March/April 2012

With heroes like these …

It is now well known that Apple’s Chinese suppliers have employees who work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and are housed in dorms with, according to the New York Times, as many as twenty people crowded into a three-room apartment. Banners on the factory walls warn: “Work hard on the job today… Read more »

The Bain con

One of the most common tactics employed by defense and other contractors is called “lowballing.” They win government contracts by making the lowest bid and then, once the work has begun and it is too late for the government to change contractors, they suddenly discover additional “unforeseen” costs that result in their having to raise… Read more »

Goldman Sachs is our compass

Similar to my qualms about Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, I am puzzled that the Human Rights Campaign appears to believe that the cause of gay marriage gains moral authority from its endorsement by Lloyd Blankfein.

Some things never change

If you’re comforted by stories showing that, in some respects at least, the good old days are still with us, then you’ll appreciate the latest news out of West Virginia. A 2012 candidate for sheriff in Lincoln County has, according to the Charleston Gazette, only recently emerged from prison after pleading guilty to vote-buying charges… Read more »

One SWAT too many

In another story from my hometown paper, the Gazette reports that a SWAT team from the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office has been found innocent of wrongdoing after its members managed to fire seven bullets into a hostage taker—even though he had released his hostages, they had only negotiated for two hours, and, by the way,… Read more »

There’s something about Marco

If you’re a Democrat, worry about Marco Rubio. He seems destined to be the Republican vice presidential candidate, and he has the potential to change the political equation in the Republicans’ favor, as Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama did for the Democrats in 1976 and 2008. In 1976, Carter actually carried the majority of southern… Read more »

Did the Kennedys buy West Virginia?

In defense of my home state, I should explain that not every election can be bought. Electoral hanky-panky flourishes when voters are indifferent, not when they care. And even the most well-heeled candidate does not always win. Consider that when Jay Rockefeller, who was not exactly underfunded, first ran for governor he was soundly defeated… Read more »

Jodi and Michelle

When Michelle Obama recently seemed to perceive Jodi Kantor’s new book The Obamas as another portrayal of her as an “angry black woman,” media observers were practically unanimous in defending Kantor and saying that the book did not so characterize the first lady. Yet, I could not help but notice that after David Brooks had… Read more »

Ravitch vs. Rhee

The counterattack led by Diane Ravitch on the movement to improve teacher quality has gained considerable steam, yet it is based on a totally false premise that because the overall efficacy of education is dependent on many factors, including the students’ family life and environment, teacher quality alone isn’t worth all the fuss reformers have… Read more »

Quality, control

It turns out that the terrible train collision in China last year was caused by a failed signal mechanism. It had not been properly tested because the leader of the responsible agency had focused on the “speed of the railway project construction” at the expense of safety, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report on… Read more »

Doesn’t sound wise

I continue to worry that the wrong cuts will be made in the Pentagon’s budget—that too many of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will be lost just as those of Vietnam were. Pentagon generals like to think big and emphasize preparation for major wars with all the big-ticket items loved by military contractors and… Read more »

Groundhog Day in D.C.

Speaking of constants, see “The Amoral City Government,” the headline of a recent column by Colbert King in the Washington Post. Sadly, it could have appeared on a great majority of days in the thirty-three years since Marion Barry took over as mayor in January 1979. When are the people of Washington going to wake… Read more »

Back in the saddle again

Like the vote buyer who is running for sheriff in West Virginia, Gerard E. Evans, the Washington Post reports, has regained his top spot among Maryland lobbyists after serving a prison term for fraudulent practices.

A Bastille worth storming

I’m delighted that Barack Obama has taken on the cost of college. It is outrageous, and I’ve long marveled at how Americans meekly accept one tuition increase after another. We need a revolution in our thinking about higher education, finding alternatives to the traditional college model with a mixture of quality, affordable online courses, like… Read more »

Jaded about the JD

As for the cost of a legal education, David Segal of the New York Times has recently described how existing law schools are controlling the accreditation process to keep out their lower-cost competitors, and John O. McGinnis and Russell D. Mangas argue in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that two years of law school, not… Read more »

A good tax

Another Journal op-ed that surprised and delighted me was one proposing a wealth tax. Capital assets are not touched by the income tax. A wealth tax, however, could get at all those stocks and bonds Mitt Romney owns, as well as his three luxury homes and Swiss, Cayman Islands, and other bank accounts. Ronald McKinnon,… Read more »

Fox News and its viewers

Here’s a clue to the political orientation of the Fox News audience: Bob Beckel is the token liberal—and a very moderate one at that—on a Fox panel show called The Five. Dana Perino, the former Bush press secretary and another member of the show’s panel, recently told a reporter that when viewers stop her in… Read more »

Good cut, bad cut

Mitt Romney is advocating a cut across the board in the number of federal employees. He is right in thinking that the government workforce can be reduced, but across the board? No. Some agencies are understaffed. Consider the IRS: “The imbalance between the [Internal Revenue Service’s] workforce and its duties is unmanageable,” according to the… Read more »

Bombs away

One cut that could be made in the national security budget is to our nuclear arsenal. It is far larger than we need, as articles by Philip Taubman in the New York Times and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post have recently pointed out. Indeed, both Taubman and Pincus contend that the current stockpile of… Read more »

Don’t piss off Dick Nixon

One of Obama’s proposals for government reorganization involves moving NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Interior, which would seem to be a more natural home. Why, you may ask, was it not placed in Interior in the first place? At the time when NOAA was… Read more »

Keeping score on Wall Street

“Even for those making seven figures or more, cuts are ‘a blow,’ ” writes James B. Stewart of the New York Times. Here Stewart is quoting Michael Driscoll, a former trader who is trying to explain why Wall Streeters find reduced bonuses disturbing: “The effect is psychological. To a large extent, Wall Street keeps score… Read more »

Stay for Tea

The real Tea Partiers are worth getting to know. Because they’re going to be here a while. And they might prove useful.

Thinking Out Loud

An oral history of the twentieth century, dictated on his deathbed, shows that Tony Judt was, to the end, the consummate public intellectual.

Clinton’s Third Term

The cover story in this issue, by yours truly, argues that Barack Obama has accomplished so much in his first term (health care reform, the stimulus, turning around Detroit—the list is long, and starts here) that he stands to go down in history as a great or near-great president. But it also notes that most… Read more »

Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments

(Also check out the main article, The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama, and the issue’s Editor’s Note.) 1. Passed Health Care Reform: After five presidents over a century failed to create universal health insurance, signed the Affordable Care Act (2010). It will cover 32 million uninsured Americans beginning in 2014 and mandates a suite of… Read more »

The Crackdown

How the United States looked the other way while Bahrain crushed the Arab Spring’s most ill-fated uprising.