Archive

January 27th, 2016

This is a test of the U.S. political system

    The 2016 U.S. presidential election is the most polarizing in half a century, and some commentators see a danger that "power-hungry demagogues" could take over. Europeans, with their parliament-dominated political systems, would avert disaster by building a coalition to keep power out of the hands of extreme demagogues. Americans can't do that -- or can they?

    In the European Union, only Britain and Malta are now run by single-party governments (Spain was the third until a December election upset the balance of power, though it may get a coalition government, too). The reason these power-sharing arrangements prevail is that the most important elections in many European countries are those that determine control of parliament. These are contests of agendas rather than personalities.

    There was a time when the U.S. could have adopted such a system. At least that's the view of F.H. Buckley, a professor at George Mason University School of Law, who argues that the delegates of the 1787 Philadelphia Convention never intended to set up the current presidential system.

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Hillary Clinton Stumbles

    In October, when Hillary Clinton made a spectacle of the congressional Benghazi committee during a marathon interrogation that seemed designed to make a spectacle of her, she emerged stronger than ever. Her polls numbers surged.

    That performance had come on the heels of a strong debate performance the week before in the first Democratic presidential debate.

    She had bolstered the image she wanted to project: strong, smart, capable and battle-tested.

    But now, on the verge of Monday night’s Democratic town hall in Iowa — the last time the candidates will face off before the caucuses in that state — and with Bernie Sanders’ poll numbers climbing not only in Iowa, but also in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign seems increasingly desperate and reckless.

    I noticed the turn in the last debate as Clinton seemed to me to go too far in her attacks on Sanders, while simultaneously painting herself into a box that will be very hard to escape.

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Sarah Palin’s Quixotic Quest for Relevance

    She’s back and tightly holding Donald Trump’s coattails.

    That’s right, Sarah Palin, having again found the media spotlight, is casting her shadow across the more thoughtful conservatives.

    This past week she declared her undying love and support of Trump’s attempt to seize the presidency from the more experienced and knowledgeable candidates in the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties, and is blathering her way throughout Iowa, New Hampshire, and several early primary states to stir up Trump’s far-right base.

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Sarah Palin Saves Feminism

    It’s a tough call to figure out which place is more benighted: Hollywood or Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia was pulling ahead with all its beheadings and its top cleric’s fatwa on chess as “the work of Satan.”

    But then Hollywood took the lead with its Jim Crow Oscars, Scully being offered half of Mulder’s pay for the “X-Files” reboot, and its second-class treatment of Rey — the scrappy heroine of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, embodies the awakening Force. Yet even the director, J.J. Abrams, called it “preposterous and wrong” that Rey’s action figure was missing in action from some game and toy tie-ins — a traditionally male realm.

    And Lucasfilm is run by a girl action figure, Kathleen Kennedy, so go figure.

    That is why it’s so inspiring to see a woman out on the campaign trail who has had such a historic impact on feminism, helping to recast outmoded assumptions about women.

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Our Insane Addiction to Polls

    Remember the poll last week that had Bernie Sanders ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by 3 points?

    No, you’re thinking. I’ve got it wrong. Sanders was up by 27.

    That’s true, if you’re talking about the figures that CNN and WMUR released Tuesday. I’m talking about the ones that Gravis Marketing and One America News Network released Wednesday.

    There were three polls of New Hampshire voters over just two days last week, according to the archive maintained by Real Clear Politics. There were three polls of Iowa voters Thursday alone. One had Clinton up by 8, while another had Sanders up by that same margin. One had Donald Trump up by 11. Another had Ted Cruz up by 2.

    Over a monthlong period that ended Thursday night — a monthlong period, mind you, that included the Christmas and New Year’s break — there were 11 polls in Iowa, 10 in New Hampshire and nine nationally. There were polls focused on 10 states.

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I'm a successful lawyer and mother, because I had an abortion

    "To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion."

    So begins an unprecedented friend-of-the-court brief filed this month by 113 lawyers who have had abortions, asking the Supreme Court to strike down a Texas law aimed at closing abortion clinics in the state. This quote, although not my own, explains why I joined my fellow lawyers in putting my name on this brief and sharing my story.

    My personal and professional success has been possible because of a decision I made 35 years ago. In spring 1981, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I was about to become the first person in my family to graduate from high school. I had a scholarship to college, and I planned to go on to law school. I was determined to break a cycle of poverty and teenage pregnancy that had shaped the lives of the previous three generations of women in my family - all mothers by age 18.

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Clinton, Trump and Sexism

    For most of her career, Hillary Clinton suffered for being a feminist.

    Retaining her last name helped cost her husband the governorship of Arkansas in 1980 (after that, she became a Clinton). She was mocked in 1992 for saying she wouldn’t be “some little woman standing by my man,” and for asserting, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.”

    (Outrage at her “bitchiness” — a standard put-down of a strong woman — was such that Clinton tried to mollify critics by participating in a bake-off sponsored by Family Circle magazine. That must have stung. But hold on: Clinton’s recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies then triumphed over Barbara Bush’s cookie recipe, upholding the honor of career moms everywhere.)

    Even when Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, there were put-downs, like the two men from a radio show heckling her, “Iron my shirt!”

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Why do prosecutors go after innocent people?

    When people think about how our criminal justice system tries to avoid convicting innocent people, they probably think of the second half-hour of a "Law & Order" episode: defense attorneys making motions to thwart the prosecutor, jurors furrowing their brows as they wonder whether the state really has met the high standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

    But that's not reality. In real life, once a prosecutor decides to file felony charges against a defendant, that defendant will almost certainly be convicted - and local prosecutors have a strong incentive to file, likely thanks in no small part to electoral pressures.

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There'll be no justice in Flint water crisis

    If a private company distributed thousands of bottles of water with high levels of lead and other contaminants, lawsuits would chase it toward bankruptcy. So why should authorities in Michigan get a pass?

    Seriously.

    Imagine a class-action suit on behalf of the people of Flint, Michigan. There are plenty of available defendants. The Detroit Water Board, for cutting off the city's supply of water in a childish snit. Flint's own water department, for doing a lousy job of testing its only product. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, for ignoring claims that there was something wrong with the water and not overseeing the Flint department. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for appointing as head of the DEQ a person without significant environmental experience. Oh, and the Environmental Protection Agency, for doing ... well, nothing.

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The un-Christian Anglican Communion

    Last week, the Anglican Communion, the worldwide collection of national and regional churches that consider themselves Anglican or Episcopalian, suspended the U.S. Episcopal Church from full participation in the global body because of its decision to perform same-sex marriages. The suspension should have been the other way around. It is the Anglican Communion that deserves sanction. It, not the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.

    The Anglican Communion's strike against the Episcopal Church has ramifications beyond intra-denominational discord. Under the sway of some conservative African and Asian bishops, ably assisted by weak-kneed Church of England primates, the Communion has thrown in its lot with some of the most anti-gay regimes in the world.

    In Africa, 38 of 53 nations outlaw same-sex relationships. In four - Sudan, Somalia, Mauritania and Nigeria - they are punishable by death.

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