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Special Relationship, Episode 1

the economistSáb, 30/04/2016 - 20:02

This election cycle has been unpredicatable enough already. But what would happen if another terrorist attack, along the lines of those carried out in San Bernardino, Paris and Brussels were to happen in America before the general election? In this first episode of “Special Relationship”, a joint venture between The Economist and Mic, hosts John Prideaux and Celeste Katz try to work out what role terrorism, fear and national security are playing in the primaries, and look beyond America to examine how they have already reshaped politics elsewhere. You can subscribe to “Special Relationship” on iTunesGoogle Play or wherever you go to get your podcasts. A new episode will be published every two weeks.

Why freedom of speech might protect you when you aren’t speaking

the economistVie, 29/04/2016 - 15:47

“HARD cases”, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1904, “make bad law”. But a ruling this week by the Supreme Court shows that cases featuring a tricky set of facts can, when the majority gets a little creative, make good law. In Heffernan v City of Paterson, New Jersey, the justices ruled 6-2 that a police officer who did a good deed for his ailing mother had a First Amendment right not to be demoted for appearing to engage in political speech when in fact he wasn’t expressing himself at all.

A decade ago, Jeffrey Heffernan, a detective in Paterson’s police department, entertained a request from his bedridden mother to pick her up a yard sign supporting Lawrence Spagnola, her preferred candidate for mayor. (She had already been displaying a Spagnola sign in her front yard, but someone had stolen it.) Several of Mr Heffernan’s colleagues saw him procuring the sign at a Spagnola campaign site, and word quickly spread through the police department. Mr Heffernan’s boss and the chief of police were both supporting the incumbent mayor, Jose Torres, and looked askance on Mr Heffernan’s apparent support for his opponent. The...Continue reading

Will the restoration of felons’ voting rights in Virginia help the Democrats?

the economistJue, 28/04/2016 - 19:59

VIRGINIA's governor, Terry McAuliffe, has a problem similar to one faced by Barack Obama: a Republican-controlled legislature delights in killing his proposals, especially those popular with Democrats. So Mr McAuliffe is doing as Mr Obama has done: implementing some of them by executive fiat.

Mr McAuliffe’s latest is a doozy: a order made on April 22nd that restores the voting and civil rights of an estimated 206,000 non-violent and violent felons who have completed their penalties. Until Mr McAuliffe’s order, which came as a surprise, he had been considering the reinstatement of such rights as all Virginia governors have since the mid-1800s: on a case-by-case basis, making for an achingly slow and sometimes erratic process.

Republicans, who have generally opposed making it easier to re-enfranchise felons stripped of their voting rights upon conviction, were quick to complain that by flooding the polls with new voters Mr McAuliffe was simply trying to tip this presidential battleground state to his good friend, Hillary Clinton. But while there is little doubt that Mr McAuliffe’s executive order has become a talking...Continue reading

The mysterious power of Trump’s garish buildings

the economistJue, 28/04/2016 - 17:00

IT IS easy to laugh at the image of a Donald Trump-designed White House, if not at the idea of Mr Trump himself as an occupant. Emblazoned with the family name in two-foot-high bronze letters, fitted with gold fixtures and marble surfaces, the Trump House’s Lincoln bedroom would perhaps be renamed after a president who was not such a loser that he got himself assassinated (Sad!). People might pay not to stay there. Harper Lee, writer of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, would have been one of them. “The worst punishment God can devise for this sinner,” she once wrote to a friend, “is to make her spirit reside eternally at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.”

Yet the Trumpian aesthetic, like the man himself, does have mysterious power over some. “It’s sensational, it’s magnificent opulence,” one gawper told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1990 upon visiting the Taj when the casino opened, complete with bejeweled elephants, imported palm trees and far more minarets than its humble namesake. “You almost feel you should be charged for just walking in.” It is not just the unwashed masses. No less an authority than the...Continue reading

The Supreme Court seems inclined to loosen bribery rules for politicians

the economistJue, 28/04/2016 - 11:20

BOB MCDONNELL, the former Republican governor of Virginia, made headlines in 2014 when he was indicted and later convicted on federal corruption charges for accepting more than $175,000 in loans, cash and lavish gifts from an executive whose business he tried to buttress. Mr McDonnell had been a budding GOP favourite before his fall from grace: he gave the Republican response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2010 and was widely talked about as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 2012. After being slapped with a two-year prison sentence that was upheld last July by the Fourth Circuit court of appeals, Mr McDonnell earned some relief from the Supreme Court. No bars for the former governor, the justices said, before they had a chance to weigh in on his case. After the April 27th oral argument in McDonnell v United States, the last case on the Supreme Court's schedule before it takes up a new docket next fall, it seems the governor’s reprieve may stick.

