Archive

April 3rd, 2016

Trump and Abortion

    Just when you thought Donald Trump couldn’t say anything more shocking, he suggested that women who get abortions should be punished.

    On MSNBC, he said abortion must be banned and then “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who manage to get abortions.

    He declined to say what the punishment should be, dodging a question about whether it should be “10 years” in prison or something milder. But his comment raised the possibility of following the lead of countries like El Salvador, where women can be dragged off from a hospital to prison for getting an abortion. Indeed, rights groups say that women were wrongly imprisoned in El Salvador simply for having miscarriages.

    Trump doesn’t seem to have thought deeply about the issue — what a surprise! — and he departed from the mainstream anti-abortion position of targeting not women but abortion providers. As one person said on Twitter: “He’s a walking cartoon parody of every leftist accusation against Republicans.”

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The next steps in nuclear security

    Of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons. That's why, seven years ago in Prague, I committed the United States to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and to seeking a world without them. This vision builds on the policies of presidents before me, Democrat and Republican, including Ronald Reagan, who said "we seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth."

    Thursday in Washington, I'll welcome more than 50 world leaders to our fourth Nuclear Security Summit to advance a central pillar of our Prague Agenda: preventing terrorists from obtaining and using a nuclear weapon. We'll review our progress, such as successfully ridding more than a dozen countries of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Nations, including the United States, will make new commitments, and we'll continue strengthening the international treaties and institutions that underpin nuclear security.

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April 2nd

Belgian Awful

    The ISIS supporters who attacked Brussels killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds more. Bombings at the city’s airport and a subway station blew up the notion that measures taken after the Paris siege were keeping Europe safe.

    The scariest part of this story is something that hasn’t happened yet and hopefully never will: an act of nuclear terrorism.

    World leaders and the experts who track the whereabouts of fissile material should see Belgium’s ordeal as a wakeup call. Nuclear reactors — as the Fukushima disaster proved five years ago in Japan — aren’t worth the risks they pose based on operational safety considerations alone. But security questions also render them unacceptably perilous.

    Consider this news out of Europe that you may have missed.

    Didier Prospero, a security guard at a Belgian reactor, was murdered in his own home two days after the March attacks. The killers shot the slain man’s dog too. After Prospero’s children found his body, authorities determined that his security pass was missing.

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Obama Outclasses Trump And Cruz

    An old friend recently told me about a remarkable conversation she'd had with her mother, who is 95. A white resident of the Deep South from birth, she'd shown a lifelong indifference, if not aversion, to politics. Her daughter describes her racial attitudes as being characteristic of her generation -- never a hater, but also no dissenter from how things used to be.

    And yet she found herself in front of the TV watching Barack and Michelle Obama disembarking from Air Force One in Havana last week with tears streaming down her face. He's such a great man, she told her daughter, and he tries so hard to do the right thing for the country.

    And Michelle. Has any first lady ever exhibited more grace and class?

    Why can't more people see that? She'd asked her somewhat astonished daughter, who said that she personally wished Obama could run for another term -- even if the president himself clearly does not.

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NBA: The National Billboard Association?

    Billboards must be living creatures, for they appear to propagate like breeding rabbits.

    They spread everywhere, growing to enormous sizes while shouting corporate messages at us. Some even watch and track us with their digital eyes.

    Now, though, rather than billboards becoming human, we humans are becoming billboards. Literally.

    For the love of money, the National Basketball Association is transforming its chief human asset — basketball players — into advertising placards that run, dribble, leap, twist, and dunk.

    While individual golfers and racecar drivers have long splattered themselves with their sponsors’ logos, NBA teams are now planning to become the first major U.S. sports crews to sell ad space on their players’ game-day jerseys.

    Chintzy? Well, yes — but not cheap. Team owners expect brand-name corporations to pay $10 million or more to have their logo plastered on the chests of basketball stars.

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Fixing our schools: An essential combination of education and infrastructure policy

    We can argue all day about the role of government in our economy, but there are two areas where that role is widely agreed to be essential: education and public infrastructure. Well, there's a great way to roll those roles together: a deep investment in the quality of our public school facilities.

    Here are some facts to get you thinking about the scope of the problem, from a careful and timely new study by three groups that brought some heavy analytic firepower to this question of the state of our schools:

    -- Every school day, 50 million students and 6 million adults (mostly teachers) meet at the 100,000 K-12 public schools nationwide. These buildings, along with supporting areas, such as bus lots and storage areas, comprise 7.5 billion square feet, the equivalent of half the total commercial space in the country. After highways, this is the biggest piece of our public infrastructure.

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Economists are warming to government intervention

    Economists argue so much about everything that people are always asking them "Is there anything you folks agree on?" The usual stock response is "free trade." But when Stanford economics professor Jon Levin took the question on Quora, he gave a very different answer:

    "Virtually all economists agree with the principle that externalities should be taxed and tend to see externality taxes (or "Pigovian" taxes after the economist Arthur Pigou) as quite natural."

    This might seem like a dry, scholarly response, but for those of us who watch the econ profession, it is eye-opening. This is the first time I've seen a professor at a top school cite government intervention in the economy as the main example of agreement in the field.

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Dying in Prison

    Over the past three decades, judges and juries have filled America’s prisons with non-violent offenders.

    Many are serving draconian sentences for first-time offenses. Indeed, while only about 5 percent of the world’s people live in the United States, our country is locking up nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

    President Barack Obama has at least begun to address this issue by creating the Clemency Project, which connects prisoners to pro-bono lawyers who can argue for them to have their sentences reduced. Inmates are eligible if their sentences would have been shorter today than when they received them — as long as they’ve already served at least half their time.

    That doesn’t help prisoners who haven’t yet served half of their sentences. It’s an especially glaring gap for prisoners who are elderly and gravely ill. Where is their relief?

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Donald Trump, the tabloid candidate

    The frontrunner in the Republican presidential race is not only a favorite subject of the newspaper tabloids but also their chief competitor in the business of dishing out trash.

    Donald Trump has become the master of venom and innuendo that long has been the trademark of "the tabs" that survive in big cities that still have subway strap-hangers devouring their eye-catching headlines. In New York especially, the Daily News and the Post continue in vivid gossip competition.

    Their latest juicy morsel is Trump's sleazy effort to smear Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over a report in the gossip tabloid National Enquirer of five alleged cases of sexual misconduct, which Cruz has stoutly denied.

    Soon after the allegation, a very unflattering photo of Cruz's wife, Heidi, surfaced on the Internet, twinned with a striking photo of Trump's nearly nude third wife, former supermodel Melania. Cruz blamed Trump for its appearance and called him "a coward" for dragging his wife into the campaign conversation.

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Donald Trump was (sort of) right; Pen bombs are indeed possible

    Donald Trump did not at any point actually think that he was in physical danger when Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields approached him after a victory speech in Florida earlier this month. Fields, carrying a phone in one hand to record Trump and a pen in the other to write down how he answered her questions, looked like any of the other scores of reporters that have surrounded Trump over the last nine months -- a presence that he has obviously enjoyed.

    But after Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Fields's arm and dragging her out of the way, Trump was forced to migrate from his untrue original position -- that it didn't happen -- to a new one: Lewandowski was trying to protect me.

    CNN's Anderson Cooper asked him about it during a town hall on Tuesday night.

    "She went through the Secret Service," Trump said. "She had a pen in her hand, which Secret Service is not liking because they don't know what it is, whether it's a little bomb or..."

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