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“Children Are Off Limits”: If Ted Cruz Is Going To Use His Daughters As Props, He Should Be Mocked For It

Ted Cruz, a leading presidential candidate, released a new Christmas-themed ad — a lighthearted riff on familiar themes, in which he tweaked words from a well-known holiday story to fit his campaign platform. He appeared as himself, alongside his wife and his two young daughters, who dutifully recited lines that had been scripted to further their father’s agenda.

What’s a satirist to do?

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Ann Telnaes decided not to focus on the candidate’s message, but the manner in which it was pitched — namely, the fact that Cruz used his children as mouthpieces for his campaign.

There wasn’t any mistaking her intent, either. The headline for the cartoon, which featured Cruz’s daughters as monkeys on a leash being controlled by a Santa-clad Cruz turning an organ grinder, laid it out: “Ted Cruz Uses His Kids As Political Props.” And she explained her feelings further, in a tweet:

Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don’t start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well. https://t.co/7hafBacOiK

— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 22, 2015

She also made her case in a note that ran alongside the cartoon in the Washington Post:

“[T]here is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician’s children are off-limits. … But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.”

Yet the cartoon was pulled.

The editor who pulled it, Fred Hiatt, said he didn’t agree with Telnaes and hadn’t viewed the cartoon before it was posted. Hiatt echoed Telnaes’s original disclaimer, saying in the editor’s note that has supplanted the cartoon on the Post’s site: “It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it.” However, he said that he did not agree with her that an exception to that practice was warranted in the case of Cruz and his daughters.

Jeff Danziger, a political cartoonist and acquaintance of Telnaes, sided with her. “I think she’s right,” Danziger said in an email. “If [Cruz] uses his daughters to get votes, he’s the one putting them on the stage.” (Danziger’s work appears in The National Memo.)

So assuming Cruz’s actions were deserving of editorial comment in cartoon form, would there have been a more appropriate way to go about it? Perhaps the problem was a lack of context. Readers didn’t necessarily need to be familiar with the ad that Telnaes was referencing, which had been released three days earlier, on Dec. 19, although of course that would have helped.

It’s possible there was a broader satirical target than simply Cruz and his daughters. After all, candidates’ family members have often appeared in campaign materials: Whether it’s pictures of Hillary Clinton holding her infant granddaughter, Charlotte, or the McCain, Palin, and Romney progenitors gamely posing for group photos, children and families humanize the candidates and drive home campaign messages by putting a memorable face on abstract talking points about “safety,” “family,” and “the future.”

But the degree to which Cruz has been using his children – and his dad, and his mom, and his aunt – is worth noting. Buzzfeed recently unearthed footage posted by Cruz’s campaign for Senate that was culled from 16-hour videos of him interacting with his family, but it’s clear from the videos that these aren’t surreptitiously filmed get-togethers or spontaneous hangouts. They play eerily as though Cruz had sat down with his mom and dad, prompting them to sing the praises of their wonderfully competent son.

Does anyone really think Telnaes was attacking Cruz’s children, rather than Cruz himself?

The cartoon’s depiction of the girls as monkeys was clearly an attempt to draw them in a stock role as a beggar’s pawns; it seems highly disingenuous to advance the argument that Telnaes was in any way criticizing the girls’ looks or character, which would, of course, be an ugly and reprehensible thing to do.

Telnaes criticized their father for using them in such a grossly crass way, trying to score political points by playing cute. And now, ironically — since the cartoon caricatured Cruz as a panhandler — by pulling the ad, the Washington Post has given the Texas senator a whole new excuse to ask for more money and more ammunition to use in his screeds about how the “mainstream,” “liberal” media treats him unfairly. Cruz is still grinding that organ, and getting his daughters to dance.

 

By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Children, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Off We Go, Into The New Year”: Where Each Of Us Will Have The Chance To Do Better

After a certain age, favorite holiday memories tend to meld into tales too good to be true. This is human nature. We want to believe we’re better than the evidence suggests. This is a good habit of our species, especially at the end of this year, in which we’ve seen so much of the worst in us.

There is no such thing as perfection whenever we add memories of past holiday experiences to the combustible mix of family and friends. Add booze and a couple of sturdy grudges and Grey Gardens has nothing over the drama unfolding in front of us as we shake our heads.

