Archive

January 3rd, 2016

Test Your Savvy About 2016 With a Quiz

    Those of us engaged in columny usually settle for writing about what has already happened. But today, let’s not follow the easy course. Instead, take my quiz of what’s to come in the year ahead and see if we think alike.

    1. At the end of 2016, Donald Trump caused a stir by ...

    A. Preparing for his presidential inauguration by renaming the White House “Trump Palace.”

    B. Raising funds to renovate the Statue of Liberty so that its arms move, waving immigrants away.

    C. Actually, no stir at all. After being crushed in the presidential race, he has been quietly trying to repair business relations with Mexicans, Muslims, women — well, with everybody.

    2. In the Republican presidential race ...

    A. Ted Cruz built on his Iowa caucuses victory to make further gains on Super Tuesday and win the nomination.

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'Shoot first, think later' policing must go

    Before he announced the grand jury's decision regarding the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty warned that the outcome "will not cheer anyone." He got that right.

    The grand jury would not be indicting officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. Loehmann claimed he had no choice but to fire at Rice after he saw the lad pull a gun from his belt that turned out to be only a realistic-looking pellet gun.

    "It would be irresponsible and unreasonable if the law required a police officer to wait and see if the gun was real," McGinty said, as he delivered a report that explained what the law demands of police officers who must make split-second decisions when they fear for their lives.

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Sanders' and Clinton's fake middle class

    Is $250,000 a year in household income "middle class"?

    That sort of income puts a family in the top 5 percent of American earners, which seems like an overgenerous definition of "middle class." Why, then, are Democrats so allergic to raising taxes on people who make less than this fabled cutoff?

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders want to spend money on a lot of stuff: single-payer health care, more generous Social Security benefits, universal preschool, free college, worker training. They are probably not going to be able to pay for it with the piddly sums one can raise from even large tax hikes on the very highest earners. Yet both of them seem wedded to the idea that taxes should not rise significantly for anyone who makes less than $250,000 a year.

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Political incorrectness is scientifically bogus

    Among Republicans, it has become politically correct to be politically incorrect. Actually that's the most politically correct thing that you can possibly be. As soon as you announce that you're politically incorrect, you're guaranteed smiles and laughter, and probably thunderous applause. Proudly proclaiming your bravery, you're pandering to the crowd.

    A math-filled new paper, by economists Chia-Hui Chen at Kyoto University and Junichiro Ishida at Osaka University, helps to explain what's going on. With a careful analysis of incentive structures, they show that if self-interested people want to show that they are independent, their best strategy is to be political incorrect, and to proclaim loudly that's what they are being. The trick is that this strategy has nothing at all to do with genuine independence; it's just a matter of salesmanship, a way to get more popular.

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Martin Shkreli: My Person of the Year

    It’s time — past time, really — to name the person of the year. (TIME Magazine does it. Why not me?)

    There were many worthy candidates in 2015: the Pope, the Donald, and Luke Skywalker, to name just a few. But only one symbolized the spirit of the year.

    I speak, of course, of Martin Shkreli.

    For those of you with short-term memory problems, he’s the weasel/drug honcho who bought the rights to a life-saving drug that had been on the market for years, and immediately raised its $13.50-a-pill price to $750 — a 5,000 percent hike.

    He said he’d use the extra money for research to develop a life-saving drug of his own, but nobody believed him. He was just doing what a long line of drug company executives do — gouge desperately sick people.

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I'm an evangelical preacher. You can't be pro-life and pro-gun.

    In the United States, evangelicals are among the biggest supporters of gun rights. They are the major religious group least likely to support stricter laws. Evangelical Larry Pratt, who directs Gun Owners of America, even argues that all Christians should be armed.

    For most of my adult life, I agreed. I believed that we had a God-given right to defend ourselves. I also believed that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun.

    Then, I saw the after-effects of gun violence firsthand. In Pennsylvania, I visited the families of five murdered Amish schoolgirls, as well as the family of the shooter. And I watched as a mass shooting unfolded at the Washington Navy Yard, across from where I lived at the time. These experiences, followed by careful theological and moral reflection, left me convinced that my family of faith is wrong on guns.

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How to end the stock buyback deluge

    "Follow the money," "Deep Throat" famously tells Bob Woodward, hot on the trail of The Post's most celebrated story, in the film "All the President's Men." In more recent decades, following the money has yielded a tale quite as calamitous as Watergate: the evisceration of the American middle class at the hands of the American rich.

    A Pew Research Center study released in December documents this shift. In 1970, middle-income households claimed 62 percent of all personal income, while upper-income households received 29 percent. In 2014, the share going to middle-income households had declined to 43 percent, while that going to the top had soared to 49 percent. (While many on the right insist that the poor are somehow draining the middle class's pocketbooks, that malignant myth is completely belied by Pew's figures.)

    The shift at the very top of the income ladder is the most dramatic. In the early 1970s, as Watergate unfolded, the wealthiest 0.1 percent of U.S. households commanded 3 percent of the nation's personal income. In recent years, their share has risen to 12 percent.

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Hillary copies Donald's tactics

    No controversy in the 2016 presidential campaign has gotten more publicity than Donald Trump's claim that "thousands" of people in New Jersey cheered after watching the Twin Towers collapse across the Hudson River in Manhattan in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    A host of news organizations checked and could find no visual evidence anywhere that it was true. Professional fact-checking groups reached the same conclusion, and Trump was roundly castigated for continuing to trumpet the allegation as fact, presumably to drum up anti-Muslim sentiment to support his subsequent call for barring further entry of Muslims into the United States.

    Among the critics was the Democratic frontrunner for her party's presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton. Yet in her most recent debate with her two competitors, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, she borrowed a page from the Trump campaign playbook. She charged that the Islamic State, also known a ISIS or ISIL, was airing video on social media of Trump's allegation as a tool for recruiting Muslim terrorists.

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Enstrictly Speaking, 2016 Could Be a Trailrazer

    My 9-year-old daughter hunkers down for hours with the Warriors books. She’s on her fifth run through the dozens of tomes in this series that our local libraries keep handy about clans of cats who want nothing to do with people. Poring over them does wonders for my daughter’s vocabulary, but I could do without the occasional hissing and other feline habits she’s acquired.

    Meanwhile, my 8-year-old son is hooked on Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants graphic novels. Those books chronicle the adventures of two potty-talking boys, often joined by their trance-prone principal cavorting around in a cape and skivvies. Somehow, he’s reading above grade level anyway.

    Becoming avid readers made my bookworms interested in the mechanics of language. The other day, we talked about neologisms — words that don’t yet exist but ought to, since they’re instantly clear.

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A valuable lesson in First Amendment protections

    Here's the issue in a real free-speech case just decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: Can someone be refused a teaching certification because of his otherwise protected social or political views? The answer sounds like it should be no, doesn't it?

    Now let me frame the exact same case differently: Should a state have to grant teaching certification to someone who says sex with children should be legalized and that there's no point in trying to mainstream disabled students? It doesn't sound like the answer should be yes, right?

    Behold the beauty, and the challenge, of First Amendment law. Not only are the questions hard, but it's also hard to say what the right questions really are.

    So what did the court do? If you like the common-sense concrete, you'll be pleased to know that the Ninth Circuit decision crafted a new doctrine for student certification cases, and held that the University of Hawaii could block Mark Oyama from becoming a teacher.

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