific and cultural ideas” to amplify populist voices challenging authority.

Yikes! How do we blunt that?

“More risk-taking is required when things change more rapidly, both for workers who have to change jobs and for businesses who have to constantly innovate to stay ahead,” Goldin argued. Government’s job is to strengthen the safety nets and infrastructure so individuals and companies can be as daring — in terms of learning, adapting and investing in themselves — as they need to be. At the same time, when the world gets this tightly woven, America “needs to be more, not less, engaged, with the rest of the world,” because “the threats posed by climate change, pandemics, cyberattacks or terror will not be reduced by America withdrawing.”

Then, as now, walls stopped working. “Cannons and gunpowder came to Europe that could penetrate or go over walls and books could bring ideas around them,” he said. Then, like now, walls only made you poorer, dumber and more insecure.

Now here’s Mr. Kristof from yesterday, writing from Cambridge, England:

As I listen to the stormy debates here in the run-up to Thursday’s Brexit vote on whether Britain should exit the European Union, my thoughts keep drifting to my friend Jo Cox, a member of Parliament assassinated last week.

Jo was a leader who fought for genocide victims in Darfur, for survivors of human trafficking, for women’s health, for Syrian refugees, and, yes, for remaining in the European Union. She was also a proud mom of two small children: When she was pregnant, she used to sign her emails “Jo (and very large bump).”

Jo’s dedication to the voiceless may have cost her life. At least one witness said that the man who stabbed and shot Jo shouted “Britain First!” and when he was asked to say his name at a court hearing he responded, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

Yet from awful events bittersweet progress can emerge. In three days, a fund in Jo Cox’s memory has raised about £1 million (about $1.5 million) for causes she supported. Likewise, perhaps revulsion at the murder will leave voters wary of the xenophobic tone of some of the Leave campaigners.

I hope so, for helping to save a united Europe would be a fitting legacy for a woman no longer able to influence the world in other ways — and also because the world needs Britain in Europe.

The British joke about their view of Europe, with a famous (and apparently apocryphal) headline once declaring: “Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off.” But it’s also true, as John Donne wrote, “if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” And if Britain were washed away, Europe and Britain would both be less.

An International Monetary Fund report this month concluded that a British pullout from the European Union would “permanently lower incomes.” But more important are the political costs to an unraveling.

Among those who first called for a “United States of Europe,” was Sir Winston Churchill, in a 1946 speech, and the impetus for him and for Jean Monnet, “the father of Europe,” was primarily peace and security.

In many ways, that has been disappointing. The European Union has repeatedly failed political tests: It was paralyzed as genocide began in the former Yugoslavia, it adopted a common currency too soon, it mishandled the recent economic crisis, and it has bungled the refugee crisis. And that’s on top of the quotidian expense and wastefulness of a European bureaucracy translating in 24 official languages, including Maltese, Bulgarian, Slovak and Slovenian.

Immigration has also fed an anxiety about loss of control and about erosion of national identity, prompting a backlash not entirely dissimilar from the Donald Trump phenomenon in the United States. Jo Cox herself, in an article she wrote shortly before her death, acknowledged, “It’s fine to be concerned by immigration — many people are.” But her point was that practical concerns about immigration should be addressed with practical solutions, while Brexit would simply create new crises without solving old ones.

One risk is that if Britain leaves, others will follow, leading to a dismemberment of Europe and economic crisis. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, has warned that “Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the E.U. but also of Western political civilization in its entirety.”

That seems a little much. But we’ve seen the chaos in the Arab world since 2011, and the last thing the globe needs is another arc of instability.

One of the few triumphs of international cooperation of recent years was the joint effort by Britain, France and the United States to defeat Ebola in West Africa. That would have been more difficult if Britain and France were feuding and Europe were facing a deeper economic slump.

Likewise, a nightmare scenario is Russia overwhelming Estonia or its Baltic neighbors, testing NATO’s resolve (a test I’m not 100 percent sure NATO would pass or even survive). Such Russian adventurism is probably more likely if Europe is disintegrating.

Even the debate about Brexit has been poisonous in Britain. After Jo’s murder, a far-right group called National Action wrote of her killer: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!”

This is a scary period, compounded by the risk of Europe’s unraveling. It’s time for Britons to remember that immigration and integration have enriched their country as well as challenged it.

Jo Cox never had a chance to respond when her killer reportedly shouted “Britain First.” But in a sense, she already had. In her maiden speech in Parliament, she boasted of her constituency’s traditional English fish and chips — but also of its outstanding curries, made by immigrants. She declared, “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Rest in Peace, Jo. I hope Britain remembers your wisdom.

Kristof and Collins

June 9, 2016

In “Bernie, Hillary and, er, President Trump?” Mr. Kristof says Bernie Sanders and his followers need to consider the candidate who really benefits if they don’t stop sniping and start uniting.  Ms. Collins, in “The Hillary and Bernie Road Trip,” says in 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton found a symbolically named town for post-primary bonding. Clinton and Sanders could go to Uncertain, Tex.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

Bernie Sanders has had a stunning impact this year, helping set the political agenda and winning the passionate embrace of a demographic a quarter his age. A socialist, Jewish, non-pandering candidate who didn’t kiss babies but lectured their parents on social justice won 22 states. But now he has lost. It’s time for him and his followers to stop sniping and start uniting.