Nevertheless, with the passage of time, we will yet again enshrine these get-togethers as something magical. This speaks to something good in us. Most of us want to be people who love people, so we manage the willpower to love even the people who get on our last nerve. Which at least one of them surely will; we just know it.

You will note that I am laying blame elsewhere for all that might annoy us this holiday season. I employ this nifty trick of memory so that, at least for the duration of this column, we can all feel superior and terribly misunderstood. My gift to you. Merry Christmas, if you celebrate. Otherwise: Happy Solstice Week. Be sure to look out the window tomorrow morning. Already, the darkness is ending a teensy bit sooner.

This has been a rough year in our lives, even if we harbor no personal grievance because of what is churning out there all around us. Just this once, let’s not rattle off the list. Many of us will continue to stake out our own little patches of righteousness, but this is the time of year when we should at least try to acknowledge the truth of the matter: We are all in this together.

Former astronaut John Glenn, a dear friend, once described for me what it was like to hover 150 miles above the Earth and get a good look at the rest of us:

“On a map, every nation has a different color,” he said. “Well, the Earth looks much different from space. You realize our borders are so artificial. Some are political; some have developed along ethnic lines. But all those lines disappear when you’re looking down from space. And you can’t help but see all that we have in common and think about how much we foul things up by focusing on our differences rather than our sameness.”

I don’t expect us to link arms and sing to the heavens. For one thing, there’d be that unpleasant argument over which version of heaven and another over whose version of God would be listening. And that’s just among the believers.

Pass.

Instead, I ask that, in the spirit of the season, we pause to consider what we still have in common with one another. It’s there, in every single person we can imagine.

I know, I know. Work through the wince. Breathe.

Three days before Christmas, I was about to start dinner, when my friend Jackie called. She and her wife, Kate, live just down the street.

“Go to the Square,” she said.

“Why?” I asked as I shut off the burner.

“I’m not telling you. Just go — and bring your camera.”

My husband and I threw on our jackets and began the short walk to the community park that greets everyone who enters our neighborhood in Cleveland.

Dozens of luminarias flickered on the ground around the gazebo. Two deer ventured forth as we walked among the lights and offered nods to the fat moon competing for attention.

I loved watching neighbors pulling in to the development after a long day at work and slowing their cars to a crawl to take in the sight of this unexpected kindness. I have no idea which neighbors made the effort to do this, but I know we need more people like them. I am grateful for the reminder that small gestures can ignite big hopes and that there are many ways to light the darkness.

To those who don’t celebrate Christmas, thank you for putting up with those of us who do. If you are struggling right now, may the holiday land gently.

Off we go, into the new year, where each of us will have the chance to do better.

 

By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, December 24, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Christmas, Holiday Season, New Years | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Lives Of America’s ‘Others'”: Requires A Reassessment Of American Values And A Realignment With Reality Today

American discourse often splits along enduring fault lines: Republican and Democrat; majority and minority; citizen and foreigner. Yet our newest fault line is more troubling, intractable, and toxic.

Over the last year, America’s politics and social discourse have grown increasingly unsettled as an array of cracks and fissures became evident in the country’s social contract. Across a wide range of issues, Americans today are confronted by the vocal demands or concerns of “Others,” those sitting outside the cultural and political status quo who feel abandoned, ignored, or attacked by the country’s stakeholders.

These Others are not a cohesive group, nor do they necessarily have anything in common with one another, but their presence and the uncomfortable nature of the issues they raise has fractured the general national dialogue.

Prominent Others include the #BlackLivesMatter protestors challenging police brutality in inner cities and the students taking over college campuses to protest unfair racial norms. They include the Planned Parenthood employees targeted with violence and invective for doing their jobs. And they include Syrian refugees, fleeing a vicious, self-destructive war, who seek to build new lives in the U.S.

The shift in focus this year is uncomfortable for everyone who identifies themselves as being on the inside of the status quo, because it is not a matter of finding a legislative solution or developing a public-private partnership. Americans and our elected leaders would prefer to confront and debate generically universal issues such as unemployment, economic competitiveness, homelessness, and access to education, rather than issues defined by differences in identity, skin color and religion.

