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Politicians hit pause after Kobe Bryant's death – POLITICO

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The news of Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday cut into a day of impeachment spin and early-states campaigning, with D.C. politicians and 2020 presidential candidates offering condolences and sending tweets about the retired NBA star.

Bryant, 41, was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday. According to several news reports, one of his four daughters, 13-year-old Gianna, was also on board.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that there were no survivors and that and an investigation was underway.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House manager in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, had spent the morning on news shows calling for more witnesses in the Senate process. Schiff, whose congressional district covers parts of L.A., later sent his thoughts and prayers to Byrant’s family, friends and all Lakers fans.

“I join the rest of Los Angeles in mourning the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and others,” he tweeted. “One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Kobe had a grace and athleticism unmatched in the NBA.”

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, lamented on Twitter: “This is the worst news. Kobe is an all-time great who had his entire life ahead of him. Today Kobe is the greatest of all time.”

In Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden, a frontrunner in the Democratic race, took the stage at a campaign event co-hosted by the NAACP. There were audible gasps at the news of the crash, and a moment of silence followed. Then Biden spoke.

“It makes you realize you gotta make every day count,” he said in Des Moines. “Every single solid day, every single day count.”

Bryant, an 18-time All-Star, entered the NBA after graduating from high school, becoming the league’s youngest player in 1996. A Philadelphia native and son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, he played for the Los Angeles Lakers during his entire 20-year career — winning five NBA titles with the team and two Olympic gold medals for the United States. He married his wife, Vanessa, in 2001, and after his sports career became a pop-culture icon and an Oscar winner for his 2017 short animated film, “Dear Basketball.”

Bryant’s legacy isn’t without controversy: In 2003, a 19-year-old hotel employee accused him of rape. Prosecutors later dropped the charges of sexual assault, but Bryant publicly apologized for what happened and settled a civil lawsuit filed by the accuser. Several fans acknowledged on social media that their grieving process is complicated.

The athlete’s death also came one day after the Lakers forward LeBron James surpassed Bryant for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. On Saturday night, Bryant had given a hearty congratulations on Twitter: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles tweeted shortly after the news broke: “Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved.”

Several lawmakers, from Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Brian Schatz of Hawaii to Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, acknowledged the basketball legend’s death and impact over the course of the day. (Rubio tweeted a direct, “#ripkobe.”)

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) lambasted Trump for continuing to tweet about his ongoing impeachment trial as social media zeroed in on Bryant’s death.

Responding to one of Trump’s posts — “Nothing done wrong, READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!” — Rush wrote: “We have literally just learned that a beloved role model to millions of Americans across the country has tragically died. Can you please shut your mouth and stop thinking about yourself for 24 hours? Please.”

Trump later tweeted: “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!”

Former President Barack Obama also shared his thoughts on Twitter, writing that Bryant, “a legend on the court,” was getting started in what would have been a just-as-meaningful “second act.”

“To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents,” he added. “Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”

Maya King contributed to this report.

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Ministers decline request to testify on Afghan aid blockade as desperation grows

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Three Liberal ministers have declined invitations to testify in the Senate as the upper chamber probes why Canada still won’t allow humanitarian workers to help in Afghanistan.

Aid groups say Ottawa has told them that paying people in Afghanistan or buying goods there could lead them to be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.

Many of Canada’s allies have found carveouts so that aid workers don’t get charged with supporting the governing Taliban, which is designated as a terrorist group.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no explanation for why Canada hasn’t fixed the issue.

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The Senate’s human-rights committee will launch hearings into the issue on Monday and invited three ministers to attend, but all of them said they had prior commitments at the time of the planned meetings.

The United Nations says six million Afghans are now categorized as being at risk of famine, while another fourteen million are in critical need of food.

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When politics wasn’t a team sport

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It has all been downhill in America since the first six presidents. Western civilisation was never the same after ancient wisdom gave way to the sentimental Gospel. Roosevelt should have stayed out of that damn fool war in Europe and the Pacific. People are breeding too much. The state must stop them.

I like Gore Vidal so much that I involuntarily smile when I see the spine of his essay collection, United States, in my bookcase. Even before his dotty late phase, though, he was a reactionary kind of liberal. If his 1968 debates with the conservative William Buckley Jr still grip us, it is because of the two men’s underlying oneness, not the superficial Democrat vs Republican framing.

Best of Enemies, James Graham’s otherwise fine play about the duel of the drawlers, might have made more of this. I fear much of the audience leaves with the sweet notion in their heads that Vidal would today have been a woke ally. The play wants to suggest that his showdown with Buckley was a trailer for the culture wars, the partisan spite, of now. I have come around to the opposite view.

The debates marked the end of something good, not the start of something bad. It was the last time being politically hard-to-place was normal.

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Put it this way. If you tell me what you think about, say, the return of the Benin bronzes, I can infer with some confidence your views on public spending, the EU, rail strikes, immigration, working from home, climate change, Meghan Markle and much else. Nothing connects these subjects. It should be possible to be a small-government Remainer who thinks imperial loot is better off in western museums and who loses sleep to visions of a burning planet. But such a person would stand out now. To take a more concentrated example, lots of people should be anti-lockdown and pro-vaccine mandate. How many do you know?

