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National Columnist

America’s real ice bucket challenge

August 30, 2014

I’m just back from vacation in Europe, where, to judge from the political headlines coming out of the United States, this country had no greater care than which of its leaders would next be soaked in cold water. George W. Bush was doused by his wife, Laura, and then nominated Bill Clinton to take the Read More

Paul Ryan’s way forward — better mind, manners

To take the measure of this uncommonly interesting public man, begin with two related facts about him. Paul Ryan has at least 67 cousins in his Wisconsin hometown of Janesville, where there are six Ryan households within eight blocks of his home. And in his new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea,” he Read More

Lower corporate tax rates. Now.

August 29, 2014

The Obama administration is highly exercised about “inversion,” the practice by which an American corporation acquires a foreign company and moves its headquarters out of the U.S. to benefit from lower tax rates abroad. Not fair, says Barack Obama. It’s taking advantage of an “unpatriotic tax loophole” that hardworking American families have to make up Read More

Give me a home where the scapegoats roam

August 28, 2014

It’s August in the capital, quiet enough for scapegoats to roam freely. In fact, the mayor of Lynn, Mass., came for a visit on Wednesday and released a few of this breed in the heart of downtown, at the National Press Club. Hosted by a hard-line immigration group, the mayor, Judith Flanagan Kennedy, told an Read More

Give me a home where the scapegoats roam

It’s August in the capital, quiet enough for scapegoats to roam freely. In fact, the mayor of Lynn, Mass., came for a visit on Wednesday and released a few of this breed in the heart of downtown, at the National Press Club. Hosted by a hard-line immigration group, the mayor, Judith Flanagan Kennedy, told an Read More

Navy with a mission in mind

August 27, 2014

Russia’s ongoing dismemberment of Ukraine and the Islamic State’s erasing of Middle Eastern borders have distracted attention from the harassment of U.S. Navy aircraft by Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea. Beijing calls this sea, and the Yellow and East China seas, the “near seas,” meaning China’s seas. The episodes involving aircraft are Read More

Diversity issue in tech firms starts before the recruiting process

August 26, 2014

Tech companies are finally spilling some of their most sought-after secrets. No, not related to their R&D. I’m referring instead to some other tightly guarded information they once declared “trade secrets”: data about the number of women and minorities on their payrolls. After years of trying to deflect attention from the issue, Google blogged in Read More

Facts vs. visions

The political left has been campaigning against the use of force since at least the 18th century. So it is not surprising that they are now arguing that heavily armed or aggressive police forces only inflame protesters and thus provoke violence. Statisticians have long warned that correlation is not causation, but they have apparently warned Read More

Has the 1964 Criminal Justice Act failed?

August 22, 2014

What is called “the” 1964 Civil Rights Act is justly celebrated for outlawing racial and other discrimination in employment, “public accommodations” and elsewhere. But that year’s second civil rights act, the Criminal Justice Act, which is 50 years old this month, is, some say, largely a failure because of unanticipated changes in the legal and Read More

Corporate tax returns should be public

Tax inversions. Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich. Spinning off tangible assets into real estate investment trusts. Son-of-BOSS shelters. These are among the array of eye-glazingly complicated tax avoidance strategies adopted by America’s biggest companies. Each gets a moment in the sun when some enterprising journalist stumbles upon a particularly egregious example of its use; Read More

Stopping the worst people on earth

Baghdad called President Obama’s bluff and he came through. He had refused to provide air support to Iraqi government forces until the Iraqis got rid of their divisive sectarian prime minister. They did. He responded. With the support of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul dam. Previous strikes had relieved the Read More

Kill the journalists

Ever since Shakespeare wrote the line, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” in his play Henry VI, lawyers have been trying unsuccessfully to point out that the bard meant to praise the legal system for being the restraint on tyrants like his rebel character Jack Cade. The phrase occurred to me this Read More

The media, the mob and the desire for the rule of law

August 21, 2014

Those of us who admit that we were not there, and do not know what happened when Michael Brown was shot by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, seem to be in the minority. We all know what has happened since then — and it has been a complete disgrace by politicians, the media and mobs Read More

