Archive

March 6th, 2016

Al Gore Moves to the Bright Side

    Remember An Inconvenient Truth?

    In addition to proving that people will pay good money to watch a movie costarring Al Gore and a PowerPoint presentation, that Oscar-winning documentary elevated climate change to an issue that everyone should fret about.

    In the decade since the movie’s release, Gore’s presentation has grown flashier — and he’s changed, too.

    His mild Tennessee accent hasn’t faded, and he doesn’t look older. But the former vice president has cheered up. He’s more confident in humanity’s potential to stop cooking the planet.

    “We are going to win this,” he says in his latest Ted Talk. “The only question is how long will it take to get there.”

    Why is he so optimistic?

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After Super Tuesday, Bracing for a President Trump

    The general election campaign may have already begun.

    In the aftermath of Super Tuesday election results, betting markets show Hillary Clinton with more than a 90 percent chance of becoming the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump with at least a 75 percent chance of emerging as the Republican nominee.

    This is the most astonishing presidential election since at least 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. The Republican front-runner is reviled not only by Democrats, but also by many prominent Republicans, and has less government experience than any president in history.

    Only two presidents — William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover — lacked background in major elective office or in the military, and both had held Cabinet posts. In short, a Trump presidency would be unprecedented not only for his bizarre policy positions and propensity to insult women and minorities, but also because of his staggering lack of relevant experience or knowledge.

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2 views of political landscape after Super Tuesday

    Two Bloomberg View columnists, Francis Wilkinson and Ramesh Ponnuru, wondered how Super Tuesday would shape the rest of the race. Now they're making sense of the night: who's up and who's down, and what is the path to a Republican nominee other than Donald Trump?

    Ponnuru: It has shaped up to be a big night for Trump, as we expected. He won Alabama and Massachusetts, confirming the breadth of his support that we were discussing earlier today. Ted Cruz won Texas and can therefore stay in the race, and won Oklahoma too. Cruz can also say that Marco Rubio has shown scant ability to win and should drop out in his favor.

    Wilkinson: Is that scent in the air the smell of GOP leaders deciding Cruz is not such a bad guy? In some ways, I guess this is a better outcome for them than a Trump sweep. But it does, as you say, put pressure on Rubio. Cruz has won three states, including the biggest so far -- Texas. Rubio keeps coming up short. The only clarity tonight's results provide is that Trump is still very much the front-runner for the nomination, and his rivals are falling short. Do you think that dynamic is changeable?

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Why Warren Buffett doesn't think climate change is his problem

    The Nebraska Peace Foundation is an organization in Lincoln that fights against climate change, racism, and nuclear weapons. It also owns one share of Berkshire-Hathaway Class A Common Stock. Recently, the group says it filed a shareholder resolution that would make the company's insurance division report on how it addresses climate change risk.

    Warren Buffett responded in his annual letter, which was released over the past weekend. (The company didn't immediately comment on NPF taking credit for raising the issue.) Buffett's eight-paragraph, nearly 600-word position statement on climate change simultaneously achieved two things: It provided a simple and direct explanation of the dangers of climate change. It also showed how difficult it is for business and government to address the problem.

    Here are five sections of the letter that tell the big story:

1) Buffett has a mixed portfolio when it comes to climate change

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Whereas the Supreme Court rules for stuffy language

    Should laws be understood based on the way people speak? Or should they be interpreted according to technical rules of statutory construction, so that law becomes a specialized language game all its own? In a decision issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 6-2, for the second option. The case, Lockhart v. U.S., promises to be a classic. The court's breakdown was about jurisprudence, not partisan ideology. And the issue was, remarkably enough, dangling modifiers.

    Rather than reminding you what a dangling modifier is and why you should despise it, let me give you an example from the dissent, by Justice Elena Kagan. "Imagine a friend told you that she hoped to meet 'an actor, director, or producer involved with the new "Star Wars" movie,' " Kagan wrote. The dangling modifier is the phrase "involved with the new 'Star Wars' movie."