It is hard to paint Mr McDonnell as a particularly upstanding public servant. He and his now-estranged wife, Maureen, entered the governor’s mansion in 2010...Continue reading

Donald Trump outlines his plan for foreign policy

the economistJue, 28/04/2016 - 03:38

BY THE lofty standards of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, Donald Trump gave an awful speech on national security on April 27th—a blustery, error-strewn account of an “America First” philosophy that took little account of how the world actually looks from the Oval Office.

Throughout the address, which Mr Trump, unusually, read from a teleprompter, the property tycoon made foreign policy sound not much different from the business of buying and selling real estate. Whether discussing efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, his ambition to make allies pay their own defence costs, or explaining that he intends to “find out” whether America can improve relations with Russia (for instance by finding common ground in fighting Islamic terrorism), Mr Trump repeatedly cast himself as a man who will cut a “great deal for America” by being willing to walk away from the table. “When the other side knows you’re not going to walk, it becomes absolutely impossible to win,” he told his audience, brought together by a Washington think-tank, the Centre for the National Interest.

Alas this description of...Continue reading

Ted Cruz picks Carly Fiorina as his running-mate

the economistJue, 28/04/2016 - 01:25

TED CRUZ must have expected to lose in the five Republican presidential primaries in the north-eastern states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on April 26th, but few had forecast quite such a resounding victory for Donald Trump. Badly in need of diversion from the anaemic state of the “Never Trump” campaign he is spearheading, Mr Cruz rushed the announcement of his vice-presidential pick. On April 27th he declared that Carly Fiorina, a former Republican candidate for the presidency, would be his running-mate.

At a hastily convened rally at The Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza in downtown Indianapolis, to chants of “Carly, Carly”, the senator from Texas presented Ms Fiorina as a woman of deep principle and character who doesn’t do things by half. “She was born in Texas, the very first thing I liked about her,” said Mr Cruz. He lauded her business career as the first female chief executive of a Fortune-20 company and as someone who has repeatedly shattered glass ceilings. He then went on to praise her credentials as a conservative and her respect of the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Perhaps...Continue reading

Trump towering in the north-east

the economistMié, 27/04/2016 - 08:07

“WHEN you crack 60 with three people, that is hard to do.” That was Donald Trump’s boast after sweeping all five of the Republican presidential primaries held on Tuesday night, against two opponents and in some cases by more than 60%. He had a point, even if the electoral terrain was always likely to be favourable to the New York-born businessman. True, the five primaries were held in the north-eastern states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware, where chin-jutting, tell-it-like-it-is voters angry about globalisation outnumber the evangelical Christians and stern social conservatives who have elsewhere favoured Mr Trump’s only serious rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

But the larger story of the night was the failure of the “Never Trump” alliance—an always-brittle coalition involving Mr Cruz, the third-placed contender Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Republican bigwigs who fear that Trumpian bigotry will lose them the general election in November (though they are not sure how to win without the tycoon’s bigotry-cheering voters). From blighted, post-industrial towns in Pennsylvania to leafy...Continue reading

Does freedom from big money help election campaigns?

the economistMar, 26/04/2016 - 16:57

IN JULY 1964, a divided Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater as its presidential candidate. The nomination launched not only a new conservative political movement but a revolution in political fundraising. Abandoning the wealthy elites who had bankrolled previous presidential campaigns, the Arizona senator used direct mail and television to appeal to a broader group of ideological grassroots conservatives—the “true believers” as he put it. Goldwater would eventually amass some $5m in campaign contributions from hundreds of thousands of mostly small donors. 

Today, 50 years later, small donors are considered a key asset in a successful presidential campaign. “Hillary has a healthy mix of traditional bundlers and online, low-dollar donors”, Andy Spahn, a top Democratic fundraiser, told the New York Times in February. These low-dollar donors, he said, “will be necessary to win in November”. Enthusiasm for small donors is non-partisan. Chart Westcott, a Republican donor told the Washington Post in October that Republican candidate Ted Cruz’s ability to draw both large- and small-dollar donors make...Continue reading

Will the Cruz and Kasich stitch-up work?

the economistLun, 25/04/2016 - 21:07

AWFULLY late in the day, the Republicans are trying to unpick one of the collective action problems that are threatening to gift their nomination to Donald Trump. Thus, on April 24th, the non-aggression pact announced by Ted Cruz and John Kasich, his two surviving opponents, to cover three upcoming primaries.

