Archive

May 4th, 2016

Oh, Ted Cruz. You had the Worst Week in Washington.

    Desperation, thy name is Ted Cruz.

    The Texas senator spent this week doing anything and everything he could think of to blunt the momentum Donald Trump has built with sweeping wins in six primaries over the past two weeks.

    First was the alliance - announced Sunday night - between Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Under the agreement, Kasich would stand down in Indiana's May 3 primary and Cruz would do the same in Oregon (May 17) and New Mexico (June 7). The goal was clear: Unite the anti-Trump vote in hopes of keeping the real estate mogul from the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the party's nominee.

    Within hours of the alliance's debut, it was already on shaky ground, with Kasich telling his supporters in Indiana on Monday morning to still vote for him and insisting he wasn't trying to do anything to stop Trump. By Thursday, Cruz was insisting there was no "alliance" and Kasich's chief strategist, soon after, was sending not-so-cryptic tweets about not being able to stand "liars."

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Trump is riding a warped 1980s nostalgia

    The 1980s have been making a comeback -- and the nostalgia goes far beyond shoulder pads or neon heels and big hair. In the U.S., it seems to be about a search for lost identity -- and emotions that are familiar to me as someone who lived through that decade in Moscow.

    On the conservative site Townhall, Nick Adams recently argued that Donald Trump's success in the presidential race has a distinctly '80s flavor:

    "Trump is in many ways the 1980's retro-renaissance man who has come back to save America and restore it to its greatness, by killing political correctness and resurrecting 1980s sentiments and values. Might is right, and America is always right. And he's bringing out all of the 1980's hotshots out of hibernation to Make America Great Again with their last breath. Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Kirstie Alley, Jean Claude Van Damme, Gary Busey, and countless others. It seems they are all coming out of their collective hibernation to support the man who can make America what it once was: great again, just like it was in the 80s."

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Trump may spell end of social conservatives

    The 2016 Republican presidential campaign began last year with Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum -- among others -- flashing Bible passages and competing for support from social conservatives in Iowa. It will end in July with the all but certain nomination of Donald Trump.

    The rout of social conservatives in this campaign is absolute. Their future looks grim.

    The problem isn't that Trump has a disco ball where his moral compass should be. It's that he isn't particularly interested in the social conservative agenda -- or even in pretending that he is.

    Aside from a few comic forays into biblical scholarship early in his campaign, and later comments about abortion that were so off message that they merely confirmed his lack of interest in the topic, Trump is running free and clear of the entire movement. He's leaving social conservatives in the dust.

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May 3rd

Demagoguery is the challenge of our time

    The following is an adaptation of an address to the University of Michigan's class of 2016.

    The most useful knowledge that you leave here with today has nothing to do with your major. It's about how to study, cooperate, listen carefully, think critically and resolve conflicts through reason. Those are the most important skills in the working world, and it's why colleges have always exposed students to challenging and uncomfortable ideas.

    The fact that some university boards and administrations now bow to pressure and shield students from these ideas through "safe spaces," "code words" and "trigger warnings" is, in my view, a terrible mistake.

    The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations -- not run away from them. A microaggression is exactly that: micro. And one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views.

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Trump or Clinton? Buffett sees U.S. business as fine with either

    A Donald Trump presidency wouldn't be the blow to U.S. business that some fear, according to Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway.

    "If either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president, and one of them is very likely to be, I think Berkshire will continue to do fine," Buffett, 85, said at the company's annual shareholders meeting Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.

    The outcome of November's presidential election is unlikely to change the fact that the U.S. is a "remarkably attractive place in which to conduct a business," he said. U.S. companies have enjoyed "terrific" returns on equity despite a sustained period of ultra-low interest rates, he added.

    Trump and Clinton are their parties' respective front-runners in a campaign that has exposed discontent with Washington insiders, anger over global trade deals, frustration with Wall Street and furor over the growing gap between rich and poor. At the same time, each candidate's unfavorable rating exceeds 50 percent, a historically high figure at this late stage in the primary season.

