Archive

June 25th, 2016

Donald Trump's problems are making it too easy for Democrats to ignore their own

    If you're a liberal Democrat, you could be forgiven for feeling pretty smug these days. Though the convention is still to come, Hillary Clinton, the standard bearer of establishment Democrats, is virtually assured of getting the nomination. She seeks to follow eight years of a Democratic president, and 16 years out of the past 24. With presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump beset by a hostile media and a skeptical-at-best GOP leadership - owing to his own inflammatory and erratic behavior - the safe bet is to assume at least another four years of a liberal Democrat in office.

    And yet look below the surface, and you'll find that liberal Democrats face existential problems - none more glaring than a fundamental question of identity. The question that must preoccupy the party if, as expected, it earns a third consecutive presidential term is simple but uneasily answered: What do liberal Democrats stand for?

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Trump's attacks on freedom of religion

    Donald Trump apparently wants to institute something akin to Jim Crow discrimination against Muslims, including those who are citizens of the United States. Is this what the Republican Party wants as well?

    What's your opinion about legalized religious bigotry, House Speaker Paul Ryan? How about you, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Do Republican quislings agree with the man they have endorsed for president? They should never again speak of the hallowed traditions of the Party of Lincoln, because those ideals are being spat upon by the presumptive nominee. The GOP is now the Party of Trump.

    On Sunday, "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson reminded Trump that last year he had raised the idea of "profiling" for Muslims and asked him to elaborate. Trump's response: "Well, I think profiling is something that we're going to have to start thinking about as a country. Other countries do it," he said, naming Israel, and "we have to start using common sense."

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Trump's misfires send Republicans scurrying

    The four measures to tighten gun laws that got shot down in the Senate on Monday provided further evidence that Donald Trump can't even get right with his supporters, much less enemies in his own party.

    In the wake of the June 12 massacre in an Orlando night club, the presumptive Republican nominee took on one of his most important allies, the National Rifle Association, inadvertently, with two completely opposite positions: Flanking the powerful lobby on the left, he advocated barring those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns -- one of the measures that failed to pass on Monday that is anathema to the NRA. And coming at them from the right, a place that is hard to get to without falling off the face of the Earth, he suggested that the club-goers would have been better off had they been armed, too, and able to shoot the terrorist "right smack between the eyes."

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Trump's campaign? What campaign?

    Donald Trump's firing of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, sounds like a big deal, until you realize how little of a Trump campaign there is to manage.

    Late Monday, hours after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Trump let his campaign manager go, new campaign filings revealed that Trump ended May with less than $1.3 million in the bank.

    That might sound like a nice piece of change until you learn that Hillary Clinton, his presumptive Democratic opponent, raised more than $28 million in May and started June with $42 million in cash.

    Even Trump's fellow Republican Ben Carson reported $1.8 million -- $500,000 more than Trump -- in his campaign fund in May, even though he stopped campaigning in March.

    Overall, Team Trump -- his presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee and Trump's allied super PAC Great America PAC -- went into June with $21.7 million in cash. That compares to $103.4 million in cash on hand held by Team Clinton, which includes her campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Priorities USA super PAC.

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June 24th

I'm a doctor in a critical-care unit. Here's what gun violence looks like to me.

    The critical care team making rounds - my team for today - stops abruptly in front of the next patient room, and I hear my co-resident present the story: The 18-year-old patient suffered a gunshot wound to the face. The circumstances of the shooting aren't clear, but we heard it had something to do with "gang violence." And we continue listening to the presentation: an update on any changes in the patient's status that happened overnight, his vital signs over the past 24 hours, the input of different specialists, and, finally, the treatment plan for the day.

    We shuffle into the room - an army of white coats - with hopeful, patient smiles. We stand in a halo around the bed as we look at the young man, wearing a cervical collar and not able to fully open his mouth. This is what gun violence leaves in its wake. Though we're trained, as doctors and nurses, not to let emotion cloud our clinical judgment as we treat devastating wounds and illnesses, it's still jarring to see the damage that can be done by a weapon so readily available in our society.

