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Politics and History

America’s Two-Party System: Too Ingrained to Change

By 4.19.16

Despite speculation, current political turmoil does not threaten America’s two-party system. America’s peculiar federal electoral dynamic serves to channel a multiplicity of issues into just two major parties. History confirms its resiliency — even when facing far more turbulent times than today’s.

Both parties are experiencing significant populist upheavals in 2016’s primaries. Donald Trump has won 47% of Republicans’ electorally awarded delegates; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has won 45% of Democrats’. 

With half of each party’s delegates going to an insurgent, no wonder many have begun speculating that one or both parties could split and America soon experience true multi-party contests. Such musings are provocative, and if realized would produce unprecedented twists, but this problem remains: It won’t happen. 

An American multi-party system is not emerging and not just due to historical precedent. More important is the electoral dynamic that has created — and will maintain — our two-party system.

Political Hay

A PR Nightmare

By 4.19.16

There are three options for House Republicans to take with respect to the burgeoning debt crisis in Puerto Rico. All three are bad.

If you’re like most Americans, what you know about the Puerto Rico debt problem is what you’ve seen on the nearly ubiquitous cable news commercials warning that “the politicians” are going to “bail out Puerto Rico” and its left-wing government by “robbing Americans of their savings.” This, because there is a bill being kicked around in the House Natural Resources Committee that would allow for a restructuring of some $70 billion in government debt the island territory has run up over the years. The bill in question is being pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and a number of other Republicans, but it’s being assailed on both sides.


Winners or Whiners?

By 4.19.16

If there is one pattern that is emerging from this year’s political campaigns, it is that rhetoric beats reality — in both parties.

The biggest surprise among the Democrats is Bernie Sanders, and among the Republicans is Donald Trump. Although they are each seeking to be put in charge of the nation’s government, does anyone know — or care — what their actual track record in government has been?

Trump of course has no track record at all in government. If Sanders has anything to show for his many years in Congress, no one seems to know what it is. But both are great at rhetoric.

Hillary Clinton’s biggest selling point is that she has lots of “experience” in government, having been a Senator and a Secretary of State. But what she actually accomplished in those roles gets remarkably little attention.

The foreign policies under Secretary Clinton have led to one disaster after another, whether in the Middle East, in Ukraine, or in North Korea. Where are her successes?

Campaign Crawlers

Rule 40b: Myth and Reality

By 4.19.16

For a long time Donald Trump has boasted, quite properly, about the efficiency of his campaign. He plausibly argued that his efficient operation was testament to his executive prowess. Though a novice candidate, he managed to control the news cycle with his Twitter and telephone interviews and rallies. More broadly, he set the agenda, and others followed. Further, while spending a fraction of what his opponents were spending, he continued to be the frontrunner, while forcing nearly all of his sixteen opponents out of the race.

Live From New York

A Meaningful Evening About Nothing With Jerry Seinfeld

By 4.18.16

At the risk of uttering heresy, I don’t find Jerry Seinfeld to be very funny.

I’ve always found his voice to be like sandpaper. It just rubs me the wrong way. 

I also never thought much of Seinfeld. Aside from my aforementioned annoyance with the title character, I never cared much for Costanza, Kramer, or Elaine. I did make a point of watching the final episode just to be sure it was going off the air never to return except in re-runs.

In recent years, Seinfeld has returned to the limelight with his hit web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. But what’s so funny about President Obama? Unless you think, like I do, that the Obama presidency has been one long bad joke.

Yet Jerry Seinfeld is synonymous with New York, which makes him absolutely golden with my Dad. I can’t tell you how many times Dad has brought up scenes from Seinfeld as life lessons during which I would invariably roll my eyes

Campus Scenes

Sanity on Campus — What a Concept

By 4.18.16

Could this be a trend? Oh happy day if it is. On at least two college campuses recently, privileged malcontents, up to their usual building-occupying hijinks, were sent packing. In one case students were arrested.

In the clip here we can see an Ohio State administrator, who clearly has a measurable testosterone level, telling a motley of student malingerers intent on occupying the university’s administration building that they would be arrested if they didn’t clear off.

Woody Hayes would have been proud. It took these short rounds a while to understand the new and unfamiliar rules of engagement, so rare is it for students on campus to be told no by actual grownups these days. But it finally sunk in that their party had been canceled, and they cleared off before the promised arrests took place. They apparently didn’t even think to leave behind their list of non-negotiable demands.

The Right Prescription

Little Sisters of the Poor Call Government’s Bluff

By 4.18.16

Shortly following oral arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, with which the Supreme Court consolidated six additional lawsuits challenging the HHS contraception mandate, the Court took a step it hasn’t taken since 1953. It ordered the litigants to weigh in on a compromise solution proposed by the Court itself: “The parties are directed to file supplemental briefs that address whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through the petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

Loose Canons

Putin’s Playgrounds

By 4.18.16

Russia’s military has been much more aggressive and even reckless over the past few weeks, stunting over and around U.S. forces. Those stunts happened, almost simultaneously, with more dangerous Russian moves in supplying Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist forces with enormously capable anti-air and anti-missile systems.

Last Monday and Tuesday, two Russian Su-24 fighter-bombers made mock attacks against the USS Donald Cook, a destroyer in international waters in the Baltic Sea. On neither occasion were the aircraft visibly armed, nor did they answer radio calls from the ship. During the Tuesday incident, one made a pass that took it to within about fifty feet above the ship.

On Thursday, a Russian Su-27 fighter did a barrel roll around an Air Force RC-135 over the Baltic Sea, coming within fifty feet of the aircraft’s wingtip. (To perform a barrel roll the aircraft banks around a single turn of a spiral while rolling once around its longitudinal axis. It takes only a couple of seconds to do, and is a lot of fun if you’re the roller, not the rollee.)

Unequally Applied Justice Isn’t Justice at All

By 4.18.16

Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Diane Dimond.

Later this month, one of the most powerful men ever to have served in the U.S. House of Representatives will face a federal judge to learn his fate. Dennis Hastert has pleaded guilty to evading U.S. banking laws, illegally structuring payouts to conceal other crimes and lying to the FBI. But that’s only a small part of his sordid story.

It’s a textbook case of why critics are able to say there is one system of justice for the rich and connected and quite another for the rest of us. It’s also another condemnation of our statute of limitations laws, which say suspects can’t be tried for certain crimes if too much time has passed.

Hastert, the longest-sitting Republican house speaker, came to the attention of the feds after he began systematically to withdraw large sums of cash in 2010. Court documents reveal bank officials first noticed the activity and under the Patriot Act they were obligated to report the withdrawals to the government. Court documents reveal that FBI agents had immediate suspicions:

Buy the Book

Making the Desert Bloom

By 4.18.16

Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution For A Water-Starved World
By Seth M. Siegel
(Thomas Dunne Books, 337 pages, $27.99)

My first encounter with cutting-edge Israeli technology occurred while working on Great Lakes issues in the 1990s. An irrigation district in Michigan’s “thumb” wanted to take water from Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, by then rife with zebra mussels, an invasive and nuisance species. The state regulators insisted on a 100-percent exclusion standard for the protection of inland waters. The district managed to locate a new technology, a filtration system fitted with a 40-micron mesh screen that met the need.