Archive

  • Liberals, Conservatives, and the Meaning of Work

    Some young Americans getting a good lesson in the dignity of work. (Lewis Hine/Wikimedia Commons)

    It isn't often that we spend an entire week talking about a Congressional Budget Office report and its implications, but the one currently occupying Washington's attention—about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the labor force—is actually pretty revealing. To catch you up, the CBO said that due to the fact that under the ACA people are no longer tied to jobs they'd prefer to leave because they can't get health insurance on the individual market ("job lock"), many will do things like retire early, take time off to stay at home with kids, or quit and start businesses. They projected that these departures will add up to the equivalent of 2 to 2.5 million full-time positions. At first, Republicans cried "Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs!", but when everyone, including the CBO's director, said that was a blatantly misleading reading of what the report actually said, they changed their tune. And here's where it gets interesting, because this debate is getting to the heart of what work means, what freedom is—and for whom—and just what kind of an economy we want to have.

  • Horrible Bosses

    AP Images/John P. Johnson

    Do you believe everything your boss tells you? The answer probably depends—if he tells you the Cubs are going to win next year's World Series then maybe not, but if he tells you your benefits are being cut and explains the reason why, you'll probably take him at his word. After all, he's in charge of the business, so he should know.

  • Chattanooga Showdown

    AP Images/Charles Rex Arbogast

    This week—from Wednesday through Friday—employees at Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee may well make history. Actually, they may make it twice.

    If a majority of the roughly 1,500 workers vote to recognize the United Auto Workers as their union, their plant will become the first unionized auto factory in the South. It will also become the first American workplace of any kind to have a works council—a consultative body of employees who regularly meet with management to jointly develop policy on such work-related issues as shifts, the best way to use new machinery, and kindred concerns.

  • Where the Heart Is

    This is Kansas. (Flickr/Roy Montgomery)

    Today, the New York Times published a shocking revelation about Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, a man about whom I'm sure you've given barely a moment's thought in the three-plus decades he's been in Washington doing the people's business. Roberts, it seems, doesn't even own a home in the state he is so privileged to serve! Apparently, he's registered to vote at the home of a couple the paper describes as "longtime supporters and donors," where he says he stays when he's in the state, though I would hope that by now they'd be actual friends. I don't know whether it's legal to register to vote at an address where you just crash now and again, but of all the things you might not like about Pat Roberts, this is pretty far down the list. It does, however, show the absurd contradiction we demand from our politicians.

  • The Police Can't Wait to Get Their Hands On Augmented Reality

    Now that New York City is under the rule of a socialist dictator, the "stop and frisk" method of policing, in which hundreds of thousands of citizens who brazenly walked the streets while in a state of non-whiteness were subjected to questioning, delay, and some unfriendly touching, has come to an end. But what if the cops didn't even need to stop you to give you a virtual pat down?

    Imagine this: You walk by a police officer and notice that he's wearing a pair of odd-looking glasses, which he points in your direction. Almost instantly, a facial recognition program visible in those glasses identifies you, pulls up your file, and informs him that though you have a parking ticket you haven't yet paid, there are no arrest warrants outstanding for you. A combination of infrared and hopefully non-cancer-causing scanning sensors tells him that you've got keys and change in your pockets, but nothing that looks like a gun or a knife, so he lets you pass. That may have all happened without you even noticing.

    We've seen these kinds of things in science fiction for a while, but they're getting very close to becoming a reality, like within-the-next decade close. Which is why it isn't too surprising that the New York Police Department is exploring what it can do with Google Glass. "We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we're trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes," said one NYPD official.

  • If You're Tired of a Politician, It Just Means You Don't Like Them

    OK, so she has been around for a while. But still.

    In presidential politics, it never hurts to be the New Hotness. Who wants the old and tired, when you can get with the fresh, the happening, the now? But as in love, the intoxicating rush of discovery lasts only so long, and then you really have to bring the goods. Which is why exciting new candidates like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama became president, and exciting new candidates like Gary Hart and Howard Dean didn't.

