Archive

January 11th, 2017

If Trump really knows the art of the deal, he'll embrace free trade

    Trade protectionism could be the biggest risk to President-elect Donald Trump's growth-and-greatness agenda. Trump the dealmaker needs to decide whether to play case-by-case defense or to use America's leverage to open markets.

    The United States has free-trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 countriesthat account for 10 percent of the global economy but nearly half of U.S. exports. In the first five years of these deals, U.S. exports on average increased three times as rapidly as export growth globally.

    The United States enjoys a manufacturing trade surplus with FTA partners, while about 60 percent of imports are for intermediate goods that lower costs for U.S producers. U.S. free-trade agreements support innovation by incorporating new rules that help cutting-edge businesses. Congress, the co-owner of these agreements, should push for more.

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I made my autistic son cannabis cookies. They saved him.

    It took me awhile to perfect the cookie recipe. I experimented with ingredients: Blueberry, Strawberry, Sour Diesel, White Widow, Bubba Kush, AK-47 - all strains of cannabis, which I stored, mixed with glycerin, in meticulously labeled jars on a kitchen shelf. After the cookies finished baking, I'd taste a few crumbs and annotate the effects in a notebook. Often, I felt woozy. One variation put me to sleep. When I had convinced myself that a batch was OK, I'd give a cookie to my 9-year-old son.

    At the time he was consumed by violent rages. He would bang his head, scream for hours and literally eat his shirts. At dinnertime, he threw his plates so forcefully that there was food stuck on the ceiling. He would punch and scratch himself and others, such that people would look at the red streaks on our bodies and ask us, gingerly, if we had cats.

    But when I got the cookies right, he calmed down. His aggressions became less ferocious and less frequent. Mealtimes became less fraught. He was able to maintain enough self-composure that he even learned how to ride a bike - despite every expert telling us it would never happen.

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I knew Gov. Schwarzenegger. Mr. Trump, you're no Gov. Schwarzenegger.

    With Arnold Schwarzenegger taking over Donald Trump's former role on "Celebrity Apprentice" this past week, we've been treated to another round of comparisons between the movie star who became governor of California and the reality star who will be the next president of the United States.

    The New York Times' TV critic determined that "Mr. Trump's imperiousness and (seeming) impetuousness had made him an ideal reality-TV boss, while Mr. Schwarzenegger's cautiousness and rigidity make him a poor fit." The Los Angeles Times critic, for one, begged to differ, concluding that "like his predecessor, Schwarzenegger is entirely comfortable hamming it up as an imperious bad guy" and noting that "Schwarzenegger's Trump impression was so complete, he even had a younger blond relative, nephew Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger, playing the Ivanka Trump role." Best yet, Trump himself weighed inFriday: "Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 'swamped' (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT."

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How Trump got his party to love Russia

    For decades, anti-communism united conservatives behind the Republican Party. An otherwise disparate collection of national security hawks, free-market enthusiasts and social traditionalists rallied to the GOP, resolutely committed to checking Soviet influence around the world. All of these constituencies had reason to despise godless, revolution-exporting Bolsheviks. Although Russia no longer subscribes to Marxist-Leninist doctrine, it still presents a threat to the United States, its allies and the liberal world order. Witness its aggression against Ukraine, its intervention in Syria's civil war and its support for extremists across Europe.

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How Trump can play nice with Russia, without selling out America

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was a whirlwind of vagaries and contradictions when it came to foreign policy, making it difficult to predict how his new administration will approach dozens of international issues. On Russia, however, he was clear and consistent. He praised President Vladimir Putin often, defended many of Putin's policies, and declared with enthusiasm, "Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?" Since his election, Trump has persisted in defending Putin, questioning in multiple tweets and comments the intelligence community's assessment regarding Russia's interference in our electoral process last year. In nominating Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, Trump is proposing for Senate approval the perfect emissary for improving relations with the Kremlin. Along with Henry Kissinger and Steven Seagal, Tillerson is one of the very few Americans to have enjoyed direct and sustained access to Putin in recent years. The conditions seem set for another reset with Russia.

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How Julian Assange became an enemy of the truth

    You almost have to feel sorry for Julian Assange. Shut in at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London without access to sunlight, the founder of WikiLeaks is reduced to self-parody these days.