Sanders has said he will ultimately support the Democratic ticket, and I’m sure he intends to. But for now he’s still dividing more than coalescing.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll last month, nearly one-fourth of Sanders supporters said that in a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump matchup, they would either vote for Trump (which suggests bipolar disorder!) or stay home. That figure is inflated by bitterness and resentment, but if some Sandernistas sit on their hands this fall they could help elect a man antithetical to everything they stand for.

At this point, Sanders has essentially zero chance of becoming our next president. Meanwhile, there is a modest risk that continued Democratic warfare will cost Clinton the election. The upshot is that continuing to tilt at windmills is many, many times more likely to elect Trump than Sanders.

We’ve seen this before. In 1968, liberal disenchantment with the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, assisted in the election of Richard Nixon. In 1980, Edward Kennedy’s endless challenge to Jimmy Carter undermined Carter and probably gave Ronald Reagan a lift.

And in 2000, many liberals regarded Al Gore the way some see Clinton today, as a flip-flopper short on inspiration and convictions. So a small number voted for a third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, probably helping put George W. Bush in office.

Nader, whom I admire for his transformational impact on consumer rights, disagrees: He tells me that it’s absurd to blame him for Bush’s election, and he wants Sanders to continue his campaign.

“Why would he want to lose his bargaining power?” Nader asks, suggesting that by staying in the race, Sanders can influence the Democratic platform and Clinton’s choice of a running mate. Anyway, he says, “Trump’s going to implode.”

He’s probably right on that count. I would bet that Trump will lose, and I’d even give two-to-one odds. But I remember how my mother in 1980, as a fan of President Carter, was overjoyed when Reagan became the Republican nominee since she figured that assured Carter’s re-election. She wasn’t so happy a few months later.

Presidential campaigns are driven in part by surprises: What if there is a new wave of Central American refugees, or a terror attack by a Muslim recently admitted to the U.S.? Either would bolster Trump’s chances.

The success of both Trump and Sanders this year should inspire humility on the part of all of us about predicting election results. I agree with Nader that it’s almost unthinkable for Trump to be elected. Then again, it once was unthinkable that he would win the Republican nomination.

Sanders supporters should also remember that they agree at least in part with Clinton on Wall Street excesses, income inequality and college debt. Likewise, whatever their distaste for the Clintons, they probably share her views on reproductive health, on Supreme Court nominees, on inclusiveness toward Muslims and Mexican-Americans, on immigration reform, on early-childhood investments, on a stronger social safety net, on women’s rights around the world, on reducing mass incarceration and on a global pact to confront climate change.

Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat who has been the only senator to back Sanders, acknowledges that now “we have a nominee.” He tells me that Sanders will continue his primary race through the Washington, D.C., vote next week but ultimately will focus on party unity.

“When I talked to Bernie when he was first thinking about running, he made it absolutely clear that he didn’t want to do anything that would result in the journey that we experienced with Ralph Nader,” Merkley said. “He will do everything possible to make sure that Trump is not in the Oval Office, and to do ‘everything possible’ certainly means that we’ve got to come together not just as a formality but in an inclusive, emphatic, unified fashion.”

In 2008, at about this time, Clinton stepped up and gave a powerful endorsement of Barack Obama. But she and Obama agreed on almost everything, while Sanders disagrees with Clinton on some issues and still exudes scorn for the Clinton campaign.

“Our struggle continues,” Sanders said in a new fund-raising email on Wednesday. Speaking in California on Tuesday evening, he did little to discourage his audience as it booed mention of Clinton.

That’s just irresponsible. And now that Clinton has won a majority of pledged delegates, it’s a violation of Sanders’s own principles to try to get superdelegates to vote for him rather than for the people’s choice.

“Defying history is what this campaign has been about,” Sanders said on Tuesday, but at this point he’s also defying his own values — and, just maybe, bolstering the prospects of the candidate who is the anti-Sanders.

I understand the passion and heartache of his followers, but I watched such idealism help elect Nixon and George W. Bush, and I flinch at the thought of similar idealists this year helping to elect a President Trump.

Right.  The last thing this country needs now is a bunch of purer-than-thou butthurt morons who will throw a tantrum if they don’t get their sparkleponies and unicorn poop.  Here’s Ms. Collins:

Do you remember back in 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton betook themselves to Unity, N.H., for post-primary bonding? Clinton-Sanders seems like a tougher merge. Maybe they could be a little less ambitious and just get together in Friendly, W.Va.

There’s also Smileyberg, Kan. Although it’s sort of a ghost town, which isn’t great for analogies.