I have aired Ganesh’s First Law of Politics before, but allow me a recapitulation. People do not work out their beliefs and then join the corresponding tribe. They join a tribe and infer their beliefs from it. The sense of belonging, the group membership, is what hooks people, not the thrill of being right or pursuing a thought on its own terms. Politics has become a team sport, goes the line on this. But even that is too kind. Sports fans are sardonic and irreverent about their own team. It isn’t so central to their identity as to require consistent adherence.

We have lost all sense of how weird it is to seek connection with others through politics. And how new. Watching Buckley and Vidal is a reminder of a less needy age. The former had his own credentials as an apostate of the right: his loose line on marijuana, his Catholicism, his Spanish-speaking intellectualism. Nor was the audience at the time much easier to place. Millions of whites were pro-New Deal and anti-Civil Rights in a way that stumps modern notions of “progressive” and “conservative”.

Noting the change since then is simple enough work. Accounting for it is trickier. One theory suggests itself. The rise of politico-cultural blocs more or less tracks the decline of church membership, trade unions and marriages that go the distance. An atomised population began to cast around for other kinds of belonging, didn’t it?

The mid-20th century voter was heterodox, yes, but heterodox in the way that someone with strong roots could afford to be. With such a firm social anchor, there was less need to seek emotional security in a political tribe. As I’ve used two metaphors for the same thing there, let us keep them coming. A rudder, a bedrock, a cornerstone, a north star: people used to find these things in their personal relationships. In their church, family, factory or town. As modernity scrambled those things, mostly for the good, the need to subsume oneself into a group was going to have to be met some other way.

That turned out to be politics. We live with the wicked results all the time now. The perverse consequences of ostensibly desirable change: Buckley would call this a conservative insight. And I, though a Vidalist, always thought he won those debates.

Email Janan at janan.ganesh@ft.com

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Can coal be a pivot toward ‘normal politics’ in Alberta?

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“Normal Politics”: I encouraged my students to embrace and practice this type of politics. Bernard Crick, a British political theorist, imagined this concept decades ago. He believed healthy democratic politics demanded empathy for your political opponents and searching for policies able to reconcile or bridge competing positions. At its best, normal politics is about finding or creating and implementing consensus. It invites political opponents to recognize they have some shared values and to work together to realize them. 

Sadly, normal politics rarely characterizes politics in today’s democracies. Its antithesis is too common in political debate. In Alberta recently, the executive director of Take Back Alberta, an interest group that helped propel Danielle Smith into the premier’s office, accused the New Democratic Party of promoting a “toxic and disease-ridden ideology.” Such extremism slams the door on Crick’s hopeful view of politics.   

With the legislature back in session, I don’t expect to see a lot of normal politics on display. But, in her recent television address, Premier Danielle Smith told Albertans she “must be humble, listen and continue to learn from you.” Alberta’s coal debate issue gives her an exceptional opportunity to back that commitment up with meaningful action.   

Coal has been one of Alberta’s most contentious issues over the past several years. It’s an issue where a consensus exists, a consensus that could be strengthened. As hard as it may be for some residents of the Crowsnest Pass to accept, most Albertans don’t believe coal mining should have a future anywhere in the Rockies and foothills of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes. Impressive majorities of Albertans have said as much in public opinion polls, the Grassy Mountain coal mine hearings and the Coal Policy Committee consultations.  

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Smith’s government should listen to and implement this consensus. In this legislative session, the premier should introduce legislation guaranteeing that coal mining proposals in our southern Rockies and foothills cannot be revived.  

But I think Crick would want the premier to go one step further. I think he would invite her to try to broaden the consensus, to try to bridge the gulf between coal mining opponents and supporters. Identify positions those camps share; build on them. Community prosperity in southwest Alberta is an obvious candidate here.  

So far Alberta’s debate about coal has offered thin gruel when it comes to what economic future could be built in southern Alberta without coal mining. The UCP and NDP alike must pay serious attention to nurturing in the southwest the range of economic activities central to Alberta’s developing post-industrial society.  

What does this perspective recommend? Begin to craft a regional development strategy. Several paths lead in this direction. One would be to establish a Southern Alberta Sustainable Economic Opportunities Forum. Invite leaders from Alberta academia, business, the federal government, First Nations, labour and municipalities to join it. Task them with thinking about how, without coal, healthy and prosperous livelihoods may be delivered to the people of southwest Alberta. Or, strike an all-party legislative committee, chaired jointly by the UCP and NDP, to do something similar. If this venture bears fruit, it could be replicated for other regions in Alberta.  

Coal offers Smith the opportunity to pivot toward normal politics and show her commitment to listening to Albertans is genuine. Coal has opened the door to privileging conciliation in politics. If the premier goes through that door, she may be able to deliver what all sides of Alberta’s coal debate seek: good, healthy livelihoods for the people of southern Alberta.  

Ian Urquhart is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alberta. 

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