Archive

April 1st, 2016

Testing Republicans' professed love of guns

    Beneath a photograph of an AR-15 with all the trimmings, an online petition calling for the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July (and possibly intended as parody) has acquired more than 40,000 signatures. USA Today reported that the petition is "of unknown origin." Because extreme gun culture excels at self-parody, it's dangerous to assume that the petition was written by a gun-control agitator. But the entire document appears designed to produce conflict within the GOP's trembling walls.

    Like most states, Ohio doesn't restrict the carry of unconcealed, loaded firearms in public. This didn't much matter in the past, since it was universally understood that openly carrying a firearm in public was both bizarre and menacing behavior guaranteed to attract law enforcement. But as avant garde gun culture has grown increasingly assertive, and increasingly protected by Republican politicians, open carry, like every other kind, has become a cause to rally around.

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Surviving a sex scandal in post-Clinton era

    Sounding a lot like Bill Clinton, the beleaguered governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, called a news conference on Wednesday to say in no uncertain terms that he did not have sex with that woman.

    Accused of having an illicit relationship with an aide, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, he stopped short of wagging his finger. But, in another Clinton parallel, there is readily available evidence that contradicts his denials: Text messages and audio recordings made public by the Alabama Media Group and the governor's just-fired head of law enforcement, Spencer Collier.

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Americans struggle to see themselves as middle class

    As the presidential primary season continues, much has been made of the appeal that candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders hold for the angry, disaffected working class. Everyone seems to agree that this group is in trouble, and needs serious help.

    But which Americans exactly are part of the working class? There is no set definition. You can define class by wealth, but a young worker starting out on Wall Street and earning relatively little is hardly lower-class. You can define it by income, although that will be distorted by local differences in the cost of living, and by age (retirees have little income but usually more wealth). You also can define it by educational status.

    But perhaps the most important definition is in people's minds. Gallup periodically asks people to place themselves in one of five classes -- upper, upper-middle, middle, working and lower.

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A speedy trial with slow sentencing isn't justice

    The Constitution grants people accused of crimes the right to a speedy and public trial. Does that include a right to speedy sentencing after conviction? The Supreme Court takes up that question on Monday in Betterman v. Montana, the case of a defendant who had to wait 14 months in a county jail to be sentenced after pleading guilty. Then the court refused to include that period as time served.

    What's most remarkable about the case is that not only Montana but also the federal government maintain that the speedy-trial right doesn't include sentencing at all. The court has never said so before - although to be fair, it also hasn't said that sentencing is part of the trial either.

    Start with the basic rationale for the right. The origins of the phrase contained in the Sixth Amendment go back to the 17th-century common-law judge and scholar Sir Edward Coke, who wrote in his monumental treatise, "Institutes of the Lawes of England," that the common law courts "have not suffered the prisoner to be long detained, but . . . have given the prisoner full and speedy justice."

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March 30th

'Trumpism': A new blue-collar conservatism

    A pivotal debate has broken out in conservative ranks in the age of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Call it "the Trumpists vs. the anti-Trumpists."

    The anti-Trumpists, including the editors of William F. Buckley's seminal National Review magazine, don't think he's a true conservative. Their free-market approaches differ sharply from Trump on such issues as trade, immigration, outsourcing and the protection of Social Security and Medicare, among other middle-class entitlements.

    Under the headline "Against Trump," the magazine ran a "symposium" of 22 contributions by conservative thinkers in January that challenged Trump's brand of conservatism.

    Trump, in his usual fashion with critics, dismissed the magazine as "a dying paper," a diagnosis that its editors would call wildly exaggerated, even as Trump's primary victories continued to mount.

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Arizona's voting rights fire bell

    It's bad enough that an outrage was perpetrated last week against the voters of Maricopa County, Arizona. It would be far worse if we ignore the warning that the disenfranchisement of thousands of its citizens offers our nation. In November, one of the most contentious campaigns in our history could end in a catastrophe for our democracy.

    A major culprit would be the United States Supreme Court, and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

    The facts of what happened in Arizona's presidential primary are gradually penetrating the nation's consciousness. In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state's most populous, cut the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.

    Maricopa includes Phoenix, the state's largest city, which happens to have a non-white majority and is a Democratic island in an otherwise Republican county.

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Trade, Labor, And Politics

    There’s a lot of things about the 2016 election that nobody saw coming, and one of them is that international trade policy is likely to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. What’s more, the positions of the parties will be the reverse of what you might have expected: Republicans, who claim to stand for free markets, are likely to nominate a crude protectionist, leaving Democrats, with their skepticism about untrammeled markets, as the de facto defenders of relatively open trade.

    But this isn’t as peculiar a development as it seems. Rhetorical claims aside, Republicans have long tended in practice to be more protectionist than Democrats. And there’s a reason for that difference. It’s true that globalization puts downward pressure on the wages of many workers — but progressives can offer a variety of responses to that pressure, whereas on the right, protectionism is all they’ve got.

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Why US leadership matters

    What would the world look like today if Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower had shared the foreign policy inclinations of Barack Obama or, far more dangerous, Donald Trump?

    Obama has presided over an experiment in withdrawal from the Middle East, a region that the United States had long considered vital. Trump would accelerate the withdrawal, and make it global, because "we're a poor country now," as he told The Post's editorial board last week.

    Circumstances have forced Obama to undo or reverse aspects of his experiment, but at one point it included pulling all U.S. troops from Iraq, with plans to do the same in Afghanistan; abandoning Libya after intervening to depose its dictator; tepid support for the democracy movement that emerged in the Arab Spring; and a refusal to help those fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose overthrow Obama said he favored.

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March 29th

Lose With Cruz: A Love Story

    It was clear to me weeks ago, even before Marco Rubio threw in the towel, that the GOP was getting ready to cuddle with Ted Cruz.

    But I never expected a love quite like this to bloom.

    It’s a singularly tortured love, one that grits its teeth, girds its loins and pines for a contested convention.

    It’s hate worn down into resignation, disgust repurposed as calculation. Stopping a ludicrous billionaire means submitting to a loathsome senator. And so they submit, one chastened and aghast Republican leader after another, murmuring sweet nothings about Cruz that are really sour somethings about Donald Trump.

    Will they still respect themselves in the morning?

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5 myths about Cuba

    President Barack Obama's historic trip to Cuba this past week returned U.S. and world attention to the small Caribbean island of 11 million people and the long, curious history between it and the United States. It's hard to think of a similarly sized country that has had such a memorable, tumultuous, often romantic hold on U.S. history and imagination. That narrative encapsulates a welter of assumptions - some propagated by the 1959 revolution, others by the Cuban diaspora and the rest by Americans who haven't seen Cuba up close in more than half a century. Here are some of those myths.

 

    1. Cuba's free health-care system is great.

    In a 2014 visit to Cuba, the director general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, declared Cuba's health-care system a model for the world: "This is the way to go," she said. And U.S. documentarian-provocateur Michael Moore, in his movie "Sicko," favorably contrasted Cuba's system with the expensive, complicated American arrangement.

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