Archive

February 20th, 2016

Republicans See How Long They Can Hold Their Breath

    Maybe we’d better refrain from having any new opinions until after the election.

    Follow the leader. Mitch McConnell says the Senate shouldn’t do anything about the Supreme Court’s vacancy as long as Barack Obama is president. Not even go through the motions of pretending to think about it. We’ve hit a whole new level in the politics of obstruction.

    Why stop there? For the next 11 months it’s probably better if we let everything go except for the purchase of food staples.

    Don’t even bother to fake it. Virtually every Republican with a job more elevated than zoning commissioner thinks the best thing to do with any Supreme Court nomination is to act as if it isn’t there, like a wad of gum on the sidewalk.

    “Delay, delay, delay!” cried Donald Trump at the last debate. Some listeners might have presumed he was calling for the return of the former House majority leader who resigned during a campaign finance scandal and later rehabilitated himself by doing the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars.” Exactly the kind of guy Donald Trump would like. But in this case he was talking about stonewalling any Supreme Court nomination.

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Obama and Republicans are wrong about Constitution

    What does the U.S. Constitution really have to say about whether the Senate must put a president's Supreme Court nominee to a vote? President Barack Obama says the Constitution "is pretty clear on what happens next": He nominates, and the Senate says yes or no in a timely fashion. Republicans think the Constitution gives the Senate the right, not just the power, to give the president's nominee a hearing or to refuse to do so.

    They're both wrong. Here's what the Constitution says about filling Supreme Court vacancies: nothing. In fact, the Constitution says nothing about the size of the Supreme Court at all. Congress could pass a law leaving the number of justices permanently at eight. Or it could expand the number to 23. All the Constitution requires is that there be a Supreme Court. Beyond that, we're in the realm of politics.

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No Candidate is Perfect

    Let me tell you something people don’t often say when arguing about presidential candidates on Facebook: No candidate is perfect.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth choosing to support one.

    For example, you can support Bernie Sanders because you believe he’s the best all-around candidate, while simultaneously accepting that he tends to be clumsy when it comes to matters of race.

    It’s also possible to support Hillary Clinton while noting that you dislike her vote in favor of the Iraq War, or are concerned about the millions of dollars her family’s foundation accepted from Saudi Arabia.

    The same goes for Republican candidates. Each of those contenders comes with advantages and disadvantages.

    In other words, whatever your leanings are, you need to weigh each candidate’s pros and cons. How well do their proposals match your values? Do you believe they have a shot at actually getting something done?

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Move Flint's children to safety

    As a pediatrician - and grandfather - I ask myself: What would I do if I had family members raising kids in Flint, Michigan, right now?

    The answer is anything in my power to get them out of that toxic, distressed and struggling city. And if that's the right answer on a personal basis, it offers a critical insight into what has to be considered on a general policy level for the health and well- being of a community where water for drinking and bathing has been contaminated with lead for almost two years.

    Given the threat of ongoing lead exposure and the community's well-founded mistrust of government, should families be offered at least temporary resettlement while upgrades, repairs and enhancements are made to Flint's badly contaminated water infrastructure?

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Media Misrepresentations Of Clintons Are Nothing New

    Alas, this is pretty much where I came in. Starting in 1994, when your humble, obedient servant was approached to contribute weekly political columns, I found the behavior of the national political press shocking and alarming.

    Today, it's even worse.

    Even so, it's not every day a TV talker apologizes for broadcasting a doctored video misrepresenting something Bill Clinton said about President Obama. So it's definitely worth taking note.

    MSNBC's Chris Hayes did that the other night, at least temporarily persuading me that the network hasn't yet gone full Fox News.

    But first, some ancient history on a theme directly relevant to today's Democratic primary campaign: Hillary the Big Liar.

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Fear iPhone hackers, or the FBI?

    A federal judge in California ordered Apple to exploit a security weakness for the iPhone to help law enforcement investigate the San Bernardino terrorist attack. The company is refusing to provide a piece of software that would effectively allow federal investigators to bypass the strong security that Apple implemented in 2014.

    Bloomberg View columnists Eli Lake and Megan McArdle discuss.

 

    McArdle: Right now, it's impossible to brute-force a passcode by simply trying combination after combination, because there's a feature that will wipe the data after 10 unsuccessful tries. The judge has ordered Apple to create a piece of software that will raise that limit high enough for investigators in the San Bernardino shooting to keep trying until they unlock the iPhone belonging to San Bernardino County, which one of the shooters used.

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Donald Trump is right; Pope Francis' visit to the border is political

    With a visit to the U.S.- Mexico border this week, Pope Francis brings a clarion message from the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The biblical imperative to welcome the stranger and protect the refugee is an ancient commandment.

    The presence of the first Latin American pope at the border also symbolically puts the most influential religious leader on the global stage squarely in the middle of a fierce presidential election-year fight over immigration.

    Donald Trump last week called the pope "a very political person" and implied Francis was being used by the Mexican government.

    "I think Mexico got him to do it," Trump sniffed, "because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is because they're making a fortune and we're losing."

    A pope who travels to the margins as a witness to God's solidarity with the poor and vulnerable isn't playing politics. He is following the Gospel. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus radically redefined the definition of neighbor beyond language, religion and border.

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Darkness at the Supreme Court

    Someday the Senate will consider a president's nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late Antonin Scalia.

    Meanwhile, interested parties should prepare by reading a gripping new book about one of the court's darkest moments.

    "Imbeciles" is the arch title that lawyer-journalist Adam Cohen has given his narrative of Buck v. Bell, the 1927 case in which the justices approved Virginia's involuntary sterilization of "feeble minded," epileptic and other purportedly genetically "unfit" citizens.

    The vote was 8 to 1. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s opinion dispensed with young Carrie Buck's physical integrity in five paragraphs, the six cruelest words of which characterized Virginia's interest in preventing Buck from burdening the state with her defective offspring: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

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Apple's fight with FBI isn't about encryption

    The most striking aspect of Apple's message to customers on Tuesday wasn't the rejection of U.S. authorities' demand that the company help them break the encryption of an iPhone owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was involved in last year's murders of 14 people in San Bernardino, California. It was Apple's admission that it has the technological capacity to help, despite previous statements to the contrary.

    In other words, Apple is acknowledging that it isn't encryption that protects the personal data of its customers, but the company's stubborn insistence on keeping its software proprietary and its refusal to accept open source software. That, however, is hardly perfect protection.

    In October, Apple filed a response to a New York court's order that asked about the feasibility of gaining access to private data on an encrypted iPhone. It repeated numerous previous statements from Apple executives:

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America’s Stacked Deck

    It’s a little bizarre this political season to see wealthy candidates in both parties denouncing our political system for representing mostly the interests of, well, wealthy people.

    Bizarre, perhaps, and sometimes a tad hypocritical, but also accurate. America’s political system is rigged. The deck is stacked against ordinary people. That’s the frustration that has fueled, in very different ways, the anti-establishment campaigns of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders in particular, and that is leading other candidates, like Hillary Clinton, to grab their pitchforks as well.

    “Yes, the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top,” Clinton declared in the Democratic debate last week.

    One glimpse of the structural unfairness in America is this: A dumb rich kid is now more likely to graduate from college than a smart poor kid, according to Robert Putnam of Harvard University.

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