Archive

March 20th, 2016

The dawn of the resistance?

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. The organized protest in Chicago that led Donald Trump to cancel a planned rally Friday may someday be remembered as the Dawn of the Resistance.

    Trump has fueled his campaign's rise with the angriest and most divisive political rhetoric this nation has heard since the days of George Wallace. No one should be surprised if some of those Trump has slandered or outraged respond with raised voices.

    The Constitution's guarantee of free speech applies to everyone, Trumpistas and protesters alike. Trump said over the weekend that he wants demonstrators who gatecrash his rallies to be arrested, not just ejected; he vows that "we're pressing charges" against them. Someone should educate him: Peacefully disapproving of a politician and his dangerous ideas is not a crime.

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Ronnie, Nancy and that gay conversion

    As corrections go, this was Page 1 material, at least for the circulation that Hillary Clinton targets.

    Magnanimous at a tender time, she had offered praise Nancy Reagan did not earn – of having been a prominent voice in the effort against AIDS.

    No, no, a thousand times no. If Ron and Nancy Reagan took the lead against AIDS, I just heard Ted Cruz call Barack Obama our greatest president.

    The truth: Many, many died because, rather than leading in the face of a health crisis, the Reagans held back among the tut-tut-tutting of the Judgment Chorus. Toward a federal response, for five years they were as interested in promoting myth as medicine.

    The Reagan presidency and the AIDS crisis tracked each other. The first diagnoses on these shores of what was called "gay cancer" occurred in the first year of his presidency.

    It took years for sanity, and science, to prevail.

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Protect Trump's free speech even as he threatens yours

    During a weekend of violence at some of Donald Trump's rallies, I received a flurry of angry emails, all playing the same game of "How would you feel?"

    How would you feel, I was asked in one note, if a group of Ku Klux Klansmen broke up a Bernie Sanders rally?

    That's a round-about way of referring to the violence that erupted at Trump rallies, particularly in Chicago, where the Republican frontrunner's rally was called off after crowds of protesters grew exceptionally large.

    Early announcements that police had called off the event were withdrawn after police denied it. Some protest organizers insisted they were intent on making noise, not shutting down the event, although they joined the cheering after the event was shut down.

    I could argue against false equivalencies here. You may disagree, but I don't see the potpourri of blacks, whites, Hispanics, Arab-Americans and others who gathered to peacefully protest as the moral equivalent of organized Klansmen.

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March 19th

Optimism is the third rail of U.S. politics

    A common diagnosis of Jeb Bush's failed campaign is that the candidate was "out of touch." It's hard to argue otherwise; Bush himself admitted it. "I'm not a grievance candidate," he told NBC's Chuck Todd. Sure enough, Bush soon wasn't a candidate at all.

    There are no more happy warriors on the hustings, eager to lead the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. Well, there's Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "I want you to know I'm going to continue to run a positive campaign and not get down in the gutter and throw mud at anybody," Kasich said after his defeat -- one of 30 out of 30 Republican contests -- in Michigan. "So I think the people are beginning to reward a positive campaign."

    Good luck, Mr. Kasich.

    It has been 22 years since "angry white men" powered the Republican takeover of Congress. Over the decades their anger and alienation have only intensified as their dissatisfaction has spread across the land.

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Let Trump Make Our Trans-Pacific Trade Deal

    What if the United States had had a truly savvy deal maker like Donald Trump negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord instead of the wimpy Obama team? I mean, be honest, folks, would you let Barack Obama sell your house? I’ve researched the deal and concluded Trump would have gotten us this:

    He would have begun by saying “a baby could figure out” that since 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners come into our country duty-free already, and so much of our stuff is still hit with tariffs in their countries, if we eliminate 18,000 tariffs we’ll be able to keep more production at home and sell more abroad. “We’ll export so much we’ll actually get tired of exporting,” Trump would say.

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Kasich, the Boulder Between the GOP and Trump

    Wow, John Kasich.

