Archive

May 22nd, 2016

Sanders is playing with fire

    Bernie Sanders is playing a dangerous game. If he and his campaign continue their scorched-earth attacks against the Democratic Party, they will succeed only in one thing: electing Donald Trump as president.

    I say this as someone who shares much of Sanders' political philosophy; I too, for example, see health care as a basic right. He has run a remarkable and historically significant campaign, pulling the party to the left and pumping it full of new progressive vigor. His crowds are almost as big as Trump's and perhaps even more enthusiastic. Most important, he has brought legions of young people into the political process.

    But he hasn't won the nomination.

    Hillary Clinton has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, earned by her performance in primaries and caucuses. In the aggregate, she leads Sanders by about 3 million votes. The will of the party is clear: More Democrats prefer Clinton over Sanders as their nominee.

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Will there be bloodshed in Philadelphia?

    What a political roller-coaster of a year it's been. A month ago, pundits were praising the superior delegate-counting operation of Ted Cruz. Today, he's out of the hunt and Donald Trump, not Cruz, is the Republican Party's presumptive nominee. Two weeks ago, Democrats were chortling over civil war within the Republican Party. Today, Republicans are chuckling over civil war among Democrats.

    Meanwhile, the media is gleefully fanning the flames. Haven't you heard? The in-fighting among Democrats is worse than it ever was among Republicans. Violence at last weekend's Nevada state convention portends bloodshed at the national convention in Philadelphia. Bernie Sanders, in fact, is inciting violence by complaining about how the process is rigged against him. And Democrats are so hopelessly split in the primary that they'll never be able to come together before the general election.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Since, apparently, nobody else will, let's set the record straight.

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Trump goes on defensive with conservatives

    Donald Trump's release of a list of his possible Supreme Court choices raises a question. Why don't most presidential candidates let voters know who they will appoint to the court or the Cabinet or other high offices if they are elected?

    The main reason is that it's a high-risk, low-reward maneuver.

    Trump has named 11 people he would put on the Supreme Court (although he's already backed off to some extent). He isn't going to help himself with swing voters, few of whom have ever heard of those listed.

    Now he's on the hook for what the Democrats' opposition research can dig up on the various names, whether it is an extreme position on policy (one judge is for anti-gay and anti-transgender positions) or personal misdeeds that might turn up. "This," a general-election attack ad could ask, "is what Trump believes is appropriate for a lifetime appointment to our highest court?"

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Stop playing Games

    If anyone reading this column still believes in the "Olympic ideal," please give me a call: I've got a stadium in Rio de Janeiro I'd like to sell you.

    Discredited long ago by the very corruption and nationalism they were originally meant to transcend, the Olympic Games are embroiled in a wave of scandal that's embarrassing even by the sorry standards of this hypocritical "movement."

    It's hard to say what's more outrageous: credible new allegations of a clandestine state-sponsored doping scheme carried out by the 2014 Winter Olympics' host nation, Russia - or the fact that the International Olympic Committee entrusted the event to a despotic regime run by a glory-hungry former KGB agent in the first place.

    Meanwhile, the integrity of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing - another dictatorship's showcase - has been retrospectively undercut by the discovery of previously undetected doping by a reported 31 athletes from 12 countries; similar findings may be about to taint the 2012 London Games.

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Sanders and party establishment need to cool tensions

    As Bernie Sanders and his enthusiastic followers cling to their hope to survive in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, some of them seem to be veering into self-destructive behavior more associated with the rival Republicans.

    The evidence came last weekend in an ugly spectacle in Las Vegas, where Sanders supporters hurled epithets in a state convention melee over allocation of delegates to the July national party convention. Nevada's Democratic state chairwoman, Roberta Lange, claims she also received threats of violence.

    Lange insisted she was following party rules in giving the rival Hillary Clinton campaign the majority, in keeping with her winning both the most votes and delegates in the state's February caucuses. She noted that a credentials committee involved in the allocations had equal representation from the Sanders and Clinton camps.

