Here's one thing that can, plainly, be said about the controversy over Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act: this is exactly what Democrats hoped would happen.
The Democratic campaign and message apparatus has been banking, for months, on the rightward tilt of the Tea Party to damage the Republican Party in November's midterm elections. They put out a strategy memo to this effect in January.
The idea is, basically: Tea Partiers are crazy, right-wing extremists. If the Republican Party elects them to run in November, the Republican Party will lose. Democrats have been saying this for months.
Paul's statements about the Civil Rights Act, brought up last night by Rachel Maddow and discussed at length, in an interview, have dominated the news cycle today. It has not looked good for Paul, or for the Tea Party.
Just to be clear what we're talking about, Paul does not oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the whole. He disagrees with the provision that required businesses to serve people equally. He says this is a matter of speech, and that to support such limitations on private business--as opposed to statutory desegregation of public institutions like schools, which Paul supports--one has to accept that what the government has done is tell a private business owner how to run his private business. He opposes that. On the question of whether he would have voted for it, Paul seems to indicate that, supporting 9/10 of its statutes, he probably would have, but he leaves the question open, and says that, had be been in the Senate at the time, there would have been "some discussion" about the provision that desegregated private businesses. When Maddow asked Paul, point-blank, whether lunch counters in the South should have been allowed to keep serving whites only, Paul would not answer the question in a "yes" or "no," as Maddow implored him to. Paul has warned repeatedly that this is an abstract debate that will be oversimplified and used against him by political opponents. So far, the latter is certainly true.
Ta-Nehisi, earlier today, chided Paul for his proud ignorance and for not simply settling down to make the case for private-sector discrimination. There is an argument there, and there are some valid points in its favor. Paul makes some of them.
Whether this proves that Democrats were right all along, and that Tea Partiers are not viable candidates for office at all, remains to be seen. Rand Paul is a prized candidate of the Tea Party movement; this is an early problem for him, which has sprung up less than a day after he won his party's nomination. Before that, he and the movement were both riding high.
A Tea Party organizer I talked to today said the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. He had no problem with anything Paul had said.
One thing's for certain, in all this: other Tea Party-backed candidates will be asked, by Democratic campaigns and by debate moderators, what they think of desegregating private businesses. Part of the Democratic plan has been to ask Tea Party-backed candidates about controversial views and get them on the record. Paul's stance has become a big enough story, however, that the media will probably do this on its own.
Depending on what Tea Partiers say about Paul's statements, and how the public debate over Paul plays out, this moment has a chance to further alienate the movement as a whole from the mainstream. That said, it's not the end of the movement, as Democrats would very much like it to be. If Richard Blumenthal can overcome questions about his portrayal of Vietnam service, surely Paul and the Tea Partiers can get over this.
As Ta-Nehisi points out, there are better ways to argue Paul's stance. There are probably more caveats to offer, too. Other Tea Party candidates--Florida's Marco Rubio, Nevada's Sharron Angle, and Utah's Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, for instance--ought to be working out their stances on the Civil Rights Act as we speak. Because the questions are coming, and some talking points are needed.
Anxiety and listless days as a foreign-policy bureaucracy confronts the possibility of radical change
The flags in the lobby of the State Department stood bathed in sunlight and silence on a recent afternoon. “It’s normally so busy here,” marveled a State Department staffer as we stood watching the emptiness. “People are usually coming in for meetings, there’s lots of people, and now it’s so quiet.” The action at Foggy Bottom has instead moved to the State Department cafeteria where, in the absence of work, people linger over countless coffees with colleagues. (“The cafeteria is so crowded all day,” a mid-level State Department officer said, adding that it was a very unusual sight. “No one’s doing anything.”) As the staffer and I walked among the tables and chairs, people with badges chatted over coffee; one was reading his Kindle.
Imagine listening to the president’s address to Congress as if it were the first speech he’d given.
During Richard Nixon’s years as a slashingly anti-Communist U.S. senator and vice president, The WashingtonPost’s famed cartoonist Herblock (Herbert Block) was a relentless critic. His trademark was portraying Nixon with a heavier and heavier five o’clock shadow, caricaturing him as a thug.
Then in 1968, when Nixon returned to Washington as president, Herblock drew a famous cartoon saying in effect, “every new president deserves a clean shave” and began presenting a better-looking Nixon (for a while).
I decided to approach Donald Trump’s speech tonight to Congress in the “clean shave” spirit. During the campaign I was not an admirer. I thought his inaugural address was unique among such speeches in its dark divisiveness, and since the inauguration I’ve considered his actions more abrasive than even I had foreseen.
Glowing reviews of the president’s first address to Congress miss the crucial respects in which he fell short.
President Donald Trump wore a non-sparkly tie last night. His suit fit. He seems to have upgraded his haircut too. After some initial hesitation, Trump found something positive to say about Black History Month and something negative about anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Better still, Trump worked his way through more than an hour of television without insulting or demeaning anyone. He did not mention his crowd sizes, argue about his vote margin, or attack the press. Although he again trafficked in misleading or deceptive statements, he eschewed outright lies.