So far, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to be in a Smileyberg state of mind. He’s meeting with President Obama on Thursday, but in his post-primary speech to supporters he was vowing to battle on to the convention. “I am pretty good at arithmetic and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight,” he said, in what may have been the biggest understatement of the campaign.

“We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.,” he added.

Yes, there’s one more primary left, next Tuesday. But no one is going to pay any attention. I’m sorry, D.C. voters. You don’t have a senator, you’ve got about one-fifth of a member of Congress and now we’re going to totally ignore your opinion about the presidential nomination. You deserve better. Tell them next time to let you go ahead of New Hampshire.

The road to Unity eight years ago wasn’t devoid of potholes. Before the convention, Clinton was bitter and her supporters were furious. They wanted to put her name in nomination, make speeches about her superiority as a candidate and then cast all their delegate votes for her just to make it clear to the Obama people that they hadn’t changed their minds.

In the end, there was a deal. Clinton released her delegates and urged everyone to support Obama. Everyone didn’t comply. One of the most ardent Hillary camps was called PUMA, which either meant People United Means Action or Party Unity My Ass, depending on your mood. The PUMA people never came around. On Election Day, a group founder, Will Bower, told CNN that he had voted for John McCain because “I didn’t want to validate corruption or reward the campaign for what I thought was a fraudulent victory.”

Does that sound familiar? People who lose elections always suspect foul play, but the first useful thing Sanders needs to do is to stop suggesting that Clinton stole the nomination. The primary rules are weird, but you cannot keep complaining about the role of superdelegates when the winner is the person who got 16.2 million votes to your 12.3 million.

Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump. “To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,” he said on Tuesday. This was during the speech in which he attempted to prove that he could behave like a normal candidate and read lines from a teleprompter, none of them having to do with the capacity of Mexican-American judges to deliver fair verdicts.

And how did it go? Well, it turns out that Donald Trump being a normal candidate is so dull that the family members behind him on the stage looked ready to nod off. This is never going to last.

But about the Democrats.

The real difference between today and 2008 is that the two feuding candidates have serious policy differences. Also, Sanders is not going to be moved by any considerations of his future in the party, of which he has been a member for about three minutes. To bring him and his supporters around, Clinton will probably have to make some concessions on the issues they care about.

And that would be a good thing for everyone. The Democrats might not need every Bernie supporter this November, but the party most definitely needs an infusion of younger progressive leadership at every level. Really, right now it looks as if everybody’s been in office since the birth of disco.

Clinton has actually come around on some of Sanders’s issues already, although she hasn’t exactly been yelling from the rooftops. She supports free tuition at public community colleges. She’s opposed to reducing any Social Security benefits. She’s backtracked on free trade. But now that the primaries are over and she’s about to be pitted against Trump, Sanders has every right to suspect that she’ll be inclined to move to the squishy middle.

That would mean a campaign in which Clinton talks a lot about bringing us together and being president for all Americans, which sounds good but doesn’t really mean much. Candidates always say stuff like that. Zachary Taylor wanted to be president for all Americans, and what did he deliver? The destruction of the Whig Party and Millard Fillmore.

This is the obvious path: Sanders admits Clinton won fair and square. Clinton takes some big, serious jumps on policy. Otherwise, I understand the hotel rates in War, W.Va., are very reasonable this time of year.

Blow, Cohen, Kristof and Collins

June 2, 2016

In “A Chill Wind Blows” Mr. Blow says that Trump’s rhetoric suggests that in his mind, adulation is the only honesty.  Mr. Cohen, in “The Right Asian Deal,” says Congress should ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and that its failure would be a big victory for China.  In “Building Children’s Brains” Mr. Kristof says that in order to get  more kids to college we should invest in infants.  Ms. Collins, in “Tightwad Trump Explodes,” says Donald, just show us the money for veterans.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump, a man who tosses the truth around with the callous disdain of a spoiled child with a toy he has outgrown, has spent much of his campaign calling the media dishonest, even though his manipulation of the media is the only reason he’s the last Republican standing.

He seems to view any unflattering, or otherwise critical, coverage as an attack. His rhetoric suggests that in his mind, adulation is the only honesty.

Such is his wont. And no Republican in a party that continues to veer dangerously toward fact-hostile absolutism has ever lost points with his base by calling the media biased against him.

But there is a strand of these comments and behavior that heralds something more dangerous than an ideological animosity toward the press. Trump keeps signaling that if he had his druthers, he would silence dissent altogether.

At a spectacle of a news conference on Tuesday, Trump laid into reporters for asking simple accountability questions about funds going to charity groups. He even called one reporter a “sleaze” and complained that coverage of his donations to the groups “make me look very bad.”

This isn’t the first time he has used base language to attack reporters with whom he disagreed or was annoyed. The New York Times has collected a comprehensive list of his Twitter insults (often waged against journalists), which simply boggles the mind. (I am among those he has accused of “dishonest reporting.”)

But even that isn’t what’s most troubling. What’s troubling is that under a Trump administration, the First Amendment itself — either in spirit or in law, or both — could be severely weakened. What we have to worry about is a chill wind blowing from the White House.

