Archive

June 4th, 2016

No, Sanders voters aren't more conservative than Clinton voters

    Are Bernie Sanders supporters more ideologically liberal than Hillary Clinton supporters? The conventional wisdom - that of course they are - was challenged last week when political scientists Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels wrote about some surprising findings in the New York Times.

    Achen and Bartels analyzed 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) pilot survey data to figure out Sanders supporters' attitudes on social welfare issues like the minimum wage and health care spending. According to their data, respondents who prefer Sanders held roughly the same positions as - or were more conservative than - Clinton voters, overall.

    How can that be? According to DW-NOMINATE scores, Sen. Sanders had a more liberal Congressional roll call voting record than Clinton did as a senator. Sanders's campaign has been dedicated to a very liberal - even moderately socialist - redistribution of wealth: a higher minimum wage, a "Medicare for all" federal healthcare plan and economic inequality reduced by redistributing income from the rich to everyone else.

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Trump's energy plan would distort free market

    Donald Trump gave a well-timed speech on Thursday, laying out his policies on energy. That day, for the first time in six months, oil hit $50 a barrel, and he was in North Dakota, which produces more oil than any other state but Texas.

    The audience there welcomed his calls for greater production of fossil fuels, an end to the Environmental Protection Agency and the lifting of federal restrictions against drilling offshore and on public lands. His approach, he said, would produce such a windfall for the U.S. economy "that we will start to pay down our $19 trillion in debt, lower taxes and take care of our Social Security and Medicare," not to mention rebuild roads, bridges and airports.

    But, if anything, Trump's approach would backfire. He would encourage so much production of fossil fuels that prices would plummet, not increase. By recalling regulations that force fossil fuel prices to recognize the cost of pollution, he would also subvert the free market and jeopardize advances that could help pave the way for future U.S. economic growth.

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Hillary Clinton is not very good at running for president

    The headline "Dems Panicky Over Upcoming Election" is sort of like "Parents Flummoxed by App Popular With Teens" or "Kardashians Continue to Seek Attention." It's certainly true, but not exactly surprising. That's the stage we seem to be entering now in the presidential campaign, with furious hand-wringing by Democrats over the prospect that their presidential nominee is ruining everything. And even though Hillary Clinton could be leading the polls by 20 points and you'd have no trouble finding a dozen Democrats in Washington who would tell you that her campaign is a disaster in the making and it's all about to crumble, there is a fundamental truth underneath it: For all her many skills, Hillary Clinton is just not that good at running for president. That doesn't mean she won't be good at being president, and it's a reminder that the two are not the same thing.

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Did You Know?

    Did you know that "The dinosaurs died out because only infant dinosaurs were placed aboard Noah's Ark and they died for lack of parental care;" Or that "Barack Obama was a male prostitute in his 20's to make money to pay for his drug habit..."? No, you did not know because neither is true. They were espoused by a near winner in a Texas school board election.

    The above is the kind of news we are getting out of Texas these days. Continuing in that vein Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, formerly known as Danny Loeb, and indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton are busy as bees suing the feds to stop the President's order allowing transgenders to use whichever/whatever restroom they consider appropriate. The two government officials apparently get their marching orders from Pastor Dr. Robert Jefferies of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Separating church and state is not the way in Texas.

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Nothing Christian about heinous discrimination

    Compassion. Compassion. Compassion.

    Thumbing through the Bible, I’m looking for something about compassion.

    Oh, that’s right. It’s everywhere. Start with that Golden Rule thing.

    No need to cite chapter or verse to know there’s nothing Christian at all about the response attributed to conservative Christians regarding so-called bathroom bills. There’s nothing remotely Christian about Republican state leaders saying they’d forgo federal funds rather than abide by the Justice Department’s rules forbidding discrimination against transgendered people.

    It’s all posturing on behalf of people who won’t acknowledge that God doesn’t create us with a cookie-cutter.