The schism wrought by the Others requires a reassessment of American values and a realignment with reality today. But except in isolated instances, we are failing to address these issues in a substantive, productive manner, choosing instead to retreat into to the warm security blanket of a prosperous status quo.

Nowhere is this unwillingness to understand or engage with the Other more starkly evident than in the Republican presidential primary, which has become a populist weather vane for blaming and demonizing the full array of “Others” for America’s ills. Complaints once aired exclusively on the Rush Limbaugh Show have now become talking points to denigrate legitimate concerns and grievances.

Yet pointing fingers at Republican politicians and primary voters alone is a partisan copout. Mainstream America–literally encompassing everyone who has succeeded within the current status quo, including President Barack Obama–is struggling to comprehend and keep up with the upending of a tacit agreement to avoid full-blown confrontations over the needs of Others. The historical passivity and tunnel vision perspective of America’s problems explains why we were caught off guard by the intensity of #BlackLivesMatter and related movements, by the continued existence of anti-abortion terrorists, and by the renewed rejection and demonization of an entire religion.

As recently as last year, firmly establishing a group as an Other made it easier to justify ignoring their needs or rejecting their American-ness. We cannot ignore this array of unrelated challenges to our social fabric; but we must recognize that there are no simple, easy solutions to any of these problems–we waited for them to resolve themselves and that didn’t happen.

In a Midwest restaurant last week, an Indian-American friend was derided by a stranger as a terrorist because of his skin color. The bigot who made the comment didn’t know that my friend was a lawyer. Or a military officer. All he knew was that he seemed like one of the Others. The consequences to keeping groups of people on the outside of the status quo extends far beyond the incomplete debate that ensues; it eventually trickles down to affect even those who are established within American society and do not see themselves as Others.

We are reaching a contemporary inflection point where a significant number of Americans or people who dream of becoming Americans no longer feel welcomed or understood in this country. There is a prevalent sense of alienation among many who could be categorized as Other. And it won’t be dealt with by a partisan sound bite, by giving in to fear and hatred, or by sticking our heads in the sand.

Confronting the wants and needs of Others is uncomfortable. It doesn’t necessarily end with full-blown agreement. We cannot expect to achieve racial harmony, social accord, or multicultural interfaith cooperation. But the comfort currently provided by the status quo will prove to be futile and fleeting if too many Americans or aspiring Americans believe the country refuses to look out for their needs and interests.

We don’t need to solve everyone’s problems. Some problems may not be ours to solve. But we do need to accept that the existence of these Others and their concerns is not itself a problem. Their issues should be mainstream issues. If we truly seek, in the words of Donald Trump, to “make America great again,” the lives of Others must once again become the lives of Americans.

 

By: Brian Wagner, The National Memo, December 2, 2015

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Republicans, The Others | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interim Meeting of The American Medical Association-Atlanta, Georgia

I’m sure some of you may have noticed my lack of postings over the last several days. I want to assure you that I am still alive and well. As a physician, one of the most important functions for me is advocating on behalf of “Patients” and our Profession of Medicine. We generally meet on a national level at least twice per year at various sites across the country. There are over 530 delegates representing every state and virtually every speciality and sub-speciality that you can imagine. Additionally, each delegate has an alternate. Today, we have multiple ongoing Reference Committees, during which anyone can make his/her case for a particular issue. We are the official body of The House of Delegates to the American Medical Association. I am presently in one reference committee discussing such topics as merging of Health Insurance Companies, Veterans Health, Pain Manangemet, Opioid Abuse, Access To Care,Women’s Health and their decision to determine their health care desires for themselves. This is in no way all encompassing, only a snapshot of this one committee. The General Meeting started with a “Big Bang”….A movement by a few obstructionists (we have them here too) for the AMA to  support the defunding of Planned Parenthood was resoundingly smacked down, not once but twice. It’s not over till it’s over,  so I am waiting to see what parliamentary methods will be conjured up to somehow come back to this issue.

So, this is my focus right now and through mid-week. I’ll be back to my regular routine as soon as possible, but for now, I’m in this fight to the end. I’ll rejoin you as soon as I can!

