Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Syriza vs. The Troika: What’s Going on in Greece

With the recent election of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) in Greece, it’s time to revisit the Eurocrisis. I’ll be trying to answer several questions:

  1. What’s going on in Greece right now?
  2. What does Syriza want to do?
  3. What does the troika want Syriza to do?
  4. What happens if Syriza and the troika can’t agree?

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It’s Time for the State to Put an End to the Anti-Vaccination Movement

Measles is on the move again in Disneyland. Unvaccinated children are catching and spreading the disease in California. Things have gotten so dire that kids with cancer (whose immune systems are compromised and so cannot be vaccinated) are afraid to go to school for fear that unvaccinated children will give them the disease. The risks are not merely to unvaccinated children, but to the general population as a whole–unvaccinated people provide breeding grounds for long forgotten pathogens, giving them opportunities to mutate into strands that the vaccines do not protect against. Enough is enough. It’s time for the state to put an end to this nonsense. Here’s why.

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The Benedict Cumberbatch Fake Controversy

In a display of just how spectacularly indifferent the contemporary social justice movement is to issues of inequality, there is now a backlash against British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (from The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes, and the Imitation Game) for using the word “colored” when making an argument in favor of racial equality. Yes, you read that right. We now care more about which words people use to make their arguments than we do about what is being argued. Activists now care more about making sure everyone uses the approved vernacular than they do about achieving justice for the victims of inequality. This preoccupation with going after individuals (especially famous celebrities) for using the wrong words to say the right things is indicative of everything that is wrong with the left today. Here’s why.

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Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah

King Abdullah’s reign in Saudi Arabia has come to an end with his death at age 90. Abdullah became king in 2005, but his rule truly began in 1996, when, as crown prince, he became King Fahd’s regent. Effectively, he was in power for nearly 20 years. It can often be difficult to judge the legacies of democratically elected leaders. Their short terms in office make it difficult to distinguish the effects of their administrations from those who precede and follow them. By contrast, autocratic rulers not only typically rule for far longer, but they also have much greater personal influence over the policies that emerge during their reigns. For these reasons, when a long-serving autocrat passes the torch, it is an interesting and useful exercise to have a look at how much better or worse off their country is now than it was when they rose to power. In March 2013, I ran a similar piece about Hugo Chavez’ 14-year reign. So let’s look at Abdullah’s legacy.

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State of the Union: When Politicians Substitute Platitudes for Policies

I’m not a big fan of state of the union addresses. They’re vague declarations of what the president wants to do, but the details are glossed over, and without congressional support little of what is proposed is ultimately achieved (if you’re curious, this year Obama wants to cut community college costs, lower taxes for the poor and middle class, guarantee sick leave, achieve gender equal pay, increase spending on infrastructure and research, reform the tax code, negotiate with Iran, prioritize cyber security, fight global warming, and close Guantanamo Bay–how much of that do you think will actually happen?). To make matters worse, they’re often full of saccharine, pull-at-your-heartstrings anecdotes (this year was all about Rebekah and Ben from Minneapolis). To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, but not much substance. The press dissects the speech to keep itself amused, and then we resume politics as usual. Rarely does a president say something so brilliant that it fundamentally changes the way the public views the issues at hand, much less congress. In the recent speech, I noticed something else I don’t like, something that’s easy to overlook–the way that presidents, and politicians in general, use verbal slights of hand to create a false sense of unity.

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