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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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Tikrit fight shows the U.S. can’t lead from behind in Iraq

As the U.S. stands aside while Iran-backed militiamen lead the fight to recapture the Iraqi town of Tikrit, it’s hard to know if it would be worse for them to win this battle against Islamic State or to lose. What is clear is that the U.S. and its allies should be playing a stronger role in the war against Islamic State to keep Iraq from polarizing.

Talk is cheap

President Barack Obama in February rolled out a plan to impose stricter rules on brokers and others who help people invest their retirement savings — necessitated, he says, by widespread conflicts of interest that may be costing savers up to $17 billion per year in lost earnings. The chief targets, Mr. Obama said, are financial advisers who base their advice on what’s best for their own compensation rather than on what would maximize returns for their customers.

Viewing Ferguson from Selma

The juxtaposition of the Justice Department’s damning Ferguson report and President Obama’s fine speech to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday was coincidental. But the founders of the civil rights movement would certainly have found it providential, so I’ll go with that.

The nukes in North Korea

The caricature of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un as a clownish figure and his nation as reckless, backwards and isolated is unhelpful in trying discern the reality of the Pyongyang regime and judge the dangers both to its own population and to those beyond its borders. The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, as it is formally named, is most certainly a modern human rights disaster, as the United Nations Commission of Inquiry has exposed. And there can be no question that North Korea remains cut off from the powerful currents of economic and information globalization that have swept the globe.