This is no small thing. Our constitutionally protected freedom of speech and freedom of the press are pillars that make this country great, and different.

Not only did Trump say Tuesday that if he became president he was going to “continue to attack the press,” but in February, he said:

One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.

Exceptions for falsehoods are already part of our libel jurisprudence, but the worrisome nature of that comment lies in its vagueness. What does “open up our libel laws” mean? Is he equating “purposely negative” and “horrible” — both subjective determinations — with “false”?

These principles of free press and free speech, which are almost as old as the country itself, are not things to be tinkered with on the whim of a thin-skinned man who has said flattering things about dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, ruler of a country that the press watchdog group Freedom House calls “one of the most repressive media environments in the world,” where “listening to unauthorized foreign broadcasts and possessing dissident publications are considered ‘crimes against the state’ that carry serious punishments, including hard labor, prison sentences, and the death penalty.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that this week Time magazine reported that “a North Korean state media outlet has praised Donald Trump as a ‘wise politician’ and ‘farsighted candidate’ who can reunify the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump’s dictatorial instinct to suppress what he deems “negative” speech, particularly from the press, is the very thing the founders worried about.

In 1737, more than 50 years before the Constitution was adopted, signed and ratified — before the First Amendment was adopted — Benjamin Franklin wrote in The Pennsylvania Gazette:

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”

Our unfettered freedom to interrogate and criticize our government and our leaders are part of our patriotism and an expression of our national fealty.

James Baldwin put it this way: “I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

And that extends to the country’s politicians.

This idea is so much bigger than Trump, a small man of small thought who is at war with scrutiny.

Freedom of speech and the press are principles that we must protect from this wannabe authoritarian.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Ho Chi Minh City:

An American who has been a resident here for a few years said to me the other day: “You know, they still look at us here the way we want to be looked at. America equals opportunity, entrepreneurship and success. That’s not true in so many places anymore.”

Four decades after the war, in one of the world’s consoling mysteries, the United States enjoys an overwhelming approval rating in Vietnam, reflected in the outpouring of enthusiasm for President Obama during his three-day visit last month. In this fast-growing country of 94 million people, about one-third of them on Facebook, America is at once the counterbalance to the age-old enemy, China, and an emblem of the prosperity young people seek.

The best way to kick Vietnamese aspirations in the teeth, turn the country sour on the United States, and undermine the stabilizing American role in Asia, would be for Congress to fail to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama’s signature trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries including Vietnam but not China.

If T.P.P. falls apart, China wins. It’s as simple as that. Nonratification would signal that Beijing gets to dictate policy in the region, and the attempt to integrate Vietnam comprehensively in a rules-based international economy fails.

Obama’s decision to spend so much time here was an indication of the importance he attaches to this cornerstone of his so-called Asia “pivot.” The agreement — with countries accounting for close to 40 percent of the global economy — anchors the United States as a Pacific power and reinforces its critical offsetting role in Asia as China rises. By visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Hiroshima, Japan, Obama also made a powerful statement that past enmities can be overcome in the name of mutual prosperity — a signal to Cuba and Myanmar, among others.

But such long-term transformations, pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty in Asia, are not the stuff of an American election characterized by anger above all. Among the popular one-liners is this: International trade deals steal American jobs. Not one of the three surviving candidates backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton was for it — and right — before she was against it — and wrong. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are simply against it, big time.

The trade agreement — with countries including Peru, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Malaysia — has flaws, of course. There are issues it does not address, like currency manipulation. Legitimate concerns have been raised about the impact that patent enforcement will have on affordable medicines.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that some manufacturing and low-skilled jobs will be lost, but argued this will be offset by job growth in higher-wage, export-reliant industries. The Peterson Institute for International Economics, in a report issued this year, found the accord would stimulate job “churn” but was “not likely to affect overall employment in the United States,” while delivering significant gains in real incomes and annual exports.

What the agreement will do, as Clinton noted when she backed the deal, is deliver “better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions, including for women, migrant workers and others.” It obliges countries like Vietnam to allow workers to form independent unions; it requires a minimum wage and higher health standards; it bans child labor and forced labor. It binds Vietnam to countries where the rule of law is arbiter rather than authoritarian diktat.

At a time when a drought in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s rice bowl, and a massive fish kill along the coast have sparked protests and sharpened concerns about global warming, the agreement is also designed to combat overfishing, illegal logging and other environmental scourges. It commits countries to shift to low-emissions economies.

To which, all Donald Trump has to say in a recent article in USA Today is that T.P.P. is “the biggest betrayal in a long line of betrayals” of American workers. But when pressed in a Republican debate on which parts of the deal were badly negotiated, he could only cite currency manipulation and “the way China and India and almost everybody takes advantage of the United States.”

China and India, of course, are not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As for Clinton, she believed in 2012 that the T.P.P. “sets the gold standard in trade agreements,” before deciding last October that “I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.” The best that can be said about this is that it was probably a tactical cave-in she would reverse if she wins.

