Archive

March 27th, 2016

The most terrifying part of my drug addiction? That my law firm would find out.

    The morning before I got sober, my breakfast consisted of nearly a bottle of red wine and a few thick lines of cocaine. I got dressed, checked my teeth for lipstick and my nose for stray coke, put my laptop in its case and picked up the paper on the way out to work at my law firm. I felt sick, afraid and completely alone. I know now that I was wrong about the alone part.

    A newly released study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs reports an alarming statistic: Up to 21 percent of licensed, employed lawyers qualify as problem drinkers; for lawyers under age 30, it's 31.9 percent. By comparison, only 6.8 percent of all Americans have a drinking problem. In addition to questions related to alcohol, participants were asked about their use of licit and illicit drugs, including sedatives, marijuana, stimulants and opioids: Seventy-four percent of those who used stimulants took them weekly.

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The Belgian X-ray

    Sudden, horrific events in the middle of a presidential campaign provide an X-ray of the instincts and thinking of the candidates. We can see what their priorities are, and pick up clues about their character.

     The terrorist attacks in Belgium brought out the worst in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Cruz demonstrated that his only focus right now is to find ways of out-Trumping Trump. He seeks words that sound at least as intolerant and as dangerous to civil liberties as the formulations that regularly burst forth from the Republican front-runner.

     Thus did Cruz declare: "We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." He happily intruded on Trump's trademark issues by emphasizing the need to seal the nation's southern border against "terrorist infiltration," and by declaring that "for years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear."

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Telegraph companies upheld privacy before Apple

    The FBI's battle of wills with Apple over unlocking an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists who carried out a deadly attack in California last year may sound like a strictly 21st century conundrum over privacy and technology.

    But by refusing to provide access to investigators, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook joins a long line of tech innovators who have waged campaigns on behalf of their customers' privacy. In many cases, their advocacy was self-interested. But it also had consequences for the development of laws protecting Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    The telegraph probably was the most miraculous technology of the 19th century because it allowed messages to travel vast distances in a split second. Tens of thousands of miles of telegraph lines went up throughout the U.S. beginning in the 1840s, connecting the country in a web of wires.

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Ryan faces the raging Republican fire

    Watching Paul Ryan deliver his high-minded, optimistic call to a better politics on Wednesday, I kept thinking of Marco Rubio. How long ago was it that Rubio, like Ryan, was a bright young conservative talent with nothing but smooth road ahead?

    Rubio the Florida senator, was at one time the nation's first Hispanic president-in-waiting, the legislative craftsman who fashioned comprehensive immigration reform before everything went south. Running for president, Rubio confronted the night furies and daylight delusions of Republican madness, and they devoured him. By the time his political corpse was discovered by the roadside, he had been reduced to "Little Marco," a sweaty, small-time operator from Miami trafficking in crude jokes.

    Ryan may be shrewder than Rubio, which should help, and more principled, which almost certainly won't. Both loyally represent the donor wing, but Ryan appears to have a firmer foundation in the party. Indeed, since the dawn of the Obama era, Ryan's foundation has been a pedestal, upon which he has towered over party regulars.

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Russia 'weaponizing' migration to destabilize Europe

    Some officials in Europe see Russia's hand in the rising migration crisis, accusing the Kremlin of exacerbating anti-Muslim sentiment to benefit right-wing parties at a fragile moment for the European Union.

    Even before the latest terror attacks in Brussels, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment in Europe had been on the rise. Most of the refugees arriving in Europe are escaping war and poverty in the Middle East and seeking a better life in the West. But according to European officials, other migrants are traveling into the Nordic and Baltic states from Russia and are not fleeing the fighting in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather have been living in Russia and are being encouraged by the Kremlin to join the tide in Western Europe.

    Speaking to an audience at the German Marshall Fund Brussels Forum last weekend, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves alleged that these migrants often hide their status as permanent residents of Russia.

