Archive

June 29th, 2016

Britain’s Brexit Leap in the Dark

    The British have given the world’s political, financial and business establishment a massive kick in the teeth by voting to leave the European Union, a historic decision that will plunge Britain into uncertainty for years to come and reverses the integration on which the Continent’s stability has been based.

    Warnings by President Barack Obama, Britain’s political leaders and the International Monetary Fund about the dire consequences of a British exit proved useless. If anything, they goaded a mood of defiant anger against these very elites.

    This resentment has its roots in many things but may be summed up as a revolt against global capitalism. To heck with the experts and political correctness was the predominant mood in the end. A majority of Britons had no time for the politicians that brought the world a disastrous war in Iraq, the 2008 financial meltdown, European austerity, stagnant working-class wages, high immigration and tax havens for the super-rich.

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Blood on Obama’s Hands

    Cristóbal, a 16-year-old Honduran refugee fleeing a drug gang that wants to kill him, has never heard of anyone named Barack Obama. Neither can he name the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto.

    But Cristóbal, along with many others, could end up being murdered because of these two presidents he is unaware of. Obama and Peña Nieto have cooperated for two years to intercept desperate Central American refugees in southern Mexico, long before they can reach the U.S. border. These refugees are then typically deported to their home countries — which can be a death sentence.

    “If I’m sent back, they will kill me,” says Cristóbal, who is staying temporarily at a shelter for unaccompanied migrant kids in Mexico. He says he was forced to work for the gang as a cocaine courier beginning at age 14 — a gun was held to his head, and he was told he would be shot if he declined. He finally quit and fled after he witnessed gang members murder two of his friends. Now the gang is looking for him, he says, and it already sent a hit team to his home.

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14 Young Democrats to Watch

    One of the great myths of the 2016 presidential primaries was that Republicans had an uncommonly dazzling breadth and depth of young contenders.

    If that’s so, why is their presumptive nominee a 70-year-old, Donald Trump?

    A related canard was that the showdown between Hillary Clinton, 68, and Bernie Sanders, 74, underscored how little youthful energy the Democratic Party possessed.

    If that’s so, why was the following list so easy to pull together?

    I combed the party’s ranks, questioned some of its leaders and quickly assembled the names of dozens of promising, buzzed-about Democratic politicians no older than 45, a cutoff I chose because that’s the age of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the two young Republican comers who made credible runs at the White House this year.

    I’m showcasing these 14 because they in particular are generating a noteworthy degree of excitement, have intriguing backgrounds or are well positioned for more prominent roles. And because they caught my eye.

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June 28th

David Cameron Was a Historic and Disastrous Failure

    This is how a political life ends: with a crash, not a whimper. David Cameron's place in history is now assured. He is the man who took the United Kingdom out of the European Union. As we wait for the full impact of Thursday's referendum to be felt, he may be remembered as the prime minister who presided over the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom, too. Scottish independence, defeated as an idea just two years ago, is back on the table.

    Cameron's 10 years as leader of the Conservative party and six as prime minister now boil down to these solitary facts. Nothing else matters; nothing else will be remembered. Cameron gambled everything on one roll of the dice and lost it all.

    No prime minister in living memory has suffered a defeat of such cataclysmic proportions; none has been so thoroughly humiliated by his own electorate. Cameron lost control of his party and then his country. The consequences of that carelessness will be felt, in Britain and internationally, for years to come. Future political historians will ponder a melancholy question: what was the point of David Cameron? And their judgment is likely to be severe.

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Will sit-in make Congress stand up on gun control?

    The extremely rare sit-in by Democrats in the House chamber may have been, as Speaker Paul Ryan claimed, a "publicity stunt." But it was a righteous one that may improve the prospects for meaningful gun control.

    It won't happen immediately. Even after 49 innocent victims died in the Orlando massacre -- the worst such shooting in modern U.S. history -- Republicans remain adamantly opposed to any new legislation that might keep powerful weapons out of the hands of the next would-be mass murderer.

