Sunday, July 31, 2016

No Jail For -Trump- Chump — Make It A "Personal Safety Room" Instead

Today, you lucky reader (if you're still here at this point), are in for a another generous double-helping of commentary about (wait for it) Donald T. (for "The") Chump. First, Chump attacks the parents of Captain (US Army) Humayun Khan because they are Muslims and had the audacity to criticize him. Recently it was a judge of Mexican descent that Chump attacked for his ethnicity and now it is a pair of grieving parents who are Muslim. If Chump is elected POTUS 45, the transition team will need to pad the walls of the Oval Office. However, with all of the guns in the hands of nutsw, there might be a solution. If this is a (fair & balanced) wish that an Arthur Bremer clone might attend one of Chump's "rallies."

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[1] The Ultimate Insult — (Turner Cowles)
[2] The 2016 Manchurian Candidate — (Timothy "Eags" Egan)

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Donald Trump Draws Ire For Criticism Of Parents Of Slain US Soldier
By Turner Cowles

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Donald J. Trump belittled the parents of a slain Muslim soldier who had strongly denounced Mr. Trump during the Democratic National Convention, saying that the soldier’s father had delivered the entire speech because his mother was not “allowed” to speak.

Mr. Trump’s comments, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that will air on Sunday, drew quick and widespread condemnation and amplified calls for Republican leaders to distance themselves from their presidential nominee. With his implication that the soldier’s mother had not spoken because of female subservience expected in some traditional strains of Islam, his comments also inflamed his hostilities with American Muslims.

Khizr Khan, the soldier’s father, lashed out at Mr. Trump in an interview on Saturday, saying his wife had not spoken at the convention because it was too painful for her to talk about her son’s death.

Mr. Trump, he said, “is devoid of feeling the pain of a mother who has sacrificed her son.”

Governor John Kasich of Ohio, a rival of Mr. Trump’s in the Republican primaries who has refused to endorse him, castigated him on Twitter. “There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect,” he wrote, using the term for surviving family members of those who died in war.

And Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, said he “was not a normal presidential candidate.”

“Someone who attacks everybody has something missing,” she told a crowd at a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio. “I don’t know what it is. I’m not going to get into that.”

Mr. Khan’s speech at the convention in Philadelphia was one of the most powerful given there. It was effectively the Democratic response to comments Mr. Trump has made implying many American Muslims have terrorist sympathies or stay silent when they know ones who do. Mr. Trump has called to ban Muslim immigration as a way to combat terrorism.

At the convention, Mr. Khan spoke about how his 27-year-old son, Humayun Khan, an Army captain, died in a car bombing in 2004 in Iraq as he tried to save other troops.

He criticized Mr. Trump, saying he “consistently smears the character of Muslims,” and pointedly challenged what sacrifices Mr. Trump had made. Holding a pocket-size copy of the Constitution, he asked if Mr. Trump had read it. Mr. Khan’s wife stood silently by his side.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Stephanopoulos that Mr. Khan seemed like a “nice guy” and that he wished him “the best of luck.” But, he added, “If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.”

Mr. Trump also told Maureen Dowd of The New York Times on Friday night, “I’d like to hear his wife say something.”

In a statement late Saturday, Mr. Trump called Captain Khan a “hero,” and reiterated his belief that the United States should bar Muslims from entering the country.

“While I feel deeply for the loss of his son,” he added, “Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”

Even given Mr. Trump’s reputation for retaliating when attacked, his remarks about the Khans were startling. They called to mind one of his earliest counterpunches of the campaign, when he responded to criticism from Senator John McCain of Arizona, once a prisoner of war in Vietnam, by saying at a forum in Iowa, “I like people that weren’t captured.”

But Mr. McCain has a long history in the public eye. The Khans, before their convention appearance, had none.

“Trump is totally void of any decency because he is unaware of how to talk to a Gold Star family and how to speak to a Gold Star mother,” Mr. Khan said on Saturday.

Ms. Khan did speak on Friday to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, saying she “cannot even come in the room where his pictures are.”

When she saw her son’s photograph on the screen behind her on the stage in Philadelphia, she said, “I couldn’t take it.”

“I controlled myself at that time,” she said, while choking back tears. “It is very hard.”

In his interview with The Times, Mr. Khan said his wife had helped him craft his convention speech, and told him to remove certain attacks he had wanted to make against Mr. Trump.

But on Saturday, he unmuzzled himself. “Unlike Donald Trump’s wife, I didn’t plagiarize my speech,” Mr. Khan said, referring to how several lines from a Michelle Obama speech found their way into Melania Trump’s address at the Republican National Convention.

“I also wanted to talk about how he’s had three wives, and yet he talks about others’ ethics and their religion,” Mr. Khan said. “She said, ‘Don’t go to his level. We are paying tribute to our son.’”

Mr. Trump’s comments provoked another avalanche of criticism on social media, and again put Republican leaders in a difficult position, facing new demands that they repudiate their presidential nominee.

Even before Mr. Trump’s remarks to ABC News, Mr. Khan had asked that Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker, denounce Mr. Trump.

On Saturday, neither directly addressed Mr. Trump’s new comments. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, referred to Mr. McConnell’s response last year that a ban on Muslims entering the United States would be unacceptable.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, delivered a similar response: “The speaker has made clear many times that he rejects this idea, and himself has talked about how Muslim Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.”

In the same ABC News interview, when Mr. Stephanopoulos said that Mr. Khan had pointed out that his family would not have been allowed into the United States under Mr. Trump’s proposed ban, the candidate replied, “He doesn’t know that.”

And when asked what he would say to the grieving father, Mr. Trump replied, “I’d say, ‘We’ve had a lot of problems with radical Islamic terrorism.’”

Mr. Stephanopoulos also noted that Mr. Khan said that Mr. Trump had “sacrificed nothing,” and had lost no one.

