Archive

March 6th, 2016

Call Me Mister Trump

    What do you think we should call Donald Trump?

    Now stop that. This is a serious question. It came up on Super Tuesday night, when Chris Christie introduced the triumphant candidate in Florida.

    “Since June 16, when Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, he has shown himself to be tough and strong and bold,” the phantom governor of New Jersey began. Remember when Christie was supposed to be tough and strong and bold? Now he’s just Donald Trump’s sidekick — his Robin, or maybe more appropriately, his Chewbacca.

    Trump and his helper made their Super Tuesday appearance at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s gold-plated Florida club where the chandeliers are as high as an elephant’s eye and the membership fee is $100,000. Recently, Trump said it represents his championship of equality.

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Broker misconduct is worse than we thought

    Bad brokers don't leave the business; they just move on to a different firm.

    That is one of the key findings of a study of broker misconduct by professors at the business schools of the University of Chicago and University of Minnesota. The study, titled "It Just Got Even Harder to Trust Financial Advisers," reviewed broker disciplinary records from 2005 to 2015 stored in the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's BrokerCheck database, covering almost 4,000 securities firms employing about 640,000 brokers.

    There is an enormous wealth of information that is publicly available about brokers who violate the suitability rules and other standards of conduct. What the study found was that misconduct that resulted in disciplinary action was widespread, with one in 13 brokers having a misconduct-related disclosure in their Finra files.

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As Europe falls apart, America clowns around

    It is hard to watch the desperate, dignified families huddling around the phone-charging stations in the government shelter in this Balkan village as the clownish spectacle of a presidential campaign unfolds at home.

    Foot soldiers of misery, they tumble out of buses and their first request is not for water, food or diapers. They have been on the move for weeks, in some cases months, and they need to connect - with relatives they've left behind and may never see again, with comrades who can relay rumors on the dangers of the road ahead.

    They are escaping the wreckage of entire countries. A million have washed into Europe in the past year, and another million are on the threshold. The continent's leaders see the mass migration as their starkest test since World War II. Far-right xenophobic parties are on the rise. Longtime commitments to free speech, tolerance and open borders are eroding. Many of the leaders despair at the absence of U.S. leadership and the rise of Russian meddling.

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Al Gore Moves to the Bright Side

    Remember An Inconvenient Truth?

    In addition to proving that people will pay good money to watch a movie costarring Al Gore and a PowerPoint presentation, that Oscar-winning documentary elevated climate change to an issue that everyone should fret about.

    In the decade since the movie’s release, Gore’s presentation has grown flashier — and he’s changed, too.

    His mild Tennessee accent hasn’t faded, and he doesn’t look older. But the former vice president has cheered up. He’s more confident in humanity’s potential to stop cooking the planet.

    “We are going to win this,” he says in his latest Ted Talk. “The only question is how long will it take to get there.”

    Why is he so optimistic?

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After Super Tuesday, Bracing for a President Trump

    The general election campaign may have already begun.

    In the aftermath of Super Tuesday election results, betting markets show Hillary Clinton with more than a 90 percent chance of becoming the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump with at least a 75 percent chance of emerging as the Republican nominee.

    This is the most astonishing presidential election since at least 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. The Republican front-runner is reviled not only by Democrats, but also by many prominent Republicans, and has less government experience than any president in history.

    Only two presidents — William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover — lacked background in major elective office or in the military, and both had held Cabinet posts. In short, a Trump presidency would be unprecedented not only for his bizarre policy positions and propensity to insult women and minorities, but also because of his staggering lack of relevant experience or knowledge.

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2 views of political landscape after Super Tuesday

    Two Bloomberg View columnists, Francis Wilkinson and Ramesh Ponnuru, wondered how Super Tuesday would shape the rest of the race. Now they're making sense of the night: who's up and who's down, and what is the path to a Republican nominee other than Donald Trump?