Developed economies face huge problems that have produced this season of rage. But the world has enjoyed growing prosperity over decades because of continuously reduced trade barriers. A reversal would be the road to conflict. Like the best trade accords, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is also a strategic boost to liberty and stability in the fastest-growing part of the globe. Congress should resist populist ranting and ratify it.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

First, a quiz: What’s the most common “vegetable” eaten by American toddlers?

Answer: The French fry.

The same study that unearthed that nutritional tragedy also found that on any given day, almost half of American toddlers drink soda or similar drinks, possibly putting the children on a trajectory toward obesity or diabetes.

But for many kids, the problems start even earlier. In West Virginia, one study found, almost one-fifth of children are born with alcohol or drugs in their system. Many thus face an uphill struggle from the day they are born.

Bear all this in mind as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump battle over taxes, minimum wages and whether to make tuition free at public universities. Those are legitimate debates, but the biggest obstacles and greatest inequality often have roots early in life:

If we want to get more kids in universities, we should invest in preschools.

Actually, preschool may be a bit late. Brain research in the last dozen years underscores that the time of life that may shape adult outcomes the most is pregnancy through age 2 or 3.

“The road to college attainment, higher wages and social mobility in the United States starts at birth,” notes James Heckman, a Nobel-winning economist at the University of Chicago. “The greatest barrier to college education is not high tuitions or the risk of student debt; it’s in the skills children have when they first enter kindergarten.”

Heckman is not a touchy-feely bleeding heart. He’s a math wiz renowned for his work on econometrics. But he is focusing his work on early education for disadvantaged children because he sees that as perhaps the highest-return public investment in the world today.

He measures the economic savings from investments in early childhood — because less money is spent later on juvenile courts, prisons, health care and welfare — and calculates that early-education programs for needy kids pay for themselves several times over.

One of the paradoxes of American politics is that this is an issue backed by overwhelming evidence, enjoying bipartisan support, yet Washington is stalled on it. Gallup finds that Americans by more than two to one favor universal pre-K, and Clinton and Sanders are both strong advocates. Trump has made approving comments as well (although online searches of both “Trump” and “preschool” mostly turn up comparisons of him to a preschooler).

To be clear, what’s needed is not just education but also help for families beginning in pregnancy, to reduce the risk that children will be born with addictions and to increase the prospect that they will be raised with lots of play and conversation. (By age 4, a child of professionals has heard 30 million more words than a child on welfare.)

The best metric of child poverty may have to do not with income but with how often a child is spoken and read to.

So it’s in early childhood that the roots of inequality lie. A book from the Russell Sage Foundation, “Too Many Children Left Behind,” notes that 60 to 70 percent of the achievement gap between rich and poor kids is already evident by kindergarten. The book recommends investing in early childhood, for that’s when programs often have the most impact.

It is true that cognitive gains from preschool seem to fade by the third grade, but there are differences in life outcomes that persist. Many years later, these former pre-K students are less likely to be arrested, to drop out of high school, to be on welfare and to be jobless.

A wave of recent research in neuroscience explains why early childhood is so critical: That’s when the brain is developing most quickly. Children growing up in poverty face high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which changes the architecture of the brain, compromising areas like the amygdala and hippocampus.

A new collection of essays from Harvard Education Press, “The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education,” says that this “toxic stress” from poverty impairs brain circuits responsible for impulse control, working memory, emotional regulation, error processing and healthy metabolic functioning. Early-childhood programs protect those young brains.

So in this presidential campaign, let’s move beyond the debates about free tuition and minimum wages to push something that might matter even more: early-childhood programs for needy kids.

“It is in the first 1,000 days of life that the stage is set for fulfilling individual potential,” writes Roger Thurow in his powerful and important new book on leveraging early childhood, “The First 1,000 Days.” “If we want to shape the future, to truly improve the world, we have 1,000 days to do it, mother by mother, child by child.”

America’s education wars resemble World War I, with each side entrenched and exhausted but no one making much progress. So let’s transcend the stalemate and focus on investing in America’s neediest kids.

We rescued banks because they were too big to fail. Now let’s help children who are too small to fail.

Well, Mr. Kristof, maybe YOU can get the Forced Birthers to start giving a crap about children once they’re in the post-fetal stage.  You know, born.  Last but not least we have Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump has a simple reason for his long delay in explaining what happened to the money he raised for veterans’ charities: He didn’t want any publicity.

“Because I wanted to make this out of the goodness of my heart,” he told a press conference in which he castigated reporters for forcing him to provide details.

Of all conceivable explanations, “too self-effacing” ranks somewhere below “temporarily kidnapped by space aliens.” Let’s look elsewhere. The best possibilities seem to be:

A) Cheapness.

B) Tendency to make things up.

C) Difficulty in getting a disorganized, minimally qualified, perpetually short-handed staff to keep track of the cash.

Obviously, we’re going for all three.

