Archive

April 29th, 2016

Candidates look past the Northeast

    Voters in five Northeastern states--Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland--go to the polls in presidential primaries today (Tuesday), with frontrunners Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump Clinton favored to win in most or all of them.

    If so, Clinton will move to the brink of nomination, on the expectation assumption that she will corral a heavy majority of superdelegates from the ranks of her party's establishment, who will go to the July convention in Philadelphia with a free hand to vote as they choose.

    According to the Associated Press, she now has 513 such delegates pledged to her, to only 38 for rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and a total of 1,941, with 2,383 needed for nomination. At stake in the five states are 384 delegates, including 189 from Pennsylvania and 95 from Maryland, where Clinton is running particularly well in the latest polls.

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Clash of the Injured Titans

    If trends hold and the parties’ front-runners become the parties’ nominees, November is going to be an epic election: a hobbled titan (Hillary Clinton) versus a mortally wounded one (the real estate developer).

    The upcoming contests only buttress the possibility that those two will be the last man and woman standing.

    As of Sunday, The Huffington Post’s Pollster average of polls had the real estate developer leading Ted Cruz by almost 30 percentage points in Connecticut, 19 points in Pennsylvania and 20 points in Maryland. All three states vote on Tuesday. The real estate developer is leading in Rhode Island and Delaware as well — states that also vote on Tuesday — but those states don’t have the same volume of polling to make the results as reliable.

    That same site had Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders by 26 points in Maryland, 15 points in Pennsylvania and six points in Connecticut. She, too, was leading in Rhode Island and Delaware.

    We seem to be watching the prequel to a foregone conclusion.

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April 28th

You can't stop campus rape by forcing clubs to go co-ed

    For the members of Harvard's super-elite "final clubs," perhaps nothing produces a more immediate shiver of Not Our Kind of Thing than comparison to fraternities of the Greek system, with their herds of suburban business majors and their abundance of chapters popping up at every benighted State U and third-rate Catholic college. In a sense, fraternities are the very opposite of what a final club represents, which is, first and foremost, a sui generis association with the single greatest university in the history of the world.

    Yet most of Harvard's all-male final clubs began as Greek letter societies, adopting their unique characteristics only after the university banned fraternities in the 1850s. These clubs emerged as a response to the aspects of higher education that young men found feminizing: the enforced chastity, study, prayer and self-discipline. And they've been fulfilling their mission to vex college administrators and delight male students ever since.

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What Bernie Sanders wants

    With Hillary Clinton's double-digit victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the New York Democratic primary, the assumption has taken hold that his presidential candidacy is just about over, and the questions now are how he should be handled and how he should behave.

    Clinton has taken the predictable view that "there is much more that unites us than divides us." It's a clear invitation for a cease-fire in Democratic ranks and for moving on against the Republicans in the general election.

    But Sanders has built a rather incredible political force among progressives in the party he has only latterly accepted as his own, and he cannot be ignored. Nor can his ability to generate an amazing fundraising machine through his call for a pointedly more liberal political agenda. The challenge for Clinton now is how to enlist both in her campaign at the party's July convention and thereafter.

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2016's scrambled coalitions

    Republicans are a more ideological party than the Democrats, but ideology has mattered less in the GOP primaries this year than in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

    Clinton is in a nearly unassailable position to win her party's nomination. But assuming she prevails, her primary fight with Sanders has underscored weaknesses she will have to deal with to win in November.

    And Donald Trump's moves toward moderation on social issues last week reflects not only his campaign's understanding that he cannot win as a far-right candidate, but also his need to tread carefully to maintain the crazy-quilt coalition he has built in the GOP primaries.

    New York and Massachusetts Republicans are quite different from the ones found in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Trump carried all five states, bringing together some of the most extreme voters on the right end of his party with a large share of those who consider themselves moderate.

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Make U.S. dollars as diverse as our history

    If I didn't know better, I would have expected today's conservatives to love Harriet Tubman. After all, she was a pistol-packing black Republican who repeatedly risked her life to lead slaves to freedom. What's not to like?

    But real life isn't that simple. Reaction to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's plan to put Tubman's likeness on the front of the $20 bill sometime after 2020 clearly fell along racial and political lines.

    Eighty-one percent of Democrats polled Thursday by SurveyMonkey support putting Tubman -- who helped hundreds of slaves find freedom via the "underground railroad" -- on the $20, reported Politico, while 50 percent of independents and only 34 percent of Republicans agree.

    Among supporters of the Grand Old Party's frontrunner Donald Trump, seven out of 10 opposed the plan, which would move Andrew Jackson -- a war hero and populist, but also a Democrat and, let's face it, a genocidal racist -- to the flip side of the $20 bill.

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A discussion that goes beyond bathroom talk

    Into the overheated, under-informed bathroom wars comes a well-timed intrusion of sanity in the form of a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The court's ruling in the case of Virginia high-school junior Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, was correct -- and groundbreaking, with implications beyond the school setting. Yet the decision also creates the legal framework for situations more challenging -- and perhaps more unsettling -- than what should be the routine matter of letting people use their restroom of choice.

    Grimm was born a girl but has changed his name, has undergone hormone therapy, and identifies as a boy. When Grimm and his mother told school officials of this fact, they took it in stride. He used the boys' restroom. No big deal.

    Then the school board got involved, with community meetings that sunk to predictable levels, with warnings of impending sexual assaults and straight boys donning dresses to infiltrate the girls' bathroom.

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Five myths about Harriet Tubman

    We think we know Harriet Tubman: former slave, Underground Railroad conductor and abolitionist. But much of Tubman's real life story has been shrouded by generations of myths and fake lore, propagated through children's books, that has only served to obscure her great achievements. The truth about the woman who will be the new face of the $20 bill is far more compelling and remarkable.

 

    1. Tubman was the Moses of her people.

    This is a common sobriquet for Tubman, popularized by an early biography written by Sarah Bradford. The phrase is typically used to conjure the enormous scope of Tubman's efforts to lead fellow slaves to freedom. Bradford wrote that Tubman freed more than 300 people in 19 trips. That claim is repeated on plaques and monuments. But while Tubman is indeed a giant of American history, her Underground Railroad missions were more limited, though much more complicated and dangerous, than they are often made out to be.

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Tubman fits the bill

    Conservatives should be delighted that Harriet Tubman's likeness will grace the $20 bill. She was a Republican, after all, and a pious Christian. And she routinely exercised her Second Amendment right to carry a gun, which she was ready to use against anyone who stood in her way -- or any fugitive slave having second thoughts. On her long road to freedom, there was no turning back.

    Instead, we've had mostly silence from the right. Donald Trump did mouth off, of course, opining that slated-to-be-displaced Andrew Jackson "had a great history" and that substituting Tubman -- who, he allowed, was "fantastic" -- amounts to "pure political correctness." Ben Carson defended Jackson as "a tremendous president" who balanced the federal budget.

    Both men suggested that Tubman instead be put on the $2 bill, which nobody uses. That would be a great recipe for tokenism. I'm glad that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew made a bolder and more meaningful choice.

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Trump could wrap it up before the convention

    J. Randolph Evans, an expert on Republican nominating rules, is the kind of person who in past years would toil in obscurity and rarely see the light of day, much less the front of a camera.

    These days, as a member of the party's nominating committee, he is much in demand as Republicans wrestle with the prospect of a contested convention and consider ways to thwart Donald Trump. Evans already had helped ensure that the primaries started in February instead of January and that the convention was held earlier in hopes of smoothing the process. So much for that.

    Now he says that all the talk of changing the rules is beside the point. That's not because the Republicans are inclined to be more transparent, but because it will be too late.

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