Archive

October 27th, 2015

Desegregation is the best way to improve our schools

    Two miles from my office in Syracuse, N.Y., Westside Academy Middle School has been in need of repairs for decades. Located in one of nation's poorest census tracks, 87 percent of its students are black or Latino, and 90 percent are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. The 400 students have limited creative outlets, with no orchestra or band and just two music teachers.

    Ten miles away, Wellwood Middle School, in a suburban district, offers students a stately auditorium and well-equipped technology rooms. There, 88 percent of the students are white and only 10 percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. The 600 students have five music teachers, band, orchestra, choir, musical theater and dozens of other clubs and activities.

    Fifty percent of Wellwood's eighth graders passed the state math assessment. At Westwood, none did. The disparate student outcomes are no surprise.

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What Carson's Iowa surge doesn't mean

    Donald Trump is no longer winning everywhere. The new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll has Ben Carson on top in Iowa, with a 9-percentage-point lead over Trump. Combined with another national survey released Thursday, the HuffPollster estimate now has Carson at 26 percent to Trump's 20 percent in the Hawkeye State.

    Yes, it's still very early. We're a bit more than three months from the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, and it would be a lot more surprising if today's polls match the eventual results than if there are still plenty more major swings to come.

    Carson is, above all, a traditional Iowa social- conservative factional candidate. He follows in the footsteps of Pat Robertson (second place in the 1988 caucuses), Pat Buchanan (second in 1996), Gary Bauer (fourth in 2000), and current candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who won in Iowa in 2008 and 2012.

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Ted Cruz has a Ben Carson problem in Iowa

    Ted Cruz's carefully crafted plan to become the right-wing standard-bearer in the Republican presidential race is pretty much on schedule. His campaign has more cash than any rival's, is backed by a well-heeled super PAC and is gaining in the polls. The Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll has him in third place in Iowa, where caucuses on Feb. 1 will give voters their first chance to cast ballots.

    For the Texas senator then, it's so far, so good. But now Cruz has a new problem: the neurosurgeon and political novice Ben Carson. The big news of the Bloomberg/Des Moines Register survey is that Carson has surged into the lead, favored by 28 percent of Iowa Republicans who said they're likely to attend a caucus. Next comes Donald Trump with 19 percent. Cruz is third with 10 percent.

    The Cruz strategy has been predicated on a good Iowa showing, a win or solid second. The reasoning was that Trump -- whom Cruz generally has refrained from criticizing -- would fade and that the contest would come down to Cruz versus an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

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Mrs. October exposes holes in the GOP game

    October has been a clarifying month. The first Democratic debate exhibited Hillary Clinton's competence and reassured the Democratic Party elite that she remains a formidable candidate. In addition, it helped chase two also-rans -- Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee -- from the primary and appears to have breached the porous borders of Sen, Bernie Sanders' support.

    This week, Vice President Joe Biden's retreat from the field ratified Clinton's commanding position, freeing up funds and quashing a distraction in the news media. Then the much- anticipated House Benghazi hearing unfolded.

    After two Republicans recently acknowledged the Benghazi committee's partisan agenda -- roughing up Clinton -- the Republicans on the panel had extra incentive to appear decorous and sober. A couple managed. Others played the role of barking seals at a dystopic Sea World, spinning bright conspiracies on their noses in hopes of being tossed a kipper from the fringe. If the goal was to soften the hard feelings some Democrats hold against Clinton, Republican pride must be swelling at the committee's resourcefulness.

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Is this how you hoped the Benghazi hearing would go?

    For those of you who have lives and have not spent a beautiful, sunny Thursday staring intently at a livestream of the Benghazi committee hearing, here is a quick summary of how it has been going, slightly condensed:

    Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), chairman: Hello and welcome to our nonpartisan Benghazi committee hearing, which has rigorously been hunting down facts wherever they may lurk. The only thing that exceeds our nonpartisanship is our rigor. We have talked to a lot of people and found a lot of findings.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland): I object on the grounds that this is silly.

    Chairman Gowdy: You can't object.