    Which brings us to the bigfoot of the 2016 race, one Hillary Rodham Clinton, with whom you might have a passing familiarity.

  • Why Obama Should Take a Cue from Gerald Ford on Crack Pardons

    AP Images/Felipe Dana

    In late December, the Obama administration announced that the president would commute the sentences of eight prisoners serving decades-long sentences for crack-cocaine distribution (or intent to distribute). Last week, at a New York State Bar event, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced that there may be more—many more. The administration, he said, will seek other drug cases to consider for clemency, working with the Bureau of Prisons to encourage inmates to request commutations and asking that state bar associations help with preparing their petitions.

  • Your Next Member of Congress Is Extremely Unlikely to Transform Washington

    Everything will be different now.

    As we begin an election year, a lot of people are having to make their final decisions about whether to run for Congress. Sandra Fluke decided to pass on a House race and run for the California state senate instead. Singer Clay Aiken is running in North Carolina, and though the district makes it a tough slog, the guy is about ten times more skilled in front of a camera than your average candidate, as evidenced by his first ad. Then there's Allan Levene, whose desire to serve his nation is so fervent that he's running in four different districts in four states, which is apparently perfectly legal.

    But the candidate I want to talk about is Ro Khanna, who, according to the New York Times, is running to be Silicon Valley's man in Washington. The Valley is split between two districts, represented by Anna Eshoo and Mike Honda, two liberal Democrats who have advocated plenty for the tech industry. But Honda's advocacy must not have been enthusiastic enough, because a parade of tech titans including Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg, Marc Andreessen, and Marissa Mayer, is lining up behind Khanna's primary challenge to the veteran congressman. Khanna has nearly $2 million in cash on hand (three times as much as Honda), and his web site lists hundreds of "technology leaders" who have endorsed him.

  • Republicans Are Really, Really Bad at Hostage Negotiations

    For some time, I've been arguing that we should not just extend the debt ceiling but get rid of it altogether. It's a weird historical anomaly that serves no practical purpose other than allowing the opposition party, should it be sufficiently reckless, to threaten global economic catastrophe if it doesn't get its way. I assumed that your average Washington Democrat would share this view, but now I'm beginning to think that if you're someone like Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama, the debt ceiling is actually quite helpful, and you'd be sorry to see it go.

    Because here's what keeps happening: The debt ceiling approaches. Republicans begin making threats to torpedo the country's economy by not raising it, and thereby sending the United States government into default, if their demands aren't met. We then have a couple of weeks of debate, disagreement, and hand-wringing. Republican infighting grows more intense, and their reputation as a bunch of radicals who are willing to burn down the country to serve their extreme ideology is reinforced. At the end of it, the Republicans cave, the ceiling is raised for some period, and we do it all again in a few months.

    And here we go again.

  • Is Chris Christie Being Treated Unfairly?

    Flickr/Gage Skidmore

    I have no doubt that right about now, Chris Christie believes he's being treated unfairly. He sees himself beset by his political opponents, by the media (both local and national), and even by some Republicans who'd like to see the guy who a few months ago looked like the most formidable 2016 presidential contender get knocked down a few pegs. And for what? Because a couple of knuckleheads who worked for him thought tying up traffic on the George Washington Bridge would be a good way to stick it to some two-bit mayor? That's what brings down a man whose destiny it was to be the leader of the free world? How can a just universe tolerate such a thing?

    Like many a politician before him, Christie was elevated by an adoring media, and is now being laid low by that same media. But his biggest problem is not that unfair conclusions are being drawn about what he and his administration have done. It's that everybody's looking at everything. A reporter who gets a tip about some funny business happening with something connected to New Jersey state government doesn't have to work hard to convince his editors to let him pursue the story. People involved in politics who have interesting stories to tell, and who might never have considered them anything more than amusing tales to swap over drinks, now say to themselves, "Maybe I should call up a reporter." The snowball of Christie-related misdeeds starts rolling down the hill, grabbing everything in its path.

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