Archive

June 26th, 2016

What the Russian hackers who attacked the DNC don't get about 'oppo research'

    Last week, The Washington Post broke the news that for the better part of the past year, Russian hackers have been in and out of the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, targeting the opposition research that the party has developed to use against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    Why were Russians looking in the DNC's oppo files, and did they get what they were looking for? Probably not the 211-page document most of the media has been digging though since Gawker published it on Wednesday. That looks like a traditional and fairly basic "book" that political researchers like me prepare for non-researchers. (And judging by the relatively slim length and December date, it's probably a preliminary glance.) It gives campaign leaders a window into what public information is out there and what themes and narratives have been out on Trump before. It's the CliffsNotes to the research, not the research itself. Most likely, what the Russians were after is something much bigger. But what they did find was a lot of information they could have gotten elsewhere in the public domain, legally.

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Welcome to Half Dome, Sponsored by Nike

    Imagine painstakingly making up your way up the cables of Yosemite National Park’s famous Half Dome peak — only to see swooshes and slogans encouraging you to “Just Do It.”

    “Welcome to Half Dome,” a gleaming banner greets you, “sponsored by Nike.”

    Unfortunately, it’s a possibility. As the coverage swells over Barack and Michelle Obama’s recent visit to Yosemite and Carlsbad Caverns, Americans are learning that national parks will now start selling naming rights.

    The parks are facing a hefty budget shortfall, so they’re turning to corporations — who are apparently more generous with cash than the current Congress.

    Truly, this is a bummer.

    We go to national parks to escape the commercialism of modern life. Nothing is more spectacular than enjoying the beauty of a waterfall or the sunset over the mountains, or the magnificence of wild grizzly bears, wolves, and bison that one rarely sees outside of a national park.

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June 25th

Hillary Gossip Redux

    I am so excited to tell you that we’re returning to the question of whether or not Hillary Clinton threw a vase at her husband in the White House.

    Really, this one hasn’t come up for about 20 years. But Gary Byrne says he saw the pieces! In a box! Byrne is a former Secret Service officer who has written a tell-all book, “Crisis of Character,” about the (horrible/embarrassing/appalling) things he purportedly witnessed during the Bill Clinton presidency.

    It’s coming out next week to what’s supposed to be a big rollout in the conservative media. Donald Trump has been twittering about it, and he quoted from it in his speech Wednesday. (That was the speech in which the new, measured Trump said Clinton “may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” whose “decisions spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched.”)

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Trumponomics is scarier when you actually study it

    Hillary Clinton is trying to scare the heck out of voters who think Donald Trump's business record qualifies him to be president. He has no real economic strategy beyond over-the-top promises, she said on Tuesday, and the few ideas he offers would cause millions of Americans to lose their jobs. "Just like he shouldn't have his finger on the button, he shouldn't have his hands on our economy," Clinton said.

    Well, OK, what did you expect her to say? There's a campaign going on! What happens when you ask some politically neutral economists to look at the U.S. economy under a President Trump? You get something titled "Macroeconomic Consequences of Mr. Trump's Economic Policies." Laid side-by-side with Clinton's partisan assessment, it's even scarier.

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Trump squanders the post-primary breathing spell

    In presidential election years, the time between the state party primaries and the national political conventions usually is an opportunity for the presumptive nominees to take stock and gear up for the fall campaign. But so far Donald Trump has squandered the interlude with antics and remarks that can only be described as thoroughly self-destructive.

    Not only has he continued insulting his political foes in the Democratic Party and disparaged a federal judge presiding over a civil suit against his defunct Trump University. He has also turned on fellow Republicans who dare to show reluctance to accept his capture of the Republican presidential nomination and the party itself.

    Trump has mocked intraparty chatter about trying to change rules at the national convention next month to free delegates from pledges to support him on the first ballot, saying he will in the nomination with or without them.

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There’s No More Denying It: Trump Is Openly Racist

    This year’s freakish presidential election has now devolved into an ethnic brouhaha between two foreigners: A Mexican and a German.

    The “Mexican” is Gonzalo Curiel, a U.S. federal judge who was born, raised, and educated in Indiana. The “German” is Donald Drumpf — also known as Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president.

    Drumpf has two fraud cases against him in Judge Curiel’s court, leading the GOP standard bearer to become unhinged over the idea that a “foreigner” would be allowed to pass judgment on an upstanding American citizen like him.

    “He’s a Mexican,” The Donald has complained about the jurist — who happens to be a full-blooded American citizen.

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The Brits have no good options on Europe vote

    British voters face a momentous choice on Thursday, when they'll vote on whether to remain in the European Union. A decision to leave might badly hurt the economy, which relies on Europe for trade and investment -- but the repercussions would go wider than that.

    The larger European project would also be in danger. An enterprise that secured peace on the continent after World War II, moved hundreds of millions of people toward greater prosperity, and helped entrench liberal democracy in Eastern Europe after the Soviet collapse would be gravely damaged.

    The risks are huge -- yet recent polls show the Leave campaign is leading. Europe's governments are waking up to the fact that "Brexit" might actually happen.

    Britain faces an unsolvable dilemma. Its economic interests tell it to stay, especially since the U.K. has negotiated an advantageous status within the union: full access to Europe's integrated markets, but without the single European currency, which has proved so detrimental to the economies of many other EU members.

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RIP, Jo Cox. May Britain Remember Your Wisdom.

    As I listen to the stormy debates here in the run-up to Thursday’s vote on whether Britain should exit the European Union, my thoughts keep drifting to my friend Jo Cox, a member of Parliament assassinated last week.

    Jo was a leader who fought for genocide victims in Darfur, for survivors of human trafficking, for women’s health, for Syrian refugees and, yes, for remaining in the European Union. She was also a proud mom of two small children: When she was pregnant, she used to sign her emails “Jo (and very large bump).”

    Jo’s dedication to the voiceless may have cost her her life. At least one witness said that the man who stabbed and shot Jo shouted “Britain first!” and when he was asked to say his name at a court hearing he responded, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

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Paul Ryan unveils plan to set fire to the American health-care system

    For six years, Republicans in Congress have promised that very, very soon they'd release their plan to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. Just you wait, they said back in 2010, when we put out our plan America will see how terrific our health-care ideas are. They also said that in 2011 - the plan was coming, hold on! They said that in 2012 - any day now, here it comes! They said that in 2013, and 2014 and 2015 - just give us a few more weeks, and you'll have it! Well, now it's 2016, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Wednesday released something that sort of looks like a "plan" if you just focus on the middle distance and take it in through your peripheral vision.

    If you want to read Ryan's plan, here's an executive summary, and here's the somewhat longer version. It's light on details - such as how much it would cost and how many people would lose their coverage because of it - which isn't all that surprising, given that the more specific you get, the more problematic things become. But it still illustrates the dilemmas Republicans face on this issue and their inability to solve them.

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Lending to the poor didn't cause subprime crisis

    Two of Donald Trump's economic advisers, Lawrence Kudlow and Stephen Moore, have revived an idea about the source of the financial crisis that really should have been put to rest long ago.

    In a column published and rebroadcast by many politically sympathetic sites, they lay the blame for the credit crisis and Great Recession on the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1977 law designed in part to prevent banks from engaging in a racially discriminatory lending practice known as redlining. The reality is, of course, that the CRA wasn't a factor in the crisis.

    What's so wonderful about their article, which is an attempted take down of the Clintons, is that they miss the very obvious ways Bill Clinton's administration did contribute to the financial crisis. But doing that would have been at odds with their anti-regulatory philosophy.

    Here's the heart of the Kudlow and Moore case:

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