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Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

Is America prepared for Ebola or is threat overhyped?

So far, the Ebola virus that has killed more than 9,000 people in West Africa has only sickened two nurses in the United States. But that hasn’t stopped Republican and Democratic lawmakers from squabbling over everything from sealing the borders to providing more funding for the National Institutes of Health. In response, the Obama administration […]

October 24, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

What’s the matter with Kansas?

Kansas is one of the most Republican states in the nation, but you wouldn’t know it by watching these midterm elections. GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts are both fighting for their political lives, and both may lose at the polls in November. William Allen White and Thomas Frank both got famous asking […]

October 17, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Should Americans have a duty to die at 75?

Ezekiel Emanuel, a physician and one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, writes in the October issue of the Atlantic Monthly that Americans are too obsessed with living long lives. “For many reasons,” including diminished mobility, a “tsunami” of dementia and sparing adult children from the pain of a long decline, Emanuel argues, […]

October 10, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

How important is voting?

The midterm elections are just a few weeks away, and one of the traditional democratic virtues – voting – suddenly seems under fire. “Girls” star Lena Dunham offered a treatise urging voter turnout: “When you vote, you feel so, so good.” That prompted snorts of derision from conservative writer Kevin Williamson, who responded that “Voting is […]

October 03, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Will America ever take bold action on climate change? Should it?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans on Sunday marched in New York City, asking the country’s leaders to take bold action on climate change. President Barack Obama, California Gov. Jerry Brown, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and other notables this week addressed the United Nations about the climate challenges facing the world. But skeptics abound – notably within the […]

September 26, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Did the ‘War on Poverty’ fail?

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson launched the “War on Poverty,” an unprecedented federal effort to reduce the nation’s then-burgeoning poverty rate. “The war on poverty is not a struggle simply to support people, to make them dependent on the generosity of others,” Johnson told Congress in 1964. “It is a struggle to give people […]

September 19, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Liberal-conservative battle over history books continues

Americans are fighting over history again. Last month, the College Board released a “curriculum framework” to guide the teaching of Advanced Placement high school history classes. Conservatives immediately derided the standards, and the Republican National Committee said the document “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history.” Defenders said the new standards do celebrate American history […]

September 05, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

What should the US do about the Islamic State?

At the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama compared the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to a “JV team” putting on Lakers uniforms. But in the intervening months, the Islamic State has taken control of large swaths of central Iraq and parts of civil war-torn Syria. And last […]

August 29, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Are America’s police over-militarized and under-accountable?

Americans have been transfixed for a week now by the protests in Ferguson, Mo., sparked when an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer. Police, outfitted with camouflage, tear gas, crowd-dispersing noise-makers, and armored vehicles, have cracked down on rioters and looters, but also on journalists and crowds of […]

August 22, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Are Americans superficial for mourning deaths of celebrities?

The deaths this week of comedian-actor Robin Williams and actress Lauren Bacall unleashed an outpouring of grief across the country. The shocking circumstances of Williams’ death – suicide by hanging – sent his fans reeling. Even President Barack Obama released a statement Monday, calling Williams “one of a kind.” Americans often react this way when a beloved […]

August 15, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Is President Obama about to be impeached?

Talk of impeachment abounds in Washington, D.C., these days, but oddly, both sides blame each other for that. Republicans say Democrats are talking up impeachment in order to raise funds and support for the upcoming midterm elections. But Democrats point out that high-profile Republicans have mused for years about impeaching President Barack Obama – a process […]

August 08, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Should union organizing be a civil right?

Big Labor in the United States has been on the wane for decades. About 6.7 percent of American private-sector workers belonged to a union in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics. Public-sector union membership topped 35.3 percent. Democrats in Congress would like to change that. A bill by Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, […]

August 01, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Is parenting being criminalized in America?

Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised […]

July 25, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

What should the US do about illegal immigrant children?

The crisis along the southern United States border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all. President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to cover the growing […]

July 18, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Are Republicans cold-hearted toward the poor?

The image of the heartless, Scrooge-like Republican is a staple of the liberal imagination, but does it have any bearing in reality? Recent poll results from the Pew Research Center raise the question anew: They show that 86 percent of self-described “steadfast conservatives” believe that in America, “the poor have it easy.” Just 6 percent […]

July 11, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Can the EPA stop global climate change?

The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency may use the Clean Air Act to regulate major sources of greenhouse gases, such as factories and power plants. The agency wants to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years. But the court added, in a complex opinion written […]

June 27, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Whose fault is latest breakout of Iraq violence?

