Archive

February 15th, 2016

Some Sage Advice for Hillary Clinton

    I come not to rebuke Hillary Clinton, who remains by far the most capable presidential candidate. I come bearing advice for her campaign.

    Hillary, this is something you sorely need.

 

    1. Understand that New Hampshire didn't owe you anything. "New Hampshire had been good for the Clintons," we kept hearing. Its primary saved Bill's hide in the 1992 presidential race. In 2008, it gave you a needed boost when the sisterhood, enraged at perceived sexist attacks, rushed to your defense.

    But what did any of this have to do with 2016?

 

    2. Women don't owe you anything, either. Which side was paying Gloria Steinem to disparage younger women who chose to vote for Bernie Sanders? She said they were chasing boys; can you imagine? And what prompted Madeleine Albright to say that women should vote to help other women as opposed to helping their country?

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Republicans make the case for Obamacare

    The Republican presidential candidates are pitching President Obama's health-care law.

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wants to "ensure those with pre-existing health conditions can get access to affordable coverage." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to "delink health insurance from employment." Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush favors letting employers "use financial incentives to encourage wellness programs." Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants to use episode-based payments to hold down costs, and let doctors and hospitals share the savings from reduced spending.

    What each of those proposals has in common is that Obamacare is already doing it. Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from charging higher premiums based on your medical history. It built subsidized, regulated insurance markets for people who don't get coverage through their job. It increased the rewards employers can offer for joining a wellness program. And it created pilot programs in Medicare to advance accountable-care organizations and bundled payments, exactly the ideas Kasich supports.

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President wanted; experienced candidates need not apply

    With the first two nominating contests out of the way, each party's field remains split along ideological lines. But there also is a deep divide separating candidates who stress their governance experience and those who cast such a background as irrelevant or even a liability when it comes to fixing a "broken" or "rigged" system.

    For Republicans, the New Hampshire primary campaign was, to a large extent, about this choice. After a weak showing in Iowa, the three Republican governors, Ohio's John Kasich, Jeb Bush, formerly of Florida, and New Jersey's Chris Christie, did their best to push their executive experience as the main selling point. Kasich campaigned on his success in balancing Ohio's budget, Bush stressed his "steady hand" in Florida and Christie his success in cleaning up New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the campaign in New Hampshire was Christie's goading of Sen. Marco Rubio during Saturday's Republican debate: "You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. You just simply haven't."

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Photos deserve 'fair use' protection, too

    It's been called "ridiculously petty" and a "hissy fit," but a copyright lawsuit filed by the New York Times against the author and publisher of a book critical of the newspaper's war photography could turn out to be good news for commentators on our image-saturated culture - if it gets to court.

    The book is "War Is Beautiful" by David Shields, who argues that from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, the Times systematically selected front-page photographs that "glamorized war and the sacrifices made in the service of war." To make his case, he reproduces 64 photographs, each on a separate page, and classifies them into categories such as "Father," "Painting," "Movie," and "Pietà," based on their aesthetic elements. Inside the back cover, the book shows the photos in their original context, with a thumbnail of each front page, about 2 inches by 3 inches. (The cover also includes essays meant to be read as part of the text, making it more integral than the usual dust jacket.)

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NSA is massively reorganizing itself in a way that's going to hurt its credibility

    The National Security Agency has been having a tough time the last couple of years, as it takes the blame for widespread surveillance. It has just announced a major reorganization plan under which its Signals Intelligence (spying) and Information Assurance (domestic protection) directorates are going to be combined in a new Directorate of Operations. From an internal perspective, this is a more rational way to use resources. Spying and protecting U.S. military networks from spying are closer than you might think. From an external perspective, it is likely to damage the NSA's credibility still further. Here's why.

    The NSA has two big responsibilities

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Justice Department has few tools to fix Ferguson

    The Department of Justice must have expected that the Ferguson, Missouri, City Council would stall in accepting the terms of a consent decree over allegations that the city's police and courts have violated black residents' civil rights. The department had a 56-page complaint for a lawsuit at the ready, and filed it just a day after the council demanded several changes to the negotiated draft.

    Presumably, Ferguson won't want the embarrassment or the expense of fighting a federal lawsuit. The department is using force as a negotiating tactic, and Ferguson will have to fold.

    Yet the episode raises a problem with roots in the history of civil-rights enforcement. What should the Department of Justice or the courts do if a city like Ferguson won't accept a deal, and insists on litigating alleged civil-rights violations to completion?

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Job market bounces back from the Great Recession

    Did the Great Recession inflict permanent damage on the U.S. economy? Or was it just a deep hole that took a long time to climb out of? Evidence now says that it was mostly the latter.

    Based on how fast the U.S. recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed, the speed hasn't been too different from that of other recessions during the past 30 years. Research by Calculated Risk blogger Bill McBride comparing job losses and recoveries in various U.S. recessions shows that the trajectory of the employment recovery after the Great Recession has been about the same as the recoveries following the 2001 and 1990 recessions. The main difference is that the Great Recession started with a deeper, more severe drop. Interestingly, the current recovery has lasted longer than the post-2001 recovery -- eight years after 2001, the U.S. was already in another recession, while the economy is still expanding today.

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Analysis: Donald Trump represents the end of the end of history

    At least he's a leader.

    That's what - time to get used to these words - Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said about Vladimir Putin when he was reminded that the Russian president's critics in the press have a nasty habit of turning up dead. It was the sort of thing you might have heard in the 1930s about fascists who "knew how to get things done." Or in the 1970s about communists who seemed to be whipping us at the same time that we couldn't even figure out how to whip inflation.

    In other words, it's not new for our democracy to go through a crisis of confidence - just don't call it a malaise - when our economy does. What is new, though, is the kind of crisis our economy is in today. Now, things aren't as bad as they were during the Great Depression or even the Great Inflation, but they aren't as easy to turn around, either. Back then, fixing the economy meant fixing big-picture policies that had failed. It was, as economist John Maynard Keynes put it, a simple matter of "magneto trouble:" our economic engine would work just fine if we replaced a part here and pulled a lever there.

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Hillary, Bernie, and History

    It’s a sad time for Hillary Clinton’s fans. Well, I guess that’s obvious, since she got clobbered in New Hampshire. But it’s the way she went down that was particularly painful. Bernie Sanders got more than half the women’s vote, mainly because younger women raced off to his corner in droves.

    That triggered a generational cross-fire. “I’m frustrated and outraged by being constantly attacked by older feminists for my refusal to vote according to my gender,” a college sophomore told CNN.

    Women tend to vote for candidates who support a strong social safety net, which is not exactly a problem in the current Democratic race. Historically, they’ve been less likely to show a particular preference for other women. I’ve always generalized that they won’t vote for men who yell. However, it appears that is totally inaccurate when the man in question is shouting, “Medicare for all!”

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Trump’s Impeachable Offense

    For anyone who cares deeply about being informed, watching Republican presidential debates can feel like a form of torture. But the program becomes more terrifying altogether when their ignorance is hitched to an endorsement of actual torture.

    At the latest GOP debate in New Hampshire, Donald Trump heartily endorsed waterboarding and other forms of torture, which he promised to reinstitute in national security interrogations if he wins the election. “I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” Trump vowed.

    Trump’s position was condemned immediately by Republican Senator John McCain, who knows a thing or two about torture. McCain, who was brutally beaten as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, accused his fellow Republicans of “sacrificing our respect for human dignity” with their “loose talk” about instituting human rights abuses.

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