TPM Cafe: Opinion

President Obama promised that as soon as the Iran nuclear deal is closed he will refocus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Given this shift of focus is now in sight, Obama should grant U.S. recognition of Palestine as an independent state, albeit a militarily occupied one. Such an elementary step is long overdue and may be the sole act that saves the two-state solution.

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Like many in my profession, I am shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and violent death of Ethan Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. As I’m writing this, many of the details of today’s shooting in Jobe Hall on the Delta State campus remain unknown. What we do know – that Dr. Schmidt was gunned down, in his faculty office – puts my friend and former student in a long and baffling list of Americans of all ages murdered by men with guns.

Ours is not usually considered a dangerous occupation, but in today’s milieu of seemingly unchecked (and depressingly un-responded to) gun violence, I am unsure whether any profession is truly safe. My thoughts, and those of many, many others, go out to Ethan’s wife Liz, his colleagues, family, and especially his three young children.

I was not Dr. Schmidt’s dissertation director at the University of Kansas – that honorable job went to my colleague Paul Kelton. But I did know him, and taught him, and felt considerable pride as he progressed through our Ph.D. program, defended his thesis, accepted first one and then another tenure-track job, and published his book The Divided Dominion: Social Conflict and Indian Hatred in Early Virginia (University Press of Colorado, 2015).

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Are state legislatures breaking all records for attempts to rig our courts? The results are still coming in, yet it appears to be a banner year for elected politicians trying both new and well-established ways to bully, politicize or pack impartial courts.

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It might be hard to believe now, given the recent outcry over Pope Francis’s comments about abortion and forgiveness, but the Catholic Church used to stay out of women’s reproductive systems. Up until the late 1860s, the Church only considered late-term abortions to be a mortal sin; early-term abortions were considered to be basically the same thing as contraception, which was (and still is) a minor sin.

That's not too surprising when you consider that abortion was legal, at least until the time of “quickening” (approximately the fourth month of pregnancy) pretty much everywhere in the country until the 1870s. Of course, that wasn’t the only difference between abortion now and abortion then; until the beginning of the 20th century, abortion care was primarily provided by midwives, or by women who had learned from their relatives and friends which drugs or herbal methods could terminate a pregnancy.

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Speaking at the Stop the Iran Deal Rally with the U.S. Capitol as his backdrop, Donald Trump at first made the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran seem like a simple negotiation gone awry, nothing more.

“We’re gonna do, and we’re gonna get, nothing. Nothing. We are led by very, very stupid people. Very, very stupid people. We cannot let it continue.”

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“Playing politics” is an accusation that gets thrown around a lot in politics, and it’s usually unfair. Oh sure, there is plenty of hyperbolic rhetoric and people exaggerating how much umbrage they’re taking, but by and large most political theater is in service of ideas that people, both on the left and right, actually believe in. Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee are irritatingly self-aggrandizing, after all, but no one doubts that they actually want to stop gay couples from marrying.

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In a development that caught many by surprise, on Monday afternoon the CEO of United Airlines ($UAL) and two senior executives at the airline were forced out of their jobs following an internal investigation into their dealings with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the agency’s former chairman, David Samson.

For the last year Samson, an appointee of and political godfather to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, has been under investigation by U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman, an inquiry that was itself a metastasis of the federal probe of the September 2013 ‘Bridgegate’ lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Earlier this year, prosecutors seemed to settle their attention on Samson’s role as a power broker among the Christie administration, the Port Authority, and United Airlines during the period when the airline was negotiating a 20-year, $150 million lease to continue using Newark Liberty International Airport as its hub.

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When Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced her support of the nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, she assured President Obama that his signature foreign policy victory would withstand a congressional challenge. With victory assured, many are trumpeting a victory over some very powerful forces, led by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), by far the most effective foreign policy lobby in Washington.

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The saga of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is an epic tale of courage for her supporters, who view her as a sort of Appalachian Thomas More—and perhaps even more courageous than the Tudor martyr because she’s refusing to resign her public office (More did lose his head and his life, of course, but those were cruel times). To many of her detractors she’s a joke—a thrice-divorced hillbilly who epitomizes the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of Bible thumpers everywhere.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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