TPM Cafe: Opinion

The killer of Boris Nemtsov has confessed, signing a written statement that “confirms” his participation in the shooting of the prominent reformist and opponent of Vladimir Putin. The case might be closed in Putin’s Russia. But at home and around the world, it shouldn’t be. Which is why proponents of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act pending in Congress should take note and seize the moment to pass it.

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Research has long shown that empathy stems from two different factors. One is emotional, meaning empathy is triggered by your baggage, your family experience, what you bring to the table. The other is cognitive, which is your perspective, and, say, how interested you might be in hearing another person’s side of the story. Empathy is also different than sympathy; the former is sharing someone’s feelings because you understand that feeling, explains Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, in this amazing video. Sympathy is about feeling sadness for someone’s problems, but it doesn’t connect you to that person.

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In this space a couple of weeks ago I made the argument that partisan and ideological gridlock was feeding on itself by creating an insatiable craving for the occasional Big Election with big consequences. What didn’t fully occur to me is that the next Big Election might be the one just ahead, in 2016.

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“I reject that completely because we can’t leave this to someone else.”

That was Howard Schultz’s response to internal naysayers of Starbucks’ #RaceTogether initiative as he unrolled a plan for Starbucks’ “191,000 employees to talk about race relations with customers.” Using material written by Starbucks and USA TODAY, Starbucks stores plan to have supplementary reading material including race “conversation starters,” asking customers about how many times they broke bread with a member of a different race in the last year.

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A great deal has already been said and written about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address during her time as Secretary of State, and I’m sure there will be more such conversation over the 19 months leading up to the 2016 election. But little has been made of what I consider one of the more significant stories in response to this controversy/scandal/tempest in a teapot: Colin Powell’s statement that he also used a private email address during his time as Secretary of State, and that many of the messages he sent in that role have thus likely been lost.

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I made my son cry last week.

I made my brilliant, beautiful, cheerful, three-year-old son cry because he was goofing around instead of napping. I snapped at him. I took the book away. I lay on the bedroom floor and intoned flat litanies about how much we both needed to sleep. And he bawled.

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A growing contingent of privileged, white guys—the kinds that wear suits and have MBAs—has been standing on various high-profile soapboxes and arguing that gender and racial equality are good for business. You would think that I, a feminist and a pragmatist, would be thrilled to see arguments about the benefits of diversity popping up in the most unlikely of places, out of the most unlikely of mouths. But such discussions are intrinsically flawed.

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Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, often believe that anti-Semitism in this country is largely a thing of the past. While stories of mounting anti-Semitism in Europe pepper the news, in the United States the age of quotas for Jews at universities, restrictive housing covenants for them and job ads that explicitly prohibit them from applying are simply a part of history.

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There’s a tendency in conservative circles to argue that racism basically ended in 1964 and that any ongoing racial tensions or racial disparities must therefore be the result of some failure on the part of black people to act right. Bill Kristol, Mika Brzezinski, and Joe Scarborough decided to use their time on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" yesterday to cast around some reason to blame black people for the choice of a bunch of white OU frat boys to yell blatantly racist things. The problem, they decided, could not be that some white people continue to be racist. No, the problem is rap music and its dirty words.

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Last week the student government at the University of California-Irvine passed a misguided resolution banning the display of all flags, including the American flag, from some public areas on the campus. The resolution said that "[t[he American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism," adding that flags "construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards."

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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