Archive

December 15th

Empowering the Ugliness

    We live in an era of political news that is, all too often, shocking but not surprising. The rise of Donald Trump definitely falls into that category. And so does the electoral earthquake that struck France in Sunday’s regional elections, with the right-wing National Front winning more votes than either of the major mainstream parties.

    What do these events have in common? Both involved political figures tapping into the resentments of a bloc of xenophobic and/or racist voters who have been there all along. The good news is that such voters are a minority; the bad news is that it’s a pretty big minority, on both sides of the Atlantic. If you are wondering where the support for Trump or Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front, is coming from, you just haven’t been paying attention.

    But why are these voters making themselves heard so loudly now? Have they become much more numerous? Maybe, but it’s not clear. More important, I’d argue, is the way the strategies elites have traditionally used to keep a lid on those angry voters have finally broken down.

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America's definitive voice

    When it comes to the birth of American geniuses, 1915 was a very good year. This year marks the centenary of Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Saul Bellow and, on Saturday, the guy who gave eternal life to the Great American Songbook - Frank Sinatra.

    Bellow and Sinatra also have something in common more important and remarkable than their birth year, their affinity for fedoras, their decades-long political drift from left to right and their tempestuous personal lives. It wasn't until 1953 that each found his voice.

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Obama team weighs cyberwar options on Islamic State

    After the massacre at San Bernardino, President Obama's national security advisers are re-examining when to ask Internet companies to take down jihadi propaganda and social media accounts, according to U.S. officials.

    The issue is not new. Al-Qaida and its franchises have used the Internet systematically for more than a decade. But the Islamic State has flooded social media like Twitter and Facebook to provide future recruits all over the world a steady stream of slickly produced material that encourages the kind of do-it- yourself terrorism that has plagued Europe and the United States in recent years.

    The problem for U.S. policymakers is whether to treat this flood of social media as a cancer that must be eradicated or a source of valuable intelligence on the plots and techniques jihadis use to attack the West.

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December 13th

Who speaks for the GOP?

    With no Republican in the presidency, the voice of the Grand Old Party is clearly up for grabs these days, and Donald Trump, the loudest mouth on the scene, is doing an effective job of claiming the distinction, though he has never held a political or public office of any kind.

    No figure who ordinarily might be recognized as the GOP spokesman -- a former Republican president, former presidential nominee, former secretary of state or big-state governor -- has stepped up to speak for the party of icons Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, leaving the field for Trump to dominate with his bombast and bigotry.

    But his latest outrage of calling for all Muslims to be barred in response to the global terrorist threat from the radical Islamic peril has finally stirred one forthright party leader. Paul Ryan, the new Speaker of the House, has given meaning to his just-acquired job title by saying of Trump's demand: "This is not conservatism." It is "not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it's not what this country stands for."

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Why Hillary Clinton had a very good year

    I'm a fan of The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, but when he gets one wrong, it's often a doozy. And saying that Hillary Clinton had the "worst year in Washington" is about as wrong as you can get.

    Yes, Clinton did, as Cillizza remembers, suffer through a scandal, and she emerged with bruised polling numbers, at least when it came to perceptions of her honesty. If the award was "worst summer in Washington," I could see Clinton as a contestant, although Scott Walker and Matt Williams would be stronger choices.

    One year ago, Clinton was the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, perhaps in the best position any non- incumbent has been in modern times. Yet two potentially strong contenders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden, were lurking around the edges of the contest, not exactly active candidates but not far from doing what candidates at that stage do. Nor was it entirely clear yet how strong Clinton's grip on party actors might be when she stumbled the way all candidates do.

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Why do doctors choose a $2,000 cure when a $50 one is just as good?

    I'm a doctor with a miracle drug. Three of them, in fact. Their names are Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea. I use them to treat the number one cause of blindness in Americans over sixty-five: wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Calling them a miracle is no understatement. If your doctor delivers the unlucky news that you've developed wet AMD, it means blood vessels under your macula have started to leak or bleed, robbing you of the sight you rely on to read books, see faces, watch TV or drive.

    Enter the miracle drugs - eye injections that limit those leaking submacular vessels, giving us our first treatment capable of bringing vision back. But somehow, these drugs have become among the most controversial in all of medicine.

    All three treat wet AMD very effectively. Their most significant difference is cost. Lucentis and Eylea cost approximately $2,000 and $1,850 per dose, respectively. Avastin? Only $50.

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Virginia for the Win: Virginia's GOP will decide party's 2016 fate

    A crucial but little-noticed statistical truth is lurking inside the GOP presidential primary poll numbers.

    According to the polls, Donald Trump's support, on a percentage basis, is roughly the same across the philosophic spectrum pollsters use to group GOP supporters - "very conservative," "somewhat conservative" and "moderate to liberal."

    This runs against the conventional wisdom, which says the voters who've pushed Trump to the top of the national polls are very conservative, almost entirely white and allegedly bigoted.

    And then there's Iowa.

    The last three Iowa surveys showed Trump leading slightly in one and far bigger in another. But, in the third, he trails modestly to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the most consistently anti-establishment conservative lawmaker in Washington.

    All three surveys agree on one point: Cruz is becoming the choice among those voters describing themselves as "very conservative."

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The slippery slope to Trumpism

    Remember the "Mosque at Ground Zero"?

    With little fanfare this fall, the New York developer who had planned to build an Islamic community center north of the World Trade Center announced that he would instead use the site for a 70-story tower of luxury condos.

    Those who had rallied in opposition to a building because of its religious affiliation back in 2010 were exultant. "The importance of the defeat of the Ground Zero Mosque cannot be overstated," Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative wrote on the Breitbart website in September. "The Ground Zero Mosque became a watershed issue in our effort to raise awareness of and ultimately halt and roll back the advance of Islamic law and Islamic supremacism in America."

    "Islamic supremacism in America." Really?

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Republican Party decentralizing into chaos

    If you are a Republican, decentralization of power is a cornerstone of your party and political philosophy. After all, Republican demonization of Washington and the federal government stems in part from a belief that government is too large and power too centralized.

    "Only government that sends power back to the people can make America confident again," said House Speaker Paul Ryan in a speech at the Library of Congress last week.

    You hear the sameand more from Republican candidates for president on down to the grass roots. Yet conservatives are perpetually frustrated because both parties spent most of the past century expanding the federal government's responsibilities and capabilities, arguing that human need, national security and the growing complexity of modern society demanded it.

    If Republicans are looking for a model of genuine decentralization, however, they have an excellent example close to home. The GOP, after all, is increasingly decentralized itself.

    And, wow, what a mess.

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Party's over: Time for GOP to Dump Trump

    When Donald Trump announced he was running for president last June, the Huffington Post, unlike most of the media, didn't exactly go gaga over him. In fact, as a sign they weren't taking him seriously, HuffPo decided to post all Trump news on their Entertainment page.

    That changed this week, when Huffington Post moved Trump from the Entertainment page to the Political page. Smart move. Because Donald Trump's not funny anymore. He's no longer a joke. He's a serious candidate for president, he's leading in the polls, and he's perhaps the most divisive, dangerous, racist candidate in our history. Not even George Wallace came close.

    Trump's not alone, of course. He's standing on a platform of hatred -- against minorities, immigrants, women and gays -- which the Republican Party has been building for years. Even today, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz want to allow only Christian refugees from Syria to enter the U.S. And 31 governors, mostly Republicans, have closed their borders to all Syrian refugees.

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