Archive

May 6th, 2016

The unification of the GOP around Trump has begun

    As everyone knows, the GOP is a party at war with itself, riven by resentments and anger, destined to be divided all the way to November. Right? Well maybe not so much. The resentments and anger are still there, and it surely is an unhappy band of allies.

    But the unification of the Republican Party around Donald Trump has begun.

    If Trump wins Indiana as expected today, pretty much everyone will declare the primary campaign over, and the question of whether to unite around Trump or take a noble stand against him will become less abstract and more immediate for Republicans than it has been up until now. Neither path is an easy one, but for most people, whether elected officials, party insiders, or conservative commentators, it makes more sense to get behind Trump, even if you've been opposed to him until now.

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Delaying execution isn't cruel and unusual

    Justice Stephen Breyer is against the death penalty -- but not because it's morally wrong. He briefly reiterated his arguments Monday when dissenting from the court's refusal to hear a California death row inmate's case.

    First, he said the death penalty may be unconstitutional in California because it's applied arbitrarily and unreliably. Those are plausible and unremarkable arguments. They no doubt appeal to the technician in Breyer, who believes that government should do things pragmatically and correctly.

    But his third reason was most striking. Following a view he has held since the 1990s, Breyer argued that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it takes too long for condemned inmates to be put to death.

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Cruz’s Bitter End

    If you listened much to Ted Cruz over these last furious months, you heard him talk frequently about “the abyss,” as in what this country was teetering on the edge of. If you listened to him over these last furious hours, you heard him mention the “yawning cavern of insecurity” that motivates Donald Trump and other bullies.

    Cruz should take up spelunking. He’s obviously fascinated by unfathomable depths, and with his loss in Indiana on Tuesday, his candidacy for the presidency is finished, giving him a whole lot of extra time. A new hobby is definitely in order.

    As we bid Cruz adieu, we should give him his due: He took a mien spectacularly ill suited to the art of seducing voters about as far as it could go. He outlasted the likes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. He outperformed Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008.

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Bobby Knight: Donald Trump's spirit animal

    Indiana is a test Tuesday for two men whose charm offensive has been light on "charm," heavy on "offensive": Donald Trump and Bobby Knight, a narcissistic bully whom Trump brought back to the state to campaign for him.

    If Trump wins the Hoosier State, the Republican presidential campaign is over; he'll be the nominee. Knight, the former Indiana basketball coach who was fired in 2000 after abusing students and players, would see it as a vindication, proof of his continuing popularity in Indiana.

    I couldn't stop thinking about Trump and Knight this weekend as I read John Feinstein's compelling book about college basketball, "The Legends Club."

    Feinstein, one of America's best and most prolific sports journalists, writes about the three coaches who dominated the crazed North Carolina scene in the 1980s: the University of North Carolina's Dean Smith, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina State's Jim Valvano.

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Time for candidates to begin vetting running mates

    Weeks before Sen. Ted Cruz chose former business executive Carly Fiorina as his running mate in his desperate stop-Trump effort, the Bipartisan Policy Center, an eclectic group of political operatives experienced in making the choice, issued a 16-page report urging prospective presidential nominees to start early in vetting prospects.

    The report says the search should allow eight weeks for a thorough examination of the records and behavior of would-be veeps. The caution rightly recognizes that the choice is the first and most important decision a presidential nominee faces.

    Cruz one-upped this recommendation by selecting Fiorina well before getting the Republican presidential nomination himself, already an unlikely prospect. He also ignored the report's counsel that a prospective veep's qualifications to run the country should guide the choice, not political considerations to enhance one's nomination or election prospects.

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The TPP would let America, not China, lead the way on global trade

    Over the past six years, America's businesses have created more than 14 million new jobs. To keep this progress going, we need to pursue every avenue of economic growth. Today, some of our greatest economic opportunities abroad are in the Asia-Pacific region, which is on its way to becoming the most populous and lucrative market on the planet. Increasing trade in this area of the world would be a boon to American businesses and American workers, and it would give us a leg up on our economic competitors, including one we hear a lot about on the campaign trail these days: China.

    Of course, China's greatest economic opportunities also lie in its own neighborhood, which is why China is not wasting any time. As we speak, China is negotiating a trade deal that would carve up some of the fastest-growing markets in the world at our expense, putting American jobs, businesses and goods at risk.

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Marijuana laws — you've got to be joking

    Eeyore’s Birthday Party has come and gone in Austin again without scads of arrests. This is testament once again to the fact that our nation’s marijuana laws are silly.

    Not just silly. Sillier than your Aunt Vidalia on the wacky weed.

    If marijuana laws were serious, the nation’s jails this week would teem with newly incarcerated humanity. Oh, the humanity – and ambient smoke – since another 4/20, the day when millions of Americans annually flaunt the ever-absurdity of marijuana prohibition.

    We’re not sure why 4/20 became a day of peaceful pothead disobedience. Peaceful -- well, there’s an understatement.

    Not sure about the significance of Eeyore’s birthday in Austin, either. Just call it pretext for April’s inhale-abration to continue.

    Oh, and it’s only 344 days until April 14 and Austin’s next Marley Fest – peace, love, reggae, and nobody getting arrested for doing something for which nobody ever should.

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House Republican proposal would make it harder for poor schools to feed their students

    Schools are supposed to help kids build character, socialize, and learn critical thinking and academic content. But we also ask schools to do a lot more: to offer extracurricular activities, serve as community centers and feed our children. Particularly in low-income areas, where kids come to school with a variety of disadvantages, the successful completion of these varied tasks can require Herculean efforts.

    That's why we should celebrate initiatives that ease the burden on low-income schools. The Community Eligibility Provision, enacted in 2010, does just that; the program simplifies the school meal process and helps ensure that kids have something to eat during the school day, all at very little cost.

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The Diabetic Economy

    Things are terrible here in Portugal, but not quite as terrible as they were a couple of years ago. The same thing can be said about the European economy as a whole. That is, I guess, the good news.

    The bad news is that eight years after what was supposed to be a temporary financial crisis, economic weakness just goes on and on, with no end in sight. And that’s something that should worry everyone, in Europe and beyond.

    First, the positives: the euro area — the group of 19 countries that have adopted a common currency — posted decent growth in the first quarter. In fact, for once it was better than growth in the U.S.

    Europe’s economy is, finally, slightly bigger than it was before the financial crisis, and unemployment has come down from more than 12 percent in 2013 to a bit over 10 percent.

    But it’s telling that this is what passes for good news. We complain, rightly, about the slow pace of U.S. recovery — but our economy is already 10 percent bigger than it was pre-crisis, while our unemployment rate is back under 5 percent.

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May 5th

Why we fear spiders more than climate change

    People tend to fear spiders and snakes more than they do electrical sockets or fireworks, even though the latter present a far greater danger. This might help explain why humans have such a hard time seeing the threat of climate change.

    Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior can be understood only by studying our ancient ancestors. Through 99 percent of human history, they lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers, with brains evolved to handle specific tasks, such as recognizing quickly a poisonous reptile or the emotions and intentions betrayed by facial expressions. The kind of rational thinking needed to weigh payoffs far in the future developed only recently, in the last 1 percent of our existence.

    QuickTake Climate Change

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