Archive

August 18th, 2016

Paul Ryan has become a Trump enabler

    Paul Ryan's empty chastisements of Donald Trump's failures of leadership remind me of my own periodic bouts of highly ineffectual parenting. With every morally reprehensible, politically dangerous and socially damaging attack Trump makes on decency, constitutionalism and individual people, Ryan produces yet another talk bubble of coddling enablement. Ryan is about to write himself into history as one of those who were asleep at the switch at a pivotal moment of American political decline.

    On Trump's comments about how supporters of the Second Amendment should respond to Hillary Clinton, he said: "It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that. "

    On Trump's attacks on the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed serving in Iraq: "Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice - and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan - should always be honored. Period."

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On crime, face facts, not fear

    There has been a surge of assertions about rising crime recently. At the Republican convention in July, GOP nominee Donald Trump said, "Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration's rollback of criminal enforcement." The Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald echoed these concerns, noting that homicides increased by nearly 17 percent in the 56 largest U.S. cities last year and citing sharp rises in Baltimore, Chicago and the District of Columbia. In an op-ed in last Sunday's Post, Sean Kennedy and Parker Abt made the same case.

    As two strong conservatives, let us set the record straight. These statements on rising murders are highly misleading. The truth is that Americans are still experiencing hard-won historic lows in crime.

    When examining statistics on crime, researchers evaluate several factors: overall crime, violent crime, homicide and property crime.

    By 2014, violent crime had fallen by half from its 1991 peak. Property crime was down 49 percent. Crime overall was 66 percent lower in major cities. No one disputes this decades-long trend.

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Olympians in Hijab and Bikini

    Ever since I saw a photograph of an Egyptian and a German beach volleyball player confronting each other at the net in Rio, I have been unable to get the image out of my head. Doaa Elghobashy, 19, wears a hijab, long sleeves and black leggings to her ankles. Kira Walkenhorst, 25, is in a dark blue bikini. The outstretched hands of the Olympian women almost meet, the ball between them.

    The photo, by Lucy Nicholson of Reuters, juxtaposes two women, two beliefs and two dress codes, brought together by sports. The world confronts less a clash of civilizations than a clash of identities, concertinaed in time and space by technology. The West’s image of Islam and the Muslim image of Western societies are often mutually incommunicable; the incomprehension incubates violence.

    No area is as sensitive as that of the treatment of women — women’s roles, sexuality, dress and ambitions. The story is often presented as one of Western emancipation versus Islamic subjugation. That, however, is an inadequate characterization.

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August 17th

Trump has taken his recklessness too far

    Firm supporters of Donald Trump will say his suggestion that "the Second Amendment people" could prevent a President Hillary Clinton from appointing a Supreme Court justice favoring gun control was clearly a call to them to vote against her in November.

    Some will say it's just another example of a biased, anti-Trump American news media working their insidious campaign to bring their icon down. They will profess to be aghast at the notion that he might be suggesting that the gun enthusiasts assassinate her, or even unintentionally plant such a horrible notion in anyone's mind.

    But whatever his intention or motivation might have been, the very act of uttering those words should be ample justification for voters, regardless of their feelings toward Hillary Clinton, to conclude at long last that Donald Trump lacks the self-discipline and temperament to be President of the United States.

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Let's be optimistic about productivity

    The U.S. economy is suffering from a malaise that undermines its ability to boost living standards: Labor productivity, or the amount of goods and services people produce for each hour worked, isn't growing like it has in the past.

    What it needs is a dose of optimism.

    Eight years after the beginning of the last recession, the economy is in much worse shape than was expected -- at least judging from the forecasts that the Congressional Budget Office published back in August 2007. As of 2015, nonfarm business output was 15 percent lower than forecast. About a third of this shortfall is attributable to people working fewer hours than expected. The rest is attributable to businesses having a lot less physical capital (such as machines and software) than was anticipated, and having unexpectedly low total factor productivity (the productivity of labor and capital).

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Fulfilling a promise to Iran isn't 'ransom'

    The latest victim in the presidential race's assault on truth - to say nothing of nuance - came last week in the flurry of accusations surrounding the United States'payment of $400 million to Iran. Donald Trump called it ransom, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, accused the United States of acting like a "drug cartel."

    In reality, the payment represented continued adherence to a masterful feat of American diplomacy and to the peaceful resolution of disputes under international law. Ronald Reagan understood how important it is for us to keep our promises - which is why, as president, he upheld the agreement negotiated by the Carter administration that led to the recent payment.

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First Amendment can't save you from your homework

    The First Amendment protects students against being forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. So how was it legal for a Texas teacher to require students to recite the Mexican pledge of allegiance, as a federal appeals court held this week? The answer lies in the difference between compelled symbolic speech and compelled class participation.

    The events underlying the case attracted national attention of the Glenn Beck variety when they occurred in 2011. Brenda Brinsdon was then a high school sophomore in McAllen, Texas, a town near the Mexican border. The teacher of her Spanish class gave students the assignment of facing the Mexican flag with a 45-degree salute and reciting the Mexican pledge of allegiance. The assignment was intended both to teach Spanish language and to give students the "cultural" experience of imitating another nation's pledge.

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Conspiracy chatter is a regular feature of American politics

    When people talk about conspiracy theorists in the 2016 presidential campaign, they usually focus on Donald Trump.

    It isn't hard to see why. Many candidates have played with conspiracy theories over the years, but Trump is far more flamboyant (most politicians do not insinuate that an opponent's family is linked to the JFK assassination) and far less interested in sounding refined (most do not cite the National Enquirer as a source).

    But he's not the only conspiracist around. Yes, Trump and his fans are prone to seeing plots. But alleged cabals have captured the imagination of Trump's foes, too. Conspiracy chatter isn't an occasional interruption that flares up on the fringes in especially weird election years. It's a regular feature of American politics.

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A crowd-pleaser's theory of Donald Trump's antics

    Think Donald Trump has some grand scheme behind his outbursts? Think his rhetoric is carefully thought out to produce a certain reaction? Think he meticulously plans each call for his followers to take up arms?

    Sorry, no. There is no strategy here, folks.

    Sadly, this is the part of Trump I get too well. I do a lot of public speaking, and when I do, I try to gauge the audience because I love a reaction. Like any entertainer -- and that's what an author tries to be on book tour -- I like to hear laughs or see that the audience is listening intently. I want them rapt and engaged. If I see too many people fiddling with their phones or looking bored, I'll try on the fly to fix it. If the jokes aren't going well, I'll give them a more serious how-to-write-a-novel talk. And vice versa. It's why I rarely prepare remarks.

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A court ruling that could save the planet

    A federal court this week upheld the approach that the government uses to calculate the social cost of carbon when it issues regulations -- and not just the cost imposed on Americans, but on people worldwide. It's technical stuff, but also one of the most important climate change rulings ever.

    The social cost of carbon is meant to capture the economic damage of a ton of carbon emissions. The assumptions that go into the analysis, and the resulting number, matter a lot, because they play a key role in the cost-benefit analysis for countless regulations -- not only the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan, but also fuel economy rules for automobiles and trucks and energy efficiency rules for appliances, including refrigerators, microwave ovens, clothes washers, small motors, and clothes driers. The cost-benefit analysis can in turn help agencies to determine the level of stringency for such regulations, and indeed whether to go forward at all.

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