Archive

October 6th, 2016

The world is pulling for Clinton

    For a country supposedly in decline, the United States is getting a lot of attention these days. Millions of people around the world, not counting 84 million in the United States, were glued to screens watching the Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump bout on Monday. Vladimir Putin is the new czar of Russia, and Xi Jinping the emperor of China. But who remembers Russia's Duma elections? Hint: They were held on Sept. 18, and to nobody's surprise, Putin won big. Does anybody recall when Xi moved to the head of the Chinese working class? In 2013.

    Go through a pile of European newspapers, and you'll see the U.S. electoral battle unfolding on Page 1. Same for the lead stories on TV. Russia is outmaneuvering the United States in Syria, China is expanding in the Western Pacific. But Clinton and Trump get the ratings - worldwide.

    Why? First, whatever Trump spouts about has-been America, the United States remains the one and only global power - No. 1 in terms of economic, military and cultural clout. What it does, and what it doesn't do, affects the entire world. Hence, the American president is "our" president, too.

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The most shocking part of Donald Trump's tax records isn't the $916 million loss everyone's talking about

    Despite what Donald Trump says, we really can learn a lot from his tax returns - even from the partial ones made public by The New York Times.

    The major takeaway from the three pages of Trump's 1995 returns that the Times made public is that Trump is right when he says the system is rigged. What he doesn't say is that it's rigged in his favor, and in the favor of people like him - and against regular people, those of us who earn money, pay income tax on it, and financially support the country in which we live.

    To keep things relatively simple, I'm telling you what I see in Trump's returns, based on my decades of experience parsing financial filings. I will try not to get bogged down in numbers and technicalities.

    Sure, the $900 million-plus of losses reported by the New York Times - losses that could be used to offset income for a total of 18 years - are totally shocking. Legal, yes. But shocking.

    But there's something I consider even more shocking - although it involves a much smaller number.

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Biden ponders a bright post-administration future

    Vice President Joe Biden is in a comfortable place; he's also on fire.

    But he's on fire about the presidential election.

    "My name is Joe Biden, and I work for Hillary Clinton," he told a Philadelphia rally last week, referring to a politician he hasn't been especially close to and considered running against.

    As with most everything Biden, this is authentic, and outweighs any worry about eroding the Obama administration legacy. He genuinely believes Donald Trump is unqualified to be commander-in-chief and this, coming from the man who delivered the eulogy at the funeral of the conservative Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, is an unusual expression of contempt.

    "This guy's lack of any sensibility really offends me," he says of the Republican nominee during a long interview aboard Air Force Two that covered politics, his vice presidency and the future.

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It's all about the heart, not the head, for the average Trump supporter

    Explaining Donald Trump's appeal sits at the heart of understanding not only this election but, more broadly, the electorate that has produced this most unlikely of presidential candidates.

    The easy answer - and the one favored by many Democrats - is racism. Racial animus, they argue, is the thread that ties all of Trump's support together. I don't buy that. Sure, there is an element of racially coded language employed by Trump, and, without doubt, there are avowed racists who support him. But is everyone who supports Trump a racist? I find that very hard to believe.

    On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday, Chris Matthews gave the best explanation of what's behind Trump's appeal that I've heard in this entire election.

    Here's the key bit:

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When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 7

    Let me raise an uncomfortable topic: We all know that in some fundamental way, this presidential campaign is in part about race.

    Supporters of Donald Trump are more likely than other voters to tell pollsters that blacks are “lazy,” “violent” and “unintelligent.” Four out of five Trump backers say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks. And only 39 percent of Trump supporters believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

    Polling and analysis by The Economist found that Trump is propelled in part by a wave of white “racial resentment” that blacks are coddled whiners, protected by a stifling political correctness.

    As for Trump himself, we shouldn’t lightly call anyone a racist, but he has compiled such a comprehensive record of discrimination and bigotry over 45 years that I don’t know what else to call him.

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Trump’s Pathetic Fraternity

    Over decades of writing about politics, I’ve crossed paths with many candidates and office holders who impressed me, but few who blew me away.