“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Mr. Trump replied. “I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs.”

Some of the fiercest condemnations on Saturday came from Republicans who have argued — unsuccessfully to date — that Mr. Trump is unfit to be president.

Tim Miller, a former communications director for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, called Mr. Trump’s comments “inhuman.”

“Memo to Trump supporters,” Peter Wehner, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter. “He’s a man of sadistic cruelty. With him there’s no bottom. Now go ahead & defend him.”

Reihan Salam, a conservative writer for National Review and a frequent Trump critic, said that Mr. Trump had an opportunity to declare remorse for the Khans while still holding to his own views as a candidate.

“He might have asked why Humayun Khan had died in the first place — because of a war that many, if not most, Americans regard as a tragic blunder,” he said.

“There was really no benefit for Trump in suggesting that Ghazala Khan had been muzzled,” he added, “because she could easily come out and say that she had been too grief-stricken to speak, which she did.”

Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said on Saturday, “It’s really despicable that anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, would choose to dishonor the service of an American who gave his life for this nation.”

Ms. Khan, he said, “was obviously there to support her husband, who was offering what many people believe was the most impactful speech of the entire convention.”

As is often the case, Mr. Trump, who has had no campaign events this weekend, managed with a few words to overshadow Mrs. Clinton, who was making several stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania with her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.

In the ABC News interview, Mr. Trump also hedged over whether he would participate in the three scheduled debates with Mrs. Clinton. He insinuated that she had worked to schedule two during football games so viewership would be lower, and said that the National Football League had sent him a letter complaining about the timing.

The debates were scheduled in September of last year by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. And while Joe Lockhart, a spokesman for the National Football League, said the league was not thrilled about the scheduling, “we did not send a letter to Trump.” Ω

[Turner Cowles is a video journalist at The New York Times. Before that he a video producer for Money magazine. Cowles received a BA (writing & media) from Florida State University as well as an MS (journalism) from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Additional reporting was supplied by Ken Belson, Matt Flegenheimer, Emmarie Huetteman and Tas Tobey.]

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The Real Plot Against America
By Eags (Timothy Egan)

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In retrospect, it worked out much better than planned. Who’d have thought a pariah nation, run by an authoritarian who makes his political opponents disappear, could so easily hijack a great democracy? It didn’t take much. A talented nerd can bring down a minnow of a nation. But this level of political crime requires more refined mechanics — you need everyone to play their assigned roles.

You start with a stooge, a fugitive holed up in London, releasing stolen emails on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, in the name of “transparency.” Cyberburglars rely on a partner in crime to pick up stolen goods. And WikiLeaks has always been there for Russia, a nation with no transparency.

The emails show office gossip — catty, sometimes crude back-and-forth by party operatives, and a bias for one candidate. Ho-hum. To make the plot work, reporters have to take the bait. On cue, they decry the fact that politics is going on inside a major political party. The horror — Democratic hacks saying nasty things about Senator Bernie Sanders.

Next, lefty extremists have to act like lefty extremists — that is, myopic to the greater good, guided by a Trumpian sense that they alone know how to solve the world’s problems, and everyone else is a sellout. Angered at the contents of the cybertheft, they boo any mention of their party’s nominee. And told by Senator Sanders, the man who brought them there, that booing is too easy, they boo his call to unite to save their country from a monster.

But Russia still has to seal the deal. Some work remains. If enough angered lefties won’t go for the Democratic nominee, a longtime foe of Vladimir Putin, it will be just enough to put a Putin puppet in the White House. And it would also usher in the term that drove the right wing crazy when George H.W. Bush used it — a New World Order.

What’s in it for Russia? Well, everything. Territory. Hegemony. Its takeover of the Crimean Peninsula has brought sanctions and condemnation from the West. What stands between Putin and further aggression in, say, the Baltic States, is a NATO pact that has kept Europe safe for nearly 70 years. And if you thought Trump stiffed the poor suckers who signed up for his “university,” wait till you see how he treats some of our oldest allies.

Plus, Putin despises Hillary Clinton. Like Trump, his skin is rice-paper-thin, albeit a paler shade of orange; and, like Trump, he never forgets a slight. He still hasn’t gotten over Clinton’s comment on George W. Bush’s infamous look into Putin’s soul. As a former KGB agent, said Clinton, “he doesn’t have a soul.”

What’s in it for Trump? Help at winning the ultimate throne of his gilded dreams. And maybe some investment money from Russian oligarchs close to Putin, one of many things Trump may be hiding in his tax returns. The two narcissists share a love of torture, authoritarian rule, and women on runways in bathing suits.

But then, a wild card, something unplanned. Putin didn’t expect Trump to be so all-in with his collusion. He knows Trump is a fool, world class in only one thing — ignorance. He doesn’t need spies for that. He knows Trump is a man who will say anything, and deny in the same breath that he ever said it. The Talented Mr. Trump.

Last November, before a national television audience, Trump said of Putin, “I got to know him very well.” And Wednesday, Trump said, “I never met Putin.” That was a standard Trump lie, on one end or the other. But even Putin couldn’t fathom that Trump really will say anything.

So there was the Republican Party nominee for president inviting an American adversary to wage cyberwar against the country he wants to lead. If that wasn’t Trump’s shoot-somebody-on-Fifth-Avenue moment, nothing will be. What’s more, he was way too obvious about the role of the other pawns in the scheme. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said to Mother Russia.

Also, he’s getting carried away with his dictator-philia. On Thursday, he said Putin was a better leader than President Obama. D’oh! In public, at least, you’re supposed to root for the home team.

Trump misses the old days, back when you could “knock the crap out of” a demonstrator. Yeah, the old days. Back when it was disqualifying for an American politician to flirt with treason.