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Corporate taxes in the U.S. aren't so bad

    Americans are being conned into believing that U.S. corporations are hampered by outsize tax rates that undermine their competitiveness. Tax inversions, whereby U.S. multinational companies merge with foreign companies to re-domicile in the partnering company's low-tax home country, are the logical result of oppressive U.S. corporate tax rates. Or so the story goes. Notwithstanding the complexity of international taxation issues, I've been analyzing U.S. corporate income statements for 30 years, and the reality is that taxes have never been lower for large U.S. corporations, while their profit margins have never been better. Yes, our statutory tax rate is high, but U.S. multinationals never pay retail.

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Can civil rights law stop racial discrimination on AirBnb?

    Everyone knows that it's illegal for a hotel such as a Marriott or a Hilton to refuse you a room because of your race. But what about someone who temporarily rents out their own apartment on Airbnb? May he refuse to rent to someone of a particular race? If two people want to rent out the same room, may the landlord prefer a person of one race over another? Moreover, what if the preference is subconscious and a landlord doesn't even realize she is discriminating? Although Airbnb currently offers more rooms than most major hotel chains, the answers to these questions are far from clear.

    Questions such as these are increasingly important in the "sharing economy" in which businesses connect people offering goods and services with other people who want to pay for them. Some businesses, such as Airbnb and VRBO, allow individuals to rent out rooms in their homes, while others like Lyft and Uber allow people to use their personal cars to transport strangers in their city. In some instances, sharing economy businesses arguably reduce discrimination. For example, some black passengers have noted that Uber is an improvement over the perennial difficulty in hailing a cab.

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Candidates' Claims of American Decline Are Hype

    As in any U.S. national election without an incumbent president, the candidates are painting a not very pretty picture: The country is "going to hell," bluntly asserts the Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

    The Democratic challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, isn't much kinder and even Hillary Clinton is starting to focus more on challenges than successes.

    To many voters the message is: The economy is terrible, the social fabric is disintegrating and America is losing respect around the world.

    Certainly, problems abound. The recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been uneven and is characterized by widening income inequality; wages for the average working family have stagnated for decades; racial tensions in some places have worsened, suicide rates are up, terrorism is on the rise, Russia and China are threatening and the political system is dysfunctional.

    But that is hardly the whole or even the dominant story. Politics aside, there is more good news than bad.

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A Hail Mary, full of delusion

    Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's selection of former campaign rival Carly Fiorina to be his running mate, when he has not even come close to defeating Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, is an exercise in pure delusion.

    The longshot gamble to choose a fellow loser who shares Cruz's contempt for Trump only magnifies the desperation of the stop-Trump effort, which polls suggest will suffer another and perhaps decisive defeat in Tuesday's Indiana primary.

    Fiorina had already been campaigning for Cruz and continuing her acidic criticism of Trump that had drawn media attention in earlier televised Republican debates. Trump's mockery of her appearance -- "Look at that face; would anyone vote for that?" -- only spurred her to go after him.

    As Cruz's running mate, she likely will be cast as his principal surrogate, characterizing Trump as a misogynist for his recent accusation that Hillary Clinton is "playing the woman card" to solidify her wide female support. But Carly's presence isn't likely to put much of a dent in it.

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Seeking pest control for women against trolls

    "On the Internet," according to a famous New Yorker cartoon caption, "no one knows you're a dog." No, but some internet users amazingly turn into skunks.

    That's a mild description of the mean and nasty tweets that male volunteers read to two Chicago-based female sports journalists in a four-minute video that went viral after it was produced and posted Tuesday by sports website Just Not Sports (JustNotSports.com).

    The two Chicago-based women -- Julie DiCaro, a radio host and Sports Illustrated reporter, and Sarah Spain, an espnW reporter and ESPN Radio host -- knew the vulgarity of the tweets beforehand because they had received them. The male volunteers did not.

    You can tell by their obvious surprise and discomfort as they haltingly and apologetically read the insults to women sitting right in front of them:

    "You need to be hit in the head with a hockey puck and killed."

    "Hopefully, this skank Julie DiCaro is Bill Cosby's next victim."

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