    The governor of Ohio is not normally a person you’d connect with a “wow.” Maybe a “jeepers.” Or a “huh!” But here he is! The medium-size, crinkly-eyed boulder between the Republican Party and Donald Trump.

    Kasich got more than 40 percent of the vote in Ohio, which might be the only non-Trump-triumphant saga of the night. There was a time, people, when you would really not have been throwing confetti in the air just because a Republican governor who believes “you’ve got to help people that are downtrodden and poor” won the presidential primary in his own state. But we are where we are.

    “I labored in obscurity for so long!” said the triumphant governor, whose most celebrated victory until now was coming in second in New Hampshire with 16 percent of the vote. Now he’s having dreams about a contested convention where delegates flee from the specters of Trump and Ted Cruz into his arms.

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March 18th

My autistic son has the right to vote

    A while back, someone at a conference told me that intellectually disabled people with guardians could not vote. I believed it and stuffed away thoughts about taking my severely autistic son, Nat, to get registered. It was one more stinging "no" in his life. I should be used to it by now, but I'm not.

    Recently, however, I noticed the Twitter hashtag #CripTheVote, which is a rallying call to political candidates to take note of this huge constituency. As a disability rights advocate, I retweeted dutifully. The shadow of sadness for Nat never quite cleared, though, and one day I found myself angry about it: Why couldn't Nat vote? Who was to say that he couldn't make such decisions for himself?

    But the objections, the whispers, the doubt in people's eyes. I imagined a Town Hall bureaucrat skeptically appraising Nat with lidded lizard eyes. Or that other kind, the overly helpful person who treats Nat like a child. I imagined everyone thinking: He can't possibly understand the issues. He'll need assistance in the booth. The voting volunteers will hassle him. You're really doing this so you can vote twice.

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Deny her 95-year-old grandma burial at Arlington National Cemetery? No way.

    Oh, they've made exceptions. The men in charge of approving coveted plots at Arlington National Cemetery have made hundreds of exceptions to the strict military rules about who gets buried there.

    A chief White House usher was an exception. As were a doctor who developed an oral vaccine against polio, an ambassador and a national security advisor. And don't forget the retired brigadier general, Charles F. Blair Jr., who didn't meet the military requirements, but was married to a famous Hollywood actress, Maureen O'Hara. Right here, sir, we have a spot.

    But when it comes to a World War II pilot who happens to be a woman? Nope. No exception available. No space in Arlington for you, Second Lt. Elaine Danforth Harmon.

    This isn't some long-standing, sexist rule that's keeping Harmon, who died at 95 a year ago, from being given full military honors at Arlington. This is last year's reversal of the eligibility that female pilots were granted in 2002.

    Still think women's rights aren't seeing a backslide?

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A less costly stimulus for battling recession

    What should the U.S. government do to fight recessions? What should it do to fight slow growth? This is the eternal question of so-called countercyclical policy. The two mainstream ideas are fiscal and monetary stimulus. The fiscal version works by having the government borrow and spend money, either on useful things like infrastructure, or by simply mailing people checks. The typical monetary variety works by having the Federal Reserve swap money for financial assets, which lowers interest rates.

    Unfortunately, both of these methods have major drawbacks. Fiscal stimulus is dependent on Congress, which these days doesn't tend to respond in a rapid, reliable or even a responsible way. Monetary stimulus just doesn't seem to work very well when interest rates are near zero -- the impact of quantitative easing, for example, was questionable.

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A few do's and don'ts regarding trust in science

    It's been a tough year for science. The American Statistical Association just issued a statement scolding scientists for misusing statistical analysis. Scientists continued to fight over an evaluation of 100 psychological studies, most of which could not be reproduced. Critics have cast doubt on a widely believed psychological theory of human willpower.

    So yes, science is fallible. Scientists are only human and science is not a synonym for truth. It's a bumpy, meandering road that heads in that general direction.

    That makes skepticism good, up to a point. Beyond that point lie nonsense and superstition. The Earth really is round.

    So how do you tell what to believe?

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