Archive

March 29th, 2016

Revolution incorporated: How Clinton can bring Sanders supporters into the fold

    With the Republican presidential race careening toward a fractious convention in Cleveland and Donald Trump warning of riots, the coming Democratic convention has garnered little comment. But don't expect Philadelphia to be all brotherly love. Reconciling Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and their respective camps, will take some work.

    Yes, modern party conventions have been turned into slickly packaged made-for-TV unity fests: Carefully vetted speakers deliver carefully crafted messages, while any disagreements are settled off-camera. And yes, Barack Obama and Clinton thoroughly made amends after a bitter primary season eight years ago. But there's far more ideological conflict between this year's candidates than between Clinton and Obama in 2008.

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A hollowed-out Republican Party

    Seldom in American politics has a major party offered more evidence of self-destruction than the Republicans are displaying right now in their quest for a 2016 presidential nominee.

    Starting with an inflated field of 17 unimpressive candidates, now whittled down to three -- New York celebrity businessman Donald Trump, freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- the GOP has been putting on an image-crushing circus.

    By lack of political skill or just plain spinelessness, the shattered party establishment has enabled Trump to hijack the party of Lincoln, Reagan and, yes, the Bushes. It is headed toward the brink of a Goldwater-proportion defeat in November, leaving a shell from which to rebuild a very uncertain future.

    The GOP establishment first pinned much of its hopes on the well-heeled candidacy of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, he of the Trump-described "low energy." Now it is scrambling to avert a train wreck with The Donald at the controls.

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No, America isn't 100 percent safe from terrorism. And that's a good thing.

    Admit it. After the terrorist attacks in Brussels this past week, after the brief reflection for those lost or wounded and the sense of "oh, no, not again" passed, other thoughts quickly followed. My own selfish but natural worry, as a mother of three: Should we cancel that trip to Europe this summer?

    And the questions I've fielded from family and friends, as a professional in homeland security and counterterrorism in the nearly 15 years since 9/11, have varied but never ceased: Should I buy a gun? (Only with training and safety measures at home, and certainly not to combat Islamic terrorists.) Is Times Square safe on New Year's Eve? (Like every crowd scene, you have to stay alert, but security is high at events like that.) Or my personal favorite, because it combines parental insecurities with disaster management: Is Tulane a good school so many years after Hurricane Katrina? (Yes; it had a few rough months, but your kid should still apply.)

    All these queries about a world in mayhem boil down to: Is my family safe? The answer is both simple and liberating: No, not entirely. America was built vulnerable, and thank goodness for that.

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Is Trump the new Marion Barry?

    The 2016 Republican presidential primary season seems like a long, frightening dream. Except the source of terror is real. It comes in the form of Donald John Trump Sr. - the white man's Marion Barry - who stands a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee for president of the United States. A nightmare awaits.

    How could it be otherwise? If ever bestowed presidential powers, Trump would be in a position to inflict great harm on the nation and world.

    To think: Trump is closer to reaching the White House than any other Republican beneath our spacious skies or above our fruited plain.

    And to think: Ruling-class politicians and pundits muffled their guffaws when he announced his presidential run in June. Here Trump stands, vilified but triumphant, basking in the support of hordes of Republicans, holding the upper hand over a vanquished Republican establishment.

    The poor souls were clueless.

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The Republican Choice Isn't Getting Better.

    “There are many ways I can help end abortion. I will fight for each and every one of them. “ ... “I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade.” “.....married with kids versus unmarried with kids is the difference between living in poverty and not.” The author of these comments, strangely inconsistent as they are, is long gone from the Republican presidential race but the tone has not changed. In fact, Dr. Rand Paul's remarks are rather mild compared to the current atmosphere, so much so that his name has mostly faded from memory.

    The volume is perhaps louder, the remarks just as controversial, or more so than in the earlier days of this campaign. The caliber of the candidates as they have been narrowed down is just as questionable and even more frightening. There really hasn't been much of promise in the choices. I speak of the Republicans because that is the source of the most noise.

