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US, Japan must seal deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been described as the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s attempt to “pivot” U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, and with good reason. A proposed trade liberalization agreement among 12 nations, the TPP would, in binding the United States more closely with a portion of the world, collectively account for 40 percent of global output. At the same time, it would ensure that this huge area, including giants such as Japan, Canada, Mexico and Australia, conducts business according to U.S.-style rules on tariffs, regulation and intellectual property. China would be left on the sidelines, along with its mercantilist model of international commerce — unless and until it modifies that approach. The net effect would be a better balance of power, money and ideas between the United States and its allies on the one hand and China on the other.

De Blasio, unbowed

NEW YORK — To say that Mayor Bill de Blasio is unbowed after some difficult moments in his first few months in office is not entirely true. The 6-foot-5 progressive bows regularly so he won’t overwhelm interlocutors who don’t meet NBA specs.

A mental health checkup

The country’s inadequate mental health system gets the most attention after instances of mass violence of the sort that the nation has seen repeatedly over the past few months. Not all who commit these sorts of atrocities are mentally ill, but many have been. After each, the national discussion quickly, but temporarily, turns toward the mental health services that may have failed to prevent another attack.

Got Putin, yet?

WASHINGTON — The new “agreement” between Russia, the U.S. and our allies is exactly what the former KGB agent ordered.

A contrary view on the Pulitzers

WASHINGTON — On Monday, my Washington Post colleagues celebrated winning the Pulitzer Prize for public service along with the Guardian newspaper for their reporting on Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency.

A tax break worth saving

With lawmakers showing little enthusiasm for an ambitious proposal by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to overhaul the byzantine U.S. tax code, Congress has to decide what to do about dozens of temporary tax breaks that expired Dec. 31. Among them is an exemption for forgiven mortgage debt that’s an essential part of a broader federal effort to solve a nagging problem, namely the spate of defaults caused by the recession. Failing to renew it would cripple efforts by government and banks to mitigate the damage caused by the housing crisis.

Your new password: sur**nder

Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they’re all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site — every bank account, every email address, every music-streaming service, every social media profile and so on?

Understanding our divisions

WASHINGTON — In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitution is “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.

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Where the only rule is terror

BANGUI, Central African Republic — The tents of displaced people reach nearly up to the runway at the airport — the first impression of a nation in flight and in fear. Befitting the sectarian cast of the violence in this country, there are two camps, one Christian and one Muslim. The Muslim camp has shrunken in size, as Chadian planes and truck convoys have taken some people out of danger. It is both a move to safety and the victory of religious cleansing.

Permanent fix needed for tax code

Just in time for tax day, the Congressional Budget Office delivered a pleasant surprise. Based on current law, the national debt will grow by $286 billion less during the next decade than the CBO projected only two months ago. The main reason is a downward adjustment in the nonpartisan agency’s forecast of subsidy costs for health insurance purchased on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

Heartburn grows over Heartbleed

Tens of millions of Americans have been affected by the theft of their personal information in the digital age. In a recent major data breach at Target stores, numbers and names were taken from about 40 million customers, and many millions more suffered compromises in other personal information such as email addresses or phone numbers. The victims trusted their retail stores, their credit- and debit-card issuers, their banks, and such security measures as a four-digit personal identification numbers, to protect their information.

Benzene spill highlights China’s latest water pollution woes

On Friday the government of Lanzhou, China, informed its 3.6 million residents that their drinking water would be carcinogenic for the next 24 hours. Benzene, a chemical used in plastics manufacture, was the immediate cause, but that wasn’t even the most horrifying revelation to come from this crisis. Today, reports from state media revealed that the benzene had been released into the environment as a result of oil pipeline explosions — in 1987 and 2002. The pipelines, owned by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, were repaired at the time. Some 34 tons of contaminated soil, however, were left in place, the benzene allowed to migrate into an underground water duct that empties out via household faucets.

Wall Street’s flash point

In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”