Archive

May 24th, 2016

Meet Deadeye Donald

    Donald Trump has a permit to carry a gun.

    “Nobody knows that,” he told a gathering of the National Rifle Association on Friday.

    Well actually, it’s pretty hard to not know since he brings it up all the time.

    “Boy, would I surprise somebody if they hit Trump,” he told the audience.

    People, have we ever had a president who spoke about himself in the third person? Something to consider. But more important, what would that surprise entail? Was Trump trying to say that he’d quickly draw his concealed weapon and take the gunman out of circulation?

    “If I wasn’t — if I wasn’t surrounded by, like the largest group of Secret Service people,” he began, and it did sound as if we were about to get a description of his shooting prowess.

    But then Trump veered off to demand a standing ovation for police officers and never did get back to the original point.

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Weakend at Bernie’s

    Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

    Really.

    Just ask her.

    She should have been able to finally savor shattering that “highest, hardest glass ceiling” — the one she gloried in putting 18 million cracks in last time around — when she attends her convention in Philadelphia in July.

    Instead, she is reduced to stomping her feet on CNN, asserting her dominance in a contest that has left her looking anything but dominant. Once more attempting to shake off the old socialist dude hammering her with a sickle, Clinton insisted to Chris Cuomo on Thursday: “I will be the nominee for my party, Chris. That is already done, in effect. There is no way that I won’t be.”

    It’s a vexing time for the Clintons. As Bill told a crowd in Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday, it’s been an “interesting” year: “That’s the most neutral word I can think of.”

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How Facebook Warps Our Worlds

    Those who’ve been raising alarms about Facebook are right: Almost every minute that we spend on our smartphones and tablets and laptops, thumbing through favorite websites and scrolling through personalized feeds, we’re pointed toward foregone conclusions. We’re pressured to conform.

    But unseen puppet masters on Mark Zuckerberg’s payroll aren’t to blame. We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

    I’m talking about how we use social media in particular and the Internet in general — and how we let them use us. They’re not so much agents as accomplices, new tools for ancient impulses, part of “a long sequence of technological innovations that enable us to do what we want,” noted social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who wrote the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind,” when we spoke last week.

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Election From Hell

    Sometimes people are surprised, or even unsettled, by how sanguine I can be about the coming election. I sometimes say that it’s not that I have some magic foresight about the outcome — I don’t make predictions like that; anything could happen — but it is rather that I have been here before. One of the first elections I ever voted in had candidates who were even more flawed and was even more of a circus. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

    And there are eerie similarities that I can’t shake.

    The Democrat, who had occupied the white-columned home of the executive during an earlier period of prosperity, had testified more than 15 times before grand jury investigations and had twice been tried, but never convicted, on felony charges.

    The Republican, a divorcé, was a well-known racist and demagogue who tried to disavow his past and who once said his plan to deal with illegal immigration was to heavily fortify the Mexican-American border and round up and deport all illegal aliens.

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Fighting phony 'populism'

    From the coverage of the 2016 campaign over the last six months, you would think that American workers battered by economic change have finally won their moment in the political sun.

    After all, Donald Trump is said to be the paladin of white blue-collar men and Bernie Sanders speaks unabashedly about the working class, a term many have (wrongly) written off as an antique concept out of 1930s black-and-white movies.

    But media interest in policy initiatives that would benefit those who are struggling is scarce. It's far more interesting, apparently, to cover the latest poll about an election that's still a long way off, or to wax eloquent about a kerfuffle at a Democratic state convention in Nevada.

    We had an objective test of this last week when the Obama administration announced much-needed new rules on overtime pay.

    One of the insidious trends costing workers a lot of income has been the fake reclassification of even relatively low-paid employees as "managers," which deprived them of overtime pay.

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When it comes to lying, Trump is in a class by himself

    Stonewaller, shape-shifter, liar. I wrote last week about how an all-but-certain presidential nominee embodied these characteristics, prompting comments from readers observing, with varying degrees of snarkiness, that they had assumed I was referring to Hillary Clinton.

    My target was Donald Trump, but these readers raise a reasonable and important question: Can't the same criticism I heaped on the presumptive Republican nominee be applied to the Democratic front-runner? To all politicians, for that matter? Am I just whaling on Trump and going soft on Clinton because I disagree with Trump's positions and agree, for the most part, with Clinton's?

     Some will conclude that I am simply in the tank for Clinton, willfully blind to her faults. (On that score, full disclosure: My college-age daughter has volunteered for the Clinton campaign as an unpaid intern this summer.)

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We must weed out ignorant voters

    Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us.

    A person need only survey the inanity of the ongoing presidential race to comprehend that the most pressing problem facing the nation isn't Big Business, Big Labor, Big Media or even Big Money in politics.

    It's you, the American voter. And by weeding out millions of irresponsible voters who can't be bothered to learn the rudimentary workings of the Constitution, or their preferred candidate's proposals or even their history, we may be able to mitigate the recklessness of the electorate.

    No, we shouldn't erect physical barriers to ballot access. Let's purchase more voting machines, hire additional poll workers, streamline the registration process, mail out more ballots for seniors and produce more "Rock the Vote" ads imploring apathetic millennials to embrace their civic duty.

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Three reasons Bernie Sanders should stay in the race

    On CNN yesterday, Hillary Clinton compared Bernie Sanders's position in the 2016 Democratic primary to her position during her 2008 run against Barack Obama, saying she has "an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates" and implying that it was time for Sanders to follow her 2008 example and drop out. The demands that Sanders exit the 2016 stage coming from Clinton allies and her sympathizers in the media are becoming an angry roar. It is certain that Sanders will not get the number of delegates he needs to become the Democratic nominee before the convention. But there are three good reasons that Sanders should want to stick around.

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Foundation would weigh down a President Hillary Clinton

    The Clintons have been targeted by trumped-up scandals from Whitewater to Benghazi. There also are self-inflicted wounds: President Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton's use of private email servers while secretary of state.

    They may be on the verge of creating another one: The Clinton Foundation, which has done extraordinary good works over the past 15 years, would present an inherent conflict of interest should she become president, and may be problematic for her even now as a candidate.

    Clinton has suggested that if she is elected, the foundation -- which collects contributions from wealthy interests including foreign governments -- would continue basically as is. "The work that it's done has been extraordinary," she said in March when asked whether there would be any ethical concerns about continuing the foundation. "The answer is transparency."

    Ethics experts reject that. They say there wouldn't be any way to avoid the appearance of conflicts if she wins the presidency.

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May 22nd

Maine senator says Trump's too 'hot' to lead

    If you wonder whether Donald Trump's lack of experience in the national security arena could hurt his candidacy, consider Senator Angus King, the only independent in Congress. After a recent trip on the "doomsday plane," the one to be used by the president in the event of a nuclear attack, King has concluded that the presumptive Republican nominee is not fit to be commander-in-chief.

    The Maine senator, a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said he and several other lawmakers recently flew in a mock exercise on the plane. That persuaded him that it would be too risky to put Trump in a position to order the use of a nuclear weapon. "In that situation, there is only one person making that decision," King said Wednesday on the Charlie Rose PBS program. "One person has about 20 minutes to decide the fate of civilization."

    King said he'd worry both about Trump's lack of strategic knowledge and his temperament, declaring, "he seems hot, impulsive" instead of "measured."

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