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Chuck Schumer: Take two

WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles Schumer gave Democrats a talking-to about their obligation to stand up for government’s role in helping struggling middle-income Americans — and his message got swallowed up by a few paragraphs on health care.

Lighting fuses in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — Scott Pruitt enjoyed owning a AAA baseball team here, but he is having as much fun as Oklahoma’s attorney general, and one of the Obama administration’s most tenacious tormentors. The second existential challenge to the Affordable Care Act began here.

A Texas-sized plate dispute

WASHINGTON — The Battle of Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, on May 13, 1865, is called the last battle of the Civil War, but the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) might consider that judgment premature, given its conflict with the state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles. This skirmish is of national interest because it implicates a burgeoning new entitlement — the right to pass through life without encountering any disagreeable thought.

Obama’s Boehner bailout

WASHINGTON — How often will President Barack Obama come to House Speaker John Boehner’s rescue even when Republican leaders aren’t willing to give much in return? And does the president want to preside over a split in his party?

The arrogance of liberal elites

WASHINGTON — Jonathan Gruber — the source of more smoking guns than the battle of Gettysburg — recently appeared before a hostile House committee. The good professor, you might recall, is an MIT economist who played a significant (and paid) role in producing and defending the Affordable Care Act. He also later admitted, in an astonishing variety of settings, that the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other flaws. “Lack of transparency,” he cheerfully conceded, “is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

The cheerfulness of tax reform

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” — Mr. Micawber in “David Copperfield”

Racial strife can lead to progress

Big city mayors have to stay as neutral as possible when asked about disputes between their citizens and the police. But New York Mayor Bill de Blasio found his voice in a profoundly moving way when he responded not as a mayor, but as a parent.

The plague of overcriminalization

WASHINGTON — By history’s frequently brutal dialectic, the good that we call progress often comes spasmodically, in lurches propelled by tragedies caused by callousness, folly or ignorance. With the grand jury’s as yet inexplicable and probably inexcusable refusal to find criminal culpability in Eric Garner’s death on a Staten Island sidewalk, the nation might have experienced sufficient affronts to its sense of decency. It might at long last be ready to stare into the abyss of its criminal justice system.

The New Republic is dead

WASHINGTON — At a 40th-birthday party in July for Franklin Foer, editor of the New Republic, the magazine’s young owner, Chris Hughes, got all choked up as he pledged to the roomful of writers at Foer’s country home in Pennsylvania that the two would be “intellectual partners for decades.”

An act of exceptional recklessness

WASHINGTON — With the apparently imminent release of the Feinstein report on CIA interrogations of high-value terrorists a decade ago, let’s consider the situation of intelligence personnel who have been involved, not in that program but in drone strikes against terrorists, conducted in a variety of countries around the world.

In politics, does evidence matter?

WASHINGTON — One of the lovely formulations in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address expressed his hope that “a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion.” Kennedy was talking about the Cold War, but we could use a little of this in the partisan and ideological warfare that engulfs our nation’s capital.

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The Cosby Show

WASHINGTON — By now, most Americans probably have formed an opinion about what comedian Bill Cosby did or didn’t do sexually to or with at least 16 women beginning in the 1960s.

In Ferguson, where next?

WASHINGTON — My hometown of St. Louis has given up its sad secrets. Journalists — like tourists taking in the sights of social dysfunction — have explored its courthouses, its speed traps, its racial tensions and its redlined housing history. Cable television has carried images of burning cars and tear gas, which better qualify as “breaking news” than clergy-led marches and civic dialogue. From the coverage, one would think a whole city walks on broken glass. Perhaps it does.

Thanks, or something

WASHINGTON — Before the tryptophan in the turkey induces somnolence, give thanks for living in such an entertaining country. This year, for example, we learned that California’s Legislature includes 93 individuals who seem never to have had sex. They enacted the “affirmative consent” law directing college administrators to tell students sexual consent cannot be silence but must be “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” and “ongoing throughout a sexual activity.” Claremont McKenna College requires “all” — not “both,” which would discriminate against groups — participants in a sexual engagement to understand withdrawal of consent can be any behavior conveying “that an individual is hesitant, confused, uncertain.”

‘Emperor’ Obama’s immigration frustration

Republican fury over President Barack Obama’s drastic executive action on immigration distracts from the most obvious solution: the sensible compromise senators from both parties passed more than 500 days ago, only to have it bottled up by Speaker John Boehner in the House.

Using a bludgeon in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE — It is as remarkable as it is repulsive, the ingenuity with which the Obama administration uses the regulatory state’s intricacies to advance progressivism’s project of breaking nongovernmental institutions to government’s saddle. Eager to sacrifice low-income children to please teachers unions, the Department of Justice wants to destroy Wisconsin’s school choice program. Feigning concern about access for handicapped children, DOJ’s aim is to handicap all disadvantaged children by denying their parents access to school choices of the sort enjoyed by affluent DOJ lawyers.

A job for Congress

Even with 3 percent growth last quarter and unemployment at 5.8 percent, the lowest rate since the summer of 2008, Americans still worry about the economy and with good reason.