Archive

November 5th, 2015

Partisan Growth Gaps

    Last week The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed article by Carly Fiorina titled “Hillary Clinton Flunks Economics,” ridiculing Clinton’s assertions that the U.S. economy does better under Democrats. “America,” declared Fiorina, “needs someone in the White House who actually knows how the economy works.”

    Well, we can agree on that much.

    Partisan positioning on the economy is actually quite strange. Republicans talk about economic growth all the time. They attack Democrats for “job-killing” government regulations, they promise great things if elected, they predicate their tax plans on the assumption that growth will soar and raise revenues. Democrats are far more cautious. Yet Clinton is completely right about the record: Historically, the economy has indeed done better under Democrats.

    This contrast raises two big questions. First, why has the economy performed better under Democrats? Second, given that record, why are Republicans so much more inclined than Democrats to boast about their ability to deliver growth?

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Gotcha, GOP

    Here we go again with attacks on the “mainstream media” and the invocation of the dreaded “gotcha question” to excuse poor performance and intellectual flat-footedness.

    After being asked at last week’s debate about his ties to the shady nutritional supplement company Mannatech and saying “I didn’t have an involvement with them” and dismissing claims of a connection as “total propaganda,” Ben Carson called Thursday for an overhaul of Republican debate formats.

    “Debates are supposed to be established to help the people get to know the candidate,” Carson said, according to The Washington Post. “What it’s turned into is — gotcha! That’s silly. That’s not helpful to anybody.”

    I think the question was a fair one, and I’m not alone. Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, said Thursday on CNN that the question wasn’t a gotcha one but an “absolutely” fair one.

    And on the credibility of Carson’s denial, PolitiFact ruled:

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November 2nd

Dreading Those Drones

    There’s something very wrong with recreational drones.

    You can see the attraction. They can be extremely easy to fly, and they take cool pictures. The Consumer Electronics Association forecasts about 700,000 will be sold to hobbyists, gift-givers and random shoppers this year, up from 430,000 in 2014 but far fewer than the 1.1 million sales anticipated for 2016. Some are tiny flying toys, weighing less than an ounce. Some weigh more than 50 pounds and still count as “recreational.”

    I think I speak for all of us when I say that we do not want to get in between a child and his ToyJoy F8 Space Trek RC Nano Drone. But it’s absolutely crazy that the bigger ones — the ones capable of flying in the same airspace as a helicopter or dropping a mystery package on a nuclear power plant — aren’t being licensed and strictly regulated.

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Ben Carson Is Inspiring, but Not for President

    Dr. Ben Carson has the most moving personal narrative in modern presidential politics.

    His mother, one of 24 children, had only a third-grade education. She was married at age 13, bore Ben and his brother, and then raised the boys as an impoverished single mother in Detroit.

    As a young boy, Carson was a terrible student. “Most of my classmates thought I was the stupidest person in the world,” he recalls in his book “One Nation.” “They called me ‘Dummy.'”

    But his mother responded by tightly limiting Ben’s television time and requiring the boys to read two books a week from the library, and then submit book reports to her, even though she couldn’t read them.

    Carson evolved into an excellent student but still suffered from an explosive temper. When he was in the ninth grade, he argued with his friend Bob about what radio station to listen to, and, furious, tried to stab Bob in the stomach. Fortunately, the blade broke on Bob’s belt buckle, and Carson had an epiphany that led him to curb his temper.

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Fall of the House of Bush

    Jeb, dragging his wilted exclamation point around, is so boring that it’s hard to focus on the epic nature of his battle.

    Not the battle against Donald Trump, although his beat-down by Trump is garishly entertaining. I’m talking about the Brooks Brothers “Game of Thrones” family tangle.

    As much as Poppy Bush scoffs at “the D-word,” as he calls any reference to dynasty, the Bushes do consider themselves an American royal family. They have always pretty much divided the world into Bushes and the help. The patriarch once sent me a funny satire referring to himself and Barbara as the Old King and Queen, W. as King George of Crawford and Jeb as the Earl of Tallahassee.

    At 91, 41 is living to see Jebbie become president. He is mystified by a world in which Trump, whom he considers a clown, could dethrone the crown prince.

    Jeb said in New Hampshire Poppy is prone to throw his shoe at the TV when Trump comes on. Fortunately, the former president always has very stylish socks.

