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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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Bill Gates’ moment

WASHINGTON — “Ebola has reminded people that it is not just poor people who can die of infectious disease,” Bill Gates tells me, in a characteristically matter-of-fact tone.

In Georgia, a capitalist struggles

MCDONOUGH, Ga. — In a sun-dappled square decorated with scores of entrants in the community’s Halloween scarecrow contest, a balky sound system enables, if barely, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate to exhort a few hundred people, mostly supporters, to urge neighbors to vote to reduce Sen. Harry Reid to minority leader. The exhorter is David Perdue, a glutton for punishment who has been campaigning incessantly for 15 months and may be doing so for two more.

Done in by John Doe

WASHINGTON — The early morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.

Still in denial on Ebola

WASHINGTON — It is such a relief about that Ebola thing. The threat of an American outbreak turned out to be overhyped. A military operation is underway to help those poor Liberians. An Ebola czar (what is his name again?) has been appointed to coordinate the U.S. government response. The growth of the disease in Africa, by some reports, seems to have slowed. On to the next crisis.