Archive

April 11th, 2016

The Clinton Broadway revival

    It will not be the first time that a Clinton relies on the tough-minded voters of New York to salvage a front-running presidential candidacy.

      On March 24, 1992, an insurgent candidate named Jerry Brown (yes, California's current governor) upended Bill Clinton, the Democrats' nominee-in-waiting, in the Connecticut primary. To re-establish his primacy, Clinton went to work in New York.

     A few days after his Connecticut defeat, Clinton spoke to reporters about "all this crap I've put up with" and how he had to deal with "attacks, attacks, attacks on me."

     Of Brown, Clinton said: "I think he gives them easier answers to problems than I do. And a lot of people who are frustrated and angry want simple solutions."

     Sound familiar?

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Sanders, like Clinton, has 'what it takes'

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are trading swipes about each other's qualifications (or lack thereof) to be U.S. president. Both may be misinterpreting the credentials required.

    Clinton fired the opening salvo when she assailed Sanders for fumbling an answer about his plan to break up the big banks:

    "I think he hadn't done his homework and he'd been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't really studied or understood, and that does raise a lot of questions."

    Reacting less to the content of her comments than to a headline in The Washington Post -- "Clinton Questions Whether Sanders Is Qualified to Be President" -- Sanders issued a harsh response. He said that Clinton was the unqualified one because she has accepted campaign contributions from Wall Street, voted for the war in Iraq and supported "disastrous" trade deals.

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Sanders Over the Edge

    From the beginning, many and probably most liberal policy wonks were skeptical about Bernie Sanders. On many major issues — including the signature issues of his campaign, especially financial reform — he seemed to go for easy slogans over hard thinking. And his political theory of change, his waving away of limits, seemed utterly unrealistic.

    Some Sanders supporters responded angrily when these concerns were raised, immediately accusing anyone expressing doubts about their hero of being corrupt if not actually criminal. But intolerance and cultishness from some of a candidate’s supporters are one thing; what about the candidate himself?

    Unfortunately, in the past few days the answer has become all too clear: Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers. Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro.

    Let me illustrate the point about issues by talking about bank reform.

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Read the law, judge, to see that marijuana can be a sacrament

    A U.S. appeals court says that the federal law protecting religious liberty doesn't shield a Hawaiian church that uses cannabis in its rituals. That's pretty outrageous.

    The decision's perverse logic relies on a cartoonishly rigid idea of religious obligation. And it suggests that the religious-freedom law only protects mainstream religious groups like the Catholic Church, not smaller denominations.

    The case involves the Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii, founded by Michael Rex "Raging Bear" Mooney, who is also described as the "Medicine Custodian" of the church. The church draws on an eclectic range of Native American traditions. Its sacraments include sweat lodge ceremonies that take place at the full moon and the new moon. Church members use drugs including cannabis in what they describe as a "communion," seeking to achieve mystical union with the divine.

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Panama is the new Switzerland

    Another century, another tax haven. In the 20th century, the very rich used to park their money in secret Swiss bank accounts. How quaint. And how old-fashioned.

    In the 21st century, as we've just learned, Panama is the new Switzerland. That's where many of today's most wealthy prefer to shelter their money, and for the same reasons: to hide their personal fortune and avoid paying taxes. All you need is a shady law firm to grease the skids, and many families worldwide found just what they were looking for in the boutique Panamanian firm of Mossack Fonseca.

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Obama's sly dig at conservative decline

    You have to admire the multi-level trolling by President Barack Obama. Obama speaks Thursday at the University of Chicago law school, where he taught in the 1990s, and give an interview to Fox News. The law school discussion is targeted at Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and his obstruction of Obama's Supreme Court nomination. The interview is an assault on contemporary American conservatism.

    The Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is the proximate cause of Obama's visit. "We are going to continue to make the case to Republicans in the United States Senate that they should fulfill their constitutional responsibility," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. "The president will certainly make that case."

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Monopolies are no fun and games for economic growth

    A basic lesson of economics is that monopolies are bad news. When there's only one company in a market, it can jack up prices to above their efficient level. That gives a big boost to profits, but results in too few people being able to afford to buy what the company is selling. Most markets are not monopolies, but a similar principle holds for situations where there are only a few companies, called oligopolies. A lack of players stifles competition, raising profits but lowering overall economic output.

    It's therefore natural to ask whether the U.S.'s subpar economic growth is caused by a decrease in competition, and in fact, a bunch of people have been suggesting this explanation lately. In an article entitled "Too much of a good thing?," the Economist cites high rates of profit, record levels of merger activity and increasing industrial concentration as evidence of reduced competition.

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Lawmaker raped as a child can't get his bill passed for sex assault survivors

    For the second year in a row, he put it all out there: the shame, the fear, the self-loathing, the pain, the dark details of his horrific, repeated rape.

    An Army veteran and lawyer, Maryland Del. C.T. Wilson, a Democrat from Charles County, stood before his colleagues in Annapolis, confessed that he "really, really" didn't want to be there and told them why he doesn't sleep much at night. Why he hoped his children would never be boys. Why knows he is "a monster on the inside."

    And for the second year in a row, his fellow lawmakers in the Maryland legislature put all that in a drawer. And closed it.

    "It's usually the case when we tell our stories," Wilson said. "Nobody wants to hear this. And we want to be heard."

    Wilson wants his fellow delegates to understand what the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse endure. And what recourse they have years and years later. And for two years now, he has sponsored legislation aimed at helping them

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For blacks and Hispanics, a huge drop in the uninsured rate

    Even as the leading GOP presidential candidates continue to pledge to obliterate Obamacare, and even as Congressional Republicans continue to promise an alternative to the law that may never, ever materialize, Gallup finds that the uninsured rate has plummeted yet again, to six points below where it was when Obamacare first took effect.

    Crucially, two of the groups who have experienced the largest drop in the uninsured rate are blacks and Hispanics.

    Among blacks, the uninsured rate has dropped 9.5 percentage points, and among Hispanics, it has dropped 10.4 points. So here's a question: Could this be playing some kind of role in the argument between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over the future of Obamacare -- and, by extension, in the broader argument between Clinton and Sanders over how successful the Obama years have been, and what should come next?

    The question of how to achieve universal health care has been central to that broader argument. Sanders tweeted Thursday that Obamacare has fallen well short of what needs to be accomplished:

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Devil’s in the details, if we could find any

    "Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it."

    Donald Trump in 40 words or fewer.

    Understand, now: Those words aren't from The Donald. They're from The Joker, lines cackled by the crooked-faced one in the 2008 Batman installment, "The Dark Knight."

    We imagine Trump in his darkened Trump Tower screening room back then, pondering how one day he'd run the world, hearing the line and saying, "Damn. Wish I'd said that."

    "I don't know what to do" would have been a heap better than what Trump told Chris Matthews when asked about how he'd handle women who had abortions if, as Trump said he'd prefer, abortion were illegal.

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