    Committee Member (R): Madam Secretary, is it true that you sit on a throne of painted skulls?

    Clinton: No, not to my knowledge.

    Committee Member (D): Madam Secretary, is it true that you are made of sunshine?

    Clinton (smiles): Thank you.

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Ending occupation could push back against intolerance and violence of my countrymen

    I was a soldier in Gaza 27 years ago, during the first intifada. We patrolled the city and the villages and the refugee camps and encountered angry teenagers throwing stones at us. We responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

    Now those seem like the good old days.

    Since then, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has seen stones replaced with guns and suicide bombs, then rockets and highly trained militias, and now, in the past month, kitchen knives, screwdrivers and other improvised weapons. Some of these low-tech efforts have been horrifically successful, with victims as young as 13. There is plenty to discuss about the nature and timing of the recent wave of Palestinian attacks - a desperate and humiliated answer to the election of a hostile Israeli government that emboldens extremist settlers to attack Palestinians. But as an Israeli, I am more concerned with the actions of my own society, which are getting scarier and uglier by the moment.

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Biden's no-go decision lends clarity to Democratic race

    Joe Biden handed Hillary Clinton a huge gift in deciding not to run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. At the same time, he insisted that there be no ignoring of the Obama legacy built with his collaboration as vice president.

    Biden's withdrawal removed what could prove to be the major impediment to Clinton's campaign. But he also continued "to be the best vice president I can be" by calling on the eventual nominee to defend the economic recovery fashioned by the Obama-Biden administration.

    "I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery and we're now on the cusp of resurgence," he said. "I'm proud to have played a part in that. This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy."

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Benghazi panel briefly keeps out partisanship

    About two hours into Hillary Clinton's much-awaited appearance beforethe House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, the boredom and outrage cracked through the facade. She began to shrug her shoulders, lean her chin on her hand, and raise her eyes to the point of rolling them.

    She let her exasperation show every time she uttered the words "previously," "again," and "as I said before."

    By the time the morning session ended, the hearings had devolved into the partisan exercise that many had predicted.

    But at least at first, the Republican chairman of the panel, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, seemed to take pains to avoid the impression that the investigation's real purpose was to bring down the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, as his colleague Kevin McCarthy famously gaffed.

    So Gowdy was solicitous of the former secretary of state, letting her take the oath behind closed doors rather than having to raise her right hand in public like a tobacco company executive.

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Behind Netanyahu's desperate Holocaust blunder

    The latest round of violence in Israel was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest problem this week, although it may yet spin out of control. Most of his week was devoted to damage control after he foolishly said it was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem during the Second World War and a father of Palestinian nationalism, who invented the idea of the Final Solution, in which the Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews in Europe during the Holocaust.

    Speaking to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu laid the blame for the extermination of one-third of the Jewish people not at the feet of the Nazis but, essentially, on the Palestinians. "Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew," Netanyahu said. "And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.'" Then, Netayanhu said, Hitler asked al-Husseini, "What should I do with them?" and said that the mufti suggested, "Burn them."

    QuickTakeTwo-State Solution

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The future of the U.S. Navy's sitting duck

    With Iran testing ballistic missiles, the Russian military bombing in Syria, war grinding on in Yemen and Islamic State as deadly as ever, it may seem like a very dangerous time for the U.S. to find itself without an aircraft carrier near the Persian Gulf. Actually, it's very unlikely to be a problem, and it's a good occasion to reconsider the Navy's plans to build a new fleet of superexpensive "supercarriers."

    The Theodore Roosevelt carrier turned for home last week, and the Harry S. Truman won't arrive until late this winter, a rotation planned by the Pentagon long ago. This is unusual, as the Navy usually has one or two carrier groups in the Gulf region. But the Navy is rethinking its rotations, and some gaps will result. Under the latest plan, the 10 U.S. nuclear carriers are on 36-month schedules, which include two deployments overseas of roughly seven months each. This gives them nearly two years in port for maintenance and renovation. This year, the Navy has had just two carriers out on station at a time, down from three or four, largely to save money.

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