Archive

October 3rd, 2016

That Seventh-Grade Bully Is Running for President

    Donald Trump displayed an excellent version of the stern squint in the presidential debate. Many of us men are familiar with this expression, because we practice it at age 13 in the hope that it will impress girls. It doesn’t, and we grow out of it — most of us, anyway.

    Hillary Clinton wears a patient smile, the expression of every woman who has calmly suppressed irritation while being harangued by a boor on topics he knows nothing about. Sadly, women never have the opportunity to retire this expression because it is constantly needed, or so my wife tells me.

    What is thrilling is that Trump’s boorishness may be catching up to him.

    Trump has advocated policies that are confused or senseless — deporting 11 million unauthorized immigrants en masse, banning Muslims from entering the country, undermining NATO, slashing taxes on billionaires while raising them on single parents, capitulating to Russia on Crimea — yet these don’t get him into deep political trouble. Instead, his vulnerability seems to be something more elemental: He’s a jerk.

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You can't strip dancers of the right to bare all

    Strippers have constitutional rights too -- or at least that's the claim of three New Orleans women challenging a Louisiana law that requires exotic dancers to be 21 to expose their breasts or buttocks. It may sound absurd, but the legal argument is pretty powerful. The law facially discriminates on the basis of sex, and arguably infringes on that classic First Amendment right to express yourself by dancing without clothes.

    According to its proponents, the Louisiana law, signed in June, was aimed at reducing sex trafficking by preventing women ages 18 to 21 from stripping. Presumably the idea is that women younger than 21 are especially vulnerable to trafficking. But the chain of logic isn't all that clear, because trafficking doesn't necessarily stop at 21. One state senator said that if you have to be 21 to drink in a Louisiana strip club, you should have to be 21 to take off your clothes. That doesn't really follow, either.

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Why would anyone want a one-way ticket to Mars?

    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made a splash at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico with his plans for an Interplanetary Transport System, along with a disturbingly inspirational ultimatum:

    "There are really two fundamental paths. One path is we stay on Earth forever and there will be some eventual extinction event. . . . The alternative is to become a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species, which, I hope you would agree, that is the right way to go."

    Unless we slip the surly bonds of Earth, humankind is doomed. The only alternative -- the right thing to do -- is to colonize Mars. Manifest destiny!

    Musk's plans for a giant 42-engine rocket leave little doubt that we will one day have the technology to send humans to the red planet. But throughout the hour-long presentation, Musk did not exactly specify how the first interplanetary settlers will survive the harsh environment on Mars.

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Why red-state newspaper endorsements of Clinton are not as dumb as they look

    Why bother?

    As if local newspapers did not have enough problems, with plummeting circulation and shrinking staffs, some recent endorsements of Hillary Clinton by editorial boards look like more self-inflicted wounds by an industry that specializes in them.

    When the Arizona Republic endorsed Clinton this week, longtime readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions - and many others trashed the paper on Facebook. When the Dallas Morning News endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee earlier this month, cancellations followed, and protesters picketed the building

    "We've paid a price for our presidential recommendation," Dallas Morning News editor Mike Wilson told Poynter.org, a site for news about the media, but he would not say exactly how many subscriptions had been lost.

    In both cases (and quite a few others, including the Cincinnati Enquirer), these papers had not endorsed a Democrat for president in generations.

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Who’s Really Older, Trump or Clinton?

     Strange we haven’t been talking more about age.

    Hillary Clinton is 68, and that’s old for a first-term presidential candidate in this country. The one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that we’d hear about it every day were it not for the fact that Donald Trump is 70.

    Still, Trump seems to be finding ways to get at it. Asked during the debate about his comment that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look,” Trump rejoined: “She doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.”

    I believe he’s suggesting a question about stamina. Andrew Scharlach, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in aging issues, heard “a code for ‘She’s old! She’s a woman! You know how old women are.'”

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What Cruz's Support of Trump Says about the GOP

    Sen. Ted Cruz's humiliating capitulation last week to the Republican presidential nominee raises anew the question of what exactly the Republican Party is - and what it will be after November.

    Cruz had initially bet he could command the support of the party's reactionary base and ride it to the nomination. When Donald Trump claimed the base instead, Cruz withheld his support, calculating that Trump's buffoonery would make opposition to him appear principled, serious and conservative.

    That gambit, too, collapsed as Trump consolidated support from previously reluctant Republican voters, and Trump supporters in Texas began undermining Cruz's own standing at home, where he is up for re-election in 2018 and looking vulnerable to a primary challenge.

    Cruz not only endorsed Trump. He also dutifully stated Tuesday that Trump had maintained "the upper hand" throughout his hapless debate performance the prior night. An excellent debater himself, Cruz pledged to help with the next debate if Trump called on him.

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Trump's suburban problem -- and the GOP's

    Donald Trump's near meltdown in Monday's debate surely gave queasy stomachs to Republicans who have bowed before his candidacy despite their better judgments. Trump threatens to give conservative appeasers a very bad name.

     Let it be said that at least some in the party will be able to stand proudly after this god-awful election is over. We're witnessing real courage among those members of the party of Lincoln willing to say openly how genuinely dangerous a Trump presidency would be.

     For those whose livelihoods depend on building big audiences among pro-Trump rank-and-file conservatives (think radio talk show hosts and commentators of various kinds), joining the Never Trump camp carries real risks. For liberals, opposing Trump is about the easiest thing in the world, so we should honor the daring of our temporary comrades.

    Unfortunately, the Never Trumpers are a minority on the right. More typical are House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most prominent among the GOP contortion artists who are hedging their bets.

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Trump is trying to pull Republicans back in to their bubble of delusion

    After a widely panned performance in the first presidential debate, Donald Trump quickly moved to deliver two seemingly contradictory messages to his supporters: First, I really won. Bigly. And second, if I didn't win, it was only because the whole thing was rigged.

    Remember the conservative information bubble that caused them so many problems in 2012? Trump is trying to reconstruct it, and if he succeeds, it could be a serious problem he'll leave behind if he loses in November, not just his party but for all of us.

    If we know anything about Trump by now, it's that as far as he's concerned, he's a winner who always wins, because he knows how to win and he wins, with so much winning you get bored of the winning. So naturally, he declared himself the victor after Monday's debate. "Every on-line poll, Time Magazine, Drudge etc., has me winning the debate" he tweeted . "Thank you to Fox & Friends for so reporting!" Well yes, thank you, Fox & Friends.

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Trump? How Could We?

    My reaction to the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate can be summarized with one word: “How?”

    How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the U.S. landlord?

    NATO is not a shopping mall; it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for U.S. companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.

    How do we put in the Oval Office a man who does not know enough “beef” about key policies to finish a two-minute answer on any issue without the hamburger helper of bluster, insults and repetition?

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Scott Walker’s Political Magic

    In a mindboggling trick, some magicians levitate themselves. But remember, the key word in “magic trick” — is trick.

    And magicians aren’t the only ones performing. Scott Walker, for example, is quite the political trickster.

    This right-wing extremist became so unpopular in his first term as Wisconsin’s governor that he faced a recall election in 2012. Yet, he seemed to rise in front of our very eyes, miraculously lifting himself above the public’s anger to avoid defeat.

    How’d he do that?

    As reported by The Guardian, some 1,500 secret emails, court testimonies, and financial records were recently uncovered, revealing that Walker had a hidden lifeline of corporate cash hoisting him up.

    Despite a Wisconsin law specifically prohibiting corporations from funding political candidates, millions of those banned dollars were pumped into the governor’s campaign.

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