Archive

October 24th, 2016

The surprising ways people use the dictionary during elections

    Americans are turning to an unusual source to help them decode the presidential campaign and the rhetoric of the day: the dictionary.

    In 1996, Merriam-Webster took a gamble and put its dictionary online, available for all to use without a fee. For the first time in 175 years, we had real-time information about how people were using their dictionaries: what words they looked up and when.

    It was fascinating. Everything we assumed about how people use the dictionary was wrong. People didn't look up extremely difficult words, the sorts of terms that you think dictionaries are for - National Spelling Bee words. People looked up words that they were familiar with, whose meanings they had some vague knowledge about. What they were looking for, it seemed, was nuance and explication. What exactly does "pragmatic" mean; what parts of your personality are covered by "disposition"?

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The last debate: Donald Trump doesn't care about democracy

    I honestly don't believe the debates are over. You will have to demonstrate to me slowly and gently over a period of months that there aren't any more debates, because I am too afraid to believe that they have really stopped.

    However, here is what I hope is my final recap for this election season.

    CHRIS WALLACE: Hello. I have come to your world from a different reality, Fox News, a fact that will become apparent as this debate goes on. This is the final presidential debate of the season, or, depending on whom you vote for, the final presidential debate of all time. If you play your cards right, all future elections can be settled by the spear! Now, let's bring out the candidates.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Hello. I am dressed as Saruman the White. My best moments this evening will occur when I am forced to defend the basic principles of democracy, a terrifyingly low bar that this election season has set. Thank you for making it so easy, but also, eeegh.

    DONALD TRUMP: *low guttural hiss* Tonight I have worn my RED tie.

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Republicans can't say they weren't warned

    Donald Trump went into his third and final debate on the defensive, with Hillary Clinton threatening to poach a string of once loyally Republican states from a man who says he hates losers.

     Trump is in danger of being one of his party's biggest losers -- and, as President Obama pointed out on Tuesday, a whiny one at that.

     The states on Clintonâs new target list include Arizona and, of all places, Texas. In Nevada, the polling is mixed, though Clinton seems to have gained ground. A Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday put Clinton ahead of Trump here by seven points. Trump was up by two points last month. But a new Washington Post-SurveyMonkey poll, which showed her in a commanding position nationally, had her still down here by four.

    All these states have something important in common: They include large numbers of Latino voters, who are clearly mobilizing to defeat Trump. He is also suffering from profound weaknesses among African-Americans, college educated voters of all backgrounds, and the young.

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Relax, America, democracy will survive Trump

    There's a lot of shock and horror about Donald Trump's refusal to say during Wednesday night's debate that he'd accept the result of the Nov. 8 vote. The outcry overstates the danger this poses to American democracy. European democracies have been dealing with this kind of threat in recent years, and have survived nicely.

    After its candidate Norbert Hofer lost the May 22 presidential election by 30,863 votes, Austria's anti-immigrant Freedom Party challenged the result and the nation's constitutional court overturned it. It ruled that mail-in ballots had been treated improperly in most electoral districts: Opened earlier than allowed by law or handled by unauthorized people. The election was supposed to be re-run this month, but it has been postponed again until December because it was discovered that adhesive seals on postal ballots were coming unglued.

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Psychiatry's moral crisis on euthanasia

    Once prohibited - indeed, unthinkable - the euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia, is now a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands.

    This profoundly troubling fact of modern European life is confirmed by the latest biennial report from Belgium's Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, presented to Parliament on Oct. 7.

    Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for patients suffering "unbearably" from any "untreatable" medical condition, terminal or non-terminal, including psychiatric ones.

    In the 2014-2015 period, the report says, 124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a "mental and behavioral disorder," four more than in the previous two years. Tiny Belgium's population is 11.4 million; 124 euthanasias over two years there is the equivalent of about 3,500 in the United States.

