Archive

December 5th

Ted Cruz is the ultimate Washington insider

    This National Review story about Ted Cruz includes my favorite paragraph from the 2016 Republican presidential nomination cycle so far:

    "[Congressman Tim] Huelskamp, whose office had not responded as of press time, could be a valuable ally for Cruz as he works to consolidate support from the conservative flank of the Republican party. Part of Cruz's pitch to voters is that while he works in Washington, D.C., he remains an outsider. Support from Huelskamp and other members of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has publicly butted heads with Republican leadership and claims some credit for Speaker John Boehner's resignation earlier this year, would bolster that portrayal."

    Got that? To strengthen the case that he's a Washington "outsider," Cruz needs to win support from members of Congress - - members who were (supposedly) able to boot a sitting speaker of the House.

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Ted Cruz has the mainstream in his sights

    Want to know how optimistic Senator Ted Cruz is feeling right now? He's pivoting away from the primary to the general election two months before the first Republican caucuses. For a guy who not long ago seemed to be angling for table scraps from Donald Trump, that's an impressive display of confidence.

    Cruz isn't actually getting ahead of himself; he's getting in position. From shutting down the government just because to frying "machine-gun bacon" to appeal to guys who treat military- grade weaponry as toys, Cruz has gone to great lengths to own the persona of right-wing ideologue. Having invested much in the endeavor, and having witnessed his reward in the form of rising poll numbers in Iowa, he won't abandon his sunk costs.

    The nature of right-wing politics means he won't necessarily have to; Cruz may be able to maintain his fringe bona fides largely through affect. This week, speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Cruz cited a "simple and undeniable fact: The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats." For bonus points, Cruz added: "The media doesn't report that."

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On Guns, We’re Not Even Trying

    Another day, another ghastly shooting in America.

    So far this year, the United States has averaged more than one mass shooting a day, according to the ShootingTracker website, counting cases of four or more people shot. And now we have the attack Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, that killed at least 14 people

    It’s too soon to know exactly what happened in San Bernardino, but just in the last four years, more people have died in the United States from guns (including suicides and accidents) than Americans have died in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined. When one person dies in America every 16 minutes from a gun, we urgently need to talk about remedies.

    Democrats, including President Barack Obama, emphasize the need to address America’s problems with guns. Republicans talk about the need to address mental health. Both are right.

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Making college cheaper is easy: Open more colleges

    Something is wrong with U.S. universities. Not catastrophically wrong, but wrong enough to warrant a push for reform.

    The problem is cost versus benefit. Although net tuition has only risen for students from higher-income families during the last two decades (because students with wealthier parents receive less financial aid), costs for textbooks and room and board have soared for all students.

    And parents, perhaps struck by the recession, or perhaps skeptical of whether college is worth the price tag, have been shouldering less of the cost, leaving students more deeply in debt than ever. Although defaults are much higher among students of for-profit colleges, debt levels have risen at all types of schools. Even if students pay back their loans, the presence of those liabilities on their household balance sheets will constrain their life choices. Here is a graph of total student loans outstanding per capita in the U.S.:

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How Big Pharma could lose the war on disease

    The planned merger of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer with competitor Allergan, aimed in large part at cutting the combined company's tax bill, illustrates a troubling trend in the industry: Firms are focused more on pursuing near- term profits than on the difficult, longer-term research needed to develop truly groundbreaking new drugs. This is unfortunate, because disease may be making a comeback.

    Consider the accelerating spread of multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections. There are now more than two million cases each year in the U.S. alone. Last month, scientists announced that they had found evidence, in farm animals in China, that genes for antibiotic resistance are being transferred directly among different bacteria -- a trick (known as horizontal gene transfer) that will allow the resistance to spread more quickly than ever before.

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December 4th

Fiery rhetoric a close relative of violence

    Yes, words matter.

    Vitriol aimed at Muslim refugees this month was followed by attacks on mosques.

    Dismissing the #BlackLivesMatter movement gave way to open gunfire on protesters in Minneapolis.

    The flaming hatred of Planned Parenthood set the stage for another act of domestic terrorism Friday at a clinic in Colorado Springs.

    Robert Lewis Dear Jr., a 57-year-old drifter with an extremist agenda, used the phrase "no more baby parts" after he allegedly killed three people - a police officer, an Iraq war veteran and a mother of two - and injured nine others in the rampage at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

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Christie's selling point: 'Anyone but Trump'

    With little more than an endorsement from the Manchester Union-Leader this weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's presidential quest has come back to life. In recent years, the tap hasn't been worth much -- just ask Newt Gingrich. But for Christie, it's the first spot of brightness in a campaign waged in the darkest shadows. New Hampshire's most influential newspaper has administered an elixir that's allowed Christie to man up to his pre-Bridgegate self, and attract some attention from the press, at least for now.

    Thus fortified, Christie did what any sensible candidate in this crazy election would do -- he invaded Donald Trump's airspace with attacks. The route to press attention lies through Trump. A 10-point program on health care won't get you there.

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Carson fails to impress on foreign policy

    Voters angry with traditional politics have been flocking to the support of Ben Carson, the famous neurosurgeon with the benign grin and temperament who has oozed his way into the affections of millions of Americans as an outsider 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

    He has garnered amazing backing as a sort of nonpolitical Willy Loman, running on a smile and a shoeshine. Without selling himself as the anti-Donald Trump, Carson has benefited from the sharp contrast he presents to Trump's bluster.

    But as foreign policy experience has taken on new significance in the campaign, the good doctor's prescriptions have seemed, under sharper scrutiny, to lack much depth, inviting the view that he has little familiarity with world affairs generally.

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Buy Today, Kill Tomorrow

    Good people can disagree about guns.

    Though I’ve always leaned left in my political views, I believe that Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I owned a gun for many years myself — at least until my conviction for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program canceled my Second Amendment rights.

    But there’s a problem that warrants immediate attention. You see, current law allows suspected terrorists, including those on the “No Fly List,” to legally purchase weapons.

    That’s right. I can’t legally buy a gun. But suspected terrorists can.

    Adam Gadahn, also known as Azzam al-Amriki, was an American citizen. Born and raised in California, he converted to Islam in 1995 and became a senior advisor to Osama bin Laden. Gadahn became al-Qaeda’s media expert, producing a slick magazine and videos to help the group recruit even more Americans to its cause.

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Blame geopolitics if the world slips toward war

    When George Friedman, founder of the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, published a book of predictions for the 21st century in 2009, a lot of it read like comedy. It no longer does: Regardless of whether Friedman got his specific forecasts right, old-fashioned geopolitics is making a comeback in the very countries he named as key players for his vision of the future.

    Friedman's brand of geopolitics can be hard to square with our everyday world. As the publisher of the Russian translation of "The Next 100 Years," I couldn't resist laughing when I read a sentence like "the only physical advantage Russia can have is depth," or "the secret lunar bases will represent the crown jewels of the Japanese military." It was hard to imagine a mid- century world war between two blocs, one dominated by the U.S. and Poland, the other by Turkey and Japan. In 2009, talk of a world war, never mind the specific shape of coalitions fighting it, appeared to belong in dystopian novels or conspiracy theory websites.

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