January/February 2012

Boarish Behavior

Feral pigs are violent, dirty, and ugly, and they ravage every ecosystem they live in—still, who knew killing them could be such fun?

Party of God Knows What

Will Hezbollah remain a movement devoted to war with Israel or a pragmatic political player in Lebanon? That choice could determine the future of the Middle East.

Casino Jack knows what he’s talking about

I never expected to find myself in agreement with Jack Abramoff, who recently emerged from prison after serving three years for his leading role in one of Washington’s biggest corruption scandals. But as I watched the November 6 episode of 60 Minutes, I was nodding, “Yes, yes, that’s the way it’s done,” as he explained… Read more »

Memories of Bill

During the last year or so I’ve heard an increasing number of my liberal friends speak longingly of Bill Clinton’s presidency, either impliedly or explicitly comparing him favorably to Obama. They seem to have forgotten how they lambasted Clinton for the triangulation strategy he and his then guru, Dick Morris, concocted, and what they regarded… Read more »

Life inside the 1 percent

The New York Times is, without doubt, the nation’s best newspaper. Sometimes, however, its need to cater to its more affluent readers, the targets of much of the paper’s advertising, can have embarrassing consequences. A recent example is a “What I Wore” column by Muffie Potter Aston, who the Times describes as a “mainstay of… Read more »

The best thing JFK ever did

I really enjoyed reading Chris Matthews’s Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero. Chris’s understanding, unique among the commentariat, of working-class voters, especially the Irish Catholic subset, helps explain the ardent and crucial support they gave Kennedy in the 1960 election. Matthews is also at his best in showing how Kennedy came through in the clutch during the… Read more »

The worst thing JFK ever did

The book, however, does not mention what I think is the worst thing Kennedy ever did. After he saved the world from a nuclear catastrophe, he then kept secret his most dovish act: the commitment to remove our missiles from Turkey. And in his own version of Soviet-style disinformation, Kennedy leaked to his friend, the… Read more »

Why he had to appear tough

In the years immediately before World War II, the Democrats gained the reputation of being the strongest party on national security. But postwar accusations that the Democrats had let Russia steal our nuclear secrets, that the Democrats “lost China” to the communists, and that Kennedy had proved spineless during the Bay of Pigs, all combined… Read more »

Justice in coal country

God bless D. Booth Goodwin II. He’s the U.S. attorney who, at long last, really stuck it to a coal company. After years of token penalties that have been far too small to motivate the companies to make their mines safe, the $209 million he got from Alpha Coal—the successor to Massey Energy, the company… Read more »

Credit where due

Honoring the U.S. attorney in West Virginia reminds me of other recent heroes deserving of praise. Among them is Carolyn Lerner, who is doing such an outstanding job as head of the Office of Special Counsel, and who recently brought about the reinstatement of security clearance and the removal of the threat of suspension without… Read more »

Moonshine morality

The recent PBS series on prohibition was at once frightening and reassuring: scary when it revealed that a really bad constitutional amendment could get passed by thirty- six state legislatures in little more than one year; comforting in that the repeal got through thirty-six legislatures in less than a year. The point that resonated the… Read more »

The Pentagon is a spoiled brat

I have mostly been an admirer of Leon Panetta during his long career of public service, but I worry about his recent statement that budget cuts could “hollow out” the military. Anyone who takes over a government agency has a natural desire to win the loyalty of his subordinates. Unfortunately, at the Pentagon saying yes… Read more »

A bad trade

Do you know how much water is required by the drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”? The answer, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Russel Gold and Ana Campoy, is that each well requires “about six million gallons.” This technique, which the EPA recently found had polluted the water of one Wyoming community, is… Read more »

Pension rackets

A recent study of the Washington area’s Metro system of subways and buses identified a serious problem of worker fatigue. Surprisingly, it turns out that pensions are a contributing factor. Employees can boost their pensions by concentrating their overtime in their final three years of service, which is what determines the amount of their pension…. Read more »

Spoiler alert

Americans Elect, a group that’s generously funded by secret Wall Street donors, according to Salon’s Jason Elliot, promises to put a third party on the ballot in fifty states. It should be immediately disowned by every responsible American. The party is obviously designed to appeal to moderates. I know that smart fellows like Peter Hart… Read more »

The trouble with redistricting

Partisan redistricting of congressional seats has, of course, been a major factor in the gridlock that cripples Washington. Virginia provides a striking example of what it is doing to the states. In its recent general election, only 27 of 100 House of Delegates seats were contested by a Democrat and a Republican. All the rest… Read more »

The old college fail

A couple of years ago, I wrote about how my son, a teacher in a high school in San Bern- adino, in southern California, had gradually realized that, despite his efforts to persuade his students to go to college, a significant number of them just weren’t interested. They wanted vocational training that would prepare them… Read more »

Unreasonably Hatched

A Pennsylvania police officer has been told he can’t run for the local school board because his bomb-sniffing dog is funded by the Department of Homeland Security. If that doesn’t make much sense to you, you should support the campaign by Carolyn Lerner, the Office of Special Counsel head previously praised in this column, to… Read more »

Nothing personal, Mr. Cordray

If the Wall Street reforms enacted under Obama are as weak as many of us thought, why are Wall Street and the Republicans fighting so hard to sabotage them? The latest example of their efforts is the filibuster of Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Several Republicans conceded that he was… Read more »

As goes California …

“Since 2004 we’ve seen younger people voting much more Democratic than average and older people much more Republican than average,” concludes Andrew Kohut, in a study by the Pew Research Center, which he directs. I think this trend may have begun much earlier—thirty-three years ago, in fact. That’s when California voters adopted Proposition 13, which… Read more »

Fighting the Last War

As president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe triumphed over a fierce narco-insurgency. Then the U.S. helped to export his strategy to Mexico and throughout Latin America. Here’s why it’s not working.

This Time It’s Different

I did my first stint in Washington in the early 1980s, during the heyday of the Reagan administration. I came back during the Gingrich Revolution and stayed for the George W. Bush years. Each of these waves of conservative ascendency began with bold rhetoric about cutting government, rolling back regulations, and shrinking the welfare state…. Read more »