The breakout of violence and advance of ISIS in Iraq has plenty of folks in Washington pointing fingers. Is the violence President Barack Obama’s fault, for withdrawing troops from that war-torn country too soon? Or perhaps blame can be laid on the George W. Bush administration for launching a war that ended up destabilizing the […]

June 20, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Does a GOP leader’s defeat spell mid-term trouble for Republicans?

The stunning primary defeat Tuesday of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has left establishment Republicans scratching their heads and wondering what to do next. Cantor, a seven-term congressman who reportedly spent more than $167,000 on campaign events at steakhouses, lost to David Brat, an economics professor aligned with local tea party groups who spent just […]

June 13, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Should the US consider paying reparations to African-Americans?

Ta-Nehisi Coates has written the cover essay for this month’s issue of The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations.” He argues that America’s wealth was built on a foundation of white supremacy, starting with slavery, but not ending there. Coates documents a history of mortgage policies, social programs and other political choices that allowed white families […]

June 06, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Should professors issue ‘trigger warnings’ before class?

“Trigger warnings” have long been a staple of feminist discourse – a way to let people know, particularly, if a depiction of or explicit discussion of rape was about to take place, so as to let survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder remove themselves from the conversation if needed. Now, though, there’s a movement afoot to […]

May 23, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Should US rescue kidnapped Nigerian girls?

Most Americans probably hadn’t heard of Boko Haram before last week, when the group kidnapped 270 Nigerian schoolgirls and threatened to sell them into slavery. Nigerians responded with a social media campaign, which drew support from celebrities and even first lady Michelle Obama. The demand: #bringbackourgirls. President Obama has committed U.S. drones and reconnaissance to […]

May 16, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

What is Monica Lewinsky’s legacy in American life?

Just as Hillary Clinton appears to be preparing a run for president in 2016, well, here comes Monica Lewinsky again. She emerged this week from more than a decade of relative silence to tell Vanity Fair how the affair with Bill Clinton – and its aftermath – had affected her life. “It’s time to burn […]

May 09, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Are the ugly private conversations of public figures fair game?

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is arguably the most loathed billionaire in America. His secretly recorded racist rant – chiding his mistress for “associating with black people” – made national news and led to his fellow owners voting to impose a $2.5 million fine and ban him for life from the NBA. But is […]

May 02, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Has the militia movement re-emerged in American life?

Hundreds of armed militia members converged on Nevada in recent weeks to join Cliven Bundy, a rancher whose cattle had grazed illegally on federal lands. They backed Bundy in a short-lived standoff when feds tried seizing Bundy’s cattle over millions of dollars in unpaid grazing fees. They called themselves patriots; Sen. Harry Reid called them […]

April 25, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Is the GOP about to soften its hard stance against immigration?

The Republican Party has long been known for its hard stance against illegal immigration. But former Florida governor Jeb Bush – widely seen as a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 – is sounding a different note, saying that many immigrants come to the United States as an “act of love” to provide […]

April 11, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Did the Supreme Court ‘open the floodgates’ for unlimited campaign contributions?

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled 5-4 that a cap on the total amount of money donors can give to political campaigns – so-called “aggregate contribution limits” – are unconstitutional. Such limits, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in McCutcheon v. FEC, “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise the […]

April 04, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Should gun policy halt President Obama’s choice for surgeon general?

The National Rifle Association is flexing its political muscle again – this time in opposition to President Obama’s nominee to be Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Why? Murthy believes that guns are a health issue, and has advocated gun safety measures like an assault weapons ban, mandatory safety training, and limits on ammunition. Is gun […]

March 28, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Is the legalization of marijuana inevitable?

First, 20 states and the District of Columbia passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical use. Then in 2012, voters in Washington state and Colorado approved measures legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana for non-medical use, with state oversight. Now at least a half-dozen states from Alaska to Maine are considering following suit. Marijuana still […]

March 21, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Can Americans just ‘stop being poor’?

It started out as a seeming faux pas; now it’s a slogan for the right. Fox Business commentator Todd Wilemon last week made waves when he told a “Daily Show” correspondent a way to defeat the problems of poverty: “If you’re poor, stop being poor.” While Wilemon was mocked on the left, conservatives lauded him. […]

March 14, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Is Putin outsmarting Obama in Ukraine crisis?

President Obama is facing perhaps the most difficult foreign policy challenge of his administration with the confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and disputed territory in the Crimean peninsula. Obama last week said the United States would “stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention […]

March 07, 2014 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,
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