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Week in Review


Democrats detonated the nuclear option in the Senate this week, eliminating a convention that required a three-fifths majority vote to end the filibuster for most presidential nominations in favor of a simple majority. We looked at how the decision chipped away at the legitimacy of our political system in an essay:

The filibuster vote will be hailed by liberals and attacked by conservatives for silly reasons. It’s pathetically easy to find quotes from President Obama and Majority Leader Reid attacking this idea as a gross violation of civil decency when their Republican opponents proposed ending the filibuster back in the Bush years. And the GOP is exactly as hypocritical as the Democrats in now violently denouncing a measure they themselves once proposed. It is a genuinely despicable sight as both parties appeal to sacred principles to justify or oppose an ordinary power grab. This too will exact a payment in diminished public respect for the people who write our laws.

The result of this vote will likely be to further depress public confidence in Washington generally and in Congress and the federal judiciary more specifically. The more the courts look like a political football, the less respect the public will have for their decisions—and ultimately that translates into a declining respect for our constitutional system. […]

We are not in an era of unprecedented polarization. We are not even in an era of unprecedented chicanery and corruption. But we are in a time when too few of our national leaders think carefully enough about the need to preserve and protect the legitimacy and dignity of our political system.

Yesterday’s vote was another step forward on a road that leads downhill. That is unfortunate; it is easier to go downhill than up, and we are likely now to see the political system as a whole lose a little bit more of the legitimacy and public respect that, in the end, are necessary if our constitutional republic is to continue to endure.

Asia’s Game of Thrones was in full swing this week, starting with South Korea and China’s decision to go ahead with plans to build a joint monument to the man who killed Japan’s first prime minister. A high-profile delegation of Japanese business leaders got an icy reception in Beijing, while Japan moved to reorganize its security leadership, consolidating defense decision-making power under PM Shinzo Abe. Vietnam joined forces with India to balance China’s influence in the region, and South Korea purchased 40 F-35A fighter aircraft, heating up Asia’s arms race.

In the Middle East, Syrian rebels turned on each other as the Assad regime advanced. The situation in Gaza—one of the most sickening humanitarian disasters around—got worse this week as Hamas cut off its nose to spite its face, while the UN scolded Israel for restricting imports from Gaza, completely ignoring Egypt’s culpability.

All eyes were on Ukraine this week as it prepared for a November 29 vote on a free trade and association agreement with the EU. The move would have been disastrous for Russia, and the EU promised Ukraine cheap natural gas to sweeten the deal. But everything fell apart on Thursday, when Ukraine abruptly scuppered the talks, much to Vladimir Putin’s delight. In Warsaw, climate talks limped to a close, while we learned that over in the UK many college grads, much like their American peers, are stuck working low-skilled jobs.

On the education front, robot counselors are now helping students perform, while tuition revenue at American colleges is plummeting. The hype over MOOCs died down a little bit as one of the concept’s godfathers shifted his focus, and professors in California pushed back against the sudden rise of online learning. A new study on MOOC demography had some calling the courses elitist, though we found that criticism to be misguided.

In the ongoing fallout over the calamitous rollout of Obamacare, the most shocking revelation was that the President had no idea how the website was doing a week before its launch. We looked closer at why the government failed so completely with, while DC sent a message to ACA dissenters: keep quiet, or get fired. Over at the NYT, op-ed columnist Thomas Edsall reasoned that the Obamacare debacle could kill Big Blue. One bright spot in health care news: apps are now becoming an established feature of our health care system, democratizing and economizing care delivery.

[Photo of Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer courtesy of Getty Images.]

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