The story so far: Trump was supposed to do a Republican primary debate in January on Fox News, a network with which he was feuding. So he staged his own counter-event, a much-publicized fund-raiser for veterans’ charities. The highlight was an announcement that the veterans were getting $6 million, including a $1 million donation from the Donald himself.

Time passed. And he wouldn’t say where the money went.

People, I know you’re tired of hearing Donald Trump stories, but did you want the reporters to just drop the subject? Trump certainly did. Particularly when it came to his own personal million-dollar contribution, which did not actually materialize until the news media, particularly The Washington Post, started asking questions. Many questions. Which went unanswered.

“Oh, I’m totally accountable, but I didn’t want to have credit for it,” Trump said.

The money was turned over to a veterans’ charity about, um, a week ago.

We have heard a lot from Trump about his passion for veterans lately. It’s an intense interest that goes back at least … a year. Before that, his major involvement with the military appeared to be getting a deferment for “a foot thing” when he was eligible for the draft during the war in Vietnam.

It is not unusual for presidential candidates to have avoided military service. Bill Clinton did. Bernie Sanders did. Most of Congress did. Dick Cheney got himself five deferments — and, O.K., when it came to Dick Cheney we took offense. But in general, we’ve gotten used to nonveterans as the political norm.

One of the very few major American politicians who did serve, under fire, is John McCain, and one of the first things Trump did in his race for president was to make fun of McCain’s years as a prisoner of war. (“I like people who weren’t captured.”) He also portrayed himself as a guy who had done way, way more to help veterans than John McCain, a claim that was … oh Lord, let’s not even go there.

The donations to Trump’s January fund-raiser were supposed to be distributed through the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which had been around for years without previously making veterans a priority, or even an afterthought.

We will not bother to point out that Donald J. Trump himself did not have a history of being a big donor to the Donald J. Trump Foundation. In fact, Trump never seemed to give much money to anybody. This appears to be one of the most tightfisted billionaires since Scrooge McDuck.

Unless he’s not a billionaire at all. If Trump ever releases his tax records and it turns out that he’s only worth, say, $755,000, he’ll deserve a big apology from those of us who thought he was a self-centered rich guy with zero interest in sharing his wealth with the less fortunate. Honestly, I will be the first to raise my hand.

But about the veterans. Trump brings up his commitment to our fighting men and women all the time now. Really, the only person he talks about more than the American soldier is Bobby Knight, the former basketball coach who is famous for roughing up his players and endorsing Donald Trump for president.

On Memorial Day weekend, Trump spoke to a gathering of veterans and bikers in Washington, and managed to both drop Bobby Knight’s name and complain about the small crowd. “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people will be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument,” he said.

On Tuesday, Trump said he was just joking. Let’s accept that at face value and agree that he simply made a humorous remark in which he compared himself to a slain civil rights leader.

He also insisted the media was conspiring to undercount the attendance: “So instead of saying Trump made a speech in front of a packed crowd they said Trump was disappointed.” Have we ever had a president who referred to himself in the third person? The answer, as a number of readers have been kind enough to point out is — yes! We had Richard Nixon.

See if that makes you feel any better.

Blow, Kristof and Collins

May 26, 2016

In “Violence Is Never the Answer” Mr. Blow says it’s easy to see why young people are having a make-me-want-to-holler moment, but you don’t want to strengthen your enemies and weaken your cause.  Mr. Kristof has “Sore, Happy Feet on the Pacific Crest Trail” and says a backpacking trip provides both an escape from life’s distractions and an annual bonding experience for father and daughter.  Ms. Collins unleashes some “Memorial Day Weekend Ranting” and says she has  met the enemy, and it is the airlines.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

As I watched violence erupt on television among anti-Donald Trump protesters in Albuquerque, on Tuesday, my heart sank. This outbreak came on the heels of the chaotic scene at the state Democratic convention in Nevada and death threats against the state party chairwoman there.

I understand the frustration and the desire for change, but violence simply isn’t the way to create it. Once violence springs forth, moral authority dries up.

I understand the fear, anger and even rage that the systems that govern this country and the citizens who constitute it could allow — and even enthusiastically cheer — the ascendance of a demagogue like Trump.

It is incredibly dispiriting, because it makes one question what must lurk in the hearts of one’s neighbors. How is it that anyone could support a man who has made the assertions, both personal and political, that Trump has?

And yet, many people do support him. For many, he is giving public voice to private thought. Trump has not so much planted a sentiment as surfaced one that already existed.

How could this man become the presidential nominee of a major party? How is it that he stands an actual chance of becoming president? What does it say about us?

The answers to these questions are terrifying to contemplate, but contemplate them we must, with all their attendant anxieties, which are no doubt amplified among portions of the population who have been targets of Trump’s dangerous rhetoric.

Both Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side have run popular campaigns that have castigated the political system as rigged and unfair.

This sentiment has had greater resonance on the left, where Sanders will almost definitely fall short of securing the nomination, than on the right, where Trump will secure it.

As the Pew Research Center found in a report published in March:

“The share of Democrats expressing a positive view of the primary process has declined 22 percentage points (from 52 percent) in February 2008. Republicans views are little different than in 2000 or 2008.”

