Archive

September 18th, 2016

Trump Talks, but Can He Tango?

    Thoughts while watching Rick Perry do the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars”:

    “My name is Rick Perry and I’m the governor of the great state of Texas. I am — I’m not the governor of the great state of Texas. That’s not right. I’m the former governor,” he said in a taped introduction.

    Yes! It was definitely Rick Perry. The man who gave the nation the “oops” presidential debate was back, dancing on a map of Texas, to a song about Texas, which was sung by the group Little Texas. There was a theme there somewhere.

    Do you think Barack Obama was watching? The president hasn’t mentioned “Dancing With the Stars” recently. But he’s been beseeching the country not to confuse low-rent entertainment with high-end politics. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality TV show,” he said this week while campaigning for the ailing Hillary Clinton.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump responds to requests for the release of his medical records by taping an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show.”

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Trump's child-care entitlement is, yes, progress

    Donald Trump is taking an entire chapter from Hillary Clinton's "I'm in it for the kids" playbook.

    Hoping to improve his appeal to women voters, Trump on Tuesday proposed that the federal government guarantee six weeks of paid maternal leave. And to make good on his daughter Ivanka's promises at this summer's Republican convention, he would let families deduct some child-care expenses from their income taxes.

    The details left many left-of-center think tanks, women's groups and child-care advocates cold. They complained, for example, that Trump's plan would allow paid leave from work to only mothers, not fathers, possibly widening the gender-pay gap and signaling that women are solely responsible for staying home to care for newborns (read: forgoing salaries and career advancement). They also criticized Trump for not doing enough for low-income families and for failing to say how he'd pay for it all.

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Send facts, not rumors, on Clinton's health -- and Trump's

    Hillary Clinton kept her pneumonia diagnosis under wraps for two days because she "didn't think it was going to be that big a deal." Right. That's what she used to say about her private email server.

    Yes, I know Clinton's email server is an obsession that her rivals on the right will not let go. Fear and loathing motivate great political fundraising. But as I have written before, the former secretary of state knew that she and her ex-president husband had an abundance of political enemies before she gave them more ammunition to use against her.

    What irritated me most about the news that Clinton really was ill with pneumonia, forcing her to leave the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony in New York early, is how it gave a moment of undeserved "I told you so" satisfaction to the industry of conspiracy theorists.

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Income liftoff shows the recovery is real

    During the past two years, we have seen signs that wage pressure is building as the economic recovery grinds on. Enough evidence has now accumulated to suggest that it is already happening.

    The latest data, courtesy of the Census Bureau, which released its annual update on incomes and poverty on Tuesday, showed that median household income increased a whopping 5.2 percent in 2015 to an inflation-adjusted $56,516. As the New York Times, noted, it was "the largest single-year increase since record-keeping began in 1967."

    Some killjoys will note that median household income was $57,909 in 1999. That's true, but the dot-com crash, housing bust and the credit crisis managed to cut that a lot. Median incomes fell 2.59 percent from 2000 to 2004, before almost rebounding to the pre-crisis peak. After 2007, the collapse was greater -- a 4.94 percent drop that bottomed in 2013.

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Ignoring Due Process An Injustice To College Students

    Long ago and far away, a woman we hardly knew presented herself bruised and weeping on our doorstep one night. She told a vivid tale of woe. An old friend of our family she'd been dating had supposedly beaten her and thrown her down the stairs. Why she'd come to our house instead of police headquarters wasn't entirely clear.

    The story went on for hours. After she'd gone, I asked my wife, "What percentage of that did you believe?"

    Her eyes got big. She's a warm, compassionate soul whom people frequently seek out for advice.

    "What do you mean?" she said.

    "I mean that you've known X closely for 20 years. Do you really think he's just started beating up women at age 45?"

    When I put it that way, she did not.

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I treated kids in a Syrian hospital. We have no idea how to heal their trauma.

    One evening in June, I found myself on the roof of a bombed-out hospital in Aleppo. It was pitch black because the city's east side is without electricity. My colleagues and I watched jets fly by, dropping bombs on the outskirts of the besieged region. Exploding rockets could be heard throughout the night.

    I'm a pediatrician in Chicago. This summer I traveled with two colleagues from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) to Aleppo. There, I saw firsthand the way this war is maiming children emotionally as well as physically. The kids I encountered often struggled with debilitating trauma. Some had stopped eating; others could barely communicate.

    My experience echoes across the country. In one town, CNN reported a rash of child suicide attempts.

    "The children are psychologically crushed and tired. When we do activities like singing with them, they don't react at all; they don't laugh like they would normally," a teacher in the western town of Madaya told Save the Children. "They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and lack of food."

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House Republicans revel in their irrelevance

    We're about to see if House Republicans have learned anything in the last few years. That is, we'll see if the small group of radicals can bully mainstream conservatives into casting irresponsible and counterproductive votes on two measures.

    First, the House Freedom Caucus zealots are intent on forcing a vote this week on impeaching the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, John Koskinen. Even if they had a case against him -- and they don't -- it's an abuse of their power to go through with an impeachment procedure with no chance for a conviction in the Senate, and with limited time before the end of the current Congress.

    Then sometime before the end of the month, the House will need to bring up a bill to keep the government running after the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Since it has run out of time to pass regular appropriations bills (none have been sent to Barack Obama so far, even for a veto), the House will need to pass a "continuing resolution" to give itself more time. And since members are determined to leave town to resume campaigning, after already taking an unusually long summer break, "more time" means waiting until after the election.

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Factory jobs rise under Democratic presidents

    Since the presidential race began more than a year ago, Donald Trump has missed few opportunities to castigate Hillary Clinton for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

    He blames her for accelerating the job exodus by supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which was initiated by President George H.W. Bush and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

    It's prudent to resist giving American presidents too much credit or blame for the economy's performance. Success often depends as much on luck and timing as on smart policymaking, and correlation is not causation. But it's fair to ask what happened to manufacturing workers since Nafta and during the presidencies of the men who preceded and followed Clinton into the White House.

    Manufacturing jobs increased under each of the seven Democrats and decreased under the six Republicans who became president during the past eight decades, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Even as U.S. employment expanded -- as it did under every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt -- manufacturing jobs declined only under Republican presidents.

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Even Organic Farms Sacrifice Sustainability to Cut Costs

    I visited a family farm recently. It was small, and local, and certified organic. In theory, it was everything an eco-conscious foodie could want. And yet, it wasn’t.

    Like every farm family, the couple who runs the farm is constrained by economic factors.

    Unfortunately, the measures they’ve taken to make their finances work have made their farm less environmentally sustainable.

    Their biggest expense is labor, so they do everything they can to reduce the amount of labor they need, including employing machines. A lot of machines. Machines that run on fossil fuels.

    They use tractors to plow, plant, and weed the fields. They frequently disturb the soil this way, because herbicides aren’t organic, and hand weeding is too expensive.

    They get a few extra weeks of productivity and added income from extending their growing season by lining the ground with plastic to heat the soil. Then they throw the plastic away.

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Donald Trump is the symptom of our PTSD

    How did we get here?

    It is September 2016 and Donald Trump is one of two people who have a chance of being the next leader of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Something in excess of four out of 10 Americans who are likely to vote support him and, according to a recent poll, his voters are more enthusiastic and engaged than those supporting his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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