Archive

March 9th, 2016

Clash of Republican Con Artists

    So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.

    But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.

    Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?

    Donald Trump is a “con artist,” says Marco Rubio — who has promised to enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.

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Canada won't fly for fleeing Trump

    So Canada, eh?

    That's Plan B, apparently, as Super Tuesday primary results came in this week and Americans were forced to consider the real possibility of President Trump.

    I mean, two words on the Canada plan: Justin Trudeau.

    And if he isn't an adorable enough reason to go north, how about the new prime minister's 50-percent female cabinet? "Because it's 2015," he explained, when asked why he made the revolutionary decision to opt for actual gender parity, rather than window dressing, when he picked his top advisers.

    "Move to Canada" searches on Google spiked more than 1,000 percent this week.

    The Canadian Embassy's website crashed after returns came in from Super Tuesday.

    Realtors in lovely Cape Breton Island - after a local radio personality created the website "Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins" - received calls from Americans interested in home prices.

    The Mayflower moving company saw a surge in traffic on the "Moving to Canada" section of its website, company spokeswoman Melissa Sullivan said.

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March 8th

Trump's dance with bigotry

    Donald Trump plays on racial fears and animosities in an ugly, deliberate and dangerous way. This dance with bigotry goes far beyond his temporary amnesia about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

    Trump speaks as if he considers whiteness the norm and sees people of color as somehow alien and suspect. He is the only major American political figure in many decades to display such an antediluvian worldview so openly. Trump doesn't tweet dog whistles, he blasts foghorns.

    He brags about getting along famously with "the blacks" and "the Hispanics." How long has it been since anyone in public life used such casually exclusionary language? There are about 40 million African-Americans and more than 55 million Hispanic-Americans, all of them reduced, by Trump's use of the definite article, to sidekick status -- the "good" ones being, I suppose, a bunch of Sammy Davis Jrs. and Ricky Ricardos.

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Where was Mitt Romney's courage nine months ago?

    In just 20 minutes, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, eviscerated Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2016 nod. The brief against Trump wasn't just the series of one-liners Romney leaked Thursday morning. The searing indictment against the billionaire businessman was based on substance. Pity the statesmanship and truth-telling come nine months too late to potentially stop Trump's march to the GOP nomination.

    Right out of the gate, Romney hit Trump on his economic plans.

    "If Donald Trump's plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into a prolonged recession.

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What's the best path to peace in Libya?

    Believe it or not, the conflict in Libya didn't end with "Benghazi."

    U.N. negotiators have been working to bring the warring factions in the Libyan civil war to the negotiating table. They hope to end the fighting, form a national unity government and provide a clear alternative to the Islamic State. One proposal would establish a temporary government - the Libyan Government of National Accord - in which competing factions would share power.

    But not all power-sharing agreements are created equal. In particular, not all types of power-sharing agreements are equally effective at keeping the peace after a civil war.

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Weird science works in the fight against cancer

    What kinds of research should be included in the $1 billion "moonshot" proposal to cure cancer? Since President Obama announced the idea in his last State of the Union address, Vice President Joe Biden, who is heading the effort, has talked of getting more patients enrolled in clinical trials and finding more efficient ways of sharing data. But what about less obvious steps, such as a recent experiment on zebra fish with green glowing skin tumors?

    When it comes to cancer research, weird is good. Tackling cancer requires unconventional ideas because cancer is an unconventional enemy.

    Cancer is less a disease than a class of diseases. It's a broad description of the mysterious forces that make our own cells turn unpredictably against us. Unlike the quest to eradicate smallpox or to send astronauts to the moon, the effort to cure cancer doesn't have a clear path forward. There is no universal cure or prevention strategy.

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Trump has a point about American decline

    American decline is a popular narrative these days. It's a central feature of Donald Trump's presidential campaign -- you can't "make America great again" unless America isn't-so-great right now. Although Trump often seems disconnected from reality, on this issue he has a point. The United States is in decline. Fortunately, the slide isn't severe, and there's probably time to arrest its progress or prevent it from accelerating.

    When we say a nation is in decline that can mean several things. Historically, it meant a fall in living standards and the level of economic development. When the Roman Empire declined, the population of Rome shrank, roads crumbled and the empire's ships disappeared from the ocean. Eventually the European continent fell back into poverty and violence among regional and city-state powers. The same thing happened to China after the fall of the Han Dynasty, and again after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

    Nothing of the kind threatens the U.S. today. Yet it is true that the economic well-being of the average American -- defined as median household income -- has fallen since the turn of the century:

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The steep price of a Trump presidency

    I write today to confess error.

    A few months back, pondering the ghastly parlor game of choosing between President Donald Trump and President Ted Cruz, I opted -- reluctantly, disbelievingly -- for Trump, as the lesser of two dangers.

    Yes, the real estate tycoon is a know-nothing, uninterested-in-learning-anything buffoon. Also: a demagogue and a bully whose emotional instability would pose a threat to national security.

    But the Cruz alternative, it seemed to me then, was even worse. Cruz is smarter than Trump, more calculating than Trump (which is saying something)   and way, way more conservative than Trump.

    A Trump presidency, or so I reassured myself, at least offered the prospect of unprincipled deal-making in the service of what is Trump's only guidepost -- promoting the greater glory of Trump. President Cruz would be as absolutist as Sen. Cruz, and therefore, from my point of view, the worse president.

    I was wrong.

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Texas abortion case hinges on 'undue burdens'

    What's an undue burden? That question was at the heart of Wednesday's oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court in the Texas abortion case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

    In particular, the conversation focused on whether the court needs to do a cost-benefit comparison to determine an undue burden -- and if it does, what statistical evidence is needed to do it properly.

    As expected, the oral argument reinforced the sense that the outcome of the case depends on Justice Anthony Kennedy. The four liberal justices made it pretty clear that the Texas law, which requires abortion clinics to operate more like hospitals, should be struck down. The three conservatives, sorely missing the support of Justice Antonin Scalia, will surely vote to uphold it, although Justice Clarence Thomas kept silent on Wednesday. What matters, therefore, is how Kennedy is thinking about the undue-burden problem.

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Mistake to take Trump for granted

    Which one of these statements is true? "Donald Trump is a racist, bigot, misogynist, buffoon and con artist who should never be seriously considered as a candidate for president?" Or: "Donald Trump is a serious candidate for president who could defy the odds and actually be elected 45th president of the United States?"

    Which one of these statements is true? The answer, of course, is that they're both true. And therein lies both the fascination and the danger in this year's presidential election. It's true that we've never seen a more personally disgusting candidate for president. But it's also true, as members of his own party learned too late, that those Democrats who belittle his political appeal are making a big political mistake.

    We all heard cocky Democrats chortling out loud on Super Tuesday, as The Donald chalked up another string of primary victories, making a total of 10 so far: "Oh, boy, we can't wait. Donald Trump's our dream opponent. Democrats will flock to the polls to vote against him. He'll be the best get-out-the-vote motivator Democrats could ever want."

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