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McCabe's resume for Richmond is full of the reality of life

    At 4:30 in the afternoon, Jill McCabe's third shift began in a cul-de-sac in suburban Virginia.

    She started her day 12 hours earlier, getting one kid to swim practice before dawn, then getting the other kid to school. After that, she went to work at Inova Loudoun Hospital, where she's an ER doctor and a medical director.

    Exhausted for her yet?

    Just wait until we get to that third shift.

    She's running for office, a Virginia state senate seat that covers parts of affluent Loudoun and Prince William counties in one of the hottest races this election season.

    It's an important race on Tuesday that could tip the political balance of the state senate. And in a state that flips blue-to-red faster than a police squad car light, it's also the warm-up for the quadrennial battle for Virginia to win the White House.

    The nastiness in this race for Virginia's soul has been epic. And, more tellingly, a little sexist.

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Yes, Darth Vader ran for office in Ukraine. Unfortunately, it's no joke.

    Over the past week, as Ukraine held local elections across most of the country, Darth Vader emerged as a direct threat to democracy.

    Darth Mykolaiovych Vader appeared on the ballot for mayor of Odessa , and the Darth Vader bloc ran for seats on councils in the Odessa region. The Sith lord campaigned in costume, often accompanied by stormtroopers on the roof of a van blaring "The Imperial March" and blasting pyrotechnics. Traditional and new media broadcast quirky click-bait stories of a Soviet-era Lenin monument converted into a statue of DarthVader, Darth Vader's election campaign, and the detention of Chewbacca (who was working with Vader).

    But the real story is how the fake Vader represents the actual dark side of Ukrainian contemporary politics: election fraud and manipulation.

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Australia has a greater percentage of foreigners but less xenophobia. What is its secret?

    Why is there no mop-haired demagogue here denouncing immigrants as rapists?

    After all, if America's excuse is anxiety caused by a flood of incoming foreigners, Australia should be twice as anxious. In the United States, 14 percent of the population was born elsewhere, near the record of 15 percent reached a century ago. In Australia, more than one-quarter of the population is foreign-born, and some 46 percent have at least one foreign-born parent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    Yet both main parties, the center-right Liberals and left-leaning Labor, are committed to continued immigration. Politicians who seek to whip up or exploit anti-immigrant prejudice are relegated to the fringe. Is there some secret sauce whose recipe the United States could copy?

    First, a few caveats. One week Down Under does not quite qualify me as a full-fledged Australianist, but it is long enough to learn that this nation of 23 million people is not a race-blind paradise.

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Before the cyber-blackout

    To begin, a conclusion: The Internet, whatever its many virtues, is also a weapon of mass destruction.

    We have been distracted from focusing on that potential by a succession of high-profile cyberattacks, including China vacuuming up more than 22 million federal employee records, North Korea's humiliating shot across the bow of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a barrage of cyberlarceny directed at U.S. banks and businesses, much of which has originated in Russia and Ukraine. Each of these targets was protected by firewalls and other defenses. But the Internet is inherently vulnerable. It was never intended to keep intruders out. It was designed to facilitate the unimpeded exchange of information, giving attackers a built-in advantage over defenders. If that constitutes an ongoing threat to commerce (and it does), it also represents a potentially catastrophic threat to our national security - and not just in the area of intelligence-gathering. The United States' physical infrastructure is vulnerable. Our electric power grids, in particular, are highly susceptible to cyberattacks, the consequences of which would be both devastating and long-lasting.

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Gotcha, GOP

    Here we go again with attacks on the “mainstream media” and the invocation of the dreaded “gotcha question” to excuse poor performance and intellectual flat-footedness.

    After being asked at last week’s debate about his ties to the shady nutritional supplement company Mannatech and saying “I didn’t have an involvement with them” and dismissing claims of a connection as “total propaganda,” Ben Carson called Thursday for an overhaul of Republican debate formats.

    “Debates are supposed to be established to help the people get to know the candidate,” Carson said, according to The Washington Post. “What it’s turned into is — gotcha! That’s silly. That’s not helpful to anybody.”

    I think the question was a fair one, and I’m not alone. Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, said Thursday on CNN that the question wasn’t a gotcha one but an “absolutely” fair one.

    And on the credibility of Carson’s denial, PolitiFact ruled:

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