Under its terms, Mr Kasich will cease campaigning in Indiana, where Mr Cruz has a decent chance of winning many of the 57 delegates on offer. The senator from Texas will do Mr Kasich the same service in New Mexico and Oregon, which have 52 delegates up for grabs between them and enough moderate voters to give the governor of Ohio a hope of adding to his puny total of 148 delegates—which is 696 fewer than Mr Trump has.

The arrangement is borne of two different sorts of exigency. Mr Kasich is running out of cash; recent accounts suggested he had less than a million dollars to spend. More important, the pact starts with a straightforward recognition that, because neither challenger can win the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination ahead of the Republican National Convention in July, the best they can hope for is to...Continue reading

Rahm Emanuel announces changes to Chicago's police force

the economistSáb, 23/04/2016 - 03:41

MEMBERS of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of colour.” So says a report published on April 13th by the police accountability task force appointed by Rahm Emanuel, the city's mayor. “The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified. There is substantial evidence that people of colour— particularly African-Americans—have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.”  The 190-page report is highly critical of what is describes as a code of silence among individual police officers and the police force as a whole. It also calls for the replacement of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigates police shootings and serious misconduct and is widely seen as biased towards the police.

A week after this report was published, on April 21st, Mr Emanuel responded by announcing his reform plan for the CPD. To the disappointment of some, his proposed changes ignore about two-thirds of the 76 recommendations of his own task force. He called it a “down payment” on the road to reform, which will...Continue reading

Why Pennsylvania’s delegates could hold the key to the Republican nomination

the economistJue, 21/04/2016 - 15:27

FIVE northeastern states will hold primary elections on April 26th: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland. Of these, Pennsylvania is the next big prize on the presidential primary calendar, but not, for Republicans, because of its state-wide vote. Pennsylvania’s unique GOP primary system, in which voters directly elect most of their delegates, who are not officially tied to any candidate, provides Donald Trump’s rivals with a rare opportunity.

Both Mr Trump, the party’s billionaire front-runner and Mr Kasich, the governor of Ohio, can claim ties to the Keystone State. Mr Trump studied at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and Mr Kasich grew up in a blue collar suburb of Pittsburgh. In RealClearPolitics poll averages, Mr Trump leads over Mr Kasich; the Texan senator Ted Cruz comes third.

But for GOP primary voters the key to winning in Pennsylvania is not the popular vote, which is something of a beauty contest. The real winner is the candidate who is able to successfully woo delegates.

The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s Republican delegates are technically...Continue reading

Donald Trump regains momentum, and Hillary Clinton becomes very nearly unbeatable, in New York

the economistMié, 20/04/2016 - 07:45

NEW YORKERS like to think of themselves as the centre of the universe, but in presidential primary elections they tend to be marginal protagonists as they often vote late in the electoral calendar. This election year was different. The Empire state’s primaries on April 19th mattered hugely for both Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. Mr Trump was crushingly defeated in the recent Wisconsin and Wyoming primaries by Ted Cruz, a Texas senator, whereas Mrs Clinton lost seven of the eight last contests to Bernie Sanders, her only rival.

New York helped both front-runners to solidify their lead. Mr Trump won a commanding victory with 60% of the votes and scooped up most of his home state’s 95 delegates. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, came a distant second with 25% of the votes and Mr Cruz scored a measly 15%. “Thank you New York! I love you!”, Mr Trump tweeted shortly after polls closed. In his short victory speech at Trump tower, his gleaming palace in Manhattan, the real-estate mogul thanked his family and his team and then declared that “we don’t have...Continue reading

Video: Preparing to Speak

Tom PetersMar, 19/04/2016 - 16:38

In a conversation with colleague Shelley Dolley, Tom describes one of his most effective speaking strategies. When he's preparing his speech, he doesn't think about the client or just any audience member. Watch this video in our Off the Cuff series to hear about who Tom's keeping in his mind's eye while he's on stage […]

The post Video: Preparing to Speak appeared first on Tom Peters.

The Supreme Court appears divided on Barack Obama’s immigration orders

the economistLun, 18/04/2016 - 22:01

AMERICA’S framers designed separate institutions to make, enforce and interpret laws. But as this week's Supreme Court hearing in an immigration showdown makes clear, the increasing dysfunction of Congress has provoked testy turf battles and confounding questions about the nature and limits of presidential power.    

Comprehensive legislation to reckon with 11.3m undocumented immigrants has eluded America for years. In November 2014, after the bipartisan, gang-of-eight Senate bill was foiled by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, Barack Obama picked up his pen and issued executive orders shielding about a third of the nation’s illegal immigrants from deportation and permitting them to work. On April 18th, the Supreme Court considered whether his actions were legal.

