Archive

March 1st, 2016

Does one city's minimum-wage hike kill jobs in that state?

    In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the nation's first minimum-wage law. It set the wage at $0.25 an hour and covered only a fifth of the workforce. Speaking to the country the night before he signed the bill, Roosevelt told listeners to "not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day" tell them "that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry."

    Last August, almost 80 years later, the city council of Birmingham, Ala., voted 7 to 0 (with one abstention) to become the first city in the Deep South to enact a minimum wage above today's federal level of $7.25. The ordinance planned an increase to $8.50 per hour by July 2016, with a second increase to $10.10 set for July 2017.

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Democrats are the real conservatives of 2016

    As the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders moves into its next phase -- primaries in South Carolina and other Southern states -- the question of who is the more "progressive" candidate still seems to preoccupy many Democrats.

    On the issues, it's beside the point. Clinton and Sanders broadly agree on most things, and when they differ, one or the other may end up further to the left: Sanders in his attacks on Wall Street and call for free college tuition, Clinton in her advocacy of stricter gun laws and pleas for more generous treatment of immigrants.

    But these mappings have lately obscured the more important, if sometimes oversimplified, distinction between the two candidates: their contrasting relation to the politics of the 1960s, in particular the Democrats' tumultuous nomination battle of 1968 that ended with riots on the streets of Chicago.

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Clinton insiders can relax, McAuliffe says

    Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton-family confidante and the governor of Virginia, has a message to his nervous allies in the Hillary Clinton camp: Calm down; the time for panic over Bernie Sanders's surprisingly strong challenge has passed.

    McAuliffe predicted that Clinton will sew up the Democratic nomination in a little over two weeks.

    "By March 15th, there's a real likelihood that we will be able to announce that Senator Sanders statistically cannot win," McAuliffe said in an interview on the "Charlie Rose Thet Week" PBS television program.

    This is predicated on the former secretary of State winning a big victory in South Carolina on Saturday and then sweeping most of 11 contests on March 1, when about 22 percent of the delegates will be chosen.

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Campaigns get good news that it's OK to lie

    Tired of campaign lies and the lying liars who tell them? You'll be sorry to hear that an Ohio law that prohibited false statements about a candidate for office was struck down this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, some 25 years after it was upheld by the same court.

    The decision is probably correct in light of the Supreme Court's expansive new free-speech precedent. But it's worth pausing to note just how far the courts have gone in protecting falsehood.

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A modest plan to save the Supreme Court

    As the U.S. heads for a protracted impasse in the Senate over filling the seat of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, I have reached a reluctant, even tortured conclusion. It is time for everyone, liberals and conservatives, to drink a little bit of poison and support the selection of a new justice who sees the court's role in a far narrower way than anyone currently sitting, whether they're on the left or the right -- someone who will reintroduce a more limited style of decision-making.

    In effect, we need a court more inclined to retreat than advance into political disputes, as was the case in the late 1930's when Justice Owen Roberts, the swing vote at the time, adopted a more accommodating attitude to New Deal legislation. No matter how unpalatable and even unrealistic this idea might at first appear, it is the only logical way out of the increasingly pitched battles about who should sit on the bench. And for that reason, it is overwhelmingly likely to be the eventual outcome.

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Why black voters are in Clinton's corner

    With the Democratic primary in South Carolina upon us, the question isn't whether the presumed firewall of African American voters for Hillary Clinton will hold. I firmly believe that it will. The question is why. Yes, a lot of it has to do with fealty to President Obama. But it also has to do with what Clinton is saying to African Americans and how she says it.

    "Any discussion of the Democratic base must include the acknowledgment that that base is heavily Black," explains Steve Phillips in his insightful new book "Brown is the New White." Phillips argues that a "New American Majority" has formed within the voting-age population in the United States: "Progressive people of color now comprise 23 percent of all the eligible voters in America, and progressive Whites account for 28 percent of all eligible voters," he writes. "The New American Majority electoral equation requires securing the support of 81 percent of people of color and 39 percent of Whites."

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Twilight of the Apparatchiks

    Lack of self-awareness can be fatal. The haplessness of the Republican establishment in the face of Trumpism is a case in point.

    As many have noted, it’s remarkable how shocked — shocked! — that establishment has been at the success of Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic campaign. Who knew that this kind of thing would appeal to the party’s base? Isn’t the GOP the party of Ronald Reagan, who sold conservatism with high-minded philosophical messages, like talking about a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks?

    Seriously, Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century. So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.

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Donald Trump's bigotry has inspired Muslim American voters like no candidate before

    Through the driving rain, past the flood watch, the stalled cars and the tornado warnings, they pushed onward Wednesday night to get to the mosque in Northern Virginia. They had a Super Tuesday mission, and time was running out.

    "Abstaining from voting is also a vote," read one of the talking points in their action plan.

    "If Muslims do not vote, openly Islamaphobic leaders do not pay a price," said another one.

    Even the kids who just finished Arabic class -- like the girl whose pink hijab matched her Hello Kitty backpack -- knew that something big was happening in Virginia next week, and the adults at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, better known as ADAMS, were talking about it.

    "My dad said he don't know who he's voting for yet, but he said he's going to vote against Trump no matter what," one of the girls declared.

    Guess what, Donald Trump? Your bigotry has inspired Muslim American voters like no presidential candidate has done before.

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How Dixie rules the GOP

    The Super Tuesday primaries underscore how super Southern our presidential nominating process has become. This makes our way of picking standard-bearers unrepresentative of the country as a whole. In particular, it sharply reduces the influence of the great American Midwest even though the region's states are among the most important general-election battlegrounds.

    Southernization is a special problem for Republicans because their Southern supporters tend to be far more socially conservative than the rest of the party or the country. Southern politics is also more deeply polarized around race, giving backlash candidates a leg up. The GOP's slide rightward creates electoral difficulties for it in presidential elections and is the central factor in Washington's inability to find consensus on much of anything.

    True, the whole carnival starts in Iowa, which is as Midwestern as you can get. But the caucus system gives more conservative Iowa Republicans an outsized influence because white evangelicals play a disproportionate role in what is a relatively low-turnout contest.

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February 29th

No nation should fight global atrocities alone

    Fifteen years ago, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (I was one of the 12 commissioners) presented the innovative doctrine of the responsibility to protect - widely known as R2P - as the principle around which the world could forge a new consensus on how to rescue civilians under threat of atrocities.

    No one would claim that the world has been free of mass atrocities since then. Yet no country has called for R2P to be rolled back, and it would be unlikely that such a call would be heeded by the United Nations. Those competing tensions sum up the indispensable attraction and considerable limitations of R2P.

    R2P both reflected and contributed to the shift from power competition between nations toward international norms as the pivot on which history turns. But it has not made this competition obsolete. Major powers will still try to muscle into regions and exploit one another's weaknesses at the expense of small states in the world's hotspots.

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