Archive

February 17th, 2016

Who had the worst week in Washington? Marco Rubio

    Let's dispel with this fiction once and for all that Marco Rubio is a shoo-in to be the establishment choice in the Republican presidential race. Marco Rubio is not a shoo-in to be the establishment choice in the Republican presidential race.

    Politics can change in an instant. And that's what happened last Saturday night when Rubio repeatedly, um, repeated a stock line from his stump speech during a debate in New Hampshire. "Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country," Rubio said. And said. And said.

    Chris Christie called him out: "There it is, the memorized 25-second speech," Christie joked.

    A rattled Rubio was still feeling the robotic rap on the campaign trail Monday. At an event in Nashua, he repeated a line about "how hard it's become to install our values in our kids instead of the values they try to ram down our throats" in about 10 seconds' time.

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Thursday's Democratic debate, abridged

    I keep watching these things so you don't have to. I wish someone else would watch them for me. I went into this election season a comparatively young woman, spry and filled with hope, and now I am a crippled and elderly crone typing this with one hand and shouting for metamucil.

    Here, however, is what transpired Thursday evening:

    Gwen Ifill: Hello and welcome to the Democratic debate, on PBS. First, because this is a good use of everyone's time: Hillary Clinton, why don't women like you?

    Clinton: I think it is less that women don't like me, Gwen, and more that people don't like me. And, again, if I knew what was causing this, you bet your life it would not be the case any longer.

    Judy Woodruff: Senator Clinton, is it true that women will go to hell if they don't support you?

    Clinton: For the last time, no, of course not. I would never put another woman through what I am going through right now.

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The man who said Einstein was wrong, and was right

    It takes a brave man to reject a scientific paper by Albert Einstein. But that's what the physicist Howard Percy Robertson did in 1936, as editor of the journal Physical Review. Einstein was so enraged that he never published there again.

    If Einstein were alive today, he might thank Robertson, who saved the great scientist from retracting the most far-reaching prediction of his theory of relativity - the existence of gravitational waves. The first direct detection of Einstein's waves was announced this week to much fanfare and celebration. Scientists say the waves emanated from the powerful collision of two black holes.

    The finding was hailed as a vindication, though Einstein was one of the biggest doubters of his own idea. He flip-flopped several times over the years, said physicist Daniel Kennefick, co-author of An Einstein Encyclopedia. The tale ended well, thanks to Einstein's wisdom in knowing when to be sure, when to have doubts, when to ignore his doubters and when to listen to them and regroup.

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Sanders, Trump give voice to frustrated voters

    After the New Hampshire primary, a new narrative to describe Campaign 2016 has taken shape. It is a narrative of class warfare that, despite the smiles on the candidates' faces, is tearing both parties apart.

    Hillary Clinton's loss to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic contest was stunning, not only in its scale but also in its roots. Sanders won the poor and working class -- voters with income of less than $50,000 -- by two-to-one.

    Eight years ago, Clinton repeatedly beat then-Sen. Barack Obama among working-class white voters. Not this time.

    Sanders also clobbered Clinton among young voters by almost six-to-one and three to one among independents. Sanders even edged Clinton out among young women voters, a core constituency for her campaign.

    Who did she win? Most significantly: voters with incomes of more than $200,000 a year.

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Republicans, Widows and Porn

    You can’t possibly say it’s been a bad week when Ted Cruz has a problem with a soft-core porn actress.

    The run-up to this weekend’s Republican debate was greatly enlivened by the news that Amy Lindsay, an alum of “Animal Lust” and “Whose Thong Is It Anyway?,” was starring in a Cruz campaign ad. It was supposed to show a therapy group for ex-Marco Rubio supporters, and Lindsay had a major role as the woman who said, “Maybe you should vote for more than just a pretty face.” It was pulled after reporters checked into her résumé.

    “It’s part of a bigger problem that Ted has,” Rubio told MSNBC when the story came up on Friday. Unfortunately, he said he was referring to Cruz’s effort to “act like the only consistent conservative in this race.” But I believe I speak for many Americans when I say this needs to be revisited during the debate.

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'Redebating' is a test for Clinton and Sanders

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders shared a stage Thursday night for the third time in eight days. Their skills are being tested: The same old talking points are growing stale to those of us who watch every one of these things, but the campaigns know that new people are tuning in all the time. With every approaching primary and caucus, a new crop of voters is paying attention. Both candidates are good enough politicians that they manage to address both the new and the returning viewers.

    Sanders has improved over the course of the campaign, and easily handles himself as if he belongs on the stage. The performance gap evident in the early debates has narrowed considerably. Still, he goes through his greatest hits each time. He repeated once again his complaints about a "rigged" economy and millionaires and billionaires, and bragged as usual about his small donors.

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NFL can't keep out felons if colleges protect them

    The NFL will ban prospective draftees with domestic violence, sexual assault, or weapons convictions from attending the annual scouting combine. But as long as colleges and teams go to great lengths to protect players who have been accused of such crimes, this new policy shift won't change much.

    Case in point: On Tuesday, six women filed a federal Title IX lawsuit against the University of Tennessee, accusing the school of fostering a culture that enables sexual assault by athletes who can be all but sure they won't be thoroughly investigated or prosecuted. Five of the six women say they were raped, in events dating to 1995, by three former football players, a former basketball player, and a non-athlete. According to the civil suit, "UT intentionally acted by an official policy of deliberate indifference to known sexual assaults" creating a "severely hostile sexual environment."

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Marching Bands and High School PE

    The Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Neb., will not allow its students to substitute marching band for its requirement that students take three semesters of physical education.

    The proposal would save about $75,000 a year, according to the administration. But, the administration also said if the proposal was implemented it would negate the district’s emphasis on wellness and promoting physical fitness.

    There are two issues here.

    First, as almost everyone who ever was a member of a marching band knows, it’s physically challenging. Every member must not only march, sometimes at a rapid pace, but also read music, do maneuvers and play an instrument at the same time.

    Some parades are a mile; the Rose Parade is 5.5 miles. Students train not just to march, but to march the entire distance.

    For majorettes, it means marching, throwing and catching batons, a feat not many can do if they are not physically fit.

    Waiving PE credit is reasonable.

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February 16th

Ads just don't work in the 2016 campaign

    To a foreign observer, perhaps the most incomprehensible aspect of the U.S. presidential election is the advertising. It's omnipresent and hellishly expensive, but it doesn't appear to do anything tangible for the candidates. It certainly doesn't win more votes for those who spend more.

    Based on ad spending estimates from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries, a vote cost the top 10 candidates $107 on average. In the general election of 2015, British parties spent an average of 42 U.S. cents per vote.

    This factoid seems tailor-made for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who promises to do his best to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision -- which allowed unlimited spending by super PACs on candidates' behalf. Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the candidate with the most expensive votes to date, now says he'd "eliminate" the ruling and calls the super PAC system "ridiculous."

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How the United States built a welfare state for the wealthy

    Syracuse University political scientist Chris Faricy is the author of the newly published book "Welfare for the Wealthy." The book has been called "critically important" and "eye-opening." He kindly answered some questions via email. A lightly edited transcript is below.

    Q: The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats want to expand government and Republicans want to shrink it. But you argue "a vote for the Republican Party is not necessarily a vote for smaller government." Why is that?

    A: The Republican Party is not immune from electoral pressures to use the federal government to benefit Republican constituencies. The main difference between Democrats and Republicans is not whether to spend federal money but rather who those constituencies are.

    For the GOP, two important groups are wealthier households and businesses. Republicans have pursued policies that benefit both -- things like government subsidies for IRAs and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

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