Rather than debate, the two presidential candidates get together in Texas to audition for a hilarious right-wing buddy movie
On Saturday night, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain met in Texas for a special, one-on-one "debate." But anyone who tuned in hoping for fireworks would have been disappointed. It might have been more accurate to call it a joint campaign appearance.
The debate seemed like an extremely promising idea when it was announced a few weeks ago. Gingrich and Cain are probably the two most entertaining candidates in the current Republican field -- the former speaker with his acerbic wit, the businessman with his thunderous exhortations. Both are running "non-traditional campaigns," which is a euphemism for not running much of a campaign at all. For both men, their blundering into the top ranks of recent polls seems to have spoiled an otherwise pleasant book tour.
How exciting it promised to be, then, to see these two together on stage, without those annoying other candidates interfering in a good show. Without Mitt Romney and Rick Perry's ongoing attempt to achieve mutually assured destruction; without that cranky Rick Santorum guy; without Ron Paul's diatribes and Jon Huntsman's sanctimony, and most definitely without Gary Johnson's dog poop jokes.
The only problem: Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain really like each other. And with friendly moderators -- a local Americans for Prosperity honcho and archconservative Iowa Rep. Steve King -- there was no one asking actual tough questions, pinning the pair down when they wandered off topic or didn't make sense, or seeking to draw out differences between the men in a way that might be helpful to voters trying to choose between the two.
Naturally, this suited Gingrich and Cain just fine.
Gingrich answered the first question, about Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal, by conveniently forgetting that he'd once called it "right-wing social engineering." "Paul Ryan came up with some very good ideas," he said, and wound up in a detailed discussion of Medicare fraud.
When it was Cain's turn, he said: "At this particular juncture I'm supposed to get a minute to disagree with something he's said. But I don't."
And so, when Cain finished his answer -- "I like the Ryan plan. I haven't found anything in it yet that I don't disagree with (sic)" -- the moderator announced he was making an "executive decision" to suspend the clock and let the candidates take as long as they liked with each question. With that, the thin pretense of debate was dropped.
Gingrich and Cain are both nominally from Georgia, and they have known each other since the debate over "Hillarycare" nearly two decades ago. In previous debates, their mutual admiration society prompted the creation of this delightful Photoshop imagining them melded into a "Newtman Caingrich."
As the discussion wore on Saturday, one actually could discern the difference, however. It wasn't on policy, where they couldn't find any real disagreement. But the contrast in style was obvious. In the unlikely event either of these men became president, Gingrich would be wonk-in-chief, while Cain would leave the details to others and serve mainly as a cheerleader.
Gingrich, as the forum wore on, began to monopolize the floor time, reliving past glories with explanations of the ideas behind welfare reform and taking credit for balancing the budget in the 1990s. He referenced academic books and think-tank studies, invoked history and delivered tart sound bites like "This president is about as candid and accurate as Bernie Madoff in what he tells the American people." He was obviously having a ball. If you didn't already know this whole thing was Newt's idea, you could have guessed.
Cain largely deferred to Gingrich, perhaps because he didn't seem to grasp all the technical details under discussion -- at one point, when asked whether he thought Medicare should be based on a "defined benefit" or a "premium support" model, he repeated, "Defined...", trailed off, rubbed his chin and concluded, "You go first, Newt." (Gingrich was happy to comply.) He mostly spoke in generalities and made sure to get in a plug for "9-9-9."
"We as a nation are not short on good ideas for how to fix Social Security, how to fix Medicare," Cain said at one point. "What we are short on is the ability to educate people on the solutions." The president, he said, must use "that particular bully pulpit" to be "communicator in chief."
There was no mention of the scandal Cain has been embroiled in for the past week as past accusations of sexual harassment against him have surfaced. But he seemed to allude to it at the end, when Gingrich asked him what had most surprised him about running for president.
"The nitpickiness of the media," he said. "I expected to have to work hard. I expected to have to study hard. But I did not realize the flyspecking nature of the media when you are running for president, especially when you start moving up in the polls."
Then it was Cain's turn to ask Gingrich a question. And Cain showed where his true talents lie: he may not be able to tell you the ins and outs of the Social Security trust fund, but he knows how to bring down the house.
"Mr. Speaker, if you were the vice president of the United States, what would you want the president to assign you to do first?" he said.
