Archive

May 18th, 2016

How the psychology of public bathrooms explains the 'bathroom bills'

    Sigmund Freud didn't think much of American public restrooms. During his 1909 visit to the United States, he grumbled that they lacked the refinement of European conveniences -- when he could find one at all. Writing to a German friend years later, Freud's lasting bitterness was obvious: "Is it not sad that we are materially dependent on these savages?"

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My mea culpa on Trump is different

    Political scientists are going to be busy for years figuring out what happened in the 2016 Republican presidential race. But I'll try to deliver a nutshell version of what I think happened and how I, like many others, got it so wrong.

    The "party chooses" idea in political science basically makes two claims about the nomination process: That party actors will converge on a single candidate, and that they will exert sufficient influence over voters in primaries and caucuses to push this candidate to victory. In my view, the first part worked out normally this year, but the second part was a total flop.

    Marco Rubio was the party's candidate for the 2016 cycle. This was increasingly obvious from late fall 2015 on, and he wound up -- before his campaign fell apart -- with a clear lead in endorsements at various levels.

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Trump's tax dodge is about releasing his returns

    Donald Trump, who has called one opponent "Lyin' Ted" and another "Crooked Hillary," has gotten away with more falsehoods and fabrications than any politician in memory. He's at it again.

    The subject is his tax returns. First he said he'd release them, as every Republican and Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominee has done since 1980. Then this week he told the Associated Press he probably wouldn't, at least not before an IRS audit was complete (which may or may not be before the November election). Then on Wednesday night, he told Fox News that he'd release them after all, but didn't say when.

    An IRS audit wouldn't prevent him from releasing his returns; certainly he could release earlier years.

    Until he does, people have a right to conclude that the real reason for his reticence is that he doesn't want voters to know what the documents might reveal. That he's not as rich as he says he is? That he's used legal loopholes to shrink his tax bill? That he's stingy when it comes to charity?

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Trump won't tell Republicans he's one of them

    In the days leading up to Donald Trump's much-ballyhooed courtesy call to Capitol Hill on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, seemed like a groom wanting his presumptive bride to change before he does.

    "This is the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp," he said on CNN, letting it be known that the presumptive nominee still had a lot of explaining to do before he could get an endorsement from the top Republican elected official. "What a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard bearer that bears our standards."

    Not even a glimmer of such clarity emerged on Thursday. The joint statement that followed the meeting was carefully worded to give the appearance of cordiality but also made clear that the standard bearer's standards remain a work in progress.

    "While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground," Trump and Ryan said. They will keep talking and are confident "there's a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall."

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Republicans could help elect Clinton

    Moderate Republicans will have the last word in this dramatic presidential election year. The GOP establishment and its favored candidates view these voters as illegitimate, which is why they lost the primary to Donald Trump. Now moderates are poised to play similarly decisive roles in the general election - by helping to elect Democrat Hillary Clinton - and in the battle for the party's future that will follow it.

    Moderates stand out starkly among the groups that make up the Republican base, for two reasons: They are disproportionately college graduates in a white, working-class party, and they are socially liberal. They have been alienated from a party that won't accept and move on from the revolution that has occurred in American social and sexual mores.

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Donald Trump's secret for avoiding hard questions

    The constant spotlight fixed on Donald Trump for the last year would have overwhelmed any other candidate, particularly one so evasive. But not him: Trump now campaigns as pro-life - but he was "very pro-choice" well into his 50s; he boasts that he'll defeat the Islamic State "very, very quickly," but won't specify how; he claims he's worth billions, but won't release his tax returns. He became the GOP's presidential nominee without revealing anything approaching a clear picture of his mind or his history. How'd he do it?

    He cracked campaign reporters' code. And if they don't want to get rolled again in the general election, journalists have to change tactics.

    Early in this campaign season, Sunday morning network news hosts granted Trump the special prerogative of phoning in for interviews, off camera, making it impossible to know, in real time, if he was consulting notes or advisers during interviews. And because of an early polling lead based in large measure on his near-universal name recognition, Trump was center-stage getting most of the air time during every GOP primary debate.

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The Art of the Double-Dealing Megalomaniac

    Savannah State University in Georgia will offer a three-credit course this summer, “The Trump Factor in American Politics.” The professor is Dr. Robert Smith, who says the students will read Trump’s policy statements and excerpts from Trump’s books, and then discuss his political philosophies.

    Many people may believe this is a terrible waste of any student’s mind and tuition payments. Some may even claim there are other courses that have higher value in the American educational system. For example, Rutgers offers “Politicizing Beyonce,” Skidmore College offers “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” the University of Missouri offers a class to better understand Kanye West and Jay Z, and hundreds of colleges have courses that look at the lives and views of strange people known as philosophers.

    To understand Donald Trump, who may be the greatest political philosopher in recorded history, is as critical to understanding America’s future as it is to understanding the motivations and philosophies of the creature from the black lagoon.

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May 16th

Crowdfunders make better decisions than venture capitalists

    There are fears that another Ice Age is about to hit Silicon Valley because of the implosion of its unicorns -- start-ups valued at more than one billion dollars. By one estimate there were 229 such companies in January of this year. Their valuations are dropping precipitously because they were overpriced and overhyped. The fear is that venture capital will dry up and hurt the innovation ecosystem.

    In previous eras, such a setback to venture capitalists would surely have had a chilling effect on the innovation ecosystem because startups were dependent on their funding. But in today's era of exponential technologies , there will hardly be a blip.

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Trump returns to the '90s for his anti-Clinton strategy

    Having turned the presidential campaign into a reality TV show, Donald Trump seems bent now on converting it into a fall-season soap opera.

    His resurrection of Bill Clinton's sex scandal of two decades ago as ammunition to bring down Hillary Clinton promises to take to a new low what already was shaping up as the nastiest presidential contest on record. Trump, ever a master at recognizing political and news media opportunities in a rival's vulnerability, has seized the old episode to combat his own misogynistic comments and behavior. Then he has trumped it by accusing Hillary of "playing the woman card."

    The strategy has a twofold objective. The most obvious is to neutralize the former president as an effective surrogate for his wife on the stump, where he still maintains considerable effectiveness as a political persuader.

    The second is to keep the Democratic frontrunner and presumptive nominee on the defensive by drawing new media attention and coverage to that personally humiliating episode, as she campaigns as the voice of womanhood's quest for equality and respect.

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The Only Certainty

    Like it or not, the only certainty is that one of them will get elected. I refer to this political campaign that has been going on for months and seemingly will never end. Actually, it will end or at least climax, in just over 5 months. Of course in this divided nation that will be little comfort to many.

    Too many prospective voters say their vote doesn't matter because the choices are all unbearable. That is an attitude that we dare not succumb to because it is inevitable that someone will become president of this nation. To be sure, it looks more and more likely each day that it will be either Hillary Clinton or the egomaniac few ever expected to get to this point. Strange things do happen in politics.

    Despite the odd utterances coming from this man's mouth, his lack of experience in governing, his contempt for women, his questionable finances and on and on he has captured the fancy of a group of citizens out there. He is telling the unthinking that he can wipe out all their problems and make them happy. How? Just because he says so. I would like to say that they deserve him but the rest of the nation most assuredly does not.

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