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In Brussels, terror in our back yard

    Tuesday morning, I was sitting in my home office in Brussels, working on my latest children's book, when a friend texted: "Holy cow. Preliminary reports indicate one or more explosive devices have gone off at Zaventem airport."

    I immediately looked out the window at my children's Belgian school. It's barely 100 yards away, and every day, rain or shine, the children enjoy a full hour of recess plus a 20-minute mid-morning break. One of the luxuries of my life here is that I'm able to hear the happy sounds of children playing on the other side of my garden wall - including my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

    This time, it was a relief to hear quiet, to know that the children were still inside. Police and ambulance sirens began to shriek in the distance, but it was easier than I thought to stay calm - at least at first. The airport is a 10-minute drive from my house. Then another friend texted: "You heard about the explosion at the metro stop?" The Maelbeek metro station is just over a mile away. Now my mouth went dry. What was next? I threw a sweater over my pajama top, pulled on jeans and boots, and ran to the children's school.

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The marketing of Trump

    At his rallies, Donald Trump's supporters carry signs that read, "The Silent Majority Stands with Trump." On Twitter, his supporters invoke the slogan to answer the candidate's critics, such as myself, adding, "Silent No More." Yet it's the other part of the phrase that merits attention. Is there any sense in which Trump's supporters constitute a majority?

    Trump may indeed get to the 1,237 delegates he needs for a majority at the Republican convention. He might even get to a majority of the voters of the Republican Party, though I think that's highly unlikely.

    As of Tuesday's primaries in Arizona and Utah, Trump had secured 37 percent of the vote of the Republican primary electorate, or roughly 7.8 million votes out of approximately 21 million.

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I, Cthulhu, endorse Donald Trump

    Note: This came to me in a dream and I have transcribed it as faithfully as possible, as my hair turned slowly white with horror. The drawing above is the most faithful representation I have found of the being that whispered these things to me in an unspeakable and ancient tongue.

 

    I am called by many names.I was before time was. I transcend mere physical space. I am the heir of Azathoth.

    You may know me as Cthulhu.

    Long have I slumbered in the vasty deeps, beyond the reach of time, waiting for the stars to turn. I dream below the waves, a monstrous mind suspended, rapt in thought. I am dead and yet I dream, vile nightmare visions that reach forth their tentacles into the minds of those who dwell upon the shores of fleeting light. In them I preserve my nameless terror.

    But now I feel the call. I feel the movement, the earthquake. The Trump calls me from my slumber.

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Obama’s Last Tango

    Barack Obama is tangoing into history, and there’s something perfect about that.

    The tango has been described as vertical solitude. And this president is all about vertical solitude.

    Republicans are frothing and comics are tweaking about the baseball diplomacy in Cuba and the tango diplomacy in Argentina, juxtaposed with the terrorist attack and manhunt in Brussels.

    Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore mocked Obama’s “spring break world tour.” He chided the president for doing the wave with Raúl Castro and remarked on Obama’s sinuous, take-charge tango partner. “OK, Republicans, now he’s leading from behind,” Wilmore said. Rush Limbaugh accused the president of flamenco dancing and “doing the tango with women not even his wife.”

    Yes, that outrageous sin of being polite to your foreign hosts at a state dinner.

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Free tuition has been a boon for this boomtown

    Is free college tuition too far-fetched? As president of a community college, I certainly had my doubts up until a few years ago. Grant programs in Minnesota, Tennessee, South Dakota and my own state, North Dakota, have turned doubts into belief.

    The momentum for affordable education has arrived. Democrats and Republicans have expressed growing concern about Americans' ability to earn a college degree without accumulating a crushing debt. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has pledged to make tuition free at public colleges and universities, while his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, has proposed to make college more affordable. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, highlighted the problem of college costs by sharing that he recently paid off $100,000 in student loans.

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