Archive

November 2nd, 2015

McCabe's resume for Richmond is full of the reality of life

    At 4:30 in the afternoon, Jill McCabe's third shift began in a cul-de-sac in suburban Virginia.

    She started her day 12 hours earlier, getting one kid to swim practice before dawn, then getting the other kid to school. After that, she went to work at Inova Loudoun Hospital, where she's an ER doctor and a medical director.

    Exhausted for her yet?

    Just wait until we get to that third shift.

    She's running for office, a Virginia state senate seat that covers parts of affluent Loudoun and Prince William counties in one of the hottest races this election season.

    It's an important race on Tuesday that could tip the political balance of the state senate. And in a state that flips blue-to-red faster than a police squad car light, it's also the warm-up for the quadrennial battle for Virginia to win the White House.

    The nastiness in this race for Virginia's soul has been epic. And, more tellingly, a little sexist.

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Yes, Darth Vader ran for office in Ukraine. Unfortunately, it's no joke.

    Over the past week, as Ukraine held local elections across most of the country, Darth Vader emerged as a direct threat to democracy.

    Darth Mykolaiovych Vader appeared on the ballot for mayor of Odessa , and the Darth Vader bloc ran for seats on councils in the Odessa region. The Sith lord campaigned in costume, often accompanied by stormtroopers on the roof of a van blaring "The Imperial March" and blasting pyrotechnics. Traditional and new media broadcast quirky click-bait stories of a Soviet-era Lenin monument converted into a statue of DarthVader, Darth Vader's election campaign, and the detention of Chewbacca (who was working with Vader).

    But the real story is how the fake Vader represents the actual dark side of Ukrainian contemporary politics: election fraud and manipulation.

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Australia has a greater percentage of foreigners but less xenophobia. What is its secret?

    Why is there no mop-haired demagogue here denouncing immigrants as rapists?

    After all, if America's excuse is anxiety caused by a flood of incoming foreigners, Australia should be twice as anxious. In the United States, 14 percent of the population was born elsewhere, near the record of 15 percent reached a century ago. In Australia, more than one-quarter of the population is foreign-born, and some 46 percent have at least one foreign-born parent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    Yet both main parties, the center-right Liberals and left-leaning Labor, are committed to continued immigration. Politicians who seek to whip up or exploit anti-immigrant prejudice are relegated to the fringe. Is there some secret sauce whose recipe the United States could copy?

    First, a few caveats. One week Down Under does not quite qualify me as a full-fledged Australianist, but it is long enough to learn that this nation of 23 million people is not a race-blind paradise.

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Before the cyber-blackout

    To begin, a conclusion: The Internet, whatever its many virtues, is also a weapon of mass destruction.

    We have been distracted from focusing on that potential by a succession of high-profile cyberattacks, including China vacuuming up more than 22 million federal employee records, North Korea's humiliating shot across the bow of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a barrage of cyberlarceny directed at U.S. banks and businesses, much of which has originated in Russia and Ukraine. Each of these targets was protected by firewalls and other defenses. But the Internet is inherently vulnerable. It was never intended to keep intruders out. It was designed to facilitate the unimpeded exchange of information, giving attackers a built-in advantage over defenders. If that constitutes an ongoing threat to commerce (and it does), it also represents a potentially catastrophic threat to our national security - and not just in the area of intelligence-gathering. The United States' physical infrastructure is vulnerable. Our electric power grids, in particular, are highly susceptible to cyberattacks, the consequences of which would be both devastating and long-lasting.

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Gotcha, GOP

    Here we go again with attacks on the “mainstream media” and the invocation of the dreaded “gotcha question” to excuse poor performance and intellectual flat-footedness.

    After being asked at last week’s debate about his ties to the shady nutritional supplement company Mannatech and saying “I didn’t have an involvement with them” and dismissing claims of a connection as “total propaganda,” Ben Carson called Thursday for an overhaul of Republican debate formats.