This all seems too preposterous to be planned. Where are the conspiracy nut jobs when you really need them? Even fiction, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004), about a fascist-lite president during World War II, does not have this level of absurdity.

But it unfolds, still, if not according to Russia’s design, then according to Russia’s will. Trump is now a national security risk, actively rooting for a foreign adversary to tamper with an American election. And very soon, he will start receiving classified briefings on that adversary. Ehhhhhcellent! Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company

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Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Today, This Blog Returns From The Dark To Proudly Wave The (Virtual) Bloody Shirt In Dumbo Faces (Twice)

All right, let's have it quiet in back row, please. This blogger was required to take a day (daybreak until near sunset) on a family matter. That is sufficient explanation for this blog going dark on Friday, July 29, 2016. To remedy this failure in bloggerly duties, today's post features a double helping of Khizr Khan who spoke in the middle session of DemCon2016. Khan spoke extemporaneously (sans text or teleprompters) with his wife, Ghazala Khan at his side. It was a profile in courage in the face of Dumbo chckenhawk cowardice. The Dumbo candidate issued no ignorant tweets about Khan's words, but his Dumbo handmaiden — TG Ann(orexic) referred to the grieving Khans as "angry Muslims." If all of this is (fair & balanced) evidence that the USA is in danger of elevating another idiot who has escaped from his village to the White House, so be it.

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[1] The Best Moment Of DemCon 2016 — (Turner Cowles)
[2] The Backstory Of That Shining Moment — (Alexandra "AJ" Willingham)

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Tribute To Captain Humayun Khan & Citizenship Lesson, Combined
By Turner Cowles

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When Captain (US Army) Humayun Khan was ordered to Iraq a dozen years ago, his father wanted to talk to him about being an American Muslim soldier sent to war in a Muslim country.

His son, though, was focused only on the job at hand.

“I asked him, ‘How do you feel about the whole Iraq deal?’ ” recalled Khizr Khan, who became a United States citizen after emigrating from Pakistan in 1980. “He said: ‘Look, that’s not my concern and that’s not my pay grade. My responsibility is to make sure my unit is safe.’ And that’s all he would talk about, and nothing else.”

Captain Khan, 27, died on June 8, 2004, after he told his men to take cover and then tried to stop a suicide bomber outside the gates of his base in Baquba. And on Thursday night, speaking about his son at the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Khan gave a voice to Muslim Americans outraged by the anti-Muslim pronouncements of the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump.

In a speech that electrified the convention and turned Mr. Khan into a social media and cable news sensation, he waved a pocket Constitution and challenged Mr. Trump, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Mr. Trump’s call for restrictions on Muslims entering the country is acutely personal, Mr. Khan said, in an interview on Friday, adding that he had no plans to campaign for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, nor had the campaign asked him to.

Mr. Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Mr. Khan’s remarks. In December Mr. Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” More recently, he has pledged to suspend immigration from any country “compromised by terrorism.”

If restrictions on Muslim immigration had been in place decades ago, Mr. Khan said, neither he, a lawyer with an advanced degree from Harvard Law School; his wife, Ghazala, who taught Persian at a Pakistani college before raising three boys in the Washington suburbs; their eldest son, Shaharyar, who was a top student at the University of Virginia and a co-founder of a biotechnology company; nor Captain Khan, who posthumously earned the Bronze Star, along with a Purple Heart, for saving the lives of his men, would have been allowed to settle here.

A third son, Omer, who works at his brother’s biotech company, was born in the United States.

“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” Mr. Khan exclaimed about his deceased son during his speech, his wife by his side. Mr. Khan said that Mr. Trump “wants to build walls and ban us from this country.”

“Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” Mr. Khan said, addressing Mr. Trump directly, while pulling a miniature version of the country’s founding document from his coat pocket.

Mr. Khan said he admires both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, though Thomas Jefferson is his real hero.

Mr. Khan’s odyssey from lawyer and legal consultant to prime-time DNC speaker began in December, when he got a phone call from a writer for Vocativ, an online publication, who wanted his thoughts on Mr. Trump’s statements about Muslims.

Mr. Khan criticized Mr. Trump’s statements as un-American in an article published by Vocativ. A few weeks later, he got a phone call from a Clinton campaign official, who had seen the article and asked if his comments could be used in a tribute for his son at the convention.

“I said, ‘What a wonderful honor,’ ” he recalled in the interview. “Who am I to say, ‘No’?”

Months later, the campaign asked if he and his wife would come to the convention. “The initial plan was just to go there and stand and talk to the media afterwards,” he said. “Then somebody called and said, ‘Would you like to say a word or two?’ ”

Time was tight and the schedule packed, he was told. The campaign asked whether he needed speechwriting help or any coaching. “I said: ‘I really don’t, I have my thoughts in my head,” he said. “I won’t make it an hourlong speech, just let me say what I want to say. It will be heart-to-heart.”

Nothing from the speech, he said, was the product of the campaign, including his dig at Mr. Trump’s lack of military service. It all flowed pretty easily, because he had been thinking about these things for quite a while, he said.

Mr. Khan expressed great faith in the Constitution and in a political process that bolsters a belief that “an unqualified person will never get to this office.”

“I respect the Republican Party as much as the Democratic Party,” he said. But he added: “I definitely will continue to raise my voice out of concern that the Republican leadership must pay attention to what is taking place.”

Mr. Khan met his wife at Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan. They moved to Dubai, where their two eldest sons were born, then arrived in Houston, renting a $200-a-month apartment. Eventually they settled outside Washington, where Mr. Khan worked at a mortgage company and law firms.

Captain Khan attended John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md. In his free time, he taught disabled children to swim. At the University of Virginia, he joined the ROTC program, and majored in psychology, his father said. He planned to attend law school.