    Bob Dylan sang: “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.” But just listen:

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Feel the Math

    This is my fifth presidential campaign as a New York Times columnist, so I’ve watched a lot of election coverage, and I came into this cycle prepared for the worst. Or so I thought.

    But I was wrong. So far, election commentary has been even worse than I imagined it would be. It’s not just the focus on the horse race at the expense of substance; much of the horse-race coverage has been bang-your-head-on-the-desk awful, too. I know this isn’t scientific, but based on conversations I’ve had recently, many people — smart people, who read newspapers and try to keep track of events — have been given a fundamentally wrong impression of the current state of play.

    And when I say a “wrong impression,” I don’t mean that I disagree with other people’s takes. I mean that people aren’t being properly informed about the basic arithmetic of the situation.

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Penne and Prejudice

    If there’s a gayer country than Italy, I haven’t ogled it.

    I don’t mean demographically gay. That’s unknowable. I mean spiritually gay. I mean the self-conscious style and gaudy opera of the place.

    It’s shaped like high-heeled footwear. It’s a mecca of high-priced menswear. Its signature hunk of marble, the David, looks less like he’s girding for Goliath than like he’s posing between squats at the local Equinox. And have you seen those Venetian glass chandeliers, with their wild colors and wacky tentacles? They could be gay octopi on their way to an underwater Cher concert.

    So why isn’t Italy kinder to gays?

    Just a few weeks ago, after considerable shaming by the European Union, it finally legalized civil unions for same-sex couples. While that was a step forward, it was also a reminder of how far Italy still lagged behind such densely Roman Catholic European peers as Ireland, Portugal and Spain, all of which had already accorded gays and lesbians actual marriage rights.

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Politicians and the Lies That Matter

    Your Honor, I rise this week in defense of Hillary Clinton.

    I see from polls that Clinton scores very low on “trustworthy” questions. Well, let’s talk about truth in politics. All politicians shade the truth at times. Some do it more than others. Indeed, when Donald Trump tells the truth, it should be labeled “Breaking News — Trump tells truth without immediately contradicting himself. We’re going live to the scene right now.”

    Here is what is relevant: Lying is serious business. But Clinton’s fibs or lack of candor are all about bad judgments she made on issues that will not impact the future of either my family or my country. Private email servers? Cattle futures? Goldman Sachs lectures? All really stupid, but my kids will not be harmed by those poor calls. Debate where she came out on Iraq and Libya, if you will, but those were considered judgment calls, and if you disagree don’t vote for her.

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Trump's rolling bluster

    Donald Trump looked like a fool and a fraud on Sunday. But what else is new?

    Even the most ardent Trumpistas would have to admit that Trump's appearance at the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally was, as spectacles go, pretty pathetic. It was supposed to be a vast, multitudinous gathering on the plaza in front of the Lincoln Memorial, one of the greatest and most historic public spaces in the nation. Instead, Trump drew a paltry crowd estimated by organizers at perhaps 5,000.

    As Trump might say in a late-night tweet: "Sad!"

    The presumptive Republican nominee cut a ridiculous figure, sporting a red "Make America Great Again" baseball cap to guard against rogue breezes that might unhinge his comb-over. He lamented the attendance: "I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument, right?"

    Wrong. So very, very wrong.

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Better Labels, Better Food

    Food labels are changing.

    In the past, you could only see how much total sugar was in your food. That included sugars naturally occurring in healthy, whole foods — like lactose in milk — alongside extra sugars like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, which aren’t so healthy.

    But the Food and Drug Administration just announced that in the near future, labels will specify the amount of added sugars in packaged products. That makes it easier to spot the sugars you should limit in your diet.

    Will this change America’s eating habits and health for the better? I hope so.

    But it might not.

    The new labels could benefit consumers in two ways. First, and perhaps most obviously, health-conscious eaters may read the labels and select healthier food choices. That would be welcome.

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