Archive

July 6th, 2016

Trump, Trade and Workers

    Donald Trump gave a speech on economic policy last week. Just about every factual assertion he made was wrong, but I’m not going to do a line-by-line critique. What I want to do, instead, is talk about the general thrust: the candidate’s claim to be on the side of American workers.

    Of course, that’s what they all say. But Trumponomics goes beyond the usual Republican assertions that cutting taxes on corporations and the rich, ending environmental regulation and so on will conjure up the magic of the marketplace and make everyone prosper. It also involves posing as a populist, claiming that getting tough on foreigners and ripping up our trade agreements will bring back the well-paying jobs America has lost.

    That’s a departure, although not as much as you may think — people forget that Mitt Romney similarly threatened a trade war with China during the 2012 campaign. Still, it was interesting to see a Republican presidential candidate name-check not just Bernie Sanders but the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which has long been critical of globalization.

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The US can't ignore Russia, or its increasingly horrendous behavior

    The U.S.-Russia relationship is too big to fail, but it's failing.

    The Obama administration came into office with a big idea about this relationship: that these two world powers must work together on areas of mutual interest even if they still worked against each other where their interests diverged. The concept was sound, but as relations have deteriorated and Russia has taken a more antagonistic stance, the United States has failed to adapt.

    Last week's revelation that the administration is proposing increased military cooperation with Russia in Syria, in exchange for Russian agreement to abide by the cease-fire it had already agreed to, was a stark example of how the administration's theory about how to work with Russia is being misapplied on the ground. Washington is offering Moscow both a reprieve from the political and military isolation it imposed after the invasion of Ukraine - and a reward for taking unilateral military action designed to undermine U.S. policy in Syria.

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Giving Clinton Her Due

    It is easy in an election cycle that has seen the improbable rise of the preposterous presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to center all discussion about the race on him: how poorly he’s doing, how outrageous this week’s comments were, how damning a new investigative report into his past has proved.

    But doing so exposes a bias toward the sensational, underselling another rather remarkable story, at least for the month of June: Hillary Clinton ran an incredibly strong campaign last month.

    First, let’s start with the obvious. As Gallup pointed out last week: “Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades.” But the article continued: “In the race to the bottom, however, Trump’s 42 percent highly unfavorable score easily outpaces Clinton’s 33 percent. Prior to now, 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater had the highest negative score, with 26 percent rating him highly unfavorably in October 1964.”

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Cataclysm in a Cheetos bag

    A barnstorm tour of Texas on a soggy week in May deposited me at a treasured place: a particular tennis court, opposite a particular racquet-bearing friend.

    It’s where we had gathered weekly for years, the essence of effort being the sweat and not the score.

    And so we perspired once more, though more from the mugginess than the athleticsm. History-making monsoons had left much of the state submerged. Once-destitute reservoirs cried rivers of joy.

    That tennis court is in a wonderful place, a tree-lined park with a jogging path and a playground abutting a grade school. But that day something was annoying me. It was not my backhand.

    It was a pile of trash.

    Over in my corner of the court (my friend and I have never changed sides in our “matches” – too much exertion), a winter’s worth of debris had assembled.

    As a picture, it was a still-life of a throw-away society.

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A declaration against the war on drugs

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one part of the American people to affirm the political bands which connect them to the other parts, and to assume within the nation, the connected and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of their fellow citizens requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to affirm their connection.

    We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among us, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and, if they choose the path of alteration, to abandon old and institute new legislation, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing the powers of government in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

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July 5th

The Terrorists the Saudis Cultivate in Peaceful Countries

            First, a three-part quiz:

            Which Islamic country celebrates as a national hero a 15th-century Christian who battled Muslim invaders?

            Which Islamic country is so pro-American it has a statue of Bill Clinton and a women’s clothing store named “Hillary” on Bill Klinton Boulevard?

            Which Islamic country has had more citizens go abroad to fight for the Islamic State per capita than any other in Europe?

            The answer to each question is Kosovo, in southeastern Europe — and therein lies a cautionary tale. Whenever there is a terrorist attack by Muslim extremists, we look to our enemies like the Islamic State or al-Qaida. But perhaps we should also look to our “friends,” like Saudi Arabia.

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No More Bashing Of The Super Delegates

            Enough of this fuss about the role of the super delegates at the Democratic Convention. Just who does Mr./Sen! Sanders and the other complainers think keep the party going through thick and thin between the conventions?

            These super delegates are the heart and soul of the party. They do the day to day necessities of keeping the party operating. Bernie Sanders is definitely a "Johnny come lately" to the party. Until this election period, and arguably still, Bernie Sanders had not even proclaimed his allegiance to the party. In fact it is still somewhat in doubt. Yes, he mostly voted Democratic in Congress but it was not the dependability of those who actually stood up and admitted membership, those who could be counted on to support the party platform. Socialist is not another word for Democrat. It may be closer than Republican but it is not a synonym!

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Celebrating the nation that can't stay still

    It is the birthright of all Americans to be patriotic in their own way, something worth remembering at a moment of great political division. Instead of challenging each other's love of country, we should accept that deep affection can take different forms.

    There is, of course, the option of setting politics aside altogether on the Fourth of July. Anyone who loves baseball, hotdogs, barbecues, fireworks and beaches as much as I do has no problem with that. Still, I'm not a fan of papering over our disagreements. It is far better to face and discuss them with at least a degree of mutual respect.

     When it comes to the varieties of patriotism, I'd make the case that some of us look more toward the past and others to the future. Some Americans speak of our nation's manifest virtues as rooted in old values nurtured by a deposit of ideas that we must preserve against all challengers. Others focus on our country's proven capacity for self-correction and change.

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The Supreme Court really matters in this election

            For a half century, presidential candidates have routinely claimed that there are no bigger stakes in the election than the next appointments to the Supreme Court.

            This year, for the first time since 1968, the dire warnings could actually have an important effect on voting behavior.

            Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the court has deadlocked 4-4 on four cases, including a few big ones. On a number of others, a single vote determined the outcome. In addition, Merrick Garland, the nominee to release to replace Scalia, will still be waiting for review by the Senate on Election Day; two justices will be in their 80s, and one will be 78.

            It is likely that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will have at least two or three appointments in a first term. And that will shape a number of important issues, ranging from immigration to racial preferences, as well as the role of unions and environmental issues.

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The GOP convention in Cleveland: Opportunity or hazard?

    The Republican National Convention in Cleveland two weeks away looms as an opportunity for Donald Trump to reverse his slipping fortunes. Either that or it may be a formidable new hazard on his path to the presidency.

    It all depends on which Donald Trump shows up. If he turns out to be the new Donald of smoother edges promised earlier by his new top strategist, Paul Manafort, following a script off a teleprompter, that would be one thing.

    But if the Donald in the spotlight proves to be the same free-wheeling barn-burner continuing his take-no-prisoners assault, that would distinctly be another matter. The evidence so far has not suggested much transformation, as Trump insists that the style of the old Donald has worked just fine so far.

    His previously demonstrated contempt for the buttoned-down Republican Party leadership and apparatus, as represented by conciliatory GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus, so far signals Trump's determination to march to his own drummer.

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