Archive

February 26th, 2016

The Devil in Ted Cruz

    When Ted Cruz announced this week that he was firing his campaign’s communications director for circulating a false insinuation that Marco Rubio had belittled the Bible, he told reporters, “Even if it was true, we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate.”

    Really? Huh. Then I must have been hallucinating last month at a Cruz event in Iowa where several of his hand-picked supporters, who spoke just before him, mocked and dismissed Donald Trump’s professed Christianity.

    They marveled at a past comment of Trump’s about never asking God for forgiveness. One of them chose a bizarre, religiously coded analogy for a boast Trump had just made about how much voters loved him, saying that the billionaire’s bragging was an echo of John Lennon’s infamous claim — an outrage to American Christians in the 1960s — that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

    But no, Cruz’s campaign would never question the faith of another candidate.

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God wasn't on Trump's side in South Carolina

    Perhaps the hardest thing to understand about Donald Trump's victory in South Carolina is how a twice-divorced, dirty-mouthed recent supporter of abortion who hardly ever goes to church could have carried a Bible Belt state where exit polls showed almost three-quarters of the Republican voters identifying themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.

    Matching such self-identification with church attendance wouldn't be easy, though, and, having spent some time talking to pastors and parishioners in South Carolina, I don't think Trump won over the truly devout voters. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio got them. Trump won the xenophobes, and though they may be an overlapping constituency, that's not quite the same as getting the support of evangelicals.

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Ted Cruz's missplaced embrace of gold

    Ted Cruz has come down with a bad case of Midas delusion.

    Now, it usually only afflicts people wearing bowties, but the politicians those people donate to are also at risk. We can't say for sure if that's how Cruz contracted it, but the fact that his biggest benefactor is a goldbug means that we can't rule it out either.

    What are the symptoms? Well, chief among them is a belief that the price of gold doesn't just matter, but actually matters more than anything else. In other words, that we could fix the economy if we fixed the dollar to always be worth a certain amount of gold. That, at least, is what Cruz hinted at when he said that "one of the problems is the volatility of the dollar" and that the best way to stop "these rapid oscillations in commodities markets" due to "unstable currencies" is to adopt a "rules-based monetary supply, ideally tied to gold." That way, Cruz says, the dollar would always be worth the same. "We don't want a strong dollar or a weak dollar," he told voters, but rather "want a stable dollar."

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Britain was never a real EU member anyway

    One could argue -- and some, like UKIP leader Nigel Farage, already do -- that the concessions British Prime Minister David Cameron obtained from other European Union leaders to stay in the bloc are meaningless. Or one could rejoice in a victory as Cameron does. That won't change a fundamental fact: Britain is not really part of the EU anyway.

    The negotiations that resulted in Friday's deal were an elaborate public-relations charade played out for Cameron's domestic audience and for the international media with its "EU is falling apart" narrative.

    Cameron asked for the right to curtail benefits for migrant workers from other EU countries for 13 years, but he got seven years instead. Cameron asked for an effective veto over EU legislation but instead got an assurance that any such legislation will take into account the interests of countries that aren't part of Europe's monetary and banking unions. Cameron wanted an opt-out of the EU treaties' goal of an "ever closer union" and got a declaration explaining that this only applied to those countries that wanted it.

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Obama makes Guantanamo tribunals more difficult

    Buried in the middle of President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday on closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a remarkable statement very close to a repudiation of the military commissions trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and nine other terrorists.

    Obama first said that the "costly" commissions hadn't resulted in a conviction related to the Sept. 11 attacks. He noted that the commissions had been reformed under his administration -- neatly implying that he hadn't initiated them -- and said he was proposing more changes, which Congress would have to approve. And he went on to praise the civilian criminal courts, known as the Article III courts for the section of the Constitution that established them, for convictions in other terrorist attacks, including the Boston Marathon bombing.

    Then the president essentially threw the existing military commissions under the bus. He said that they represented a chapter that should be closed. The commissions shouldn't be a precedent for how terrorists should be tried, he said, but should be reserved for battlefield detentions, as they had been in previous wars.

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Before Trump, the sad history of when Christians anointed another political bully

    Evangelical Christians have just delivered Donald Trump - the Republican presidential candidate most out of sync with their biblical values - a resounding victory in South Carolina. Of the 65 percent of Republican voters who identify as evangelicals, a third of them cast their ballot for Trump, more than any other candidate. Why?

    For roughly the same reason that a medieval pope, Leo III, anointed another political bully, Charles the Great, better known as Charlemagne. Put simply, they want a Protector in Chief. Facing a political culture increasingly hostile to their beliefs-and a government riding roughshod over their religious freedoms-evangelicals believe Mr. Trump will be the best guardian of their liberties.

    "Trump is a fighter," Mark Burns, pastor of the Greenville, South Carolina-based Christian Television Network, told Fox News. "He is the one to fight for Christianity and for our conservative values we hold dear."

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Highest court in U.S. shouldn't always pull rank

    Who's in charge of patent law? The answer lies in an ongoing conflict between two courts: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which was created by Congress in 1982 and given control over the entire patent law docket, and the U.S. Supreme Court, which gets to choose which Federal Circuit cases to review and which to leave untouched.

    The struggle is before the Supreme Court again Tuesday in a consolidated pair of cases with significant stakes for the patent bar. The court will consider under what circumstances lower courts can award "enhanced damages" of up to three times the amount of actual damages to a patent holder whose patent has been infringed. But the real issue is who gets to make the call about the meaning of the federal law that authorizes the damages. If you're interested in who's going to win the struggle, I've got a hint for you: It's the court with "supreme" in its name.

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Sanders Hits a Roadblock

    Bernie Sanders’ loss in the Nevada caucuses, 47 percent to 53 percent, reveals a very real weakness of his insurgent challenge to Hillary Clinton.

    According to entrance polls — which may have had some problems of their own, problems that we’ll discuss shortly — Sanders’ appeal is not broad enough among key groups that traditionally make up the base of the Democratic Party.

    He lost among women, blacks, nonwhites, and self-described Democrats. But the loss was even more troubling for his camp than that. He also lost highly educated caucusgoers with postgraduate degrees, both the poorest and wealthiest groups, and moderates. He lost those who saw health care and the economy as the most important issues of the election, even though those are key parts of Sanders’ platform and issues on which he is most eloquent and persuasive.

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Expect a few more surprises from Cruz

    The conventional wisdom now is that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has no chance to win the Republican nomination, but that he'll fight on until the end anyway.

    Both of those assumptions are jumping ahead of the facts.

    Yes, his third-place showing in South Carolina, a state with demographics matching his strengths and one where he dumped considerable resources, was bad news for the Texas senator. He is now down to 2 percent in the Predictwise market assessing his nomination chances.

    Yet he's one of five remaining candidates, and two of them, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former neurosureon Ben Carson, are fringe efforts at this point. Cruz has plenty of money, and he'll receive a fair amount of media attention ahead of Super Tuesday, which is March 1. At least six of the 12 states voting that day remain good battlegrounds for him: Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

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Escape From Bushworld

    The Bushes always bristled at the “d” word. And now they don’t have to worry about it any more.

    The dynasty has perished, with a whimper. The exclamation point has slouched off.

    The Bushes are leaving the field to someone they have utter contempt for: Donald Trump.

    And the main emotion in Bushworld is relief. No one could bear one more day of watching Jeb get the flesh flayed off him by Trump.

    With his uncanny bat-like sonar, sensing how to psychologically gauge and then gut an opponent, Trump went straight for the Bushes’ biggest bête noir: wimpiness.

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