With the Keystone XL pipeline stalled again, now perhaps we can look ahead and consider more promising ways to rebuild our energy system, creating many more jobs than that controversial project ever would. No matter where we look, the far larger issue that still confronts Americans is decaying infrastructure -- which emphatically includes the enormous web of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the continental United States in every direction.
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In the wake of the 2014 midterm "wave election," Americans will soon find out whether they actually want what they have wrought. The polls tell us that too many voters are weary of President Barack Obama, including a significant number who actually voted for him two years ago. Polls likewise suggest that most voters today repose more trust in Republicans on such fundamental issues as economic growth, national security and budget discipline. But do they want what Republicans in control will do now?
If there is any upside to the constant blabber from a politician such as Chris Christie, it is that he blurts out what others like him would never say in public -- for instance, his recent remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage," said the boorish New Jersey governor, a sentiment no doubt shared by the assembled big-business lobbyists and by most of Christie's fellow Republican governors. "I really am. I don't think there's a mother or a father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, 'You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.'"
If the prospect of hanging concentrates the mind, then even the possibility of infection with Ebola should do the same -- for all of us. Instead, we seem easily distracted by attempts to blame President Barack Obama and to scapegoat the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Republican politicians and media loudmouths have even demanded the resignation of Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC's director, because he's refused to endorse a West African travel ban.
They're all dead wrong.
Even if Africa's Ebola emergency never mutates into a global catastrophe, those of us who live in the world's most fortunate country ought to consider what this fearsome virus can teach us. The lessons are quite obvious at this point -- and contain implications that are political in the most urgent sense.
As the Republican right's fear swells in advance of Hillary Clinton's anticipated presidential campaign, conservatives' feverish smears increasingly resemble the desperate gambits of a certain Wile E. Coyote. The latest episode in their cartoonish crusade appeared in The Washington Free Beacon, which headlined "The Hillary Letters" the other day with an ominous subhead: "Hillary Clinton, Saul Alinsky correspondence revealed."
If the latest polls are accurate, most voters believe that Republican politicians deserve greater trust on matters of national security. At a moment when Americans feel threatened by rising terrorist movements and authoritarian regimes, that finding is politically salient -- and proves that amnesia is the most durable affliction of our democracy.
Minutes after President Barack Obama concluded his strong and sensible address explaining how he intends to destroy the terrorist organization the Islamic State, Republicans popped up on television like political snipers. He should have kept a "residual force" in Iraq, complained Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and he is to blame for the Islamic State's advances. He sounds just like George W. Bush, gloated former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and he is reluctantly enacting the advice of Dick Cheney.
The past week's unfolding tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, with its militarized and overwhelmingly white police force confronting angry and hopeless African-Americans, is not a story unique to that place or this moment. Many cities and towns in this country confront the same problems of poverty, alienation and inequality as metropolitan St. Louis -- or even worse.
But beneath the familiar narrative, there is a deeper history that reflects the unfinished agenda of race relations -- and the persistence of poisonous prejudice that has never been fully cleansed from the American mainstream.
Having infuriated millions of Robin Williams fans with insensitive remarks on the late actor's suicide, Rush Limbaugh now blames the "liberal media" and "despicable leftists" for distorting his innocent message.
This is an old dodge for Limbaugh. Yet however he parses his language, there can be no doubt that he sought to exploit a tragic event for what he likes to call "political education." His attempt to brand Williams' suicide with "the leftist worldview" was perfectly plain. And as usual, his alibi is plainly false.