His last conversation with his parents was on Mother’s Day 2004. His mother said: “ ‘I don’t want you to be a hero. I want you to return back to me safely,’ ” Mr. Khan recalled. “Of course I will,” he promised her. “But Mother, you should know I have responsibility for these soldiers, and I cannot leave them unprotected.”

The bomber who took Captain Khan’s life drove an orange-and-white taxi toward the base. Had the captain not warned his men to take cover, “there would have been more casualties,” his brigade commander, Dana Pittard, said in an interview.

Recalling the captain’s potential as he watched Mr. Khan’s speech, Mr. Pittard said, “I had to leave the room, it brought back such a flood of memories.”

After their son’s death, Mr. Khan and his wife, who had moved to Charlottesville to be close to their other sons, had the university’s ROTC cadets over for dinner once a year. Mr. Khan would give them each a pocket-size copy of the Constitution, just like the one he brandished on Thursday, said Tim Leroux, who used to run the ROTC program.

University officials let Mr. Khan read an application essay his son wrote for a residential college. In the essay, Captain Khan wrote of how “liberty requires vigilance and sacrifice” and that those who are “beneficiaries of liberty must always bear this in mind, and keep it safe from attacks.”

“That summed up his later life,” Mr. Khan said. Ω

[Turner Cowles is a video journalist at The New York Times. Before that he a video producer for Money magazine. Cowles received a BA (writing & media) from Florida State University as well as an MS (journalism) from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Additional reporting was supplied by Niraj Chokshi, Stephanie Saul, Thomas Kaplan and Ashley Parker.]

Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company

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Backstory: A Complex Portrait Of Patriotism
By Alexandra "AJ" Willingham

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Humayun Khan knew he was walking toward danger. He must have known.

The 27-year-old Army Captain had ordered those around him to take cover as soon as he saw a taxi barrel through the gates of his base in Baquba, Iraq. He took 10 steps toward it when it exploded.

Khan isn't the only Muslim-American to give his life in the service of his country. But in this rancorous political climate, where Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is calling for a ban on Muslims, his story has taken on a different sort of significance.

And when his parents strode on to the stage at the DNC, their grief still writ large on their faces 12 years later, it was a meeting of identities as potent as the symbol on the army captain's military grave.

It signaled that patriotism and Islam are not mutually exclusive, that sacrifice and grief have no religion, and that the similarities that the Khans share with so many American families are far more meaningful than their differences.

American Opportunities

Humayun Khan was born in the United Arab Emirates to Pakistani parents. His family moved to America 36 years ago.

"Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings," the father, Khizr Khan, said during his speech Thursday night.

"We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams."

The family settled in Maryland, where the boys seemed to have a knack for academics.

Khan enrolled in the ROTC program at the University of Virginia after completing high school. He graduated with a degree in psychology

He aspired to be a military lawyer, and wanted a career advocating for veterans. He decided to join the Army first to pay for law school.

Khizr Khan, and the moment American Muslims have been waiting for.

American Sacrifice

On the day he died, Khan was overseeing soldiers as they conducted routine vehicle inspections. It was June 8, 2004 - the height of the insurgency when attacks on American forces were constant.

He'd last talked to his mother a month earlier, on Mother's Day.

"Whenever I talked to him, I started to cry," his mother, Ghazala, told the Washington Post at the time. "He always said to me, 'Don't worry. I'm safe.' "

Khan was an ordnance officer with the 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division. His unit made sure the camp stayed secure and things ran smoothly.

While serving, he also participated in a US Army program that helped Iraqi citizens earn money to support themselves.

"He was always a peacemaker," his father told the Post. "[He was] always seeing an opportunity to give. He was always to the Iraqis, 'We're here not to hurt you but to help you.'"

When the taxi drove through the gates, Khan told the soldiers to take cover. He walked toward it, signaling for it to stop.

The car, with 200 pounds of explosives, blew up, killing him.

Khan's actions saved the lives of several others. For that, he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

"He died selflessly and courageously, tackling the enemy head on," his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Mitchell, wrote in a letter read at his funeral. "We will not forget him and the noble ideas he stood for."

He was given full military honors and buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where the marble headstone bears the star and crescent of his faith He was 27.

American Perspective

At least 6,024 Muslims have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the September 11 terror attacks, and at least 14 have died. Those figures are from a Committee on Homeland Security report [PDF] issued in 2011.

But those numbers are only for service members who self-identified as Muslims. The Pentagon does not track recruits by faith. They only ask service members to declare their faith on their records so that in case of death, the department can provide the correct religious chaplain.

The truth about Muslims in America

American Family

The Democratic National Convention stage was an unexpected destination for Khan's parents, one they could not have foreseen.

Khizr Khan spoke briefly of his son, but focused most of his words on what it meant to be a Muslim American and the discontent he felt with Donald Trump's plans for people like him.

At one point, he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a small copy of the United States Constitution. A Muslim immigrant, holding aloft one of the country's most important documents and urging his fellow citizens, and his leaders, to consider its words.

"In this document, look for the words 'liberty' and 'equal protection of law,'" he said. Specifically addressing Trump, he asked, "Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America."

"You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

His gesture set off a seismic reaction. Supporters typed out Khan's words and superimposed them over images of him holding up that little blue book. Some shared pictures of their own copies of the Constitution.

The elder Khan is a Harvard-educated lawyer who now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and works as a legal consultant. Journalist Wajat Ali reported the worn Constitution Khizr Khan produced, a totem of true American-ness, was far from a prop.

He's carried it with him for years. Ω

[Alexandra "AJ" Willingham is a writer at CNN (Cable News Network). She began her career at CNN (and some of its affiliates) as a video journalist in 2009. She received a BA (writing/rhetoric from Syracuse University.]

