Online Opinion Outpost March 4

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The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation. 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Los Angeles Times

These recent performances raise a fascinating question: Is Leonardo DiCaprio the last real movie star? Or, more specifically, is he the last of a certain breed of American movie actor, a deeply serious, immersive performer who represents the final stop in the lineage of wounded, soulful masculinity that threads along from Marlon Brando through James Dean, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and on forward to him?

DiCaprio retains a mystique about him that is rare for a movie star these days. He is right there, right in front of us, and yet he remains unknowable even as his personal life makes for tabloid fodder. What’s more, for someone so famous he manages to slip away inside his roles as if dancing with his own movie star self as partner.

International turmoil

The New York Times

A revolution is a zero-sum game where the will of one player is imposed on the other. For revolutionaries, having a clear enemy is a priority to exist. In Venezuela, that enemy has been the 50 percent of the population that oppose the Chavista model.

Last night, following three weeks of student-led protests, President Nicolás Maduro hosted a “Peace Conference,” to launch a dialogue of “tolerance” and “good will.” While this initiative must certainly be recognized as positive, given the lack of exit alternatives to this crisis, it came 13 deaths, more than 700 detained protesters, 33 cases of torture and 15 years of state-sponsored insults and abuses too late.

One night of cathartic handholding and heartfelt calls for unity can hardly erase the systematic persecution, both physical and moral, that has characterized the government’s relationship with dissenting voices, or with any challenges to its power. Through its formidable media apparatus, Maduro has continued Chavez’s legacy of humiliating opponents and promoting fear of dissent: publicly funded radio and TV broadcasts cycle never-ending propaganda that labels student protesters as fascists, antagonizes private business-owners as economic terrorists and even airs illegally recorded conversations of opposition political leaders.

Washington Post

Western leaders, including President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have been trying to persuade Russian President Vladi­mir Putin not to obstruct Ukraine’s change. The country need not be the subject of a zero-sum contest between East and West; Ukraine could associate with the European Union, a step well short of membership, while maintaining close economic ties with Russia. Both Ukrainian and Western leaders appear prepared to leave the prospect ofUkrainian membership in NATO on the back burner where it was placed in 2008.

What’s not clear is whether Mr. Putin would accept a Ukraine that is not under the Kremlin’s thumb. The first indications are not good: Though Mr. Putin has been publicly silent about Ukraine since Friday, the rhetoric emanating from his government has been angry and belligerent. A foreign ministry statement Monday alleged that “a course has been set to use dictatorial and sometimes terrorist methods to suppress dissenters in various regions.”

Chicago Tribune

In the ideal scenario, the advance of democracy is simple and happy. A dictatorship falls, the people gain the right to choose their rulers, a modern constitution comes into being and a pluralistic civil society emerges. But in many places, it doesn’t work out quite that way. Democracy is sometimes merely a detour between one oppressive government and another.

That has been the spectacle in three countries that have been in the news lately: Egypt, Ukraine and Venezuela. Each one demonstrates that genuine democracy takes more than elections, even if the elections are free and fair.

It takes sturdy protections for basic freedoms. It takes a broad citizen respect for open debate and dissent. It takes the steady construction of the rule of law. It takes leaders who understand the limits of their rightful authority. All these vital elements are conspicuously missing in these countries.

Violent video games

Washington Examiner

The summary advocates for “an improved, permanent R&D tax credit, finally giving American manufacturers the certainty they need to compete against their foreign competition who have long had permanent R&D incentives.”

Despite the promise of an improved R&D tax credit, the bill – on page 24 – removes that tax credit from the violent video game industry, under a section about closing loopholes.

One of the plan’s provisions: “Preventing makers of violent video games from qualifying for the R&D tax credit.”

This is funny, given the fact that on the very next page the summary says the bill “stops the practice of using the tax code to pick winners and losers based on political power rather than economic merit.”

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