Indeed, Trump’s supporters were the only group of supporters in which a majority viewed the nominating process favorably.

I am convinced that this vise grip is squeezing young people most, particularly liberal ones, because they already have a troubled relationship with society’s systems.

A Harvard IOP poll released this year found that while there were some marginal increases of trust among young adults in some institutions, their distrust of the federal government, Congress, Wall Street and the media was still considerable.

In addition, young people are experiencing real, unprecedented strain.

Pew reported Tuesday, under the headline “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds,” that “In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household.”

They attribute part of this change to partnering patterns, but another part to economic stress, particularly among young men.

As the report put it:

“Employed young men are much less likely to live at home than young men without a job, and employment among young men has fallen significantly in recent decades. The share of young men with jobs peaked around 1960 at 84 percent. In 2014, only 71 percent of 18- to 34-year-old men were employed. Similarly with earnings, young men’s wages (after adjusting for inflation) have been on a downward trajectory since 1970 and fell significantly from 2000 to 2010. As wages have fallen, the share of young men living in the home of their parent(s) has risen.”

And The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that:

“About seven in 10 seniors set to graduate this spring borrowed for their educations. Along with their diplomas, they’ll carry an average $37,172 of student debt as they enter the work force, according to a new analysis by higher-education expert Mark Kantrowitz. That breaks the record set by the 2015 class, which owed just over $35,000, on average.”

Add to that the fact that this is one of their first elections — if not the absolute first — and on the one side they have a dangerous cartoon villain, while on the other they are likely to have a candidate who has performed astonishingly poorly among young voters.

It is easy to see why young people are having a make-me-want-to-holler moment, but violence only strengthens your enemies and weakens your cause.

I understand the need to take a stand and make your voices heard, to engage in the direct democracy of protest and be a visible and vocal counterpoint to people you deem unfit and systems you deem unfair.

But here is a hard truth: There are no quick and easy fixes in this country. Everything you call broken was broken bit by bit over a long time and must be fixed the same way.

Democracy is an exercise in patience and persistence, not quick corrections.

The way we fix our systems and our politics is not only with vociferous displays in the moment, but also with vigilant crusades over a lifetime.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Every spring or summer, in lieu of professional help, I ditch civilization for the therapy of the wilderness. I’ve just been backpacking with my 18-year-old daughter on the Pacific Crest Trail in California, abandoning our material world for an alternative reality in which the aim is to possess as little as possible — because if you have it, you lug it.

Our lives were downsized to 10 pounds of possessions each, not counting food and water. We carried backpacks, sleeping bags, jackets, hats, a plastic groundsheet, a tarp in case of rain, a water filter and a tiny roll of duct tape for when things break.

Few problems in life cannot be solved with duct tape.

O.K., I know I’m supposed to use my column to pontificate about Donald Trump and global crises. But as summer beckons, let me commend such wilderness escapes to all of you, with your loved ones, precisely to find a brief refuge from the pressures of the world.

This isn’t for everybody; astonishingly, some folks prefer beaches and clean sheets. But for me at least, a crazy jaunt in the outdoors is the perfect antidote to the absurdity of modern life.

In the 21st century, we often find ourselves spinning on the hamster wheel, nervously jockeying for status with our peers — Is my barbecue bigger than my neighbor’s? Is my car flashier? — even as we’re too busy to barbecue anything. We’re like dogs chasing after our tails.

That’s why I find it so cathartic to run away from home. My parents took me backpacking beginning when I was about 7, and my wife and I took our three children on overnight hikes as soon as they could toddle.

Don’t tell Child Protective Services, but when my daughter was 4, I took her on an overnight trip on Oregon’s Eagle Creek Trail, carrying her most of the first day on my shoulders, on top of my backpack. The next morning, I bribed her: If she would walk by herself all 13 miles back to the car, I would buy her a spectacular ice cream in the nearest town.

So we set off for the car. At every rest stop, we conjured that ice cream and how cold it would be, and, fortified, we trundled on down the trail beside glorious waterfalls. When we reached the car, we were both proud of her heroism, and she beamed tiredly as I buckled her into her car seat.

When we arrived at an ice cream shop 20 minutes later, she was fast asleep. I couldn’t wake her.

Thus began our hiking partnership, sometimes undertaken with the whole family, sometimes just the two of us. At home we’re all busy, but on the trail we’re beyond cellphone coverage or email reach and we’re stuck with each other.

So we talk. Even as we’re disconnected, we reconnect. And on rest breaks and at night, camping under the stars, we read aloud to each other: On this trip, my daughter and I have been reading Adam Johnson’s brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” and talking about what it means.

No self-respecting teenage girl would normally allow her dad to read to her, but out in the wilderness, it’s a bond we share.

It’s true that not everybody can get time off, the cost of equipment can add up and it can be a hassle to get to and from a trail. (When I’ve tried hitchhiking out, drivers see a bedraggled, unshaven hobo and speed up!). Still, costs are modest: While car campgrounds often charge, backpacking in the great outdoors is almost always free. And day after day, there is simply nowhere to spend money.

