Archive

May 20th, 2016

Clinton plans to use Iran playbook on N. Korea

    One of Hillary Clinton's top priorities as president would be to use sanctions to pressure North Korea to negotiate limits on its nuclear program, according to Clinton's top foreign policy adviser. The strategy would mimic the Obama administration's approach to Iran.

    Jake Sullivan, the head of the Clinton campaign's foreign policy advisory team, was one of two officials who began secret negotiations with Iran in 2012 that eventually resulted in the nuclear agreement that Iran struck last summer with six world powers. He told an audience Monday evening at the Asia Society in New York that Clinton is planning a similar strategy to deal with North Korea's nuclear program.

    "This is a paramount security challenge of the United States. It will have to be right at the top of the agenda for the next president to deal with," he said. "It's hard for me to underscore how important it is that we place urgency behind this."

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‘Bathroom Bills’ Don’t Help Women at All

    The time has come for me to play my Woman Card.

    A male Republican politician in my state of Wisconsin has introduced a “bathroom bill” like the one passed in North Carolina, which requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth.

    He says it’s to “protect women and children.”

    Oh, knight in shining armor, thank you for trying to protect me and my fellow women. But I fear you misunderstand the real issues women have in restrooms.

    Here are a few laws you might propose instead to help us out:

    - Ban men from leaving the toilet seat up, so we don’t fall in.

- Mandate that public restrooms never run out of toilet paper, so we’re not left stranded in stalls, fishing through our purses on the off chance we’ll find some tissues.

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A No-Trump Column

    What do Genghis Kahn, William the Conqueror, and Geronimo all have in common? Mighty warriors, they died not in battle, but by falling off horses. The list of historical notables who got killed on horseback includes kings, queens, prime ministers, Pope Urban VI and Emperor Theodosius of Rome.

    I've long insisted that my plan was to die in a fall from a horse at age 88 -- suitably remote as to make it a joke. A smug, stupid joke. I've also argued -- as friends' broken shoulders and fractured pelvises accumulated -- that riding bicycles in traffic is a damn fool thing for mature citizens to do.

    Challenged, I'd say I never rode horses in traffic or on pavement. One virtue of our Arkansas farm is that it's river bottomland. There's not a rock on the place. Besides, I hadn't been dumped in 15 years.

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Where Republican Dreams Die?

    Ohio and Florida. Florida and Ohio. What a pair of election-year divas, always preening for the pundits. Enough. There are other comely swing states on the stage.

    Let’s gawk at North Carolina.

    If Donald Trump drags down Republicans across the board, this is one of the places where they’ll flail. Its Republican governor, nearing the end of a tumultuous first term, is in trouble. One of the state’s two Republican senators is facing a tougher re-election battle than was predicted just months ago. Democrats are circling. Make that drooling.

    Although purple, North Carolina turned deceptively red over the last few years, and Republican lawmakers have behaved with a potentially suicidal swagger. In the process they’ve managed to enrage corporate America, exposing a newly profound tension in the GOP between its business-minded wing and the religious right.

    Some of the most interesting crosswinds of American politics blow through this state.

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U.S. rig numbers say growth can't keep on truckin'

    A couple of months ago, I looked through the data on goods being shipped across the world's oceans and reached the conclusion that the various indexes were signaling bad news for the global economy. A reader suggested taking a similar look at what's happening on the highways of North America, particularly with regard to demand for trucks used to haul goods around the country. The numbers suggest hauliers in the world's biggest economy aren't exactly bursting with optimism about the outlook.

    The website truckinginfo.com says U.S. fleet operators have "no additional need for capacity, and that "the market may not have bottomed out yet as activity is expected to remain soft during the slower summer order season."

    Orders for Class 8 trucks -- vehicles with gross weight ratings exceeding 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) -- slumped to their lowest level in six years in April, after dropping 16 percent in the month and by 39 percent in the past year. Operators ordered just 13,500 new vehicles last month, down from a peak of almost 46,000 in October 2014.

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There won't be a deal in Obamacare religion fight

    The Supreme Court's do-over on the question of religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive care mandate is bizarre, but it reflects the weirdness of an eight-justice court.

    Unable to resolve the question, but unwilling to leave a patchwork of different results in different circuits, the justices told various appeals courts to try again. Most likely, the lower courts will split again, and the issue will come back to the Supreme Court. By then, there might be nine justices to decide it.

    The writing was on the wall for a weird result. After oral arguments, the justices tried to force a compromise by telling lawyers for the government and the religious groups seeking the exemption to engage in further briefing. The court's goal was to produce a compromise, but when the briefs came in, there was none to be had.

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The dangerous insecurity of Donald Trump

    Donald Trump's opponents in the primaries were right to call him a con artist, a narcissist and a pathological liar. Just ask "John Miller."

    That's one of the names Trump used with journalists to burnish his status as a bold-faced Manhattan celebrity; he also called himself "John Barron." Both personae were supposedly publicists who just wanted to explain what a wonderful guy Mr. Trump was and how beautiful women seemed unable to resist his charms.

    Last week, The Washington Post ran a story about the "Miller" and "Barron" ruses, which took place years ago, and posted a 1991 recording of "Miller" explaining why Trump was dumping Marla Maples. "He's coming out of a marriage, and he's starting to do tremendously well financially," the imaginary publicist says to a reporter from People magazine. "Actresses just call to see if they can go out with him and things." Madonna is ostentatiously name-dropped as someone who "wanted to go out with him."

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Government just got more power, which is good

    Here's the most important legal principle that you've probably never heard of: If a regulation issued by a government agency turns out to be ambiguous, the agency, not the court, gets to resolve the ambiguity. It's called the Auer principle, after the 1977 Supreme Court decision that established it. (This is different from Chevron deference, which gives agencies deference in interpreting statutes.)

    For the past five years, the Auer principle has been under sustained assault from the conservative justices, who have argued that it is a violation of the separation of powers and an unacceptable aggrandizement of executive authority. Few people have noticed, but on Monday the court made it clear that Auer is going to be with us for the long time. For the next president -- whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump -- there's a big reason to celebrate. The rest of us should be celebrating along with them.

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First-generation college students need strong networks of support

    I started gasping for air. The doctor stared at me uncomfortably, offered water and then slipped out of the room.

    I was alone.

    I could feel the beginning of an anxiety attack coming on because the doctor had just informed me that I might have pneumonia. I would never find out if her suspicions were correct because the only way to check is to perform an X-ray, an action that my Medicaid insurance would only cover if I were shipped to the hospital in an ambulance.

    I blamed myself. I should've gone to the doctor earlier; I should've accepted the out-of-pocket costs from the campus health center; I should've taken out more loans to cover these costs. Overwhelmed, my mind and body could only respond with an anxiety attack.

    Now, a year later, I have left that sense of helplessness behind on another university campus. As a transfer to Georgetown University, I left behind my old school that did not provide a support network for first-generation college students. Now on a new campus, I still face problems paying health insurance bills by myself.

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Clinton, Trump vie to be working-class heroes

    Hillary Clinton's campaign website lists 31 issues, in alphabetical order from "Alzheimer's" to "Workforce and Skills," for which she has explicit policies. "Taxes" with a "T" is not one.

    Yet there's little question about what direction Clinton has in mind for her overall tax policy. After describing her idea to make college more affordable, for instance, she adds the following: "This plan will cost around $350 billion over 10 years -- and will be fully paid for by limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers."

    The American economy of the past four decades has been sufficiently varied to merit multiple, conflicting descriptions, from "hollowed out" to "innovative." But the general direction in which economic gains have flowed over that period is indisputable: upward.

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