Archive

November 5th, 2015

Don't blame it all on the moderators

    The Republican debates have been a disaster for some candidates, a boon for others and an uninspiring spectacle for the nation to witness. But don't blame it all on the moderators.

     Not that the questioners are blameless, mind you. It's true that some of the queries at last week's CNBC encounter seemed designed to provoke rather than elucidate. Ted Cruz's memorable characterization of the questions sounded like a parody: "Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?" But the moderators, using different words, really did ask those things.

     They weren't crazy questions, though, even if they should have been framed in a less confrontational way.

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Blaming The Wrong Source For Embarrassment

    Republicans, it isn't the debate moderators who are embarrassing you. It is your candidates. It isn't the questions being asked causing you trouble. It is the answers, or lack of such, from your candidates.

    Lets face it. People running for the highest office of the land should expect all manner of inquiry, even some "gotcha" questions. Although I contend they have not been asked much of the latter, certainly not as much as they can expect from ordinary citizens as the campaign drags on. These moderators are required to keep the debate interesting and would be remiss if they stuck only to simple subjects.

    Admittedly, the occasion demands more profound questions but these candidates would probably be in even more trouble with such.

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Anti-immigration Republicans rein in Ryan

    House Speaker Paul Ryan has done what was expected of him: He blamed President Barack Obama for Republicans' inability to pass immigration legislation.

    Actually, House Republicans have proved eminently capable of passing legislation; they already passed an immigration plan this year. They voted in January to strip undocumented immigrants, including the "Dreamers" who were brought to the U.S. as children, of the protection from deportation that Obama had extended to them in a 2012 executive action.

    That vote represented the will of the Republican conference, which opposes legalizing the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. But chasing guiltless Dreamers out of the country sends the wrong message in a national election. So Ryan is required to repeat the cover story that his predecessor designed.

    In the hours after Obama's 2012 re-election, Speaker John Boehner said a "comprehensive approach" to immigration reform was "long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."

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Yet another place the homeless aren't welcome: Reagan National Airport

    Did you know that it's against the law in more than 50 U.S. cities to give food to a homeless person?

    That nearly half of our cities prohibit people from sleeping in cars (according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty)? And that more than half of the nation's cities make it a crime to sit or lie down in certain public spaces?

    More and more in our compassion-challenged country, we're passing petty laws and regulations meant to outlaw the very things homeless people do to survive.

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When college students are afraid to speak up

    Maybe I'm a mite overconcerned about the findings of the just-released survey by McLaughlin & Associates about the attitudes of college students toward free speech. The survey, conducted during September on behalf of Yale University's William F. Buckley Jr. Program, found some disturbing responses on basic questions about just how free students think their own campus speech is.

    Before I begin, a word of caution. Young people nowadays are notoriously difficult to sample. The survey was conducted online, and the data were stratified "to reflect the actual demographic composition of undergraduate students in the United States," as reported by the federal government. But this adjustment cannot account fully for selection bias. Nevertheless, the report brings not entirely happy news for those who care about the quality of campus debate.

    I'll start with the good stuff. Most students surveyed (73 percent) don't want to scrap the First Amendment. True, a depressing 30 percent of self-described liberals think it's time to rewrite the amendment's guarantee of free speech. But I suspect the Constitution will survive their displeasure.

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Obama has a Syria plan, but it's no quick fix

    It's time to stop this constant refrain that President Barack Obama has no strategy for Syria.

    There is and always has been a strategy. From 2011 it has been to end the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, primarily through diplomatic rather than military means. Since 2012, the Obama strategy has been to use force to degrade and defeat the Islamic State.

    The basic element of the diplomatic strategy for ending Assad's rule, repeated in Friday's Vienna communique, says, "This political process will be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, and the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria."

    Defeating the Islamic State in Syria, under Obama's strategy, rests on enabling local Syrian forces not only to beat back Islamic State fighters but to hold freed territory until a new central government, established in Damascus, can take over.

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Candidates fail to tell how they would govern

    The Republican presidential candidates' three debates have been sometimes compelling, often contentious and always amusing.

    We've learned a lot less about how any of the candidates would govern. They have chiefly relied on cliches, buzzwords and attempts to prove which of them most disdains President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. There is a similar weakness in the smaller Democratic field, which has had only one debate; subsequent forums may provide more meat.

    The Republican void was on display in the debate on Wednesday focusing on the party's favorite issue: taxes. All the candidates would cut taxes extensively, though most would add trillions to the debt. The proposals laid out by the two front- runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, would create the largest budget shortfalls.

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Are Procrastinators Poor Planners or Victims of Overwork?

    I came upon this article on procrastination and saved it for "later reading." Ha-ha-ha. Procrastination jokes are one of the best ways of putting off work.

    The article's headline reads, "To Stop Procrastinating, Start by Understanding the Emotions Involved." It appears in The Wall Street Journal, a good source of pointers on getting us gerbils to beef up our output.

    Before we get to the thesis, let me offer this subversive idea: Many who see themselves as procrastinators aren't really procrastinating. They don't get around to certain assignments because they are trying to complete other assignments.

    Procrastination is defined as voluntarily delaying to do something, thus resulting in future negative consequences. Researchers at Stockholm University believe that chronic procrastination is an emotional strategy for dealing with stress, according to the Journal.

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And That’s My Opinion!

    Opinions.

    That’s what we do in Op-Ed: We render informed opinions that we hope are smart and sometimes provocative, backed up by good, old-fashioned shoe leather. I’m heading off to a new assignment, and as I do, please indulge me as I toss off a few last opinions:

    Few people are more anti-gun than Michael Bloomberg. And few people are wealthier. According to Forbes, Bloomberg is worth around $40 billion, some of which he spends backing anti-gun candidates and supporting the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. His success, though, has been limited.

    How about another approach? I propose that he buy a gun company. Seriously. Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. both have market capitalizations hovering around $1 billion. Buying one would barely dent Bloomberg’s wallet.

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What we should learn from viral police videos

    On the same day that President Barack Obama was expressing doubts that cellphone cameras are making police too cautious, video of a police officer in a South Carolina high school was going viral on the Web because he failed to be cautious enough.

    That's not the only reason that video of sheriff's deputy Ben Fields' rough takedown and arrest of an uncooperative 16-year-old girl in Spring Valley High School raised a national uproar.

    The fact that he is white and the girl is black instantly became part of the ongoing national debate about how black people are treated by police.

    I had an additional question as a black parent: What did the girl do to bring this trouble on herself?

    Yes, we can raise that question without becoming kneejerk apologists for police brutality -- or the troubles in our racial dialogue have become way more than skin deep.

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