Gingrich cracked up, guffawing and wiping his eyes. "Well," he said, "having studied my good friend Dick Cheney, I would not go hunting."
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
In May 1988, a 13-year-old girl named Ashley King was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by court order. She had a tumor on her leg—an osteogenic sarcoma—that, writes Jerry Coyne in his book Faith Versus Fact, was “larger than a basketball,” and was causing her leg to decay while her body started to shut down. Ashley’s Christian Scientist parents, however, refused to allow doctors permission to amputate, and instead moved their daughter to a Christian Science sanatorium, where, in accordance with the tenets of their faith, “there was no medical care, not even pain medication.” Ashley’s mother and father arranged a collective pray-in to help her recover—to no avail. Three weeks later, she died.
As the world frets over Greece, a separate crisis looms in China.
This summer has not been calm for the global economy. In Europe, a Greek referendum this Sunday may determine whether the country will remain in the eurozone. In North America, meanwhile, the governor of Puerto Rico claimed last week that the island would be unable to pay off its debts, raising unsettling questions about the health of American municipal bonds.
But the season’s biggest economic crisis may be occurring in Asia, where shares in China’s two major stock exchanges have nosedived in the past three weeks. Since June 12, the Shanghai stock exchange has lost 24 percent of its value, while the damage in the southern city of Shenzhen has been even greater at 30 percent. The tumble has already wiped out more than $2.4 trillion in wealth—a figure roughly 10 times the size of Greece’s economy.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation.
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
Former Senator Jim Webb is the fifth Democrat to enter the race—and by far the most conservative one.
In a different era’s Democratic Party, Jim Webb might be a serious contender for the presidential nomination. He’s a war hero and former Navy secretary, but he has been an outspoken opponent of recent military interventions. He’s a former senator from Virginia, a purple state. He has a strong populist streak, could appeal to working-class white voters, and might even have crossover appeal from his days as a member of the Reagan administration.
In today’s leftward drifting Democratic Party, however, it’s hard to see Webb—who declared his candidacy Thursday—getting very far. As surprising as Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls has been, he looks more like the Democratic base than Webb does. The Virginian is progressive on a few major issues, including the military and campaign spending, but he’s far to the center or even right on others: He's against affirmative action, supports gun rights, and is a defender of coal. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats loved to have him as a foil to the White House. It’s hard to imagine the national electorate will cotton to him in the same way. Webb’s statement essentially saying he had no problem with the Confederate battle flag flying in places like the grounds of the South Carolina capitol may have been the final straw. (At 69, he’s also older than Hillary Clinton, whose age has been a topic of debate, though still younger than Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.)
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
On Sunday, citizens will vote on how to move forward in the country's financial crisis.
On Sunday, the people of Greece will help decide the financial future of their country. With the nation already in default and capital controls in place to prevent a run on the banks, it’s up to Greece’s citizens to decide what road the country will take from here.
The referendum—which asks Greeks to either vote yes or no to a current proposal from Eurogroup leaders to extend financing to the deeply indebted country— was called for by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras amid meetings of Eurozone leaders as they tried to come up with a deal that would allow the country to avoid default. The call for a vote effectively ended discussions.
Opponents of thecurrent proposal from the Eurogroup feel that the austerity measures put forth by the Eurogroup’s leaders—which would includes things like tax hikes, pension cuts, and reductions in government jobs—are overly harsh and punitive, and could hurt Greeks more than help them.
An attorney who helped players file a gender-discrimination lawsuit over artificial turf in the World Cup proposes a way forward for the sport.
On Sunday, players from the U.S. and Japan’s women’s soccer teams will step onto the field in Vancouver to compete for the sport’s greatest achievement: the World Cup. But perhaps the bigger battle—one that started well before the final match and will continue well after—isn’t about a trophy or national glory. Women’s soccer teams have long fought for recognition and respect not just from the public, but also from the male organizers of the sport, and it’s a struggle symbolized by the very fields they’ve been playing on.
The co-hosts of the World Cup—FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association—failed to stage this year’s tournament to be played on real grass like every other World Cup previously, mandating that it be played on artificial turf instead. This is despite the dangers and inconveniences plastic turf poses. The synthetic pitches bake in the sun, with surface temperatures sometimes reaching 120 degrees. Clouds of rubber pebbles fly into players’ eyes, and the turf makes it difficult for the women to gauge the way the ball will bounce.