Archive

June 4th, 2016

Hillary Clinton is not very good at running for president

    The headline "Dems Panicky Over Upcoming Election" is sort of like "Parents Flummoxed by App Popular With Teens" or "Kardashians Continue to Seek Attention." It's certainly true, but not exactly surprising. That's the stage we seem to be entering now in the presidential campaign, with furious hand-wringing by Democrats over the prospect that their presidential nominee is ruining everything. And even though Hillary Clinton could be leading the polls by 20 points and you'd have no trouble finding a dozen Democrats in Washington who would tell you that her campaign is a disaster in the making and it's all about to crumble, there is a fundamental truth underneath it: For all her many skills, Hillary Clinton is just not that good at running for president. That doesn't mean she won't be good at being president, and it's a reminder that the two are not the same thing.

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Did You Know?

    Did you know that "The dinosaurs died out because only infant dinosaurs were placed aboard Noah's Ark and they died for lack of parental care;" Or that "Barack Obama was a male prostitute in his 20's to make money to pay for his drug habit..."? No, you did not know because neither is true. They were espoused by a near winner in a Texas school board election.

    The above is the kind of news we are getting out of Texas these days. Continuing in that vein Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, formerly known as Danny Loeb, and indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton are busy as bees suing the feds to stop the President's order allowing transgenders to use whichever/whatever restroom they consider appropriate. The two government officials apparently get their marching orders from Pastor Dr. Robert Jefferies of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Separating church and state is not the way in Texas.

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Nothing Christian about heinous discrimination

    Compassion. Compassion. Compassion.

    Thumbing through the Bible, I’m looking for something about compassion.

    Oh, that’s right. It’s everywhere. Start with that Golden Rule thing.

    No need to cite chapter or verse to know there’s nothing Christian at all about the response attributed to conservative Christians regarding so-called bathroom bills. There’s nothing remotely Christian about Republican state leaders saying they’d forgo federal funds rather than abide by the Justice Department’s rules forbidding discrimination against transgendered people.

    It’s all posturing on behalf of people who won’t acknowledge that God doesn’t create us with a cookie-cutter.

    Bob Dylan sang: “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.” But just listen:

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Feel the Math

    This is my fifth presidential campaign as a New York Times columnist, so I’ve watched a lot of election coverage, and I came into this cycle prepared for the worst. Or so I thought.

    But I was wrong. So far, election commentary has been even worse than I imagined it would be. It’s not just the focus on the horse race at the expense of substance; much of the horse-race coverage has been bang-your-head-on-the-desk awful, too. I know this isn’t scientific, but based on conversations I’ve had recently, many people — smart people, who read newspapers and try to keep track of events — have been given a fundamentally wrong impression of the current state of play.

    And when I say a “wrong impression,” I don’t mean that I disagree with other people’s takes. I mean that people aren’t being properly informed about the basic arithmetic of the situation.

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Penne and Prejudice

    If there’s a gayer country than Italy, I haven’t ogled it.

    I don’t mean demographically gay. That’s unknowable. I mean spiritually gay. I mean the self-conscious style and gaudy opera of the place.

    It’s shaped like high-heeled footwear. It’s a mecca of high-priced menswear. Its signature hunk of marble, the David, looks less like he’s girding for Goliath than like he’s posing between squats at the local Equinox. And have you seen those Venetian glass chandeliers, with their wild colors and wacky tentacles? They could be gay octopi on their way to an underwater Cher concert.

    So why isn’t Italy kinder to gays?

    Just a few weeks ago, after considerable shaming by the European Union, it finally legalized civil unions for same-sex couples. While that was a step forward, it was also a reminder of how far Italy still lagged behind such densely Roman Catholic European peers as Ireland, Portugal and Spain, all of which had already accorded gays and lesbians actual marriage rights.

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Politicians and the Lies That Matter

    Your Honor, I rise this week in defense of Hillary Clinton.

    I see from polls that Clinton scores very low on “trustworthy” questions. Well, let’s talk about truth in politics. All politicians shade the truth at times. Some do it more than others. Indeed, when Donald Trump tells the truth, it should be labeled “Breaking News — Trump tells truth without immediately contradicting himself. We’re going live to the scene right now.”

    Here is what is relevant: Lying is serious business. But Clinton’s fibs or lack of candor are all about bad judgments she made on issues that will not impact the future of either my family or my country. Private email servers? Cattle futures? Goldman Sachs lectures? All really stupid, but my kids will not be harmed by those poor calls. Debate where she came out on Iraq and Libya, if you will, but those were considered judgment calls, and if you disagree don’t vote for her.

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Trump's rolling bluster

    Donald Trump looked like a fool and a fraud on Sunday. But what else is new?

    Even the most ardent Trumpistas would have to admit that Trump's appearance at the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally was, as spectacles go, pretty pathetic. It was supposed to be a vast, multitudinous gathering on the plaza in front of the Lincoln Memorial, one of the greatest and most historic public spaces in the nation. Instead, Trump drew a paltry crowd estimated by organizers at perhaps 5,000.

    As Trump might say in a late-night tweet: "Sad!"

    The presumptive Republican nominee cut a ridiculous figure, sporting a red "Make America Great Again" baseball cap to guard against rogue breezes that might unhinge his comb-over. He lamented the attendance: "I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument, right?"

    Wrong. So very, very wrong.

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Better Labels, Better Food

    Food labels are changing.

    In the past, you could only see how much total sugar was in your food. That included sugars naturally occurring in healthy, whole foods — like lactose in milk — alongside extra sugars like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, which aren’t so healthy.

    But the Food and Drug Administration just announced that in the near future, labels will specify the amount of added sugars in packaged products. That makes it easier to spot the sugars you should limit in your diet.

    Will this change America’s eating habits and health for the better? I hope so.

    But it might not.

    The new labels could benefit consumers in two ways. First, and perhaps most obviously, health-conscious eaters may read the labels and select healthier food choices. That would be welcome.

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Building Children’s Brains

    First,  a quiz: What’s the most common “vegetable” eaten by American toddlers?

    Answer: The french fry.

    The same study that unearthed that nutritional tragedy also found that on any given day, almost half of American toddlers drink soda or similar drinks, possibly putting the children on a trajectory toward obesity or diabetes.

    But for many kids, the problems start even earlier. In West Virginia, one study found, almost one-fifth of children are born with alcohol or drugs in their system. Many thus face an uphill struggle from the day they are born.

    Bear all this in mind as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump battle over taxes, minimum wages and whether to make tuition free at public universities. Those are legitimate debates, but the biggest obstacles and greatest inequality often have roots early in life.

    If we want to get more kids in universities, we should invest in preschools.

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June 3rd

Clinton Should Have Exposed Sanders When She Had The Chance

    Here's my basic problem with Bernie Sanders. To put it bluntly, once a Trotskyite, always a fool. Personal experience of '60s-style left-wing posturing left me allergic to the word "revolution" and the kinds of humorless autodidacts who bandy it about. The Bernie Sanders type, I mean: morally superior, never mistaken and never in doubt.

    I'll never forget the time in 1970 that several "radical" colleagues my wife had invited for dinner denounced our record collection as racist. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Flatt & Scruggs. Never mind that we also owned B.B. King, Lightnin' Hopkins, Beethoven and British rock albums. A taste for country music made us, pardon the expression, politically incorrect.

    Also professionally doomed. I needed to resign ASAP before they fired me. I had no interest in either of the academic community's ruling passions: Marxist sentimentalism or real estate.

    How Bernie missed becoming an English professor at some picturesque New England college, I cannot understand.

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