Archive

August 13th, 2016

Clinton's email server did not lead to an Iranian scientist's death

    Despite what you might read on Donald Trump's twitter feed, the Iranian execution of a nuclear scientist who defected to the United States and then changed his mind was not caused by Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. The scientist outed himself; it wasn't Clinton's fault.

    The Iranian government announced Sunday it had executed Shahram Amiri, a nuclear scientist who spent about 14 months in the United States in 2009 and 2010. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., noted on Sunday's Face the Nation that Amiri's case had been discussed by top Clinton State Department officials on emails that passed through her private server.

    "I'm not going to comment on what he may or may not have done for the United States government, but in the emails that were on Hillary Clinton's private server, there were conversations among her senior advisors about this gentleman," Cotton said. "That goes to show just how reckless and careless her decision was to put that kind of highly classified information on a private server."

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Business, labor don't have to be enemies

    In the United States, the image of a powerful union connotes rapacious groups of workers, jockeying to get perks and salaries beyond what they rightfully deserve. In this zero-sum world, union gains - if unsubstantiated by productivity growth - become public losses. So why should we think that strong unions are ever a good idea?

    In reality, stronger and more involved unions could help the United States develop better public policy. Elsewhere in the world, unions enjoy much higher levels of support from the public - in many countries, they cover most workers and play a crucial role in forging public policies. Paradoxically, they do this in conjunction with equally strong employers' associations.

    In Nordic countries, centralized associations covering business and labor have the legal right and responsibility to negotiate employment policy. Some policies are created through collective wage bargains, which then pertain to everyone. Others are developed by tripartite committees that include representatives of the major associations, which create binding policies governing issues such as family leave, active labor-market programs and part-time work.

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Trump’s Troubles in the Black Belt

    There has been much talk this election about the fundamental transformation of voters in the Rust Belt and what that portends for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    But there is another belt also worth keeping an eye on for its remarkable electoral transformation: The Black Belt, a series of counties with large black populations, which stretches from the Deep South to the mid-Atlantic. (Florida is not a Black Belt state.)

    An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday found that a measly 1 percent of registered black voters overall support Trump.

    That’s extremely problematic in states with high numbers of black voters. The more black voters Clinton gets, the fewer white ones she needs.

    The northernmost of these states have voted Democratic in recent elections — Maryland since 1992; Virginia since 2008. North Carolina even flipped in 2008. But now, with Trump as the GOP standard-bearer, the Black Belt states in the Deep South also look shaky.

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Time to Borrow

    The campaign still has three ugly months to go, but the odds — 83 percent odds, according to the New York Times’ model — are that it will end with the election of a sane, sensible president. So what should she do to boost America’s economy, which is doing better than most of the world but is still falling far short of where it should be?

    There are, of course, many ways our economic policy could be improved. But the most important thing we need is sharply increased public investment in everything from energy to transportation to wastewater treatment.

    How should we pay for this investment? We shouldn’t — not now, or any time soon. Right now there is an overwhelming case for more government borrowing.

    Let me walk through this case, then address some of the usual objections.

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August 11th

Yay, Olympics - but also ewwwww!

    "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," is the unofficial motto of 2016.

    I can list on the fingers of one Ramsay Bolton-mangled hand all the good things that have happened in 2016, and most of them involve musicals about Founding Fathers winning meaningless awards. The election is going so badly that I have had to buy a whole thesaurus full of synonyms for "garbage fire." Both Prince and David Bowie took one look at this year and decided it was time to head back to the astral plane, leaving us to struggle alone. Compared with 2016, even 2015 has begun to look appealing, even though I can still vividly remember all the reasons I broke up with it and they are largely still valid.

    But soon we will have the Olympics. Katie Ledecky, who is human sunshine but swims like the Leviathan, will be there. Michael Phelps will still be there, amazingly. The tear-jerking commercials have already started. I watched with excitement as we assembled the gymnastics team. Finally, I thought, we can have a nice, inspiring thing.

