Archive

January 12th, 2016

Ryan makes another empty vow to repeal health-care act

    Oh, my.

    Alex Moe of NBCNews tweeted about Speaker Paul Ryan: "asked why do Obamacare repeal bill before offering GOP alternative: 'Just wait' he says with a smile"

    "Just wait"? C'mon, Mr. Speaker.

    Let's recall a Jan. 20, 2011, column by Paul Ryan, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and four other Republicans just after the first House vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

    "We will hold hearings in Washington and around the country. We will invite affected individuals and job creators to share their stories and solutions. We will look to the Constitution and common sense to guide legislation.

    "Replacing this law is a policy and a moral imperative.

    "The committees we lead will tackle these challenges with the seriousness and steadfastness of purpose they deserve.

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North Korea is a joke, and that's the problem

    North Korea sometimes seems less of a place than an idea or an absurdist fantasy. The latest New Yorker depicts Kim Jong Un on its cover as a child playing with toy missiles. What other world leader gets this treatment? What other country is so alien, so downright weird, that it celebrates the anniversary of its independence by creating its own time zone? What other country could prompt U.S. intelligence officials to seriously speculate that a nuclear test was retaliation for disrespecting a state-run all-female pop group? What other country has a state-run all-female pop group?

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Correcting Donald Trump - or anyone else - doesn't work

    The same infographic kept appearing in my Twitter feed again and again around Thanksgiving. The graphic, originally shared by Donald Trump, showed a series of statistics about race and gun deaths in 2015, alongside an image of a dark-skinned man with a handgun.

    Every single one of the statistics in the graphic was false.

    But here's the thing: The people I follow on Twitter weren't endorsing the bogus statistics - quite the opposite. News organizations shared the image along with links to their articles debunking it. Pundits shared the image to poke fun at Trump's credulity. Liberals shared the image along with their concerns that someone who would traffic in such fabrications could become president. (Trump, meanwhile, said the whole thing didn't matter: "All it was was a retweet.")

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Yes, Bill Clinton still has that campaign magic

    Does Bill Clinton still have his political magic? How much of it can he transfer to his wife? The answers: Yes and not much.

    The former president hit the campaign trail this week on behalf of his spouse, the Democratic presidential front-runner. He is the most popular public figure in America and still possesses unrivaled campaign skills. He has learned from his miserable performance eight years ago, when he was a liability for Hillary Clinton as she battled Barack Obama for the nomination.

    Still, popularity rarely transfers in American politics. Six decades ago, the mantra was that President Dwight Eisenhower's jacket didn't have coattails: Few Republicans benefited from that president's enormous popularity. That's probably even more the case with political figures of today.

    Bill Clinton probably helps his wife in some marginal ways: fundraising, appealing to some groups that distrust her, such as young voters. And in the general election he could provide a reminder of what many remember as the golden years of prosperity and peace of the 1990s.

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When China Stumbles

     So, will China’s problems cause a global crisis? The good news is that the numbers, as I read them, don’t seem big enough. The bad news is that I could be wrong, because global contagion often seems to end up being worse than hard numbers say it should. And the worse news is that if China does deliver a bad shock to the rest of the world, we are remarkably unready to deal with the consequences.

    For those just starting to pay attention: It has been obvious for a while that China’s economy is in big trouble. How big is hard to say, because nobody believes official Chinese statistics.

    The basic problem is that China’s economic model, which involves very high saving and very low consumption, was only sustainable as long as the country could grow extremely fast, justifying high investment. This in turn was possible when China had vast reserves of underemployed rural labor. But that’s no longer true, and China now faces the tricky task of transitioning to much lower growth without stumbling into recession.

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What Happens When Private Money Pays for Science?

    As a select few accumulate massive fortunes, two schools of thought vie on how to funnel some of that money toward the public good. One school says to hike taxes on billionaires and let our elected officials spend the revenues on worthy projects. That's involuntary giving, and the giver doesn't have much of a say about where it goes.

    The other school backs the light taxation of great wealth and applauds when the superrich make large charitable donations. The giving is voluntary (spurred on by tax incentives), and the money goes exactly where the donor directs it.

    The second school, encouraged by the conservative doctrine of cutting taxes and spending, is winning. It's interesting, though, to examine where the private money ends up. Privatized funding for science has favored a few regions, and usually not the conservative ones. The big donor dollars have been congregating in progressive enclaves on the East and West coasts and in the Upper Midwest.

    Three examples:

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January 11th

Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility

    The epidemic of gun violence in our country is a crisis. Gun deaths and injuries constitute one of the greatest threats to public health and to the safety of the American people. Every year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children. We’re the only advanced nation on earth that sees this kind of mass violence with this frequency.

    A national crisis like this demands a national response. Reducing gun violence will be hard. It’s clear that common-sense gun reform won’t happen during this Congress. It won’t happen during my presidency. Still, there are steps we can take now to save lives. And all of us — at every level of government, in the private sector and as citizens — have to do our part.

    We all have a responsibility.

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The Grand Old Party's Vision

    The new leader of the Republican Party seems to be as stuck in a time warp as the previous leadership. Somehow it simply does not spell leadership to me to take the umpteenth vote to kill the Affordable Health Care Act and the eighth in the last year to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Methinks he would take matters even a step further making us appreciate the crying speaker of yesterday as looking better than we thought at the time.

    Someone should remind him if you keep on doing the same thing you will keep on getting the same results. I realize he would argue that he acquired a few more votes in the last election but a lesson in the Constitution that he and his party presumably venerate so much will make it clear that the results will be the same. Like it or not there is a third leg to this government and it is controlled by the President, a President with much more empathy for the needs of the population. I can hardly recognize this first vote of the new session as the all time accomplishment. Without doubt it does designate just where he stands.

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Russians have now learned to hack power grids

    A successful cyber-attack on a power grid is a nightmare that keeps intelligence services and security experts awake at night. Now the threat is no longer theoretical: A grid in Ukraine has been brought down by hackers. The vulnerability they used? As so often with hacking, human stupidity.

    The engineered blackout scenario is so scary Ted Koppel, the former "Nightline" host, recently published a book about it. In "Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath," Koppel claimed the U.S. was unprepared for an attack on one of the three power grids that distribute electricity throughout the country. He wrote:

    "If an adversary of this country has as its goal inflicting maximum damage and pain on the largest number of Americans, there may not be a more productive target than one of our electric power grids."

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Rosa Parks is posthumously rewriting privacy law

    Rosa Parks now belongs to the ages -- literally. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that the estate of the civil-rights pioneer can't block the use of her image on a commemorative plaque being sold at a Target near you because she and her story are matters of public interest. The case raised the crucial question of who owns a person's story once he or she has been in the news. Construed broadly, the decision could mean the end of life-rights sales to the motion-picture industry.

    Like most property rights, the privacy right to control your own image and story is a matter of state law. The federal court decided the case under Michigan law, because Michigan is where the foundation that inherited Parks's estate is located.

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