    “Debates are supposed to be established to help the people get to know the candidate,” Carson said, according to The Washington Post. “What it’s turned into is — gotcha! That’s silly. That’s not helpful to anybody.”

    I think the question was a fair one, and I’m not alone. Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, said Thursday on CNN that the question wasn’t a gotcha one but an “absolutely” fair one.

    And on the credibility of Carson’s denial, PolitiFact ruled:

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Jeb Bush still doesn't get why his terrible debate performance matters so much

    Jeb Bush, during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, revealed that he doesn't really understand how damaging his lifeless performance at last week's debate in Colorado was to his presidential candidacy.

    Asked by "Meet" moderator Chuck Todd whether he understood why some of his supporters thought something was "missing", Bush responded: "No, I don't." When Todd followed up by asking why people might think that, here's what Bush said:

    " Probably because they watch the cable shows and they read the political press. But if they followed me on the campaign trail, like last week in New Hampshire where we had 300 people totally connected, totally believing in me, I think they would see a different candidate."

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Partisan Growth Gaps

    Last week The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed article by Carly Fiorina titled “Hillary Clinton Flunks Economics,” ridiculing Clinton’s assertions that the U.S. economy does better under Democrats. “America,” declared Fiorina, “needs someone in the White House who actually knows how the economy works.”

    Well, we can agree on that much.

    Partisan positioning on the economy is actually quite strange. Republicans talk about economic growth all the time. They attack Democrats for “job-killing” government regulations, they promise great things if elected, they predicate their tax plans on the assumption that growth will soar and raise revenues. Democrats are far more cautious. Yet Clinton is completely right about the record: Historically, the economy has indeed done better under Democrats.

    This contrast raises two big questions. First, why has the economy performed better under Democrats? Second, given that record, why are Republicans so much more inclined than Democrats to boast about their ability to deliver growth?

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Seeking the inner Nixon

    Yet another Richard Nixon book is out, examining his innermost trials and tribulations, called "Being Nixon: A Man Divided." Author Evan Thomas describes it as "an effort to understand what it was like to actually be Nixon." Putting oneself in the skin and mind of another is a daring undertaking.

    He notes rightly that it's "a chronicle of a fantastically contradictory and intriguing figure who set out to change the world and, for better and for worse, did just that." He captures well Richard Nixon's tortured inner struggle and perhaps gives him a larger benefit of the doubt on the lighter side of this demonstrably dark man.

    Nixon's good intentions were often undercut by his deep suspicions and gnawing insecurities that too frequently transformed him into a petty, bitter and scornful man huddled in his private bunker, warding off real and imagined affronts. They made him a sort of Jekyll and Hyde character, switching from sharp insights to gloomy vindictiveness before the eyes of his closest political associates.

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The bind on federal travel

    It's been over three years since an inspector general's report shone a spotlight on a lavish, taxpayer-funded training conference held by the General Services Administration. Following the report's release, Congress and the Office of Management and Budget placed well-intentioned restrictions on federal workers' travel to scientific and technical meetings - and in doing so diminished their ability to engage in the collaboration with private-sector peers that is so critical to scientific innovation.

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GOP debate was not presidential

    One of the 10 Republicans who debated Wednesday night is going to end up as the party's nominee. None of them looked like presidential material.

    That theme was sounded early on, when Ohio Gov. John Kasich swatted away the first question -- what is your biggest weakness? -- by addressing the larger weakness of the field: "My great concern is that we are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job."

    Indeed. The two, manifestly unqualified front-runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, were remarkably muted. Trump simply repeated his, yes, comic-book version of a presidential campaign -- huge wall, huge tax cut, huge Trump smarts -- except when he was shamelessly denying he had said what was in his own immigration plan.

    Where Trump craves attention, Carson, curiously, seems to flinch from it. Even when pitched softballs, he veers quickly from substance to off-topic platitudes.

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