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The GOP's schoolyard scuffle

    The race for the Republican presidential nomination couldn't possibly get any more bizarre, appalling, puerile, embarrassing, self-destructive or --

    Hold on, this just in: It did.

    When have we ever seen such a shameful and low-minded spectacle? Comparison to the seriousness and decorum of an elementary-school playground is an insult to second-graders. What this campaign needs is a timeout chair, or perhaps a stout wooden ruler for rapping knuckles.

    I suppose we have to begin with Donald Trump's slowness in rejecting praise from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who announced he will vote for Trump in a rambling, hate-filled Facebook post on Friday that denounced "the Jewish tribalist takeover of our media" and "the crimes [of] Jewish predator banks."

    Trump finally disavowed Duke late Sunday, but only after a day of hemming and hawing. He later claimed that he hadn't understood the original question, blaming CNN for providing him with an allegedly faulty earpiece.

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Technology has changed the patent world

    Apple just suffered an important legal defeat to Samsung in its battle over patents. This is good because Apple's claims were frivolous; its patents were questionable; and its use of litigation to hold back a competitor set another wrong precedent for the industry. Because of these patent wars and patent trolls, technology companies are divesting huge resources to defend themselves rather than advancing their innovations. This is the equivalent of nuclear arms race and is a lose-lose situation.

    Apple and Samsung have been at war over patents for many years. In the last round in 2014, a jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $119.6 million in damages for infringing on three Apple patents. These weren't game changing innovations; they were simple and common smartphone features. One patent described how to turn a phone number into a link that could be clicked on, another protected the "slide to unlock" feature, and another was a slightly different way of autocorrecting spellings.

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Some ex-offenders now have the chance to vote - for 'liars' and 'con men'

    For ex-offenders who have successfully fought to have their voting rights restored in recent months, the presidential primaries were the first chance to go to the polls in years, even decades. And what a special welcome back it must have been for them to choose from a slate of candidates who have often exhibited the kind of behavior that many were warned about when they were given a second chance.

    One of those who expected to start voting again in the Super Tuesday presidential primary was Je'Marc Morton, a warehouse employee in Williamsburg, Virginia. His voting rights were revoked for seven years after his conviction for grand larceny in 2008. His sentence for the larceny was five years' probation.

    Morton successfully petitioned to get back the right to vote last year. Now he was able to vote in a presidential primary - to choose among candidates variously described by one another as liars, con artists, hypocrites, wackos, frauds, cheats and thieves.

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Rubio may only strengthen Trump by going nuclear

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is finally getting wall-to-wall coverage.

    The debate of Republican candidates last week went his way: He portrayed Donald Trump as a con man who defrauded poor, aspiring students at Trump University, got in that Trump Tower was built with immigrant labor, and was able to needle the Donald for having no idea what he's doing, and repeats simplistic one-liners because he knows nothing about governing. As in no debate before, Rubio showed that the builder uses fake bricks.

    Since then, and with time running short to win something, Rubio is taking the fight to Trump on his preferred terrain of insult politics. At a rally on Sunday in Roanoke, Virginia, Rubio took the low road. Acknowledging that Trump has taken to calling him "Little Marco," Rubio said, "he's like six-two, which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who's five-two."

    He added: "You know what they say about men with small hands." He paused. "You can't trust them."

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Our Politics Aren’t Keeping Up

    When the U.S. military trains fighter pilots, it uses a concept called the OODA loop. It stands for observe, orient, decide, act. The idea is that if your ability to observe, orient, decide and act in a dogfight at 30,000 feet is faster than the other pilot’s, you’ll shoot his plane out of the sky. If the other pilot’s OODA loop is faster, he’ll shoot you out of the sky. For a while now, it’s been obvious that our national OODA loop is broken — and it couldn’t be happening at a worse time.

    Our OODA loop is busted right when the three largest forces on the planet — technology, globalization and climate change — are in simultaneous nonlinear acceleration. Climate change is intensifying. Technology is making everything faster and amplifying every voice. And globalization is making the world more interdependent than ever, so we are impacted by others more than ever.

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