Archive

December 4th

In 'poisoned environment,' growing our own terrorists

    You bet it was political. Moments after it happened, we were all certain.

    That was in 1995 when Timothy McVeigh’s fertilizer bomb made rubble of the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168.

    You bet it was political as well last week when a wide-eyed, white-bearded Obama-hater was charged with the deaths of three and the wounding of many, outside a Planned Parenthood clinic lin Colorado Springs.

    You bet. And without question you can credit political discourse that has run so far off course as to be in the craggy ruts and roots where killers like McVeigh and Eric Rudolph would hide.

    You may remember Rudolph, the “pro-life” terrorist who set off bombs at Atlanta’s Olympic Park and at a women’s clinic in Alabama. He is among a growing list of players in a home-grown holy war – physicians slain, clinics firebombed and vandalized.

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Clean energy gathers steam

    As the Paris climate talks begin, the die is already cast: The world is going to move toward cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy. The question for U.S. policymakers is whether the world's biggest economy gets left behind.

    President Obama is trying his best to ensure this doesn't happen. He told the world leaders assembled in Paris that he saw the effects of global warming firsthand on a recent trip to Alaska. He wanted to make clear, he said, "that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."

    Obama has set a target of reducing U.S. carbon emissions, over the next decade, to a level at least 26 percent below what they were in 2005. Republicans in Congress -- and on the presidential campaign trail -- vow to do everything they can to sabotage this effort, claiming it will be bad for the economy. But if the naysayers succeed, they will only guarantee that the other great industrial powers, China and Europe, dominate the new energy landscape.

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Anyone But Ted Cruz

    You’re evaluating candidates for an open job in your company, and you come across one who makes a big impression.

    He’s clearly brilliant — maybe smarter than any of the others. He’s a whirlwind of energy. And man oh man, can he give a presentation. On any subject, he’s informed, inflamed, precise.

    But then you talk with people who’ve worked with him at various stages of his career. They dislike him.

    No, scratch that.

    They loathe him.

    They grant him all of the virtues that you’ve observed but tell you that he’s the antithesis of a team player. His thirst for the spotlight is unquenchable. His arrogance is unalloyed. He actually takes pride in being abrasive, as if a person’s tally of detractors measures his fearlessness, not his obnoxiousness.

    Do you hire this applicant?

    No way.

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Poland's disturbing tilt to the right

    Americans have been slow to grasp that Europe's familiar, centrist, European Union-centered political order is endangered. Poland's new government could deliver a wake-up call.

    It's been just two weeks since Beata Szydlo, a mild-mannered parliamentarian from the right-wing Law and Justice party, was sworn in as the country's prime minister. During that time, the administration nominally under her control has installed a new chief of the secret security services who was previously convicted of abuse of power for prosecuting political opponents,replaced five members of the Constitutional Court in order to avoid challenges to that first appointment, and named as defense minister an outspoken anti-Semite.

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Forget FDR's 100 days: Republicans can do it in one

    Starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, it became a tradition to take the measure of a new president by sizing up his first 100 days in office.

    Today, perhaps reflecting our obsession with speed, the candidates for president are proposing a new timetable: one day. To hear the 2016 contenders talk about their plans for their first day in office, you have to wonder what'll be left for Day Two. You also have to wonder if they understand that Congress, and sometimes the courts, get to have a say.

    Donald Trump, for example, says he would seal the borders to keep out illegal immigrants the minute he takes office. Trump also promises to declare China a currency manipulator. That, he says, would force China to the negotiating table. Perhaps, but it would also require the U.S. to begin the process of imposing duties on Chinese goods, a move that could provoke China to retaliate. Voila, a full-blown trade war might dominate Trump's first 100 days, or even his entire presidency.

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Needed: A GOP statement of conscience

    As Donald Trump's behavior on the campaign trail grows ever more outrageous, the time is long overdue for leading Republican establishment figures, past and present, to speak out in unison before their Grand Old Party is irreparably compromised.

    Trump's latest egregious comments and mockery of a New York Times reporter with a physical disability goes beyond the pale even for him. He wasn't satisfied with earlier disparaging the looks of rival presidential candidate Carly Fiorina ("Look at that face! Would anyone vote that?").

    His latest target is a man with severe malfunction of his arms, which Trump for good measure appeared to be mimicking. He also mocked the reporter's employer as "rapidly going down the tubes," even as the Times editorial board continues to pummel him for his bullying.

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December 2nd

The ultimate real estate deal for Trump

    Donald Trump's motivations for running for president have been transparent from the start. He wants everyone to know what a success he is as a real estate mogul. What better proof could he give of that than securing the White House, the one piece of U.S. real estate currently beyond his reach and, arguably, the most valuable property in the world.

    He told us his goal in his announcement speech. "I'm building all over the world, and I love what I'm doing. But they all said, a lot of the pundits on television, 'Well, Donald will never run, and one of the main reasons is he's private and he's probably not as successful as everybody thinks.' So I said to myself, you know, nobody's ever going to know unless I run, because I'm really proud of my success. I really am."

    Nobody's going to know what a successful real estate mogul he is unless he runs for president. That is the logic of his argument.

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The prosecution cannot rest on a trade secret

    On the surface, TrueAllele Casework, a computer program that extracts genetic profiles from DNA samples, would seem to mark an advance in criminal justice technology. But defense lawyers say it shouldn't be allowed in court, because Cybergenetics Corp., the firm that owns the program, won't reveal the software's source code, which it considers a trade secret.

    The resulting conflict, which is presently playing out in a Pennsylvania murder trial, poses fascinating and important questions: Do we need to know exactly how a given technique works to consider it scientifically reliable and admissible in court? And is it democratically right to convict, and possibly execute, someone based on a secret process the defendant isn't allowed to know?

    Start with the science. To oversimplify a bit, ordinary DNA analysis depends on qualitative comparisons made by human beings. Typically, a technician will type a defendant's DNA, then compare it to DNA in samples found at the crime scene. By comparing peaks and valleys in the statistical representation of the DNA sequences, the technician determines the likelihood that the two samples match.

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Stephen Breyer, a justice for the global age

    Stephen Breyer, a progressive force on the Supreme Court for more than two decades, advocates U.S. courts taking into account foreign law. That's the stuff of a good debate, befitting a justice who got to the bench courtesy of former President Ronald Reagan and the archconservative senator Strom Thurmond.

    His ascent was due mostly to the exceptional political skill and standing of a mentor, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who got resurgent Republicans to approve the liberal judge when they could have instead tapped one of their own for the seat.

    We'll revisit that story, which is illustrative of the way Washington used to work.

    In Breyer's recently published "The Court and the World," his third book since becoming a justice, he suggests the court should look abroad for guidance on some decisions because about 20 percent of cases have something to do with what happens outside the U.S. This notion is anathema to conservative members of the court, including Chief Justice John Roberts and the most forceful advocate of the right, Antonin Scalia.

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Needed: A GOP statement of conscience

    As Donald Trump's behavior on the campaign trail grows ever more outrageous, the time is long overdue for leading Republican establishment figures, past and present, to speak out in unison before their Grand Old Party is irreparably compromised.

    Trump's latest egregious comments and mockery of a New York Times reporter with a physical disability goes beyond the pale even for him. He wasn't satisfied with earlier disparaging the looks of rival presidential candidate Carly Fiorina ("Look at that face! Would anyone vote that?").

    His latest target is a man with severe malfunction of his arms, which Trump for good measure appeared to be mimicking. He also mocked the reporter's employer as "rapidly going down the tubes," even as the Times editorial board continues to pummel him for his bullying.

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