Different people will have different reactions to Trump’s spotlighting of a Navy SEAL’s widow to immunize himself against accusations that he cavalierly and ignorantly ordered troops into a poorly considered combat mission—but clearly, many TV viewers found the moment inspiring and affecting.
The ride-sharing giant’s full-blown PR crisis is getting worse.
It took eight years and at least as many back-to-back-to-back-to-back controversies to break Travis Kalanick.
After a stunning month of scandals at Uber, Kalanick, its founder and CEO, sent an emotional and uncharacteristically apologetic memo to his employees Tuesday night. “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help,” Kalanick wrote. “And I intend to get it.”
Uber has always been controversial, but never like this.
Kalanick’s message came hours after a video surfaced that showed dashboard-camera footage of him arguing with an Uber driver who had just given him a ride. In the video, Fawzi Kamel, who gave a recording of the conversation to Bloomberg, tells Kalanick that he and other drivers suffered as a result of lower fares for riders. “People are not trusting you anymore,” Kamel tells Kalanick. “I'm bankrupt because of you... You changed the whole business. You dropped the prices.”
Calvin College is no fundamentalist Christian school.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—It would be easy enough to drive past Calvin College without giving Betsy DeVos’s alma mater a second thought. Six miles southeast of downtown, the school is a sprawling cluster of nondescript buildings and winding pathways in a quiet suburb. But to bypass Calvin would be to ignore an institution whose approach to education offers clues about how the recently appointed U.S. education secretary might pursue her new job, and about the tug religious institutions feel between maintaining tradition and remaining relevant in a rapidly diversifying world.
DeVos is now Calvin’s most famous alum, and in recent weeks, the school has been painted in some circles both online and in conversation as a conservative, insular institution that helped spawn a controversial presidential-cabinet member intent on using public dollars to further religious education. But that is a grossly simplified narrative, and one that obscures the nuances and very real tensions at the school.
In his 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class, the economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote that “conspicuous abstention from labor … becomes the conventional mark of superior pecuniary achievement.” In other words, the richer one gets, the less one works and the more likely one is to try to show off one’s ample leisure time.
For a while, Veblen’s theory held, with few exceptions. But no longer. In the U.S., one can now make a good guess about how rich somebody is based on the long hours they put in at work. The wealthiest American men, on average, work more than those poorer than them.
With this workaholic lifestyle, though, comes quite a bit of prestige, a perk that the researcher Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, has found Americans to be all too aware of. Bellezza is the author, along with Georgetown’s Neeru Paharia and Harvard’s Anat Keinan, of a recent paper in the Journal of Consumer Research about the prominence of an unusual status symbol: seeming busy.
The company powers much of the Internet, but its cloud facilities are difficult to find.
Once in a while—not quite often enough to be a crisis, but just often enough to be a trope—people in the United States will freak out because a huge number of highly popular websites and services have suddenly gone down. For an interminable period of torture (usually about 1-3 hours, tops) there is no Instagram to browse, no Tinder to swipe, no Github to push to, no Netflix to And Chill.
When this happens, it usually means that Amazon Web Services is having a technical problem, most likely in their US-East region. What that actually means is that something is broken in northern Virginia. Of all the places where Amazon operates data centers, northern Virginia is one of the most significant, in part because it’s where AWS first set up shop in 2006. It seemed appropriate that this vision quest to see The Cloud across America which began at the ostensible birthplace of the Internet should end at the place that’s often to blame when large parts of the U.S. Internet dies.
On the least alarming day of his presidency so far, Trump stopped indulging his every impulse, obtained a prepared speech, and stuck to it like a normal politician.
On scattered occasions in bygone years, I daydreamed about how refreshing it would be if a plainspoken outsider took control of the American presidency from the long parade of career politicians with canned speeches of platitudinous proposals.
“One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all,” Andrew Sullivan wrote last month, adding that Donald Trump’s America felt “less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes.”
One of the most volcanically active countries in the world is not ready for a devastating eruption.
Thirteen days before Christmas, somewhere in the frigid waters of the Bering Sea, a massive volcano unexpectedly rumbled back to life.
Just like that, Bogoslof volcano began its first continuous eruption since 1992, belching great plumes of ash tens of thousands of feet into the cold sky over the Aleutian islands, generating volcanic lightning, and disrupting air travel—though not much else.
The volcano is on a tiny island about 60 miles west of Unalaska, which is the largest city in the Aleutians. It has a population of about 5,000 people.
Bogoslof hasn’t quieted yet. One explosion, in early January, sent ash 33,000 feet into the air. Weeks later, another eruption lasted for hours, eventually sprinkling enough ash on the nearby city to collect on car windshields and dust the snow-white ground with a sulfurous layer of gray. Over the course of two months, Bogoslof’s intermittent eruptions have caused the island to triple in size so far, as fragments of rock and ash continue to pile atop one another.
The president’s focus on crimes committed by members of one particular group singles them out for blame.
Donald Trump is worried about violence by unauthorized immigrants. When he spoke before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, he invited three relatives of people that unauthorized immigrants had killed to attend as his guests.
In that speech, he called for the Department of Homeland Security to create an office focused on the victims of immigrant crime. And in a January 25 executive order, he instructed the Homeland Security Secretary to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.”