Archive

October 27th, 2015

Paul Ryan and the party of 'family values'

    A chorus of spoilsports is calling Rep. Paul Ryan a hypocrite because he is demanding time to spend with his family -- after voting against paid family leave for other workers. I sympathize with the critics, but they are abusing the word "hypocrite." It is not hypocritical to deny help that you never promised to give in the first place.

    Ryan and his fellow Republicans, who have been urging him to run for speaker of the House, always have said they believe paid family leave is fine, if your employer wants to grant it to you. But don't expect the Grand Old Party to help you get it.

    In fact, judging by the way some of his more tradition-minded colleagues reacted to Ryan's request, you might never guess they belong to the party that so long has espoused "traditional family values."

    "Speaker's a big job," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and member of the hardline Freedom Caucus. "And it's not a 9-to-5 job."

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Hillary Clinton Wins Again

    On the heels of a strong Democratic debate performance, last week Vice President Joe Biden — whose candidacy would surely have drawn support away from her — dismounted the fence and decided not to run for president himself. And then came the spectacular debacle of the Benghazi committee hearing.

    At one point during the hearing, Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, said: “This is not a prosecution.” But it was an attempted persecution. It simply failed.

    It was a televised witch trial. But the tribunal had before it a woman who would not confess transgression and who defied the flame.

    Instead, she was poised, knowledgeable and unflappable. She turned the tables. The committee was on trial, and found wanting in motives, authorities and class.

    I keep being surprised by the astonishing degree to which Clinton’s opponents continue to underestimate her.

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Free Mitt Romney!

    Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for Mitt Romney. No, seriously. In another time and place, he might have been respected as an effective technocrat — a smart guy valued (although probably not loved) for his ability to get things done. In fact, that’s kind of how it worked when he was governor of Massachusetts, a decade ago.

    But now it’s 2015 in America, and Romney’s party doesn’t want people who get things done. On the contrary, it actively hates government programs that improve American lives, especially if they help Those People. And this means that Romney can’t celebrate his signature achievement in public life, the Massachusetts health reform that served as a template for Obamacare.

    This has to hurt. Indeed, a few days ago Romney couldn’t help himself: He boasted to The Boston Globe that “Without Romneycare, we wouldn’t have had Obamacare” and that as a result “a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” And it’s true!

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Eliminate gun loopholes for domestic abusers

    The debate over measures to reduce gun violence poses a cruel paradox. The most effective steps are politically unthinkable and likely unconstitutional. More restrained approaches, such as tighter background checks and reduced ammunition magazine sizes, have proved maddeningly impossible to maneuver through the political process and are open to the charge that they would not stop the killing.

    This critique is correct but unpersuasive. With hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, small tweaks will not stop the carnage; certainly no single tweak alone will. Yet that is an argument for achievable half-measures, not for paralysis. And despite the otherwise gridlocked politics of gun control, there may be a sliver of political hope for proposals to address a relatively small but especially heartbreaking aspect of the problem: the lethal mix of guns and domestic abuse.

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Clinton deftly bursts Benghazi bubble, clearing the way ahead

    Once again the House Republicans have demonstrated their talent for wretched excess, in their effort to use the 2012 terrorist attack on Benghazi to harpoon Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

    Their 10-hour interrogation of the former secretary of state about her role in the episode offered further validation of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the select committee was out to drive down her poll numbers in the 2016 presidential race.

    Committee chairman Trey Gowdy led off with an opening statement that only confirmed that intent, sustained by other Republican members who badgered Clinton with questions oft-asked in earlier congressional hearings on the Benghazi tragedy.

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Building barriers to peace in Israel

    Benjamin Netanyahu may have been refuted and ridiculed when he claimed that Adolf Hitler had to be talked into the Holocaust by a Palestinian cleric, but he's had much better luck selling a broader narrative behind that claim. The latest wave of Palestinian violence, his argument goes, has nothing to so with the failure of peace talks, Israeli settlement building or even the state itself: It's about intractable and murderous Palestinian intolerance of any Jewish presence in historic Palestine.

    Netanyahu's real point about Haj Amin al-Husseini, the pro-Nazi mufti of Jerusalem, was that he incited the killing of Jews by alleging that the Old City's al-Aqsa Mosque was threatened - and that the same false claim, delivered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nearly a century later, preceded the recent rash of stabbings in Jerusalem. "The core of the conflict," Netanyahu charged in a speech to the Zionist Congress, was and remains "the desire to destroy the Jews anywhere, without a state and with a state."

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What Family Really Means

    My friend Elli has never given birth, never adopted, never taken primary responsibility for an infant, a toddler or an adolescent.

    But on the far side of 65, she finds herself playing the role of mother.

    At the beginning of each school year, she’s likely to be helping one of her college-age boys move into his freshman dorm. At the end, she’s at a commencement, beaming as another of her boys finishes his four years and receives his diploma.

    The boys are from Zimbabwe, where Elli has spent extensive time over the past decade and where she met many poor, bright teenagers determined to study in America.

    She not only guided them through the application and financial aid process, but also remained one of the central figures in their lives.

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The Empire Strikes Back

    Nobody plays the victim like Hillary.

    She can wield that label like a wrecking ball.

    If her husband humiliates her with a girlfriend in the Oval Office, Hillary turns around and uses the sympathy engendered to launch a political career. If her Republican opponent gets in her space in an overbearing way during a debate, she turns around and uses the sympathy engendered to win a Senate seat. If conservatives hold a Salem witch trial under the guise of a House select committee hearing, she turns around and uses the sympathy engendered to slip into the HOV lane of a superhighway to the presidency.

    Hillary Clinton is never more alluring than when a bunch of pasty-faced, nasty-tongued white men bully her.

    And she was plenty alluring during her marathon session on Thursday with Republican Lilliputians, who were completely oblivious to the fact that Hillary is always at her most potent when some Teanderthal is trying to put her in her place.

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People aren't unequal, but their employers are

    Wage inequality, according to one popular view, arises from differences in the talent and determination of individuals: Some superstars win, and everyone else does not.

    What if the winning superstars aren't people, however, but companies? Then if you're working at one of those companies, you're doing great, and if not -- well, good luck.

    Consider this: Capital returns at companies are diverging sharply, and the share of them that reap annual returns of more than 25 percent or even 50 percent is growing. This is what Jason Furman, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and I found in a study whose results are being released Friday. It's plausible that some of those big returns are shared with the companies' employees. And that may well be playing an important role in growing wage inequality.

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Meet a 21st-Century Slave

    When readers hear about “modern slavery” in America or abroad, they may roll their eyes and assume that’s an exaggeration. Slavery? Really? Modern slavery?

    If you’re one of the doubters, then listen to Poonam Thapa, a teenage girl I met here in Nepal, where she is putting her life back together after being sold to a brothel.

    And if you think, as Amnesty International suggested recently, that the solution is to decriminalize the commercial sex trade around the world, then pay special heed.

    Poonam was poor and uneducated when a woman offered an escape in the form of a well-paying job. “You can have a better life,” Poonam remembers the woman saying. “And if you make good money, you will be respected by your father. You can help your family.”

    So Poonam, then age 12, ran off with the woman. When Poonam was eventually deposited in a brothel in Mumbai, India, she was puzzled. “I didn’t even know what a brothel was,” she recalls.

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