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The best-case scenario for Trump

    Donald Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday. The move followed a disastrous stretch for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in which he's driven away his party's elites, failed to organize a proper general election campaign and fallen far behind Hillary Clinton in the polls.

    Trump trails Clinton by 7.6 percentage points in the HuffPollster estimate. Her lead is larger than any that President Barack Obama was able to establish over Mitt Romney in 2012, and Trump has to do about 4 percentage points better than Romney. Moreover, it still seems likely that Clinton has a bit more of a surge remaining as she consolidates the Democratic vote once Bernie Sanders drops out and endorses her.

    There's no reason to believe that Trump will suddenly change, and it's far more likely that the candidate, not the campaign manager, is the problem with his White House quest. Still, it's possible that the staff contributed to some of the dysfunction, or that a shake-up reflects the candidate's realization that he can't win the general election by appealing to a plurality of Republicans while angering the rest of the nation.

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Sure, Trump promotes women. That doesn't mean he respects them.

    One of the more head-scratching aspects of Trump's worldview is this: he routinely denigrates women while also promoting them within his own businesses. In a recent interview with Bill O'Reilly, he again trumpeted these efforts again, claiming he "really broke the glass ceiling" in the construction industry.

    But how can we square his record of promoting women -- and the fact that many of his female former employees have called him a "terrific mentor" -- with the fact that he routinely insults women and calls them "pigs" and "dogs"? Or that his supporters routinely refer to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a b---? As a Washington Post reporter documented at a recent campaign stop, "At most of Trump's rallies, there is a palpable hatred of Clinton in the air, and some of Trump's strongest applause lines come when he attacks the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, calling her 'crooked' and accusing her of playing 'the woman's card.'"

    In fact, it's no contradiction at all: it's a classic example of what's known in psychology as "subtyping."

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Another Age of Discovery

    Have we been here before? I know — it feels as if the internet, virtual reality, Donald Trump, Facebook, sequencing of the human genome and machines that can reason better than people constitute a change in the pace of change without precedent. But we’ve actually been through an extraordinarily rapid transition like this before in history — a transition we can learn a lot from.

    Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, and Chris Kutarna, also of Oxford Martin, have just published a book — “Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance” — about lessons we can draw from the period 1450 to 1550, known as the Age of Discovery. It was when the world made a series of great leaps forward, propelled by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Copernicus and Columbus, that produced the Renaissance and reshaped science, education, manufacturing, communications, politics and geopolitics.

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All Russians are tainted by Putin's regime

    The International Olympic Committee's decision to let Russian athletes compete in the Rio Olympics if they can prove that they haven't used performance-enhancing drugs won't be popular with other countries. Nonetheless, it was the right call. But it also carries some unpleasant undertones: It formally requires Russians to prove that they are not tainted by the rotten regime that runs their country.

    On Tuesday, the Olympic summit -- a meeting of the movement's top officials -- adopted a declaration that backed an earlier decison by track and field's world governing body to ban the Russian athletics federation from international competition. That decision was based on the finding by the World Anti-Doping Agency of a clear state-supported doping culture in Russian track and field; Kenya also was declared non-compliant. So the IOC said athletes from these countries wouldn't automatically be considered clean -- instead, they'd have to provide evidence of their compliance with doping regulations to the international federations that run their sports:

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Why extremely rare events keep happening all the time

    Something weird seems to be happening in the heavens. This week marks a coincidence of the full moon and the summer solstice. Some astronomers are calling this combination of maximum moonlight and the Northern Hemisphere's longest day a rare event.

    It comes close on the heels of last month's rare passage of Mercury in front of the sun, September's rare pairing of a lunar eclipse with a so-called supermoon, the rare 2014 "tetrad" of lunar eclipses, the rare 2012 transit of Venus, and a plethora of once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignments, one earlier this year, one in 2014 and one in the summer of 2013. Next year there will be a rare total eclipse of the sun.

    If these sorts of events are so rare, why do they happen so often?

    Ask a statistician. David Hand, a professor at Imperial College London makes sense of world's abundance of rare events in his 2014 book, "The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day."

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