    "You've seen several thousand coming from Finland across the Russian-Finnish border," he said. "There is something very fishy going on."

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Cruz seeks economic wisdom in the wrong place

    "Some people look at subprime lending and see evil. I look at subprime lending and I see the American dream in action."

    - former Sen. Phil Gramm, Nov. 16, 2008

    The reason I bring up the former senator from Texas is that Gramm has been brought on as a senior economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

    This isn't a promising development for Cruz, or the prospect that should he become president he will come up with sensible policies to address the U.S.'s economic challenges. Why do I say that? Because of what happened in the 1990s and early 2000s when the U.S. listened to Gramm.

    But first, a more recent trip down memory lane. Gramm, remember, was brought on as an adviser to the presidential campaign of John McCain in 2008. As the economy was stumbling that summer, Gramm said:

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March 26th

The number that tells us the economy might be doomed

    Here is a math problem for the Federal Reserve: What is 3.25 minus 5?

    The answer, despite what you might think, isn't -1.75. It's that it doesn't matter what it is as long as it's much less than zero. Why is that? Because, as we'll get to in a minute, this tells us where interest rates are probably going to end up the next time there's a recession. But that can't be too far into negative territory. People, after all, would just turn their bank deposits that were losing money into cash that wasn't if interest rates got down to, say, negative 2 percent or so. That means that if the economy "needs" rates that are even more negative than the Fed can give it that the Fed will have to promise not to raise them for a long time or print money to buy bonds with instead. These things work, but not quite as well as good, old-fashioned interest rate cuts, which is why we'd like to avoid having to use them if at all possible.

    We might not avoid them, though, if the Fed keeps doing what it's doing.

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A party in disarray looks to 2020

    Breaking News: The Republican Party's in complete disarray. It would be funny, watching them implode, were it not so sad. Today, Republicans just can't get their story straight, especially on the question of who should decide the future of the party -- the people or the professionals.

    On the one hand, when it comes to selecting a nominee for president, Republican leaders say: We can't let the people decide, because it looks more and more like they might actually choose Donald Trump. We have to hold an open convention, so party leaders can decide who, other than Trump, will lead the party.

    Yet, on the other hand, when it comes to selecting a Supreme Court nominee, Republicans argue just the opposite: We can't let the president decide, because he only has nine months left in office. First, we must let the people decide who will be the next president. Then, just to entangle themselves further, some Republicans suggest: We must let the people decide, UNLESS they elect either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders -- in which case we won't let the people decide, after all, we'll settle for President Obama's man.

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Understanding the economic squeeze on millennials

    Did rich countries like the U.S. betray the millennial generation -- the people born in the 1980s through the early 2000s? Some make that claim. For example, a report in the Guardian discusses how high unemployment, sluggish income gains and student-loan debt have hit young people in Western countries hard.

    While these hardships are real, most of them don't constitute a betrayal. In general, governments don't try to do things that raise unemployment and lower incomes. Sometimes they inadvertently make mistakes -- for example, austerity in some European economies has probably been a big unforced error -- but even then, they are simply being misguided, not malevolent. Even the student-loan debacle was probably a result of government attempts to raise incomes by encouraging kids to educate themselves.

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Why Trump is winning: His supporters think America is failing whites

    Donald Trump continued stomping towards the GOP nomination with a big win in Arizona Tuesday night, which will stir more anxiety among GOP elites who worry that his strategy of courting white backlash could drive away minority voters, helping unleash an electoral bloodbath up and down the ticket. Paul Ryan is gave a speech today decrying the "tone" in our politics that will likely hint at criticism of Trump along these lines.

    But what if Trump's efforts to court white backlash constitute one of the essential ingredients of his success among Republican voters?

    A new analysis of Washington Post/ABC News polling strongly suggests this may be the case. A Post/ABC national poll this month asked: "Which of these do you think is a bigger problem in this country -- blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for whites, or whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics?"

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