Archive

December 27th

The Donald Trump Days of Christmas

    Happy holidays! I say this with some trepidation, because Donald Trump has vowed that when he is president, “We’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” That was a while ago, during his war on the Starbucks coffee cup design. So very much water has run under the Trumpian bridge since then.

    But I’m still trying to figure out exactly how a universal “Merry Christmas” mission would be accomplished. Would there be a “holiday” gag order? Seasonal salutation checks at the border?

    This is supposed to be a down period for presidential campaigning, since most of the population is focused on celebrating you-know-what with friends and families. But Trump has given us such a not-normal year that people will be drinking eggnog by the fire and discussing the proper use of the word “schlonged.”

    The happiest holiday parties should be with Team Clinton, which clearly believes that going to war with Trump is good for her cause and that having Trump as the Republican nominee would be even better.

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Parties diverge on foreign policy in age of renewed terrorism

    As the holiday season brings a brief break in presidential politics, the final party debates of 2015 have left the voters to ponder how differently the Republican and Democratic candidates' propose to meet the terrorist threat facing the nation.

    On the Republican stage, with the exception of isolationist Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the White House aspirants insisted that President Obama has failed to recognize the scope of the peril posed by the Islamic State and that he lacks the personal fortitude and resolve to defeat, not merely contain, it. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas went so far in the debate as to reiterate his desire to carpet bomb territory held by the militant group.

    The three debating Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland -- while also speaking of the urgency of the task, generally defended the president of their party, though with caveats.

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For my Muslim husband, my mom's halal Christmas is the perfect antidote to Trump

    Holidays, year after year, can blend together. But this holiday season is unlike any other in my life. That's because in previous years there was no Donald Trump leaving a lump of coal in my stocking, reminding me just how unwelcome my multi-faith family would be in his version of America.

    My husband, who emigrated from Iran 12 years ago, is Muslim. In addition to the usual challenges, over time, of assimilating -- and the challenges, more recently, of absorbing presidential campaign rhetoric that underscores just how many people won't accept him -- he tends to be particularly self-conscious when he's invited to a meal where there are no halal, or at least vegetarian, options.

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Fool Me Twice, New York Times

    In my experience, you can fool a golden retriever exactly twice with the old hidden ball trick. Our late dog Big Red was as exuberant an animal as ever lived. I used to say that if he wasn't wet, cold, and hungry, Red was happy.

    Then I had to rescue him from the Arkansas River during a sleet storm. He'd plunged in to chase ducks but couldn't clamber back up the steep, slippery bank on his own. Coated in mud with icicles hanging from his coat, Red remained optimistic. See, after his walk came supper. His eyes shone like a puppy's all the way home.

    Anyway, that dog would fetch his beloved tennis ball until your arm ached from throwing it. Prank him with a fake toss and he'd charge off and search eagerly before returning with a quizzical look. A second fake drew less assiduous searching. After that, he kept his eyes riveted on your hand. No fooling him anymore.

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December 26th

Doctors have a right to try to dissuade gun owners

    Should the First Amendment protect what doctors can say to their patients in the privacy of the examining room? Weighing state prohibitions on gay conversion therapy, liberals have tended to think the state should be able to regulate medical treatment without worrying about free speech.

    Now the shoe's on the other foot: Florida's ban on physicians asking patients about gun ownership puts liberals in the position of wanting to protect the doctor-patient relationship. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the Florida "docs vs. Glocks" law this week on the ground that the state's interest in protecting gun ownership outweighs physicians' free-speech interests -- a result sure to trouble liberals.

    This decision is problematic in its application of free- speech law, as First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh points out. But what's really wrong is our whole framework in using free speech to analyze communication between a medical professional and a patient.

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Congress's good deeds for 2015

    It's almost the end of 2015: time to evaluate Congress's performance. By near-universal reckoning, lawmakers registered yet another disastrous session, marked by polarization and gridlock.The Republican majority wasted time pushing an extreme agenda against White House resistance, compromise was impossible, the debt mounted, there's still no update on the authorization for military force, and blah blah blah.

    Well, maybe it's just the eggnog talking, but right now I'm more focused on the surprising number of significant policy reforms that Congress did enact, on a bipartisan basis, with President Obama's signature.

    First, a provision in the year-end omnibus spending bill abolished the 40-year-old ban on crude-oil exports from the United States. Enacted after the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, the ban was a simplistic means to a valid end: limiting the United States' vulnerability to the price-gouging of oil- exporting nations.

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Why Trump and Cruz aren't Forbes or Cain

    There's a lot of loose talk in Republican politics about the battle that's supposedly raging between outsiders and the mainstream establishment. Actually, the battle's over. It's the outsiders in a romp.

    Look at the poll numbers, as averaged by Real Clear Politics. They show the relentlessly growing combined strength of the four main outsider presidential primary candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Only Cruz, a Texas senator who routinely defies his party, has held elective office. Trump and Fiorina are business leaders and Carson is a retired neurosurgeon.

    This month's polls show 64 percent of likely Republican primary voters favoring one of those four. Just 23 percent support one of the best-known insiders: former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey or Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

    That represents a huge shift. Back in June, when Trump was just getting into the race and Cruz was little known, the four insiders were way ahead of the four outsiders, 35 percent to 23 percent.

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Think Star Wars won't be profitable? It's a trap

    It's too early to tell whether "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will become the biggest grossing film of all time -- Goldman Sachs says it won't even come close -- but it's already shattered box office records, earning over $500 million globally during its first weekend. The really interesting question, however, is whether the movie will ever go into profit. After all, "Return of the Jedi" (now known as "Star Wars: Episode VI") never turned a profit, although its worldwide unadjusted gross is over $475 million.

    Now, don't worry. This isn't another column dumping on Hollywood accounting. (Easy though that would be.) What I actually want to do is offer a partial defense of the contract practices that so often send news reporters into a tizzy.

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Germany is right to flout Russia sanctions

    Germany has rallied Europe in support of Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia, but has been less diligent in their implementation. German leaders back these ineffectual measures primarily to humor the U.S. and are rightly unwilling to suffer too much for them.

    In a recent speech to her CDU party, which ended with a nine-minute standing ovation, Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the sanctions: "It was the right reaction, no matter how much we'd like to keep a good relationship with Russia. We must adhere to our principles."

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Blood, Sweat, and Trump

    Everybody pees.

    That’s actually the name of a public service campaign by the National Kidney Foundation, and I thought it a needless statement of the obvious until Donald Trump brought me to my senses. Apparently some people think that the laws of urology don’t apply to them. Apparently Trump is in this category.

    On Monday he said this of Hillary Clinton’s mid-debate bathroom break: “I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting.”

    He didn’t specify why. But it’s difficult to find anything indecorous about Clinton’s behavior unless you see it as entirely volitional and utterly controllable — something you do to indulge yourself, something that can be put off for hours or forever, an emblem of your weakness. I guess in Trump’s world, only “low energy” people need to go.

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