    Chris Christie blew me away. This was 3 1/2 years ago, well before all the trouble. The New Jersey governor was addressing a group of education reformers. And he did what looks easy until you try it yourself: talked without notes, slogans, stammers or any other clumsiness for close to a half-hour. It was too specific a speech to be one that he’d pulled from memory; he was thinking on his feet, in shapely paragraphs. He radiated conviction. He oozed authority.

    What in God’s name happened to him? To his potential? Yes, yes, I know: the George Washington Bridge happened. And the downgrade of New Jersey’s credit rating happened — again and again and again.

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October 5th

Sept. 11 families may not be able to sue after all

    The fate of the Sept. 11 families' lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may depend on the Partridge family. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, enacted by Congress on Thursday over President Barack Obama's veto, is supposed to let the suit go forward. But for the federal courts to have legal authority, the families will most likely have to show that the Sept. 11 attacks were "effects" of actions taken by the Saudi government. And the leading U.S. Supreme Court case governing what counts as effects involved the actress Shirley Jones, known for her role as Shirley Partridge in the 1970s show "The Partridge Family." Jones sued a writer and editor for the National Enquirer where she lived in California over a libelous article that was written in Florida.

    The legal issues are technical, but they're important for whether the act is a real threat to Saudi Arabia or merely an empty symbolic gesture by Congress. The Saudis clearly think the threat is meaningful. And the president argued in vetoing the law that it would set a bad precedent for other countries that want to allow suits against the U.S. government. But none of this will matter much if there's a loophole that ensures the Sept. 11 suit can't go forward.

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My grandfather and the First Amendment

    "All things considered, it would seem like a good idea to write about my dog," wrote James T. Neal.

    It was Tuesday, July 20, 1965. Neal was editor of the Noblesville Daily Ledger, a small Indiana newspaper. The day before, he had been arrested and charged with contempt of court for a column he had written criticizing a judge's new policy to crack down on traffic violations.

    The case made local, then national headlines: "Editor at Noblesville Raps Judge; Arrested" (Rushville Daily Republican of Rushville, Ind.); "Charge of Contempt Filed Against Editor" (Indianapolis Star); "Irked Jurist Has Editor Arrested" (The News-Palladium of Benton Harbor, Michigan).

    Neal had not expected to make national news defending freedom of the press. He had not expected his "County Line" column to make news of any kind. As he told the Kokomo Morning Times, "I write a 700-word piece for the County Line almost daily so I never know what to expect from each paragraph."

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Girl Talk at Trump Tower

    Let’s stop being so hard on Donald Trump.

    He has done us an enormous public service.

    After this down-and-dirty battle of the sexes, we will never look at gender in politics the same way.

    For centuries, women were seen as unfit to hold public office. Ambition, power and business were the province of men. Unlike gossipy feminine chatter in the parlor, manly discourse was considered impersonal, unemotional, forthright and reasonable.

    Every minute of every day, Trump debunks that old “science” when he shows that the gossipy, backbiting, scolding, mercurial, overly emotional, shrewish, menopausal one in this race is not the woman.

    Trump is surrounded by a bitchy sewing circle of overweight men who are overwrought at the prospect of a distaff Clinton presidency.

    Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Roger Ailes and Rudy Giuliani are the Really Desperate Housewives of Trumpworld. They are so shrill that Trump sometimes needs to remind them that he’s the Queen Bee.

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A Trump victory may lead to reconstruction of the racist past

    How about we hold off on dancing in the end zone in celebration of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture? And let's quit wasting time in pursuit of black celebrityhood. What about the danger staring us in the face?

    The prospect of a Donald Trump White House presents African-Americans with the most consequential presidential election since the 1876 race between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. That 19th-century contest ultimately derailed efforts to extend the full rights and privileges of citizenship to freed African-Americans. Unless folks of color get off our duffs, history may well repeat itself.

    To recall, the 1876 election wound up in an electoral-college dispute over ballot returns from three Southern states under Reconstruction control. To break the stalemate, Republican surrogates of Hayes met with a delegation of Southern Democrats to hammer out a deal: The Southerners would not stand in the way of a Hayes victory if Hayes agreed to withdraw all federal troops from the South, thus leaving former slaves unprotected.

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