Archive

January 19th, 2016

Sean Penn meets God

    Ever since reading Sean Penn's article for Rolling Stone about his meeting with El Chapo, I have been unable to get his writing style out of my head. It was like he was being held at knife point by a band of drunk thesauruses.

    Fortunately, Sean Penn had other people he wanted to meet and write about for free, and was generous enough to let me run the following.

    - - -

    "In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln, probably

    - - -

    What's the point of this? Two words: God. I'm meeting Him - anytime now. I'm meeting the Man Upstairs.

    It could be a paragraph away. It could be 80. It's the journey, not the destination, as Nietzsche so famously said. I've read Nietzsche. It is important that I tell you this.

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The odds of a Kasich miracle

    Two facts stand out about the constituency that has rallied to Donald Trump. His supporters are angry, and they come overwhelmingly from the less affluent reaches of the Republican Party. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is betting on the aspirations of these voters over their anger, and it's just possible he's onto something his opponents are missing.

     For the angry vote, there is a lot of competition. The main dynamic of last Thursday's Republican debate was the clawing and jabbing between Sen. Ted Cruz and Trump. Cruz channels exasperation as well as Trump does and is the more consistent conservative.

    Sen. Marco Rubio has benched his trademark optimism for now to compete directly with Cruz and Trump for the ballots of the enraged. The upside: Rubio is currently positioned as the only Republican other than Trump and Cruz who could come in at least third in Iowa on Feb. 1 and then finish at least second in New Hampshire on Feb. 9. There are a lot of furious GOP voters to go around.

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Obama's divide? Share that blame

    Considering the stubbornness of his opposition, I thought President Barack Obama was being quite generous in to express "regrets" over his role in Washington's dysfunction.

    "It's one of the few regrets of my presidency," he said, "that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better."

    He shouldn't be too hard on himself, in my view. When it comes to stirring "rancor and suspicion," he had plenty of assistance from his stubbornly resistant conservative adversaries.

    I am not one to complain, as many Obama supporters do, that the nation's first black president has had a rougher road than any previous president. Who can forget the blizzard of allegations, myths and rumors that were showered on Bill and Hillary Clinton during his presidency?

    Expect more of the same if his wife is nominated for the presidency this year, as expected.

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Donald Trump digs in

    Having trailed Ted Cruz by as much as 10 points in recent Iowa polling, Donald Trump decided to play No More Mr. Nice Guy with the Texas senator in the sixth GOP televised debate in South Carolina on the Fox Business Network.

    Their early lovefest ended when the brash Texan assaulted Trump's "New York values," attempting to tap into the regional dislike of the Big Apple. "I can frame it another way," Cruz said. "Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I'm just saying."

    The Manhattan billionaire thereupon deftly reminded the audience of the city's rousing reply to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as an inspirational, patriotic episode in the nation's history.

    "I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York," he declared, in full indignation. "That was a very insulting statement that Ted made."

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Who had the worst week in Washington? Rand Paul

    Sen. Rand Paul found out Monday night that he wasn't going to be on the main stage for Thursday's Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, South Carolina.

    He didn't take it so well.

    "An artificial designation as being in the second tier is something we can't accept," the senator from Kentucky said in a CNN interview. "I won't participate in anything that's not the first tier."

    That meant that Paul took a walk on the undercard debate, which aired three hours before the main debate Thursday.

    But he didn't go quietly. In fact, Paul spent the whole week making a spectacle of himself as he pouted and whined his way through TV and radio interviews - casting himself as aggrieved by members of the media.

    Paul hit his high/low in a radio interview Thursday in which he said that "99 percent of our supporters are calling in and saying, for the media, that's where you can go" - as he stuck up his middle finger.

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Unleash U.S. air power in Afghanistan

    President Obama's desire to avoid large new ground commitments in the Middle East is, in many respects, understandable, given the experiences of some 15 years of war. At present, however, the modest number of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan operate with one hand tied behind their backs - at a time when Afghan forces, though fighting hard, are struggling. That should be changed. We should unleash our airpower in support of our Afghan partners in the same way that we support our Iraqi and Syrian partners against extremists.

    At present, U.S. and NATO airpower in Afghanistan is used only to attack validated al-Qaida targets, to counter specific individuals or groups who have attacked coalition forces previously and to respond directly to attacks on coalition forces. According to leaders on the ground, U.S. and NATO forces are otherwise not allowed to attack Taliban targets. The situation appears to be in flux in regard to Islamic State elements, but through 2015, they too could be targeted only under narrow circumstances.

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State and federal law can help stop peeping drones

    In October, a Kentucky judge dismissed criminal charges against a man who had shot down a drone flying over his property. Now the drone's owner has brought a federal civil suit against the shooter, William Merideth, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of all airspace and that it allows drones to fly over private property.

    All this amounts to a legal mess. The law, both state and federal, is still pretty unclear about where you can fly a drone, and what you as a citizen may do if a drone -- probably with a camera on board -- is hovering above your home.

    What's needed is a comprehensive legal regime that integrates state and federal jurisdictions. I want to propose the outlines of such a legal model, distinguishing what should belong to the feds and what should be within the realm of the states.

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Shame on Carly Fiorina

    Carly Fiorina has dwindled to near irrelevance in the Republican primary field, as illustrated by her demotion to the undercard debate. But Fiorina, piping up from the kiddie table Thursday, said something so calculatedly outrageous that it demands response: "Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband."

    This reference to Hillary Clinton was no gaffe. It was in Fiorina's opening statement, in response to a question about the economy. In a campaign that has, so far, been blessedly free of sexism toward the Democratic front-runner, this was the most retro-, sexist remark yet, at least where Clinton is concerned.

     Shame on Fiorina.

    I wrote recently that it was fair game for Donald Trump to raise the subject of Bill Clinton's conduct toward women, when Hillary Clinton had both dispatched her husband as surrogate in chief and attacked Trump's undisputed "penchant for sexism."

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Sanders' run is no fairy tale

    If you thought the political landscape couldn't be more unsettled, think again. In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders is surging. Hillary Clinton now faces not a coronation, not a cakewalk, but a contest -- one she could lose.

    Has there ever been a worse election to be an establishment candidate? Certainly not in my lifetime. When a pitchfork-populist billionaire is leading one party's race and a self-described socialist is rapidly gaining ground in the other, I think it's safe to say we're somewhere we haven't been before.

    For much of the past year, Clinton led Sanders in national polls by more than 20 points. Now, according to the Real Clear Politics average, her lead has shrunk to less than nine points -- and the most recent survey, a CBS/New York Times poll released this week, showed just a seven-point gap.

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Obama's not bluffing on closing Gitmo

    President Barack Obama is determined to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and if he decides to do so without Congress, there may be little his opponents can do to stop him.

    Since his State of the Union address on Tuesday, when Obama reiterated that he will "keep working" to shut down the prison, the administration has sped up the effort significantly. Ten prisoners were transferred this week. Ninety-three prisoners remain, 34 of whom have already been cleared for release. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he had sent a detailed, written plan to Obama laying out how to move the remaining prisoners to the United States. The White House is to submit that plan to Congress soon.

    That strategy directly challenges existing laws that not only prevent Obama from moving Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. soil, but also bar the Pentagon from spending congressionally appropriated funds to do so. Obama, in a series of signing statements, has consistently rejected the validity of those laws, arguing they infringe upon the executive's powers.

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