Political scandals hiding in plain sight

August 20, 2014

The laboratories of democracy are blowing up. A rash of relatively convoluted, thoroughly unsexy political scandals involving governors is moving through the country. So many of them involve Republican presidential hopefuls that conspiracy theorists could argue they must be manufactured, or at least overhyped, by wily Democratic strategists. At least one Democratic governor has also Read More

Random thoughts on our justice system, world events

August 19, 2014

Random thoughts on the passing scene: I don’t know why we are spending our hard-earned money paying taxes to support a criminal justice system, when issues of guilt and innocence are being determined on television — and even punishment is being meted out by CNN’s showing the home and address of the policeman accused in Read More

In a stew over inversions

August 15, 2014

Barack Obama, presiding over an unusually dismal post-recession economy, might make matters worse with a distracting crusade against the minor and sensible business practice called “inversion,” more about which anon. So, consider his credentials as an economic thinker. Obama, who thinks ATMs and airport ticket kiosks cost America jobs, gave a 2013 speech regretting that Read More

Why Hillary got it right

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” — Hillary Clinton, The Atlantic, Aug. 10   Leave it to Barack Obama’s own former secretary of state to acknowledge the fatal flaw of his foreign policy: a total absence of strategic thinking. Mind you, Obama does deploy grand words Read More

U.S. use of force in Iraq could backfire

August 14, 2014

This far into the human story, only the historically uninstructed are startled by what they think are new permutations of evil. So, when Russia sliced Crimea off Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry was nonplussed: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” Read More

A’s for everyone

August 12, 2014

Grade deflation is dead. Long live grade inflation! Starting around the mid-20th century, a pandemic of meaninglessly high grades swept the nation. Steadily, the Gentleman’s C was replaced by the Gentleman’s B-pluses. Soon even B-pluses’s grew ungentlemanly, with more and more grades compressed into the narrow band spanning from A-minus to A-plus. College administrators and Read More

School supplies needed, says SA

Sign on front door of Colorado brewery: Unattended Children Will Be Given Candy and a Kitten. •••••• Recommended reading…… A few years ago, while in Las Vegas at a newspaper meeting with Susan and Ryann, we were strolling along the Shops at Caesar’s Palace and I spotted him: Pete Rose, the “Hit King” and baseball’s Read More

CIA shouldn’t get away with redacting torture report

August 8, 2014

If the CIA spends half as much energy finding terrorists as it has spent fighting Congress, we should feel very safe. The spooks, taking a break from the mundane work of protecting the nation, have lately been turning their spycraft against the lawmakers who are supposed to be overseeing them. The not-so-secret mission: To block Read More

Holes in the welfare hammock

“Some of my friends are destitute. Some of them are beggars / But, for me, there’s a subsidy if I spend my whole life preggers.” That was one of the more memorable rhymes in an off-Broadway show I saw a few months ago, titled “Greed: A Musical for Our Times.” The revue was primarily populated Read More

Obama hopes amnesty will save Democrats

President Obama is impatient. Congress won’t act on immigration, he says, and therefore he will. The White House is coy as to exactly what the president will do. But the leaks point to an executive order essentially legalizing an enormous new class of illegal immigrants, perhaps up to 5 million people. One doesn’t usually respond Read More

The reason for Watergate?

August 7, 2014

At about 5:15 p.m. on June 17, 1971, in the Oval Office, the president ordered a crime: “I want it implemented on a thievery basis. Goddamn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.” The burglary he demanded was not the one that would occur exactly one year later at Read More

Stop the campus rape numbers game

August 6, 2014

One in five? Yeah, right. Sounds way too high. That’s a common reaction to the oft-cited statistic about the share of women who experience an attempted or completed sexual assault during college. The number can’t possibly be right, the Doubting Thomases (or, less frequently, Doubting Thomasinas) argue. It’s based on a small sample of schools, Read More






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