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A Texas-sized plate dispute

WASHINGTON — The Battle of Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, on May 13, 1865, is called the last battle of the Civil War, but the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) might consider that judgment premature, given its conflict with the state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles. This skirmish is of national interest because it implicates a burgeoning new entitlement — the right to pass through life without encountering any disagreeable thought.

Obama’s Boehner bailout

WASHINGTON — How often will President Barack Obama come to House Speaker John Boehner’s rescue even when Republican leaders aren’t willing to give much in return? And does the president want to preside over a split in his party?

The arrogance of liberal elites

WASHINGTON — Jonathan Gruber — the source of more smoking guns than the battle of Gettysburg — recently appeared before a hostile House committee. The good professor, you might recall, is an MIT economist who played a significant (and paid) role in producing and defending the Affordable Care Act. He also later admitted, in an astonishing variety of settings, that the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other flaws. “Lack of transparency,” he cheerfully conceded, “is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

The cheerfulness of tax reform

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” — Mr. Micawber in “David Copperfield”

Racial strife can lead to progress

Big city mayors have to stay as neutral as possible when asked about disputes between their citizens and the police. But New York Mayor Bill de Blasio found his voice in a profoundly moving way when he responded not as a mayor, but as a parent.

The plague of overcriminalization

WASHINGTON — By history’s frequently brutal dialectic, the good that we call progress often comes spasmodically, in lurches propelled by tragedies caused by callousness, folly or ignorance. With the grand jury’s as yet inexplicable and probably inexcusable refusal to find criminal culpability in Eric Garner’s death on a Staten Island sidewalk, the nation might have experienced sufficient affronts to its sense of decency. It might at long last be ready to stare into the abyss of its criminal justice system.

The New Republic is dead

WASHINGTON — At a 40th-birthday party in July for Franklin Foer, editor of the New Republic, the magazine’s young owner, Chris Hughes, got all choked up as he pledged to the roomful of writers at Foer’s country home in Pennsylvania that the two would be “intellectual partners for decades.”

An act of exceptional recklessness

WASHINGTON — With the apparently imminent release of the Feinstein report on CIA interrogations of high-value terrorists a decade ago, let’s consider the situation of intelligence personnel who have been involved, not in that program but in drone strikes against terrorists, conducted in a variety of countries around the world.

In politics, does evidence matter?

WASHINGTON — One of the lovely formulations in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address expressed his hope that “a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion.” Kennedy was talking about the Cold War, but we could use a little of this in the partisan and ideological warfare that engulfs our nation’s capital.

Government for the strongest

WASHINGTON — Intellectually undemanding progressives, excited by the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — advocate of the downtrodden and the Export-Import Bank — have at last noticed something obvious: Big government, which has become gargantuan in response to progressives’ promptings, serves the strong. It is responsive to factions sufficiently sophisticated and moneyed to understand and manipulate its complexity.

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A murderer’s warped idealism

WASHINGTON — Western reflection about human nature and the politics of the human condition began with the sunburst of ancient Greece 2,500 years ago, but lurched into a new phase 70 years ago with the liberation of the Nazi extermination camps. The Holocaust is the dark sun into which humanity should stare, lest troubling lessons be lost through an intellectual shrug about “the unfathomable.”

Help your community improve health care

Every month we will bring you a column on community initiatives to improve the well-being of the people of Hawaii Island. Along with the state and the nation, we have serious challenges in providing quality medical care and improving the health of our population, while bending the medical cost trend downwards. This is often referred to as the “triple aim” in health care: better quality, better health and lower costs. To achieve any of these three aims, we must work on all three, or we will achieve none.

Obamacare vs. Scaliacare

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders in the House and Senate have made clear that they’ll deploy every weapon in the legislative arsenal to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They’ll try to chip away at the taxes that support it and abolish the mandates that make its insurance markets work.

Rethinking U.S. foreign policy

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s coming request for Congress to “right-size and update” the Authorization for Use of Military Force against terrorism will be constitutionally fastidious and will catalyze a debate that will illuminate Republican fissures. They, however, are signs of a healthy development — the reappearance of foreign policy heterodoxy in Republican ranks.

Kasich in the spotlight

WASHINGTON — A week after the midterm elections, Republicans are still browsing through the jewelry store of their victories, admiring this bauble and that. Most of their Senate wins were predicted by the electoral map. The victories of many Republican governors, however, were impressive for extending the map, holding hard-earned territory or crossing demographic barriers.

Obama’s big immigration mistake

WASHINGTON — Back in July, when President Barack Obama was deciding whether to take executive action on immigration before the midterm elections, I got into one of those cable news debates that offer the president unsolicited advice from the unqualified.