The Great Debate
OCT 24, 2012 14:27 UTC
On May 20, 2011, John Delaney awoke 550 meters from the summit of Mount Everest. Delaney, who founded Intrade, a website for those who love to predict the future, had been trying to get to the top of the world for years. His company invited users to bet on the news: Customers would calculate probabilities, assess risk, make a wager. On Everest, Delaney was doing much the same.
This close to the summit, he was on an area of the mountain known as the death zone, where the atmosphere is about three times thinner than at sea level. Cerebral and pulmonary edemas—the leaking of fluid to the brain and heart—are increasingly likely at that altitude. Still, between 1921 and 2006, just 94 people died at this stage of the climb—above 8,000 meters, but before the summit. Altogether, Everest claimed 192 climbers’ lives in that 86-year span, 1.3 percent of those who attempted a climb. The odds that Delaney would succumb to the mountain were low.
Back in Ireland, three days earlier, his wife, Orla, had given birth to a premature baby, though only 6 percent of babies born in Ireland are premature. She named her Hope.
But Delaney was too far from Orla and too close to the summit to be notified. At 7:30 p.m., he set out from camp, 8,300 meters above sea level. According to forecasts, the temperature was -7 degrees Fahrenheit, and winds blew as fast as 40 miles an hour.
Each of the eight climbers in the group had their own sherpa and oxygen supply. At 1:45 a.m., 50 meters from the summit, Delaney began to struggle. A guide came down from the summit and, with the help of sherpas, began to escort him back down the mountain. At 4:30 a.m., 100 meters from the summit of Everest, the guides pronounced Delaney dead. He would never know Hope.
Charles R. Morris
OCT 24, 2012 07:00 UTC
The Dodd-Frank Act to re-regulate the big banks was intentionally tough. It was passed in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crash to end cowboy banking; require far more capital and much less leverage, and rein in the trading-desk geniuses who pumped up serial bubbles. Since Congress is a poor forum for crafting such a complex statute, the details were left to the expert regulatory agencies.
The big banks pay lip-service to the goals of Dodd-Frank — but they’re mounting bitter, rearguard actions in federal courts to block meaningful constraints and regulations on procedural and other grounds. This is an ominous turn of events, since these banks have the legal firepower to overwhelm budget-constrained U.S. regulatory agencies.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
OCT 23, 2012 16:49 UTC
Foreign policy attempted to take center stage at the presidential debate Monday evening but failed resoundingly. For the candidates agreed to agree on a number of key issues — the timeline for ending America’s longest war, support for Israel, and the importance of diplomacy and sanctions in Iran. Nation-building at home trumped nation-building abroad, and small business won as many mentions from the nominees as the death of Osama bin Laden. It was no accident that the contenders talked about teachers more than Libya.
What both President Barack Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney made clear to a nation exhausted by one decade of two bloody wars: The era of big military interventions is over. Romney, who earlier in the campaign sounded poised to embrace a more activist foreign policy, embraced a loudly centrist worldview that eschewed saber-rattling in favor of promoting entrepreneurship and civil society.
OCT 23, 2012 07:38 UTC
Scoping out the new election economy:
No matter what you think about the court decisions, including Citizens United, that have unraveled campaign-finance restrictions, it’s clear that the resulting gusher of contributions has created an industry of breathtaking scale.
Stephen R. Weissman
OCT 22, 2012 17:10 UTC
President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in Monday’s foreign policy debate are again likely to examine the administration’s handling of an Islamic militia’s murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its significance for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, they may again miss the crucial question raised by the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans: Why is Libya at the mercy of hundreds of lawless militias and without a functioning state one year after U.S. and NATO support enabled rebels to overthrow dictator Muammar Ghadaffi?
OCT 22, 2012 16:17 UTC
When historians write the story of the presidential campaign of 2012, it is a fair bet they will focus on how the candidates approached the question of wealth, taxation and the responsibilities of America’s richest citizens. In fact, 2012 may be the year that class – long unspoken and unacknowledged in American life – finally became an explicit issue, the year when the illusion that America is a land of universal economic opportunity and relative equality was at last shattered.
The United States as a whole is one of the wealthiest societies the world has ever known. But aggregate wealth is not individual wealth. Per capita income may look good, but it’s a number and an average, easily distorted in a society with a handful of plutocrats. It brings to mind the old joke that when Bill Gates walks into a bar, per capita everyone suddenly becomes a millionaire.
James K. Galbraith and J. Travis Hale
OCT 22, 2012 12:46 UTC
A recent paper from the Russell Sage Foundation reports that income-based residential segregation in America has risen sharply over the past 40 years; in 1970 about 65 percent of families lived in middle-income neighborhoods but only 44 percent do so today. The rest now live in neighborhoods that are distinctly either rich or poor, with affluent Americans being especially likely to be surrounded by their income peers. These findings parallel estimates we have been making, from different data, since 2005. In a generation, the spatial polarization of incomes has become an American fact of life.
Does this fact have political implications? We believe it may. Indeed, there seems to be a party that’s benefiting from increasing residential segregation by income – and, oddly enough, it’s the Democrats.
The Columbia political scientist Andrew Gelman has noted an apparent paradox: in presidential elections rich people tend to vote Republican, but rich states tend to vote Democratic. This can happen because the income-voting relationship differs from state to state. Thus in wealthy but arch-blue Connecticut the relationship is much weaker than in non-wealthy and arch-red Mississippi – a fact that prompted Gelman to ask, in the title to one article, “What’s the Matter with Connecticut?”
OCT 22, 2012 07:00 UTC
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the Monday foreign policy debate, should play to the Jewish TV audience like he was the star of a Borscht Belt revue.
Romney has a tempting assortment of issues he can tap to frame President Barack Obama as a leader whose policies are perilous for Israel. He can use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Egypt and even Syria to make a case that Obama’s policies are wrong for the Jewish state.
OCT 19, 2012 20:20 UTC
The neoconservatives who rebuffed the Republican establishment’s warnings
about the perils of war in Iraq have now opened another front —against President Barack Obama.
The neocons, unlike the muscular Democrats who led the U.S. into the Vietnam War—including Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk— are not reflecting about what went wrong in Iraq. Nor are they dodging the public spotlight.
OCT 19, 2012 20:10 UTC
It can be hard to find areas of agreement between the presidential candidates on economic or domestic policy. Tuesday night’s debate, though, revealed one exception: energy policy. Alas, what it also revealed is that both President Obama and Governor Romney are making their policies based on a false premise, and they are pandering to Americans’ ignorance instead of telling them the truth.
The second question in the debate at Hofstra University came from audience member Phillip Tricolla, and was directed to Obama: “Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?” The premise that the Energy Department can lower gas prices is incorrect. But Obama chose not to confront Tricolla with the hard truth — that global economic forces have put gasoline prices on a long-term upwards trajectory, and that trajectory is beyond our government’s control.
ANY OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE ARE THE AUTHOR’S OWN.