Archive

April 1st, 2016

Kasich, not Cruz, is the one to stop Trump

    Step right up, folks, to the Ted Cruz-John Kasich game. The aim is to push out the candidate who could win in November in favor of the one who can't.

    Everything else has failed to stop Donald Trump, but the Republicans' strategy of putting their few remaining eggs in Sen. Cruz's basket and insulting Governor Kasich back to the Ohio statehouse is delusional -- as is their assertion that a vote for Kasich is a vote for Trump.

    Let's take a look: It's hard to believe that any politician could be doing worse than Hillary Clinton, who had a net unfavorable rating of minus 13 in a March Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, but Cruz, at minus 18, manages it. Kasich has a net positive 19. Every poll shows Cruz losing to Clinton. As for the nomination, the proposition that Cruz alone could stop Trump is wrong to anyone who reads exit polls, studies current ones or looks at the map.

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College Admissions Shocker!

    Cementing its standing as the most selective institution of higher education in the country, Stanford University announced this week that it had once again received a record-setting number of applications and that its acceptance rate — which had dropped to a previously uncharted low of 5 percent last year — plummeted all the way to its inevitable conclusion of 0 percent.

    With no one admitted to the class of 2020, Stanford is assured that no other school can match its desirability in the near future.

    “We had exceptional applicants, yes, but not a single student we couldn’t live without,” said a Stanford administrator who requested anonymity. “In the stack of applications that I reviewed, I didn’t see any gold medalists from the last Olympics — Summer or Winter Games — and while there was a 17-year-old who’d performed surgery, it wasn’t open-heart or a transplant or anything like that. She’ll thrive at Yale.”

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Clinton's tack to the center? It's just talk

    One bit of conventional 2016 campaign wisdom is that Bernie Sanders has pushed Hillary Clinton far to the left. It seems so obvious that even the socialists are celebrating.

    Like a lot of conventional wisdom, it's partly true. Clinton's words on taxes, trade, minimum wages, immigration and Wall Street do sound a lot like those of the socialist Sanders. But look past the stump speeches and something more significant becomes clear: Clinton's rhetoric may have changed, but her policy positions haven't. That means her anticipated pivot toward the center for the general election is also likely to be more oratorical than substantive.

    So far, Clinton has pulled off a neat trick. She has gone toe-to-toe with Sanders by calling for higher taxes on the rich, more generous health-care subsidies and criminal-justice reforms. She positions herself to his left on gun control, equal pay for women and immigration.

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A beautiful day in Mr. Cruz's (gated) Neighborhood

    The other day a bearded man planted himself in a treetop along a busy Seattle street, forcing police to shut down traffic for hours in both directions, afraid of what he'd do.

    I scanned the headlines later to see what Sen. Ted Cruz recommended we do to protect us from bearded men in the future. Nothing.

    Don't disappoint, Senator. If we don't keep watch on bearded men, one of them might hurt us one day.

    Beard or no, let's just say that if anything happens through Election Day that involves a Muslim militant, Cruz and his rival for the angry white vote, Donald Trump, will not disappoint in insulting human intelligence.

    Their "can you top this" contest will continue: a trail of rhetorical horrors.

    This time it was Cruz saying that we should patrol predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.

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Why Trump is a very un-American strongman

    U.S. politics today presents, to this foreign observer at least, a very un-American spectacle. A country originally built on immigration is awash with popular hatred against immigrants. A candidate of the right rails against free trade and foreigners, while that of the left proclaims his faith in socialism. Xenophobia is rife. Class war seems perilously close to the surface.

    The U.S. has gone through economic slumps and protectionist phases in the past. But the New World has been relatively immune to the political dysfunction, class and ethnic hatreds, and mass craving for authoritarianism that have frequently been manifest in the Old. Today, more than at any other time in its history, the crisis in the U.S. resembles one that we've seen innumerable times in Europe and Russia.

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The trouble with writing about Donald Trump

    This weekend, the mainstream media was all in a tizzy because of Nick Kristof's column arguing "that we in the media screwed up" on Donald Trump.

    As someone who has #headdesked himself repeatedly over Trump's myriad failings as a possible president, I confess that I'm not terribly interested in Kristof telling me to eviscerate Trump's idiotic foreign policy viewsyet again. Rather, I'd suggest a few things in reaction to Kristof's column:

        Kristof is really writing about television rather than all news media;

        Kristof's complaint about reporters not taking Trump seriously seems about six months out of date;

        It's not that the media hasn't fact-checked Trump to death, it's that his supporters remain convinced that Trump is right;

        Trump hasn't really expanded his electoral support all that much, so maybe the media might be doing something right?

        For opinion writers, there's another problem with criticizing Trump: He's too basic.

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Testing Republicans' professed love of guns

    Beneath a photograph of an AR-15 with all the trimmings, an online petition calling for the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July (and possibly intended as parody) has acquired more than 40,000 signatures. USA Today reported that the petition is "of unknown origin." Because extreme gun culture excels at self-parody, it's dangerous to assume that the petition was written by a gun-control agitator. But the entire document appears designed to produce conflict within the GOP's trembling walls.

    Like most states, Ohio doesn't restrict the carry of unconcealed, loaded firearms in public. This didn't much matter in the past, since it was universally understood that openly carrying a firearm in public was both bizarre and menacing behavior guaranteed to attract law enforcement. But as avant garde gun culture has grown increasingly assertive, and increasingly protected by Republican politicians, open carry, like every other kind, has become a cause to rally around.

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Surviving a sex scandal in post-Clinton era

    Sounding a lot like Bill Clinton, the beleaguered governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, called a news conference on Wednesday to say in no uncertain terms that he did not have sex with that woman.

    Accused of having an illicit relationship with an aide, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, he stopped short of wagging his finger. But, in another Clinton parallel, there is readily available evidence that contradicts his denials: Text messages and audio recordings made public by the Alabama Media Group and the governor's just-fired head of law enforcement, Spencer Collier.

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Americans struggle to see themselves as middle class

    As the presidential primary season continues, much has been made of the appeal that candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders hold for the angry, disaffected working class. Everyone seems to agree that this group is in trouble, and needs serious help.

    But which Americans exactly are part of the working class? There is no set definition. You can define class by wealth, but a young worker starting out on Wall Street and earning relatively little is hardly lower-class. You can define it by income, although that will be distorted by local differences in the cost of living, and by age (retirees have little income but usually more wealth). You also can define it by educational status.

    But perhaps the most important definition is in people's minds. Gallup periodically asks people to place themselves in one of five classes -- upper, upper-middle, middle, working and lower.

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A speedy trial with slow sentencing isn't justice

    The Constitution grants people accused of crimes the right to a speedy and public trial. Does that include a right to speedy sentencing after conviction? The Supreme Court takes up that question on Monday in Betterman v. Montana, the case of a defendant who had to wait 14 months in a county jail to be sentenced after pleading guilty. Then the court refused to include that period as time served.

    What's most remarkable about the case is that not only Montana but also the federal government maintain that the speedy-trial right doesn't include sentencing at all. The court has never said so before - although to be fair, it also hasn't said that sentencing is part of the trial either.

    Start with the basic rationale for the right. The origins of the phrase contained in the Sixth Amendment go back to the 17th-century common-law judge and scholar Sir Edward Coke, who wrote in his monumental treatise, "Institutes of the Lawes of England," that the common law courts "have not suffered the prisoner to be long detained, but . . . have given the prisoner full and speedy justice."

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