At issue in United States v Texas is Mr Obama’s move granting “deferred action” to undocumented aliens whose children are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. The policy, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), aims to grant relief to “hard-working...Continue reading

The fight over illegal immigrants goes to the Supreme Court

the economistLun, 18/04/2016 - 02:38

CALLS for comprehensive immigration reform have been circulating in the halls of Congress for decades. But lawmakers have accomplished little in the effort to reckon with America’s 11.3m undocumented residents. When, in 2013, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to consider a bipartisan Senate bill drafted by the so-called gang of eight (an oft-heard reference in debates among the Republican presidential candidates) Barack Obama opted to take matters into his own hands. In November 2014, he issued a series of executive orders to shield nearly half of the nation’s illegal immigrants from the threat of immediate deportation. While noting at the time that under his presidency “deportations of criminals are up 80%”, Mr Obama made a distinction between illegals who pose a threat to the nation and those who live and work peacefully within America’s borders. “[W]e’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on...Continue reading

A bruising debate highlights the differences between the Democratic candidates

the economistVie, 15/04/2016 - 05:54

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN was not the venue, but in New York the advance billing was for a brawl and a grudge match. The combatants were both on home turf, sort of—Hillary Clinton represented New York in the Senate for eight years; Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn, as his undiluted accent attests—and, while much less vituperative than that other New Yorker, Donald Trump, the pair have become increasingly disrespectful of each other. In the event, the ninth Democratic debate, ahead of the Empire state’s primary on April 19th, intermittently lived down to expectations. The velvet gloves are off.

The most piercing insult probably came when Mr Sanders labelled the word “superpredators”, a term used by Mrs Clinton in a speech on crime in 1996, “racist” (she recently said she ought not to have chosen it). Assailing her judgment, he again tried to tie her to the Iraq war, Wall Street, super PACS and the energy industry. Instead—and to a conspicuous extent compared with previous outings—Mrs Clinton tried to associate herself with Barack Obama, although she distanced herself from his recent comments regarding mistakes made over...Continue reading

A dramatic showdown looms for the Democrats in New York

the economistJue, 14/04/2016 - 21:33

THE STAKES are higher than they have been in nearly three decades for both the Democratic and Republican candidates in the New York presidential primaries, which will take place on April 19th. The campaign in the Big Apple features two native sons and an adopted daughter: Donald Trump, the property magnate whose name graces many of Manhattan’s taller buildings; Bernie Sanders, who has retained the thick Brooklyn accent of his childhood; and Hillary Clinton, the two-term US senator and former secretary of state who moved to Chappaqua, a New York City suburb, with her husband Bill in 1999.

Someone unfamiliar with the polls who wandered near Greenwich Village on April 13th might be excused for concluding that Mr Sanders is the runaway favourite on the Democratic side. A rally in Washington Square Park that evening drew a boisterous crowd of 30,000—a figure approaching the population of his hometown of Burlington,...Continue reading

New briefs further complicate Supreme Court contraception battle

the economistMié, 13/04/2016 - 18:30

TWO weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued an extraordinary order to the lawyers arguing on rival sides of Zubik v Burwell, the latest tussle over Obamacare and religious liberty. Apparently divided 4-4 after hearing arguments in Zubik on March 23rd, the justices floated a Solomonic compromise that strives to relieve religious non-profit groups of their perceived burden of complicity in the provision of contraceptives to the women who work for them while ensuring that those employees still receive the free IUDs and morning after pills that the Affordable Care Act guarantees. Since the Little Sisters of the Poor (nuns who run nursing homes)—along with dozens of other Christian charities and schools—complained that their religious liberty was illegally impinged by having to notify the government of their conscientious objection, the justices asked the parties to consider “whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by...Continue reading

Who wins when a politician wins

the economistMié, 13/04/2016 - 16:53

PUBLIC attention is inevitably swept up in presidential races—they are loud, ideologically contentious, and drenched in controversy over who might be quietly buying influence from whom. Meanwhile, the smart money may be flowing to where it really matters: the state house. A study by professors at three non-American universities concludes that firms whose directors are linked to winning governors gain significant advantages.

The study's authors say they have been able to quantify the benefits: a 4.1% increase in share price upfront (compared to companies tied to losers), and a 22% increase over three years. Contributing to these gains is a host of goodies: a 5.1% better chance of a state subsidy, 4.4% better chance of a state loan, 5.6% better chance of state tax credits. Other perks exist even if they can’t be so precisely assessed, notably access to bank credit in greater volume and a lower cost.

Evidence is particularly strong in the case of states that have large, heavily-regulated governments (based on academic survey data) and a long history of...Continue reading


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