Copyright © 2016 Cable News Network

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Today, You Will Go Into The Belly Of The -Beast(s)- (The LOC & Other Digital Libraries)

During this blogger's modest tenure as a researcher, he had occasion to enter the holdings of the National Archives and the Manuscripts Collection of the LOC (Library of Congress). Of the two research centers, his preference would go to the LOC, hands down. Without going into details, the machinations of LBJ and The Trickster tilted this blogger toward the LOC. But that was then, and this is now. If this is a (fair & balanced) consideration of the complexities of information technology, so be it.

[x n+1]
The Library Of Last Resort
By Kyle Chayka

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In 1990, the Library of Congress launched “American Memory,” its first digital pilot project. The LOC selected a handful of the 160 million objects in its collection to digitize, store on laserdiscs and CDs, and distribute to 44 schools and libraries across the country. Like so many pre-internet digital endeavors, American Memory was unsuccessful. According to the project’s retrospective website, the problem was tactile: “distributing these materials in CD-ROM format was both inefficient and prohibitively expensive.”

Within a few years, CDs were relics and the internet was proving an accessible space for digital innovation. In October 1994, the LOC announced the creation of the National Digital Library Program, or NDLP, a “systematic effort to digitize some of the foremost historical treasures in the Library . . . and make them readily available on the Web to Congress, scholars, educators, students, the general public, and the global Internet community.” By 1999, the NDLP had an annual budget of $12 million and over 100 employees. It had successfully digitized over 5 million objects—an unrecognized feat of the early internet.

Yet like "American Memory," the NDLP proved to be a novelty, and it too tailed off. A 2001 digital strategy report, commissioned by the LOC and conducted by the National Research Council, concluded that the LOC’s digitization efforts were insufficient: only a tiny fraction of the Library’s collection had been uploaded. The report recommended an ambitious reorganization, one that would “systematically address the policies, procedures, and infrastructure required for [the LOC] to collect diverse types of digital resources and to integrate them into its systems for description and cataloging, access, and preservation.” The LOC needed to commit itself to the internet.

Fifteen years later, the report’s recommendations remain recommendations. In March 2015, an investigation by the Government Accountability Office painted a bleak picture of the LOC’s technological infrastructure, finding “significant weaknesses” in strategic planning (there was no IT strategic plan); investment management (the LOC does not review all of its key investments, has no system for tracking spending, and misplaced 10,000 computers); and leadership (the Library did not have a Chief Information Officer from 2012 to late 2015).

The report confirmed that the LOC had lost touch with whatever mainstream American audiences it had reached in its initial digital programs. In the 2000s, Google Books and the European Union’s Europeana project demonstrated the potential of collaborative mass digitization and online accessibility, but the LOC had fallen behind. “The Library of Congress has been asleep at the switch,” John Palfrey, a library activist and head of school at Phillips Academy [Andover], told me. “It’s a national embarrassment.”

This digital failure occurred during the tenure of the 87-year-old Dr. James H. Billington, a Russia scholar who was appointed the Librarian of Congress by Ronald Reagan in 1987. By September 2015, when Billington retired “under fire,” as the New York Times headline had it, whatever early progress the LOC made on the internet seemed squandered. Responsibility for restoring the LOC’s digital mandate has fallen to his newly confirmed successor, Carla Hayden, the first Librarian of Congress of the 21st century. The job Hayden has before her is to prepare the Library to serve another century of US citizens where we’ve become most accustomed to consuming information: the internet.

The Lbrary of Congress was established on April 24, 1800, when John Adams signed the act of Congress that moved the nation’s capital to Washington, DC. “The Library of Congress was founded mainly to be a legislative library,” says Carl Ostrowski, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University and the author of Books, Maps, and Politics, a history of the early Library [see this altermative]. Unlike the temporary capitals of New York and Philadelphia, “there wasn’t another institution in Washington that could provide the books Congress needed to write legislation.” But the Library quickly outgrew its Congressional mandate, as well as the single room it occupied—a scholarly den filled with balconies of shelves and wide tables. It became a social space for the DC elite, according to Ostrowski, and stocked the latest novels for entertainment.

Ainsworth Rand Spofford, the Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897, oversaw the construction of the LOC’s enormous Thomas Jefferson Building, the only structure an average visitor is likely to experience, and expanded the institution’s reach. “There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,” he wrote in an 1874 report, “which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.” Thus the LOC’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance, whether through the copyright office that it integrated under Spofford or its network of international experts recommending foreign-language publications. By the late 19th century, the Library of Congress had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.

The Thomas Jefferson Building today is ceremonial, a touristic beaux arts monument with soaring domed ceilings and grand reading rooms secreted in corners accessible only to a thinning population of registered scholars. The LOC’s more mundane infrastructure is housed across Independence Avenue in the blandly brutalist James Madison Memorial Building, which is linked to the Jefferson and the John Adams Building—an Art Deco tower opened in 1939 for the business and science holdings—by underground tunnels that resemble the hallways of a sinister elementary school. It’s in these secondary spaces where the real labors of a library, like digitization, happen.

The LOC’s digital collection currently comprises over 7 petabytes (7 million gigs) with more than 15 million items, including 150,000 print books. In an ideal future scenario, the LOC estimates that it could digitize a further 3-5 PB a year, but even at that optimistic rate, full digitization of the 160 million-object collection could take decades, and that’s if it stayed the size it is today. (The collection adds about 10,000 objects daily.)

Plenty of factors stand in the way of digitization. Budgets are shrinking and awareness of the institution’s purpose is low—a recent Facebook rumor had Donald Trump defunding the LOC to save money. The LOC takes scholarly care in digitization, assuring that the replicas it creates will be authoritative and stable, but the process is slow and inefficient. Every object from the collection that gets digitized must first be removed from the LOC stacks or its storage warehouses offsite in Maryland, evaluated for its ability to endure physical scanning, and then hand-fed through a scanner. The resulting data is processed and uploaded to the internet with proper tagging and citations, following standards that the LOC itself developed. A single print could take as long as a day to scan and upload.

