Archive

July 19th, 2016

Britain's outlook has changed, but the BOE hasn't

    The Bank of England left rates on hold Thursday even after its governor, Mark Carney, said on June 30 that the U.K. decision to quit the European Union meant that "some monetary policy easing will likely be needed over the summer."

    There are good arguments not to have cut borrowing costs at the first available opportunity. But there is one very compelling reason to inject more adrenaline into the economy as soon as possible.

    The case for cutting rests on the outlook for gross domestic product after June 23, when Britons voted to leave the EU. Instead of growth accelerating next year to an annual pace of 2.1 percent or better, which had been the expectation for more than a year, economists now see an expansion of less than 1 percent. The U.K. government's oft-repeated claim to top the Group of Seven growth tables will soon be nothing more than a fond memory.

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All hail the glorious democratic primary

    She may have had to wait 36 days since the end of the Democratic Party to get Bernie Sanders' endorsement, but for Hillary Clinton, it was well worth it.

    Once again, before this week's Clinton/Sanders rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, skeptics raised questions about Bernie's intentions: Would he actually endorse her? Would he urge his supporters to get behind her? Would he agree to campaign for her? Would he just sit on his hands? Or, worse yet, might he still bolt and run as a third-party candidate?

    But Bernie quickly put such doubts to rest. "I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president," he began. And then he made the promise Clinton was waiting to hear -- "I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States" -- and urged his supporters to do the same.

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July 18th

The coronation of a charlatan

    Years from now, bright-eyed children will look up at Grandma or Grandpa and ask, "Where were you when they nominated Donald Trump?" Far too many prominent Republicans will have to hang their heads in shame.

    As the garish imperial coronation in Cleveland reaches its climax, there will be much commentary -- some, no doubt, from me -- about fleeting events. Did So-and-so's speech help Trump or hurt him? Did one line of attack against Hillary Clinton seem more or less promising than another? All of this is news, but we must not lose sight of the big picture: The "Party of Lincoln" is about to nominate for president a man who is dangerously unfit for the office.

    Trump is a brilliant showman, no question about that. His life's work has been self-aggrandizement, not real estate, and all those years of practice served him well when he turned to politics. He knows how to work a crowd. He understands television and social media. He dominated and vanquished a field of experienced campaigners as if they were mere apprentices.

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'No, Mr. Trump, that's a lie': What Lesley Stahl should have said Sunday night

    What if Lesley Stahl had stopped Donald Trump right in his tracks?

    What if she had simply dug in her heels and refused to budge when Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, insisted - once again, this time on "60 Minutes" on Sunday evening - that he had opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning?

    Because that claim, which Trump has made a cornerstone of his campaign, is "blatantly false," according to The Washington Post's Fact Checker and many other similar efforts. Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking operation, also called it false. And BuzzFeed dug up a 2002 interview in which Trump said he supported the invasion.

    As the Fact Checker's Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote earlier this year in a piece on eight falsehoods Trump repeated in a 16-hour period:

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GOP, RIP?

    The Republican Party came to life as the bastion of "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men." It was a reformist party dedicated to stopping the spread of slavery and to fighting a "Slave Power" its founders saw as undermining free institutions.

    The new political organization grew out of the old Whigs and reflected the faith that Henry Clay and his admirer Abraham Lincoln had in the federal government's ability to invest in fostering economic growth and expanding educational opportunity. Its partisans embodied what John C. Calhoun, slavery's chief ideological defender, described disdainfully as "the national impulse." It was, in fact, a good impulse.

    But the Republicans who held their first national convention 160 years ago were more than just northern Whigs. Their ranks also included many former Democrats who shared a fervor for the anti-slavery cause and helped take some of the Whiggish, elitist edge off this ingathering of idealists and practical politicians.

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Divided Republicans ponder their after-Trump

    The tensions at the 2016 Republican National Convention aren't like those typically seen at the party's divided gatherings: Teddy Roosevelt challenging the hierarchy in 1912; or the moderates versus conservatives, Dwight Eisenhower against Robert Taft in 1952, or 12 years later, Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller, then Ronald Reagan taking on President Gerald Ford in 1976.

    Republicans meet in Cleveland on Monday to anoint their presidential nominee amid deep schisms: Never have so many of the party's prominent governors, senators, House members and, most conspicuously, former presidents and presidential candidates, avoided the quadrennial forum. But ideology is secondary.

    Donald Trump, the presumed nominee, has rolled over the party's right-wing activists, mainstream moderates and policy-centric lawmakers such as House Speaker Paul Ryan or Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

    The discussion among Republicans in Cleveland and around the country is about the future of party: Is this election an aberration, or could Republicans go the way of the Whigs a century and a half ago?

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International law isn't quite law, but it's useful

    An international court rules that China broke the law by building islands in the South China Sea. China doesn't care.

    Does that make international law a joke? The answer is yes and no.

    International law isn't the command of a sovereign backed by the threat of force. It usually can't force countries to obey its dictates and decisions. That makes it different from domestic law.

    But international law still matters. The decision against China by a Hague tribunal for violating a treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, functions as a kind of early warning sign for how other countries in the world think about China's militaristic expansion. The decision is beneficial not only to the Philippines, which brought the case, but to all the countries who have overlapping maritime interests with China in the Pacific -- including the United States, which provides security to most of them.

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We need Thurgood Marshall's wisdom these days

    Last month marked the 25th anniversary of Justice Thurgood Marshall's announcement that he was retiring from the Supreme Court after 24 years of service. Hardly anybody noticed. That's too bad. We could use his wisdom in this badly fractured moment.

    Many people within a decade or two of my age miss Marshall because of the way he voted. But that attitude, although common when we look at the court, masks something terribly cynical and even illiberal. The justice whom we love because he votes the right way isn't valued for who he is, but for the benefit we derive from him. We see him less as public servant than as simply a servant -- an ideological captive over whom we are able to exercise control.

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This is the beginning of the end of the NRA

    The NRA is not only a constituent part of the Republican Party. It is in some ways a microcosm of it. Its demographics: an aging, male, non-urban, racially anxious, white base. Its policy prescriptions: outlier positions unsupported by science. Its politics: defensive and bitterly opposed to compromise.

    Like the GOP, which dominates state governments and has reached peak numbers in Congress, the National Rifle Association appears to be at the height of its considerable powers. It is well funded, professionally staffed and deeply entrenched in U.S. politics, having fully hitched a major political party to its single cause.

    NRA ideology is popular, often intuitive and packaged in easily digested talking points and aphorisms -- "good guy with a gun," "if guns are outlawed ..." -- that are widely repeated by millions of gun enthusiasts.

    The group has been racking up victories in conservative states that have adopted wholesale the movement creed that guns on campus, in bars, at church, in cars -- guns everywhere -- constitutes both a rational public policy and an extension of liberty.

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The best punishment for Boris Johnson is his new job

    Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and member of Parliament who helped orchestrate the Brexit, will be Britain's foreign secretary. It seems like an odd role for someone who spent the last months campaigning against internationalism, someone who wrote a limerick (for a 1,000-pound prize) about the Turkish president having sex with a goat, someone who said President Obama had an "ancestral dislike" of Britain because he was "part Kenyan" and compared Hillary Clinton to "a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital."

    Actually, the new gig is the perfect fit for boorish Johnson. Chairman Mao helps explain why:

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