Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

April 29, 2011

Obama's Race

By David K. Shipler

Americans who are honest with themselves can perform a mental exercise to test the proposition that Barack Obama is a victim of racial prejudice. Change his race to white and, for good measure, change his Kenyan father to a Swede. Name him Olander. Then listen closely to what is being said about Obama, apply it to Olander and hear how it sounds. Is it off key? Does it have resonance? Would 41 percent of Republicans believe that a president with a Swedish father and a white mother from Kansas was born in another country?

Arab-Americans have been doing a variation of this for years to make the point that if “Jews” are substituted for “Muslims” or “Arabs” in cartoons or epithets, the result in polite company would be a gasp of horror.

April 16, 2011

The Trickle-Up Theory

By David K. Shipler

Way back in the Dark Ages of 2008, when the stock market tumbled into freefall and the financial system congealed like a solidly frozen daiquiri, I had a theory. It turned out to be completely wrong—well, not completely, but correct only in a way I didn’t imagine.

I figured that the hardships of poverty, now spilling up into the middle class, would inspire the collective American passion for solving problems.

April 11, 2011

Military Commissions: A Dangerous Precedent

By David K. Shipler

(Published in the Los Angeles Times Apr. 10, 2011)

The system of military commissions that will try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters contains a dirty little secret. Hardly anybody talks about it, but it's a key reason for concern as the apparatus becomes established.

It is this: The commissions can operate inside the United States, and they have jurisdiction over a broad range of crimes. Nothing in the Military Commissions Act limits the military trials to Guantanamo detainees, or to people captured and held abroad, or even to terrorism suspects. Nothing prevents the commissions from trying noncitizens, arrested inside the country, whom the president unilaterally designates as "unprivileged enemy belligerents." In other words, the law permits military officers to try non-Americans from Alabama and Arkansas as well as Afghanistan.