Archive

October 24th, 2016

Trump succeeds in campaign to corner Paul Ryan

    Donald Trump hasn't succeeded in discrediting Hillary Clinton, but he has managed to tarnish one target: Paul Ryan, the top Republican office holder in the country.

    This week's Bloomberg national poll, which has Clinton trouncing Trump, shows the painful extent to which the GOP presidential nominee has dragged down the speaker of the House. Ryan's favorability with all voters has dropped, while the Republicans surveyed think Trump, not Ryan, should be the face of the party. This follows a series of attacks on Ryan by Trump for insufficiently supporting him. This week, the nominee even suggested that Ryan might want him to lose since it would clear the way for the speaker to run in 2020.

    After Trump's comments about assaulting women were aired, Ryan said he would no longer campaign for him. Before that, the speaker criticized Trump for his slurs against a Hispanic judge. Trump's attacks on Ryan have been more personal and, as a nominee assailing the party's top congressional leader, unprecedented.

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Trump confirms everyone's worst fears

    It was a two-track debate. At times, it was the setting for a detailed argument over serious issues in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offered voters a relatively straightforward clash of progressive and conservative perspectives.

    But this is 2016, and eventually the third and final debate on Wednesday reached the fundamental issue of the campaign: whether Trump is fit to be president. Despite her substantial lead in the polls, Clinton did not hang back, as many predicted she would. Instead, she pressed Trump sharply on the entire catalogue of his shortcomings, accusing him of being a "puppet" of Russian President Vladimir Putin and denouncing his treatment of women, his mocking a disabled reporter and his habit of saying that any contest he loses is "rigged" against him.

    And she clearly signaled one of the closing themes of her campaign when she declared that Trump had shown "a pattern of divisiveness, of a very dark and • dangerous vision for our country." The election, she said, was about "what kind of country are we going to be."

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Three debates, three horrifying moments of Trump

    Wednesday night's presidential debate - the last, thankfully, of this cycle - was not a revelation. It was confirmation.

    This is election is not about left or right, your team or mine, tax cuts or tax hikes, expanding or crimping the welfare state, Obamacare or the Ryan budget, a slightly more liberal Supreme Court or a persistently conservative one. It is about something much more fundamental: the resilience of the country's democratic culture. Over the course of three debates, Donald Trump has admitted that he is a threat to the peaceful transition of power and the rule of law, and he has turned a willful blind eye to a hostile foreign power attempting to undermine the integrity of our nation's presidential election.

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The surprising ways people use the dictionary during elections

    Americans are turning to an unusual source to help them decode the presidential campaign and the rhetoric of the day: the dictionary.

    In 1996, Merriam-Webster took a gamble and put its dictionary online, available for all to use without a fee. For the first time in 175 years, we had real-time information about how people were using their dictionaries: what words they looked up and when.

    It was fascinating. Everything we assumed about how people use the dictionary was wrong. People didn't look up extremely difficult words, the sorts of terms that you think dictionaries are for - National Spelling Bee words. People looked up words that they were familiar with, whose meanings they had some vague knowledge about. What they were looking for, it seemed, was nuance and explication. What exactly does "pragmatic" mean; what parts of your personality are covered by "disposition"?

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The last debate: Donald Trump doesn't care about democracy

    I honestly don't believe the debates are over. You will have to demonstrate to me slowly and gently over a period of months that there aren't any more debates, because I am too afraid to believe that they have really stopped.

    However, here is what I hope is my final recap for this election season.

    CHRIS WALLACE: Hello. I have come to your world from a different reality, Fox News, a fact that will become apparent as this debate goes on. This is the final presidential debate of the season, or, depending on whom you vote for, the final presidential debate of all time. If you play your cards right, all future elections can be settled by the spear! Now, let's bring out the candidates.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Hello. I am dressed as Saruman the White. My best moments this evening will occur when I am forced to defend the basic principles of democracy, a terrifyingly low bar that this election season has set. Thank you for making it so easy, but also, eeegh.