The LOC spends between $6 million and $8 million on digitization annually, maintaining a dedicated staff of 13, plus external contract scanners. With such a modest budget (lower than in 1999), the Library has to make difficult decisions as to which parts of the collection should go online. Beth Dulabahn, the LOC’s director of integration management, told me that objects are more likely to be digitized if they’re of particular importance to Congress or might be popular with the public. “When we digitize we try to go for the biggest bang for the buck,” Dulabahn said. “The mission is still to acquire materials and then as legally possible to make those available to as many people as we can. Certainly the internet has provided a fabulous opportunity to make materials available to much wider audiences.” Recent projects include a scanned series of photographs from Depression-era Wyoming as well as curated Pinterest boards with themes ranging from African American History Month to Walt Whitman.

The LOC’s more obscure digitization efforts often aren’t promoted to public audiences, contributing to their invisibility. In a windowless basement workshop, Katharine Danzis, a private paper conservator working for the LOC, prepared a cardboard box of the archivist Alan Lomax’s personal archive. “We’re looking for items that will not get a good scan or that will be damaged,” she said, holding up a clipping of heavily creased old notes and letters. Tears are labeled, folds unfolded, and fragile fragments placed in transparent polyester. The Lomax collection is being scanned at a rate of around eight boxes a week. There are, Danzis said, “hundreds and hundreds” of boxes.

Elsewhere, the prints and photographs division scans around 50,000 items a year; their collection numbers around 14.5 million. “Just about 300 years at that pace,” Katherine Arrington, a digital library specialist in the division, said with a laugh. While rugged books can be fed through faster scanners, intensive image scanning happens on the tank-like Metis, a hulking $150,000 Italian scanner stationed in a corner Arrington’s division. The LOC’s model was the first of its kind in the United States; it now owns two. The final results are files ranging from 200 megabytes to two gigs that are so complete as to obviate the need for the object itself. “Even if the technology does improve, we’ve scanned it to the point where we’ve gotten what people need out of it,” said Paul Hogroian, a senior lab technician, laying down a 19th century lithograph and leaving the Metis to its busily sentient buzz. “You feel that you’ve done something now that will last.”

Putting the scanned files online is the job of Jim Karamanis, the LOC’s head of web services. Files are stored first in a long-term archive, a kind of digital deep freeze. Then, the web team creates accessible duplicates of that archive for the public. Karamanis has been frustrated with LOC leadership’s approach to technology. “You had curatorial people managing technical people. You’re not qualified to do that,” he told me. A web redesign is underway, though progress is slow. “When you have a body of content that’s been available on the web since the ’90s, it’s been pretty radical to update it.”

Print still dominates at the Library of Dongress. The John Adams building is made of stacks; in the center of every floor are dark expanses of shelving where books spill out onto the floor in dusty rows. (The shelves act as structural support for the building, otherwise the weight of the books would pull it down.) In dark corners are the rusted hulks of a pneumatic tube system once used to shoot requests for books from one floor to another. Along the ceilings of the underground hallways run conveyor belts that look like air conditioning ducts, used to ferry books between buildings. Or at least they were. “They haven’t worked for years,” said senior public affairs specialist Jennifer Gavin.

A core function of the LOC is to decide which materials merit permanence—in digital or print form—and which don’t. Spare copies of books the LOC already owns and volumes it has decided aren’t worth preserving beyond the reach of time end up in limbo, otherwise known as the Surplus Books department. Every year, 18,000 of the abandoned books (less than two days’ worth of collection additions) are distributed to US public libraries, offices of politicians, and foreign national libraries free of charge. Moldova gets a box per week, Japan specifies intricately protective cardboard boxes for its shipments, and one unnamed South American country never picks up its deliveries on time.

At the end of the LOC’s fraying bibliographic chain, Surplus Books inspires a certain feeling of futility. Digitization will never be completed, at least not before print ceases to be produced, and still there remains the task of making sure the printed books in the collection remain viable.

This is to say that the Library of Congress needs not just a shift in branding but a different, parallel mission to make digitization comprehensive and sustainable rather than a sideshow. Developing this mission is what will maintain the institution’s relevance over the next century. But the change can only come from leadership; currently, staff are as confused about the Library’s purpose as the public. “We’re trying to figure out what our place is in a society that has Google,” Elmer Eusman, chief of the LOC’s Conservation Division, told me with audible sadness. Billington didn’t mitigate the confusion.

By the time he arrived at the Library of Congress in 1987, James H. Billington was an elite academic, and a conservative government-approved cold warrior. He attended Princeton and Oxford, taught history at Harvard and Princeton, and directed the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he launched the Kennan Institute (a Sovietology workshop) and the bipartisan Wilson Quarterly.

Billington was a luddite—he was known to not read email, instead using a home fax machine—and a control freak. A former employee described him as a “megalomaniac” to the Washington Post. To American librarians, he represented the government’s continuing ignorance of what libraries actually do in the internet age. “You want the person in that seat to have worked the reference desk,” says Stephanie Anderson, assistant director for public services at Darien Library in Connecticut. “It’s easy to gloss over the day-to-day experience of being in the library.”

Still, Billington was a charismatic fundraiser, founding multiple new centers within the LOC. In 1994 he launched THOMAS, a digital access point for legislative information, and in 2009 the World Digital Library, a 14,000-object cross-institutional collection from the likes of the British Library and the University Library of Naples. The LOC also began working with the Internet Archive, a non-profit founded by entrepreneur and web utopian Brewster Kahle, a supporter of Billington, for some of its digitization. The LOC had a PR coup in 2010 when it announced it would begin archiving tweets from Twitter for posterity, but when I asked Beth Dulabahn about its status, she rolled her eyes. The tweet collection remains inaccessible because the Library hasn’t found a way to index it for search. In the meantime, Twitter came up with its own solutions, available to its daily users—but not the LOC.