    If Republicans care more about maintaining their standing with the National Rifle Association than saving lives, that's their choice. But polls show majority support for sensible new gun control measures -- and members of Congress should at least have to go on record. Democrats are demanding that the House do its job: vote yes or no.

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US bears some responsibility for Brexit

    We think Brexit is a European story, but it's not really. A stable world order is hard to come by, and the United States has done more than its fair share to generate this instability over the past two decades: Think of the Iraq War, all those junk mortgage-backed securities and the global financial crisis they generated, declining U.S. foreign policy engagement with Europe, even the invention of social media. We might not want to roll back every development, but we should understand how they all contribute to a more turbulent world. And we should take responsibility.

    In Iraq in 2001, Saddam Hussein was performing a fiction of possessing weapons of mass destruction, in all probability to keep Iran at bay, thereby achieving some sort of balance of power between his minority-Sunni regime and Iran's Shiite one. We upended that order and enflamed the region. As Charles Krauthammer wrote in The Post in 2005, the George W. Bush administration had achieved a "breaking of the 'dictatorial stability' " in the region. From this, he argued democracy would flow, as people rose in the streets.

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The wrong turn on immigration

    No one has to wonder about the enormous consequences of the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to let stand a lower-court ruling blocking President Barack Obama's plan to protect from deportation millions of undocumented immigrants who are parents of citizens or permanent residents. All you have to do is look at how much the smaller program it was modeled on has accomplished and multiply.

    A little more than four years ago, the Obama administration announced a new and life-changing program that allowed young immigrants the opportunity to apply for deportation relief and the ability to work legally in the United States. Close to 730,000 young people have taken giant steps toward the American mainstream as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and have, in turn, contributed significantly to American society.

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The Sun, not the rain, tipped the U.K. vote

    Leighton Vaughan Williams, a professor at Nottingham Business School who specializes in betting research, has long held that betting markets are better predictors of election outcomes than polls. Yet ahead of the U.K. vote on whether to leave the European Union, the bookies failed as miserably as pollsters to predict the result -- actually, they did much worse. At certain points on Thursday, the probability of a "remain" vote implied by betting odds stood at 90 percent.

    When I asked Vaughan Williams what had happened, he gave a surprising answer for a believer in the wisdom of markets:

    "The markets were expecting the undecideds to switch predominantly to the status quo, as this has happened in previous referendums, such as the Scottish referendum and the Quebec referendum; but in both those cases the mass papers were backing 'remain.'

    "This time was different. It was The Sun and Daily Mail that won it and the impact these mass distribution tabloid papers have on the popular psyche, especially in whipping up emotion, is difficult to overestimate. It is another lesson learned," he said.

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Tax Dodging on the High Seas

    Let’s criticize cruise ships.

    I know, I know. Things are bad enough without going negative about your summer vacation. But we’ve got some problems here. Plus, I promise there will be a penguin.

    The cruise industry seems to be exploding — the newest generation of ships can carry more than 5,000 passengers. They make a great deal of profit from the sale of alcohol, so imagine the equivalent of a small city whose inhabitants are perpetually drunk.

    Really, these things are so huge, it’s amazing they can stay afloat without toppling over. And when one is parked outside, say, Venice, the effect is like one of those alien-invasion movies, when people wake up and find that a spaceship the size of Toledo has landed downtown. (Venetians also claim the ships are causing waves in their canals.) Environmentalists wring their hands over the air pollution and sewage — a 3,000-passenger ship, which today would rank as medium-size, produces 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, sometimes treated and sometimes not so much. But always pumped into the sea.

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Justices help keep the family together

    On the day of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, it was perhaps appropriate for a divided Supreme Court to decide a case about the complex, coordinated relationship between federal and state law.

    Among many other things, some Britons were worried about maintaining the sovereignty of their legal system against the increasing encroachment of the European Union. In that context, it's worth noticing that well over two centuries since the U.S. Constitution made the American union "more perfect," plenty of kinks remain.

    The particular kink in question involved the Armed Career Criminals Act, a federal law that criminalizes possession of a firearm if you've got three prior convictions for "violent felony," defined somewhat idiosyncratically to include "burglary, arson, or extortion."

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