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Wacko birds nesting in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama got it two-thirds right when he said that the delayed confirmation of his attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, is owing to Senate dysfunction and Republican stubbornness.

‘Doc fix’ fixed?

The House of Representatives passed Thursday a major piece of Medicare legislation with strong support from the leadership and rank and file of both parties. Yes, you read that right: The House voted on a package that permanently eliminates the expensive annual budgetary charade known as the “doc fix,” while enacting tens of billions of dollars worth of structural reforms to the massive program for seniors — and providing a two-year, $5.6 billion dollop of funding to an important children’s health care program to boot. For their labors in moving this bill to passage, we’d pat House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Calif., on the back — if they weren’t already doing so themselves.

Who says economics is hard?

WASHINGTON — Every day the Chinese go to work, Americans get a raise: Chinese workers, many earning each day about what Americans spend on a Starbucks latte, produce apparel, appliances and other stuff cheaply, thereby enlarging Americans’ disposable income. Americans similarly get a raise when they shop at the stores that made Sam Walton a billionaire.

Staying in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a much-needed adjustment in his plans for drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, telling visiting President Ashraf Ghani that a scheduled halving of the 9,800 currently deployed troops by the end of this year would be set aside, and the force maintained into next year. This was a sensible response by Obama to a range of developments, including Ghani’s impressive efforts to improve relations with Washington. But the adjustment still falls short of what will be needed to give the new Afghan government a reasonable chance of success.

A boost for defense

Two pieces of good news about U.S. defense spending: Both President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have recognized that cuts imposed by the 2011 “sequester” scheme are unacceptable, and both have moved to restore tens of billions of dollars in funding for next year’s budget. Two pieces of bad news: The proposed increases still face thorny political challenges — and even the revised spending plan remains far from adequate at a time when the United States has returned to war in the Middle East and faces mounting threats elsewhere.

How to block a bad deal with Iran

WASHINGTON — It is the common temptation of Republicans and Democrats to support a strong executive when it does things they like, and to condemn it when it does things they don’t. There is, however, a group of committed institutionalists that has gathered around the Bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, now scheduled for a vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 14.

Presidential debates should include 3-party candidates

Most Americans want a third party, which probably explains why leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have conspired for the past three decades to exclude third-party candidates from the presidential debates. Never mind how unlikely a third- party victory may be, they say. Keep those interlopers away from the cameras!

The right’s word-deed problem

WASHINGTON — Briefly, there seemed a chance we might have a cross-party discussion of the biggest economic problem the country faces: the vexing intersection of wage stagnation, declining social mobility and rising inequality.

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Anger at bankers doesn’t make finance industry any safer

The 2008 crash and its consequences proved beyond a doubt the need for stronger and smarter regulation of banking and finance. Getting this right remains a challenge, but there’s been progress. One worsening obstacle to intelligent rule-making, though, should be cleared away before it becomes a bigger nuisance than it is already — and that’s a lazy, ill-founded prejudice against the finance industry and its workers.

Republicans fumble their chance to focus attention on an Iran deal

Congressional Republicans are trying to obstruct President Barack Obama from concluding a nuclear agreement with Iran, but the only tangible result of their efforts has been to impede serious debate about the legitimate issues arising from the potential deal. The latest GOP gambit, an open letter to Iran’s leaders disparaging any accord not approved by Congress, prompted predictable blasts of rhetoric from the White House, the Senate caucuses and even the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, but not a word of discussion about what the Republicans say worries them: whether the terms being offered to Iran by the Obama administration are in the United States’ interest.

The Export-Import Bank’s grip

Conservatives’ next disappointment will at least be a validation. The coming reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank will confirm their warnings about the difficulty of prying the government’s tentacles off what should be society’s private sphere.

Congress can improve Obama war plan against Islamic State

On Wednesday, Congress will finally get a chance to take responsibility for its part in the global war against Islamic extremism. Or, to put it another way: On Wednesday, Congress will no longer be able to avoid responsibility for its part in the global war against Islamic extremism. It cannot afford to waste the opportunity.

Viewpoint: End impediments, injurious opposition to public sports shooting complex

Dedicated Hawaiian sportsmen (On Target Inc.) have been working tirelessly to promote and develop a much-needed safe public sports shooting complex on the Big Island. Over two decades of untold hours have been devoted to seeking range approval despite objections and roadblocks asserted by a small hotel-oriented contingent of selfishly motivated detractors and opponents — namely, the Kohala Coast Resort Association which has orchestrated a campaign of intentional delay. The apparent goal is to derail this much-needed public endeavor; despite the project receiving state agency approval and preliminary budgeting.

Democrats should challenge Clinton

The relentless controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of e-mail during her time as secretary of state raises a question: If her candidacy for president (not yet announced, but widely assumed) falters or implodes — as sometimes happens to front-runners— will her party have an alternative? For voters’ sake, the answer should be yes. That’s just one reason Democratic politicians — the more, the merrier — should take on the daunting task of challenging Clinton for the nomination.