Billington’s overall approach to technology was haphazard and, crucially, isolated from the larger changes that were taking place in Silicon Valley during his tenure. In the late 1990s and 2000s, tech companies took over the social responsibility for large-scale information management in the public imagination that Spofford had assigned to the LOC. By, say, 2002, one could ask why we needed the LOC when we had Google. This was and is a problem of perception, not just execution. The LOC plays an important role in digitization, creating universal standards and providing unique content from its collections, but Billington distanced his institution from more dynamic projects that now define our expectations of digital libraries with an intentional aloofness.

The oldest digital library, Project Gutenberg, was launched in 1971 to provide digital copies of books in the public domain. Today it holds just under 50,000 volumes. In 1996, Kahle founded his Internet Archive, a collection of 2.5 million books (much larger than the LOC’s digital connection) that now runs scanning centers in 30 libraries in eight countries, digitizing 1,000 books daily at a cost of $.10 a page, according to the founder. Other digital library efforts, like Europeana and HathiTrust, were launched over the first decade of the 2000s and tended to be collective efforts, with responsibility shared across academic and cultural institutions.

In 2004, Google launched Google Books, the largest digitization project ever, which partnered with libraries and other institutions like Harvard and the New York Public Library to scan and upload over 7 million volumes by 2008. The LOC did not participate in Google Books, in part because the process was not designed to handle delicate materials, Eusman said. The project became the target of lawsuits alleging it violated copyright by scanning and publishing in-copyright books, cases that fell under the copyright jurisdiction of the Library of Congress. If Billington had supported the project or made the LOC a meaningful partner, the legal issues could have been mitigated and LOC digitization greatly expanded.

Yet in 2015, when the Google Books collection had reached 25 million books, the disputes were resolved in Google’s favor under fair use. The company claims it will digitize all 130 million unique volumes it estimates to exist in the world, without the involvement of the United States’ largest library.

Billington also refused to send the LOC data to the Digital Public Library of America, an initiative that emerged out of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in April 2013. DPLA is something like the Google of libraries. Similar to the Internet Archive, DPLA partners with “content hubs” and “service hubs” to scan and process collections, collating the data into a universal online database. DPLA has over 10 million items hosted from 1,600 collections united by apps, a custom API, and a Web 2.0 interface, and it’s as easy to find a digitized object from the Smithsonian as a small Midwestern library. None of this is beyond the LOC’s reach, but all of it depends on sustained and imaginative leadership—and an openness to new projects.

Despite initial shows of enthusiasm, Billington pointedly ignored personal invitations to participate in DPLA “It’s been enormously frustrating,” said John Palfrey, also DPLA’s founding chairman, “to have the potentially the most important contributor to DPLA be absent. To have a rival system that one party is building compared to one that absolutely everybody else is participating in, it’s bonkers.” (Sources have suggested that one cause of Billington’s hesitation was historian Robert Darnton. Billington taught at Princeton with Darnton, who was Harvard’s university librarian until 2015 and a leader in the DPLA initiative, and the two men developed a longstanding professional rivalry.)

In the context of mass-digitization, the LOC’s choices have been divisive and exclusionary. “I really believe in this idea that a library can be a platform, can provide a foundation that others can build upon rather than defining those structures,” said Dan Cohen, the DPLA’s executive director. “I don’t think [the LOC] has the mandate or wherewithal to work truly across the country with thousands of institutions to help them bring their material online. We can be a little bit more flexible.” Maybe so, but when it comes to a future LOC partnership with DPLA, Palfrey isn’t optimistic. “At this point, it might be too little, too late,” he told me.

Billington's exit in September 2015 2015 kicked off a long-awaited wave of change at the LOC. Last October, the Senate passed the “Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act,” limiting the length of a Librarian’s appointment to 10 years, in what appears to be a direct reaction to Billington (though the appointments can be renewed). That month, David Mao, previously Deputy Librarian and director of the Library of Congress Law Library, became Acting Librarian. “Our technological infrastructure here needs to be modernized,” he noted in a subsequent interview. Mao will remain until the newest Librarian officially takes office.

On February 24 of this year, President Obama announced his nomination of Carla Hayden, the longtime head of the Baltimore public library system, a 63-year-old African-American woman. (Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson is said to have turned the position down; Kahle and Palfrey were among other popular suggestions.) The nomination suggested an awareness that the LOC must become more progressive and open, catering to a wider demographic as the social purpose of libraries evolves from providing books to maintaining public technological support systems. “I see [the LOC] growing its stature as a leader, not only in librarianship but in how people view libraries in general,” Hayden said in a Senate appearance.

Hayden was confirmed on July 13, just before 2016 Senate recess, by a vote of 74-18. Beginning as Librarian, she will have to contend with the LOC’s burgeoning technological gridlock under Billington and the ongoing task of making the institution relevant on the internet. Billington often described the LOC as the American “library of last resort”: whatever could not be found elsewhere would always be in its archives. But the phrase has taken on another meaning: it’s easy to think that what Billington meant is that the LOC is the last place anyone would ever think to look. This is precisely what it risks becoming if it doesn’t take on a leading public role in the digitization of culture.

The LOC’s strategic plan for 2016 through 2020 features inspirational quotes from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, as well as images of the collection’s children’s books presented on Pinterest. The document’s millennial vision for the institution is to be “a chief steward of America’s and the world’s record of knowledge, and is a springboard to the future, while providing indispensable services to Congress.” Its continuing priority is first to serve politicians, then provide an ambiguous repository of American identity to citizens. Just like the 2001 report, the plan proposes the internet for this purpose. One goal is to “acquire, describe, make accessible, secure, and preserve a universal collection of knowledge in physical and electronic formats, and obtain electronic access, for its own users, to digital materials held by other entities.” Perhaps under the new Librarian it will stick. Ω

[Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators Project, and others. Chyaka received a BA (English) from Tufts University.]

