Archive

December 16th

To see the future of electric vehicles, look East

    Nevada is starting to look like the place where the electric car's future will be decided. Last June, Tesla broke ground on a $5 billion battery plant in Sparks, and on Wednesday, Chinese start-up Faraday Future announced that it had chosen a Las Vegas suburb as the site for a new $1 billion plant to make electric vehicles. Faraday hopes to roll out a competitor to Tesla's flagship Model S in 2017.

    But as glitzy as these bets are, the real action is happening in China, where smoggy skies and government subsidies are creating the perfect conditions for electric vehicles to thrive. The proof is in the numbers. According to data released this week by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, sales of electric cars are poised to exceed those in the U.S. for the first time ever. Already, they've grown 290 percent year-on-year to 171,145 vehicles. They're expected to reach 220,000 to 250,000 for the year, whereas the U.S. market is predicted to top out at around 180,000 cars.

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The Lie About College Diversity

    The Supreme Court listened anew last week to arguments about affirmative action in higher education, and we heard yet again about the push by colleges to assemble diverse student bodies.

    That’s a crucial effort.

    It’s also an incomplete and falsely reassuring one.

    Have you spent much time on campuses lately? Leafed through schools’ promotional literature? Listened to their come-ons?

    If so, you’ve probably noticed how often they promise students academic and social experiences customized to their established preferences, tailor-fitted to their predetermined interests, contoured to the particular and peculiar niches they want to inhabit.

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The gun that killed my grandson

    Motives do not matter to the dead. They don't matter much to survivors, either. When my 6-year-old grandson, Noah, was gunned down three years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, along with 19 other first-graders and six educators, we were engulfed in a grief so brutal and so profound that an explanation was the last thing we sought. We just wanted life the way it had been. We wanted Noah back. We still do. Badly.

    Only a month earlier, while visiting from the West Coast, I had gone to the school book fair with the kids. We sat by the big window that the killer would later blow open to force his way in. Noah, his twin sister, his 7-year-old older sister and I read aloud from the books we had bought while waiting for their mom to be done with her three parent-teacher conferences. The kids made jokes, they laughed, they jostled each other. I treasure the picture I took of them on that small wooden bench. There was such love among these three, such complicity. The strongest of bonds.

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Take My Quiz on Religion

    Donald Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from America may be a gift to ISIS recruitment and a grotesque echo of the sentiment behind the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese-Americans. But, like those earlier spasms of exclusion, the Trump proposal has plenty of supporters.

    In one recent poll, more than three-quarters of Republicans said Islam was incompatible with life in the United States. There’s a widespread perception in America that Islam is rooted in misogyny and violence, incorrigible because it is rooted in a holy text that is fundamentally different from others.

    So here’s my quiz on religion. Some questions have more than one correct answer.

     

    1. Which holy scripture declares: “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent … then leave them free. Lo! God is forgiving, merciful."

    A. The Quran

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December 15th

An education law that leaves schools behind

    After winning approval in the House and Senate, legislation ending the landmark No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law Thursday by President Obama. Although the new law enjoys broad bipartisan support, it's important for anyone concerned about the quality of our schools to understand how radically it will diminish expectations for our nation's public schools. By the time the law is fully implemented in 2018, most schools will be free from any sort of federal pressure to improve.

    What has changed is the federal government's answer to one fundamental question: Do all schools need to improve, or just the worst ones?

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Women will make units stronger

    Last week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter directed that all jobs in the U.S. military be opened to women. The announcement provoked strong reactions, but all sides concurred that we cannot let our standards fall or force quotas on our combat units. As an Army officer, a combat veteran and one of the first three women to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School, I strongly agree.

    The critics worry about strength and stamina, often comparing infantry units to professional sports teams. But just as a successful football team needs a smart quarterback, fast receivers, strong linemen and talented special teams, our war fighters must dominate all aspects of the battle space. At Ranger School, individuals are referred to as either Strong Rangers or Smart Rangers. Some exceptional soldiers are both, but most fit predominantly into one category or the other. I wasn't the strongest Ranger, but I spent almost every morning in the center of the patrol base helping plan the day's mission. Did my intellect make me an asset to the team? I know a few guys who would say it did. As with every team, some members need to be smarter while others need to be stronger. But no one can be a physical liability.

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What will make America great again is getting rid of Donald Trump

    I used to think that Donald Trump was trying to take us back only 150 years, to the days of the Know-Nothing Party, a famously xenophobic group that insisted on the election of native-born Protestants to all offices, inveighed against "papism" and generally panicked at the thought of immigrants.

    But the Know-Nothings wanted only to delay the period of naturalization of the immigrants whose religion filled them with dread and terror. They did not seek to ban their coming. Trump wants to bar Muslims from immigrating altogether. Actually. He said so in a statement Monday.

    When a party called the Know-Nothings that Abraham Lincoln made fun of before the Civil War was less xenophobic than you are on Dec. 7, 2015 - something is dead wrong.

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The potency of Trump's pitchfork populism

    Donald Trump became the driving force in American politics by giving voice to anger, fear and resentment that were already there, just below the surface, waiting for their moment and messenger.

    At present, Trump's target is any believer in Islam who seeks to enter the United States. Back in June, he launched his campaign with invective toward any Latino immigrant living in this country without documents. He attacks President Obama less for his policies than for his identity -- not for what the president does but for who he is. Trump has made himself the champion of a fading, embattled "us" in a life-or-death struggle against a swarming, threatening "them."

     The blustery billionaire's "us" is nowhere near a majority of the U.S. electorate, but it might be enough to win him the Republican nomination for president. And even if he falls short, the forces he has loosed will not easily be tamped down.

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Prosecuting religious hate speech isn't easy

    In the United States, we tend to say that the cure for hate speech is more speech: If you don't like what Donald Trump has to say about Muslims, speak out, or vote against him. Other democracies do it differently, and many make it a crime to incite racism and violence. This approach sometimes seems appealing -- but it's also difficult to apply, as the Israeli Supreme Court showed this week when it declined to order the prosecution of the authors of a Jewish law book that arguably constitutes religious hate speech.

    The case, so far only available in Hebrew, is politically important because it involves a book, "The Law of the King" ("Torat ha-Melekh"), that seems to have inspired the attack in July in the Palestinian village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family. But it's more broadly significant as an example of the challenges of legally regulating speech that is morally repugnant and potentially dangerous.

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Here's what Antonin Scalia doesn't get about affirmative action

    During oral arguments in a case about affirmative action at the Supreme Court this week, Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that minority students do better at "less-advanced" universities where they won't be pushed too fast.

    Scalia's notion missed the point of affirmative action entirely, though, as do similar critiques that such programs somehow take opportunities away from white people and give them to minorities. I would know - my education was a product of affirmative action. While it may have paid for me to go to school, it hasn't helped me at all when it comes to finding a job.

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