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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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A recourse to budgetary inaction

PHOENIX — From the Goldwater Institute, the fertile frontal lobe of the conservative movement’s brain, comes an innovative idea that is gaining traction in Alaska, Arizona and Georgia, and its advocates may bring it to at least 35 other states’ legislatures. It would use the Constitution’s Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution’s Framers thought their document guaranteed.

An off-base idea needs to be looked at cautiously

After any mass shooting, a vocal faction in Congress insists that Americans would be safer if more people carried guns into restricted public places. Allowing teachers to carry firearms on campus struck us as not helpful. But now that Fort Hood, Texas, has seen its second rampage in five years, the argument seems stronger when applied to military bases: Aren’t they filled with well-trained, trustworthy marksmen who could take down would-be mass murderers? Why not allow military personnel to carry weapons on base?

Hey Congress: Try inhaling

WASHINGTON — Legal marijuana is spreading like a weed across the land but it has yet to take root in the place where people might benefit most from inhaling: the U.S. Capitol.

Missile malaise

Before they go on duty with U.S. nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, officers are trained in classrooms and simulators. They are schooled in weapons systems, missile code handling and emergency war orders, among other things. For decades, these missileers have been surrounded by a mystique. They were at the front lines of the Cold War — the officers in the silo who get the codes from a president and turn the keys to launch a nuclear-armed missile.