Archive

October 27th, 2015

Rubio attempts an immigration magic trick

    Marco Rubio is a crafty, talented 44- year-old politician who is in serious danger of splitting his pants. More than anyone else in the Republican presidential primary, Rubio is trying to straddle his party's most visible divide, presenting himself as a solid choice for the corporate elite and as a tribune of the (very angry) people who don't have much use for corporate elitists. As a Fortune columnist wrote, Rubio has "a chameleon-like ability to sound like an outsider even when his policy positions match those of the party establishment."

    The Florida senator has yet to break through to the top tier of candidates. Both the RealClearPolitics and Huffpollster polling averages show Rubio in third place nationally, but at around 9 percent of the primary vote he is closer to cellar dwellers Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham than he is to soaring novices Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

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Public college should be free

    In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes became the first president to make a strong case for universally available public education. "Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education," he said in his inaugural address, adding that "liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools." Hayes, a Republican, didn't worry that some poor kid might benefit from access to "free stuff," nor did he believe that the children of wealthy elites should be excluded from the universal nature of the program. For him, education was the basis for full economic and political participation, and full participation was the basis for all prosperity. An education should be available to all regardless of anyone's station.

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Orchestra concerts aren't patriotic. Stop opening them with the national anthem.

    Since as early as World War II, American orchestras traditionally have performed the national anthem at the first concert of the season. "The Star-Spangled Banner" has become routine during holiday and outdoor performances, as well. But in the blaze of patriotism that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some orchestras began playing the anthem at every concert, and 14 years later, a few are still clinging to that ritual.

    It's an odd, and frankly inappropriate, custom. In a performance that celebrates global artistry, this is no place for perfunctory patriotism. The pomp and circumstance of a national anthem mercilessly clashes with the complex creativity of classical composers.

    The practice recently stirred controversy in Fort Worth. There, at each performance of the local orchestra, an opening drumroll cues a spotlight on an American flag on the Bass Performance Hall stage. The audience rises, and row upon row of patrons - hands earnestly over hearts - belts out Francis Scott Key's vision of the 1814 battle of Fort Henry. Rousing vocalism suggests an audience filled with serious church choir members.

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Ladies, repeat after Paul Ryan . . .

    Women, take heed.

    Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman making a run for the House speaker's chair,is driving a hard bargain. He wants the Hatfields and McCoys within his party to put down their arms and unite behind him. He wants to make it harder for his colleagues to fire him.

    And he wants to get home for dinner.

    "I cannot and will not give up my family time," he announced as a condition of his candidacy.

    Women: Take that sentence. When you're alone, read it out loud to yourself a couple of times. Get comfortable with it. Memorize it. Learn to say it with conviction. And then go out and use it.

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Keynes Comes to Canada

    Canada has a reputation for dullness. Back in the 1980s, The New Republic famously declared “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative” the world’s most boring headline. Yet when it comes to economic policy the reputation is undeserved: Canada has surprisingly often been the place where the future happens first.

    And it’s happening again. On Monday, Canadian voters swept the ruling Conservatives out of power, delivering a stunning victory to the center-left Liberals. And while there are many interesting things about the Liberal platform, what strikes me most is its clear rejection of the deficit-obsessed austerity orthodoxy that has dominated political discourse across the Western world. The Liberals ran on a frankly, openly Keynesian vision, and won big.

    Before I get into the implications, let’s talk about Canada’s long history of quiet economic unorthodoxy, especially on currency policy.

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Joe Biden ends the speculation

    You think there's a lot of excitement upon the election of a new pope, as the crowd of faithful in St. Peter's Square look for white smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel? That's nothing compared to the months of absolute media frenzy surrounding every word, every move, every phone call, every meal, every facial tick of Vice President Joe Biden: What did it mean? Was he close? When would he decide? Was he going to run for president in 2016?

    We members of the White House Press Corps divined the answer even before he announced it to the world. Notice that the vice president was about to make a statement at the White House, in the Rose Garden, with President Obama at his side, could mean only one thing: He wasn't running. That was not the place to launch a campaign. That was the place to end a glorious political career.

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Black Lives Matter should also take on 'black-on-black crime'

    Black Lives Matter has done the nation a service by forcing Americans to reckon with a horrifying spate of police killings of unarmed African Americans. Without the movement, the names Eric Garner and Walter Scott wouldn't resonate. Nor would Sandra Bland, who died in police custody and whose name was invoked during the most recent presidential debate. Despite this, Black Lives Matter has been severely taken to task, if not outright scorned, for its focus on police killings when, as its critics readily note, people in black neighborhoods are often at much more danger of being killed by other black people.

    Why, they ask, hasn't the Black Lives Matter movement been more concerned with - in wording sometimes fraught with condescension - "black-on-black crime?"

    It's a criticism typically associated with the political right, frequently thought (and frankly, frequently meant) to suggest that what black people need is to simply comport themselves differently, rather than endlessly complain about the depredations of (presumably) white police. However, even without such acrid, tribalist intent, it's possible to think BLM's mission is currently incomplete.

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Happy Birthday, Hillary

    Monday is Hillary Clinton’s birthday. Don’t bother sending a gift. This week has given her all the presents she needs.

    What a time she’s been having — the debate, Joe Biden’s non-candidacy announcement and then the total meltdown of the Benghazi Committee. It’s not often these days that a special House investigatory committee makes Democrats sing, but there you are.

    In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Steve Israel claimed Thursday’s marathon inquisition had been like an “I Love Lucy” episode — “same plot, same characters, same script and nothing new.” This seems totally unfair to Lucy. Remember the one with the candy conveyor belt? Vitameatavegamin? How many of you think that 63 years from now, anyone will be saying: “Remember the question about Sidney Blumenthal’s email?”

    Heck of a run for Clinton. And to top everything else off, Lincoln Chafee withdrew from the president’s race, leaving the field wide open for her to grab that metrics issue and run with it.

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October 26th

Republicans won't buck history to save Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico is imploding. The administration of President Barack Obama says that only swift congressional action can avert a string of impending defaults on $73 billion in debt that could lead to a "humanitarian crisis."

    Don't hold your breath. The Republicans who control Congress belong to a party that has shown little interest in the fate of Puerto Rico. Recently or ever.

    Start with the attendance at Thursday's hearing on Puerto Rico by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. (Aficionados may remember it as the erstwhile Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, hence the inclusion of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories in its bailiwick.)

    Although six of 10 Democratic senators showed up, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the lone wingman I saw for Republican chair Lisa Murkowski was Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming. The other 10 Republicans looked to be AWOL.

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Paul Ryan is doomed, too

    A week ago, Paul Ryan looked doomed. Now, he looks really, truly doomed.

    The Wisconsin Republican, who achieved national prominence as Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012, seems more likely than ever to become the next speaker of the House. A devout man of faith, he will need your prayers.

    When incumbent John Boehner announced his resignation, Ryan made clear he did not want the job. Who on earth would? Boehner spent his whole tenure trying -- and failing -- to corral ultraconservative Republicans into a working majority.

     GOP victories in the 2010 midterm election had swept into office a group of nihilistic renegades who believe the way to change Washington is to blow it up.

    Now calling themselves the Freedom Caucus, these 40 or so legislative bomb-throwers insisted on fighting battles they had no chance of winning and repeatedly took the country to the brink of calamity.

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