Archive

December 26th

Graham's out. Now he might matter a little.

    One more time: Winnowing works. Sen. Lindsey Graham dropped out of the presidential campaign Monday, reducing the field of active candidates to 13. He's the fourth announced candidate to withdraw, along with another half-dozen or so who did candidate-like things but quit before reaching the announcement step.

    It's more confirmation that losing candidates leave the race. Others will soon follow, especially after the early primaries and caucuses in February.

    Graham's candidacy seemed mostly silly as it played out: He was acting as if his party needed saving from a massive antiwar movement, but in fact Republicans seem as hawkish as ever. It's worth remembering, however, that at one point Rand Paul, perhaps the most war-averse Republican candidate, was considered by some to be a formidable contender. It's also the case even now that Graham brought national security expertise to a candidate field that's been a lot longer on warmonger bluster than actual foreign policy knowledge -- and that for all their harsh words, the other candidates really never matched Graham in his willingness to accept at least somewhat realistic costs of military intervention.

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Which party loves the USA?

    Which political party loves America? Not the United States that once existed, but the flesh-and-blood nation that we all live in now.

    The debates we have witnessed -- too few and far between for the Democrats, frequent enough for the Republicans to constitute a new reality TV show -- have provided an incontestable answer to that question.

    The Democrats embrace the United States of Now in all of its raucous diversity.

     Democrats are not free of nostalgia. They long for the more economically equal America of decades ago and celebrate liberalism's heydays during the New Deal and civil rights years.

    But Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley all stand up for the rights of a younger America -- today's country -- that is less white, more Latino and Asian (and, yes, more Muslim) than was the U.S. of the past. The cultural changes that have reshaped us are welcomed as part of our historical trajectory toward justice and inclusion.

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Disney's Star Wars coup was pushing out Lucas

    The record-breaking performance of "The Force Awakens," the new Star Wars sequel, demonstrates marketing's victory over creativity in the movie industry. Hollywood, however, isn't to blame: Because of the way we watch movies, the industry is increasingly dependent on a few enormous financial bets -- and sequels are the safest.

    "The Force Awakens" grossed $238 million in the U.S. alone on its opening weekend, making it the fastest movie in history to make its first $100 million, $150 million and $200 million. Our family went, of course, and so probably did yours. Since Star Wars is a Disney franchise now, acquired for $4 billion, and the result was designed to recoup a big part of the investment.

    As with its acquisition of the Marvel comic book universe, Disney's goal was to awaken as little outrage as possible among Star Wars fans, while at the same time driving merchandise sales with new characters such as the cute BB-8 robot. It's a marketing feat for business school students to study: "How to push the original creator aside and produce what the target audience wants."

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Democrats should fear the depths of Donald Trump's support

    A word of caution to those Democrats, particularly those supporting Hillary Clinton, openly rooting for Donald Trump to win the Republican presidential nomination. Yes, his campaign has been six months of ugly, gasp-worthy rhetoric that should make the Republican Party a no-go zone for a majority of the American electorate on Election Day 2016. But folks like it. And that is reason to worry.

    What if radio talk show host Michael Smerconish was right ? What if Trump's numbers are really higher than the polls show because folks are lying to pollsters? What if a Trump vs. Clinton race isn't a slam dunk for the latter as everyone thinks? Thanks to a study conducted by Kyle Dropp, co-founder and executive director of polling and data science at Morning Consult , we have the frightening answer. Smerconish WAS right!

    Dropp interviewed 2,397 registered Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. All the participants started taking part in the survey online. Then things got interesting. While a third of them did the entire survey online, one third answered questions asked by a live person on the phone and the remaining third finished the poll with an automated voice. The result?

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Clinton shows why she's the frontrunner - and what could bring her down

    Hillary Clinton's worst enemy is Hillary Clinton, and the first few minutes of Saturday night's Democratic debate seemed to prove it. Her early answers were meandering and her delivery was flat. She spent a useless paragraph on the Sanders campaign data breach when a simple "This shouldn't be a big issue; let's move on" would have sufficed. As she started describing her strategy for Iraq and Syria, she ran through bullet points as though she were describing a bland powerpoint presentation that only she could see. Comfortably ahead in the polls, she seemed to assume the result of the Democratic primaries by stressing her differences with Republicans rather than those on stage. Her early performance portended a return of the over-cautious, self-defeating Hillary Clinton whose campaign choked in 2008.

