Archive

December 5th

How Clinton can shake Wall Street

    Hillary Clinton comes under lots of attacks. Most of the charges leveled at the former secretary of state range from the far-fetched (her alleged complicity in the Benghazi tragedy, for instance) to the hard-to-discern-what-the-issue-is (her "damn e-mails").

    However, the one line of attack that is substantial, and that she's had the most trouble dispelling, is her closeness to Wall Street. Many of the economic policies of her husband's presidency - the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the refusal to regulate derivatives - were formulated by top aides who'd spent their lives on Wall Street, who were instrumental in the explosive growth of the financial sector and who were trusted consiglieres to both Bill and Hillary.

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Drugmakers Add Insult to Injury

    It's one thing for Pfizer to renounce its U.S. citizenship, moving its official residence to Dublin, Ireland, as a tax dodge -- all the while continuing to run the business in the United States. That disgusting tactic happens to be disgustingly legal, thanks to our indolent Congress and its failure to fix the corporate tax laws.

    It's quite another to insult the public with blatant phoniness that avoiding billions in U.S. taxes gives the company "the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people around the world." Those are the words of Pfizer's chief executive, Ian Read, an accountant by training.

    The Pfizer deal involves a merger with a much smaller Allergan, an Ireland-based company that happens to do its business in New Jersey. Wall Street analysts scoffed at the notion that the deal had any purpose other than to let the company avoid billions in U.S. taxes -- billions that other American taxpayers will have to replace.

    Since Read took the helm in 2010, Pfizer has slashed its research and development budget.

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Capitalism can survive cutting back on carbon

    It has been a source of enormous pleasure for me during the past five years to see the solar power skeptics proven wrong. Back in 2010, I almost never saw articles about solar's potential to replace fossil fuels as our primary energy source. Then, in early 2011, futurist Ramez Naam posted one of the most important articles in recent history. The post, titled "Smaller, cheaper, faster: Does Moore's law apply to solar cells?", demonstrated how solar power prices had been declining exponentially at a steady clip for decades.

    Naam quickly brought media attention to the solar revolution, and the floodgates opened. Suddenly, everyone -- including me -- was writing starry-eyed pieces about how solar would not only save us from Peak Coal and usher in an era of energy abundance, but might even save us from global warming in the bargain.

    But many skeptics remained. In November 2011, economics blogger Tyler Cowen wrote: "Is there any reason, based in industry-wide market prices, to be optimistic about the near-term or even medium-term future of solar power? I don't see it."

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When It Comes To Race, No One Is Inferior -- Or Superior

    From sea to shining sea, college students seem determined to make us argue about race to the exclusion of all else. So here's something I learned in college: Virtually every ugly stereotype applied to African-Americans by white racists was applied to my Irish-Catholic ancestors as well. Their English oppressors caricatured Irish peasants as shiftless, drunken, sexually promiscuous, donkey-strong but mentally deficient.

    The Celtic race was good at singing, dancing, lifting heavy objects and prizefighting. Red-haired women were thought sexually insatiable. We Celts also had an appalling odor.

    Little historical imagination is required to grasp why slave owners needed to call their victims subhuman. Yes, I said slaves. During the 17th century, many thousands of native Irish were transported to the Caribbean and North America and sold into indentured servitude. During the Potato Famine of the 1840s, England sent soldiers to guard ships exporting food crops from Irish farms while the native population starved or emigrated.

    Feeding them, it was believed, would compromise their work ethic.

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Unreality TV: 'The Donald' meets 'the blacks'

    Awk-ward. Shortly after Donald Trump's presidential campaign team announced that he would be endorsed by a group of 100 black pastors, several pastors vigorously protested that they were not endorsing Trump after all.

    Team Trump scaled back their plans over the Thanksgiving weekend. The billionaire Republican candidate would have only a closed-door meeting with dozens of pastors for two hours Monday at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

    Welcome to another episode of the unfolding reality TV show that Trump calls a presidential campaign. I call this episode "The Donald and the Blacks," in honor of his often-repeated declaration: "I have a great relationship with the blacks. I've always had a great relationship with the blacks."