    Ponnuru: It has shaped up to be a big night for Trump, as we expected. He won Alabama and Massachusetts, confirming the breadth of his support that we were discussing earlier today. Ted Cruz won Texas and can therefore stay in the race, and won Oklahoma too. Cruz can also say that Marco Rubio has shown scant ability to win and should drop out in his favor.

    Wilkinson: Is that scent in the air the smell of GOP leaders deciding Cruz is not such a bad guy? In some ways, I guess this is a better outcome for them than a Trump sweep. But it does, as you say, put pressure on Rubio. Cruz has won three states, including the biggest so far -- Texas. Rubio keeps coming up short. The only clarity tonight's results provide is that Trump is still very much the front-runner for the nomination, and his rivals are falling short. Do you think that dynamic is changeable?

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Why Warren Buffett doesn't think climate change is his problem

    The Nebraska Peace Foundation is an organization in Lincoln that fights against climate change, racism, and nuclear weapons. It also owns one share of Berkshire-Hathaway Class A Common Stock. Recently, the group says it filed a shareholder resolution that would make the company's insurance division report on how it addresses climate change risk.

    Warren Buffett responded in his annual letter, which was released over the past weekend. (The company didn't immediately comment on NPF taking credit for raising the issue.) Buffett's eight-paragraph, nearly 600-word position statement on climate change simultaneously achieved two things: It provided a simple and direct explanation of the dangers of climate change. It also showed how difficult it is for business and government to address the problem.

    Here are five sections of the letter that tell the big story:

1) Buffett has a mixed portfolio when it comes to climate change

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Whereas the Supreme Court rules for stuffy language

    Should laws be understood based on the way people speak? Or should they be interpreted according to technical rules of statutory construction, so that law becomes a specialized language game all its own? In a decision issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 6-2, for the second option. The case, Lockhart v. U.S., promises to be a classic. The court's breakdown was about jurisprudence, not partisan ideology. And the issue was, remarkably enough, dangling modifiers.

    Rather than reminding you what a dangling modifier is and why you should despise it, let me give you an example from the dissent, by Justice Elena Kagan. "Imagine a friend told you that she hoped to meet 'an actor, director, or producer involved with the new "Star Wars" movie,' " Kagan wrote. The dangling modifier is the phrase "involved with the new 'Star Wars' movie."

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The GOP's schoolyard scuffle

    The race for the Republican presidential nomination couldn't possibly get any more bizarre, appalling, puerile, embarrassing, self-destructive or --

    Hold on, this just in: It did.

    When have we ever seen such a shameful and low-minded spectacle? Comparison to the seriousness and decorum of an elementary-school playground is an insult to second-graders. What this campaign needs is a timeout chair, or perhaps a stout wooden ruler for rapping knuckles.

    I suppose we have to begin with Donald Trump's slowness in rejecting praise from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who announced he will vote for Trump in a rambling, hate-filled Facebook post on Friday that denounced "the Jewish tribalist takeover of our media" and "the crimes [of] Jewish predator banks."

    Trump finally disavowed Duke late Sunday, but only after a day of hemming and hawing. He later claimed that he hadn't understood the original question, blaming CNN for providing him with an allegedly faulty earpiece.

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Technology has changed the patent world

    Apple just suffered an important legal defeat to Samsung in its battle over patents. This is good because Apple's claims were frivolous; its patents were questionable; and its use of litigation to hold back a competitor set another wrong precedent for the industry. Because of these patent wars and patent trolls, technology companies are divesting huge resources to defend themselves rather than advancing their innovations. This is the equivalent of nuclear arms race and is a lose-lose situation.

    Apple and Samsung have been at war over patents for many years. In the last round in 2014, a jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $119.6 million in damages for infringing on three Apple patents. These weren't game changing innovations; they were simple and common smartphone features. One patent described how to turn a phone number into a link that could be clicked on, another protected the "slide to unlock" feature, and another was a slightly different way of autocorrecting spellings.

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