The Culture Wars Are Ending. Here’s What’s On the Other Side

Columbus Circle New York
Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York at night, December 15, 2007 (Thomas Hawk)

In 1967, Timothy Leary told the Human Be-In of San Francisco’s Gate Park to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” It was a high point for counterculturalism, a crescendo of anti-establishment, anti-centrism that exploded into antiwar protests, race riots, civil rights marches and an definitive end of America’s 1950s cultural high.

It wasn’t the beginning of the twentieth’s century’s culture wars, but it was the point by which it was impossible to ignore they were ongoing. They first stirred somewhere in the 1950s in the backrooms of Beatnik poetry slams and the road warrioring of juvenile delinquents as postwar youth experimented with the edges of their humanity in the safety of a democratic superpower’s economic boom. Read more “The Culture Wars Are Ending. Here’s What’s On the Other Side”

Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy

Donald Trump has always had a difficult relationship with the truth. His sheer volume of daily falsehoods overwhelms an unprepared news media — and buries unsavory stories which the Republican would prefer to keep hidden.

Trump even manages to construct entire narratives via a steady diet of alternative facts delivered to his supporters.

This weekend, we saw something new: For the first time, those falsehoods came together to generate, enact and justify policy.

Here is a brief overview of the alternative facts (previously known as lies) underpinning the travel ban which has thrown international travel into chaos and capriciously interrupted thousands of lives. Read more “Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy”

Merkel Proposes to Ban the Burqa: Why and Why Now?

Angela Merkel’s proposal to ban the burqa has caught some of her foreign admirers by surprise.

A headline at the left-leaning Vox reads, “Germany’s famously tolerant chancellor just proposed a burqa ban,” implying it is both intolerant and out of character for Merkel.

Vox is right when it argues the timing is political. Merkel recently announced she will seek a fourth term as chancellor next year and is facing criticism of her immigration policy from the right.

But this is not an about-face. If anything, her open-doors immigration policy was. Read more “Merkel Proposes to Ban the Burqa: Why and Why Now?”

Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes

As the Trump transition rolls along, the infamous “Muslim ban” has returned to the forefront.

It all started on December 7, 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump spoke to supporters after the San Bernardino mass shooting. He advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This proposal is still on his website.

It has been willfully forgotten or explained away since, but the fact remains: Trump’s first instinct was to call for a Muslim ban of indeterminate length.

It doesn’t stop there. Even in July, Trump said his plan had undergone an “expansion” and would bar individuals from places “compromised by terrorism.” This includes NATO allies like France and Germany. They “totally” meet this definition, Trump said, because they “allowed people to come into their territory.” Read more “Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes”

Obama Should Tyrant-Proof the Presidency

White House Washington
Night falls on the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, November 18, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

Parents of small children child-proof a new house before moving in. Barack Obama should tyrant-proof the White House before moving out, argues Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

With Donald Trump leading in the polls to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the imperative to limit executive power is all the more pressing. Read more “Obama Should Tyrant-Proof the Presidency”

Supreme Court’s Reputation Cannot Weigh Against Liberty

United States Supreme Court Washington
Supreme Court of the United States in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages)

It’s an odd thing to be forced to pay for something you disagree with. It’s worse to be told it must stay that way for the sake of somebody else’s reputation.

Yet that is what the left-leaning justices on America’s Supreme Court are saying. Read more “Supreme Court’s Reputation Cannot Weigh Against Liberty”

Hungary Cites Migrant Crisis for Draconian Measures

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party introduced legislation this week that, if enacted, would further weaken the Central European nation’s democracy.

From making it easier for soldiers to use force and enabling police to conduct searches without warrants to enlisting telecom companies in the collection of bulk phone data, the new laws seem more becoming of a police state than a European republic.

Given that Fidesz has an absolute majority in parliament, the bills are almost certain to pass, possibly as early as Friday.

The government claims the measures are needed to cope with a swelling migrant crisis that is seeing tens of thousands of asylum seekers pass through the country this year on their way to Germany and Scandinavia.

Some of the policies, such as making it easier to imprison migrants without papers and prosecuting those who help them, clearly are linked to the record high influx of people from the Balkans and the Middle East. Read more “Hungary Cites Migrant Crisis for Draconian Measures”

Data Surveillance Debate Heats Up Again in Senate

Last fall, reformers of the surveillance system run by America’s National Security Agency were dealt a tough blow. After extensive negotiations between lawmakers, concessions granted from the intelligence community, agreement with telecommunications companies and a political environment in Washington that was conducive to eliminating the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the government, reform advocates were unable to defeat a Republican filibuster to proceed in the Senate. The USA Freedom Act — which would have transferred the storage of metadata from the government to private telecoms — was just two votes shy of the sixty votes needed to break the filibuster.

Undeterred, those pushing for changes in how the NSA picks up data on ordinary Americans are trying to get the issue back on the agenda. Read more “Data Surveillance Debate Heats Up Again in Senate”

Republicans Are Learning to Live with Gay Marriage

As America’s Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday on the constitutionality of gay marriage, Politico reported that many of the Republican Party’s contenders for the presidential nomination have struck a far less divisive tone on the issue than they did in the past. While they continue to tell social conservatives they oppose marriage equality, “It’s getting harder to believe them,” according to the political news website.

Republicans are struggling with one of 2015’s first cultural litmus tests, not wanting to offend social conservatives, a dominant force, especially in Iowa and South Carolina, or to upset the [Republican Party]’s donor class that’s increasingly pushing candidates to better align their position with the nation’s broader, rapidly changing electorate.

Last year, support for gay marriage reached 55 percent nationwide, according to the polling organization Gallup. That is up from just 40 percent in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president.

Even more tellingly, 63 percent of Americans now say gay couples should have the right to adopt children. The last time Gallup asked the question, in 2007, 50 percent of Americans said they shouldn’t.

Support for gay rights is strongest among Americans under the age of thirty. 73 percent of them say gay marriage should be legal while only 42 percent of pensioners agree. Read more “Republicans Are Learning to Live with Gay Marriage”

Sarkozy Seeks to Outflank French Nationalists

French conservative party leader Nicolas Sarkozy has lurched to the right, declaring his opposition to Muslim students wearing headscarfs in public universities and calling on high schools to stop serving halal meals.

In doing so, the former president, who staged a political comeback last year, outdid Marine Le Pen’s National Front, which is neck and neck with his party in polls for local elections this month.

The Front, well-known for its aggressively secular and anti-immigrant platform, had hesitated to call for banning halal meals from public schools, but it quickly endorsed Sarkozy’s proposal. Read more “Sarkozy Seeks to Outflank French Nationalists”