Archive

February 15th, 2016

Hillary, Bernie, and History

    It’s a sad time for Hillary Clinton’s fans. Well, I guess that’s obvious, since she got clobbered in New Hampshire. But it’s the way she went down that was particularly painful. Bernie Sanders got more than half the women’s vote, mainly because younger women raced off to his corner in droves.

    That triggered a generational cross-fire. “I’m frustrated and outraged by being constantly attacked by older feminists for my refusal to vote according to my gender,” a college sophomore told CNN.

    Women tend to vote for candidates who support a strong social safety net, which is not exactly a problem in the current Democratic race. Historically, they’ve been less likely to show a particular preference for other women. I’ve always generalized that they won’t vote for men who yell. However, it appears that is totally inaccurate when the man in question is shouting, “Medicare for all!”

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Trump’s Impeachable Offense

    For anyone who cares deeply about being informed, watching Republican presidential debates can feel like a form of torture. But the program becomes more terrifying altogether when their ignorance is hitched to an endorsement of actual torture.

    At the latest GOP debate in New Hampshire, Donald Trump heartily endorsed waterboarding and other forms of torture, which he promised to reinstitute in national security interrogations if he wins the election. “I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” Trump vowed.

    Trump’s position was condemned immediately by Republican Senator John McCain, who knows a thing or two about torture. McCain, who was brutally beaten as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, accused his fellow Republicans of “sacrificing our respect for human dignity” with their “loose talk” about instituting human rights abuses.

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Trump, Sanders didn't win the White House

    The pollsters got it right for a change. Donald Trump, the Republican outsider, won solidly in New Hampshire over a divided field, while Bernie Sanders, the Democratic insurgent, won in a landslide over Hillary Clinton.

    Sanders needed to win big if he had any chance at all of winning his party's nomination because New Hampshire played to all of his strengths. He is a senator from Vermont, the state next door. He did well among independents, who are allowed to vote in party primaries in New Hampshire. In many other states, the party primaries are open only to registered Democrats or Republicans, and that is expected to benefit the former secretary of State. Also, New Hampshire is largely white, so her strength with minority voters was not a factor.

    The big advantage for Sanders over the next few weeks is that we're about to have a media freak-out about Hillary Clinton and her chances. It will be largely unjustified. No, she will not sweep all 50 states, as Al Gore did in 2000, but nothing so far suggests her polling leads in coming primaries are phony.

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Thinking the unthinkable

    The unambiguous victories of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire presidential primaries confirm that establishment politics in both major parties are in crisis.

    Trump easily rebounded from his loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa, and Sanders emphatically built on his virtual tie there with Hillary Clinton, whipping her soundly in the Granite State.

    Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were the big losers. Cruz fell behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich as the GOP runner-up to Trump, along with Rubio, the third-place finisher in Iowa, who self-destructed with a robotic performance in that primary-eve New Hampshire debate.

    Ironically, the chief architect of Rubio's deflation was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who first cited the Florida senator's vulnerability, did not benefit much for his role as executioner. He finished sixth in the squabble to become the establishment alternative to Trump.

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The GOP Created Donald Trump

    The betting markets now say that the most likely Republican nominee for president is a man who mocks women, insults Latinos, endorses war crimes like torture, denounces party icons and favors barring people from the United States based on their religion.

    He’s less a true-believer conservative than an opportunist, though, for he has supported single-payer health insurance, abortion rights and tighter gun measures. Lindsey Graham says he’s “crazy,” Jeb Bush says he would be worse than President Barack Obama, and the conservative National Review warned that he is a “menace to American conservatism.”

    It’s Donald Trump, of course. He’s smarter than critics believe — he understood the political mood better than we pundits did — but I can’t think of any national politician I’ve met over the decades who was so ill-informed on the issues, or so evasive, or who so elegantly and dangerously melded bombast and vapidity.

    So how did we get to this stage where the leading Republican candidate is loathed by the Republican establishment?

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The Blind Spots of Dead White Men

    As the rest of the nation celebrates Black History Month this February, I’m taking a graduate level course I call “Dead White Men.”

    It’s actually a classic theory class that covers a number of influential thinkers, like free market theorist Adam Smith and the famous French observer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville.

    It’s a good class. But the thinkers we’re studying are all dead white men.

    In fact, they weren’t just white and male. They were all members of an elite that was rich and formally educated.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with that: They were all great thinkers, and their contributions to human knowledge are indisputable. But their views of the world were developed based on their unique positions in society. As a result, they had some easy-to-recognize blind spots.

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February 14th

Stomping on Our Constitutional Rights

    Imagine the outcry by tea party Republicans if state legislators were passing laws banning the use of video cameras in banks to capture images of robbers.

    Yet those very same tea partiers have been passing laws in various states to ban the recording of inhumane, immoral, and disgusting abuses of turkeys, hogs, and other animals by giant factory farm operators like Tyson.

    The only reason the public knows about chickens being stomped to death and pregnant sows being driven insane because they’re caged so tightly they can’t even turn around is that courageous whistleblowers have secretly recorded videos of the intolerable violence inside these animal concentration camps.

    In response to the exposés, however, eight states run by shameless, corporate-hugging Republicans have rushed to protect the worst abusers, making it illegal to release such videos to the media or the public.

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Sanders should beware of a wounded Clinton

    Hillary and Bill Clinton were prepared to lose, but there's a loss and then there's a shellacking. After barely winning Iowa, with its coin-tosses and independent calls for a public recount of the secret ballots, getting trounced by Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire by 20 points suggests tissue-rejection of the Clinton candidacy. It's likely some of those voters weren't even pro-Sanders, just turned off by Clinton. The Republican race is starting to look tame by comparison.

    The rejection went to her character. Among Democrats who say they care most about honesty and trustworthiness, she lost by 86 points. None of Bill's lip-biting brand attached to her: She lost by 65 points among those who want their candidate to care about people like themselves. Then there are the women. Although they were threatened with eternal damnation, a majority of women -- seven in 10 under 45 -- did not vote for the would- be first female president.

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Obama weighs looser rules for Iranian travelers

    The Obama administration's one successful collaboration with Congress on keeping terrorists out of the United States is unraveling, as Republicans allege that the administration is giving Iran special treatment and as the State Department pushes to loosen restrictions for dual- nationality Iranians to visit the United States.

    As soon as President Barack Obama signed the law last December, removing visa waiver privileges for foreign citizens who have visited Iran and other Middle Eastern nations, the Iranians objected and Secretary of State John Kerry assured Tehran that the administration would use its executive authority to ensure the law would not impede "the legitimate business interests of Iran."

    Congress objected to that at the time, but didn't know then that the State Department was also pressing to exempt all dual- nationality Iranians who are outside of Iran, in the hope of encouraging political change inside that country.

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New Hampshire turns races into long slogs

    Delivering a rousing rejection of the established leadership of the two political parties, New Hampshire voters produced a presidential primary result that almost assures protracted battles for both nominations.

    Bernie Sanders, the Democratic socialist from Vermont, scored a huge victory over Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. Billionaire outsider Donald Trump, a onetime Democrat with no political experience, decisively won the Republican race.

    Clinton, the former secretary of State and spouse of President Bill Clinton, remains the nomination favorite. She has been weakened, however, a fact underscored by a two-and-a-half page memo downplaying the importance of the first four presidential contests that she released after conceding defeat Tuesday night. Any hope of wrapping up the nomination quickly to focus on the general election vanished with her crushing defeat in New Hampshire.

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