I can’t pretend it’s glamorous. We’ve been scorched by the sun and chilled by rain, hail and snow. Sure, in trail conversations we bare our innermost thoughts, but we also spend plenty of time whining about blisters, rattlesnakes and 20-mile stretches without water. We curse trail designers for PUDS, or pointless ups and downs.

And let’s be blunt: I stink. When you’re carrying everything on your back, you don’t pack any changes of clothing. We bathe our feet in creeks (hoping that anyone drinking downstream is using a water filter), and on this trip we luxuriated in the Deep Creek hot springs beside the trail. We commiserate together, and we exult together in America’s cathedral of the wild, our stunning common heritage and birthright.

My daughter and I have now hiked across Washington and Oregon and hundreds of miles of California, and eventually we’ll have limped the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Nothing is as different from my daily life, nor as treasured, and that is why I suggest the wilderness to friends.

For members of my family at least, these spring and summer hikes are a reminder that what shapes us is not so much the possessions we acquire but the memories we accumulate, that when you scrape away the veneer, what gives life meaning is not the grandest barbecue or the sportiest car. It’s each other.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Summer is upon us, and we are facing important travel decisions. Such as who to blame when we get stuck in interminable airport lines.

So many options. There’s the government, but how many times can you can complain about Congress in the course of a lifetime? There’s the public — air traffic up 12 percent since 2011. But really, people, don’t blame yourself.

Let’s pick a rant that’s good for you, good for me, good for the lines in security: Make the airlines stop charging fees for checked baggage.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Plus, if you do manage to make it to your flight, these are the same people who will be announcing there’s a $3 fee if you want a snack.

The largest airlines charge $25 for the first checked bag, thus encouraging people to drag their belongings through the airport, clogging the X-ray lines and slowing the boarding process as everybody fights to cram one last rolling duffel into the overhead compartment.

The idea that travelers should be hit by an extra charge for, um, having luggage began in 2008, when the cost of fuel went through the roof. We understood the airlines’ pain, sort of. Maybe. But now fuel prices have fallen into the cellar. The airlines are taking in stupendous profits — last year nearly $26 billion after taxes, up from $2.3 billion in 2010.

Yet the baggage fees are still with us. In fact, they’ve gone up by about two-thirds. Last year, the nation’s airlines made more than $3.8 billion off what I believe it is fair to call a scam. It’s also an excellent way to make your prices look lower than they really are when people surf for the cheapest ticket, a number that never includes details like the special fees for bags, food, canceling a reservation, booking by phone, sitting in a minimally more comfortable emergency row or, in some cases, requesting a pillow.

Shouldn’t the airlines offer up the baggage fee as a token of solidarity with their miserable passengers? The idea has come up. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson asked the airlines to “consider possibly” this modest bow to air travel sanity. Two U.S. senators, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, wrote a letter to the airlines asking them to just drop the fees during the high-traffic summer months.

We pause now for the sound of silence and crickets chirping.

The airlines have maximized profits by making travel as miserable as possible. The Boeing Company found a way to cram 14 more seats into its largest twin-engine jetliner by reducing the size of the lavatories.Bloomberg quoted a Boeing official as reporting that “the market reaction has been good — really positive.” We presume the market in question does not involve the actual passengers.

But the industry is so powerful that it seems to be able to get away with squishing people into smaller and smaller spaces. Last month, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York offered an amendment to a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration that would have imposed a moratorium on reductions in seat size and space between rows. It failed, 54 to 42.

Nobody spoke out against the proposal, but only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted for it. We salute Susan Collins, who has been, for a number of years, virtually the entire population of the Moderate Republican Caucus.

When Schumer flies, his first move is to empty the seat pocket in front of him. “I take out the magazine and the airsickness bag so I have an extra eighth of an inch,” he said in a phone interview. It’s a matter of some passion — when the presidents of three airlines visited Schumer’s office for discussion of a totally unrelated issue, he moved the coffee table so it was an inch from their knees. “I said: ‘O.K., now you know how it feels.’”

But about the bags.

Rather than reducing the number of bags in security lines, the airlines would like the government to deal with the problem by adding more workers to screen them. And the perpetually beleaguered Transportation Security Administration is going to spend $34 million to hire more people and pay more overtime this summer. Which, it assured the public, is not really going to solve much of anything.

(Who, you may ask, pays for the security lines anyway? For the most part you the taxpayer do. Also you the passenger pay a special security fee on your tickets. Which Congress tends to grab away from the T.S.A. for use in all-purpose deficit reduction. I know, I know.)

A spokesman for Delta Air Lines, which took in more than $875 million on baggage fees last year, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that bowing to the extremely modest Markey-Blumenthal request for a summer suspension of the baggage fee wouldn’t “really help alleviate a lot.” It would also, he said, require a “considerable change to the business model.”

Heaven forfend we mess with the business model.


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