 

RAEMD95, November 15, 2015

 

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Access To Care, Health Care, Health Insurance Companies | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Domain Specific Intelligence”: The Truth About Ben Carson; Smart People Can Believe Crazy Things

The mystery of Ben Carson is that he’s a startlingly intelligent man with an inspiring life story who repeatedly makes unhinged assertions that are divorced from reality—and who, as we now know, unnecessarily embellishes his life story. About Carson’s braininess there can be no doubt: He’s not just a doctor, nor is he just a brain surgeon, he’s also performed astonishing medical breakthroughs. In 1987, he was the first surgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head, not a feat that you can do unless you are extraordinarily talented. Yet Carson’s impressive medical accomplishments are puzzling in light of the many absurd things he’s said, notably that Charles Darwin was inspired by Satan and that the pyramids were created by the Hebrew slave Joseph to store grain (as against what Carson thinks is the belief of many “scientists” that they were created by space aliens).

There’s no gainsaying the undisputed facts of Carson’s life, which are genuinely elevating. He really did go from a ghetto childhood to Yale to medical school to being a world-class surgeon. Why then has Carson felt the need to gild the lily with apparently tall tales of being a violence-prone kid who nearly murdered a friend, and being offered a scholarship to West Point? Reporting by CNN and Politico has made it clear that these central claims in his autobiographical account of himself are almost surely false.

To solve the mystery of Ben Carson, it’s important to realize two facts: First, great intelligence doesn’t immunize a person from indulging in magical thinking or pseudo-science. Second, even very smart and accomplished people can be fantasists.

A key text for understanding the Carson phenomenon is science journalist Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Times (originally published in 1997 and revised in 2002). In a chapter titled “Why Smart People Believe Weird Things,” Shermer notes that “intelligence is … orthogonal to the variables that go into shaping beliefs.” What this means is that the factors that make someone believe unusual and non-scientific or pseudo-scientific ideas—everything ranging from ESP to myths about Atlantis to oddball Shakespearean authorship theories to outright holocaust denial—are independent of intelligence. These are beliefs that very smart people as well as the far less intellectually gifted are prone to.

“Another problem is that smart people might be smart in only one field,” Shermer notes. “We say that their intelligence is domain specific.” Carson clearly has a “domain-specific” intelligence—which he freely applies to fields outside his ken (not just Egyptian Archaeology but also American politics, foreign policy, economics, evolutionary biology, and many others).

But there’s a further factor at work: In our educational meritocracy, smart people like Carson are likely to have high social status, which makes them more self-assured and willing to think they are smarter than the experts in other fields. Or smart enough, in Carson’s case, to believe they’re qualified for the presidency.

In some respects, being as intelligent and well-educated as Carson makes you more vulnerable to what Shermer calls weird beliefs. The smarter and better-educated you are, the more powerful you are at coming up with arguments to justify your positions. In effect, intelligence and education give you the skills at becoming entrenched in motivated reasonings. In Shermer’s words, “smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending belief they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” This explains the engineers who become 9/11 truthers, the Supreme Court justices who think the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays, the distinguished mathematicians who think HIV is not the cause of AIDS. It also explains Ben Carson.

But aside from his proclivity toward weird ideas (often connected to his right-wing ideology), we now know that Carson is also a fantasist. His inspirational tales about his life seem to be filled with fibs, moments where he takes perhaps a kernel of truth and turns it into an outright untruth.

Here again, we have to recognize that intelligence and accomplishment are no guard against moral failings. Whatever qualities make someone into a fabulist—perhaps a love of powerful stories, perhaps an inability to distinguish between fact and fiction—can be found in the gifted as well as the ordinary. Two distinguished historical figures prefigure Carson in this regard: the novelist Ford Madox Ford and the political theorist Harold Laski. Ford wrote wonderful novels like The Good Soldier (1915), and Laski was a seminal figure in the Fabian movement, yet both inexplicably felt the need to spruce up their life stories. Ford was genuinely friends with figures like Joseph Conrad and Henry James, but made up stories about them in his autobiographical books. Laski was active in the heart of British politics, yet his letters and private conversations were filled with untrue stories about meeting famous people and doing extraordinary things.

Ben Carson is fast becoming a tragic figure. He’s a man of genuine merit, yet he’s tarnished his reputation through his inability to resist fantastic ideas—and to make up fantasies about his own life. He stands as proof of the fact that intelligence is unconnected to morality.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor at The New Republic; November9, 2015

November 11, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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