    Then she woke up. As the moderators pressed the candidates on the specifics of their plans, Clinton, finally off script, spoke more forcefully and with the sort of detail one would expect from a former secretary of state:

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Clinton cleans up in Democratic debate

    The Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley -- put on another spirited debate. Granted, hardly anyone was watching on a Saturday night before Christmas.

    Sanders did what he's in the contest to do: Make the case for the most liberal wing of the Democratic party. For him, it really does come down to the rich vs. the rest. His most telling moment was turning a question about domestic terrorism and ethnic profiling back to income inequality, saying, "I believe we stand together to address the real issues facing this country, not allow them to divide us by race or where we come from."

    Sanders is knowledgeable in many areas, but the reason he's not in sync with his party isn't so much specific differences on policies as it is that he seems to be saying that other concerns -- ISIS, race, immigration and so on -- aren't "real issues."

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After San Bernardino, the pendulum may swing back toward more surveillance

    Two days after the horrendous shootings in San Bernardino, California, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked by a reporter during his daily briefing, "Are we at the point where the administration is ready to, if not concede, become concerned about the possibility of a major intelligence failure on these individuals on the West Coast?"

    How quickly people forget. It was little more than two years ago that reporters were questioning whether intelligence collection to discover terrorists had gone too far.

    National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden had distributed highly classified documents related to the National Security Agency's collection of information related to terrorism at home and abroad, and White House press secretary Jay Carney had to deal with reporters asking such things as, "Is the government striking the right balance between privacy and security."

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December 25th

Bad genes weren't your parents' fault, until now

    We are all unwitting players in a genetic lottery. Take a gene called APOE. It comes in three flavors - APOE2, APOE3 and APOE4. All three are considered normal human genes, but people who were dealt an APOE4 face three to five times the average risk of getting Alzheimer's disease. Since we inherit a copy of the gene from each parent, a few unlucky people will be stuck with two copies of the APOE4 version and face an even higher risk.

    To put it in perspective, by age 75 about 3 percent of people get Alzheimer's. For those with double APOE4, that rises to about 30 percent.

    Now a technology called gene editing could allow us to rig the game. Geneticists say that with a particularly effective new editing tool called CRISPR, it would a relatively simple matter to change one form of the APOE gene into another. That means prospective parents could take their sperm or eggs in for editing, thereby banishing the high-risk version of the gene from their offspring.

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Incorrect Language And More

    A recent headline boldly announced that Donald Trump's xenophobic comments of banning all Muslims from this nation disqualified him as President. What do they mean? Let us shout loudly and clearly he was never qualified for President of this nation in the first place. For emphasis let us repeat: He was NEVER QUALIFIED for PRESIDENT in "any way, shape, form or fashion."

    Speculation continues about his intent in running. Did he really think he could get elected? Is he as surprised as we are that he got this far? Surely he doesn't believe all the garbage spilling out or his mouth. Does he care at all about the nation or is it pure ego?

    One writer has suggested that it was to prove to his father that he could accomplish on his own. Some of us have had some of the same wonder regarding George W. Bush: that he had to show the family he was as important as Brother JEB!, the family's anointed one. Haven't we had enough of that? Don't we wish they would just see a psychiatrist? All of them.

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Often Pandering to Bias and Ignorance

    The Texas board of education didn’t find anything wrong with a world geography textbook that said slaves from Africa were workers, but that immigrants from northern Europe were indentured servants.

    This is the same school board that five years ago demanded that textbooks emphasize that slavery was only a side issue to the cause of the civil war, and that Republican achievements be emphasized in political science and civics textbooks.

    For good measure, the officials also wanted a “fair and balanced” look at evolution versus intelligent design or creationism, and that global warming is only a theory, overlooking substantial and significant scientific evidence.

    Because Texas adopts textbooks for the entire state, and there is minimal local choice, publishers tend to publish what Texas wants. The geography book had a 100,000 sale in Texas alone. However, McGraw-Hill, under a firestorm of protest from educators and parents, is modifying the text—African slaves will no longer be “workers” but slaves in the next printing.

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