    And that's not all. "I have a great relationship with the Mexican people," he told NBC News after causing an international uproar over his characterization of illegal immigrants from Mexico as criminals, rapists and drug dealers. "I love them, they love me."

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The moral blame for Colorado Springs shootings

    Inflammatory rhetoric inflames. Words -- extreme language and overheated representations -- have consequences. The killer bears the ultimate responsibility for the carnage in Colorado Springs. But if initial reports of alleged gunman Robert Lewis Dear's comments about "no more baby parts" prove true -- and logic suggests that it was no coincidence the attack was at a Planned Parenthood clinic -- Republican politicians who fueled the overwrought and unsupported controversy over selling baby parts bear some measure of responsibility.

    That is a harsh accusation, so let me explain why I believe it is fair to lodge.

    The debate over abortion rights is unavoidably emotional. For those who believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, the fact of millions of abortions performed in the United States since the decision in Roe v. Wade is inevitably going to generate alarm and horror, with talk about bloodbaths and Holocaust comparisons.

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The Fishy Science Behind Mutant Salmon

    Americans have been eating genetically modified corn, soybeans, and other crops for nearly two decades. But thanks to the Food and Drug Administration, now you might find a salmon with genes spliced from two other fish species on your plate.

    It’s the first time the FDA has ever approved the sale of a genetically modified animal.

    Scientists created this creature by inserting genes from one species of salmon and an eel-like fish called an ocean pout into the DNA of an Atlantic salmon. The goal was to produce a salmon that grows faster, to make farming the fish more efficient.

    But they weren’t done after injecting the extra genes.

    After adding the foreign genes to salmon eggs, they fertilized the eggs with the irradiated sperm of yet another fish species, the Arctic char. Then they pressure-treated the fertilized eggs, ultimately creating fish with two sets of chromosomes from their salmon mothers and none from their Arctic char fathers.

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Ted Cruz is the ultimate Washington insider

    This National Review story about Ted Cruz includes my favorite paragraph from the 2016 Republican presidential nomination cycle so far:

    "[Congressman Tim] Huelskamp, whose office had not responded as of press time, could be a valuable ally for Cruz as he works to consolidate support from the conservative flank of the Republican party. Part of Cruz's pitch to voters is that while he works in Washington, D.C., he remains an outsider. Support from Huelskamp and other members of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has publicly butted heads with Republican leadership and claims some credit for Speaker John Boehner's resignation earlier this year, would bolster that portrayal."

    Got that? To strengthen the case that he's a Washington "outsider," Cruz needs to win support from members of Congress - - members who were (supposedly) able to boot a sitting speaker of the House.

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Ted Cruz has the mainstream in his sights

    Want to know how optimistic Senator Ted Cruz is feeling right now? He's pivoting away from the primary to the general election two months before the first Republican caucuses. For a guy who not long ago seemed to be angling for table scraps from Donald Trump, that's an impressive display of confidence.

    Cruz isn't actually getting ahead of himself; he's getting in position. From shutting down the government just because to frying "machine-gun bacon" to appeal to guys who treat military- grade weaponry as toys, Cruz has gone to great lengths to own the persona of right-wing ideologue. Having invested much in the endeavor, and having witnessed his reward in the form of rising poll numbers in Iowa, he won't abandon his sunk costs.

    The nature of right-wing politics means he won't necessarily have to; Cruz may be able to maintain his fringe bona fides largely through affect. This week, speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Cruz cited a "simple and undeniable fact: The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats." For bonus points, Cruz added: "The media doesn't report that."

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On Guns, We’re Not Even Trying

    Another day, another ghastly shooting in America.

    So far this year, the United States has averaged more than one mass shooting a day, according to the ShootingTracker website, counting cases of four or more people shot. And now we have the attack Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, that killed at least 14 people

    It’s too soon to know exactly what happened in San Bernardino, but just in the last four years, more people have died in the United States from guns (including suicides and accidents) than Americans have died in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined. When one person dies in America every 16 minutes from a gun, we urgently need to talk about remedies.

    Democrats, including President Barack Obama, emphasize the need to address America’s problems with guns. Republicans talk about the need to address mental health. Both are right.

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