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Their Views

Partners in repression

Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro paid a visit to Havana and met with Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have been his patrons and who helped to install him in power after the death of Hugo Chavez.

Reversing course in Illinois

CHICAGO — The most portentous election of 2014, which gave the worst-governed state its first Republican governor in 12 years, has initiated this century’s most intriguing political experiment. Illinois has favored Democratic presidential candidates by an average of 16 points in the last six elections. But by electing businessman Bruce Rauner, it initiated a process that might dismantle a form of governance that afflicts many states and municipalities.

Knowledge isn’t necessarily power

Regular readers know that I sometimes mock “very serious people” — politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.

Spend not, pay not

Washington is short on fresh thinking about almost everything, taxes and tax reform very much included. So it was encouraging to see Maryland’s junior U.S. senator, Benjamin L. Cardin, D, promoting a plan to overhaul the tax code that is nothing if not radical. Though imperfect, and unlikely to pass Congress any time soon, Mr. Cardin’s plan deserves to be taken seriously by anyone searching for a way out of the blind alley that is the current partisan discussion of fiscal issues.

Greece deal averts crisis but exposes EU malaise

With their tentative agreement on financial aid for Greece, the euro zone’s finance ministers have paused a drama that could still end in disaster and that should never have happened in the first place. The deal outlined on Friday won’t be concluded until next week, and could still fall apart, but Friday’s talks are being seen as a breakthrough.

Playing the currency manipulation game

Five years ago, President Obama declared that the United States should double exports by 2015. At that time, the Federal Reserve was expanding its balance sheet and holding interest rates near 0 percent, the combined effect of which was to weaken the dollar. Americans understood that there was no overt coordination between Mr. Obama and the Fed. A foreign observer, however, could easily have concluded that Washington was manipulating its currency to meet a specific economic goal at the expense of other countries. Indeed, many alleged just that.

Courting Cuba’s Castros

For all the high expectations, and deep anxieties, that surround the U.S.-Cuba thaw that President Barack Obama announced two months ago, the reality is that the process is still in its very early days. The two countries have not agreed even on one of the simpler bilateral issues: opening full-fledged embassies in each other’s capitals. Cuban President Raúl Castro sounded an ominous note by hinting that complete normalization might depend on such far-fetched demands as the hand-over of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay or reparations for the U.S. embargo.

Safety goes off the rails

Residents near Mount Carbon, W.Va., heard a “big boom” Monday, an explosion so forceful it resulted in a fireball hundreds of feet high and sounded like a massive bomb exploding. Days later, toppled tank cars from a derailed train carrying 3 million gallons of oil still were burning near the Kanawha River, and officials still were scrambling to protect local water supplies.

Politics without honor

A notable moment of the 2008 presidential campaign came when Republican nominee John McCain faced down at a rally some of the more vitriolic haters of Barack Obama, who were shouting that the Democrat was a “terrorist” and an “Arab.”