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It's a shame Clinton wasn't tested in debate

    What a misfortune it is that Hillary Clinton was able to coast through three presidential debates without being pressed significantly on any of her weaknesses.

    At this point, I'm out of ways to express outrage at Donald Trump, who almost certainly will not become president. But let's get this next part out of the way, at least, in reaction to his performance at the third and final debate: It was unacceptable for a major-party candidate to say he refuses to accept in advance the results of the U.S. election and claim that his opponent should not have been "allowed" to run.

    Oh, Trump knew a few catchphrases. He knew to work in "e-mails" every once in a while. And he repeated like a schoolboy who read only one paragraph of the assigned reading that she was caught in a fib over the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the first debate (as he already said in the second debate, she had falsely denied calling it a "gold standard").

    But mostly Trump proved incapable of laying a glove on her. Calling her a "nasty woman" doesn't count.

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October 23rd

Trump in a Bikini

    Is it too late for Hillary Clinton to surrender to Donald Trump’s demand that she take a drug test before this last presidential debate?

    I think she should — if he agrees to a few tests of his own. He can choose any three of the following:

    — Citizenship test. This is what the immigrants he feels so warm and fuzzy about must master to become full-fledged Americans and, for example, vote in presidential elections against the likes of Trump.

    But would he himself pass one?

    He’d surely be able to say who the current speaker of the House of Representatives is, given that he spends much of his time sticking pins in his personal Paul Ryan voodoo doll.

    But the exact count of voting representatives in the House? That’s also on the test.

    We could give him hints: your number of wives plus 432. The amount of federal income taxes you paid in 1995 plus 435.

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The GOP paved Trump's ugly path

    Cratering in the polls, besieged by sexual assault allegations and drowning in his own disgusting rhetoric, Donald Trump has been reduced to hollering that November's election is "rigged" against him. His proof? It looks like he's going to lose.

    Senior Republican leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this dangerous claim. But Trump's argument didn't spring from nowhere. It's just one more symptom of a long-running effort by Republicans to delegitimize Democratic voters, appointees and leaders. For years, this disease has infected our politics. It cannot be cured until Republican leaders rethink their approach to modern politics.

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It makes perfect sense for Ecuador to (kind of) turn its back on Assange

    Julian Assange might be forgiven for feeling paranoid. Shortly after WikiLeaks posted a transcript of a speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to Goldman Sachs, his internet access at the Ecuador Embassy in London, where he has lived since 2012, went down. A few days later, a British bank suspended the bank accounts of RT, the Russian state-backed news outlet that has enthusiastically reported on WikiLeaks' recent publications.

    Assange immediately claimed that shadowy forces were acting against the WikiLeaks founder, and accused the U.S. government in a tweet of leaning on Ecuador to shut down his internet. Washington immediately denied the claim.

    Denying Assange internet access amounted to something of a slap on the wrist of Ecuador's moody boarder. But it also represents Quito's acknowledgement that a shifting political and economic environment in Ecuador has turned Assange into a serious liability.

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Debate Night Yet Again

    We’ve gone through a lot this election year, people. Although the girl-grabbing controversies have at least been educational: The nation is now aware how large a portion of American women have suffered from unwanted touching at some point in their lives — about a third of them, apparently, at the paws of Donald Trump.

    Are you getting tired of hearing Trump call his opponent “Crooked Hillary”? Do you think Clinton should respond with “Dirty Donald”? Let me see a show of hands. Wow.

    The tone of Wednesday’s debate was pretty well set when the Clinton campaign announced it was canceling the traditional spousal handshake, for fear that Melania Trump might bring along some guests who would embarrass Bill Clinton. It seemed like a reasonable precaution, except for the fact that by this point in time, Bill Clinton should have become pretty much embarrassment-proof.

    The guest competition has been going on for weeks, with each side piling up invitees who are supposed to be symbolic of something — Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi controversy or Donald Trump’s mean immigration plan.

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