Archive

March 8th, 2016

Mandatory legroom on your next flight? Awful idea

    Airline passengers are being packed into planes "like sardines," says Sen. Chuck Schumer. So he wants the Federal Aviation Administration to set minimum seat-size guidelines. The point, Schumer suggested, is to right an injustice: "It's just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra inches that were once standard." In other words: Everyone could soon get a government-mandated upgrade.

    It's a crowd-pleasing proposal that might also have some safety benefits. But like so many alleged giveaways for today's harried travelers, this one won't come free.

    Over the past decade, airlines have become profitable partly by packing more fliers onto each plane. Although that hasn't always been comfortable for the passengers, it works in their interest by enabling carriers to offer more affordable flights than ever. Reconfiguring cabins will threaten that model and impose new costs that will be passed onto customers, who might soon be wishing for less legroom.

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Donald Trump's wild unpredictability is exactly what Republican voters want

    As Donald Trump was insisting during a speech in Maine Thursday that Mitt Romney would have "dropped to his knees" to win the real estate mogul's endorsement in 2012, Austin Barbour tweeted this bit of praise of the former Massachusetts governor.

    @MittRomney was superb today. Rational, collected, smart, forward looking and clear with his contrast on Trump.

    Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican political consultant and card-carrying member of the GOP establishment, was referencing Romney's speech in Utah in which he sought to systematically discredit Trump's candidacy. And Barbour is right. Romney was "rational" and "smart" in his speech. He succinctly made the case that Trump is a) not a real conservative and b) would cost the party dearly if he was the nominee against Hillary Clinton in the fall campaign.

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A GOP trapped by Trump

    The Republican Party is on the verge of being taken over by an egomaniac who appeals to the nation's darkest impulses. Yet Donald Trump's foes are splintered, tactically but also philosophically.

    It doesn't help that each of his three serious challengers is a flawed alternative. None is sufficiently dominant to force the others aside.

    Sen. Ted Cruz has the most legitimate claim as a Trump-slayer. He's now beaten him in four contests. Yet Cruz is so disliked by so many party leaders that they have refused to rally behind him. Indeed, many in the GOP view Cruz as being nearly as vulnerable to Hillary Clinton as Trump is. She took a large step toward securing the Democratic nomination with her seven victories over Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday.

    The Republican establishment plainly prefers Sen. Marco Rubio, but voters have not gone along. Rubio did manage to win the Minnesota caucuses. But he ran third in eight of the other 10 states that voted Tuesday and has lost 14 times since the nomination battle began.

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You Don’t Matter to Drugmakers

    If you wonder why Congress critters keep ignoring what the people want them to do — while doing things that people don’t want them doing — take a peek at the unique PR campaign now being run by the pharmaceutical industry.

    The public is dismayed and disgusted by the flagrant greed of drugmakers that are shamefully zooming the prices of medicines into the stratosphere, turning necessities into unaffordable luxuries. As a result, there’s a growing demand for Congress to take action to stop the industry’s out-of-control price gouging.

    To counter this, drug companies have launched a massive advertising campaign. They’re running ads on radio, in print, and on Facebook and Twitter painting themselves as the good guys.

    Yet you probably haven’t seen or heard any of them. That’s because drug chieftains don’t care what you and I think. Moreover, they know they couldn’t possibly persuade us to let them keep jacking up their prices.

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March 7th

South Dakota's GOP governor makes a compelling conservative case against 'bathroom bills'

    On Tuesday night, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) became the first governor to veto a bill that would restrict transgender students' access to public school bathrooms and locker rooms.

    Daugaard's argument didn't necessarily weigh in on the morality of requiring students to use the bathroom of their biological gender. Rather, he vetoed the bill because he said state government doesn't need to be stepping into what is really a local school issue.

    It's a conservative reason to support -- or at least not oppose -- a cause that is mostly championed by liberals. Daugaard's conservative framing of so-called "bathroom bills" may be just what LGBT advocates need to swing what's become a heated cultural battle on transgender rights in their favor.

    Here's what Daugaard said when issuing his veto, which he had until midnight Tuesday to do:

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What’s at Stake in Apple’s Privacy Fight

    Civil liberties fans in the United States recently got an unlikely champion: the CEO of Apple.

    In a high-profile spat with the White House, Tim Cook has emerged as a leading spokesperson against the Obama administration’s efforts to weaken Americans’ constitutional protections and civil liberties.

    In particular, Cook is fighting a federal order that would force Apple to create software to bypass the iPhone’s security features — and give the FBI access to the phone and everything on it. He sent a letter to all Apple users explaining the company’s position and promising to keep up the fight.

    Here’s what’s at stake.

    The FBI is investigating last December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. It wants access to the iPhone used by suspected terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who carried out the shooting together with his wife Tashfeen Malik.

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Trump wants the U.S. to be . . . Denmark

    As the Donald Trump campaign rolls on, the secret to his success is becoming clear: his promise to make America more like Denmark.

    Say what? The Donald rarely if ever mentions the land of Lego, though Ted Cruz did once accuse him of being crazy enough to bomb it. Denmark is Bernie Sanders's utopia - a Scandinavian social democracy with free health care and college, whose enlightened rulers have "gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that come with economic insecurity," as Sanders once put it.

    Well, actually, the package Trump offers - "save Social Security without cuts," a vaguely pro-single-payer position on health care, plus temporarily banning Muslims and walling off Mexico - bears an eerie resemblance to the Danish government's current policy mix.

    His astonishing success selling it to the Republican base may portend ideological convergence between the U.S. right and Europe's.

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Trump nips media hand that feeds him

    To those who admire Donald Trump's pushback campaign against political correctness, please note of how quickly his own inner thought cop leaps forth when his own fragile ego is poked.

    "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money," Trump said in a rally rant last weekend, without bothering to offer any examples of what he was talking about.

    "We're going to open up those libel laws. So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected."

    In other words, Trump promises to pursue those who dare to use the First Amendment for what it was intended to protect: your right to criticize the powerful.

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The U.S. system is designed to beat Trump

    "The evil we experience flows from the excess of democracy," Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry told the Constitutional Convention on May 31, 1787.

    The 2016 Super Tuesday voting rules in his home state do nothing to limit such "excesses," and Donald Trump is likely to win in a landslide there. Yet, ultimately, the existing primary rules may serve the Founding Fathers' goal of creating safeguards against ochlocracy -- mob rule.

    Gerry could have been watching Trump and wincing. He said:

    "The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massachusetts it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute."

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The Republicans' muddle is good for Trump

    As Donald Trump continues his march toward the Republican presidential nomination, panic is spreading among Republicans over how and whether they can stop the New York billionaire.

    Trump won at least six of the 11 Republican contests on Tuesday, from New England to a convincing sweep of the Southeast. He probably racked up more delegates than all his opponents combined. It wasn't a clean sweep. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz handily won his home state of Texas, the biggest delegate prize of March 1, and upset Trump in Oklahoma. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won his first contest of the campaign, in Minnesota, where Cruz also beat Trump. Cruz's victories and Rubio's mediocre showing overall sustains the divided opposition to Trump for at least a few more weeks.

    Rubio now needs a victory in his home state of Florida in the primary there on March 15. Similarly, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who finished out of the money everywhere but New England, needs to beat Trump in his home-state primary on the same day.

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