Archive

October 26th, 2016

Life under siege: How to survive in Aleppo

    There weren't any bombs today, or the day before. That's good, because it means you can leave your apartment, see your friends, try to pretend life is normal. Still, you don't know when the attacks will resume or how much worse they'll be when they do.

    The war here has been going on for more than four years. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled, and thousands more are dead, including many of my friends. My wife and I are among about 250,000 people who are trapped here in the besieged eastern section of the city. If you want to stay alive in Aleppo, you have to find a way to keep yourself safe from explosions or starvation.

    Here's how.

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It's too bad the candidates didn't debate this

    The presidential debates gave the world a chance to watch Donald Trump bluff about his mistreatment of women and lie about mocking a person with disabilities. Nearly as theatrical was the sight of Hillary Clinton spinning convoluted explanations of why people shouldn't fret about her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state.

    These and other familiar election-season spectacles may have revealed something about the candidates' character, but shed little light on how they'd approach governing. Missed substantive opportunities in all three presidential debates included:

 

    Taxes

    Obligatory cliches aside, Trump's tax proposals weren't debated seriously. They dwarf anything that Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush proposed and overwhelmingly would benefit the rich. And, contrary to Trump's debate-stage assertion, taxes on carried interest would be reduced, not increased, for most private equity and hedge fund executives.

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It probably wasn't Russia that attacked the Internet today. That's what's scary

    As users of Twitter and many other services probably know, large parts of the Internet weren't working Friday, thanks to a hacking attack on the Internet's infrastructure. NBC reported that a senior intelligence official has told the network that the hack "does not appear at this point to be any kind of state-sponsored or directed attack." It may be that new evidence emerges that leads the U.S. intelligence community to change its opinion and identify a major state as a responsible party. The scarier possibility is that it wasn't a state that did it.

 

    The attack targeted the domain name system

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How Duterte cast himself as an agent of change

    This is a column about high geopolitics: the United States, China, the Philippines, the fate of the American order in the Pacific. But the great forces that move history often have their origins at a much lower level. And some of them were visible last week on a cellphone in Manila.

    The phone belonged to an acquaintance, an intelligent and well-educated man in his 20s. As we were talking, he pulled it out to illustrate a point. "Look," he said, flicking through selfies taken at parties and restaurants. "Here's a picture of me with the son of Marcos. And here's me with Imelda." He flicked again. "And here I am with the son of Duterte." And again: "Here's me with the son of Aquino."

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Here's why Trump feels as if he won the debates

    Imagine if, on the day of a championship tennis match, one of the players showed up at the court with hockey sticks, skates, and face masks instead of rackets, balls and white shorts. And instead of recognizing the error and suiting up appropriately, what if that player went ahead and played the game anyway, ice skates and all?

    Such is the scenario that characterized this year's cycle of general election presidential debates. In their three joint appearances, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared to be playing two separate, incompatible games. For Clinton the debates were an exercise in competitive political communication. This is terrain with which she is familiar, something she has a knack for. For Trump the debates were a form of reality television, in which the objective is to wipe out your opponent by any means necessary: insults, threats, hissy fits, facial contortions, physical intimidation.

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Globalization shouldn't be a dirty word

    "Globalization" - broadly defined as market-driven, cross-national flows of goods, services and investments - has become a dirty word. It is derided by U.S. presidential candidates, feared and rejected by the public, and evidently headed to the dustbin of policy ideals. This, despite its contributions in the past two decades to dramatically reducing poverty in developing countries and improving productivity and standards of living in the developed world. What can get globalization back on track?

    First, tell the truth about the successes and failures of globalization. The North American Free Trade Agreement was a success, both economically and strategically. In purely economic terms, it benefited Canada, Mexico and (modestly) the United States. It also solidified a democratic neighbor on the southern border. It was a success and should not be mischaracterized for cheap political gain.

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For Better Or For Worse

    Soon it will all be over and we will know what we can expect in our future. Never, ever have we had as much to be concerned about in a national election. We have one candidate who seems to be right out of the looney bin. An irrational hate has been created around the other. What a situation!

    Of course everything about mental illness is irrational which is what makes it so difficult to deal with. Actually the man in question has not been deemed mentally ill, leaving the politically incorrect term as looney. Or is it worse because mental illness is something out of one's control? This man seems completely in control of his utterances. In fact they appear designed to get the most attention with no basis for truth. Without doubt he is a narcissist beyond any we have ever seen aspiring to such high office.

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October 25th

Where was Wells Fargo's board when we needed it?

    The scandal surrounding the opening of fake accounts at Wells Fargo illustrates a deeper dysfunction in the governance of U.S. companies: Corporate boards are failing at their job of overseeing management. If regulators can't address the problem, shareholders can and should.

    Despite years of evidence that a policy coming from the very top was driving illegal and abusive practices at Wells Fargo, the bank's directors were notable mainly in their passivity. They did not act in 2013, when the Los Angeles Times reported that bank employees were opening phony accounts to meet unrealistic sales quotas. They did not act in September, when Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $187.5 million fine and admitted to creating more than 2 million fake accounts. Only after CEO John Stumpf was excoriated in congressional hearings did they decide to claw back some of his compensation. Still, they never fired him -- he resigned on his own.

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The Debate in One Scary Answer

    OK, Donald Trump won’t promise to accept the results of the election. That’s truly ... good grief.

    “I will tell you at the time. ... I’ll keep you in suspense,” he told Wednesday’s debate moderator, Chris Wallace. The word “rigged” came up. Yow.

    Hillary Clinton noted that Trump tends to presume that whenever he loses anything, the system was rigged: “There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”

    “I should have gotten it,” Trump retorted.

    This is obviously what we should have known was coming when the host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” wound up as a presidential nominee. But jeepers, people, this is serious. Trump was refusing to acknowledge it was even possible for him to lose a fair fight. At one point, he announced the election was rigged because Hillary Clinton was in it. (“She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with emails.”)

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Five myths about genius

    It's not always easy to know when we're in the presence of "genius." In part, that's because we barely agree on what it means. In Roman times, genius was not something you achieved but rather an animating spirit that adhered itself to people and places. In the 18th century, Romantics gave genius its modern meaning: Someone with special, almost divine abilities. Today, we're quick to anoint a "marketing genius" or a "political genius," oblivious to the fact that true genius requires no such modification. In truth, real geniuses transcend the confines of their particular domains. They inspire and awe. Which is precisely why we should use the word sparingly, lest it lose some of its magic. That's not the only misconception. Here are some others.

 

    Myth No. 1: Genius is mostly about genetics.

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