Archive

February 27th, 2016

Cruz isn't out, and Rubio isn't a shoo-in

    Billionaire Donald Trump's big win in Nevada, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pulling even with or just ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fuels the conventional wisdom that the Republican presidential contest is now down to a two-man race. However, this year the conventional wisdom has been consistently wrong.

    Next Tuesday will test that two-man theory. Cruz, despite third-place finish in South Carolina and a weaker showing in Nevada, is in decent shape for next week's so-called SEC or Super Tuesday primaries, when 14 states weigh in and a quarter of the Republican delegates are decided. The biggest is his home state of Texas, with 155 delegates. One good night for Cruz, and he could pull ahead of Rubio and rival Trump for overall delegates.

    So then you'd have a three-way race. But it might not be that simple. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is counting on being competitive, conceivably even winning in Vermont or Massachusetts on March 1. He won't capture many delegates elsewhere but would argue he's doing better than Rubio. That would keep him politically alive as the race moves into the big Midwestern primaries, including his home state.

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Can Rubio stop the Trump steamroller? Not if he rolls over first.

    A lot of pundits -- and antsy Republicans -- keep suggesting that there is a "ceiling" to Donald Trump's support, meaning that he will be contained eventually. The problem is that this "ceiling" may be as high as the support of his two leading rivals -- combined.

    That, at least, is what happened Tuesday night in Nevada, stunning the political world. Trump won 45.9 percent of the vote, while Marco Rubio came in a distant second with 23.9 percent and Ted Cruz earned 21.4 percent.

    The entrance polls suggest that Trump won among a whole lot of voter groups that he isn't "supposed to" be winning and indeed are "supposed to" be ripe for Rubio's picking:

    -- Trump beat Rubio by nine points among voters aged 17-44 (though Rubio won among the more narrow 17-29 group).

    -- Trump beat Rubio not only among blue collar voters (Trump's base) but also beat him by double digits among college graduates.

    -- Trump beat Rubio among Latinos and nonwhites overall.

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A solution to confirmation gridlock?

    The judicial wars threaten to engulf us in ceaseless cycles of partisan warfare and recriminations. Herewith, two modest (read: unlikely) proposals to try to mitigate the damage, one involving the chief justice, the other the president.

    To begin with, though, a stipulation and a sense of the stakes involved.

    The stipulation is that no one in this almost 30 Years War -- Robert Bork was nominated in 1987 -- comes with clean hands. The situational ethics of the capital are never more evident than when it comes to confirmation battles.

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February 26th

Britain is fracturing Europe in pursuit of ghosts

    The European Union is a strange beast, a 28-sided push-me-pull-you that Britons never loved, but needed. They still do, perhaps more than ever. Yet it is very possible that Britain will vote to leave on June 23, in pursuit of a fantasy.

    Britain, for example, would gain little of the freedom that euro-skeptics dream of -- Britain is far more European than they choose to think. The infamous "nanny state" would survive Brexit as surely as the proverbial cockroach in a nuclear explosion.

    Equally, it is delusional to think that Britain can live in isolation from the rest of the EU -- the requirements of trade and the single market mean it will be regulated from Brussels with or without its consent. And it is just as delusional to think Britain would outlive a Brexit -- Scotland would in all probability leave Britain's union to stay with Europe's.

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Onward for Trump the Christian soldier

    You can't win the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina without religious voters. According to exit polling, "born-again or evangelical Christian" voters accounted for 72 percent of the GOP primary electorate last Saturday. In his thumping victory in the state, billionaire Donald Trump carried a 33 percent plurality of them.

    As Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky reported, Trump did not fare especially well among conservative religious voters seeking someone who reflects their values. Indeed for the 37 percent of voters who told exit pollsters that "shares my values" was the most important quality they sought in a candidate, Trump finished last in the field.

    Unfortunately for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who are both competing for their votes, many conservative evangelical Christians have concluded that they don't need someone who shares their values. They can tolerate, even embrace, a candidate who is profane, greedy, vain, shifty and thrice-married with a loud history of sexual conquest. (Winner of the South Carolina primary in 2012? Newt Gingrich. Hmm.)

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'American Girls' wants to protect teenagers. Instead, it scapegoats girls.

    Nancy Jo Sales's "American Girls" is the latest entrant in a genre of literature and non-fiction that might best be described as Girls In Crisis. The category includes everything from "Go Ask Alice," Beatrice Sparks's 1971 facsimile of the diary of a teenage girl descending into drug addiction; to the 1994 book "Reviving Ophelia," which drew on author Dr. Mary Pipher's therapy practice; to critiques of specific communities like "Little Girls In Pretty Boxes," Joan Ryan's 1995 investigation of abuses in figure skating and gymnastics.

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A Greener Leap Year

    What if an extra hour somehow slipped into your day?

    Aside from most Arizonans and all Hawaiians, Americans get to ponder this question in early November as Daylight Savings Time gets underway.

    I usually fill this gap with some combination of reading, cooking, and (weather permitting) riding my bicycle on Arlington, Virginia’s trails. The borrowed time feels like a small luxury.

    How about spending a whole extra day with your family, swatting items off your to-do list, or hanging out with friends? This being a leap year, it’s a reasonable question.

    The climate justice movement, however, won’t take this 366th day for granted.

    Those activists are spending those extra 24 hours — and then some — brainstorming how the world might move on from a corporate-controlled and fossil-fueled economy toward a greener and more equitable way of life that does a better job of taking care of human needs.

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Your driver probably has at least one other job

    What is the defining characteristic of gig-economy workers? Probably that driving for Lyft or assembling Ikea furniture via Handy or selling knitted leprechaun outfits for babies on Etsy isn't the main thing they do or the main way they make money.

    I've been looking at three in-depth studies published recently about the much hyped but still mysterious gig or on-demand economy, enabled by Internet connections and ubiquitous smartphones, and this is perhaps the most strikingly consistent finding. On-demand work is something that people who already have jobs or other responsibilities (going to school, taking care of family members) do on the side. For example:

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When gun massacres are chalked up to bad luck

    Writing of the "ethical confusion which overtook American society in the Industrial Age," Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager wrote of deadly social consequences for which no individuals felt in any way responsible:

    "These men were caught in the meshes of a business system which had not yet developed a moral code of its own and to which the old codes were irrelevant. The manufacture and sale of impure foods, dangerous drugs, infected milk, poisonous toys, might produce disease or death, but none of those involved in the process -- retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, advertisers, corporations, directors or stockholders -- realized that they were guilty of murder."

    A similar confusion -- mystery, really -- hovered over a Connecticut courtroom this week, where parents of children massacred in their classrooms wondered how 20 children and six adults could be murdered in their school without anyone being in any way responsible for the deaths.

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Victorious Trump takes a stab at humility

    Welcome, voters, to the new, improved Republican race for the presidency. At one time, there were close to 20 politicians to follow, but post-South Carolina, it's more like the final rounds of "The Apprentice," with many fewer nervous strivers to keep track of and rising interest from viewers.

    Does that help Donald Trump? Conventional wisdom says no, the empty suit won't be able to stand the scrutiny.

    But what if it does help, in the way that everything helps Donald Trump, even the Pope calling him un-Christian and the Bushes coming out to campaign against him?

    After Trump called out former President George W. Bush for his disastrous invasion of Iraq, he was warned that the 43rd commander-in-chief is popular in South Carolina. Trump responded with three words that proved prophetic: "So am I."

    Trump then proceeded to make a few new enemies -- the Vatican, Apple and those who suspect that Trumpcare might be a lot like Obamacare -- but he also got himself under control.

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