Archive

November 13th, 2015

The hidden and deadly bias of class

    White working-class voters have been a key building block of the Republican coalition since the rise of the Reagan Democrats 35 years ago. You would think that the party's presidential candidates would want to respond to the heartbreaking crisis these Americans are facing.

    Two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case, issued a study last week that should push what the writers Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb called the "hidden injuries of class" to the center of our political conversation. Deaton and Case found that the death rates for whites 45 to 54 who never attended college increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2014. They unearthed a startling rise in suicides as well as diseases related to alcohol and drugs.

    Injustices relating to race remain a deep stain on our nation.

    Middle-aged African-Americans overall still have a higher death rate (581 per 100,000) than whites (415), although the Hispanic death rate at middle age (262) is far lower.

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Stop-and-seize turns police into self-funding gangs

    In his book "Why the West Rules -- for Now," historian Ian Morris draws a distinction between two ways of running a country, calling them "high-end" and "low-end" strategies. High-end states have efficient, centralized bureaucracies and a credible legal apparatus. Low-end states rely on local authorities to do things like collecting taxes and providing security.

    High-end states are better at creating rich, powerful, technologically advanced civilizations but are more expensive, Morris writes: When resources are strained, countries sometimes revert to the cheaper, low-end solutions. Often, transitions from high-end to low-end strategies follow wars, famines and other disasters that reduce the state's ability to finance its activities directly.

    Modern rich nations, with their extensive court systems, bureaucracies, militaries and infrastructure, look distinctly high-end compared with the feudal lands of past centuries. But I see troubling signs of a U.S. shift toward low-end institutions.

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Republicans slam Wall Street but won't regulate it

    It came through loud and clear in Tuesday's presidential debate: Republicans don't like Wall Street. They don't like its behavior before the 2008 financial meltdown. They don't like the bailouts that followed. And they don't like the financial power the biggest banks still wield.

    Here's the snag: Their contempt for Wall Street is exceeded only by their contempt for regulating Wall Street. That means, with one notable exception, they offer no realistic solutions to the problems they identify, especially the risks of too-big-to- fail institutions. In some cases, the solutions they offer would reverse five years of progress toward the very thing they claim to want, a sturdier financial system.

    The reasons lie in ideology and practical politics. On the ideological side, Republicans are opposed to big government and skeptical of regulation. That makes them hostile to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which gave federal agencies more authority to monitor risk within financial companies and reduce the likelihood of future bailouts by, for example, requiring banks to borrow less and hold more equity capital.

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Must Boomers Take the Rap?

    In the course of human events, many things need fixing. One of them is the cost of Medicare, climbing rapidly as baby boomers enroll in large numbers.

    We can argue over how to contain this major federal expense, and we should. But assigning blame for the problem on anyone born between 1946 and 1964 seems an absurd way to go about it.

    Foes of Medicare and Social Security have long tried to corral resentment against baby boomers to weaken public support for these programs. Some supporters on the left do likewise in an effort to move more resources toward programs serving the young and the poor.

    Boomer-bashing may be entertaining, but it's not smart analysis. It's become the fashion nevertheless.

    Boomers should "repent," Washington Post writer Jim Tankersley declares with no hint of humor.

    He charges, "Boomers soaked up a lot of economic opportunity without bothering to preserve much for the generations to come."

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Microsoft's creative solution to data privacy

    Not long ago, Microsoft was widely seen as the archetypal evil corporate empire: A brutish monopoly, bereft of new ideas and embodying all that went wrong with first-generation tech titans. Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, however, its creativity has been revived and its contribution to Europe's fight against U.S. Internet surveillance is evidence of that.

    Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. could no longer be viewed as a "safe harbor" for European Internet users' data because it made the data available to its intelligence services. The ruling was rooted in National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden's revelations of a program called Prism, which enabled the agency to peruse the private messages and other data sent by the customers of top U.S. Internet firms. According to Snowden's documents, Microsoft was the first to sign up for Prism, preceding the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook.

    Now, Microsoft is the first to offer a solution to the problem U.S. companies face in Europe. And it's a good solution.

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High-fives in Hillary-Land

    OK, this joke's gone on long enough. As of November 11, Donald Trump had either led or tied for first place in Republican 2016 polls for 114 days. But his performance in this week's debate proved what a disaster a Trump presidency would prove for the Republican Party -- and for the Republic.

    Trump only has one issue: his relentless, racist attack on illegal immigrants. He began by calling them "rapists" in his June 16 campaign kick-off, while promising to build a "great wall" along the Mexican border and have Mexico pay for it. He's now expanded his broadside to include rounding up all 11 million people estimated to be in the United States illegally and deporting them south of the border: a pledge he lustily repeated in the Fox Business Channel debate.

    "We either have a country or we don't have a country," Trump bellowed. If we are really a nation of laws, he argued, "We have no choice" but to "send people out" who came to the U.S. illegally. All 11 million of them. In one fell swoop. On "Morning Joe" the next morning, Trump said he'd do so by mobilizing a massive "deportation force."

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Fight their own wars? Gulf states are above it

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter thinks America's Arab allies have their heads in the clouds. He makes a good point: The monarchies of the Persian Gulf are going to have to get grounded if they hope to effectively counter Iran, Islamic State and other threats in the region.

    "If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground," Carter told the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. "There is a sense that some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet." 

    Carter continued: "The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [Islamic State], is that they have weighted having high-end air- force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces."

    The numbers bear out Carter's case. Defense spending among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council has risen by 71 percent since 2010, and overwhelmingly this spending has gone into building state-of-the-art air forces.

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Donald Trump's reprehensible deportation plan

    Donald Trump's immigration policy is morally reprehensible, legally indefensible and un-American. Yet the flagging front-runner continues to flog President Eisenhower's atrociously named "Operation Wetback" as a model for how he would go about deporting the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

    "Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower - good president, great president, people liked him. I like Ike, right? The expression. I like Ike. - moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border, they came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south, they never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don't get nicer, you don't get friendlier. They moved a million and a half people out. We have no choice. We have no choice."

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Ben Carson's remarkable gibberish on Syria and Iraq

    Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate was marked by a rather scattered conversation on foreign policy. The highlight of the discussion, in WorldViews' reckoning, was the response Ben Carson offered when asked by Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo about the current U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

    This was Bartiromo's question: "Dr. Carson, you were against putting troops on the ground in Iraq and against a large military force in Afghanistan. Do you support the president's decision to now put 50 special-ops forces in Syria and leave 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan?"

    And here, according to The Washington Post's annotated transcript of the debate, is Carson's reply. WorldView's notes are numbered.

    "Well, putting the special-ops people in there is better than not having them there(1), because they - that's why they're called special ops - they're actually able to guide some of the other things that we're doing there.

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Wow, More Terrifying Than Trump

    Perhaps you didn’t watch the Republican presidential debate this week. That in no way excuses you from having an opinion about it. It’s the last one until December, and all you’ll have to work with if you want political conversation at Thanksgiving dinner.

    Except, perhaps, Donald Trump’s proposal that we boycott Starbucks for changing its holiday coffee cup design. He also promised a crowd recently that when he is president “we’re all going to be saying ‘merry Christmas’ again.” Even if you never said it before? Hard to tell.

    But about the debate. Jeb Bush sent out a mass email before the event began, asking all his “friends” to send him a dollar so he’d “know you’re at home cheering me on.” Doesn’t that sound a little pathetic?

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