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Twitter as America’s conscience

WASHINGTON — Denizens of social media were rankled during Sunday night’s Academy Awards telecast when actor Sean Penn made a crack about Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and green cards.

US needs to rework its byzantine food safety system

The job of keeping our food wholesome has become more difficult as food itself has become more complicated. Because processed foods include ingredients from many sources, it is hard to trace the origin of pathogens. A package of ground beef, for instance, is no longer put together by a butcher pushing a single hunk of meat through a grinder; these days it includes trimmings from many cattle and multiple slaughterhouses. That means even a small quantity of meat contaminated with E. coli has the potential to taint tremendous amounts of hamburger meat sent out across the country.

Reversing course in Illinois

CHICAGO — The most portentous election of 2014, which gave the worst-governed state its first Republican governor in 12 years, has initiated this century’s most intriguing political experiment. Illinois has favored Democratic presidential candidates by an average of 16 points in the last six elections. But by electing businessman Bruce Rauner, it initiated a process that might dismantle a form of governance that afflicts many states and municipalities.

Wasted energy on pipeline

Climate change warriors of all stripes were focused on the White House on Tuesday, where President Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Like all the other attention slathered on this overblown issue, the focus was misplaced. It would have been better placed on the Capitol, where Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., without much fanfare, reintroduced a bill that would address the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions in a serious way.

The fragility of life’s greatest gift

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — At a health center here, a young woman is in the recovery room after a cesarean section. A nurse takes the newborn to a table for cleanup. We (a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies) are allowed to enter and see the child. But the newborn girl starts struggling for breath. Three more nurses enter. One briefly applies bag-and-mask ventilation. Yet her breathing grows weaker and weaker, as she turns a horrible shade of gray.

Illogical governing

Whatever its merits or shortcomings, a federal judge’s decision last week blocking the Obama administration’s immigration policy offered congressional Republicans an escape path from the corner into which they had painted themselves by imperiling funding for the Department of Homeland Security and its 240,000 employees. Thus far they have not shown the wisdom to accept this gift.

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The Pence paradox

WASHINGTON — Although he is always preternaturally placid, Mike Pence today exemplifies a Republican conundrum. Sitting recently 24 blocks from Capitol Hill, where he served six terms as a congressman, and eight blocks from the White House, which some Republicans hope he craves, Pence, now in his third year as Indiana’s governor, discussed two issues, Common Core and Medicaid expansion, that illustrate the following:

Condemning Islam is the wrong course

WASHINGTON — Days after the video appeared of a Jordanian pilot horribly burned to death by an Islamic State death squad, President Barack Obama told the National Prayer Breakfast that all faiths can be “twisted and misused in the name of evil” and that terrorists who profess “to stand up for Islam” are, in fact, “betraying it.” Critics found Obama’s timing offensive and his message about Islam naive: He should avoid moral equivalence, stop playing the theologian and recognize that Islam has a unique problem with violence and extremism.

Finally, a health care alternative that’s worth discussing

A viable Republican substitute for the health care act used to be the yeti of Capitol Hill: often talked about, never seen. But it has suddenly become real. Last week, three leading Republican members of Congress offered a realistic plan for reform, one that accepts the need to provide all Americans access to health insurance.