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Get ready for the total solar eclipse

  Most American don’t yet know about this, but as summer draws nigh, there will be lots of buzz concerning the phenomenon on Aug. 21 when the moon will completely blot out the sun for observers in 12 states — including Illinois. Partial solar eclipses are fairly common, but total eclipses are visible somewhere on Earth only once every year and a half or so.   The last one visible in the continental United States occurred about 38 years ago. We have lots more media and technology these days, which means that this one will...

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The crackpot cometh

    The American body politic seems afflicted by a discernible sense of dread as the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as our 45th president draws near. The Donald pretends that he won a thumping mandate in the November election, but it’s just not true. His principal rival got millions more votes than he did. Moreover, the general populace is concerned that Trump is not up to the challenges he will face as the nation’s chief executive. The results of a poll conducted just last week dramatize the situation. Jeffrey M. Jones...

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The Second Amendment often is misinterpreted

As one who spends much of his time reading and listening to political rhetoric from across the spectrum, left-wing and right-wing alike, I’m especially fond of the nonsense I frequently encounter about the U.S. Constitution. .  Take, for example, the popular claim that the Second Amendment guarantees almost every American the sacred right to own and bear almost any type of firearms. That’s an easy one to knock down. . A few years ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year and who was a great hero to...

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The story of a tone-deaf Reagan’s visit to a cemetery

  In the current debate over U.S.-Israel relations, the name of Ronald Reagan is invoked by all sides in the controversy, which brings to mind a mostly-forgotten story I’ve shared here previously. This episode occurred nearly 32 years ago, when Reagan, who was in his second term as U.S. president, made a visit to Germany to mark the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe. At the request of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Reagan participated in memorial services at a military cemetery near the town of...

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Is Mitt Romney finally gone for good from politics?

  For a brief spell this year, I seemed to have forgotten that Mitt Romney is one of the phoniest politicians who have ever sought the U.S. presidency — and that includes Donald Trump. The irony here is that my contempt for Romney faded for a short while only when he blasted Trump as “a phony.” It was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. And it was perhaps based on a desperate sense that the Republican Party might come to its senses and dump Trump in favor of Romney. Romney ran for president himself in...

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There really isn’t much of a debate about global warming

  For the nine years of its existence, this blog has represented itself as a slant on politics in general. But climate change and global warming have become favorite subjects of mine, especially because they so often reveal the mulishness of Republicans. Indeed, I spend almost as much of my time reading about climate matters as I do about any other political issue. One peculiar thing about the so-called debate over global warming is that the dissension is mostly among folks who have nothing directly  to do with climate science. In that...

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If you use your gun to shoot someone, it’ll probably be yourself

  It’s too early to come up with reliable statistics on American gun deaths this year — and not just because there still are a few days left before the year ends. It takes a while to crunch all the numbers and sort them into categories. The website FiveThirtyEight.com, which ordinarily focuses on political matters, is out with a collection of data on gun deaths in America generally based on averages from the years 2012 to 2014. The first thing you need to know is that there are more than 33,000 gun deaths per year in this...

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Is uptalk disappearing?

  For all my shortcomings, I’m pretty good at noticing speech fads, if I say so myself. And lately I’ve noticed that uptalk seems to be fading away. Uptalk, if you don’t know, is a manner of speaking in which declarative sentences are uttered with rising intonation at the end, as if they were questions. Example: “I live in Rockford, Illinois?” There’s a question mark at the end, but it’s not really a question. It only sounds like a question because the sentence is spoken in uptalk. For the past...

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Anti-regulation rhetoric is mostly nonsense

  Donald Trump’s platform is based in part on the theory that federal regulations generally make it hard for American businesses to succeed. Of course, this flies in the face of the popular claim that our businesses are especially innovative and adaptable. Consider, for example,  THIS  STUDY published a few years ago: It’s one of the oldest right-wing claims: “Excessive” regulation will harm job creators and kill the economy. But is it based on sound economics? One new study, which examines this particular argument, finds it absurd...

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Trump can’t rightly claim he has a mandate

  As I’ve noted here on previous occasions, Donald Trump’s ego is such that untruths sometimes become realities in his narcissistic mind. His excuses for why Hillary Clinton got 2.8 million more popular votes than he did are pathetic, but they make sense to him. He says Clinton benefited from millions of illegal votes, which is patently untrue, or he argues that his campaign aimed only to win the votes of the Electoral College, which is beyond ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that nearly 54 percent of voters in the...

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Scientists scrambling to protect data from Trump’s team

  Of the many crazy statements made by Donald Trump in the past year, one of the scariest is his claim that global warming is a hoax hatched by China. It suggests that as president, Trump will try to thwart America’s leadership role in the war against climate change. Indeed, The Donald has been packing his Cabinet with global-warming deniers, and his transition team at the Department of Energy has asked agency officials for names of employees and contractors who have participated in international climate talks and worked on the...

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The Constitution is not as unambiguous as you might think

    The one sure prediction you can make about the incoming Trump administration, which will formally take power a month from tomorrow, is that it will regularly find itself up to its ears in debates over the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. A point I made here about six years ago is that there are too many Americans, especially on the political right, who like to pretend that our national charter is crystal clear on every issue it addresses. It’s not. That’s why we have courts to interpret the Constitution, and that’s why those...

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