Archive

March 29th, 2016

Father will rest near child slain at Virginia Tech

    Their graves will be side by side in the historic Virginia cemetery where so many members of their family are buried.

    Erin Peterson, just 18, gunned down in her French class at Virginia Tech almost nine years ago.

    And now, her father, Grafton Peterson, 57, who died last week of a heart attack. Might as well have been heartbreak.

    Grafton never got over Erin's death, and neither did his wife, Celeste. Erin was "their compass," Celeste said recently as she prepared to bury her husband next to her daughter at Rock Hill Cemetery in rural Loudoun County on Saturday.

    Grafton had been through a lot, suffering in private decades ago after Carla, his daughter from another relationship, died of cancer when she was 8. But his second devastation was much more public: He will be remembered as the father who refused to settle with Virginia Tech and the state after Erin was killed on April 16, 2007, by fellow student Seung Hui Cho in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

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Why Bernie Sanders had to run as a Democrat

    During a recent town hall in Columbus, Ohio, Sen. Bernie Sanders said the unthinkable. At least, you would have thought he did, judging by the response of several Democratic operatives. Sanders was deemed "extremely disgraceful" by Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and "a political calculating fraud" by Brad Woodhouse, a former DNC communications director.

    What was his crime? The old-fashioned Rooseveltian New Dealer had answered a question about why he is running as a Democrat instead of as an independent with typical candor: "In terms of media coverage, you had to run within the Democratic Party," he observed, adding that he couldn't raise money outside the major two-party process.

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Crazy About Money

    In this year of Trump, the land is loud with the wails of political commentators, rending their garments and crying out, “How can this be happening?” But a few brave souls are willing to whisper the awful truth: Many voters support Donald Trump because they actually agree with his ideas.

    This is not, however, a column about Trump. It is, instead, about Sen. Ted Cruz, who has emerged as the favored candidate of the GOP elite now that less disagreeable alternatives have imploded.

    In a way, that’s quite a remarkable development. For Cruz has staked out positions on crucial issues that are, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. How can elite Republicans back him?

    The answer is the same for Cruz and the elite as it is for Trump and the base: Leading Republicans support Cruz, not despite his policy positions, but because of them. They may not like his style, but they agree with his substance.

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March 27th

The case for Trump over Clinton is a loser

    Donald Trump says he'll be a dynamite general election candidate, winning reliably Democratic states like New York and Pennsylvania and capturing unprecedented "crossover" votes from Democrats and independents. Many other Republicans say he'd be a disaster.

    Who's right? As of now, the pessimists. Trump, the best surveys suggest, would be one of the weakest Republican nominees in modern history, one that an otherwise challenged Hillary Clinton could clobber.

    In recent polls by Bloomberg Politics, The Wall Street Journal/NBC News and the New York Times/CBS News, she holds double-digit leads over Trump in a general election match-up. In the Bloomberg poll released on Wednesday, she beats him 54 percent to 36 percent.

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Jeb Bush, pathetic nice guy, pledges fealty to Cruz

    Not sufficiently humiliated by his collapse as the early Republican presidential frontrunner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in an attempt to deny the nomination to Donald Trump.

    In doing so, Bush has further diminished his onetime stature as the darling of the dying Grand Old Party establishment once represented by his father, President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, President George W. Bush.

    Previously, Jeb Bush had preserved some stature among the old-timers by conspicuously offering himself as the initial Trump giant-killer. In his frontal assault on Trump as a fraudulent Republican and a brutal demagogue bent on destroying the party brand and reputation, he unfortunately became its sacrificial lamb at the polls.

    Now, in throwing his support to Cruz, he has splashed cold water on the third surviving GOP candidate, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, the longest of long shots, who remains in the race after scoring only a single primary victory in his home state.

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Are these the words of a president?

    Donald Trump's ignorance of government policy, both foreign and domestic, is breathtaking. The Republican Party is likely to nominate for president a man who appears to know next to nothing about the issues that would confront him in the job.

     Such a sweeping condemnation may sound unfair. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump were already busy tweeting that I'm a "dummy" or something. But if you read the transcript of Trump's hourlong meeting with the editorial board of The Washington Post, which took place earlier this week, I don't see how you can come to any other conclusion.

     I should note that I'm not a member of the board and therefore did not attend. But the Post published a full transcript (http://wapo.st/1RmDd9O), and it is one of the most chilling documents I've read in a long time.

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There's a better way to secure our airports

    The departure hall bombing at Brussels airport has triggered debate over whether to move the security cordon at Europe's airports to the terminal doors and beyond. Most travelers, I suspect, will have the same gut response: What, more lines?

    That's also the reaction of some aviation security experts, who believe that in the 15 years since 9/11, we have lost the balance between security, cost and convenience -- often, they suspect, to little effect.

    "I would really hope we do not introduce additional screening points in response to this," said Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International Magazine and author of a book published this month, on the history of aviation hijacks and bombings. Not only are there more effective ways to provide security, says Baum, but "it's taking away the pleasure of flight and travel."

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The most terrifying part of my drug addiction? That my law firm would find out.

    The morning before I got sober, my breakfast consisted of nearly a bottle of red wine and a few thick lines of cocaine. I got dressed, checked my teeth for lipstick and my nose for stray coke, put my laptop in its case and picked up the paper on the way out to work at my law firm. I felt sick, afraid and completely alone. I know now that I was wrong about the alone part.

    A newly released study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs reports an alarming statistic: Up to 21 percent of licensed, employed lawyers qualify as problem drinkers; for lawyers under age 30, it's 31.9 percent. By comparison, only 6.8 percent of all Americans have a drinking problem. In addition to questions related to alcohol, participants were asked about their use of licit and illicit drugs, including sedatives, marijuana, stimulants and opioids: Seventy-four percent of those who used stimulants took them weekly.

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The Belgian X-ray

    Sudden, horrific events in the middle of a presidential campaign provide an X-ray of the instincts and thinking of the candidates. We can see what their priorities are, and pick up clues about their character.

     The terrorist attacks in Belgium brought out the worst in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Cruz demonstrated that his only focus right now is to find ways of out-Trumping Trump. He seeks words that sound at least as intolerant and as dangerous to civil liberties as the formulations that regularly burst forth from the Republican front-runner.

     Thus did Cruz declare: "We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." He happily intruded on Trump's trademark issues by emphasizing the need to seal the nation's southern border against "terrorist infiltration," and by declaring that "for years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear."

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Telegraph companies upheld privacy before Apple

    The FBI's battle of wills with Apple over unlocking an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists who carried out a deadly attack in California last year may sound like a strictly 21st century conundrum over privacy and technology.

    But by refusing to provide access to investigators, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook joins a long line of tech innovators who have waged campaigns on behalf of their customers' privacy. In many cases, their advocacy was self-interested. But it also had consequences for the development of laws protecting Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    The telegraph probably was the most miraculous technology of the 19th century because it allowed messages to travel vast distances in a split second. Tens of thousands of miles of telegraph lines went up throughout the U.S. beginning in the 1840s, connecting the country in a web of wires.

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