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Blog-Mirror, Blog-Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The... Biggest Narcissist Of Them All?

Today, you get a steamin' dose of lay psychiatry. If this is a (fair & balanced) speculation on what a living Havelock Ellis or Sigmund Freud might have said after witnessing Donald T. (for The) Chump's epic performance on the last night of DumboCon 2016, so be it.

[x CHE/Lingue Franca]
Here’s Looking At You, Narcissist
By Yoda (Ben Yagoda)

TagCrowd cloud of the following piece of writing

created at

There’s one word that seems to doggedly follow the Republican nominee for president, and no, the word isn’t Whuuuuuuhhhh???????

Last week, on Stephen Colbert’s "The Late Show," Jon Stewart called Donald Trump “a thin-skinned narcissist.”

The author David Cay Johnston said of Trump in a Guardian article, “He’s a world-class narcissist.” (The title of the article was “Trump: The Making of a Narcissist.”)

David Brooks of The New York Times wrote, “There’s sort of a gravitational narcissistic pull that takes command whenever he attempts to utter a compound thought.”

On Vox, Ezra Klein called Trump “a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante.”

After reading a New York Times interview in which Trump suggested possibly not honoring NATO commitments, [US] Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said: “I call it a narcissistic foreign policy from Donald Trump, and it’s the idea that, you know, the world needs us.”

Bryan Cranston — Bryan Cranston! — said in The Daily Beast, “He’s a supreme narcissist.”

And all that was over the course of just four days!

But the word association is nothing new. Back during the nomination fight, Ted Cruz said of Trump, “He’s a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.” (Cruz had some payback at the Republican National Convention last week. After he pointedly refused to endorse the nominee, [US] Representative Chris Collins, Republican of New York, called Cruz a “narcissistic individual.”)

This is the point where I would normally take a critical tack on the use of the word, and dissect the misprisions and ulterior motives of those who have been using it. I find that hard to do in this case, as the diagnosis by Bryan Cranston and all the other nondoctors seems 100 percent on the money. Indeed, a November article in Vanity Fair quoted five psychologists or therapists who agreed, in the words of one of them, that Trump is “textbook.” Said another: “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics.” (In fairness, the author of the article, Henry Alford, didn’t disclose if in his research he encountered any psychologists who disagree.)

Here are the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the latest edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), as summarized on the Mayo Clinic’s website:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people

Requiring constant admiration

Having a sense of entitlement

Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations

Taking advantage of others to get what you want

Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Being envious of others and believing others envy you

Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Otto Kernberg, in his 1975 book Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism, filled in the picture, observing that narcissists

present an unusual degree of self-reference in their interactions with other people, a great need to be loved and admired by others, and a curious apparent contradiction between a very inflated concept of themselves and an inordinate need for tribute from others. Their emotional life is shallow. They experience little empathy for the feelings of others, they obtain very little enjoyment from life other than from the tributes they receive from others or from their own grandiose fantasies, and they feel restless and bored when external glitter wears off and no new sources feed their self-regard.... Very often such patients are considered to be dependent because they need so much tribute and adoration from others, but on a deeper level they are completely unable really to depend on anybody because of their deep distrust and depreciation of others.


Narcissist and narcissism comes from the Greek mythological character Narcissus, who was transfixed by his own reflection in a pool and stared at it until he died. Introduced as a psychological concept by Havelock Ellis, it was taken up by Freud and thereafter became an important part of psychoanalytic discourse. Narcissistic personality disorder was first listed in the DSM in the third edition, published in 1980. That was a notable moment for the popularization of the concept and term. The year before, the historian Christopher Lasch had published The Culture of Narcissism (1978), to much attention (Lasch was called to a Jimmy Carter summit on the national morale). In 1983, in Fatal Vision, Joe McGinness drew on Lasch to argue that Jeffrey MacDonald was capable of murdering his wife and children because he was a “pathological narcissist” unhinged by amphetamines.

Since then, the terms have been in ever wider use. An Amazon search for books containing narcissist yields 1,265 results, including Disarming the Narcissist, Divorcing the Narcissist, and Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare. (All or virtually all books on the subject are about dealing with a narcissist as opposed to alleviating one’s own narcissism, since narcissists rarely feel there is a problem.) The graph below shows the percentage of “narcissism” (green — and note the Lasch-inspired bump in 1979) and “narcissist” (black) relative to all articles published in The New York Times.

The incomplete data for 2016 show -ist at .09 percent and -ism at a robust .15 percent. One wouldn’t want to fall victim to a mathematical fallacy and predict that the numbers will rise to infinity. But it seems to say that the terms will be very much in the air for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, clinical epithets are being thrown at presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as well. But they tend to be vague and/or dubious ones, like “enabler” and “pathological liar.”

As for Trump, with three months to go till Election Day, we will undoubtedly hear him being called many other names. Tony Schwartz, coauthor of The Art of the Deal, told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker that if he were writing the book today, he wouldn’t use that title. His nominee for a replacement?

The Sociopath. Ω

[Ben Yagoda (BA [English] Yale, MA [American civilization] University of Pennsylvania) is the author of Memoir: A History (2009), About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made (2000), and Will Rogers: A Biography (1993) and the coeditor of The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism (1997). He has contributed articles, essays, and reviews to more than fifty national publications, including Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review. Yagoda has been a Lingua Franca blogger at the Chronicle of Higher Education since August 2011.) He is a professor of journalism and literary non-fiction in the Department of English at the University of Delaware.]

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