    DONALD TRUMP: *low guttural hiss* Tonight I have worn my RED tie.

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Republicans can't say they weren't warned

    Donald Trump went into his third and final debate on the defensive, with Hillary Clinton threatening to poach a string of once loyally Republican states from a man who says he hates losers.

     Trump is in danger of being one of his party's biggest losers -- and, as President Obama pointed out on Tuesday, a whiny one at that.

     The states on Clintonâs new target list include Arizona and, of all places, Texas. In Nevada, the polling is mixed, though Clinton seems to have gained ground. A Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday put Clinton ahead of Trump here by seven points. Trump was up by two points last month. But a new Washington Post-SurveyMonkey poll, which showed her in a commanding position nationally, had her still down here by four.

    All these states have something important in common: They include large numbers of Latino voters, who are clearly mobilizing to defeat Trump. He is also suffering from profound weaknesses among African-Americans, college educated voters of all backgrounds, and the young.

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Relax, America, democracy will survive Trump

    There's a lot of shock and horror about Donald Trump's refusal to say during Wednesday night's debate that he'd accept the result of the Nov. 8 vote. The outcry overstates the danger this poses to American democracy. European democracies have been dealing with this kind of threat in recent years, and have survived nicely.

    After its candidate Norbert Hofer lost the May 22 presidential election by 30,863 votes, Austria's anti-immigrant Freedom Party challenged the result and the nation's constitutional court overturned it. It ruled that mail-in ballots had been treated improperly in most electoral districts: Opened earlier than allowed by law or handled by unauthorized people. The election was supposed to be re-run this month, but it has been postponed again until December because it was discovered that adhesive seals on postal ballots were coming unglued.

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Psychiatry's moral crisis on euthanasia

    Once prohibited - indeed, unthinkable - the euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia, is now a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands.

    This profoundly troubling fact of modern European life is confirmed by the latest biennial report from Belgium's Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, presented to Parliament on Oct. 7.

    Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for patients suffering "unbearably" from any "untreatable" medical condition, terminal or non-terminal, including psychiatric ones.

    In the 2014-2015 period, the report says, 124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a "mental and behavioral disorder," four more than in the previous two years. Tiny Belgium's population is 11.4 million; 124 euthanasias over two years there is the equivalent of about 3,500 in the United States.

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It's a shame Clinton wasn't tested in debate

    What a misfortune it is that Hillary Clinton was able to coast through three presidential debates without being pressed significantly on any of her weaknesses.

    At this point, I'm out of ways to express outrage at Donald Trump, who almost certainly will not become president. But let's get this next part out of the way, at least, in reaction to his performance at the third and final debate: It was unacceptable for a major-party candidate to say he refuses to accept in advance the results of the U.S. election and claim that his opponent should not have been "allowed" to run.

    Oh, Trump knew a few catchphrases. He knew to work in "e-mails" every once in a while. And he repeated like a schoolboy who read only one paragraph of the assigned reading that she was caught in a fib over the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the first debate (as he already said in the second debate, she had falsely denied calling it a "gold standard").

    But mostly Trump proved incapable of laying a glove on her. Calling her a "nasty woman" doesn't count.

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October 23rd

Trump in a Bikini

    Is it too late for Hillary Clinton to surrender to Donald Trump’s demand that she take a drug test before this last presidential debate?

    I think she should — if he agrees to a few tests of his own. He can choose any three of the following:

    — Citizenship test. This is what the immigrants he feels so warm and fuzzy about must master to become full-fledged Americans and, for example, vote in presidential elections against the likes of Trump.

    But would he himself pass one?

    He’d surely be able to say who the current speaker of the House of Representatives is, given that he spends much of his time sticking pins in his personal Paul Ryan voodoo doll.

    But the exact count of voting representatives in the House? That’s also on the test.

    We could give him hints: your number of wives plus 432. The amount of federal income taxes you paid in 1995 plus 435.

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