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Lawyers can be zealous without becoming nasty

    The American Bar Association is considering adding a rule to its canon of ethics that would prohibit lawyers from discriminating in the course of their jobs. The proposal seems innocuous and probably overdue -- but it has encountered a surprising degree of opposition. So it seems reasonable to ask: Why is this even a thing? How can anyone in good conscience think that barring discrimination by lawyers is a bad idea?

    The answer is that the legal profession is the last bastion of unfettered, unapologetic nastiness, proudly flying the flag of zealous client representation. In some ways, that's good. The adversarial system calls for a degree of confrontation and aggression that would be inappropriate in almost any other professional context. Yet it should be possible to craft rules to carve out certain kinds of nastiness -- including discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, or other invidious motives.

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How to understand China's confession videos

    While Chinese media giants have made news by acquiring significant Hollywood assets over the past few months, the Chinese Communist Party has been busily producing its own video content, though the stiffness of the acting and repetitive dialogue would no doubt make any seasoned director shudder. From finance professionals forced to "apologize" for their attempts at accurate reporting on the country's economic slowdown to the chilling "confession" thislast week of human rights lawyer Wang Yu, the Communist Party is clearly trying to cover up the bitter truth of its brutal rule - and, at the same time, assuage its unease and fear - by broadcasting a series of preposterous confessions on state media platforms.

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Millennials: Less sex, more satisfaction

    Older generations always seem to fret about the sexual behavior and romantic lives of the younger crowd. In the 1920s, there was alarm when boys stopped visiting in the parlor and started driving girls around in what one newspaper called "a house of prostitution on wheels." This worry paled in comparison to the panic evoked by the rowdy sexual revolution that began in the late 1960s.

    In the 1980s, observers were rightly alarmed by the growing prevalence of early teen sex, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. In the first two decades of this century, anxiety shifted to the college hookup scene and the emergence of dating apps to facilitate casual sex.

    Recently, however, a new concern has surfaced, with the finding that young adults, those age 20 to 24, are now having less sex than Gen-Xers or baby boomers born in the 1960s did at the same age. Indeed, 15 percent of 20-to-24-year-olds today report having had no sexual partner since they turned 18. (This is more than double the percentage for those born the 1960s; only 6 percent of them reported being sexually inactive at that age.)

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Donald Trump doing his campaign no favors

    A task that no other Republican has been able to accomplish over the last year -- taking down Donald Trump -- finally appears to be underway. The Republican who is doing it is Trump himself.

    In the wake of a series of self-inflicted political wounds, post-convention opinion polls have registered a sharp drop in his support, breaking a virtual tie with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. His slide has triggered speculation of a November landslide defeat and with it restoration of a Democratic Congress in January.

    Trump damaged his campaign by saying an American Muslim father at the Democratic National Convention had "no right" to take issue with his plan to ban further entry of Muslims, and to question his knowledge of the U.S. Constitution.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump, came to the father's defense, saying that his endorsement was not "a blank check" for the candidate to speak recklessly. Trump peevishly replied by saying he wasn't ready to endorse Ryan in his House re-election primary.

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Democrats see Trump sinking other Republicans

    In 1980, Democratic pollster Peter Hart warned Gaylord Nelson, Wisconsin's champion vote-getter as governor and senator, that he was going to lose. Hart saw a Republican wave coming. Ronald Reagan would defeat President Jimmy Carter and carry other GOP candidates to victory as well.

    The opposite of the wave effect in elections is the so-called Eisenhower jacket, a term coined by Democrats predicting that the immensely popular Ike wouldn't have the coat-tails to help other Republicans down the ballot.

    With three months to go in the 2016 race, there is a presumption among most Democrats and more than a few Republicans that Hillary Clinton is headed to a decisive victory. Democrats are talking about a possible wave, while Republicans see a no-coattails election, particularly since Clinton herself remains unpopular.

    Of course, the race could change. Trump could get his act together, or there could be a crisis or a Clinton contretemps.

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