    Here is a man dedicated to radical transparency, yet he refuses to go to Sweden despite an arrest warrant in connection with allegations of sexual assault. His organization retweets the president-elect who once called for him to be put to death. He spreads the innuendo that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer, was murdered this summer because he was the real source of the emails WikiLeaks published in the run-up to November's election. And now he tells Fox News's Sean Hannity that it's the U.S. media that is deeply dishonest.

    This is the proper context to evaluate Assange's claim, repeated by Donald Trump and his supporters, that Russia was not the source for the e-mails of leading Democrats distributed by WikiLeaks.

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Erasing Obama

    For a soon-to-be nowhere man, he’s everywhere. Sensing “time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” as the poet had it, President Barack Obama is using every hour left in his presidency to ensure that Donald Trump will not erase it all.

    It’s one part vanity project. What president doesn’t want to put a dent in history? One man freed 4 million slaves. Another created national parks and forests that left every American a rich inheritance of public land. A third crushed the Nazis — from a wheelchair, while dying.

    And Obama? He bequeaths the incoming president “the longest economic expansion and monthly job creation in history,” as my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin noted. Trump, the pumpkin-haired rooster taking credit for the dawn, has already tried to seize a bit of that achievement as his own. Thanks, Obama. But he’s also likely to screw it up, perhaps by a trade war, or a budget-busting tax cut.

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January 10th

Sex offender lockup should trouble court more

    In a major blow to civil liberties, an appeals court has upheld the Minnesota system that civilly commits sex offenders after they've served their prison terms, a confinement from which no one has ever been fully released. The decision, filed Tuesday, used the wrong legal standard, making it too easy for the state to lock people up indefinitely for future dangerousness. Worse, the U.S. Supreme Court might not review the decision, despite its being egregiously wrong, because there is no clear disagreement among the circuit courts.

    The Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment of Sex Offenders Act, enacted in 1994, says any county attorney can ask a state district court to determine that a person is "sexually dangerous" or has a "sexually psychopathic personality." If the court agrees that the county attorney has demonstrated this by clear and convincing evidence, the person is committed indefinitely, against his or her will, to a "secure treatment facility."

    There is no regular review to see whether the person should be released. The only way to get out is for the confined person to ask a review board to determine that he or she is no longer dangerous.

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Drunken monkeys and the evolution of boozing

    Nothing rings in the new year like a solution of bubbling, neurotoxic ethanol. Humanity's longstanding relationship with alcohol poses an evolutionary puzzle: Surely natural selection would weed out those of our ancestors with a taste for something that clouds judgment, slows reflexes, dulls the senses and impairs balance. Animals in such a state would likely be the first picked off by predators, if they hadn't already fallen out of a tree.

    And yet humans all over the world drink ethanol in various concoctions, or they enforce strict rules against it -- rules that surely wouldn't exist if there weren't a desire. We've been at it a long time: Archaeologists have found wine and beer stains on 10,000-year-old stone age pottery.

    Scientists are solving the paradox by studying the enzymes our bodies use to digest alcohol. Lots of animals make these enzymes, called alcohol dehydrogenases, and the way these vary from one species to another tells an evolutionary story. Then there's the related question of whether other species imbibe. Preliminary investigations suggest the answer is yes.

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Biggest winners of an Obamacare repeal: The young, healthy and rich

    In one of the latest rounds of government-by-tweet, Donald Trump has once again revealed that he doesn't have a clue about the markets for health care and health insurance.

    "Also, deductibles are so high that it is practically useless," wrote the president-elect on Wednesday about health insurance policies sold on the Obamacare exchanges. He also complained about "poor coverage" and "massive premium increases."

    Let's start with those high deductibles. Apparently Trump is unaware that the man he has tapped to dismantle Obamacare, Rep. Tom Price of George, wants to steer us all into such "high deductible" insurance plans, with routine care paid for by patients from individual tax-free health savings accounts.

    The reason Price and others like high-deductible policies is simple enough: They lower insurance premiums and give patients a strong financial incentive to consume only the routine care they need and shop around for the best value. But, as Price surely knows, it's not possible to lower deductibles and lower premiums at the same time.

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