    But Sanders accused the Nevada state party leadership of using "its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place." Lange said the Clinton camp had simply out-organized the Sanders team at the weekend event.

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Leaving Europe is a risk Britain should avoid

    The British electorate does not need Americans to tell them how to vote in the June 23 referendum, and I wouldn't dare try. I have always had great admiration for the British people -- and great respect for the country's democratic traditions. But from across the Atlantic, we Yanks are watching the campaign closely -- and many of us who have deep personal and business ties to Britain can't help but take a close interest.

    The special relationship between Britain and U.S. holds a special place in my heart, and not just because I had the great privilege of being named an honorary Knight of the British Empire by the Queen in 2014. I consider London my second home, my daughters hold British passports (thanks to their British mother), the company I founded employs nearly 4,000 people here, and we have long supported some of London's world-class cultural institutions.

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For cheap rent, build expensive housing, then wait

    The new housing that developers have been building in America's cities in recent years hasn't necessarily been cheap housing.

    This is perhaps most glaringly apparent in Manhattan, where the prices of condominiums in the skinny skyscrapers going up just south of Central Park range from $17 million to $100 million. But it's true even in Houston, where developers have been putting up lots and lots of apartment buildings. This is from the May "Economy at a Glance" report by the Greater Houston Partnership, a regional business group:

    "With a few exceptions, developers don't build Class B units. Of the 24,000-plus units currently in 'lease-up,' only 500 are Class B. Sub-A inventory tends to expand as properties age, floor plans become dated, and structures deteriorate. Only if owners neglect their investments during the downturn will we see a large number of Class A units slide into the Class B market."

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Did bombing Hiroshima save Japanese lives?

    "Yoshikado-sensei said, 'They're still there. Spear them! Spear them!' and it was really fun. I was tired, but I realized that even one person can kill a lot of the enemy."

    So wrote Mihoko Nakane, a 10-year-old Japanese girl, in her diary in July 1945. She was describing the hand-to-hand combat training she and her classmates were getting for the "decisive battle" to be fought if and when the U.S. and its allies invaded mainland Japan.

    It's one of many sobering vignettes recounted in Samuel Yamashita's recently published "Daily Life in Wartime Japan." Drawing on more than 100 wartime diaries, Yamashita offers snapshots of how Japanese civilians mobilized for war, celebrated their military's initial stunning victories, obeyed (or resisted) their government's edicts, and endured the tightening circles of hardship that culminated in the collapse of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

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Clinton, Sanders and 'visionary gradualism'

    The success of Bernie Sanders' insurgency is a marvel and an achievement.

    His showing is a mark of the anger and frustration felt by so many Americans over the abuses of capitalism that led to the crash of 2008. With the help of millions of voters, especially the young, he has broadened a political debate long hemmed in by the dominance of conservative assumptions and the stifling of progressive aspirations.

    Sanders has put a progressive alternative to Obamacare (a single-payer system) back on the political agenda. He has offered a sweeping plan to provide free public college education for all Americans, and spoken indefatigably about the corrupting influence of money on our political system.

    After hearing an endless stream of preposterous attacks on President Obama as a socialist, we now know what the real thing looks like. And many more Americans now realize that the words "democratic socialism" refer to popular movements in rather attractive places (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) and not to the old Soviet Union.

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Chinese government fakes nearly 450 million social media comments a year

    Internet researchers have long known that the Chinese government manipulates content on the Internet. Not only does it engage in heavy censorship, but it also employs hundreds of thousands of people, the so-called "50 cent army," to write comments on the Internet. New research by Gary King, Jennifer Pan and Margaret Roberts (whom I'll refer to as KPR for convenience) uses sophisticated techniques of gathering and analyzing massive amounts of data to tell us what is going on.

    - The fake commenters are being paid by the government.

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