Archive

March 13th, 2016

Trump’s America: A Shining Outhouse on a Hill

    When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, I mocked him. “Of the United States?” I asked. (I got a C- in Mockery when I was in college, unfortunately.)

    When he jumped into the lead almost immediately, I laughed. “The higher the climb, the harder the fall,” I said. (I did better in Pithy Quotations.)

    When the early campaigning found him doing well in such disparate states as Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, I fell into denial. “He’ll never, ever be the Republican nominee,” I said. “Republicans are too sensible.”

    Then Super Tuesday happened and Trump basically wiped the floor with his opponents, who finally paused their fights with each other to join in a pathetic mass spitball attack on Trump. They were joined by the ghostly reappearance of Mitt Romney, who as usual was a day late and a dollar short.

    So I give up. I’m now convinced that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for the presidency. Yes, of the United States.

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Trump's donations aside, these are tough times for veterans groups

    Donald Trump claimed it took only an hour to raise $6 million for veterans. "We set up the website. I called some friends," he said. And, just like that, 20 veterans' groups were told to expect "a lot of money."

    Indeed, if all you'd read about veterans groups in the past few weeks was coverage of Trump's fundraiser, or Wounded Warrior Project's reportedly big spending, you might think the nonprofit sector serving veterans was flush with cash and maybe even undeserving of your support.

    But those stories obscure two trends that are working against veterans groups: The needs of the veterans population are increasing at the same time that the base of support for veterans services is shrinking. And it's because of those trends that veterans nonprofits are evolving in ways that open them up to criticism.

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Toxic Teflon

    Teflon, you might have heard, may cause cancer.

    The culprit was a toxic, now retired compound called PFOA. Also known as C8, the chemical became the subject of a major lawsuit accusing DuPont — the manufacturer of the popular nonstick coating — of sickening thousands of Americans.

    Yet Teflon is still on the market, The Intercept reports, with a secret new active ingredient.

    To find out what it was, scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency sampled river water downstream from a North Carolina chemical plant that previously manufactured the lethal ingredient C8.

    That’s right: The pollution of waterways with factory waste is such a given that the river was the EPA’s go-to location to find industrial chemicals.

    Yikes.

    In 2016, don’t we have a better way of disposing of toxic waste? Don’t we have the sense to say that manufacturing plants shouldn’t be allowed to dump industrial waste into rivers?

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There Are No Words Left for the GOP Charade

    Help! We political wordsmiths are in urgent need of assistance from lexicologists.

    The Republican presidential primary has gone so far out, so beyond accepted boundaries of civic and civil behavior, that we’ve run out of words to describe the extreme weirdness. Words like bizarre, loopy, grotesque, burlesque, and freak show just don’t do justice to it.

    From the days of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, American politics has never been an endeavor for the delicate — it’s closer to a demolition derby than to a game of badminton. But still, the slur-fest and hate-mongering of the campaigns being run by Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Daffy, Sleepy, Dopey, Curly, and Moe are extraordinarily excremental.

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The delegate quirk that enabled Trump's rise

    Much has been made about Donald Trump winning primaries in different regions of the country. But after 23 states and Puerto Rico have held nominating contests, Trump has yet to win 50 percent in any of them. It's rare for a candidate to go this deep into a primary season without having cleared that mark and still go on to be the nominee. His success highlights an important quirk in Republican Party rules: A candidate can clinch the nomination without ever persuading a majority of voters in any given state.

    For some perspective: In 2012, Gov. Mitt Romney squeaked out a majority in the fifth state to vote, Nevada. In 2008, Sen. John McCain did not win a majority in the first eight states, but then won three majorities in the 21 Super Tuesday states. In 1996, Sen. Bob Dole ran through ten states before winning majorities in three of the next nine. On the Democratic side, nominees who emerged from crowded fields in 1976, 1988, 1992, and 2004 all won a statewide majority within the first dozen states.

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The dark side of 'friends' at the Supreme Court

    Filing a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court sounds like an act of spontaneous intellectual generosity meant to help the justices see all sides of a case. Or maybe an exercise in lobbying by interest groups.

    Actually, it's neither. A new article by two law professors shows that an organized business they dub the "amicus machine" generates hundreds of amicus curiae briefs, planned and coordinated by the specialized guild of lawyers who argue before the court.

    Surprisingly, the authors think the machine is a good thing. They say it weakens the excessive influence of the solicitor general, helps the court's law clerks find good cases and helps the justices announce broad rules of law.

    I don't agree that these benefits - if they're benefits at all -- outweigh the costs. The amicus machine is part of a system that pushes the justices to the sidelines and lets law clerks, past and present, take over the court's jurisprudence.

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Requiem for a Wrecking Ball

    Aubrey McClendon’s 2013 Chevy Tahoe ignited after he slammed into an Oklahoma City overpass at high speed. Flames charred the brazen oil and gas executive’s body so badly that medical experts relied on dental records to verify that he’d died.

    One day before McClendon swerved to hit a concrete wall, a grand jury charged him with conspiring to rig bids for fracking leases. If convicted, the Chesapeake Energy Corp. co-founder could have spent a decade behind bars. It looks like he preferred suicide by SUV.

    “Executives who abuse their positions as leaders of major corporations to organize criminal activity must be held accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s antitrust division while announcing this unprecedented indictment on March 1.

    McClendon’s comeuppance was overdue.

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Primary frontrunners verge on sealing the nominations

    Bernie Sanders's surprising upset of Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary has put her long-anticipated coronation on hold for at least a few more weeks. Meanwhile, Republican Donald Trump, though he won there and in three other states on Tuesday, may have to wait at least another week, depending on the GOP primary outcomes next Tuesday in Ohio and Florida.

    In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich hopes to win big and remain in the race, thereby prolonging the stop-Trump movement that was kicked off last week by 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. And in Florida, the scheme also needs a much less likely comeback by Sen. Marco Rubio.

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Hearing Michigan's angry voices

    Tuesday in Michigan was brought to you by white working-class men and the people from little towns and small cities. The outcome of a primary that shook the certainties in the Democratic presidential race while also ratifying the ongoing power of Donald Trump's coalition of discontent was determined by voters who don't trust trade deals and don't believe in the promises of the new economy.

    Trump and Bernie Sanders are as different as two politicians can be, yet both served as megaphones for a loud cry of protest from the long-suffering and the ignored.

    This year's primaries can be seen as the end of 1980s conservatism in the Republican Party and 1990s moderation in the Democratic Party. The social compact that underwrote each party's consensus was broken by the long-term effects of working-class income decline and the severe dislocations let loose by the financial collapse of 2008. Economic change has affected regions, states and localities very differently. Few states were as traumatized as Michigan.

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March 12th

Debates highlight different standards between Republicans and Democrats

    In the last week, television viewers were treated by the rival political parties to two distinct styles of debate. The Republican candidates engaged in a personal brawl that showed politics at its worst. Three nights later, the Democrats demonstrated how to disagree without bringing disgrace to their own brand.

    On Thursday morning, onetime GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney launched an uncharacteristic attack on frontrunner Donald Trump, urging Republicans to mount a movement to thwart their frontrunner and save their party from defeat in November.

    Romney, accusing Trump of being a con man, fraud and phony, implored Republicans to vote in the remaining primaries for Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to keep Trump short of the 1,237 convention delegates required to clinch the nomination.

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